Thursday, 30 January 2014

Interloper II

The earlier post about Poul Anderson's short story, "Interloper" IN Anderson, Fantasy (New York, 1981), pp. 178-210, was written from memory whereas this current post is being written after rereading the story. That first post gave away all the surprises. The viewpoint character, Beoric, is an Elf but initially poses as an ET.

In the story, real ET's have been on Earth for about four thousand years, humanly perceived as evil supernatural beings - trolls, goblins, demons, dragons - but more recently, for the most part, their presence has been clandestine:

the insectoid Procyonites suck sleeping Terrestrials' blood and
consume waking Terrestrials' radiated nervous energy, thus lowering their victims' energy and intelligence and generating vampire legends;

the octopoid Altairians study historical processes;

the reptilian Sirians maintain a military base and refueling station and eat human beings;

the vulpine Arcturians secretly direct industry and remove some of its products for their own use;

the quasi-humanoid Denebians control the secret multi-species interstellar empire and telepathically draw mental energy from "...the directed minds of whole planets..." (my emphasis) (p. 202).

In order to direct minds, the Vaettir (the Denebians) direct history towards regimented thinking. Such thought is "...the most useful..." (p. 202) And this is all because these Denebians cannot think of anything positive to do, like appreciate truth and beauty or help others. A Denebian is, at least in his own estimation, intolerably weary with "...the despair of the ultimately evolved being who has nothing left to achieve..." (p. 203)

- nothing except empathy, compassion and contemplation.

Thus, mankind, observed dispassionately by the Altairians, is exploited biologically by the Procyonites and Sirians, economically by the Arcturians and mentally by the Vaettir. The single human being to appear in the entire story is a depersonlized janitor in the building, a disguised spaceship, where "...the grand control council for Sol..." meets. (p. 194)

In Anderson's "Details," benign aliens secretly, albeit ineffectually, direct human history. By contrast, the five extra-solar species in "Interloper" are as malign as can be, using humanity and hating each other, the science fictional equivalent of demons.

However, one other rational species is involved, neither human nor extraterrestrial. Mankind is unaware both of its exploiters and of its allies.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

While it is possible for humans or aliens to have empathy, compassion, and the ability to reflect or practice contemplation without having any faith or belief in God, my view is yo u are more likelty to find those things in people who do believe in God. While not all who don't believe in God will be despairing nihilists such as the Vaettir, my view is they will be sometimes PRONE to that nihilism.


Paul Shackley said...

Prone to it, I agree.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And I wonder what one of the Vaettir would say or think if it was proposed that he and his could practice empathy, compassion, and contemplation? Dismiss it with weary disgust as utterly unsatisfactory for a "ultimately evolved" race?


Paul Shackley said...

They would.