Thursday, 28 February 2013

"Sunjammer"

The sixth story in Poul Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984), "Sunjammer," is yet another technical problem item. This time, the technicalities obtruded and I did not understand very well what was going on. As in "Ramble With A Gamblin' Man" and "Que Donn'rez Vous?," there was a moment when one of the characters suddenly realized the solution to the current problem although this was not divulged to the reader until nearer the end of the story.

The characters are asterite, British and American and there is lingering hostility from the revolutionary war, at least between the asterites and the Americans. The asterite Storrs thinks:

"There isn't a government of any importance anywhere on Earth these days that isn't based on some version of  'social justice.' So of course independent thinking, conscientiousness, ordinary competence have gone by the board." (p. 215)

That is a strong statement. The character, and behind him the author, disagrees with government policies so all government officials have become dependent, unconscientious and incompetent? This is to some extent counterbalanced by the British character West thinking:

"That's another thing I don't like about the Republic. They can brag as much as they want about free enterprise, but it still amounts to the rawest, most cold-blooded kind of capitalism. Maybe the welfare states on Earth have gotten stuffy and overbureaucratized - nevertheless, we don't let the devil take the hindmost!" (p. 220)

Here, the character is definitely not a mouthpiece for the author and does acknowledge some qualification of his own point of view. There is a brief political exchange between Storrs and West. When Storrs speaks disrespectfully of an American official, West remarks:

" 'Don't be too hard on the man...When a world gets as crowded as that one there, you have to operate by a rigid system.' " (p. 221)

Do you? Greater participative democracy might generate new solutions, including how to reduce the crowding?

West continues:

" 'Within the system, I presume he's doing his best.' " (p. 221)

- to which Storrs replies:

" 'A machine is judged by its output. How's your precious system performing in this mess?' " (p. 221)

- but West has the last word with:

" 'Oh, forget the political arguments. There's England [seen from space].' " (p. 221)

West thinks of "...the little house in Kent..." (p. 221) Anderson's characters remain first and foremost human beings, not sloganeering stereotypes. 

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