Thursday, 17 July 2014

Terraforming Venus

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 18 Oct '13.

In Poul Anderson's "The Big Rain", more than a million complicated airmaker machines on the Venusian surface break down paraform, yielding water. The formaldehyde reacts with ammonia and methane to produce hydrocarbons, carbohydrates etc for food, fuel and fertilizer. Carbon dioxide is broken down into soot and oxygen, the latter to be bottled for industrial use. Other substances are separated and collected to be processed in cities.

When seven million airmakers have been built, the atmosphere will be changed in twenty Earth years plus another decade due to factors like the law of diminishing returns and stratospheric gas never reaching the surface.

Artificially mutated, solar powered bacteria, living off carbon and silicon, release oxygen from rocks and ores. Pulverized stone and sand mixed with fertilizer become soil. Other engineered organisms will provide an ecology. Water brought to the surface by volcanoes is extracted from magma and hydrated minerals.

Hydrogen bombs exploded at selected locations will ignite the volcanoes while platinum catalyst sown by aircraft and Venusian lightning will attack the remaining poisonous gasses that will then fall as compounds in "the Big Rain," lasting ten Earth years to yield rivers, lakes and seas. With soil spread, bacteria, plants and animals released and heavy rain falling for centuries, reclaimed sections will get close to Terrestrial conditions in a hundred years and Venus might become a Paradise in five hundred.

On Venus

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 17 Oct 2013.

In Latin, it is necessary to know both the nominative and the genitive cases of a noun in order to know the root of the noun. Thus, the genitive of Mars is Martis so the root is Mart-, from which are derived the English adjectives, "martial" and "Martian".

The genitive of Jupiter is Jovis, hence "jovial" and "Jovian." The genitive of Venus is Veneris, hence "venerate," "venerable," "venereal" and, I argue "Venerian," not "Venusian." Wells, Stapledon and Lewis all write "Venerian." However, Poul Anderson writes "Venusian" so it is necessary to use this adjective when referring to his story, "The Big Rain", about the colonization of Venus.

In "The Big Rain", a Venusian city is a single metal and concrete unit, armored against a powerful, endless wind. Hundreds of large Hilsch tubes:

swivel to face the wind;
extract dust and sand for cement;
extract slow air molecules to refrigerate the city against Venusian heat;
extract fast molecules to help run pumps and generators.

There are:

nearly a thousand windmills;
many hectares of hydroponic plants providing oxygen and food;
chemical purifiers and blowers.

The twenty thousand city-dwellers comprise miners, engineers, laborers and technicians with three doctors, a few teachers, librarians, policemen and administrators and fifteen staff for brewing, distilling, tavern-running, movie-operation etc. The Technic Board, or city government, combining legislature, executive and judiciary, owns everything. Every Venusian city has a Board and a federal board in the city of New America decides planetary policy. Entry to the government requires rigid tests, years of apprenticeship, study of history, psychotechnics and physical science and gradual promotion on the recommendation of seniors. The boards comprise just two thousand people governing two million with the help of computers.

Colonists, sent to mine fissionables, included convicts, arbitrarily assigned personnel, the unemployed or those displaced by war. The Venusian colonies were made self-sufficient of necessity and have now declared their independence from Earth.

Grand Tour

First published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 22 Sept 2013.

In Poul Anderson's The Byworlder (London, 1974), the extra-solar visitor and his three human passengers make an aesthetic (not scientific) Grand Tour of the Solar System. Thus, they experience, first, the alien spaceship which is like:

"...a plant-animal symbiosis, drawing energy from its private thermonuclear sun, nourishment from the gas and stones of space." (pp. 149-150)

The ever-changing interior contains:

rich, strange odors;
complex patterns of resonant, sibilant tones;
alternating breezes and calm, dimness and brightness;
rippling, waste-absorbing decks;
labyrinthine corridors;
passages expandable as rooms with temporarily grown furniture.

