Saturday, 5 July 2014

Wings Of Victory IV

Poul Anderson's "Wings of Victory" (1972) mentions the planets Woden and Cynthia. This is possible because, although the first trader team story, introducing both a Wodenite and a Cynthian, is set later in the Technic History, it was published earlier, in 1965.

In "Wings of Victory," the xenologist Vaughn Webner argues that terrestroid evolutions are basically parallel although with considerable but comprehensible variations. For example, when forelimbs are liberated for manipulation, hexapods become centauroids whereas quadrupeds become bipeds.

Webner, after firing at a large swooping ornithoid, which fortunately retreats, argues that it is a dangerous animal with claws, talons, fangs and large, heavy wings that could easily break a man's neck, further that it cannot be intelligent because:

the claws on its wings can grasp but not manipulate;
the three straight and two opposable digits on the feet can neither manipulate while walking nor forge, dig, build etc in flight;
the ornithoids' body mass must be mostly feathers, hollow bones and thin skin, making them unable to lift utensils;
flyers on terrestroid planets have insufficient body mass to include a brain big enough for intelligence;
these flyers have not even increased brain size by exchanging jaws for beaks so they are probably stupid and vicious and should certainly be destroyed if they attack again.

We will see that Webner's reasoning is correct but that his conclusion is wrong because of an extra factor that human beings must learn on Ythri.
This story of human-Ythrian first contact introduces the kind of Ythrian architecture that appears again in "Wingless" and The People Of The Wind: a large stone house forming a courtyard with lower wooden flower-roofed buildings and quadrupedal animals nearby.

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