Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Mission of Gravity - Hal Clement

The usual caveats apply here for SF first published in 1954. Cameras with film in them, laying out prints to form maps of the surface of a world etc. The digital, computer, internet age sat firmly in a future not imagined by SF writers then. Nevertheless a wonderfully visualised alien world, characters one cared about, albeit the main ones being hydrogen-breathing caterpillars, with pincers, living on a world whose gravity varied from 3g to 700g, and a stonking good tale too. Very enjoyable.

Image may contain: text

1 comment:

KRex said...

OK, I can give up on this commenting thing any time, really, it's just a question of will power.

When I met Larry Niven, lo those 3 decades or so ago, I was instantly underwhelmed. This was a guy who didn't feel comfortable or secure with discussions of his material. Adulation, yes, but frankly discussing the meat of the meal, no siree!

The irony is, that his work is what I use to couch the metric for obsolescence in SF. Niven Limits. Added irony comes from the fact that one of his collections is named "Limits", after a Draco Tavern story, which is about humans supposedly being special for immediately looking for the limits of some situation/law and then trying to break them. Mathematically, a surface is defined by it's limits, and so defining the limits and testing them would be the characteristic of all sentience.

One of Niven's earlier stories (1964-The Coldest Place) was about the planet Mercury, and postulating that the back side of Mercury was the coldest place in the Solar System, because Mercury supposedly didn't rotate. But before the story was even published, new astronomical data showed that Mercury wasn't tidally locked, and has a resonant rotation/orbit.

That's the lower Niven Limit, that one major or significant tenet of a story has been invalidated or antiquated. Can anyone find a better example?

The upper Niven Limit is that ALL of the ideas behind a story are shown to be wrong, not just artifacts of anachronistic attitude. "Save me!" squeals the heroine, having broken a high heel on her transparent and skintight spacesuit. Because history certainly does rhyme, except in 'Merica, where it raps. So what is old fashioned today, may well be the new SJW furor of tomorrow.

Actually, for while, the high heels on spacesuits were well designed (in Italy) and well engineered (in Germany, from Swedish steel), so they would have been the last things to break. But nowadays with all the outsourcing to China and Mexico, when a Gender fluid space"person" boldly ventures forth, "they" take "their" life in their heels!