On, Jo Walton has a sharp-eyed review of Frederik Pohl and CM Kornbluth's classic sf novel The Space Merchants. I happen to be in the middle of writing a story called "Chicken Little" that's a tribute to this novel, for an anthology in honor of Fred Pohl, and I've been thinking about it nonstop for weeks — and Walton nails it.

Much more interesting as futurology are the incidentals of the background. This is a ridiculously over-populated Earth, only in Antarctica and around the blast-off range of Venus rockets is there any empty space at all. Rich people live alone in two rooms, with fold-out beds and tables. Privacy doesn't exist. The entire planet is at worse than the density point of modern Tokyo. Well, there's a future that didn't happen, but you can see how in 1952 in the middle of the Baby Boom it looked as if it might. There are golf clubs on high floors of corporate sky scrapers.

It's interesting to see conservationists so demonized, yet the forms of pollution and consumption everyone else is embracing so enthusiastically aren't the ones that we see as the problems. They're wearing "soot filters." That kind of pollution turned out to be a fixable problem and is pretty much gone in first world countries. They've run out of oil and are pedaling their cars and using rockets for long distance travel, but there doesn't seem to be any shortage of plastics. They don't have any climate change problem, and they're all eating hydroponic food and syntho-protein (with yummy addictive additives) because there's literally no room for farms. They've paved the planet without having problems without the "lungs" of the rainforests. They're also eating protein from Chicken Little, a giant chicken heart that keeps on growing and they keep on slicing–the image of that had stuck with me, especially the consie cell having a secret meeting in a chamber surrounded by it. And it's weird to see the conservationists essentially giving up on Earth in favour of Venus. I'd forgotten that. This is a much nicer Venus than later probes have reported, it's still pretty unpleasant but it's comparatively easily terraformable. But even so!

Advertising dystopia: Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth's The Space Merchants