Thursday, October 18, 2001

Solution Unsatisfactory

Robert A. Heinlein wrote “Solution Unsatisfactory” in early 1941. Europe was at war: The United States was not yet involved directly, and our people were sharply divided. Some said America could not afford to become embroiled in someone else’s war: Some said we dared not ignore it.

A few months later, the Japanese attacked a remote American naval base in Hawaii – and the world changed.

A few years later, the United States became the first, and so far only, country to use an atomic weapon in war. And the conversations that Heinlein began in this story continue to this day.

ARTC adapted “Solution Unsatisfactory” for audio in spring, 2001. We first performed it before an audience on Friday, August 31. We scheduled studio time for September 12 to record voice tracks.

The day before our scheduled studio session, three hijacked commercial airliners slammed into three heavily populated buildings in New York and Washington – and the world changed again.

We considered canceling our voice session, which suddenly seemed so unimportant – but we would never have a better chance to capture the confusion, shock, grief, and grim determination of the day. Events had outrun us, but the story remained as fresh as tomorrow’s headlines. It seemed to demand that we tell it, again.

So we stood in the studio, our characters debating the practicality of suspending all commercial air travel – while, above us, the late summer sky was empty.

Where did we ever get the idea that science fiction is escapist literature?

This production is dedicated to the memory of the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, the fourth hijacked airliner, who voted that whatever the personal cost, that flight would not become an instrument of terror. Instead, it has become a symbol of the indomitable American spirit.

You don’t get to choose how to die. You can only choose how to live. Those passengers chose life for additional hundreds, possibly thousands, of people they would never know. There can be no greater gift.

I think – I know! – Mr Heinlein would agree.

I wish you well, and I hope your loved ones are all accounted for.

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