Sunday, 27 January 2013

Getting To Grips

I am at last tackling the text as opposed to the cover, blurb or publishing history etc of Poul Anderson's The Star Fox (London, 1968). References to robots and a lunar city on the first page of the text (p. 7) quickly establish that this is a science fiction (sf) novel set in our future.

Another Andersonian theme emerges on the following page. In this future, any large city like, in this case, San Francisco has a poorly policed "Welfare section" where the "...fury and futility..." of "...those whom the machines had displaced..." and "...the subculture of the irrelevant men..." is kept "...well away from the homes of people who had skills the world needed." (p. 8)

As an economic and technological projection from 1964 (author's copyright date) or indeed from 2013 (current date), this is all too plausible but it implies a need for some reevaluation. I suggest that "...the world..." includes the permanently unemployed and that they "need" something more than segregated futility - education and resources enabling them not merely to subsist but also to learn and create, to contribute to knowledge and culture if not also to a market economy. Later works by Anderson directly address issues of vast social wealth and of human-technological interaction. Here, the Welfare section is merely one part of the background of a futuristic scenario.

The future could be expected to contain not only robots and space travel but also:

(i) the prolongation of human life and, sure enough, the viewpoint character, Heim, refers to "antisenescence," which is the term used in Anderson's Technic History (p. 15);

(ii) nuclear warfare and, sure enough, there has been a, fortunately limited, "Nuclear Exchange" (p. 20);

(iii) regular contact with aliens, which I took for granted when reading sf in the 60's but here there is some recognition that it might be somewhat difficult:

" 'Such a fantastic lot of spadework to do, information exchange, semantic and xenological and even epistemological studies to make, before the two sides can be halfway sure they're talking about the same subjects.' " (p. 18)

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