Elder Race, by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Elder Race, by Adrian Tchaikovsky, is a delightful short blend of sci-fi and magic-fantasy, where the truism that advanced tech might as well be magic is nicely illustrated. A la Connecticut Yankee, I suppose. But Tchaikovsky goes one step better, paralleling that with how the linguistics of science as magic would make communication difficult. We use metaphors to explain to a six year old how electromagnetism works, or to explain to our present day co-citizens (the vast majority of us) how quantum mechanics works. The metaphors are intuitive to the listener, but they don’t really imply “understanding.” I guess the sense of “not understanding” is that the listener cannot formulate an experiment and measurement that would make sense… the definition of understanding is: “able to formulate an experiment and measure an outcome that logically relates to a set of thoughts about the matter.” So the novel is nicely philosophical (in philosophy of science sense) without that ever being explicit.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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