Sunday, 9 June 2013


The planet Shalmu is thrice important:

it is mentioned in the very early "Sargasso of Lost Starships";
Dominic Flandry visits it in The Rebel Worlds;
it is where his servant, Chives, is from.

The Shalmuan slave trade and crucifixions in The Rebel Worlds remind us that we are reading about a future version of the Roman Empire.

Why do Shalmuans and Merseians look so similar when they are products of unrelated evolutions?

Chives is elderly in A Stone In Heaven and I suspect that he has died by the time of The Game Of Empire because he is not mentioned in that concluding Flandry novel.

When not coerced to enslave their fellows by a corrupt sector governor:

"...Shalmuans were less ferocious, less able to treat their fellow beings like vermin or machinery, than humankind is." (Poul Anderson, The Rebel Worlds, London, 1973, p. 24)

- with the consequence that the global hegemony of a technological culture spreads more slowly. If only human history had been like that.

In The Rebel Worlds, Flandry's first officer, Rovian, like an ERBian green Martian, has two arms, two legs and intermediate limbs that can be used as either. He asks why oppression on Shalmu is bad unless it provokes rebellion. As Spock lacks emotions, Rovian lacks morality but he obeys orders, abides by his Oath and is loyal to his captain. Another interesting character, too soon killed in combat.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I don't think the resemblance of Shalmuans to Merseian should be considered more than merely accidental. Two species might have some chance resemblances to each other without that meaning much DEEP down.

And one thing I noticed about the cover for the edition of THE REBEL WORLDS you used for this note was how realisticaly it depicts the tripartie inhabitants of Dido. I think this cover painting is one of the better efforts I've seen at depicting non humans.


Anonymous said...

Does Rovian lack morality, or is his morality -- whether from genetics or culture -- deficient in some respects? His callousness to the weak is appalling, but can someone who is brave and loyal be said to lack morality altogether? Is human morality deficient by the standards of his species? And who judges between different moralities?

Regards, Nicholas

Paul Shackley said...

Yes, the 2 species are different internally. Many older books have several covers which is helpful for blogging.

Of course, Rovian, as a rational being, is more likely to have a different morality than no morality. Who judges? Between human beings, we can discuss our differences and each can argue our case although without any quick answers. If we ever do meet other rational species, we will have to see how it goes and might only be able to compare.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul and Nicholas!

Truth to say, I found the covers of MANY science fiction books appalling, even hideous. The Baen Books covers for YOUNG FLANDRY, CAPTAIN FLANDRY, and SIR DOMINIC FLANDRY being esp. infuriating to me.

Yes, now that it was pointed out, Rovian was rather callous, I have to admit. I can imagine how some races might be more or less sympathetic than others. I bring to both your attention Flandry's remarks on Shalmu how the Imperium had to tailor relations to thousands of very different races in ways those other races would find understandable and acceptable. And Flandry also stressed how Sector governors HAD to have wide or broad powers, despite the risk of them being abused by bad governors like Aaron Snelun.

But, it is my hope that rational beings would come to understand and accept a higher standard of ethics than the minimalism we saw in Rovian. Take note of the "Brotherhood of Beings" philosophy which was also mentioned, albeit Commander Abrams found serious faults in it (see ENSIGN FLANDRY).