Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Transitions In "Lodestar"


"Falkayn spoke wearily. 'The Polesotechnic League began as a mutual-benefit association of companies, true; but the idea was also to keep competition within decent bounds. That's breaking down, that second aspect. How long till the first does too?'" (p. 637)

The team has just barely escaped with their lives from a native uprising against exploitative League companies on Tametha. Chee Lan asks Falkayn if he would prefer the Terran Empire, which of course is prophetic.

"'...the heart is going out of the League...'" (p. 638)

Falkayn refers to "'...the few monopolists we've got.'" (ibid.)

We will learn much about League cartels in Mirkheim. Poorer planets must accumulate capital before they can participate in interstellar society but they quickly lose any capital to market manipulations or thinly disguised piracy. Van Rijn keeps his employees moral for pragmatic, not idealistic, reasons. It is down to Falkayn to find a way forward.

Ten years later, van Rijn's granddaughter dislikes:

"...most of those money-machine merchant princes..." (p. 640)

- and reflects that Technic civilization has been:

"...overwhelmed by laissez-faire capitalism -" (p. 647)

She is aware of changes in social customs as well as in economics:

"My grandfather's generation seldom bothered to get married. My father's did. And mine, why, we're reviving patrilineal surnames." (p. 644)

Van Rijn had children with different mistresses but never married whereas his granddaughter will become Coya Falkayn.

Since we are tracking transitions, let us quote one use of that word in this story. Van Rijn keeps his quarters at Earth-standard illumination even though the rest of the chartered Ythrian ranger Gaiian is lit by the yellower wavelength of the star Quetlan. Coya must blink when she enters her grandfather's disorderly but luxurious stateroom whereas:

"He was used to abrupt transitions." (p. 647)

We know that he was active on many planets before he stopped traveling after the Satan affair. Something important has brought him back into space...

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I do see what you mean about Chee Lan being prophetic when she mentioned a possible Terran Empire. My thought was to wonder how plausible that would have been, at such an early time. Politically speaking, the common view seems to have been that it was not practical for states to be larger than a single solar system. Well, we do see an early attempt at setting up an interstellar realm in "Margin of Profit," but it failed.

While it is true that Old Nick kept his employees from behaving too badly for pragmatic reasons, this should not be exaggerated. When push came to shove he was a decent man and also believed in treating people decently because it was RIGHT to do so.

I have to disagree with what Coya said about Technic Civilization "...being overwhelmed by laissez faire capitalism." What was actually happening by the time of "Lodestar" was precisely the process of cartelization that was to break the Polesotechnic League. Cartels, monopolies, corporatism, state control of the economy, etc., are CONTRARY to a true laissez faire free enterprise economy.

True, we never see mention of Nicholas van Rijn having a wife. And many times we see him with multiple mistresses. One point I remember being how these women remembered Old Nick fondly.