Many science fiction stories contain similar themes and ideas, but only two really caught my attention. As I read these stories I couldn’t help but notice the different themes that make them appealing. Although they both have different themes, characters and scenarios, they both seem to stay true to the make believe factor. Themes like vengeance, justice, love, pride, and honor seem to appear in these short stories. For me, justification seems to also be present, one justifies on the good for mankind and the other justifies vengeance.
The short story Valhalla written by Gregory Benford, opens a passage to what if. In this science fiction story we have a man that looks just like Adolf Hitler. He materialized right when Hitler sensed his capture and decided to commit suicide. This Hitler look alike claims to have come from a place where Hitler was supposedly famous and was known for his great “contribution” to humanity. Little did Hitler know that his look alike from the future was actually a fake. This deals with the theme of deception.
It is deception due to the fake Hitler’s description of a future that in reality had nothing to do with the truth. The fake Hitler’s story assured Hitler that he was there to rescue him and that his life should not end by his own hand. He also motivated Hitler to believe that Germany did not deserved him as a leader and that he will be very beneficial in the future. He kept trying to persuade Hitler to walk through the blue corona portal. Little did Hitler know that if he would walk through the portal, he will face eternal torture.
This materialized man actually came to get Hitler because in that future generation suicide was not enough punishment for all the damage done by his commands. This theme of deception is also present in the short story Scanners Live In Vain, written by Cordwainer Smith. This deception occurs when the scanners are described as men, when in reality they were puppets of a government that brainwashed them into thinking that their sacrifice was for the greater good of human kind. These scanners pledge their life and honor to mankind before going into the haberman device.
Scanners sell their souls without realizing that they were no longer to be human. They lost all their human traits, all their senses seeing, touching, feeling and hearing. The only time they get to have any human traits is when they would crank. As the Protagonist Martel tells his wife, while she refuses to let him crank, “Can’t you understand what it means to me? To get out of this horrible prison I my own head? To be a man again-hearing your voice, smelling smoke? To feel again- to feel my feet on the ground, to feel the air move against my face? Don’t you know what it means? (pg 214, 5) Throughout the short story the reader could be deceived and led to think that they are still humans, but the truth is that they are killing machines (literally). In the story Valhalla the theme of justice is deeply pronounced. In this story the man that pretends to be Hitler in the future tells the reader “In my world he had been victorious for longer, done darker deeds. And even left deeper hatreds that had simmered a century” (pg 414, 78). From this statement I can definitely understand why he also mentioned “We are devoted to justice.
We look back ward to your time and we see errors, great unfairness. My people have sent me to you, to correct injustice” (pg 411, 41). The whole point of the mysterious man’s visit was to give Hitler the punishment he truly deserved, the punishment that so many wished for him. The atrocities that Hitler forced upon Germany and other countries alike really called for a vengeance. The man that “materialized” spoke the truth countless of times especially when he told Hitler “For you to die here by your own hand, Fuhrer, after all that you have done- such an outcome is, to my society, unthinkable. (pg 411, 44) I found it amusing that throughout the story the man kept smiling to himself because he knew that Hitler was self absorbed and would not catch on to his real purpose there. At the end of the story Hitler’s wife Eva realized what was going and although she loved her husband, she knew there was no better option. Also in the story Valhalla metaphors are also present.
When Hitler finally gave in and started towards the blue corona the narrator describes “Hitler was partway through it now, moving in slow motion like a swimmer in deep water, as the tangled timelines wrapped around him, sucking him forward. (pg 415, 102) This man’s desire for justice became apparent when he started to “savor” the image of Hitler turning, spinning in the crackling blue aura. He was so eager to pull the trigger and slip to the portal, he was so eager to hear Hitler scream. I think that the message that the author is trying to convey in this story is that justice is for all, unfortunately in this case it was science fiction. Wouldn’t it be nice to punish Hitler with a life of torture, a life he intently imposed on so many innocent lives? In Scanner’s Live In Vain, Martel, the protagonist lives with his wife.
This brings me to my next theme love. As I read the story I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Martel. I could see that the author was trying to reach out to reader by creating such a character that loves and yet he isn’t capable of demonstrating it to his loved one. Scanners would only feel alive by cranking which was also a threat to them because it can cause them to go into overload. The overload factor is the thing that scanners fear at most. This is the one thing that can terminate them. You can feel the pain Martel feels when he sees his wife living by his side.
He mentions to her “Do you think I wanted you to marry a scanner? Didn’t I tell you we’re almost as low as the habermans? We’re dead, I tell you. We’ve got to be dead to do our work. How can anybody go to the up -and –out? Can you dream what raw space is? I warned you. But you married me. All right you married a man. Please, darling, let me be a man. Let me hear your voice, let me feel the warmth of being alive, of being human. Let me! ” (pg 214, 7) Although his wife Lucy understands the fact that he is a scanner, you can tell it breaks his heart.
He is not able to be near her and treat her as a women, a wife should be treated. He is not able to touch her and even feel emotions towards her. The theme of can also be seen in the story Valhalla. Eva Braun, Adolf Hitler’s wife was going to commit suicide with him. In the beginning of the story when, they were about to kill themselves, Eva was throw aback by Hitler’s lack of last minute loving words. It seems like she agreed to the suicide because she loved him. That is a sacrifice she was willing to take for love, even though at times it would look like Hitler can’t actually love.
The plot of these stories is very similar in the sense that they both reach out to the world through space. Although the stories are based in science fiction, they both seem to have a supernatural aura. I can connect them both in their duty to helping mankind. In Scanners live in Vain by Cordwainer Smith, scanners were created to fight and to protect mankind. In Valhalla by Gregory Benford, the mysterious man came to claim justice for all those lives that were taken away. Someway, somehow both authors were able to connect human kind and the desire for protection, justice and the reality that everything has a price.
Scanners live in Vain is considered a Dystopia as well as Valhalla. In Scanners live in Vain a theme can be survival. These men are made for fighting but still they can’t help being the victims themselves. They struggle with their identity and also with their duty at times. In conclusion I hope that I help to further you understanding of these two great science fiction stories. It was a pleasure to analyze them, although I wasn’t too explicit. I did mention some of the themes that made the most impact to me.