New America

New America

by Poul Anderson

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Overview

Continuing from Orbit Unlimited, New America is the next chapter in the story of the planet Rustum, where the Constitutionalists continue their mission to build a more perfect nation

Civilization on Rustum has come a long way since its early days, when a few brave colonists traveled twenty light-years from Earth to found a society, New America, on the principle of personal liberty. Some call themselves Constitutionalists, others Jeffersonians, but whatever the title everyone can agree: Rustum has a problem. With one-and-a-quarter times the gravitational force of Earth and a host of inedible flora, Rustum is most habitable on its highlands, leaving the lowlands sparsely populated and creating a great imbalance on the planet.
 
Dan Coffin, an original settler of Rustum, agrees to join an expedition back to the lowlands, where he is one of the rare individuals who can survive in the dense air without a helmet. New America follows Coffin’s endeavors to build a new life with a wife, children, and an effective governing body that can help give the lowlanders not only survive, but thrive.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781497694316
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 12/30/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 183
Sales rank: 919,206
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Poul Anderson (1926–2001) grew up bilingual in a Danish American family. After discovering science fiction fandom and earning a physics degree at the University of Minnesota, he found writing science fiction more satisfactory. Admired for his “hard” science fiction, mysteries, historical novels, and “fantasy with rivets,” he also excelled in humor. He was the guest of honor at the 1959 World Science Fiction Convention and at many similar events, including the 1998 Contact Japan 3 and the 1999 Strannik Conference in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Besides winning the Hugo and Nebula Awards, he has received the Gandalf, Seiun, and Strannik, or “Wanderer,” Awards. A founder of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, he became a Grand Master, and was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.
 
In 1952 he met Karen Kruse; they married in Berkeley, California, where their daughter, Astrid, was born, and they later lived in Orinda, California. Astrid and her husband, science fiction author Greg Bear, now live with their family outside Seattle.

Poul Anderson (1926–2001) grew up bilingual in a Danish American family. After discovering science fiction fandom and earning a physics degree at the University of Minnesota, he found writing science fiction more satisfactory. Admired for his “hard” science fiction, mysteries, historical novels, and “fantasy with rivets,” he also excelled in humor. He was the guest of honor at the 1959 World Science Fiction Convention and at many similar events, including the 1998 Contact Japan 3 and the 1999 Strannik Conference in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Besides winning the Hugo and Nebula Awards, he has received the Gandalf, Seiun, and Strannik, or “Wanderer,” Awards. A founder of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, he became a Grand Master, and was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

In 1952 he met Karen Kruse; they married in Berkeley, California, where their daughter, Astrid, was born, and they later lived in Orinda, California. Astrid and her husband, science fiction author Greg Bear, now live with their family outside Seattle.

Read an Excerpt

New America


By Poul Anderson

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1974 Trigonier Trust
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-9431-6



CHAPTER 1

MY OWN, MY NATIVE LAND


The boy stood at sunrise on the edge of his world. Clouds torrented up along the gap which clove it. They burned in the light. Wind sang, cold and wholly pure.

A spearfowl broke from those mists to soar further aloft, magnificence upon wings the hue of steel. For an instant the boy did not move. He could not. Then he screamed, once, before he fled.

He took shelter in a thicket until he had mastered both tears and trembling. Boys do not tell anyone, least of all those who love them, that they are haunted.


"Coming in, now," said Jack O'Malley over the radio phone, and got to work at a difficult approach.

On its northeastern corner, that great tableland named High America did not slope in mountains and valleys, to reach at last the sea level which lay eight kilometers straight beneath. Here the rim fell in cliffs and talus until vapors drowned vision. Only at one place were the heights climbable: where a fault had driven them apart to make the Cleft. And the drafts which it channeled were treacherous.

As his aircar slanted toward ground, O'Malley had a clear view across the dropoff and its immense gash. At evening, the almost perpetual clouds that lapped around the plateau were sinking. Rock heaved dark and wet above the ocean, which billowed to the horizon. Their whiteness bore a fire-gold tinge and shadows were long upon them; for the Eridani sun was low in the west, barely above the sierra of the Centaurs. The illusion of its hugeness could well-nigh overwhelm a man who remembered Earth, since in fact its disc showed more than half again the width of Terrestrial Sol. Likewise the ruddier hue of its less ardent G5 surface was more plain to see than at high noon.

