Monday, 19 December 2016

Kinds Of Sequels

A cliff-hanger ending requires a sequel whereas a happy ending completes and concludes a narrative sequence. In the latter case, a sequel remains possible but then must initiate a new narrative. Thus, Poul Anderson's The Star Fox (London, 1968), about a war against an alien species, has a happy ending. The second novel, Fire Time, features a war against another alien species - and a genuinely different alien species, not a mere repetition.

Anderson's happy endings are good for mankind and for the individual hero. First, as regards mankind:

"'If man is going to live throughout the galaxy, he's got to be free to take his own roads, the ones his direct experience shows him are best for his circumstances. And that way, won't the race realize all its potential? Is there any other way we can, than by trying everything out, everywhere?'" (p. 201)

This passage projects a fulfilled further future for mankind but also makes us want to read another sequel set in that further future.

As regards the hero - Gunnar Heim, having won the war, has become a citizen of the colony planet, New Europe (like New York or Nova Scotia writ large):

"'...a whole new world, elbow room, infinite possibilities.'" (p. 202)

When he has retired as the New European minister of space and the navy, Heim will:

experiment with pelagic farming;
prospect other planets and asteroids;
start a merchant spaceship yard;
do more -

- a natural leader in peace and war.

SM Stirling's Nantucket Trilogy Volume III ends with a major war won and several characters, now rich, planning the farms that they will build and own in South America. But another kind of sequel is also hinted at. The main villain has been killed but his daughter has survived and plans revenge...

The message may be that there will always be war? I do not agree that there will always be war but I do agree that we must always be prepared for unforeseen disasters, including renewed conflicts. Even if our descendants build a peaceful utopian civilization in the Solar System, they will never be sure that the Merseians or the kzinti are not going to arrive in the next interstellar invasion fleet - or the Draka from an alternative timeline? A utopian civilization should:

know its own history;
understand historical change and the role of the unpredictable in historical processes;
be prepared to adjust to major changes.

Larry Niven showed in "The Warriors," that technology can be turned back to destructive purposes. Lasers used for propulsion or asteroid defense can be turned against invading spaceships. The optimum human being will be someone who fully enjoys all the benefits of technology while also being able to adjust to the requirements of survival in the event of the loss of technology.

1 comment:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    In some ways, I would compare Gunnar Heim of THE STAR FOX to Nicholas van Rijn. Except that Heim lacks Old Nick's extravagant exuberance and does not want to be a wheeling dealing merchant all his life. I can sympathize with Heim's desire to try his hand at several different lines of work, I would merely add that "full time" traders/merchants are also necessary.

    I'm not very satisfied about how William Walker and Alice Hong died. By aconite poisoning in their food at a picnic? Without a food taster first checking to see if it was safe to eat? Even decent rulers have used food tasters, not because of undue paranoia, but simple straight forward prudence.

    I can see how Doreen Arnstein fed disinformation to Walker's chief of security to convince him the King of Men and Lady of Pain were planning on getting rid of him. However likely that was, I couldn't help but wonder why Mittler, an old veteran of the East German secret police, did not consider the possibility Nantucketer Intelligence was feeding him disinformation? Given than, Mittler could probably have traced out how the official mails were tampered with. Given that, the best recourse would have been to report everything to Walker.

    I was also not happy with slaughtering children, or from a technical point of view, satisfied with how Walker's children were massacred by Mittler's agents. Wouldn't Walker have assigned TRUSTED guards tasked with protecting his children? Yet, we see no mention of Mittler's assassins being forced to fight their way thru resolute bodyguards. If that had happened I think at least one or two of Walker's sons would have escaped.

    The thing to remember Althea Walker's comments to Ohotolarix was how she said she was determined to learn from her father's mistakes. We see her and her followers trekking to the Ferghana region of the Eurasian continent, because that was as far as it was possible to get from the sea (and beyond Nantucket's reach). We see Althea determined to found a new kingdom and to be PATIENT, to forswear revenge in order to build up a state Nantucket could not destroy.

    I'm not as optimistic of you, I do think we will always have wars or rumors of war. But, you are at least sensible about the question and admit war remains a potentiality.

    Merry Christmas! Sean