Saturday, 15 October 2016

Van Rijn's Time

OK. The blog is currently focused on the Polesotechnic League in the time of Nicholas van Rijn although not on van Rijn himself or even on his Falkayn-led trader team. The focus is random. I was reading through van Rijn stories, looking for points of view, was surprised to find so much of van Rijn's own pov in "Margin of Profit," then got involved with Emil Dalmady in "Esau."

There are four short stories in this category. I count "Esau" because it is mainly about Dalmady. Instead of continuing to buy bluejack from Solar, the Baburites have installed computer-controlled robots on Suleiman to collect bluejack directly. The computer will have merely rudimentary awareness unlike the fully intelligent computer that Martian Minerals Inc. has about that time put on Wayland. The Baburites' action is legitimate competition whereas Dalmady's resetting of their computer might count as piracy?

Dalmady has an Andersonian moment of realization. First:

"...the old, old legend crashed into his awareness." (The Van Rijn Method, p. 544)

What old legend? The title might be a giveaway. And the original title was "Birthright."


"Dalmady sprang to his feet with a whoop." (p. 545)

He trembles, feels chills along his nerves and explains:

"'I have an idea.'" (ibid.)

Quiz question: in which stories do van Rijn and Falkayn each have a moment of realization?

Dalmady reflects that, if he loses Suleiman, he might get a job somewhere cleaning latrines. (p. 537) Anderson acknowledges in Mirkheim that, although there are great opportunities in van Rijn's time, many individuals will be unlucky or unsuccessful. (Rise Of The Terran Empire, pp. 139-140 and see here.) However, I argue that technology can facilitate the building of a society in which educational and economic resources are deployed to ensure that every individual has the opportunity to develop fully and freely. This is one of the fundamental issues that arises in some of Poul Anderson's works.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Am I right thinking the old, old legend Dalmady remembered came from a certain story about a somewhat devious patriarch seen in the Book of Genesis? (Smiles)

    My answer to your quiz question: "Margin of Profit" and "Day of Burning."

    I think you should have added to your last paragraph a warning that no matter how advanced a civilization might become, not everybody will take advantage of the opportunities open to them. There will always be SOME who fail except thru their own mistakes--and then refuse to correct those mistakes. Because we are all imperfect and prone to making mistakes.


    1. Sean,
      Those are the right answers for those quiz questions.
      I don't think we can say what will always be. Fundamental change is possible or we wouldn't be here.

    2. Kaor, Paul!

      Glad I was right about the quiz questions! (Smiles)

      Regretfully, I still disagree with you about human nature. I say NOTHING will change the potentiality for failure or disappointment we all have.


    3. Sean:
      While I mostly agree with you on the human nature aspect, we need to remember that humanity as a whole might, due to some great societal or technological change, alter human minds to the point that they'd no longer be human minds as WE understand the term -- but if ALL the humans of that time were changed in the same way, THEY would accept the new mindset. And that new way of thought MIGHT be able, in some manner I can't envision, to do away with the potential for failure or disappointment.

      The problem is that a story about them wouldn't be very enjoyable for most of us, because the characters would be ALIEN in our eyes.

    4. David,
      "Human nature" varies a lot in recorded and existing societies.
      I expect you to answer the quiz question in the "Pure Science" post?

    5. Kaor, DAVID!

      I have to agree with the logic of what you said, ASSUMING some drastic change of the kind you mentioned happened to EVERY single human being. But, in that case, as you said, would they even STILL be humans, rather than aliens? The closest we see that happening in Poul Anderson's works would be either the Danellians of the Time Patrol stories or the briefly glimpsed, absolutely changed being we see in "Requiem For A Universe." And the somewhat self serving actions ordered by the Danellians in "The Only Game In Town" makes me doubtful their nature is so different from ours.

      As a Catholic I still think the only time such a transcendent change will ever happen will be at the Second Coming of Christ.


    6. Sean:
      *Brain Wave* at least moves in that direction.

    7. David,
      I think BRAIN WAVE goes all the way. Reason wins its long struggle against instinct. Men consciously and intelligently control their own mental and emotional states.

    8. Kaor, DAVID and Paul!

      David: BRAIN WAVE moves in that direction, I agree.

      Paul: Maybe, as regards those who went to the stars. But what of the ex-morons and those formerly "ordinary" humans who refused to accept being "transcended"? They, along with the now far more intelligent animals, would seem to have remained at our imperfect level.

      Moreover, I don't think Poul Anderson ever again in his later works, except very briefly in "Requiem For A Universe," accepted or believed in the idea of human self perfection. THE HARVEST OF STARS books and GENESIS does not show us mankind becoming as we see it in BRAIN WAVE.

      I conclude that Anderson wasd skeptical or disbelieving of such ideas in his later works.