Saturday, 15 October 2016

Thinking Outside The Box

When I get into a blogging frame of mind, it is impossible to read even a few lines of a text by Poul Anderson without finding something to post about. Moving from p. 534 to p. 535 of The Van Rijn Method, we find Dalmady reflecting on the big investment that the Baburites are making in a single medicinal product from Suleiman. He continues:

"But they don't operate under capitalism, under anything that human history ever saw, or so I've heard. Therefore they may consider it an investment in ...empire? No doubt they can expand their foothold here, once we're out of the way -" (p. 535)

But, of course, "empire" is just as much a human historical construct as "capitalism." And Anderson does go on to show the Baburites as imperialistic. However, he also shows us an entirely alien species on Sphinx. The natives of that planet pay Imperial tribute but otherwise go about their inexplicable business. When an Imperial pretender lands on their planet, they remain unemotional, offer no resistance and give him what he wants but nothing more. Their structures, resembling giant 3D spiderwebs, twinkle and change color in the dark. Human beings named the planet "Sphinx" because they did not understand it.

Back to the Baburites: the word "investment" transcends human economics. If the Baburites expend effort and energy on Suleiman, then they must expect some corresponding advantage or benefit - unless they are a dysfunctional race that will not survive.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I don't think "empire" is necessarily a concept only humans can have. I think other races are likely to have concepts similar to some of ours. So, yes, the Baburites almost certainly were thinking of bluejack as more than simply a useful or convenient plant.

Your comments about Sphinx reminded me of Flandry's remarks in THE REBEL WORLDS about how many and wildly diverse races the Empire contained. Perhaps Sphinx was inhabited by one of the "hive" races Flandry mentioned?