Sunday, 3 February 2013

Continuing With The Star Fox

When last I posted about Poul Anderson's The Star Fox (London, 1968), Gunnar Heim had just set the autopilot on his gravitron-powered "flyer." Continuing to read, we find several more points in common with other works of sf.

(i) The next thing that Heim does, after taking "...a long hot bath..." while flying towards Orly, is to get "...some whale from the freezer..." and make a burger (p. 30). This single background detail informs us that world population pressure has necessitated dietary adjustments so that whale meat has become standard sustenance even for someone as well-off as Heim.

(ii) In Orly, the French politician Coquelin, while conversing with Heim:

"...went to the desk and began punching keys on an infotrieve." (p. 35)

Asked what he is after, he replies:

" 'Details of the time before quite every country had joined the Federation.' " (p. 35)

In other words, in a story that is copyright 1964, he accessed the Internet. While reading sf in the 60's, we took for granted that in the future, there would be many interconnected computers and that it would be possible by punching keys to access any information. Rereading Poul Anderson's sf now, we make the same assumption not about our future but about our present. We need to pause and reflect that we are reading a story that was written that long ago.

(iii) " '...the Peace Control Authority is vested with the sole military power.' " (p. 67)

This is the same as the Space Patrol in Robert Heinlein's Future History and Scribner Juveniles. To prevent nuclear war, the UN, or the Federation, entrusts the Patrol with a monopoly of nuclear weapons which must be used to keep the peace but not to attack any one country in the interests of another.

(iv) It is a common idea that it is dangerous to switch on an FTL drive too deep in a gravity well/too near the Sun, but our heroes might take this risk to make a quick getaway. Heim does this on p. 71.

(v) This may be coincidental but, shortly after joining forces with the crew of another spaceship called the Quest, Heim and his companions set out on a fairly standard "Quest" across the terrain of an inhospitable planet where they encounter a "Walking Forest" (remember Tolkien but Anderson presents a scientific rationale for mobile trees) and "Slaughter Machines," the familiar idea of killer robots left over from an ancient war but still capable of reactivating and attacking our protagonists.

There are also ideas here that connect more specifically with other works by Anderson but I will address those after a night's sleep and attending to other business.

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