Saturday, 23 January 2016

Homo Servus

SM Stirling, Drakon (New York, 2000), Chapter One.

Reichart Station is a village in a park in an oak and maple forest growing over Final War ruins. A sonic barrier protects the park from animals and wild sapients. The village, comprising cottages, larger buildings, gardens, lawns, paths and a square with a fountain, is three hundred and fifty years old with its own community, customs and folkways. A research institute for biohazards and physics, it is connected to the Web and has small facilities underground. Superconducting cables connect a heavy power receptor to the centrum.

The thousand strong population of homo servus gather to greet a single visiting Draka. The New Race is rarely seen because entry is restricted. The servus scent of curiosity, awe, excitement and some fear signals submission. They are genetically engineered to remain vigorous into their eighties or nineties, then die quickly and easily. Their greeting is "We exist to serve." (p. 9) Gwen is met by the Administrator and the head of research, who are lifepartners. Their children study research infosystems and quantum-gravitational dynamics. The best servus are just as intelligent and possibly more creative than their overlords.

Thus, the servus live a much better life than the earlier serfs but are systematically denied the advantages of the Draka.


David Birr said...

The line about the *servus* (hmmm, should we use *servi* for the plural instead?) being engineered to die easily at about 80 or 90 reminded me of the azi (artificial zygote insemination) clone servants in several of C.J. Cherryh's books. Early in *Port Eternity*, the azi narrator, 68767-876-998 a.k.a. Elaine ("I have a number on my right hand, very tiny and tasteful, in blue; and the same number on my shoulder...."), comments that her kind are quietly "put down" when they reach 40 or so, unless they've acquired skills, beyond the ones "taped" into their brains during development, that justify keeping them alive longer.

"They worked over my genes in planning me, me, 68767-876-998, so that I'm beautiful and intelligent, which isn't vanity to say, because I had nothing at all to do with it. And probably there are hundreds of me, because I was a successful combination, and a lot aren't. I cost my lady a lot of money ... but then, she wouldn't have wanted me if I hadn't."

Sean M. Brooks said...


If anything, Cherrrhy's clone servants/azi are even more shuddersome than the servi we see in Stirling's DRAKON! At least most members of Homo servus lived normal life spans (or better, compared to ours). Nor were servi deliberately "put down" after reaching a certain age.