“Every Day is Christmas,” James Gunn, 1957 — A man trades three years of his life in exchange for $150,000 to go into space, where he’s kept alone, in silence. For him, the experience is unbearable, but he toughs it out for the sake of his new wife and their future He returns to a garish new society, an irritating, repetitive, advertising-suffused modern experience where television is a hypnotic purveyor of mindless drama and endless commercials. There’s a general degradation of taste and comportment and he encounters people walking around like zombies, slack-bodied, eyes empty. He finds that people are scantily clothed, with some women wearing halters with nipple cutouts to reveal painted nipples. His wife is a tv-slave, a consuming zombie, who’s spent all of the money he received in exchange for the trip while he was gone. He goes to the agency that sent him into space and finds out that an advertising institute has taken over everything, even the UN. They’ve discovered the basic principles of desire, the true purpose of advertising, and turned into a science. Irritation and repetition create an itch that must be scratched. As a result of their ministrations, the Soviet Union crumbled within months. War no longer exists; there is only consumption, which is necessary in an industrial society, as wastage is necessary. The protagonist returns home and destroys the tv, but his wife buys a new one and now he’s not only lost his savings, he’s in debt. He finds his gun in the basement and shoots a Santa Claus outside, whom he finds hawking his wares six months before Christmas.
Comments: Read in Tales of Superscience.
Author: Wikipedia: “James Edwin Gunn (born 1923 in Kansas City, Missouri) is an American science fiction author, editor, scholar, and anthologist. His work from the 1960s and 70s is considered his most significant fiction, and his Road to Science Fiction collections are considered his most important scholarly books. He won a Hugo Award for a non-fiction book in 1983 for Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction. He has been named the 2007 Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. James Gunn is a professor emeritus of English, and the Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction, both at the University of Kansas.”