Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

"The Queen of Air and Darkness", by Poul Anderson

Second paragraph of third section:
Thus voyages from sun to sun will always be few. Colonists will be those who have extremely special reasons for going. They will take along germ plasm for exogenetic cultivation of domestic plants and animals—and of human infants, in order that population can grow fast enough to escape death through genetic drift. After all, they cannot rely on further immigration. Two or three times a century, a ship may call from some other colony. (Not from Earth. Earth has long ago sunk into alien concerns.) Its place of origin will be an old settlement. The young ones are in no position to build and man interstellar vessels.
Next in my reading of the joint winners of the Hugos and Nebulas. I am getting through these at about four a year (five last year and three in 2017), so at this rate I'll finish this project in the late 2030's.

This is a planetary romance, where a distraught mother whose son has been kidnapped by the natives hires the human colony's only private eye to retrieve him. It's a rather uncomfortable mingling of several tropes. The PI hero is part Philip Marlowe, part Sherlock Holmes (his name is Eric Sherrinford) and part Science Genius. It's quite difficult to do noir and aliens together, and Anderson doesn't really succeed. Although the child's captors seem to have magical powers, our hero proves that he can Defeat Them With Science (which however I note is itself sufficiently advanced to be indistinguishable from magic). There is a lot of Jungian banter, and very little characterisation. Today's reader will wonder how the Earth people feel that they have the right to take ownership of the planet from its original inhabitants; this question is not asked in the story (or rather the answer is presupposed). I think that of the stories I have re-read so far in this project, this has aged the least well.

"The Queen of Air and Darkness" won both the 1973 Hugo for Best Novella and the 1972 Nebula for Best Novelette. In both cases it beat "A Special Kind of Morning" by Gardner Dozois; other Hugo finalists were "A Meeting With Medusa" by Arthur C. Clarke, "The Fourth Profession" by Larry Niven, and "Dread Empire" by John Brunner; other Nebula finalists were "Mount Charity" by Edgar Pangborn, "Poor Man, Beggar Man" by Joanna Russ, and "The Encounter" by Kate Wilhelm. The only one of these that I know I have read is "A Meeting With Medusa" by Arthur C. Clarke, which I don't think is his best work but I liked it more than "The Queen of Air and Darkness".

The other written fiction Hugos went to To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer (novel) and "Inconstant Moon" by Larry Niven (short story; there was no novelette category). The other Nebulas went to A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg (novel), "The Missing Man" by Katherine MacLean (novella) and "Good News From The Vatican" by Robert Silverberg again.

You can get "The Queen of Air and Darkness" in the collection with the same name. Next up is another Poul Anderson short piece, "Goat Song".
Tags: bookblog 2019, sf: hugos, sf: joint winner of hugo and nebula awar, sf: nebulas, writer: poul anderson

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