Friday, 22 August 2014

The Quiet Earth

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, Oct 2013.

This occasional sf idea has a modicum of plausibility: FTL will move human activity out of the Solar System so Earth will become a quiet place. Obviously, an entire planetary population would not emigrate immediately, even if given unlimited living space to colonize, contra Bob Shaw in Orbitsville. However, the home population might indeed decline over time.

In James Blish's Cities In Flight future history, antigravity-powered cities leave Earth for economic reasons:

"Earth itself became a garden planet, bearing only one city worth noticing, the sleepy capitol of a galaxy. Pittsburgh valley bloomed, and rich honeymooners went there to frolic.
"Old bureaucrats went to Earth die.
"Nobody else went there at all."
- James Blish, Earthman, Come Home (London, 1963), p. 13.

These reflections are occasioned by the fact that essentially the same future Earth exists both in Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic future history and in his stand alone novel, World Without Stars.

"Earth is a quiet world."  - World Without Stars (New York, 1966), p. 120.

The following passage describes:

great forests;
low population;
starport towns;
educational centers for galactic youth;
flourishing art;
living science and scholarship;
but no new buildings;
preservation of the old;
immortal space travelers' property unchanged after centuries of robotic supervision.

In "The Pirate," a Psychotechnic History story, Earth is commended for "...its quiet, its intellectuality..."
- Starship (New York, 1982), p. 212.

In The Peregrine, a Psychotechnic History novel, Earth is green with forests through which "...isolated houses and small village groupings..." are scattered.
- The Peregrine (New York, 1978), p. 24.

The following passage describes a planet with:

a small, mostly creative, population;
scientific research;
arts -

- so it definitely reads like World Without Stars revisited.

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