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Africa blazes in tomorrow’s world!
“I still think Mack Reynolds was perhaps the most under-appreciated writer in science fiction.” -Frederik Pohl
“Mack Reynolds was a great storyteller, though I strongly disagreed with him on politics (I am about as far to the right as he was to the left). Of all his stories, I best remember his “North African” series.
“Like Kipling, Reynolds believed in delivering a strong story plainly told. The comparison to Kipling springs to mind because he used Kipling quotations for the titles and epigraphs of that “North African” series: Black Man’s Burden; Border, Breed Nor Birth; and The Best Ye Breed. They started appearing in Analog in 1961, and by 1978 they had all been published as books by Ace. They were about Homer Crawford, a black American sociologist who found himself pitch-forked into becoming a leader in the struggle to modernize backward North African countries. It’s Kipling turned inside out—instead of the “superior” whites having a duty to help the “lesser races,” we have a black man showing the natives how to help themselves.
“What I have remembered about the stories for all these years are not the plot twists or character development—though there were both in good measure—but one simple insight that most stories of “national liberation” have never displayed. Reynolds understood that modernizing a backward society requires much more than booting out foreign imperialist overlords or dethroning native tyrants. It requires that the natives must change their own culture. That’s because nearly always it is precisely that native culture that keeps them in backwardness. Imperialists and tyrants may take advantage of the backwardness, but they don’t cause it and their departure won’t end it. And making such deep cultural changes is no easy task, as Homer Crawford painfully learns. The changes can’t simply be imposed by fiat. If leading people in battle is hard, persuading them to abandon traditional patterns of thought is far harder.
“I no longer remember if Reynolds explicitly made this point, or if it was something that I only slowly became aware of as I devoured the stories. (It’s been a long time since I read them.) And I am quite sure that he and I would have strongly disagreed on just what changes to native culture would be necessary for modernization. That doesn’t matter; they are good stories—read them if you get the chance.” --George W. Price
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