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From: "Roy C. Lackey" 
Subject: Re: (urth) chem slavery and bio slavery
Date: Sun, 6 Oct 2002 13:26:20 -0500

What follows was prepared yesterday; I didn't post it then because I
thought I would leave well enough alone, that and wait to see if there
would be any further response to my "Bios bias" post. In the wake of
mantis's post of about an hour ago about the NYRSF article, I wish I had
sent it then. I can only say that, no, I've never even seen an issue of
NYRSF. I'll comment about mantis's comments on the article in a separate
post, but I will note here that, in the penultimate paragraph of
yesterday's Bio bias post I wrote, of chems: "But even to call them slaves
is to grant them a status their creators never intended--you don't pay a
machine." I belong to the "clever tools" school of thought mantis
mentioned. FWIW.

mantis wrote:

>Moving along . . . Once the Cargo got to the world of Blue, we know that
>real, no mistaking it, bio slavery started up almost immediately.  (IIRC
>was "early bird" colonists seizing late bird colonists.)  Do you suppose
>that the chems on the Whorl "kept slavery alive" and thus facilitated the
>adoption of bio slavery (that is, the colonists express a learned
>institution), or is bio slavery an inherent part of the human condition
>which would have come up even if there had been no chems (in which case
>chem slavery is a blessing in the sense that it moves bios away from bio
>slavery: allowing bios to treat bios as non-slaves)?

Given human history on Earth/Urth, I have to agree with slavery being "an
inherent part of the human condition which would have come up even if
there had been no chems".

I really wasn't concerned with the subject of slavery as it applied to
chems. I just wanted to point out the logical inconsistency of trying to
maintain on the one hand that chems were just differently-made people, on
an equal footing with bios, when on the other hand the way they were
actually treated on the _Whorl_, both in Typhon's day and in Silk's,
demonstrated that they certainly were not equal to humans. "Wage" slaves,

as you put it, is a reasonable description of the de facto situation of
most people living today. Sure, unlike 'real' slaves, people are free to
stop working; they won't be beaten or killed for it, but they will suffer
obvious consequences, one of which, if carried to its ultimate conclusion,
is death. But you can't starve a chem or talus to death.

It's a given, in the text, that a talus is 'born' owing for its flesh, er,
existence. (And a possible nod to Philip Jose Farmer.) It is quite
reasonable to infer the same for a chem. Hammerstone bitched about his
crummy life as a soldier. Why didn't he quit? Are there any retired
soldiers in the LS books? No. A soldier leaves the army KIA or resigned to
the recycling bin for any reusable parts, just like my old cars. What
would happen to an uppity talus that refused to work off its birth debt?
Does its creator 'kill' it? How would that satisfy the expense of its
creation? Would that be murder? Just turn the thing loose to do as it
pleased, whatever that might me? No, a talus is too stupid and dangerous
to be left on its own. The soldiers aren't much better. Sgt. Sand
thoughtlessly tossed an employee of Ermine's over the railing of the

All these thorny questions become moot when you stop thinking of taluses
and chems as people. If a talus doesn't work right, fix it or replace it,
whichever is cheaper, just as you would a car or can opener. Was there any
"save the chems" movement on the _Whorl_? Nope, not even by chems. Twenty
years after Horn left the _Whorl_, Olivine was the closest thing to a
femchem still living in Viron. The chems didn't follow the bios to Blue
and Green--the subject never even came up. They had been built to last
about two-hundred-and-fifty years, the intended duration of the voyage of
the _Whorl_. Planned obsolescence. When the trip was finished, so were

It comes down to: if chems were people, then they were slaves. A slave is
not equal to, in law, its master. No matter how you look at it, a chem was
not the equal of a bio. But it's worse for a chem because, in fact, apart
from the function they were created for, their existence is meaningless.
They were created to serve bios. If they can't do that, they may as well
slip, like Puff the Magic Dragon, off into a cave somewhere and shut down.



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