||“A Time for Revolution” (short story) by Kazumasa Hirai
First published in Hayakawa SF Magazine (January 1963)
Currently available from Kurodahan Press’s Speculative Japan (2007)
|Original: Japanese, 1963
Translated by David Aylward, 2007
Synopsis: With the mindset of a common bully and with the ruthlessness of a gang boss that he is, Shin and his band of brother rules his petty piece of turf with an iron fist in 1967. While knocking back a whiskey and waiting to collect his protection fee, Shin’s mind is flooded with poetry he later learns is from Byron. Confused by his newly found gift of poetry and sympathy, Shin heads home, where the artists in his mind hatch their plan.
Analysis: The plot written in the synopsis is framed by the artists in the latter portion of the same synopsis. The story initially opens when a small group of humans emerges from the Pit—the deep underground prison where all humanity is kept, bred to become akin to domestic pigs. The earth, however, is scorched and barren and they are being chased by their captors. Being a world dominated by machines, it is the machines that they fear, hate, and wish destroyed.
In a time when—I guess like any other time in post-war Japan, actually—technology was becoming an increasing part of daily life, there was an obsession with mechanization in all areas of life (even massages—the first massage chair was invented in Japan in 1954). All this mechanization replaced the skill of human hands, thereby devaluing our humanity. If machines can do everything that our hands and minds can do, what is there left to our so-called humanity? In the Pit, the artists carry the torch of the human spirit in their artistic endeavors, but their subterranean prison is merely a another prison within the barren earth.
Naturally, with progress there is something left behind. When there is collective progress, very little attention is paid to what’s being left behind, only that forward is the way to go. The naysayers of progress are seen as conservative, but they also act as a telescope to the past, re-evaluating modern ways in terms of the past—a past which is continually being lost. Kazumasa Hirai may be insinuating that artists are our links to the past, but aren’t Luddites more in touch with the past?