September 12, 2015

With the Night Mail: Two Yarns About the Aerial Board of Control

Kipling’s two science fiction stories, from 1905 and 1912, concerning the year 2000 and the development of a planetary government out of the necessity for an international air traffic control system. The first, “With The Night Mail,” is brilliant fun: a lowbrow magazine feature in which our intrepid reporter journeys with the new dirigible express from London to Quebec, interviewing captains and engineers, experiencing terrifying air storms, witnessing arcane engineering. The story wraps up with all sorts of terrific fake ads from a hobby magazine of the far future – 2000 AD! The later “Easy as A. B. C.” is a story of world-government as seen by a crank, a vision of the future where the leading problem is Kipling’s personal headache: people keep bothering him. The afterword by Bruce Sterling is nearly worth the price of admission.