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Mark Twain and the Romulan Way

Title is a bit misleading.

I grew up with several Twain novels and one essay that I remember: Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Connecticut Yankee, Puddinghead Wilson, and "The Awful German Language". All good stuff, plus the wacky new science of fingerprinting in Wilson. Recently I checked out the Complete Essays of Mark Twain. They're... weird. Some are the biting satire I'd expect of him, as one piece about the treatment of the Chinese in San Francisco, via defending a boy who'd been punished for stoning a Chinese man, on the grounds that he was simply following every cue society gave him. But his piece on Hawaii (The Sandwich Islands) reads a lot like great white condescension, which was surprising given what I've heard he wrote about the Philippines. Eventually I came to suspect more satire, but it wasn't working well for me. Then there's weirder pieces on learning to ride a bicycle, and memory advice for children. I guess the novels are polished Great Works, while the essays range from spot on to the ramblings of a whimsical or possibly drunk man.

There's also a long piece I probably won't read about who really wrote the plays of Shakespeare. I suspect he was serious but I'll try to check enough to see if there's buried satire.


Totally un-relatedly, I've re-read (or am doing so) some Diane Duane Star Trek novels: Spock's World, My Enemy My Ally, The Romulan Way; the latter two are the first two of her much recommended "Rihannsu" books. They're still good... but I've never seen anyone ever comment on how massively she retconned her own alt-canon.

In MEMA, the first book, the ancestral Romulans left Vulcan 5000 (I'm pretty sure) years ago, via generation ship. They settled ch'Rihan ("Romulus") without having ever encountered another intelligent species. They lack Vulcan telepathy because the latent mind powers were only discovered and cultivated on Vulcan after they left, in the peace and contemplation of the philosophies of Surak.

In The Romulan Way, the sequel, massive changes. Surak lived around 22 B.C. Mind-powers were already abundant, including telekinetic ones like unravelling metal, or long range coercive powers against invading alien pilots. The Romulans left via ships that got 'jumped' to near lightspeed by suiciding jump-adept psychics, and they only became generation ships of sorts due to not finding a good world for decades. Vulcan is home to two other intelligent species, sehlats(!) and mysterious under-sand dwellers I'll call sandworms; also in Surak's time proto-Orion pirates came in the guise of friendship before attacking, helping to unify Vulcan by providing a common enemy. Then the proto-Romulans ran into at least one other intelligent species on the way, a planet of intellivores.

In Spock's World, there's no mention of sehlat intelligence, but the sandworms feature again as utterly mysterious silicon-based lifeforms. One of them teaches language to a proto-Vulcan 194,000 years ago, a few decades before the sun flares and boils off most of Vulcan's volatiles; another one appears to and inspires Surak before he starts preaching peace and logic. Vulcans are definitely telepathic from prehistoric (pre-linguistic!) times... including a sense of the existence of God that we're casually told all Vulcans have. (This is hinted at in tRW.) 'God' doesn't speak to them so this sense doesn't really solve much, but they have it.

Me, I like to think it's actually awareness of the sandworms (telepathic with huge vital signs) slithering beneath their feet.

So, yeah. Good books, but they're not just an officially alternate universe from canon (which went with much less cool Romulans), they've got a major reality break within themselves, that no one else I can find ever talks about. What the hell.

I've wondered if the later novels incorporate some updated canon from movies/novels/novelizations, but I don't know. [ETA Someone says the 'sense of god' comes from Roddenberry's Motion Picture novelization. Didn't Roddenberry give us the atheistic TNG? WTH. Duane has a vaguely theistic or sentient universe in The Wounded Sky, also referred to by K's't'lk in Spock's World, so it fits for her.]

BTW, John Ford's The Final Reflection is a pretty cool take on the Klingons, though the ending is confusing.


When Iron Bloggers ask me what I blog about, I never know what to say.

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Damien Sullivan

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