Outside the ship, the travelers see:

the "...hundred different umbers and rust-reds..." of Mars (p. 151);
"Jupiter, imperial world..." described in a poetic paragraph (p. 156);
the "...gigantic rainbows..." of Saturn's rings seen from below (p. 163);
Mercury, "...crags and craters under a black sky...pools of molten metal..." (p. 172);
"Sunward of unutterable white splendour..." (p. 174);
"(...[the Sigman] found Venus as unattractive at close quarters as men did.)" (p. 166)

The Sigmans have neither waged wars nor polluted their environment. The visiting Sigman seems to assume that humanity is as innocent as the few other races with atomic power that it has encountered. Has it found only innocent races because others have destroyed themselves? How will Sigman technology affect human society? I have yet to reread to the end of the novel...

Saturday, 12 July 2014

An Inhabited Mirkheim!

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 3 Dec 2013.

In Poul Anderson's and Gordon R Dickson's Hoka (New York, 1985), a nearby supernova blew away the atmosphere of a superjovian planet and covered its solidified core with heavy elements, including radioactives. This is familiar Anderson territory, a cosmic accident with an unlikely but nevertheless possible outcome.

It is also the planet Mirkheim revisited but with one big difference: life, taking energy from local radioactive material "...rather than the feeble red sun." (p. 174) Animals eat isotopes concentrated by plants. A Brobingnagian (for such is the human name of the planet) does not oxidize organic materials, " most creatures in known space..." (ibid.), but fissions nuclei and is correspondingly strong.

His internal processes produce little radiation which is, in any case, absorbed by his stomach but he must take precautions when disposing of body wastes. Brobdingnagians, evolved on an airless planet, have neither nose nor ears and instead communicate by transmitting and receiving vibrations through the ground via tympani on their meter-long feet. The large round head and body are covered by blue fur and the brown eyes are bone dry.

How much of this is serious scientific speculation and how much is comical exaggeration in keeping with the comedy of the rest of the Hoka series? 

Maury Station

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 21 Sept 2013.

In Poul Anderson's The Byworlder (London, 1974), Maury Station, staffed by respectable, conventional scientists, must be Ortho, not Byworld? pp. 100-104 present some minimal information about the Station. Still rereading the novel with 80 pages left, I cannot remember whether there is more about sea life later.

The purpose of summarizing interesting details from Anderson's novels is to convey an appreciation of the imaginative depth and wealth crowded into each work.

Fifty kilometers from the Oregan coast, platforms with projecting piers support buildings, machinery and a shaft with an elevator descending fifty fathoms to the central undersea dome which is surrounded by a ring of others kept at ambient pressure and connected by tunnels. Laboratory experiments include producing alcohol from plankton. When the Viking fleet delivers a cargo of refined metals, its flag ship, too large to dock, anchors at a safe distance while the concentrator ship lays alongside a pier.

"McPherson 'gills'..." (p. 103) extract oxygen for the artificially generated merfolk who are evolving dialects appropriate to the high-pitched speech caused by the helium content of the air in the decompression chambers joining to the tunnels to the main dome. In the water, a man directs an orca. I think that there were earlier references to cetacean speech although I cannot find them looking back. There are transparent submarines. Soon, there will be a new undersea civilization. The oceans cover what, two thirds of the Earth's surface?

That is it. In mid-paragraph, the viewpoint characters who have visited the Station are back with the Viking fleet. I am sure that Anderson would have worked out a lot more detail for Maury Station and there might be more of it later in the book.

Terretrial And Sigman Metazoans

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 21 Aug 2013.

Stages of Terrestrial Evolution
protozoa, some swimming with cilia;
a clump of aggregated cells;
a hollow sphere;
two concentric spheres;
spheres with specialized inner and outer walls and an opening at either end for intake and excretion;
colonies like sponges and corals;
cells joined end to end as segmented worms;
complex organisms retaining bilateral symmetry and an oral-digestive-anal tract;
branched-off organs like heart and lungs adopting the canal principle.

