Tag Archives: Books of the Times

us/them

There’s something quite difficult about using insider language in spaces that aren’t specifically focused on the subculture, because of the fact that insider language is extremely exclusive. In certain cases, ideas about the group or the media being consumed can only be relayed in jargon, but usage of that jargon isolates people not familiar with it. Even if the people on the inside mean to be inclusive, the language utilized can create a sense of an us/you dichotomy. This is something that occurs in many of the letters that get sent to the editor in Astounding, and also, on the flip side, something that happens in the reviews of the science fiction anthologies. They appear to obey these codes by reinforcing how certain science fiction stories don’t fit into preconceived ideas of the literary canon.

This does happen in “The Space Merchants”, but perhaps with the awareness that it’s happening, because in the use of jargon like “Consies” and references to the “Walk of Martyrs”, the narrator includes us in the club by assuming we already know what he’s talking about. We’re thrown into the story as insiders, and this precludes making us outsiders, because we learn as we go. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know that Consies is shorthand for Conservationists; we’ll learn that as we go along.