Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Lunarians On Proserpina II

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 24 April 2012.

The Proserpinans have revived the old title of Selenarch because they still claim the Moon, now inhabited entirely by Terrans who must give birth in higher gravity in the orbiting Habitat. Three Selenarchs greet download Guthrie newly arrived from Alpha Centauri:

Velir, Convener of the Council of Forerunners, seigneur in Phyle Aulinn, Warder of Zamok Drakon, shareholder in spaceships and industries;
Catoul of Phyle Randai, who attends the Council for the Consultancy;
Luaine of Phyle Janou, Wardress of Zamok Gora, who attends for the Captains of the Outer Comets.

The tall, thin Lunarians usually stand in their low gravity, a telling detail that I have forgotten to mention till now. Of course, download Guthrie in his robot body does not sit, eat or drink.

Most Proserpinan buildings are on the surface because it is difficult to excavate in iron. Across the entirely urbanised surface, there are cultural and commercial nodes. Parks have outsize flowers, low gravity trees and fountains of water, fire or lightning. Passages and arcades with tiers of slender arches and colourful mirages on the ceilings are filled with softly moving Proserpinans accompanied by pets - birds, a squirrel, a monkey, a ferret, greyhounds, a dwarf bear, a leopard. Slowly falling water curtaining a door before flowing into a channel containing phosphorescent snakes stops falling when Guthrie approaches the door and resumes when he has entered a meeting room with an alabaster ceiling and gold-leafed walls where gems form calligraphic patterns.

The Proserpinans, who must always be inside an artificial environment, spaceship, spacesuit, space station, enclosed lunar or asteroidal dwelling, have moved to the cold and dark of the Outer System. Despite all this, they have materials, energy, technology, social and individual dynamism and ingenuity. Thus, they create and inhabit the kind of environment described here.

Lacking the copious solar energy of the Inner System, they must use all their fusion-produced antimatter except a reserve for emergencies and "defence" although it remains to be seen why defence is necessary.

Since the Oort Cloud overlaps with the cometary clouds of nearby systems, could the Proserpinans begin the colonisation of the Alpha Centaurian system in incremental stages falling short of a direct interstellar crossing?

Human beings by now inhabit six volumes of space, the inner and outer regions of the Solar System and four other systems, but it has not been easy and Anderson shows us this by taking four volumes to move his characters to this very early stage of galactic colonisation. 

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