Stages of Sigman Evolution
spheroidal, not flat, protozoans with universally spaced cilia for swimming and whipping food towards the animalcule which is permeable, without orifices;
cells joined by linking cilia which became tubes for support and fluid conveyance;
complex organisms comprising spheroids connected by rods with axial or radial, not bilateral, symmetry and permeable skin;
possibly sensing and thinking with the whole body, not needing a brain, thinking more slowly but also more deeply.

Human beings have a lot to learn from the disgusting looking alien.

Sister Planet

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 2 Sept 2013.

In Poul Anderson's "The Big Rain", people from Earth have colonized and hope to terraform the uninhabited desert planet Venus whereas, in the same author's alternative Venus story, "Sister Planet" (Anderson, Dialogue With Darkness, New York, 1985):

"The first explorers had expected desert but instead they had found water." (p. 96)

This is because, in the upper atmosphere:

"...water vapor was frozen out. Thus absorption spectra had not revealed to Earthbound astronomers that this planet was one vast ocean." (ibid.)

As I have said more than once, Anderson gives the impression of systematically examining every possible alternative version of any science fictional idea.

The "Sister Planet" Venus is a landless ocean with floating islands and a humanly poisonous atmosphere whereas CS Lewis' Venus/Perelandra is mostly ocean with floating islands but some Fixed Land and a humanly breathable atmosphere. Burroughs' Venus/Amtor has people living in giant trees and enough seas for his first volume to be called Pirates Of Venus.

The "Sister Planet" "Venusians" are friendly, trading cetoids;
Lewis' Venerians/Perelandrians are green-skinned unFallen dwellers on floating islands;
Burroughs' Amtorians are human enough for the Earthman hero to marry a princess - a necessary prerequisite for any ERBian planet;
Stapledon's Venerians are uncommunicative, hostile, dolphin-like sea-dwellers, exterminated by invading Terrestrials;
Heinlein's Venerians, appearing both in "Logic of Empire" and in his Scribner Juvenile Space Cadet, are cooperative, frog-like swamp-dwellers.

For some reason, Terrestrial sf writers wrongly expected a lot of water on Venus - "Venus rising from the sea foam"? (Lewis alone suggests a connection between Classical mythology and conditions on other Solar planets.)


Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 2 Sept 2013.

According to the Internet, Farewell, Fantastic Venus and All About Venus are two anthologies, both edited by Brian Aldiss and Harry Harrison, both published in 1968, with a lot of common contents. I had not heard of All About Venus, which is perhaps simply the American edition of Farewell..., although with not exactly the same contents?

After space probes into the atmosphere and onto the surface of Venus had disclosed that the Venerian environment is lethally acidic and hot enough to melt lead, Farewell, Fantastic Venus celebrated what had then become the redundantly speculative Venus of oceans, swamps, jungles, breathable atmosphere and intelligent inhabitants.

The anthology appropriately contains, among many fictional and non-fictional items:

extracts from novels by Olaf Stapledon, ER Burroughs and CS Lewis;
"The Big Rain" and "Sister Planet" by Poul Anderson.

Brian Aldiss told me at the 1970 British Science Fiction Convention that:

when Robert Heinlein was asked for permission for his Venus story, "Logic of Empire", to be included in Farewell..., he refused on the ground that it was part of his Future History;

when Poul Anderson was asked for permission for his "Sister Planet" to be included, he agreed but offered instead the earlier, unpublished version which was very religious.


the Stapledon novel, Last And First Men, is Stapledon's future history and as such is a literary successor to HG Wells' The Shape Of Things To Come;

Wells wrote nothing about Venus except a very short passage near the end of The War Of The Worlds where Terrestrial astronomers saw that the Martians had launched capsules towards Venus so that very short passage could have been included in Farewell...;

"The Big Rain" is part of Anderson's Psychotechnic future history, which was modeled on Heinlein's Future History;

the two Anderson stories present contrasting desert and ocean Venuses (as the two Genesis creation myths present contrasting water-covered and desert Earths);

contra Heinlein, the anthology should have included "Logic of Empire" before "The Big Rain";

the anthology should also have included extracts from the Dan Dare comic strip in which equatorial volcanoes on Venus separate the southern warlike green Treens from the northern peaceful blue Therons;

having said all that, I have yet to read "Sister Planet" for the very first time but will now do so.

