Now I’m Watching Roger (Alexei Panshin, 1972)

Now I’m Watching Roger (Alexei Panshin, 1972)

Clarence, Jack, and Roger are stationed on the Moon. Roger does stuff, Clarence narrates, and Jack does the telecasts back to Earth. Roger avoids being on the telecasts. Clarence is getting upset with Jack. Jack acts nice on the telecasts, but gets nasty once the cameras are off. Clarence has lots of audio of Jack being cruel and also very wasteful, but no audio of Roger. Jack is being more and more wasteful, and talking about how humans have the right to spread throughout the universe and use everything up and dump our garbage everywhere, including all over the Moon. This frustrates Clarence.

TWIST ENDING: Clarence murders Jack and puts him in 14 separate garbage bags.

This story is an excellent example of the old “New Wave” style – which isn’t to say that it’s excellent, because it’s not. It’s an uncomfortably icky little vignette about cabin fever, seasoned with environmental awareness, manifest destiny, and paranoia. The paranoia’s not metaphorical, by the way: Clarence is mentally ill, and Roger’s a hallucination (possibly named for the use of ‘Roger’ in radio voice procedure). Lisa Nowak notwithstanding, one would hope that space agencies would screen their astronauts for mental illness, especially when they’re the only personnel on a moonbase.

Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association