Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Margin Of Profit: Conclusion

Definitely the last post for 2014, folks! Poul Anderson's texts keep amazing us, or at least me, with how much can be drawn out of them but it will be good to take a break. I never know whether I have reached the end of reflections on the History of Technic Civilization. The attached image, a cover for Trader To The Stars, seems to show van Rijn's Mercury capturing the Borthudian Gantok in "Margin of Profit"?

"...the Borthudian frigate...was a darkling shark-form, only half the tonnage of the dumpy merchantman but with gun turrets etched against remote star-clouds."
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 163.

Although I think that Rise Of The Polesotechnic League would be a more appropriate title for Volume I of Baen Books' The Technic Civilization Saga, I increasingly appreciate the pertinence of The Van Rijn Method.

Van Rin tells Torres to "'...pull us up quick...'" (p. 167) but, as we read on, the immediately following "...reversion to normal state..." (ibid.) is described as the Borthudian's "...last, desperate move, killing his oscillations, dropping solidly back into the ordinary condition of things..." (p. 168), out of hyperspace. Pulling apart so quickly would have caused stresses in the linking force-beams that, in turn, would have destroyed both ships. However, the Terran ship has "...a detector coupled to an automatic cutoff, for just this possibility." (ibid.) In that case, why does van Rijn say "'...pull us up quick...'"? Readers without technical backgrounds must struggle with the technicalities, especially when these include technologies like, e.g., hyperspace and tractor and pressor beams, that do not yet exist, although Anderson writes as if he is familiar with them.

In normal space, Mercury's beams hold Gantok so close that the latter's weapons cannot be brought to bear. If the Borthudians try to board, a small pressor can flick them into space. I did not think of these possibilities but Anderson and van Rijn address them in any case. While going out onto the hull to make a repair, van Rijn:

"...was surrounded by a darkness-whitening star-blaze." (p. 166)

Long may we travel through space with van Rijn, Falkayn and Flandry.

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