Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Makeshift Rocket III

In Poul Anderson's The Makeshift Rocket (New York, 1962), when the spaceship Mercury Girl lands on the colonized asteroid Grendel, that asteroid is under occupation by an adventurist force from another asteroidal nation. Strangely, our hero turns out to be not the captain or a crew member of Mercury Girl but a Major in the occupation force - but none of this is meant to be taken seriously.

If artificially generated gravitational fields were used to colonize the Asteroid Belt, then a cluster of asteroids might be organized as a Kingdom or Republic with each asteroid as a county or shire? And an asteroid on a separate orbit might be like an island - that could have disputed sovereignty?

The main difference is that all these objects are moving and, with artificial gravity, can be moved again. Thus, on the last occasion when the clusters of the Irish Free State (Saorstat Erseann) and the Anglian Kingdom approached conjunction, the independent asteroid Laoighise (Lois) moved between them. Anglian prospectors, finding valuable praseodymium on Lois, claimed the asteroid for King James IV and moved it into the Anglian cluster. But, since an Erseman had discovered, landed on and named the asteroid, the Erse Republic claimed sovereignty. However, Ersers cannot take any action until the two clusters again approach conjunction and their first act is to occupy not the heavily guarded Lois but the defenseless Grendel.

So far, the main drama of the story seems to be not this international conflict but the consequences for Mercury Girl's business of being quarantined on Grendel for an expected six weeks. I will read the rest of the story with some interest but without any anxiety about the outcome.

5 comments:

  1. Hi, Paul!

    Actually, the events in THE MAKE SHIFT ROCKET does have a bearing or connection to the dispute over Lois. Altho the comedy in that story makes it easy to get overlooked.

    Been wondering, do you have any general thoughts about how Poul Anderson handled humor in his SF? And, more generally, what do you think of using comedy in SF, broadly speaking, including the works of other authors?

    Sean

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  2. Sean,
    Thank you for these questions. It will be a little while before I get my act together to answer them!
    Paul.

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      Anytime! I've already seen you wrote a piece about SF humor, which I'll be reading next.

      Sean

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  3. Sean,
    I hope that the piece on sf humor is a sufficient response? I haven't got much more to sat.
    Paul.

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      I agree, barring more indepth research, there isn't much more either of us can say about comedy in SF.

      Sean

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