Election Fever

In "The Law", a mildly noted SF story by Robert M. Coates, the law of the land breaks down – the law of averages. Symptoms include massive traffic jams as everyone impulsively goes for a drive at the same time. Maybe that same law was misbehaving when our 2010 General Election managed against the odds to produce a (briefly) hung Parliament. We tossed the electoral coin and – as in high-magic regions of Discworld – it fell balanced on its edge.

This year's election coverage was also the most science-fictional in history. Countless spoofs of David Cameron's posters included a green Cameron ("We can't go on like this. Puny humans."), a blue Avatar native ("No digital effects have been used ...") and the inevitable Dalek ("We will soon exterminate all hope you have."). In France, Le Monde offered another Tory-Avatar connection by identifying the leader of England's blue tribes as James Cameron.

The quirkiest alternative Cameron poster was aimed at "Song of Ice and Fire" fans who are frustrated – some quite abusively so – by George R.R. Martin's delays in finishing his next volume. Hence the pledge: "Vote for us and we will ensure A Dance with Dragons is released in 2010."

Meanwhile, following the trend of mash-up novels like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the weary government became New Labour with Zombies. Literally, according to a senior minister quoted in Andrew Rawnsley's The End of the Party, who detected worryingly zomboid symptoms in Gordon Brown: "He looked absolutely terrible. The shoulders were hunched. The flesh was literally dripping off his face ..."

How about the LibDems? Nick Clegg had solid SF credentials as great-great-nephew of exotic Moura Budberg, one of the many mistresses of H.G. Wells. The Guardian ran a ten-point comparison of the Kleggs – green, scaly alien mercenaries who plagued Judge Dredd in 2000 AD – and the Cleggs who plagued marginal seats with their "Orange, smooth skin". Amazing similarities were claimed: Kleggs are outlawed from Mega-City One, while Cleggs are outlawed from the electoral system. Not very prophetic.

LibDem MP Lembit Opik (who lost his seat, perhaps not because of this) praised his Cleggoid leader as a high-fantasy saviour with hairy feet: "He's like Frodo. He arrived in Middle Earth all innocent, but ready to take on the forces of evil. He is the only one capable of wearing the ring of power without being corrupted. Vince Cable is our very own Gandalf." Which set Tolkien fans wondering who, in this analogy, could be Sauron. Or Saruman, or Gollum. Non-Tories suspected that Tolkien's Morgoth, the ancient foe who was overcome in a past age of the world, had to be Margaret Thatcher.

If SF/fantasy celebrity endorsements won elections, Labour would have surged ahead. Patrick Stewart campaigned for them, though Gordon Brown spurned his offer of performance tips for the TV debates. ("Don't let the flesh literally drip off your face.") David Tennant starred in a party political broadcast. J.K. Rowling not only endorsed Labour but published a Times polemic about her past woes as that ultimate Tory hate-figure, a single mother. The Harry Potter vote was split when Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe came out of the closet to admit he rather fancied Clegg's lot. Dumbledore's voting preferences remained unclear. A belated report of a UFO hovering over Michael Howard's house may or may not have persuaded illegal aliens to favour the Conservatives....

Afterwards, hearing the stories of closed polling stations and turned-away voters, I remembered the election in E.E. Smith's First Lensman which was closely supervised by the Galactic Patrol, ran perfectly, and gave a clear-cut, popular result. But that's science fiction.

David Langford is the man who put the Ess Eph into psephology.