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The Future of the Future

How science fiction fails us

By Michael Lind

The future isn’t what it used to be. We need new futures.

Science fiction traditionally has had the task of providing us with alternative visions of the future. For the most part, it has done a terrible job. The main reason for its failure is that it assumes global uniformity.

In optimistic visions of the future, there is a liberal and democratic world government, or perhaps an interplanetary federation. In dystopias, there is a single global tyranny. In post-apocalyptic novels and movies set in the aftermath of a nuclear war, nuclear bombs seem to off gone off everywhere in the world, even in places remote from the homelands and allies of the major combatants.

The assumption of uniform conditions in the world of tomorrow saves science-fiction authors and screenwriters the trouble of explaining the Sino-Indian dispute of 2345 AD, allowing them to concentrate on the plot and the main characters. But it is completely unrealistic.

Neville Marriner

Remembering Neville Marriner By R.J. Stove

Few conductors are loved. It could be as well, for music’s sake, that most conductors are loathed. Any impressive level of attendance at their obsequies readily calls to mind the witticism—attributed both to George Jessel and to Red Skelton—regarding the crowds at a universally abhorred Hollywood tycoon’s funeral: “Well, it proves what they always say. Give the people what they want, and they’ll come out for it.”

So how do we explain not merely the respect but the sincere affection that greeted the death, earlier this month, of the 92-year-old Neville Marriner (Sir Neville from 1985)? Mere British chauvinism cannot be a factor. After all, the obituary tributes on the radio networks of Paris, Rome, and Berlin (to say nothing of major American cities) appear to have been as kindly as anything broadcast or printed in London.

It cannot have been Marriner’s Guinness World Records achievement in having made more classical recordings—600 or so—than any other conductor, with the sole exception of Herbert von Karajan. No such sense of public bereavement marked Karajan’s 1989 demise. Nor can any particular media panache on Marriner’s part have been operating. He gave no more interviews than any other world-famous podium figure, and far fewer than most.

Dali gurii

Salvador Dalí’s surreal cookbook set to be Christmas bestseller By Esther Addley and Alison Flood

Stuck for ideas for Christmas dinner this year? Worry no more. Thanks to an unlikely new celebrity chef, fashionable dinners this festive season are likely to feature thousand-year-old eggs, conger eel of the rising sun and frog pasties (recipe below), all washed down with a cocktail of brandy, ginger and cayenne pepper.

If that sounds a bit more surreal than your standard fare, you’re on the right culinary track. A rare and fantastical cookbook by the painter Salvador Dalí is being reissued for the first time in more than 40 years, and already looks set to be an unexpected Christmas bestseller.

Dalí’s lavish and erotic cookbook Les Diners de Gala was first published in 1973, featuring 136 recipes compiled by the painter and his wife Gala. Divided into 12 chapters with titles such as “Prime Lilliputian malaises” (meat) and “Deoxyribonucleic Atavism” (vegetables), the book also features sumptuous Dalí illustrations and photographs of the painter posing alongside tables loaded with a banquet’s worth of food. Chapter 10, entitled “The ‘I Eat GALA’”, is devoted to aphrodisiacs.