Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Humor In How To Be Ethnic...

In Poul Anderson's "How To Be Ethnic In One Easy Lesson," the narrator, James Ching, mentions:

"...my parents, who mean well but can't understand why I must leave the nice safe Commonwealth..."
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 183.

The "Commonwealth" is the Solar Commonwealth, the civilized Solar System, that by Ching's time has an interstellar frontier. Parents often think that what is good for them is good for their children. Jim's ambition to explore deep space should be supported. But Jim should also understand that most of us most of the time are happy without ever leaving the atmosphere. Right now, I am not volunteering to colonize Mars, for example!

But I do want to see:

exploration of the Solar System;
a laser defense system against cometary or asteroidal strikes on Earth;
extraterrestrial industries and energy-sources;
people living in self-sustaining habitats off Earth.

But back to what I find humorous -

Jim's school counselor, Freeman Snyder, wants him to contribute to the Festival of Man. Jim proposes to get Adzel to play the dragon in a Chinese parade and to sing Fafner in Wagner. Synder is disappointed at the suggestion of a nonhuman participant. Jim interrupts:

"'Sir, please wait till you've met Adzel.'" (p. 194)

- then immediately calls Adzel, the only Wodenite on Earth, into the room. Meters of scales, tail, spikes and fangs enter and their owner thunders his joy. Jim has prepared Adzel: there is no need to mention his pacifism. Adzel admits to a practical motive: Chinese restaurateurs will feed him and he does get hungry - licking his lips immediately in front of Snyder. Jim whispers that the Wodenite is safe if not frustrated. (Sure he is. He is safe if frustrated as well!) Snyder backs into a computer, wincing and strangling on his agreement. Adzel asks him to record his favorable opinion of Jimmy in the latter's permanent file at once.

Jim has proved his grasp of the Van Rijn Method.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I had to laugh a litte on reading this blog piece! Yes, James Ching has indeed mastered the Nicholas van Rijn method!