Programming note: At 9pm BST/4pm North American Eastern tomorrow, immediately after The Mark Steyn Show, it's the Thursday replay of Steyn's Song of the Week. You can listen from anywhere in the planet by clicking on the button in the top right-hand corner here.
~Ahead of that, here we go with Part Four of our counterintuitively vernal audio diversion: The Fixed Period - the only venture by Anthony Trollope into speculative futuristic dystopia. Veronica, a Kiwi member of The Mark Steyn Club, writes from Auckland:
'Little Christchurch' is, I suppose, a better name than 'Britannula' or 'Gladstonopolis' (I take it that Anthony Trollope was a liberal?) but why did he pick on us poor old kiwis as his pioneering 'Fixed Periodists' in the first place? It struck me as a strange choice for an English novelist to make until I discovered that Trollope toured Australasia in 1872, and subsequently produced a book recounting his travels, called, with great imaginative flair, Australia and New Zealand.
It is a largely positive account, so the online reviews tell me, but Trollope did have this to say about the NZ'ers he met:
'The New Zealander among John Bulls is the most John Bull-ish. He admits the supremacy of England to every place in the world, only he is more English than any Englishman at home.'
I wonder if Anthony Trollope got his idea for The Fixed Period in the wake of his Antipodean tour? NZ was, in some people's eyes, an improved version of England and 'Britannula' is founded to be an improved version of both countries, offering greater prosperity, better farms and crops, and no worn-out elderly people burdening the young and descending into 'effete old age'.
Packing them off to 'the college' at age 67 and a half is a cold and calculating plan but they would save a bundle on pensions I must admit. These days, NZ is nothing like England, or 'Britannula', except in one respect - euthanasia is now legal, though not mandatory. Yet.
Actually, Veronica, I would say Trollope's view of New Zealand as a kind of Ultra-England held among many Englishmen until fairly recently - and by "fairly recently" I mean Jacinda Ardern. In more recent decades, its image evolved slightly into an unwrecked England, as confirmed by Sir Peter Jackson's decision to make it J R R Tolkien's "Shire". I was certainly aware that many New Zealanders begged to differ, not least after a long Qantas flight across the Pacific where, unable to sleep, I fell into convo in the galley with the charming Kiwi stewardess who told me she had fled to Oz because NZ was utterly, utterly wrecked.
After the ascent of Miss Ardern, I don't find it such a stretch to think that hyper-Kiwis might be the chaps to introduce the world to the Fixed Period. At any rate, in tonight's episode the President of Britannula is again unsettled by his designated first Fixed Periodist's "abnormal sprightliness":
"Crasweller," said I, "do you mind coming into the house, and having a little chat?" and so I got off my tricycle.
"I was going to be very busy," he said, showing an unwillingness. "I have fifty young foals in that meadow there; and I like to see that they get their suppers served to them warm."
"Bother the young foals!" said I. "As if you had not men enough about the place to see to feeding your stock without troubling yourself. I have come out from Gladstonopolis, because I want to see you; and now I am to be sent back in order that you might attend to the administration of hot mashes! Come into the house."
Tales for Our Time is now deep into its fifth year. So, if you've a friend who might be partial to our classic fiction outings, we have a special Gift Membership that, aside from dozens of audio yarns, also includes video poetry, live music, our weekly Clubland Q&A and more.
Please join me tomorrow evening for Part Five of The Fixed Period.