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Date: Thu, 14 Aug 2003 16:58:52 -0700
From: Michael Andre-Driussi 
Subject: (urth) STL interstellar empires

Andrew Bollen wrote:

>The universes of New Sun and Short Sun really don't fit together very
>snugly. IMO, if you took them as standalones, you'd say that Short Sun is in
>the future, while New Sun is in the *deep* future. A few hundred years
>versus a geological age or two. I think that GW did a lot of back-filling to
>tie them together. (Not that I really mind - myths are generlly cobbled
>together from pieces which don't fit very well, in a logical sense.)
>Obvious examples:
>- Typhon in New Sun at least desires to rule an inter-stellar empire, and
>offers Sev the job of satrap of Earth. How does this make any sense without
>superluminal travel? If Typhon can travel faster than light, why build the
>Whorl? If he can't, is he really going to feel good about a clunky
>slower-than-light hollow asteroid crawling through space while the immense
>shp/s of the Hiero-whatsits leap/s over dimesnional boundaries?

Le Guin's main sf work has been set in a common STL interstellar culture.
One of the things that is suggested if not stated outright is that it is
only possible because they use an instantaneous communication device -- the
famed "ansible" (notoriously an anagram of "lesbian," for whatever one can
make of that factoid).  One of the other devices to knit the metaculture
together is "mindspeech," a sort of telepathy which can be learned (iirc).

and it seems highly probable that he read the other novels, too (PLANET OF
EXILE and ROCANNON'S WORLD and CITY OF ILLUSIONS) as well as the short
stories set in that background.

In TBOTNS, at the Vancean resurrection of the Stone Town, the Cumaean uses
a device to contact an entity 22 light years away for a real-time
conversation.  This is rather a lot like an ansible.  So the technology is
at least possible in the universe of Briah.  Typhon just wants to rule a Le
Guin style interstellar grouping.

Typhon does not seem to have kept all eggs in one basket -- he hedges his
bets.  The library, according to the story, was a hedge he set up:
originally he was going to burn all the books that had been collected.  But
at the last minute he came up with the hedge, just in case the empire thing
didn't work out.

So why the Whorl?  Another hedge, I say.  While all the other stuff is
conquer and control, this other project will be "pure" colonization.

>- The universe of New Sun has a bunch of human-settled planets in some kind
>of contact with each other, if only via port-calls by Tzadkiel's ship. Why
>would Typhon think it was a cool thing to send out a slow boat to found a
>crappy little colony when these old, established ones already exist, and he
>presumably intends to conquer them?

See above.

>- The literary survivals from our age in the Chras Writings are *really*
>implausible for a deep future setting.
>- At some point in Exodus Silk talks of French and Latin as extant languages
>(at least literary languages). Ditto.

>- Why none of the bio-engineered animals from New Sun on the Whorl? No
>destriers, no smilodons ...

It could be that he thought they were decadent, non-natural, time-safari
captures, and/or extrasolarian in origin.

>- Why no chems on Urth, apart from throwbacks like Jonah? Maybe there are
>some around at the time of Sev vs Typhon in UOTNS; we don't meet them,
>AFAIK. But surely Typhon's army would have been predominantly chems?

Hard to get parts in such a low-tech backwater.  Look at Jonas, for
example: repaired with biological material, for goodness sake!  Urth is far
more resource poor than the Whorl, and look at how the chems are running
down on the Whorl, after only a few hundred years of isolation.

Of course you are free to your own opinion.



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