Saturday, 30 November 2013
The Sound And The Furry
"Holmes himself dropped into an armchair so overstuffed that he almost disappeared from sight. The two humans found themselves confronting a short pair of legs beyond which a button nose twinkled and a pipe fumed."
- Poul Anderson and Gordon R Dickson, Earthman's Burden (New York, 1979), p. 101.
The button nose, like the elsewhere mentioned beady eyes, make it difficult to avoid the impression that the Hokas are not just small and bear-like but really are animated toy teddy bears.
Anderson and Dickson reasoning logically from their own premises have invented an original crime, if not an Original Sin: smuggling historical novels to Toka! As the series proceeds, it does address some of the potential practical problems implied by its own premises. For example:
"...imposed cultural patterns were always modified so as to exclude violence." (p. 126)
Jones, the plenipotentiary, has to control the input. Thus, Hokas are able to read about bloodthirsty pirates only when inappropriate material has been smuggled in to them but then two dozen ships turn pirate, head for the Spanish Main and can be expected, irresponsibly, to attack Bermuda, "[n]ot really realizing it'll mean bloodshed. They'll be awfully sorry later." (p. 127)
Not realizing? Sorry later? That does raise some questions about their supposed intelligence.
When I asked in an earlier post whether Caesar would accept assassination etc, there was one such question that could have been answered affirmatively: would Dick Turpin accept being hanged? Tanni thinks that the Hokas have turned violent when she reads that they have hanged Dick Turpin but they do it every week: Hokas cannot be harmed by hanging them because "Their neck musculature is too strong in proportion to their weight." (p. 126)