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From: "Mark Millman" <Mark_Millman@hmco.com>
Subject: Re: (urth) Re: Fifth Head
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 08:51:07 

On Tuesday 16 February 1999 at 07:31am GMT, Roy C. Lackey wrote:

> > But then, why what we see of St. Croix
> > should be on a par with 19th century
> > Europe (gas lights, carriages, etc.),
> > rather than the hi-tech society it would
> > take to get there, is no less improbable.

And at 8:32 am, Tony Ellis replied:

> Not so. One of the things I've always liked about
> The Fifth Head of Cerberus is precisely this up-
> yours to the stereotypical SF colony where the
> buildings are all new, the level of technology is
> high, and the dominant culture is American.  You
> need an awful lot of resources to establish and
> maintain a "hi-tech society", and the only resource
> St. Croix seems to have in any abundance is slave
> labour.  Everything else has to be shipped from
> Earth, taking twenty years and costing a fortune.
> Easier to pull your carts with oxen. Don't forget too
> that St Croix has fought a war and lost. Whatever
> was achieved by the original French colonists has
> been blown to pieces, while the new regime is
> corrupt, decadent and bureaucratic, and governs
> a steadily declining population - hardly the circum-
> stances under which a new society is likely to flourish.

If I recall correctly, some of the "low-tech" features of Ste. Croix and
Ste. Anne are presented as secondary simplifications.  For example, I seem
to remember that Dr. Marsch recalls traveling by sailing ship--but that the
sailing ships are safe, efficient, and regularly scheduled because there's
a working system of weather control that makes the fuelless sailing ship a
workable and economical solution for water transport.  Of course, we also
know that Gene Wolfe just likes sail.

We also don't know whether one of the goals in settling Ste. Croix might
have been to go back to a simulacrum of an earlier, simpler way of life.  I
just read Cordwainer Smith's Instrumentality of Mankind stories (in the
excellent NEFSA collected edition, which I highly recommend), and one of
the devices Smith used was that of a return to earlier social patterns (or,
more accurately, to an approximation of them).  The lure of "the good old
days" is a persistent one.

Mark Millman

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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