How Thomas Hardy saved Star Trek.

Now there’s a proposition for you. What does a 19th century English novelist have to do with late 20th century Science Fiction? He made it possible, that’s what. Inspired by the recent PBS airing of “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”, I’ve been thinking a lot about how some of the classic works of literature have influenced Science Fiction. Specifically, in Hardy’s case, some of his works prompted some of the most successful anti-censorship activity in history.For those of you who’ve never read “Tess”, you should take a look. The story of a young woman coerced by her poor family into seeking out wealthy relatives, Tess is one of the most tragic characters in all of literature. Raped by her cousin, she is denied love, abused, downtrodden and finally ends as a murderess (You go, girl!). Needless to say, 19th century England was scandalized.”So what in the heck does that have to do with Science Fiction?”, you may be asking yourself. I admit it isn’t a direct connection, but Sci-Fi & Fantasy is all about exploring. Exploring your thoughts, beliefs, wishes and dreams and pretending that the normal boundaries don’t apply. That kind of thinking has allowed us to advance our “hard” sciences, expand the limits of medical possibility, and put a man on the moon. Science fiction is pure unbounded imagination, and in great measure, it owes its freedom to those who have gone before. So, if Thomas Hardy hadn’t refused to cut the objectionable bits out of “Tess”, then we may have never had television’s first inter-racial kiss (Capt. Kirk & Lt. Uhura), and Heinlein certainly wouldn’t have been able to publish “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” (lots of kinky stuff there). So, I say we all owe a great debt to Mr. Hardy for refusing to bow his head in the face of harsh criticism, and you’d do well to pick up a copy of damn near anything that he ever wrote.