Thursday, 11 June 2015

The Solar System In Context

We are physically involved with the cosmos even while remaining on the Earth's surface. The Solar System rotates around the center of one member of a group of galaxies and Terrestrial life is composed of elements fused inside other stars. Science fiction writers have different ways of communicating our cosmic involvement apart from the obvious concept of interstellar travel:

in Larry Niven's Known Space future history, human beings are mutated Pak breeder colonists of a former Slaver food planet;

in Fred Hoyle's The Black Cloud, an intelligent gas cloud in radio contact with other such clouds passes through the Solar System whereas, in Fred and Geoffrey Hoyle's Fifth Planet, another star with its planetary system passes through;

in Poul Anderson's Brain Wave, human life is transformed when the Solar System passes out of an intelligence-inhibiting radiation zone;

in Anderson's The Byworlder, a space-traveling intelligent being with an entirely different biology and psychology enters the Solar System and establishes communication whereas, in Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, different extrasolar species are allowed to colonize Mars and Jupiter, respectively.

Making the Martians of the Technic History extrasolar colonists rather than natives was a stroke of genius, showing that the author questioned all of his own premises. We can see that Mars is unlikely to bear life, let alone intelligence, yet a lot of sf, including an already written Nicholas van Rijn story, involves our old friends, the Martians. Thus, "Margin of Profit" was incorporated into Anderson's main future history not by editing out the Martians but by revising their history.

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