Further up, O'Malley's gaze had savored a sweep of country from Centaurs to Cleft, from Hercules Mountains to Lake Olympus, and all the grasslands, woodlands, farmlands in between, nourished by the streams out of yonder snow- peaks. Where the Swift and Smoky Rivers joined to form the Emperor, he should have been able to make out Anchortown. But the rays blazed too molten off their waters.

Instead, he had enjoyed infinite subtleties of color, the emerald of man's plantings mingled in patchwork with the softer blue greens of native growth. Spring was coming as explosively as always on Rustum.

Raksh, the larger moon, stood at half phase in a sky turning royal purple. About midway between the farthest and nearest points of its eccentric orbit, it showed a Lunar size, but coppery rather than silver. O'Malley scowled at the beautiful sight. It was headed in closer, to raise tides in the dense lowland air which could make for even heavier equinoctial storms than usual. And that was just when he wanted to go down there.

His pilot board beeped a warning and he gave his whole attention back to flight. It was tricky at best, in this changeable atmosphere, under a fourth more weight then Earth gives to things: Earth, where this vehicle was designed and made. He wondered if he'd ever see the day when the colony manufactured craft of its own, incorporating the results of experience. Three thousand people, isolated on a world for which nature had never intended them, couldn't produce much industrial plant very soon.

Nearing ground, he saw Joshua Coffin's farmstead outlined black against sky and some upsurgings from the cloud deck. The buildings stood low, but they looked as massive as they must be to withstand hurricanes. Gim trees and plume oak, left uncut for both shade and windbreak, were likewise silhouetted, save where the nest of a bower phoenix phosphoresced in one of them.

O'Malley landed, set his brakes, and sprang out: a big, freckle-faced man, athletic in spite of middle age grizzling his red hair and thickening his waist. He wore a rather gaudy coverall which contrasted with the plainness of Coffin's. The latter was already, courteously, securing the aircar's safety cable to a bollard. He was himself tall, as well as gaunt and crag-featured, sun-leathered and iron-gray. "Welcome," he said. They gripped hands. "What brings you here that you didn't want to discuss on the phone?"

"I need help," O'Malley answered. "The matter may or may not be confidential." He sighed. "Lord, when'll we get proper laser beams, not these damn 'casts that every neighborhood gossip can listen in on?"

"I don't believe our household needs to keep secrets," said Coffin a bit sharply. Though he'd mellowed over the years, O'Malley was reminded that his host stayed a puritanical sort. Circumstance had forced this space captain to settle on Rustum—not any strong need to escape crowding, corruption, poverty, pollution, and the tyranny on Earth. He'd never been part of the Constitutionalist movement. In fact, its rationalism, libertarianism, tendency toward hedonism, to this day doubtless jarred on his own austere religiousness.

"No, I didn't mean that," O'Malley said in haste. "The thing is—Well, could you and I talk alone for a few minutes?"

Coffin peered at him through the gathering dusk before he nodded. They walked from the parking strip, down a graveled path between ornamental bushes. The Stellas were starting to flower, breathing a scent like mingled cinnamon and—something else, perhaps new hay—into coolness. O'Malley saw that Teresa Coffin had finally gotten her roses to flourish, too. How long had she worked on that, in what time she could spare from survival and raising their children and laying the groundwork of a future less stark than what she had known of Rustum? Besides science and ingenuity, you needed patience to make Terrestrial things grow. Life here might be basically the same kind as yours, but that didn't mean it, or its ecology, or the soil that that ecology had formed, were identical.

The small stones scrunched underfoot. "This is new, this graveling," O'Malley remarked.

"We laid it two years ago," Coffin said.

O'Malley felt embarrassed. Was it that long since he'd had any contact with these people? But what had he in common with farmers like them, he, the professional adventurer? It struck him that the last time he'd trodden such a path was on an estate on Earth, in Ireland, an enclave of lawns and blossoms amidst rural bondage and megalopolitan misery. Memory spiraled backward. The sound of pebbles hadn't been so loud, had it? Of course not. His feet had come down upon them with only four-fifths the weight they did here. And even on High America, the air was thicker than it was along the seashore of Earth, carried sound better, made as simple an act as brewing a pot of tea into a different art—

A volant swooped across Raksh, warm-blooded, feathered, egg-laying, yet with too many strangenesses to be a bird in anything than name. Somewhere a singing "lizard" trilled.

