Friday, 29 August 2014

Freedom And Transcendence

Poul Anderson, Brain Wave (London, 1977).

In American science fiction and especially in the works of Poul Anderson, interstellar travel is the ultimate symbol of freedom and transcendence - but it can only be a symbol. We can be free and experience transcendence on Earth and could remain unfree while traversing space. In fact, some of Anderson's characters are captured by interstellar slavers! - although they immediately set out to free themselves. How many of Anderson's characters preserve their identities and realize themselves simply by leaving the Solar System?

The enhanced human beings in Brain Wave have clearly passed on to a different level of consciousness. All of them leave Earth to build an interstellar civilization. If they were unenhanced, some would go but others would stay. Yet they expect to maintain such a close watch on Earth that they can arrange occasional "good luck" for those - human beings of normal or lower IQ and enhanced animals - who do stay behind.

Of their interstellar civilization, we are told only that it:

will have its own goals and struggles;
will give opportunities to the many average IQ races;
might meet a few other equally enhanced races;
over millions of years, will embrace all life in an unimaginable final harmony.

All very general and abstract but there were limits to what even Poul Anderson was able to imagine.

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