On June 12
With the Night Mail, A Story of 2000 A.D. and “As Easy As A.B.C.”: Two Yarns About the Aerial Board of Control
By Rudyard Kipling
[978-1-935869-52-8] By 2000 A.D, airships have replaced aircraft for freight and human travel. Kipling’s novella follows the exploits of an intercontinental mail dirigible battling foul weather, while detailing a planet-wide Aerial Board of Control (A.B.C.), which enforces a rigid system of command and control not only in the skies but in world affairs too; they outlaw war in 1967. Kipling got so excited by his own utopian vision that the story was accompanied by phony advertisements and other ersatz magazine clippings.
In Kipling’s 1912 followup story, “As Easy As A.B.C.,” set 65 years later, we learn just how complete the A.B.C.’s control is over the social and economic affairs of every nation. When a mob of disgruntled ‘Serviles’ in the District of Northern Illinois demands the return of democracy, the A.B.C. sends a team of troubleshooters (from England, Russia, Japan, and Italy) and a fleet of 200 zeppelins to retake the skies.
2012 marks the centennial of the publication of “As Easy As A.B.C.” “It is a glittering essay in the sham-technical; and real imagination, together with a tremendous play of fancy, is shown in the invention of illustrative detail.” — Arnold Bennett (1917). “A most remarkable little story… It is rather a fascist picture which Kipling gives us.” — Norbert Weiner, The Human Use of Human Beings (1950)
‘Once there was The People — Terror gave it birth;
Once there was The People, and it made a hell of earth!’
(Then the stamp and pause):
‘Earth arose and crushed it. Listen, oh, ye slain!
Once there was The People—it shall never be again!’
The levellers thrust in savagely against the ruins as the song renewed itself again, again and again, louder than the crash of the melting walls.
De Forest frowned.
‘I don’t like that,’ he said. ‘They’ve broken back to the Old Days! They’ll be killing somebody soon. I think we’d better divert ‘em, Arnott.’
‘Ay, ay, sir.’ Arnott’s hand went to his cap, and we heard the hull of the Victor Pirolo ring to the command: ‘Lamps! Both watches stand by! Lamps! Lamps! Lamps!’
‘Keep still!’ Takahira whispered to me. ‘Blinkers, please, quartermaster.’
‘It’s all right–all right!’ said Pirolo from behind, and to my horror slipped over my head some sort of rubber helmet that locked with a snap. I could feel thick colloid bosses before my eyes, but I stood in absolute darkness.
Introduction by Matthew De Abaitua, author of the science fiction novel The Red Men.
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