Mark A. Carter
 

CRY HAVOC and let slip
the cans of apocalypse.

World famous Canadian Science Fiction novelist Mark A. Carter rants about a post-apocalyptic future and the need for the bayonet and sickle can opener.

It seems that recycling has raised its ugly head in my kitchen. Perhaps it has raised its ugly head in your kitchen as well. Manufacturers have begun using recycled cans. And, as I found out the hard way, modern can openers don't fit these recycled cans. In fact, I have broken two modern versions of the bunker can opener recently in my attempt to open these defective cans. There is just something smaller about the lip. But it was enough to drive me to the brink of madness the other day. And when I went in search of my good, old fashioned bayonet and sickle can open that I had for years, I realized that I had thrown it away when I purchased the two new openers.

The bayonet and sickle can opener used to be an essential tool in every kitchen going back to 1855. But they have all been discarded to make room for the modern variation on bunker openers and electric openers. Yikes ... what a mistake. Newer is not always better. And what did it cost me to replace it? And thank God that it was replaceable. What used to cost a couple of dollars sank me over thirty-two dollars Canadian with shipping and handling from Amazon.ca. Give me a break. But it got me thinking.

In 1855, Robert Yeates, in the UK, devised the first claw-ended can opener that haggled its way around the top of metal cans. The modern version is seen here.
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. And, I imagine, in the foreseeable post-apocalyptic future, the man with the bayonet and sickle can opener would be king. Sure, there may be people sitting on hoards of cans that have long ago lost their labels. But can they open them? Leather with studs, a mullet, tattoos, and a gas powered chainsaw might be a good look in a post-apocalyptic Mad Max future. But the modern can is an invention to be reckoned with. And the chain saw does little to help you open one efficiently. The only tried and true, albeit slow, method of opening a can of pork and beans without spillage is the bayonet and sickle can opener. A prediction: the man who travels anywhere with one of these retro kitchen marvels on a lanyard will be considered a miracle worker.

I Am Legend
by Richard Matheson, 1954.

I can see tribal chiefs giving their prettiest daughters to the man with the bayonet and sickle can opener. Land, cows, and sheep will be his as a dowry. He may even be designated the new medicine man for the apparent magic he performs. The can opener will be passed down from generation to generation until the age of metal working. And, even then, it will be forbidden to recreate such a magical item.

And it got me thinking how Science Fiction would have been altered, if the bayonet and sickle can opener had been worked into the plot.

In the 1954 novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, Robert Neville is the lone, unchanged survivor of a worldwide bacterial plague that kills most of the world's population and turns the few mutated survivors into vampires. The story is a direct rip off of Mary Shelley's 1826 post-apocalyptic Sci-Fi novel The Last Man, which tells of a future world that has been ravaged by a plague. Duh? In I Am Legend, Neville kills photophobic vampires during the day. And at night they seek him in his barricaded residence. What is it they say in Psychology about normalcy? "Normalcy is determined by the norm." So, when vampires are in the majority, when they are the norm, a lone human being is abnormal, the creature to be feared and destroyed. So, it comes as no surprise that the vampires in I Am Legend eventually catch Neville and kill him. His last thoughts are that the vampire legend of old has been turned upside down. To them, he is the anathema. He is the thing to be feared while they slumber. He is the creature to be destroyed. And he is the creature that will be forever remembered ergo the title.

But there is a problem with Matheson's story beyond the scope of his novel. And again, I can't help but think that bayonet and sickle can openers are the solution. Vampires need human blood. Neville is the only source of human blood. When he is gone they will have to feed upon themselves until extinction. So my question is wouldn't bayonet and sickle can openers come in handy to help this new, evolved vampire race survive, if only to eat baked beans and cat food?

In the 1975 Sci-Fi film A Boy and His Dog, directed by L.Q. Jones, based on the 1969 short story "A Boy and His Dog" by Harlan Ellison, an uneducated teenage boy named Vic and his well-read, telepathic dog named Blood work together to survive in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the American southwest. He meets a girl named Quilla who entices him to visit her underground City of Topeka. Social customs in Topeka are bizarre, including everyone wearing white face. Vic is only valued there as a sperm donor for artificial insemination. So he returns to the surface. Quilla accompanies him. They find Blood starving. And Vic comes to a practical solution. He roasts Quilla over a spit and Blood and he devour her. I can't help but think that a bayonet and sickle can opener would have been the answer to Quilla's dilemma. Ellison mentions that Vic and Blood often raided bunkers to retrieve canned goods. There you go. They had no way of opening them so they used them for barter. But, if they only had a bayonet and sickle can opener, things would have been better. They would have had ample food. But alas, no can opener, no girlfriend, just a loyal boy and his dog walking off into the sunset. That's really cold Harlan but it is typical you. And we get it. Fido goes both ways. Yep. Ha ha.

A Boy and His Dog
by Harlan Ellison, 1969.

Logan's Run (1976)
directed by Michael Anderson.

 

And the plot of the 1976 Sci-Fi film Logan's Run, directed by Michael Anderson, would have been shot to shit if that society of the year 2274 had bayonet and sickle can openers. In the film, people live to thirty. Then they enter the Carrousel and are disintegrated. It is that future society's extreme solution to population and food control. It got me thinking that if they had bayonet and sickle can openers, their food resources could have been extended, as could their life spans ergo no reason for Logan to run. And there would have been no need for a rebellion and for the wanton destruction that always comes with rebellion. Perhaps the film could have been renamed Logan's Can Opener and Logan could have been written as a messianic hero bringing people the answer to their prayers ... just sayin'.

There are more examples I could use but it's best if I stick to the rule of threes. So, what is my takeaway message? It is this: do not discard the old for the new and shiny. There is always something of value in the old. Take, for example, I still use an iMac 350 Blueberry for website development even though it is six times slower than the HP and the Lenovo ThinkCentre that I use for research and writing. The iMac still has value because of Adobe PageMill®. Until they make another HTML editor quite as good for the Windows environment, and I use three of them, I will always return to the old program and the slow system. Why? Like the bayonet and sickle can opener, it gets the job done. There you go.

Read: Anatomy of the Machine
Create a New Universe
Ex Machina
Gravity
Interstellar
Jupiter Ascending
The Martian
Why we need Nuclear War.

Now you know.

from the imagination of Mark A. Carter - novelist

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