Saturday, 2 November 2013

Cold Victory

"Quixote And The Windmill" informs us that, in Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History, high technology causes mass unemployment. This fact then becomes part of the background of subsequent stories. Thus, in "Cold Victory", Robert Crane remembers a childhood encounter with an old tramp who drew his citizen's allowance, traveled around the world and told forgotten stories about Br'er Rabbit.

Robert and his brother are on opposite sides in a civil war, a perennial theme. The Humanist revolutionary government has withdrawn Earth and Luna from the Solar Union so Mars and Venus assemble a fleet to restore the Union. Mercenaries are promised booty from the treasure vaults of the Terrestrial dictator and a Venus clan member "...bought a dozen new reclamation units with his share of the loot..." (Cold Victory, New York, 1982, p. 191) But is booty a feasible concept in technological warfare?

Crane argues that chance rules history. By chance, Robert was captured but, by chance, he was interrogated by his brother whom he knew how to mislead, crucially influencing the outcome of the battle. The Martian professor replies that a battle does not deflect a historical movement:

"'...no solution has yet been found to the problems which brought forth the Humanists. They will come again; under one name or another they will return. The war was merely a ripple.'" (p. 193)

And the Humanists do come again as anti-technological Kali-worshipers, leading to the Second Dark Ages.

At the start of the argument, the Engineer remarks:

"'If [the dictator] and his cohorts had been doctrinaire, the government of Earth might still be Humanist!'" (p. 166)

- to which the professor replies:

"'But being born of a time of trouble, Humanism was inevitably fanatical...'" (ibid.)

Is the word "...less..." missing before "...doctrinaire..."?

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