Vulcan's Forge II

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 24 Aug 2013.

OK."...cabochons..." are shaped and polished gemstones so Poul Anderson's use of the term to describe spacecraft observed from the Mercurian surface in "Vulcan's Forge" (Space Folk, New York, 1989) is metaphorical.

This Vulcan is not a planet between Mercury and the sun but " asteroid sufficiently close to the sun that its metallic body is molten..." (p. 37), kind of a mini-Satan's World.

As such, it warrants close scientific observation:

" may yield information about solar weather and other processes over a long timespan. Details are impossible to retrieve from afar. Direct investigation is necessary." (ibid.)

Fortunately, there is already a base on Mercury. A scout ship controlled internally by a consciousness-level computer and externally by a man who will remain at the base but with a radio time lag are sent to Mercury, having previously explored the outer Solar System. Then the scout approaches Vulcan and establishes orbit around it.

So close to the sun, Vulcan is "'...precessing and nutating at high rates.'" (p. 45) Not processing or mutating, precessing and nutating: changing the orientation of its axial rotation and swaying in that direction. This generates magnetism that causes problems for the scout.

However, what makes the story is not merely the technicalities but the human dimension. When the controller's wife and partner, now dead, had remotely controlled the scout in an emergency on Titan, her personality had entered the data bank and computer program. Thus, it is possible that what remains of her suffers as the software is damaged - so he gives her peace by wiping the program at the expense of losing the data from Vulcan.

Myths Of Mercury

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 24 Aug 2013.

According to Wikipedia, Mercury's day equals two of its years. Until 1965, every time Mercury was observed, it was showing the same face towards Earth, so it was thought that the planet had a hot day side always facing the Sun and a cold night side always turned away. Any science fiction written before that date assumes this.Then, in 1965, radar observations disclosed that Mercury in fact rotates three times for every two revolutions.

Thus, the opening story of Larry Niven's Known Space future history became scientifically out of date between writing and publication. The hot and cold sides of Mercury are a myth of the Solar System like the canals of Mars and the oceans of Venus.

I have started to read Poul Anderson's "Vulcan's Forge" (Space Folk, New York, 1989), set on and around Mercury but published in 1983. Thus, this is a modern Mercury with a sunrise. Both title and text refer to another myth, Vulcan. Anomalies in Mercury's orbit were once explained by postulating another planet even closer to the Sun and appropriately named "Vulcan." Then the anomalies were instead explained by relativity. Inappropriately, the name "Vulcan" was later transferred to a fictitious extra-solar planet in Star Trek. In the first volume of his prose adaptations of Star Trek scripts, James Blish rightly describes this nomenclature as confusing.

Italicized passages in "Vulcan's Forge" are narrated by what seems to be a human consciousness directly controlling a spaceship approaching "Vulcan". It was known in 1983 that the postulated Solar planet Vulcan did not exist so I have yet to learn how Anderson is using the term here. Meanwhile, here is another of Anderson's unusual words: "...cabochons..." (p. 30).

Friday, 11 July 2014


Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 10 Aug 2013.

In Poul Anderson's Technic Civilization History, characters sometimes wish that hyper-spatial pulses could be modulated to send messages further than a light year. In Anderson's For Love And Glory (New York, 2003), longer distance hyperbeaming is possible but:

"Not for the first time, Lissa wished quantum encryption had been made to work for transluminal communication." (p. 63)

So people are always aware of limits to their technology.

Lissa negotiates with a Susaian -

long, red body;
four short legs;
long curving tail;
two three-fingered hands;
long, swaying neck;
individuals alternating between male and female;
sometimes disparaged as "'...lizards...'" by human beings (p. 183).

