Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Makeshift Rocket: Conclusion

(This might be the last post on this blog for 2013. It will give us a round number for the year and maybe I will have other things to get on with when back out of bed tomorrow or the day after.)

(i) In Poul Anderson's The Makeshift Rocket (New York, 1962), there is an Andersonian moment of realization. The engineer, Syrup, is conversing idly about action and reaction involving a beer bottle and then he stops:

"'I mean...de bottle is a kind of rocket. Vy, it could even - it could even -'
"His voice ground to a halt. The mug dropped from his hand and splashed to the floor." (p. 65)

I quote this passage because it is like so many others quoted before. The message is that knowledge and reason applied to problems generate solutions.

(ii)The beer-powered rocket must be designed and constructed in haste and secrecy, then used without having been tested first. Anderson, a hard sf writer versed in physics and engineering, knows that Syrup, while using the contraption, will encounter practical difficulties showing him how he could have designed it more efficiently. These are the lessons that would have been learned during testing. Anderson makes sure to show us a couple of these.

(iii) Syrup and his Martian ally seem to have failed to convey their message of invasion to the Anglian capital, New Winchester, but then turn out to have done just enough to alert the authorities there and we should have realized that they had. The clues were there. Yet again, hard sf, even when humorous, shares rationality with detective fiction.

(iv) As in Tales Of The Flying Mountains, gyrogravitic generators used to colonize and move asteroids are nicknamed "geegees." These are two closely related alternative timelines. Indeed, there is humor in the opening Flying Mountains story.

(v) It continues to be enjoyable to add to this blog begun in March 2012 but it will not be possible to continue at the same rate.

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