Thursday, September 18, 2008


UPDATE: Second link fixed. Thanks Joel!

It was long past time I read Eric Frank Russell's classic novella "And Then There Were None," and if you haven't yet, go do so. Here is one easy way to do it.

A military ship carrying an ambassador of the Terran empire lands on a remote planet that was settled about 400 years ago and hasn't had any contact with the empire since. The ship's mission is to bring the planet into the great imperial fold.

Things go awry from the start, beginning with the farmer who, asked to bring them to his leaders, doesn't seem to understand the concept of a "leader."

First published in the June 1951 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, "And Then There Were None" is a great glimpse at an alternative way of managing human interaction. You may recall (and if you don't here's when I said it) that I thought Ayn Rand copped out in Atlas Shrugged when she justified her superior rational woman blowing away an indecisive minion who couldn't decide whose side he was on. Without giving too much away, Russell offers one of the best explanations I've ever encountered regarding why, six years later in Rand's novel, the oh-so-rational Dagny Taggart committed an irrational act.

The theme of violence vs. nonviolence as a response to tyranny is central to my novel in progress, The Imaginary Revolution. I've hit several roadblocks as I attempt to bring the concept into focus in an entertaining way. Now I see Russell has already walked that path for me. Encountering "And Then There Were None" was like bumping into a fellow who, as I'm trying to thrash a path through thick brush, pulls me aside and shows me the trail through the jungle that he's already cleared.

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Anonymous sunni said...

Thanks for the reminder of that novella. I read it aloud to the snolfs; it was a bit long for them, but they did grok the most important part. :-)

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

Always loved And Then There Were None. If this was your first exposure to it, I'll bet it was a real treat.

I think your second link is messed up, though. Both lead to the novella. And if the second link is what I think it is, I'd really love to re-read it. Please fix linky?z

7:18 PM  

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