Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Trevelyan And Smokesmith

Smokesmith says:

"'In my race, messages are always intended as vectors on the world line of the percipient.'" (Starship, p. 229)

I don't understand that. Do you?

Do the Reardonites, Smokesmith's race, directly perceive world lines? It sounds as if he treats them as more than a theory or a mathematical abstraction.

Trevelyan and Smokesmith discover a supernova. Thus, Poul Anderson's "The Pirate" becomes a supernova story like:

"The Star" by Arthur C Clarke;
"Day of Burning" by Poul Anderson;
"Lodestar" by Poul Anderson.

In "The Pirate" and "The Star," a rational species has been destroyed. In "Day of Burning," such a species is saved. In "Lodestar," the explosion occurred long ago but had scientifically interesting, and industrially exploitable, consequences.

Trevelyan says that civilization is based on communication. Yes. He adds that life:

"'...depends on communication and feedback loops between organism and environment, and between parts of the same organism.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Peregrine (New York, 1979), Chapter IV, p. 28.

"...communication and feedback loops..." is redundant - unless "communication" implies conscious communication, in which case it is wrong.

Trevelyan argues that there are natural limits to the size of information-processing brains and computers and that the number of extrasolar planets contacted is growing beyond anyone's ability to coordinate them. Anderson's fiction primarily celebrates those who value and exercise freedom. His Psychotechnic History mainly focuses on successive guardians of social order. Trevelyan of the Coordination Service is about to come into contact/conflict with the Nomads. Asked why the Cordys dislike the Nomads, he replies:

"'They're the worst disruptive factor our civilization has...They go go everywhere and do anything, with no thought of the consequences. To Earth, the Nomads are romantic wanderers; to me, they're a pain.'" (p. 30)

Anderson always presents both (or all) sides of any argument.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Your listing of "Day of Burning" helped to remind me of Anderson's novel ENSIGN FLANDRY. That too, in a way, is a story about a star which would soon go nova. And the grim part is that leaders of a race which had been saved from extinction from an exploding star were willing to let two intelligent races be exterminated to further their ends against the Terran Empire.


  2. Sean:
    Well, remember that the MEANS by which they were saved were so humiliating -- the empowering of what was basically the Merseian Mafia to run the process, because the Terrans thought regular government couldn't do it effectively -- that they were embittered.

    Although I can't recall seeing it explicitly stated in any story, I suspect this was at least in part how the Merseian racism we see in the Flandry stories came into being: stemming less from a feeling of real superiority than from the longing for REVENGE.

    1. Hi, David!

      While I agree that bitterness among some Merseians about how David Falkayn, acting for the Polesotechnic League, forced them to accept the Gethfennu as the means used by the League for assisting Merseia was a factor, it could not have been the only or even primary motivation for Merseian aggressiveness and racism. True, since it was the culture around the Wilwidh Sea which became dominant and unified Merseia that was esp. anti Gethfennu, that bitterness would be stronger than in other parts of Merseia. However, after more than FIVE HUNDRED years it seems unreasonable for rational beings to let something so relatively trivial continue to rankle.

      No, I argue that Merseian racism and aggressiveness and racism had deeper causes than merely affronted amour propre (hope I got the French term right!).