In the planetary system of the star Sunniva, the third planet, Asborg, is Earth-like whereas the second, Freydis, is hot and cloudy with a surface of swamps and deserts, as Venus was sometimes imagined. Human beings have colonized Asborg and own land on Freydis where they sell the large island of New Halla to the Susaian Old Truthers, a persecuted group wanting a new start.

On Freydis, only the worldwide forest maintains liquid-water temperatures. If the Susaian population, expanding from its island, reduces the forest, then there will be runaway greenhouse effect:

increased atmospheric carbon dioxide will trap more solar energy;
rising temperatures will evaporate water;
water vapour will also trap more solar energy;
there will be drought, fires and spreading deserts;
species will die;
oxygen and nitrogen, no longer renewed by life, will become locked in minerals;
oceans will boil;
ultraviolet will split rising water molecules with hydrogen escaping into space and oxygen being imprisoned in rocks;
result, "..a searing hell..." (p. 205).

Meanwhile, however, economics clashes with ecology:

the expanding Susaian population will be a growing market for Asborgians who had previously failed to make Freydis profitable;
serious ecological trouble is not extrapolated for another five centuries;
the planet's albedo will be increased, thus mass extinctions prevented, by orbiting a cloud of reflective particles, by reducing sunlight with a giant reflective mirror at the L2 point or by other expensive space-based technology;
however, the planet will then be covered with cities, machines and gene-engineered plantations;
also, with regular rejuvenations, Asborgians expect to be alive five centuries hence so this is not a problem to be consigned to a remote future.

Meanwhile, a human-owned company, Venusberg Enterprises, accelerates environmental destruction by mining, pumping, refining, synthesizing and lumbering with robotics and nanotech in order to sell locally produced housing, tools, vehicles, robots, factories and chemical plants to the Susaians. The alternative, requiring much research, would be gene-modification, leading to:

mineral-extracting and -refining microbes;
soil-grown buildings;
food, fiber and chemicals from the forests, not from farms or factories.

Having so far read only as far as p. 216, of 300, I do not know the outcome. Nor do I yet know how the issues of the Foreunners or of the black hole collision will be tied together. But I do pause at this point to appreciate the enormity of the ecological/economic conflict that Anderson imagined for the planets Asborg and Freydis, whose names recall Asgard and Freya. I have had to reread several chapters carefully in order to extract the relevant details. Maybe someone better versed in the appropriate sciences would be able to scan through the text once and summarize its content but others, while appreciating Anderson's ability to create fiction from science, need to work at the text in order to get the full benefit from words that are deceptively full of and charged with significance.

How Robotic Evolution Began

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, Aug 2013.

In Poul Anderson's "Epilogue", sea rafts, self-repairing motorized floating boxes with solar batteries, inertial navigation devices and homeostatic systems, took dissolved minerals from sea water, delivered to shore depots and returned for more while continually assembling duplicate rafts even after life had become extinct.

Hard radiation mutated the rafts' electronic templates of their own designs and some of the imperfect duplicates had advantages like the ability to get metal from other rafts instead of from the sea. Through hundreds of millions of years, machines went ashore and proliferated into different types. Evolutionarily refined solar batteries store dielectrically on the molecular level in microscopic cells. Alloys are not as labile as, but are more durable than, amino acids. Parts are either processed (eaten) or used (like organ transplants). Sessile machines (plants) use acids in glass-lined compartments to break down ores, manufacture alloys and concentrate dielectric energy.

Mobile machines get metal from sessiles and from each other. They did not invent hunting but evolved as hunters, as if men were descended from tigers instead of simians. One form specializes in reproduction; another in strength and agility. Two body patterns heterodyne and crystallize in currents and magnetic fields. A "person" becomes comatose only in an emergency when his cells are extremely polarized.

Would this evolution generate consciousness? Computers as such are not conscious because rule-governed manipulation of symbols is not knowledge of their meanings and because simulation of anything, including intelligence, is not duplication. Consciousness arises when organismic sensitivity to environmental alterations quantitatively increases until it is qualitatively transformed into conscious sensation. However, these mechanisms are interacting with their environments and are being naturally selected for sensitivity... 


Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 3 Aug 2013.

In Poul Anderson's "Strange Bedfellows" (Conquests, London, 1981), both Venus and the Moon are being terraformed. These are two completely different issues.

(i) Venus is an Earth-sized planet with a cloudy atmosphere whereas the Moon is a much smaller planet with no atmosphere - although, according to the story, the Lunar surface is a quarter of Earth's land area.

(ii) Much more is known about Venus now than when Anderson wrote this story in the early 1960's. He thought that human beings would be able to live on Venus while terraforming it. Photosynthesizing algae were seeded in the upper atmosphere. When the temperature dropped to below one hundred, it rained for ten years and liquid water made rock consume carbon dioxide until there was breathable air. Then solar protons and ultraviolet radiation broke down hydrogen compounds. It will not be as easy as this to change the Venerian atmosphere or reduce its temperature.

On the Moon, the terraformers use deep wells and nuclear explosions to cause vulcanism, the process that gives terrestroid planets their atmospheres by releasing buried water and breaking minerals and organics into carbon, nitrogen and sulphur compounds. Gravity is low but air loss is slow. Already the Moon looks different from Earth - desecration according to some.

Anderson tells us the science, then the politics. The Lunar project is opposed as an expensive diversion of resources from Earth. Politics leads to the action-adventure fiction of sabotage, kidnapping, characters holding each other at gunpoint, escape, pursuit etc. Since I am still reading the story, I have yet to learn either the significance of its title or how it fits into the war-themed collection, Conquests.

Venus dwellers are called Cythereans and have developed a clan system which sounds familiar from the Psychotechnic History story earlier in this collection. Until now, I would have dipped into a collection like Conquests for individual stories and not necessarily have read them all. For posting purposes, I have for the first time read the collection from cover nearly to cover and appreciated seven stories that have been collected together because of their shared theme. Kind of a new reading experience, to be followed by other collections and by a posthumous novel in the post.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014


Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 27 July 2013.

In the original version of Poul Anderson's "Honorable Enemies," the star Betelgeuse has forty seven planets, six of them with native intelligent races, five of them ruled by the blue humanoid Alfzarians who were the first of the six to develop interplanetary travel! In the revised version, there are still forty seven planets, six of them inhabited, but now there is a single race whose ancestors had come from a planet of another star.

This change reflects the discovery that planets of a giant star would not remain hospitable long enough for life to evolve upon them. Thus, again, there are two alternative histories of Dominic Flandry. In the "earlier" history, the laws of physics and chemistry were sufficiently different that life and intelligence were able to evolve on six Betelgeusan planets. In the "later" history, these six planetary orbits are at least in the zone where water can be liquid so that the planets can be terraformed, or the equivalent, and colonized.

The process sounds familiar from Anderson's later Harvest Of Stars tetralogy:

genetically engineered micro-organisms generate an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere within decades;
automated processes produce soil;
plants and animals are grown from cells and released.

My question, however, is this. Alfzar has a region called the Borthudian mountains which are inhabited by large, dangerous, flying beings called Borthudian dragons. Centuries earlier, Nicholas van Rijn had tangled with a planet called Borthu whose inhabitants were "Borthudians" - so is this the place of origin of the beings that colonized the Betelgeusian System?

Monday, 7 July 2014

Why Freeholders Leave The Cities

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 7 July 2013.

As usual, Poul Anderson presents an in-depth explanation that makes us feel that he is describing a real social process.

(i) The original, individualistic, colonists of Freehold made scant provision for the unsuccessful so some of the latter withdrew to the forest.

(ii) Some fugitive criminals and dissatisfied romantics also withdrew.

(iii) The first generation survived by trading gems, fur or labor for manufactured goods.

(iv) However, the second and third generations adopted an uncivilized way of life.

