Blogs > Liberty and Power > Star Search

Nov 24, 2005 1:39 pm

Star Search

[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]

As I’ve related in my libertarian bio article, I was first led to Ayn Rand – and thus, ultimately, both to philosophy in general and to Aristoteleanism and libertarianism in particular – by an article in the science fiction magazine Starlog, improbably illustrated by the now-famous fantasy artist Boris Vallejo (depicting the John Galt torture scene from Atlas Shrugged).

Unfortunately, my copy of that issue is for some reason long lost, and I didn’t remember either the date or the author. When I contacted the magazine’s offices they said they had no record of such an article, and suggested it must instead have appeared in Starlog’s sister publication Future Life, for which they no longer kept records. (This turned out to be a red herring.) I even got in touch with Kerry O’Quinn, former editor of Starlog and himself a Randian (he’s been trying for years to get a movie of Anthem made), but while he had a vague memory of there having once been a Boris Vallejo painting of Galt, he couldn’t recall it having run in either Starlog or Future Life, nor could he recall the article. Despite the vast quantities of Vallejo paintings on the internet I could also find no record of this Galt painting.

Well, I’ve finally managed to track down the issue in question – so I’m not crazy after all! (On that point, at least.) It’s Starlog issue 22, May 1979; the cover depicts Roger Moore as James Bond in Moonraker, flying through outer space without a helmet. The article, which I had remembered as being titled “The Science Fiction of Ayn Rand,” is actually titled “SF Currents in the Mainstream, Part IV: The Science Fiction of Ayn Rand” – which perhaps explains why Starlog’s offices couldn’t locate it (the subtitle may not have been listed in whatever records they were looking at). The author is one David Houston, described as being Starlog’s West Coast Editor; he is clearly quite knowledgeable about and sympathetic toward Rand’s works, but I can’t recall having come across his name in any other context. (No doubt I once read the other installments in the “SF Currents in the Mainstream” series but I don’t remember anything about them.)

Houston draws some interesting contrasts between Rand’s dystopian fiction and that of Orwell and Huxley:

The world of Anthem is the bleakest imaginable of future dystopias. If Huxley’s world can be likened to a glittering plastic chandelier, and Orwell’s likened to a searchlight that makes hiding impossible, then Rand’s is the sputtering stump of a candle. ...

Unlike 1984 and Brave New World, Atlas Shrugged presents not merely the dystopia of collectivism; it offers an alternative utopia of individual liberty, complete with a new philosophical basis for it.
Anyway, heureka. So if you’re interested in an engaging (though not spoiler-free) introduction to Rand’s work, along with a famous artist’s virtually unknown painting of John Galt, used copies of Starlog no. 22, May 1979, shouldn’t be too hard to track down on the internet (I found mine on eBay). And if anyone knows anything about this David Houston, please let me know.

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