Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Eric Wace

We (some of us) want more information about ordinary life on Earth during the Solar Commonwealth and, later, during the Terran Empire. Given a few data, we can extrapolate more. Here is one datum about the Commonwealth: Eric Wace was born on Earth in a slum near "'...the old Triton Docks.'" (The Van Rijn Method, p. 423) Must there still be slums amidst the technological advances of the twenty fifth century?

Both "Triton" and "Docks" evoke the sea and maybe recall Poul and Karen Anderson's maritime city of Ys, which had a covenant with a sea god. But, of course, Triton Docks is a spaceport. Only the poor live so close to the noise and smells of a spaceport but they become used to it because it is incessant. But why is there a regular "'...earthquake noise...'"? We are not talking about rocket launches.

A slum near a spaceport sounds like an excellent setting for a Heinlein-type juvenile sf novel. Of course, a Heinlein hero, like Starman Jones, or an Anderson character, like Wace, gets himself into one of the spaceships and leaves the slum behind but what becomes of the many who don't or can't? An entire series of novels could tell their story, with an occasional sighting of an extraterrestrial or a ship overhead. (Since superheroes are an extension of sf, I also speculate about ordinary lives in Metropolis, where god-like beings occasionally clash overhead or are reported in the Daily Planet.)

Wace imagines that half of his childhood acquaintances are dead or in prison, the other half competing for occasional half-skilled, hard, dirty and unwanted jobs. In other Andersonian futures, automation has abolished any such jobs. Wace was simply lucky. His already mentioned apprenticeship (see here) at the age of twelve was with a fur wholesaler. After two years, he joined a fur-trapping expedition to the planet Rhiannon.

"'I taught myself a little something in odd moments, and bluffed about the rest I was supposed to know...'" (pp. 423-424). For more on bluffing or "faking it," see here and here.

Wace's self-education and bluffing got him from job to job until he became the Solar Spice & Liquors factor in the minor outpost on Diomedes but, of course, this takes us away from the Terrestrial society that we wanted to know about. Lady Sandra Tamarin tells Wace that he would be able to live comfortably on a settled planet like her Hermes.

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