Sunday, 12 October 2014
"...the forests bear ample food the year around."
-Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 30.
"'...we've got abundant free food and stuff. No special effort involved in satisfying the basic needs.'" (op. cit., p. 39)
Edible plants grow everywhere all year;
meat animals are bred to come when summoned in various ways;
the climate is mild;
outbackers move in search of food, sleeping in temporary shelters or bedrolls -
- although each territory has one house for shelter during heavy rainstorms with outbuildings for immobile equipment.
Imagine what a difference the abundance of free food would make to social organization! For mere physical survival, no organization would be necessary. However, human society transcends mere physical survival. Outbackers cooperate, for example, to build roads and to resist encroachments from the Nine Cities. Their own society is organized as follows:
"'A man claims a certain territory for his own, to support him and his family and retainers. He passes it on to one son. How he chooses the heir is his business. Anybody who kills the owner, or drives him off, takes over that parcel of land.'" (ibid.)
In this case, "A man..." does not mean any man: every man cannot have retainers! Somehow, at an earlier stage, landholders were differentiated from the landless. But the latter do not starve. And they can become itinerant laborers, entrepreneurs or scientists studying, e.g., animals and how to control them. Alternatively, they can be employed by landholders as servants, assistants, guards etc. Currency is iron and copper slugs.
The ancestors developed plants with leaves that become paper and juices that become ink. Many landholders keep wind- or water-powered printing presses. Books and magazines proliferate without electronic competition. No one collects books but copies are cheap. There are schools and arts: music, dance, scrimshaw, jewelry, weaving, painting, carving, drama, literature, cuisine and some that the Empire does not have.
Territorial battles have become less common but, by succeeding in such a conflict, a man proves himself fit to have children and women choose to become pregnant by a landholder because they want their children to have some claim on him.