May 7th, 2008

ozarque figure

Short story; "Final Exam"; Abba info...

Here's an edited excerpt from At the Seventh Level with some background information about Abba; it's a conversation between Coyote Jones, in his role as superspy, and his boss, "the Fish." It appears on pp. 259-261 of Communipath Worlds.


Even the Fish was appalled by Abba, and he didn't apall easy. He had explained the assignment to Coyote with a faint air of distaste, like a Martian Orthodox Flannist discussing poultry farming.

"The whole system is ridiculous," Coyote told him. "How can such a thing be allowed to go on?"

The Fish shrugged. "It's a vast improvement over what they had before," he said.

"That's a matter of opinion."

"Let me review the basic facts for you," said the Fish. "And don't, for the Light's sake, go tramping about Abba suggesting improvements in their social system. In the first place it's none of our business. In the second place, they have ten thousand years of recorded history, and evidence of thirty thousand before that, and they look upon the rest of us as kindergarteners at the business of being civilizations." ...

"When our space colonists worked their way out to the middle of the Second Galaxy," the old man went on, "they found Abba already settled... The people were humanoid, indistinguishable from Earth-type humans except for the presence of three extra ribs and some sort of difference in the liver that escapes me. At that time the Galactic Council was already well established, the Federation was a firm entity, and there were many very obvious advantages to Federation membership. It was almost unknown for a planet to refuse membership -- however, in this case the Federation wasn't offering."

He pressed a stud on his desk and a threedy flashed on the wall behind him. Coyote stared at it and shuddered.

"Exactly," said the Fish. "The colonists reacted as you did, with total repulsion. They found a civilization at a high degree of technological advancement, the male citizens living in luxury, and all the females in breeding pens, with stables for inclement weather, treated precisely as we treat domestic animals."

"Sick," said Coyote. "Just plain sick."

"It seemed perfectly reasonable to the Abbans," the Fish went on, "that being the way they had always done things... But it was most definitely not acceptable to the members of the Galactic Federation. The impasse was solved by a gentleman named David Rutherford Williams, who went out to Abba with a proposal and managed to produce the ingenious compromise they have today."

"The harem. The Women's Discipline Unit."

"Well, I agree with you that it doesn't seem very enlightened, Mr. Jones, but it was at least a form of society that was tolerable to the members of the Federation at the time. And you must admit that it shows a high degree of organization for a society so totally unEarth-like to be able to superimpose a sort of amalgamation of ancient Egypt, Arabia, and the French diplomatic service over its own culture. Practically overnight."

"How long did it take?"

"Less than six months, as I recall. Williams showed them a stack of threedies, they went 'Ah, yes' at him, their carpenters and masons trotted off and built women's quarters to specifications, and it all worked. Amazing."

"Does it really work?"

The Fish shrugged again. "Who can tell? It seems to. At least, since the Abban conversion to the religion of the Holy Light, they believe that women have souls."

Coyote made a sound of disgust, and the Fish raised a warning hand.

"I think you'll be surprised," he said. "I really do, Mr. Jones. If you expect primitive barbarians lurching about whipping their concubines you are going to be very surprised. Why don't you wait and see? And since no interference is allowed in any case, you might just as well relax."