Posts Tagged ‘space traders’

Journal 6: The Space Traders

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Derrick Bell’s short story ”The Space Traders” is a very good social commentary on what cruelty humans are capable of. It actually takes care of a number of problems non-fantastic fiction would have. It creates an excuse for a couple of deux ex machina (chemicals that can restore the environment, a massive supply of gold, and a new and unlimited source of fuel, as well as a location off-world for a significant portion of a nation’s population): they’re brought by aliens. No extra resources or land is necessary. This takes away the issue of focusing on the aliens: can they deliver? Is this a prank? The focus is pushed onto the people making the decision and the people of the United States. In particular, the whites.

In a normal fictional work, the traders might just be another country. A great deal of narrative time would go into the history of the country, their motives, and capabilities. While the motives of the aliens are questioned (where will they take the African Americans? What will the African Americans do on the alien world?), there is little information on them, so it’s only speculation and pushed onto more important details in the story.

Bell did a good job of touching on the central subject because it went from a lot of viewpoints: the government, African-Americans in support of the move and against, a number of which worked in different ways, other minorities, and those among the “ruling class” who would be opposed to the move. I really liked that the whites in control of the economy were brought in. Bell could have easily ignored them and used the stereotypes: whites who didn’t care about the welfare of African Americans and that “small” number of whites who do care. They could have also made all the whites stupid (arguably, they really were, but I mean stupid as in “blah-racism-blah-drunk-blah-burp”). But Bell actually took the concept further and thought about whites focused on their wallets with intelligence enough to realize how much of an economical loss they would take if they lost the African American population.

Bell also had people have the sense to realize that stereotypical measures like running away or appealing to the better natures of the whites won’t get them anywhere. They had to be subversive to get anywhere. A lot of little details were thought up for this story, which was interesting.

It’s also interesting to bring it up in the particular focus that the problem was brought up. People (and particular whites) have historically put aside morals for the sake of greed and monetary compensation in some form, as well as survival. Morals are put aside (if they even existed in the first place) for monetary compensation in the form of gold and unlimited fuel, as well as survival, in the form of chemicals to fix the environment. This brings up the notion that humans just don’t change. We still make the same mistakes. We’re still very disgusting creatures.