Friday, 29 May 2015

Inside And Outside

Poul Anderson, Starfarers (New York, 1999).

"'You - you are from outside?'" (p. 489)

The Kith crew of Fleetwing have been enclosed within their large, now immobile, interstellar spaceship for years. Those who were children have grown up but the crew has stopped having children and has practiced euthanasia to conserve resources. Each of them looks at the stars once a year.

It is easy to imagine a situation in which:

resources are recycled indefinitely;
new generations continue to be born;
the crew forgets how to look out at the stars;
it seems to them that their ship is the entire universe.

I was fascinated when I read about such an enclosed artificial universe in Robert Heinlein's Orphans Of The Sky. Brian Aldiss presented a more elaborate version in Non-Stop and James White creatively adapted the idea to a marine setting in The Watch Below. The Fleetwing crew do retain their knowledge of the outside universe but nevertheless it is a considerable shock when some of them meet unfamiliar spacesuited figures and one exclaims:

"'You - you are from outside?'" (p. 489)


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And we do see Poul Anderson occasionally using the idea of STL "generation world ships" in his own works. One example from his Psychotechnic series being "Star Ship" and another being the much more elaborate version seen in TALES OF THE FLYING MOUNTAINS. And I suppose the Bussard ram scoop ship "Eleonora Christine" seen in TAU ZERO is a smaller version of the same concept.

Hmmm, have to check my Heinlein books, to see if I already have his ORPHANS OF THE SKY.


Paul Shackley said...

Anderson's main generation ship story is "The Troublemakers" - which mentions Pythias!