Sunday, 15 January 2017

Humor III

I have previously discussed humor in Poul Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984). See Humor and Humor II. Here is another chuckle. The crank is "' independent investigator...'" (p. 28) A sceptical Senator interrupts:

"'Means he hasn't got his Ph.D....'" (ibid.)

But lack of academic credentials can be made to look good to a budget-cutting Congressman:

the Ph.D. can be described as a "union card";
this in turn translates as disliked by the academic establishment;
but the academic establishment consists of high tax subsidies, left-wing professors and unruly students!

By contrast, the crank is a saint.

A second point: he has managed to make himself heard because he is a close relative of Senator Lamphier who, of course, is not a nepotist. This in turn translates as: Lamphier is the biggest nepotist out there but it is in no one's interest to say so.

Anderson's vehicle is humor but his point is serendipity. More seriously, wealth from the asteroids and a gas giant:

"...wasn't foreseen. Predictions had to do with Luna, Mars, Venus, not naked rocks and a poisonous giant. But then, Columbus was looking for the Indies when he found America. I wonder what serendipities are waiting among the stars?" (p. 39)

In Heinlein's Future History and early Scribner Juveniles, the Moon, Mars and Venus are colonized. In the History, there is even a Luna City, a Grand Canal and a Venusburg. And this is serendipity because, when I set out to post on humor, I did not expect to wind up delineating another contrast with Heinlein.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Yes, I remember the sardonic humor to be found in "Nothing Succeeds Like Failure." And people like Emett CAN be wrongly dismissed by a hostile academia as a crank and denied a doctoral degree in physics. And nepotism sure as heck does happen in US politics! I wonder which Senator or Congressman Poul Anderson had in mind as the worse nepotist of them all?

    And I like the bit you quoted from Anderson's story about serendipity. I am CONVINCED something like that will happen for real in space if we ever get off this rock!


    1. Drat! I should have written "worst" instead of "worse" in the last sentence of the first paragraph. Bother!