Friday, 15 June 2012
The Galactic Connection
Fiction reflects our galactic context in different ways. Most obviously, human and other organic beings can cross interstellar distances but imaginative writers can do more. In Larry Niven's Known Space future history, terrestrial human beings are mutated Pak breeder colonists of a former Slaver food planet so neither we nor our biosphere originated on Earth.
In Poul Anderson's Brain Wave, no spacecraft arrive and none have yet been launched (but read on). Instead, life is proceeding as normal in the 1950's. However, gyromagnetic action within atomic nuclei near the galactic centre had generated an electromagnetic force field radiating outward in a cone now many light years across, inhibiting electromagnetic and electrochemical processes, particularly neuronic interactions. Nervous systems adapted to the inhibiting force by becoming more efficient. Now the Solar System moves out of the field so that everyone becomes more intelligent. A small quantitative change in neuronic efficiency causes a big qualitative change in thought because the processes involved in consciousness are so sensitive.
Anderson wrote much about spaceships later but here, in his first novel, he invented an original way to show human beings interacting with the galaxy.