Saturday, 28 January 2017

Mountains And Boat

Now let's compare Poul Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains with his The Boat Of A Million Years.

"'...Americans are descended from the failures of Europe, and asterites are descended from the failures of Earth.'"
-Poul Anderson, "Recruiting Nation" IN Anderson, Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984), pp. 255-283 AT p. 272.

The interstellar craft is crewed by:

clunkbrains breeding in the easy conditions;
the handicapped;
the elderly.

In Boat, Hanno argues that, at each stage of evolution, it is the failures, atavisms and outcasts that make the next step:

fish that couldn't compete struggled onto land;
ancestors of the reptiles were forced out of the amphibians' swamps;
birds were forced into the air;
mammals were forced to find niches safe from dinosaurs;
some apes were forced out of the trees;
Phoenicians went to sea because they held only a thin strip of land;
only those uncomfortable in Europe went to America or Australia;
the immortals go into space.

Boat, like the Harvest of Stars Tetralogy and Anderson's Genesis, also addresses the relationship between biotic and post-biotic intelligences:

"' last we will meet the postbiotics as equals...'
"'I wonder if, at the end, we and our allies won't be more than the equals of the machines.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Boat Of A Million Years (London, 1991), XIX, Thule, pp. 455-600 AT p. 598.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    While I certainly agree that the Americas in real history and the asteroids in Anderson's "gyrogravitic" stories were settled in part by failures, that was not always the case. Both had their share of able people who were simply dissatisfied, for various reasons, with continuing to live in the home countries/planet. Robert Flowers, for example in "Say It With Flowers" was by no means a crook or incompetent third rater. He simply felt unhappy and dissatisfied in North America.


  2. Emigration to colonial North America was often about as much "push" and "pull"; often it was religious persecution or war that set people moving, or economic dislocations threatening downward pressure on incomes and/or social status.

    New England got a representative slice of middle-class rural/small town England, often traveling as families. Their motivation was religious.

    Virginia, by contrast, was mostly settled by young men (they outnumbered women by several times) who were willing to take desperate chances for a hope of gaining property, mainly land. In England this was virtually impossible for someone who didn't stand to inherit.

    There wasn't much social mobility at home in England, and it was mostly downward in an era when population was bumping up against Malthusian limits and standards of living had been falling.

    Moving to the Colonies was a risky gamble; but then, so was moving to London (where deaths outnumbered baptisms 4 to 1) and about 10% of every generation in England left their villages for the capital -- it only grew by in-migration.

    1. Dear Mr. Stirling,

      Many thanks for your interesting comments. It basically fills out what I had already thought, at least as regards colonization by the English. War/religious persecution (of non conformist Protestants by the Anglican Church) or an urgent desire by ambitious young men to make their fortunes.

      I think it was only in the 18th century, by a combination of both increased trade and the beginnings of industrialization, that prosperity in England really began to grow.