Saturday, 3 August 2013

Strange Bedfellows

In Poul Anderson's "Strange Bedfellows," (Conquests, London, 1981) when the Moon has been fully terraformed:

its rich mineral resources will be exploited;
there will be adequate affordable housing;
one quarter of the surface will be reserved for recreation;
there will be a lot of woods and meadows.

Assuming also easy Earth-Moon travel, this sounds utopian.

Unfortunately, as in Anderson's novels Shield and Harvest Of Stars, a lot of the text is taken up with the hero evading his enemies:

the anti-Lunar conspirators kidnap the terraformer, Sevigny;
he escapes and calls the police;
the police involve the Feds who are controlled by the anti-Lunar conspirators;
Sevigny escapes and appeals to the local Martian consul who is also an anti-Lunar conspirator;
Sevigny escapes...

Eventually, he manages to contact people he can trust to counteract the conspirators.

The "strange bedfellows" of the title must be the disparate coalition of conspirators:

Conservationists who want reclamation of terrestrial deserts, not of the Moon;
corporations wanting contracts for Earthside reclamation;
religious fanatics who regard changes to the Moon as defilement of God's handiwork;
a Secretary of Resources who wants funds spent at home to increase his bureaucracy;
even a Martian society that wants Luna as a new Mars rather than a new Earth.

However, I think that this story neither fits in with the war theme of the Conquests collection nor fulfills Anderson's introduction to it:

"Our descendants may yet create a society more sane than any which has gone before. But will this keep them from insanities of their own?" (p. 187)

There are insanities in the story but not yet, as far as I can see, any society saner than our own.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I don't think it's "unfortunate" that much of "Strange Bedfellows" and novels like SHIELD is taken up by action adventure derring do. It's my view that Anderson was able to balance action adventure alongside discussion of ideas in more or less the right proportions in his works.

I think one reason I got tired of Asimov's fiction was because of how they were so largely dialogues between his characters and very little action. It led to him seeming to be too flat, colorless, and monodimensional.

And I argue that "Strange Bedfellows" does fit in with the theme of war and conflict uniting the stories in SEVEN CONQUESTS. The conflict is between those who wanted to terraform the Moon and those who did not. War and conflict does not have to always take overtly military forms.

And one advantage, of course, of planting large forests on a terraformed Moon would be how the oxygen trees give off would help thicken and prolong the atmosphere. Hmmm, given the low Lunar gravity, we might well see trees like maples, oaks, beeches, pines, etc., growing very tall!


Paul Shackley said...

Yes. I would like to read a novel set on a terraformed Luna.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I agree, that would be fascinating, a novel set on a terraformed Moon. Closest I know of such a thing being the opening chapter of SATAN'S WORLD. I think at least parts of the Moon were terraformed in the Technic History timeline.