(v) Three hundred years ago, many Christians responded to anti-Christian sentiment by withdrawing to the forest, thus allowing the Mechanists to come to power with minimal violence.

(vi) Therefore, Hedonists withdrew to avoid persecution.

And the Imperial investigator, Ridenour, wonders whether the alien Arulians, who by his time have been on Freehold for two centuries and who occasionally trade with the outbackers, have also influenced their ideas. Failures, criminals, romantics, traders, laborers, self-sufficient forest dwellers, Christians, Hedonists and possible alien influence: what a mixed bag! - the sort of mixed bag from which Poul Anderson would expect a dynamic new culture to emerge.

We should note two points about the conflict between the Cities and the forest dwellers:

each City wants to cultivate the land around it and ultimately to civilize/urbanize the entire planet whereas the forest dwellers want the forests to remain as they are;
so far, we have heard only City-dwellers telling Ridenour about their problems with the "savages" but what is the "savages"' point of view?


Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation on 7 July 2013.

The inhabited planet, Aruli, is mentioned only once in Poul Anderson's Technic Civilization History, in "Outpost of Empire." This story is set on the humanly colonized planet, Freehold. I am fairly certain that one of the four works set after the Fall of the Terran Empire refers to the importation of specially designed organisms from Freehold, although I do not have this reference to hand. This would mean that Freehold joins Atheia and Kraken as one of the colonized planets that provide a link and a degree of continuity between the periods of the Terran Empire and the Allied Planets.

Meanwhile, what does "Outpost of Empire" tell us concerning Aruli, which is not a colony but an independently inhabited planet?

The Arulians are thin, blue-feathered, sharp-snouted, seven-fingered bipeds. Lieutenant Muhammad Sadiq of the Terran Space Navy refers to the Arulian enemy as "'...the blues...'" (Captain Flandry, Riverdale NY, 2010, p. 10). (The Terran Empire, ruling the entire Solar System and a vast volume of extra-solar space, of course incorporates all the territories of the former British Empire and Commonwealth.)


have three sexes and a breeding cycle;
do not own property but act mutually with their "pheromonesharers" (p. 12);
instinctively, are less combative individually but possibly more so collectively;
do not recognize Imperial fealty, instead living and dying under the Law of the Sacred Horde and finding "'...truth's wellspring in Eternal Aruli...'" (p. 12);
are ruled by the Bearers of the Horns, a position that has recently been seized by Merseian-sponsored revolutionaries.

Arulian mercantile associations, using Merseian technology, traded with Freehold and some Arulians settled there with an extraterritoriality agreement two centuries ago. But, when the Terran-Merseian relationship deteriorated, the Nine Cities of Freehold applied for and were granted membership of the Empire. Arulians on Freehold revolted and were found to have smuggled tons of war supplies and thousands of troops into wilderness areas beforehand. When John Ridenour interrogates an Arulian prisoner, their only common tongue is the main Merseian language, Eriau.

I think that that exhausts what we are told about Aruli but it is merely a prelude to the conflict between the Cities and the human forest dwellers. I have not got to grips with this latter conflict yet.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Freehold II

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation on 6 July 2013.

In Poul Anderson's "Outpost of Empire," the planet Freehold is bigger than Earth and very fertile but the human colony is small because:

"...the system lies on the very fringe of human-dominated space..." (Captain Flandry, Riverside NY, 2010, p. 11);
storms, diseases and nutritional deficiencies in local food caused early high mortality;
the system had formed in a metal-poor region before entering this spiral arm so that industrial development is impossible and extra-planetary trade essential;
staying in their cities, where they can better resist the hostile environment, but economically unable to expand the cities, the colonists have practised a lot of birth control;
the cities should be able to export food to other colony planets like Bonedry or Disaster Landing but are now in conflict with non-human settlers, the Arulians, and with rural human beings...

There are only nine cities and we quickly learn most of their names:


Not all yet. Freehold is proving to be as fascinating and complicated as Aeneas, Daedalus and other colonized planets in Anderson's Technic Civilization History.