Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Martyr

"The Martyr" by Poul Anderson (IN Anderson, The Gods Laughed, New York, 1982) is a story that I do not seem to have read before although I have had the collection for years. Sometimes a title does not grab the attention.

On its opening page, the story addresses the same issue as Anderson's "Backwardness":

"'I've always suspected that intellect is a necessary but somewhat overrated quality.'" (p. 7)

Anderson sketches a familiar kind of background very quickly:

the story is set some time in the future;
Earth has interstellar travel and an Empire with a Space Navy;
Tau Ceti II has been colonized;
the Imperial language is Lingua Terra, not Anglic (details like this immediately tell us that the story is not part of an already existing series).

Moving to the specifics of this story, it turns out that covert operatives of the Imperial Astronaval Service, scientific corps, have kidnapped some members of the peaceful, spiritual Cibarran species who are capable of collective telepathy and interstellar teleportation but, it is felt, are unwilling to share their knowledge of psionics. Unless there is a further twist to the tale, it seems that, in this story, Earthmen are the bad guys and can be expected to experience a nemesis for their hubris.

References to psychic abilities also suggest that intelligence is not the only issue here. I am remembering a story in which a small super-intelligent population was found on an island on another planet so this does not seem to be it.

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