Friday, 2 August 2013

License And Strange Bedfellows

Although Poul Anderson's Seven Conquests (New York, 1984) is a war-themed collection, its sixth story, "License," does not involve any war because this story's premise is that, in our future, Earth has become too technologized and over-populated to risk engaging in any warfare. However, living in such conditions makes people aggressive so, instead of war, they have:

"'...legalized, regulated crime, as the necessary safety valve.'" (p. 200)

They have even re-instituted weregild.

Anderson, of course, tells a neat story in this setting. His characters can always derive good outcomes from bad situations. But, guess what, this time I just do not buy the story's premise, at least not the part about legalized crime as a safety valve.

Along the way, we notice Anderson's parody of two TLA's (three letter abbreviations): the American Federation of Labor becomes the American Freebooters' Labor Union and the Congress of Industrial Organizations becomes the Criminal Industries Organization.

Vocabulary check: "...patty raiding..."? (p. 173)

I have only just started to read or reread (I cannot remember which) the seventh story, "Strange Bedfellows," so I do not yet know how it relates to the war theme. What I do notice here is science fiction (sf) cliches. Because we already know from the book's cover, if not also from its Foreword, that we are reading an "sf story," we have no trouble about immediately accepting background information that would otherwise be bizarre. With the narrative starting in the midst of the action, we must quickly take on board that a group of human beings, including one colonist of Venus, is terraforming the Moon, with help from a native Martian. We accept all this so quickly only because we are already used to sf scenarios in which there can be Martians, colonies on other planets and terraforming projects.

All of this is already familiar to us even though this is a one-off story, not part of any series. In fact, the assumptions that Venus might be colonizable and that Mars could be inhabited probably even help us to date the story to some extent?


Anonymous said...

"Patty raiding" is presumably a misprint for "panty raiding". Back in the Fifties, male students sometimes demonstrated outside a girls' dorm, urging the coeds to toss underwear out the windows, or even entered to take the undergarments from people's dressers. The "License" version of panty-raiding involves dragging a squealing coed into the bushes.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I esp. enjoyed reading "Strange Bedfellows," because I was very interested in the idea that it might be possible to terraform the Moon. I even quoted the relevant bits from that story and sent them to two persons who are much more expert than I am on science and engineering. These gentlemen actually said it MIGHT be possible to terraform the Moon along the lines described in the story.

The scenario in "Strange Bedfellows" is yet another of the kind of thing our countries should be doing NOW. A bold effort to develop the resources and possibilities of space would really reinvigorate the West, help to shake off the despairing apathy which is one of the things undermining us.