Monday, 23 April 2012

Something Is Rotten In Technic Culture?

Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilisation presents several alien races in conflict with humanity: Shenna, Baburites, Gorzuni, Merseians. However, these are not all one-dimensional space opera villains. On the eve of the Baburite War, David Falkayn says:

"I have this gnawing notion that something in us, in Technic culture, is responsible." (1)

It is. The Polesotechnic League has divided into the Home Companies, the Seven in Space and the independents. The Home Companies are in cahoots with the government of the Solar Commonwealth. The Seven in Space have secretly armed the Imperial Band of Sisema on Babur and are not dealing fairly with them either. (Benoni Strang organises the Baburites. Bayard Story represents the Seven. The initials are a clue. They are the same guy.) Monopolies, cartels and state-business mergers strangle freedom. The days of the League are numbered.

A human being working for the Baburites tells Falkayn:

"...not many League people seem to understand what a cosmos of enemies it's made for itself over the years." (2)

The example he cites is the aristocratic party on Merseia resentful that the League dealt not with them but with Merseian organised crime. But Falkayn already knew that there were problems. Breaking his oath to the leading independent Nicholas van Rijn, he had secretly helped an alliance of Wodenites, Ikranankans, Gorzuni, Ivanhoans, Vanessans, Cynthians and human colonists who were being left behind by a Technic civilisation that would not invest in helping them onto the interstellar stage. The source of wealth that Falkayn had found and passed not openly to his employer but secretly to the deprived races is now to be fought for by the Baburites backed, although Falkayn does not know this yet, by the Seven.

Falkayn began his search for a supernova-generated source of supermetals immediately after visiting the planet Tametha where local tribesbeings (beaked with long, thin legs), brutally exploited by a League company and now rising against their oppressors from Over-the-Mountains, had nearly killed Falkayn and his crew as well.

Thus, Anderson while clearly approving of the free enterprise and ostentatious wealth of the early League, does a good job of showing us the inequalities, dissatisfactions, injustices and conflicts that destroy freedom and that eventually destroy the society that generates them.

(1) Poul Anderson, Mirkheim, London, 1978, p. 98.
(2) ibid., p. 72.

No comments: