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More Abh, Empire vs. Democracy, SF Winter

I got a box of books today: Buck Godot PSmith, and the 3 volumes of the Crest of the Stars novels. I have now read all 4 items. I'd read the Godot before, not sure where, I hope I don't find a duplicate copy hiding somewhere.

The novels and anime are pretty close; there's one made-up anime scene, and some character scenes not in the anime, but otherwise a good match. The translation has some flaws but seemed decent overall. There's a lot of looking up words in the Baronh glossary to do; I didn't find it troublesome but others might. There's also reference information, and authorial afterwords; some of this stuff might have been on the Info segments of the DVDs, but VLC has not handled those well. I now know that the Abh use cgs measurement (base units are centimeters, grams, and seconds; what, were their original slavemasters astronomers?)

Hiroyuki Morioka has other experience in SF writing, which I know little about, and calls himself a "minor scholar of SF writing" though that might just mean he reads a lot. He says he wrote this in a time known as "the age of SF winter", which rings a bell, but Google didn't help. (He also says SF still seems to be in winter, though that might be from 1996. He also mentions specifically wanting to avoid traditional 'warp' FTL. He bemoans not being able to go into the Empire enough, e.g. the idea of an Abh tradesperson was hardly mentioned.

Many things were clearer in the novel, such as the nature of the Empire and their opposition. For all the formality, at heart it's a trade guild/monopoly. Nobles don't tax their worlds, they just monopolize interstellar trade and control space. Supposedly, they only conquer worlds without FTL, on the grounds that they invented FTL, so 'conquest' in a way is more like "welcome to the world of interstellar trade! which we'll control, naturally, as our trade secret." Of course, if you try to reverse engineer FTL, or contest control of local space, they'll blast you. There's one world that got FTL before the Abh, and happily sold it around; the Abh don't attack those worlds.

Why are there lots of pre-FTL colonies? I have new respect for the baroque details of the FTL system. The fact that inactive gates pass as white holes isn't a random thing, it's what enabled high-relativistic ships to go out. If you're going to have magic physics, it's nice ot cram it all into one place; this also helps the conquests, as colonization white holes suddenly get subverted into gates.

Another afterword comment is that Jinto is 300 years in the future, but Lafiel 2000, because of Lorentz contraction; I interpret this as saying Jinto's ancestors spent 1900 years Earth time, 200 years ship time, before finding their world 100 years 'ago'.

As for the opposing human polities, all are ostensibly democratic, which is a nice change for some branches of space opera. However, the United Mankind doesn't seem very nice; they attack the Abh, spread a lot of propaganda ("Abh aren't people, they're organic machines"), and interfere a lot. A UM captain is shocked that people smoke on a 'liberated' world, and promises it'll be illegalized and people re-educated. Abh-friendly people are isolated in democracy education camps. From Banner of the Stars, I know that one world had a choice of joining the Abh or the UM, and since they eat cats, which the UM wouldn't like, they joined the Abh, who don't give a fig what happens on the ground. So unlike a lot of SF, aristocracy hasn't been re-invented (except by the Abh, who have a background that justifies it)... but fascism, or a democratic authoritarianism, may have.

The UM also forbids generic meddling, even screening of fertilized eggs. For their part, the Abh seem to be anti-transhumanist in a way; there's babbling in a confused scene about how people fear evolution, and the Abh have stopped it; I guess they don't have some idea of progress like the haut. OTOH, they do generally design the genome of their kids; the novel confirms and expands the anime. Potential gene complement donors include oneself alone, a lover (either sex), a relative, or many people. But what really makes a family is the education and passed-on tradition, not the genes or bloodlines.

The novel also cleared something else up. The anime had shown Lafiel being a ridiculously, cinematically, good shot, taking out soldiers with one hit while being missed, sometimes not even looking where she was shooting. She is a damn good shot, but the novel reminded me that a core Abh adaptation is 3D senses. The Abh tiara is a full-surround high-frequency sensor that feeds data into a compound eye in the Abh forehead, and there's new brain areas to process that. So Lafiel *was* looking -- just not with her eyes.

The laser science is confusing. The space battle somehow has her knowing about near misses as she's being shot at, which makes no sense, but on the planet, Jinto can't see their laser pistol beams, except by the light from their hits. Perhaps there was research between volumes.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 28th, 2009 05:09 am (UTC)
I think Buck Godot is available on the Foglio's site somewhere as a webcomic. You might've seen it there.
May. 28th, 2009 05:36 am (UTC)
Yeah, I've been following the Gallimaufry... oh hey, PSmith was online before that. Good call.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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