Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Borthu

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?

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