Saturday, 16 May 2015

Exploring A Planet

Poul Anderson, Starfarers (New York, 1999).

"Wings and empennage, folded into the hull, molecularly remembered their former shapes and deployed." (p. 164)

My computer recognizes neither the noun "empennage" nor the adverb "molecularly." We know the noun "molecule" and the adjective "molecular" so we can derive the adverb "molecularly" but "empennage" would have had me stumped if I had not been able to google or, presumably, refer to a dictionary.

"...a thinly vegetated mesa..." (ibid.)

"Mesa" is the sort of word that I have encountered often enough but nevertheless need to check its precise meaning. Wiki reveals that it is larger than a "butte," a word for which my understanding is considerably vaguer. Of course, Captain Nansen stays in the ship while the boat lands on the mesa, unlike Captain Kirk, always transporting into trouble.

"Sonoptics on shoulders whirred, swung...recording..." (p. 166)

I am having trouble with the word "sonoptics," although I have found it as a trade name here.

The brief exploration of the planet lasts for just five pages. How many extrasolar planets have been explored in fiction? Several works by Poul Anderson and James Blish read like much improved versions of Star Trek, just as Anderson's Terran Empire reads like a much improved version of Asimov's Galactic Empire although I must stop saying that...

1 comment:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    While I agree with you in believing Poul Anderson's Terran Empire a far better and more plausible depiction of what an interstellar state is likely to be than Asimov's Galactic Empire, fairness makes me point out that here and there in the Galactic Empire stories we do see glimpses of Asimov doing better. One example I thought of being his short story "Blind Alley." The plot revolves around how the only nonhuman intelligent race found in the galaxy were saved from being smothered to extinction by the sheer overwhelming weight of the Galactic Empire. The story also interests me in giving us glimses in how the Imperial civil service work (and thus reminded me of similar glimpses in THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN).