Mack Reynolds is not very well known today. But in the early 60s he was rated as one of the the most popular writers in Galaxy magazine. Recent events have made one of his works potentially very relevant, the popular revolts in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, the last of which is still ongoing.
Reynolds wrote the North Africa Trilogy consisting of the novels, Black Man's Burden, Border Breed nor Birth and The Best Ye Breed. These titles are all derived from Rudyard Kipling. But decades after Kipling and after World War II the world was a different place. As a traveling newsman with contacts in Africa Reynolds would have been more aware of Middle-east attitudes toward the dominance by Europe and America than most Americans maybe even some people in the state department. Of course what will happen in the real world will be more complicated than the fiction of 50 years ago. Tthat fiction can still be thought provoking however.
As the son of a socialist presidential candidate Reynolds was exposed to unconventional thinking at an early age and as the travel editor for Rogue magazine was one of the most widely traveled of science fiction writers of his day. So Reynolds' tales are rather gritty in their unconventionality.
The North Africa Trilogy first appeared serialized in Analog magazine in 1962. It is curious that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King could have read it at the time. It is set in an unspecified future but apparently before 1990. Reynolds got his world population figures rather far off though because we are already passed what he projected for 2020. But he did predict techno-cultural conflict in north Africa and economic consequences. His technology is more mechanical and less electronic than what we actually have affecting the world now though.
In Black Man's Burden he has a team of Black Americans trying to slowly change the technologically backward cultures of north Africa by example. They are employees of what he calls the Reunited Nations. He never explains what went wrong with the United Nations. The team finds the work very frustrating and have no credibility with the natives in their own right so they make up a mythical figure named El Hassan and attribute all of their advice to him. This apparently catches on and other social workers in Africa begin doing the same thing. So as rumors begin to spread about El Hassan many people begin to think he is real, including the Western powers. So true to the nature of sneaky Americans the African diasporans decide to make him real.
Needless to say neither the Western nor Eastern powers north of Africa are in favor of this. So by the end of the first book the great El Hassan, who is actually Homer Crawford, is on the run from European, American and Communist powers. The strange thing about the story is that oil is not mentioned much but since this was written in the early 60s it was long before the oil shocks of the 70s. Of course there is no intimation of the Soviet Union going bust in the 90s. The first two books of the trilogy, Black Man's Burden and Border Breed not Birth, are now in the public domain. The third book which I have not read in more than 20 years and don't recall is The Best Ye Breed and I do not know its current status. If might be difficult to find a printed copy or it may turn up in public domain any day.
But a significant point of the story was that the young people need to learn new ways and ideas and give up the life styles of their elders. But aren't new ideas being transmitted faster now with today's electronic technology than could be done by teams of Westerners traveling across Africa. Why did Egypt turn off the Internet connection to the rest of the world and shut down cell phone service in January? This is the kind of stuff that Dallas McCord Reynolds dealt with in his stories. What does the technology do to societies and how do societies decide what to do with technology? That is the problem of the 21st century. Will the West tell everybody what to do with it? Can the West figure out what to do with it? These cheap computers and communications devices have brought the technology down to the personal level so everybody can have a piece of the action.
Reynolds did not stop with planet Earth though. Other stories take mankind into space and he does thought experiments with left wing and right wing ideas to see how they play out. That is what Adaption is about. It is done on an even grander scale with Ultima Thule. I have told people that Reynolds' characters contain so much cardboard that the readers can smell the glue. Dan Simmons may be a better writer than Mack Reynolds but Reynolds is a better science fiction writer than Simmons. Reynolds provides examples of ideas and philosophies that get played out in the real world and even get people killed. Hyperion by Dan Simmons is an entertaining read but the story has nothing to say.
But Mack Reynolds and other 60s writers now have plenty of material to feed the technology of today's cheap e-readers. Buy a $100 e-reader and access a $1000 worth of public domain material. Oh yeah, it's free it can't be worth $1000. But how much is the time it takes to read it worth? That is the real cost of all books.