Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Inner Conflict

In Poul Anderson's World Without Stars (New York, 1966), the human characters, having "jumped" into intergalactic space, must now fight against natives armed with spears. However, greater issues are at stake. Like any reflective science fiction writer, Anderson, when comparing human beings with aliens, casually touches on important issues - and, I think, sets up a false dichotomy:

"In the Earth-days since he renounced his species, Rorn had improved his command of Yonder [an alien language] until he could readily use it; so much does the removal of inward conflict do for the mind, and you may decide for yourself whether it's worth the price." (p. 97)

The narrator, Argens, has answered his own question for us. Humanity as it is currently constituted is rightly preferred to a mere "...removal of inner conflict..." that would be part and parcel of a loss of individual freedom. However, by meditation and psychological understanding, human beings, without any alien input, can work towards a resolution of inward conflict not negating but enhancing individual freedom (I think).

The novel is, we understand, part of Argens' autobiography and indeed, he is the first person narrator of all but three of the chapters. Chapters I, VIII and XIV, however, are narrated in the third person and from the alien viewpoint of ya-Kela - so these chapters are fictionalised either by Argens or by the omniscient narrator who is otherwise absent. In Chapter XIV, ya-Kela hears without understanding human conversation, which  therefore is printed in italics. For example:

" 'Hugh,' said ya-Argens, 'I don't know whether to call you a hero or a devil.' " (p. 105)

I question whether ya-Kela would be able to discern and remember incomprehensible syllables.

Ya-Kela's people sit on their tails, like Anderson's Merseians, and the females are subordinate, as also among the Merseians, but the differences are greater.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Or maybe Chaptes I, VIII, and XIV should be considered strictly separate from Argens autobiography, meant to give us a closer look at the "Pack," a look at ya-Kela's point of view. We should consider these chapters as not being in Argens memoirs. While that might mean a technical defect in how Anderson wrote WORLD WITHOUT STARS, it need not jarringly interrupt the flow of the story while reading it.

I could even argue, as the Chinese idea puts it, that every work of art NEEDS a small imperfection in order to more clearly emaphasize it's virtues.