The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Back when I was a kid, I watched The Right Stuff. And while that really dates me, it also sparked my fascination with the OTHER side of the science fiction coin. You know, REALITY and the real men and women doing real science.
And even if I'm not fanatical about learning science, I've never stopped learning and I don't want to. Sure, I may be doing it only to give my own writing much more verve, but understanding reality has been an end in and of itself. :)
Of course, I can lay all that internal pressure at this book's feet. Maybe not directly, because I'm only NOW just reading it, but I got the awe and the fascination for the Space Program from it.
So what about the book, man?
Oh! It's great! Exciting, with novelistic concessions, flaws, tension, dramatic release, and pure Right Stuff splattering all over the place. What is the Right Stuff? It's Men, son. It's Real Men.
So many of the aspects to the early test pilots made me want to cringe with all the drunk driving, drunk flying, womanizing, and all the doublespeak going on in American culture at the time. I mean, the insistence that the public needs to be told and shown what to think was intense and to a modern eye, as pathetic and commonplace, if of a VERY different tone, as it is today. Everyone tells everyone else what to think now, but it's fractured. Back then, everyone was doing whatever they wanted under the surface and the whole collective banded together to put on a brave, otherworldly, face back then.
Or at least, that's the impression. And heck, that may not even be the most important part of this book. The heroism is. The cult of personality is.
The Space Program was in decline back when I watched this movie the first time and it sure as hell still is, now, and I'm given a very big impression that it only became a thing because of the personalities behind it. Kennedy is King Arthur and his Knights, the astronauts. The idealism and the space race and kicking the Soviets in the space-can was larger than life... and when these PEOPLE became too old or the initial fire dimmed, so did the Race to Space.
Of course, isn't it the same today? Cult of personality can bring it out and kill it. It's not about science or even NEED. It's not about doing all the real things we need to do as a species if we have a hope of surviving.
It's about narrative. Excitement. And if even a tiny bit of that goes away, then the support of the public will kill it.
LOL do I sound bitter? Leaving soapbox now.
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