Tuesday, 29 April 2014

New Characters

Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization features not one but three major continuing characters and also includes a substantial number of works without any continuing character. (A future history needs a lot of short stories with varied settings to give it body.)

I regard The Night Face/Let The Spacemen Beware as a novel because it is well over 100 pages in length. Set centuries after the lifetime of Dominic Flandry, it necessarily introduces a new cast of characters, who turn out to be specific to just this single work. Since the point of the narrative is to demonstrate how far a small population of extra-solar colonists has diverged from standard humanity, Anderson could simply have described a homogeneous spaceship crew arriving on the planet Gwydion, but he doesn't.

The chief of the expedition is Miguel Tolteca of the Argo Astrophysical Company and the United Republics of Nuevamerica. Fifty years previously, the Republics had won their independence from the aristocratic regime on Lochlann. Raven, a Lochlanna aristocrat, leads the spaceship's military force. There are cultural misunderstandings and conflicts between Tolteca and Raven.

Since both of these men are viewpoint characters in different passages after their arrival on Gwydion, the reader must remain alert. Not only have the Gwydiona diverged from humanity but also we are not being given a single outsider's view of them either.

There are Star Trek episodes with similar themes but The Night Face is a novel. The Gwydiona are not aliens differing from humanity in just one respect but descendants of human beings who, over many generations, have adapted to an alien environment.

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