Before it was an online emporium of all things classic in the realm of SF – books, digests, film posters, etc – The Space Merchants was (and still is!) a hugely acclaimed science fictional classic, ruthlessly dissecting the run-amok consumerism that the authors could obviously see in nascent form in the post-war years. Sadly, in the six decades since Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth turned their scalpel-like satire on the world, things have got worse instead of better.
Pohl, of course, passed away only a year ago, and railed regularly and incisively against what he saw as modern society’s failures. One can only wonder, though, what Cyril Kornbluth (1923-1958) would make of this world, ruled by those who, to quote Wilde, know the price of everything and the value of nothing … ?
The ad man sets his sights on the gravy train that is Venus: unconquered and waiting to be populated by Earth’s capitalist-driven consumers.
It is the 20th Century, an advertisement-drenched world in which the big ad agencies dominate governments and everything else. Now Schoken Associates, one of the big players, has a new challenge for star copywriter Mitch Courtenay. Volunteers are needed to colonise Venus. It’s a hellhole, and nobody who knew anything about it would dream of signing up. But by the time Mitch has finished, they will be queuing to get on board the spaceships.