Wednesday, 2 April 2014

That Uncomfortable Pause Between Finishing Reading One Book And Starting To Read Another

What should I read next? I occasionally mention other books read in order to place Poul Anderson in a wider literary context. I have been a John Grisham fan since I saw The Firm on television on a Saturday evening and bought the paperback second hand at a car boot sale on the Sunday afternoon and why did they change plot details and the ending? It is good sometimes to see, e.g., Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman playing particular roles, then to encounter those same characters in their original prose setting. I have just started to read Sycamore Row.

Man-Kzin Wars IV has been dispatched so I will shortly post about Poul Anderson's third contribution to that series. I might then read the rest of that volume and also reread stories by other authors in Volumes I, III and IV although, if I subsequently post about those other Man-Kzin Wars stories, it will be on the Science Fiction blog.

In "Inconstant Star," the kzin, Weoch-Captain, thinks:

"The real mockery came from the stars in the viewport, multitudes and majesty, a hunting ground unbounded. He bared fangs at them. We shall range among you yet, he vowed; we shall do with you what we will." (III, p. 261)

This recalls the Merseian, Brechdan Ironrede:

"'...the highest end of all - absolute freedom for our race, to make of the galaxy what they will.'"
- Young Flandry (New York, 2010), p. 27.

And Ironrede tells his newest grandcub:

"'You shall have stars for toys...Wudda, wudda, wudda.'" (op. cit., p. 28)

But, as when a kzinti admiral invoked the destiny of the race, I am not sure that it is appropriate to make the kzinti sound too similar to Merseians. The latter are indeed long term racial strategists whereas the former are so impulsive and aggressive that they lash out and fight among themselves if they are cooped up in a spaceship without any action for too long. In fact, in this respect, they strain credulity:

"'What they taught us in school. A sapient species doesn't reach space unless the members learn to cooperate. They'll wreck the environment one way or another, war or straight libertarianism or overbreeding...'"
- Niven, Larry, "Madness Has Its Place" IN Niven, Ed, Man-Kzin Wars III (New York, 1990), pp. 3-34 AT p. 14.

12 comments:

ndrosen said...

"A sapient species doesn't reach space unless the members learn to cooperate." There are suggestions by several writers in the Man-Kzin Wars series as to how the kzinti might be so fierce, and yet have high technology, especially military technology, without having exterminated themselves.

Regards,
Nicholas

Paul Shackley said...

Nicholas,
Yes, we don't know until we meet aliens - and that does not look like happening soon.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

But I lean more to agreeing with Nicholas, rather than with you. I do agree we see MOST of the Kzin in the Man/Kzin wars as hot headed, impulsive, and prematurely aggressive. However, I've also seen suggestions that many Kzin become "cooler" and more patient as they grew older. It would be natural that most Kzin leaders or patriarchs would be older and cooler blooded than ordinary Kzin warriors. I think there are some hints of this even in the original stories written by Niven. One of the Louis Wu stories, for example, mentions the iron self control of Kzin visitors of Earth among crowds of jostling humans.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
Yes, plus by Louis' time the Puppeteer-manipulated selection of "tamer" kzinti had been operating for a few centuries.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Which story can you find this Puppeteer manipulating of the Kzin in? Truth to say, I've found most of Niven's later works rather disappointing reading.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
I agree later Niven disappointing. I posted "Strengths and Weaknesses of Larry Niven" on the Science Fiction blog.
In RINGWORLD. We Made It bought the hyperdrive from the Outsiders. Outsiders follow starseeds through space. Nessus the Puppeteer disclosed that Puppeteers can lure starseeds. Speaker to Animals, a kzinti ambassador to human space, deduced: Puppeteers lure starseed into space near We Made It so that Outsiders, following the starseed, will detect the human colony and sell it the hyperdrive, thus enabling humanity to defeat the kzinti, thus starting a process of natural selection for tamer kzinti.
Paul.

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
The Puppeteers also selected humanity for luck by encouraging a Birthright Lottery. They are truly Puppeteers.
Paul.

S.M. Stirling said...

It's mentioned in several of the stories that the Kzin were Iron Age barbarians when contacted by a race called the Jotoki, who used them as mercenaries. This involved a certain degree of education and technology transfer, which turned out to be a Really Bad Idea. They might well never have developed a scientific or industrial revolution on their own. It's also implied that they used genetic engineering on themselves to make their natures embody the ideal of the dominant Kzin culture of the time, also a Really Bad Idea -- literalizing the metaphor, as it were.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul and Mr. Stirling!

Paul, I think I have RINGWORLD. That, at least, is not one of Niven's disappointing books. And, yes, I can see how repeated defeat at human hands would eventually force the Kzin to develop greater patience and forethought. "Tamer," in other words.

Mr. Stirling: yes, I forgot about how the Kzin first left their home world only because another race foolishly thought they would make good mercenaries. And, yes, I now recall how the Kzin seemed to have deliberately modified their race, including, alas, making their females morons.

I also liked your contributions to the Man/Kzin wars series! I'm in haste, tho, so I will stop now.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man-Kzin_Wars

This Wiki article suggests that there might be some questions about canonicity regarding stories featuring the Jotoki? Meanwhile, thank you for all the discussion here, folks!
Paul.

Paul Shackley said...

Hey, we wind up discussing Known Space on Poul Anderson Appreciation because Anderson made such good contributions to Larry Niven's future history. How cool is that?

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Yes, I agree that this discussion of Larry Niven's Man/Kzin wars stories in this blog was very cool because of Poul Anderson's contributions to the series.

Sean