Saturday, 26 October 2013

Interstellar Society

Eight of the twenty works in Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History cover the early FTL and Stellar Union periods and introduce six sections of interstellar society:

entrepreneurs, including "Traders";
Cordies (Coordination Service field agents);
stellagraphic survey men.

These social groups are not presented in a linear sequence but weave in and out of the narrative:

Nomads, introduced in the opening story of the period, and a Cordy, introduced in an intermediate story, join forces in the concluding novel of the period;
colonists and natives interact in two of the stories;
a survey man discovers an unusual isolated colony in "Virgin Planet," which exists both as a story and as a novel;
one story features one Trader who disparages Cordies but would have benefited from their advice.

Clearly, this period could have been expanded indefinitely.

The successive periods of the History are:

World War III aftermath;
UN world government;
Solar Union;
Second Dark Ages;
early FTL;
Stellar Union;
Third Dark Ages;
interstellar Empires not covered by any of the stories;
Galactic Civilization.

Anderson compares his "Traders," who flourish in the Stellar Union period, to the Vikings, who were celebrated in the First Dark Ages, and to the Martian war lords, who were celebrated in the Second Dark Ages, so, by implication, these Traders will be celebrated during the Third Dark Ages. Ironically, Anderson gives us several volumes about Vikings but no story about his Martian war lords.

The outcome of "Teucan," the story about the Trader, is entirely predictable so it is to Anderson's credit that he is able to keep the story going interestingly for seventeen pages.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Actually, I was suprised by the ending of "Teucan," with the Trader being sacrificed to pagan gods much the same way the Aztecs carried out human sacrifices. I had expected the great Teucan of the realm to have to fight to retain his office against a challenger. That was, after all, how it was done by the teucans of the smaller districts. This idea also reminded me of how the Kings of Ys used ritual combat to win and retain their crown in Poul and Karen Anderson's novel THE KING OF YS.