Thursday, 21 March 2013

What The Okies Do III

In the late 60's and early 70's, I loved Cities In Flight, reread Earthman, Come Home a lot and preferred it to Black Easter. More recently, I have greatly appreciated After Such Knowledge, particularly The Day After Judgement, and have not thought much about Cities for a while. However, on getting back into Cities after comparing Blish's and Anderson's stories of Jovian exploration, I am once again impressed with how rich the series is. Each volume is different and stands on its own feet even though there are problems with fitting them together. Earthman, Come Home has a lot of fast-moving action and adventure in imaginative and well-realized science fiction settings.

The adverse criticisms of Cities are that:

(i) the Chronology is big time inconsistent;
(ii) we are shown conversations of three individuals in the mayor's office but not the life of the flying city;
(iii) there is a major question as to why the cities need paid work since they seem to be self-sufficient.

(i) is undeniable. Indeed, I have drawn attention to the anomaly of the Hevians which was simply not mentioned when an attempt was made to harmonise dates. I cannot accept Richard D Mullen's explanation that the texts are partly mythologized history with the truth somewhere behind the myths (Cities In Flight, London, 1981, p. 599). They read like (fictitious) real history to me.

(ii) is undeniable. A whole 'nother series needs to be written.

I have tried to reply to (iii) in "What The Okies Do II."

Non-technical readers, of whom I am one, tend to accept that the author gets the technological background right but I am now rereading and paying close attention to this aspect. Amalfi says that New York's business is petroleum geology. The cop interrogating him replies that petroleum geology is not a business for Okies because they all need to mine and crack oil in order to eat. Again, this raises the question, at least in our minds: can they not survive by mining oil on uninhabited planets? Amalfi insists that, "'We trace and develop petroleum sources for planets which need the material'." (p. 339) I think that inhabitable planets with mine-able oil deposits will be rare and might well all be occupied by the time we are talking about so it makes sense that an Okie will have to negotiate with a planet's occupants, receiving, in return for services rendered, either payment in Oc dollars or permission to mine.

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