Friday, 2 August 2013


Seven Conquests (New York, 1984) is "...a one-author, one-theme, one-genre collection." (p. 1)

Author: Poul Anderson.
Theme: war.
Genre: science fiction (sf).

However, the wars in its fifth story, "Details," are those of modern history so where is the sf? The answer is that we see these wars from the perspective of an extraterrestrial observer. The theme is that the unpredictable details of history confound the observer's carefully calculated expectations. However, I do not remember the "details" so I am about to reread the story with interest.

Apparently, bipeds differing only in color, size and possession or non-possession of a tail but not in shape evolve on every terrestroid planet, of which there are many. Each such human race is covertly guided until it is racially mature enough to be informed of and inducted into an interstellar League.

Churches explain such parallel evolution by Design whereas scientists have yet to account for it. The reality, of course, is that, in this part of the story, Anderson is not writing serious scientific speculation but does want his observer to be able to mingle on Earth without being identified as alien. This "'...agent-in-chief for new planet in Section two-three-nine-seven-six-two...'" is appointed because he is the only available candidate who is "'...physiologically identical with the race currently dominant on the planet in question. We have no other fully trained Shandakite available, and indeed no qualified man who could be surgically disguised. Everyone I would like to appoint is tied up elsewhere with more important tasks.'" (p. 145)

The training was at a "'...Psychotechnic Institute...'" (p. 144), a term that we recognize from Anderson's first future history which is also represented in this collection.

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