Monday, March 23, 2009

1951 Short Story Predicts Post BSG Life for the Colonials: Nasty, Brutish and Short

Warning: Spoilers
(BSG spoilage factor: about the same as that one donut from the variety box at Timmy's that no one likes the flavour of and thus gets left on the office counter for a week)

Last weekend's BSG finale put me in mind of an old short story. As the refugees of the Fleet when traipsing off happily across the African grasslands, confident in their prospects for challenging but happy futures of living wild and free among the Earthlings (cousins by a Cylon Earth.1 refugee colony?) and unfettered by technology, all I could think of was H. Beam Piper's "Genesis" (originally published in 1951, but I came across it years ago as a teen when I bought the just-released anthology "Isaac Asimov's Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction 6: Neanderthals").

Piper's tale concerns a group of aliens (Martians) fleeing their dying world, forced to evacuate their colony ship as it suffered a cataclysmic accident, and forced to survive - and try to rebuild their culture/repopulate their species - on a primitive Earth with their few supplies steadily dwindling, without the benefit of modern medical care, and under frequent attack from hostile locals (in the case of the short story: Neanderthals upset at the presence of the interlopers and possibly looking to add them to the menu; in the case of the BSG Earth inhabitants: possibly the same). In short, far from being a refreshing change of pace, these aliens find themselves in a life not too far off from Hobbes' state of nature: nasty, brutish and short.

The story's final section put the fate of the colonists' descendants into fast forward and explained everything in a fashion about as subtle as a sledgehammer and, in a way that was ultimately unecessary. But the bulk of the story is a good, well-paced adventure about the concerns of people who might find themselves in this kind of situation. Concerns which, if they'd occured to the people of BSG's Fleet, might have encouraged them to rethink their strategy and maybe have kept them in a city with modern conveniences, and possibly with working ships still in orbit.

Definitely worth the read if you can find it.

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