MMA Root

Jack Vance and the Medium Future



If we define the ‘near future’ as the centuries ahead, when there are likely to be many of the social and political structures we are now familiar with, and the ‘far future’ as millions or billions next year, when evolutionary and geological change has changed the scene, we can call the ‘middle future’ between them, between a few thousand and a few tens of thousands of years ahead.

In this medium term in the future Man, if he survives until then, will probably not yet be marked by natural biological evolution, and the world we know (preventing ice age or global warming) has not changed to great for any natural process. However, there will be time for politics and culture to change out of all recognition.

And as for technology … the mind moves, when one extrapolates from recent history. Only a quarter of a thousand years ago the Industrial Revolution had not yet begun. Now we have computers and genetic engineering and nuclear power. How can the authors try to portray the scene thousands of years from now?

Of course there is always a choice in the story of the catastrophe – a disadvantage that throws humanity back to at least a primitive or pre – industrial level. That is one commonly used scenario in the future.

Another way would be to address the issue of technology squarely and make the specific theme of the story. It would be difficult but some scientifically minded authors could take up the challenge. It can be argued at any rate that the pace of recent technological and scientific change cannot or will not continue. Already, some have said, it is slowing down; what we see now is the development of a discovery made over half a century ago – as the examples mentioned above: nuclear power and computers (1940s), the genetic code (1950s). One might write about a future that is not too different from the present in terms of technology. On the other hand, sure thousands of years is it enough to get another great spurt in the march of progress?

The problem then is: how can we believe in a manifestation of life that is far ahead, if it keeps – as it must, if we are to enjoy the book – enough in common with our time for us to identify with the characters?

Jack Vance succeeds. Let us think about how.

First, we must note that he has certainly succeeded in imparting to the reader of his Gaean Reach stories the pervasive understanding of standing on a large accumulation of history; culture layer so deep that our age is farther away than our most remote antiquity. But it does not do this by evoking any atmosphere of gloomy antiquities. On the contrary, his stories are full of youthful energy. Seethe her characters with passions and ambitions like ourselves. One special point about Vance is its pubs and inns; people in their books are always eating, drinking or staying in ramshackle hotels that are lovingly described. The future of tech doesn’t go the Vancian pub way. The reader accepts all this normality and at the same time It takes the scene as thousands of years into our future. So how does Vance put it?

It does so only through the technological advances that are so important in its work – the advances that make it unnecessary to make further advances. Interstellar flight.

The effect of ease of interstellar travel is to slow down other forms of scientific progress. Because human traffic flows so easily across galactic giants, social pressure is bound to relax. Non-disciplinary cultural diversification occurs. Customs and associations are spreading all over the place. One feels that human energy goes more into a social way of doing, or the descriptive arts and sciences, than the advancement of research and technology. In fact to some extent this is made clear by the deliberate anti-progress organization known simply as the Institute, which is said to use unscrupulous methods to make possible inventions of the race. free human freedom. The Institute affirms that they are the best they are – full of hard work, life, death, victory and tragedy, hardship and wealth, contrast and color.

This ‘Institute’ is just one of many institutions and cultural themes that are firmly reflected in the future. We get more of the answer to the question here, how can such a remote time in the future be demonstrated with sufficient change to be credible. The change does not have to be technical; it can be social. Vance gives us enough new, sufficiently developed, enough originality in his expression of institutions, to allow us to embrace his vision. He also does this so that we can relate to his characters, we can feel that we could adapt to their lives if we had the chance, even though they will be thousands of years into our future. Rings of true stories.

Add comment