Wednesday, 23 April 2014


Poul Anderson's "Genius" (Astounding, 1948) is very early. I have just spotted, while googling, a comment that it was Anderson's third published story. Have I read it before? I find that I have saved a copy of the Astounding cover although I do not remember doing so.

Having just read the first three pages, until the first break in the narrative, I have found several familiar story elements:

faster than light quasivelocity;
an interstellar Empire, with slaves;
peripheral barbarians;
many implausibly humanoid, even "human," aliens;
an interstellar civilization secretly observing Earth;
a hint that Terrestrials are somehow special.

There is also what may be a covert reference to another writer about a Galactic Empire:

"...the foundation and the reason for the Empire..."
- Poul Anderson, The Collected Short Works Of Poul Anderson (Framingham, MA, 2009), p. 197.

"Genius" should not be confused with "Details," which bears some of the listed common features. I am still not entirely sure whether I have read "Genius" before.

Addendum: It seems I have misunderstood some points but only because they are introduced allusively and gradually. In this case, the Empire is Solarian and the covertly observed planet is not Earth but somewhere else. I will have to read further (obviously) to unravel the plot.


  1. Hi, Paul!

    I really don't see why you should find the idea of "...many implausibly humanoid, even "human" aliens" so hard to accept. To me, it makes pefect sense to think, if a non human race evolved from a four limbed species, that the advantages of using two forelimbs for handling, manufacturing, and manipulating tools and weapons outweighs having four limbs for walking. I don't expect "humanoid" non humans to look like us!


  2. Sean,
    In this case, I was getting it wrong. These guys are of terrestrial human descent. They subordinate or exterminate everyone else.

    1. Hi, Paul!

      Aha, the bad guys in "Genius" were motivated by a racist ideology like that of the National Socialists. I'm also reminded of S.M. Stirling's Draka.

      I think it's cool you had an ancient copy of the December 1948 issue of ASTOUNDING, containing Poul Anderson's story!


  3. Sean,
    But I don't have a copy. I just got the cover illustration from the Internet by googling "Genius Poul Anderson"!