"Well," said Coffin, "what is this business of yours?"

O'Malley reflected on how rude it would be to make Teresa wait, or the youngsters for that matter. He drew breath and plunged:

"Phil Herskowitz and I were running scientific survey in the deep lowlands, around the Gulf of Ardashir. Besides mapping and such, we were collecting instrument packages that completed their programs, laying down fresh ones elsewhere—oh, you know the routine. Except this trip didn't stay routine. A cyclops wind caught us at the intermediate altitude where that kind of thing can happen. Our car spun out of control. I was piloting, and tried for a pontoon landing on the sea but couldn't manage it. The best I could do was crash us in coastal jungle. At least that gave us some treetops to soften impact. Even so, Phil has a couple of broken ribs where the fuselage got stove in against his chair.

"We didn't shear off much growth. It closed in again above the wreck. Nobody can land nearby. We put through a distress call, then had to struggle a good fifty kilometers on foot before we reached a meadow where a rescue car could safely settle.

"That was five days ago. In spite of not being hurt myself, I didn't recover from the shock and exhaustion overnight."

"Hm." Coffin tugged his chin and glanced sideways. "Why hasn't the accident been on the news?"

"My request. You see, it occurred to me—what I mean to ask of you."

"Which is?"

"I don't think a lot of the wreckage can be salvaged, damn it, but I'd like to try. You know what it'd be worth to the colony, just to recover a motor or something. Salvagers can't feasibly clear a landing area; they'd have no way of removing the felled trees, which'd pose too much of a hazard. But they can construct a wagon and slash a path for it. That'd at least enable them to bring out the instruments and tapes more readily—I think—than by trudging back and forth that long distance carrying them in packs."

"Instruments and tapes," Coffin said thoughtfully. "You consider that, whether or not repairable parts of the car can be recovered, the instruments and tapes must be?"

"Oh, heavens, yes." O'Malley replied. "Think how much skilled time was spent in the manufacture, then in planting and gathering the packages—in this labor-short, machine-poor economy of ours. The information's tremendously valuable in its own right, too. Stuff on soil bacteria, essential to further improvement of agriculture. Meteorology, seismology—Well, I needn't sell you on it, Josh. You know how little we know, how much we need to know, about Rustum. An entire world!"

"True. How can I help?"

"You can let your stepson Danny come along with me."

Coffin halted. O'Malley did the same. They stared at each other. The slow dusking proceeded.

"Why him?" Coffin asked at last, most low. "He's only a boy. We celebrated his nineteenth ... anniversary ... two tendays ago. If he were on Earth, that'd have been barely a couple of months past his fifteenth."

"You know why, Josh. He's young, sure, but he's the oldest of the exogenes—"

Coffin stiffened. "I don't like that word."

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean—"

"Just because he was grown artificially instead of in a uterus, from donated cells instead of his parents coming here in person, he's not inferior."

"Sure! Understood! How would three thousand people be a big enough gene pool for the future, cut off in an environment like this, if they didn't bring along—"

"—a potential million extra parents. When you marry, you'll also be required to have one of them brought to term for you to adopt."

O'Malley winced. His Norah had died in the Year of Sickness. Somehow he'd never since had more than fleeting liaisons. Probably that was because he'd never stayed put long at a time. There was too much discovery to be made, by too few persons who were capable of it, if man on Rustum was to endure.

Yet he was still, in one way, shirking a duty to wed. Man in his billions was a blight on Earth, but on Rustum a very lonely creature whose hold on existence was precarious at best. His numbers must be expanded as fast as possible—and not merely to provide hands or even brains. There is a more subtle kind of underpopulation, that can be deadly to a species. Given too few parents, too much of their biological heredity will be lost, as it fails to find embodiment in the children they can beget during their lifetimes. In the course of generations, individuals will become more and more like each other. And variability is the key to adaptability, which is the key to survival.

