Thursday, 1 August 2013

Non-Human Races

How many non-human races will interact with Earth in its future? In Poul Anderson's "Flight to Forever," (Alight In The Void, New York, 1993):

Ixchulhi conquerors built an enormous stone pyramid that stood for over twenty thousand years;
the Grimmani built the also enormous stone fortress of Brontothor;
Taury's Imperial court included a centauroid, an avian from Klakkahar, a four-armed Haamigurian and the Dreamer;
the "gods" of the city were so far beyond mankind that it was irrelevant whether they were our descendents or the outcome of an independent evolution;
Saunders wonders "How many intelligent races had risen on Earth and had their day, and died...?" but concludes "At least...we were the first." (p. 235)

Thus, some non-human races are separated from us not by space but by time. They are not extraterrestrials but extra-temporals.

The Dreamer is the last of the Vro-Hi. In Anderson's Technic Civilization History, we realize that a Galactic Empire would be too impossibly vast to rule and that even the much smaller Terran Empire, only four hundred light years across, cannot really be ruled centrally from Archopolis. However, in "Flight to Forever," "'...the coordination of a billion planets...'" in a single Galactic Empire becomes temporarily possible because of "'...scientific psychodynamics and the great cybernetic engines...'" and the guidance of the old, wise, telepathic Vro-Hi (p. 214). The Vro-Hi are not just collectively ancient. The Dreamer alone is half a million years old.

"'No other race is intelligent enough to coordinate [the Empire].'" (p. 208)

The Dreamer works on the philosophical basis of the Second Empire just as Asimov's Second Foundation applies psychohistory to project their Second Empire. However, the Dreamer also proves that permanence is self-contradictory so that, "'There can be no goal to reach, not ever.'" (p. 214)

No permanent goal, no.

The Dreamer agrees with the time traveler Saunders that "'To travel better than to arrive.'" (p. 213) CS Lewis commented on this aphorism that, if it were true and were known to be true, then there would be nothing to hope for. But Lewis believed in a permanent goal. Surely for the rest of us there is both constant motion and many inherently valuable moments along the way?

The Vro-Hi "'...achieved a static physical state in which the new frontiers and challenges lay within our own minds...'" and wrongly thought that this ideal should suit all other beings (p. 213). This same, I think false, dichotomy recurs in Anderson's much later Harvest Of Stars Tetralogy. Integrated intelligences will continue to explore both the endless outer cosmos and mental realms like pure mathematics.

The Dreamer offers to remove the time travelers' "'...little neuroses...'" but Belgotai replies that he likes his (p. 213). I would have accepted the offer. When painful memories arise during Zen meditation, we neither suppress nor prolong them and do not think about them but let them pass and, until they pass, sit with them. But attention to the present would be facilitated if the memories did not arise.

"Flight to the Future" gives us another reference to the "ultrawave" (p. 216) and a space battle comparable to those in the Technic History. Saunders ironically uses the phrase, "All the time in the world." (p. 188), which is used not in The Time Machine but in one film adaptation of it.

Science fiction hints at some interesting other languages:

Old Solar in CS Lewis' Ransom Trilogy;
Temporal in Anderson's Time Patrol series:
Stellarian in "Flight To Forever" -

- languages of the sun, time and stars.

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