Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Mentalics?

We would be duly impressed if we learned of a civilisation that was many times older than ours and that had mastered the science of mind. Isaac Asimov's Galactic Empire, over ten thousand years old, is the culmination of a much longer period of interstellar civilisation and its highest scientific achievement is Hari Seldon's mastery both of mass psychology and of individual "mentalics." The Second Empire is to be based on Seldon's "psychohistory."

Poul Anderson's fictitious species, the Ai Chun, confined to a single metal-poor but very old planet of an isolated red dwarf star in intergalactic space, rule an ancient empire based on selective breeding, mental control and telepathy. They have even bred intelligence in a subject species and believe that they themselves in previous incarnations created everything else.

In previous posts, I compared Asimov's Galactic Empire unfavourably with Anderson's Terran Empire and must now add that I regard Seldon's Second Foundation as a much less plausible ruling group than the Ai Chun. Reading Anderson's works, I am reminded of Asimov's Foundation Series but always feel that Anderson's scenarios are more substantially based both in scientific understanding and in creative imagination.

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