A partial, though vital solution to the problem lay in adoption. Spaceships had been overburdened with colonists; they would certainly not add a load of plants and animals. It sufficed to carry seeds—of both. Cold-stored, sperm and ovum could be kept indefinitely, until at last it was convenient to unite them and grow a new organism an an exogenetic tank. As easily as for dogs or cattle, it could be done for humans. Grown up, marrying and reproducing in normal fashion—for they would be perfectly normal people—they would contribute their own diverse chromosomes to the race.

This was, however, only a partial measure. The original settlers and their descendants must also do their part.

Coffin saw O'Malley's distress, and said more gently: "Never mind. I get your point. You remembered how Danny can tolerate lowland conditions."

The other man braced himself. "Yes," he replied. "I realize the original cell donors were chosen with that in mind. Still, the way we lucked out with him, this early in the game—Look. The trip does involve a certain hazard. It always does, when you go down where everything's so unearthly and most of it unknown. That's why I've kept my idea secret, that Danny would be the best possible partner on this expedition. I don't think the risk is unduly great. Nevertheless, a lot of busybodies would object to exposing a boy to it, if they heard in advance. I thought, rather than create a public uproar ... I thought I'd leave the decision to you. And Teresa, naturally."

Again Coffin bridled. "Why not Danny?"

"Huh?" O'Malley was startled. "Why, I, well, I took for granted he'd want to go. The adventure—a real springtime vacation from school ... After all, when he was a tyke, he wandered down the Cleft by himself—"

"And got lost," Coffin said bleakly. "Almost died. Was barely saved, found hanging onto the talons of a giant spearfowl that aimed to tear him apart."

"But he was saved. And that was what proved he was, is, the first real Rustumite, a human who can live anywhere on the planet. I've not forgotten what a celebrity it made him."

"We've gone back to a decent obscurity, him and the rest of us," Coffin said. "I've seen no reason to publicize the fact that he's never since cared to go below the clouds. He's a good boy, no coward or sluggard, but whenever he's been offered a chance to join some excursion down, even a little ways, he's found an excuse to stay home. Teresa and I haven't pushed him. That was a terrible experience for a small child. In spite of being a ninety days' wonder, he had nightmares for a year afterward. I wouldn't be surprised if he does yet, now and then."

"I see." O'Malley bit his lip. They stood a while beneath a Raksh whose mottled brightness seemed to wax as heaven darkened. The evening star trembled forth. A breeze, the least bit chilly, made leaves sough. It was not bedtime; this close to equinox, better than thirty-one hours of night stretched before High America. But the men stood as if long-trained muscles, guts, blood vessels, bones felt anew the drag upon them.

"Well, he's got to outgrow his fears," burst from O'Malley. "He has a career ahead of him in the lowlands."

"Why should he?" Coffin retorted. "We'll take generations to fully settle this one plateau. Danny can find plenty of work. We could even argue that he ought to protect those valuable chromosomes of his, stay safe at home and found a large family. His descendants can move downward."

O'Malley shook his head. "You know that isn't true, Josh. We won't ever be safe up here on our little bit of lofty real estate—not till we understand a hell of a lot more about the continent, the entire planet that it's part of. Remember? We could've stopped the Sickness at its beginning, if we'd known the virus is carried from below by one kind of nebulo-plankton. We'll never get proper storm or quake warnings till we have adequate information about the general environment. And what other surprises is Rustum waiting to spring on us?"

"Yes—"

"Then there's the social importance of the lowlands. We came because it was our last hope of establishing a free society. In those several generations you speak of, High America can get as crowded as Earth. Freedom needs elbow room. We've got to start expanding our frontiers right away."

"I'm not convinced that a political theory is worth a single human life," Coffin said. His tone softened. "However, the practical necessities you mention, you're right about those. Why do you need Danny?"

"Isn't it obvious? Well, maybe it isn't unless you've seen the territory. Take my word for it, men who have to wear reduction helmets are too handicapped to accomplish much in that wilderness. I told you, Phil and I barely made it to rendezvous with our rescue craft, and we had nothing more to do than hike. Salvagers will have to work harder."

"Who'll accompany him?"


(Continues...)

Excerpted from New America by Poul Anderson. Copyright © 1974 Trigonier Trust. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

My Own, My Native Land,
Passing the Love of Women,
A Fair Exchange,
To Promote the General Welfare,
The Queen of Air and Darkness,
Home,
Our Many Roads to the Stars,
Appendix,
Postscript,
Acknowledgments,
About the Author,

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