Sunday, 10 April 2016


I say periodically and again now that tomorrow must be preparation for a Latin class the following day, therefore less time for blogging. Other activities, like today a six mile walk by the canal and the Bay, also interrupt reading and blogging.

The opening page of Poul Anderson's "Pele," in Larry Niven, Ed., Man-Kzin Wars IX (New York, 2002), informs us that:

on Kzin, kdatlyno slaves hand cultivate golden hsakh in the ancient way;

the fiber will be handwoven into cloaks to be worn at Midwinter Bloodfeast, then burnt.

We now learn that this is an established kzinti custom. Most probably, Poul Anderson created the custom for this one story and it will not be encountered again. Nevertheless, it now becomes potential background material for any future Man-Kzin Wars stories. We learn other facts about Kzin:

the kzinti call their sun the Father Sun whereas human beings call it 61 Ursae Majoris;
kzinti hunt slashtooths with spears but must avoid a pride and find one alone;
they make doors of flamewood;
hookbeaks hover so might be bird equivalents;
kzinti spaceships are named Swordbeak and Snapping Sherrek;
the Hero's Tongue has no words for "government" or "purely scientific";
we expect to meet High Admiral Ress-Chiu again but, of course, he died fighting beasts in the Patriarchal Arena after issuing disastrous orders in "Inconstant Star";
"'It was good sport.'" (p. 5)

Would it really be possible to run a high tech civilization on such a basis? It helps when we learn that kzinti savages were enslaved by a space-traveling race and stole all their technology from them.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

If I remember correctly, the Hero's Tongue also has no word for "peace" and the Kzin needed to import it to their own as a loan word. A concept which they regarded with disgust!

It's only fair to point out High Admiral Ress-Chiu was held to have disgraced himself so badly that only a valiant death fighting the beasts in the Patriarchal Arena could redeem his and his family's honor. And in fact messengers from the Patriarch himself told Ress-Chiu's family that his valiant death had restored their honor and they were no longer held to have been shamed.

I don't know if it would be possible for a race as ferocious and aggressive as the Kzin to run a high tech society, but most of the authors in the Man/Kzin wars series makes it at least seem plausible.


S.M. Stirling said...

The Kzin also genetically engineered themselves to fit the self-image of a heroic Iron Age culture. They'd never gone through a scientific-industrial revolution or developed through the equivalent of an Enlightenment; they went straight from the equivalent of Viking-era Scandinavia to what they have when humans first meet them. They got the entire technological package to them when they turned on their employers, but they could never have developed it themselves. The technology is so fantastically productive, and in many respects so self-managing, that even so grossly inefficient a social order can survive.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

Yes, I forgot about how the Kzin first entered the Galactic stage many thousands of years before the Man/Kzin wars as barbarian mercenaries who then turned on their employers. Yes, they never developed the technology they learned from the kdatlyno, it was something they took over at one blow. That explains why so inefficient a social structure was able to endure.