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Oct 27, 2015

Running the Show

1959 - Dodkin's Job
When I started writing stories that are set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe, I first designed a way for residents of Earth to escape from this dingy planet. Sadly, for those who could no longer fit into the primitive civilization on Earth, "escape" only took you as far as a hidden base on the Moon.

Then it occurred to me that there could be a whole series of additional "escapes" to further "levels" of Genesaunt civilization, each even more distant from Earth and closer to the alien Huaoshy.

Who's in Charge?
How many such  levels are there? I don't know, but the idea was that there should be enough of them so that nobody from Earth need worry about actually getting to meet the Huaoshy.

artwork by Bernklau
I've never read the Jack Vance story 'Dodkin's Job'. However, I like to think that Vance's story about the source of a stupid work order, actually encapsulates two guiding principles of business life.

"The Peter Principle" says that "managers rise to the level of their incompetence." Dodkin might be a good example of someone who will never be a manager, since he seems to exist on an endless demotion trajectory. If being promoted is the road to incompetence, then systematic demotion could be the path to greater job competence and true power to make effective decisions.

Institutional Momentum
Another principle of business is that no matter how much top managers can screw things up, there is always someone at the bottom of the administrative hierarchy who can keep things running. For example, if the boss builds a new multi-million dollar facility, there are sure to fundamental defects and problems in the design and construction. Anyone trying to get their job done while working in that new facility will need to work with the custodians to find a way to repair and work around all of the defects that were built into the new facility.

For humor's sake, compare 'Dodkin's Job' to "The Spectre General".

A steady theme in the stories of Jack Vance is competence. He never tired of poking fun at characters who had high social status or highfalutin job titles but who were incompetents. In contrast, the typical Vance protagonist was someone who could persevere and get a job done.

Exode
Foundations of Eternity
In the Exode Trilogy, at the various hierarchical levels of Genesaunt Civilization, there is no shortage of earnest managers who bumble around and screw things up. In fact, the only real source of "evil" in the Exode saga is ignorance and managerial incompetence.

The prototypical "man in charge" who first screws things up is Orbho Anagro. In Foundations of Eternity, Anagro becomes fascinated by humans and bends the rules, allowing a few humans to play around with advanced technology such as positronics. All hell breaks lose when telepathic positronic robots discover time travel.

Leymaygn and Vozgrow
In Exode, the folks who are "in charge" at Lendhalen don't really know what they are doing. Leymaygn and Vozgrow do a whole lot of hand-wringing about how far they can push their Interventionist agenda, but none of their worrying actually matters.

In the Ekcolir Reality. Original cover art
by Don Sibley and from Planet Stories.
Later, when Parthney goes off to Earth as the secret agent from Lendhalen, he bumbles around on Earth and eventually gets captured by the equally bumbling Overseers. Eventually readers learn who the true power brokers are on Earth; Parthney is little more than window dressing.

Science Fiction in Deep Time
Gohrlay has been regaling me with an account of the science fiction genre as it existed in the Ekcolir Reality. In the Ekcolir Reality, most science fiction authors were women. According to Gohrlay, the analogue of Lester del Rey in the Ekcolir Reality often published under the name Lori del Rey.

In the Ekcolir Reality.
original art work by Leo Morey
Lori del Rey became an influential publisher of science fiction in the Ekcolir Reality. In the 1980s, Lori helped launch a short-lived television network with Kate MacLean. That network was called CERA, a word with  Etruscan origins and meaning roughly "creation" in the jargon-filled English of New England in the 20th century of the Ekcolir Reality.

The television programs on CERA attempted to tell the secret history of Earth. Eventually, Lori was taken off of Earth and the network collapsed. Television programs on the CERA network included 'Some Were Human' and 'Door Between Worlds' which both depicted Kac'hin, Grendel and Fru'wu agents moving freely between worlds of the Galactic Core and Earth.

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