Saturday, 23 March 2013

What The Okies Do IX

The first textual confirmation that James Blish's A Life For The Stars follows his They Shall Have Stars is a casual reference to "spindizzies" on p. 135 (Cities In Flight, London, 1981). The earlier references to flying cities should not have meant anything to us yet unless we have looked ahead to Earthman, Come Home.

The background detail that technology has caused mass unemployment does not feature elsewhere in this series but does connect with two other Blish juveniles, the Jack Loftus novels, and with A Torrent Of Faces which Blish co-wrote with Norman L Knight.

A Life For The Stars reads like a Heinlein juvenile and is particularly reminiscent of Starman Jones. Although Poul Anderson's The Game Of Empire is not a juvenile, it has a similar opening passage when its teenage viewpoint character sees a quadrupedal alien approaching. The opening chapter of A Life For The Stars also has some, very different, parallels with CS Lewis' Out Of The Silent Planet. In both the hero, is kidnapped and physically coerced to leave Earth although Lewis' character is taken to Mars whereas Blish's text has already told us about Pittsburgh on Mars.

Lewis quotes Milton:

" never shuts his eye,
"Up in the broad fields of the sky..."

- whereas Blish's character thinks of "...Eternal Daylight Saving Time." (p. 144)

We are told that the flying cities "...provided badly needed industrial strength..." to the extra-solar colonies (p. 170). This makes sense. Small groups of Colonials had flown to Earth-like planets but how much industrial technology could they have transported with them?

We are given more details about how New York is to help industrialize the planet called Heaven. The Archangels want undersea farming and herding, as on Venus, with broadcast power. The Okies are to:

excavate in the wet terrain;
build the generator-transmitter station;
refine thorium and other power metals which Heaven has but cannot process in quantity;
receive payment in the precious metal germanium since, isolated as yet from interstellar trade, the Archangels have few Oc dollars.

Afterwards, the Archangels aim to have their own refineries and to sell to other planets. As they are Russian-speaking feudal lords, they cannot have been part of the original wave of Western colonists but must have left Earth later when the exodus of the cities began.

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