Oct 1, 2015

Cities in the Sea

December 1950
In my previous blog post, I mentioned the Earth-Space war of the Ekcolir Reality. That war followed an explosion of the human population that came after First Contact and was fueled by alien technology. Among the "gifts" of the Fru'wu to Humanity was the material known as "spandazzy", which made possible the proliferation of arcologies both in Earth's oceans and in outer space.

Cities in Flight
The Astounding cover shown to the right is from 1950 and it illustrates what might by the most famous science fiction idea of James Blish: flying cities. In this blog post, I explore how Blish fit into the previous Reality and why that fit was so much better than what our own universe had on tap for the Blish analogue.

Hall of Fame stories
Back in the 1970s, I was exposed to the fiction of Blish and his flying cities through The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two which is also the anthology where I read Theodore Sturgeon's "Baby Is Three". I've previously mentioned that I was also impressed by the humor in a story called The Spectre General which was in that volume.

In The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One I read another Blish story, 'Surface Tension', along with Clarke's
'The Nine Billion Names of God'. Blish's 'Surface Tension' might have been my introduction to the idea of intelligent microscopic life forms, but the story's silliness so outraged me that I never read anymore work by Blish. You can read 'Surface Tension' at the Internet Archive as it originally appeared in Galaxy magazine.

I know that I read "Earthman, Come Home" in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, but it made no great impression on me. I went off in the direction of reading science fiction writers like Asimov, Clarke and Vance; Blish was abandoned.

There is a huge risk in writing science fiction stories that start by taking some mundane aspect of Earth history and re-imagine it in the context of interstellar travel. Blish's flying cities are the Sci Fi analogues of "migratory workers of the Great Depression of the 1920s and '30s".

In the Ekcolir Reality (click image to enlarge).
I don't want to read science fiction stories in which humans have life-extension technology and live many centuries and travel across the galaxy and yet they still lead miserable lives like the poor people who survived the Great Depression.

In the Ekcolir Reality
Original cover art by
Jos van Uijtrecht
Caves of Nanites
My preference would be for a science fiction story that introduces some imaginary technology (such as a technology that allows for "flying cities") and then goes on to show an imaginary future in which people's lives are actually different in some interesting way from our lives here on this backwards little planet.

In the Ekcolir Reality, with Earth under the influence of the Fru'wu Intervention, economic expansion was the rule. The human population grew very rapidly and our planet's vast stores of fossil fuels were relentlessly exploited.

in the Ekcolir Reality (source)
Gohrlay has been telling me about the science fiction genre as it existed in the Ekcolir Reality. Gohrlay suspects that the analogue of Blish (named Jamie) in the Ekcolir Reality was provided with insights into the future of Earth by her replicoid.

In the Ekcolir Reality.
Original cover art by Paul R. Alexander
Jamie Blish wrote a series of stories about the decline of New York City starting with its flooding during the first phase of sea level rise in the 20th century and continuing on through its existence as a mostly-submerged metropolis after the melting of the antarctic ice cap. Over And Out was a science fiction adventure dealing with the construction of the first space elevators and orbital cities.

Next: Investigative Science Fiction in the Ekcolir Reality
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