Avast! Thar be spoilers ahead!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Vaster Than Empires and More Slow

Le Guin included a story of this title, taken from "To His Coy Mistres," in The Wind's Twelve Quarters. It follows a crew of explorers who are exploring space to find new life and sentience. One among them has incredible powers of empathy that borders on ESP that allows (or rather forces) him to feel whatever emotions those around him feel. His crew responds to him with distrust and hostility, which he mirrors back on them. The planet they discover has sentience of its own. It is a single organic being which reacts in fear to crew. The empath decides to commune with the planet to alleviate the planet's fear. His communication becomes Communion. The planet's single sentience becomes a peace for his mind.

I have not done justice to the depth of this story. Suffice that Ursula K. Le Guin wrote it so it is a great story.

Star Trek: The Next Generation has an episode entitled Tin Man with a similar plot. Tam is a betazoid, like commander Deanna Troy, was born with full telepathic abilities. His powers cause him to suffer as he is constantly bombarded with the thoughts and emotions of all around him, including the entire Enterprise. He is assigned to make first contact with an unusual vessel which seems to be both an artificial spaceship and also an organic being. Tam is able to establish some contact with the ship, which is millenia old and the last of its kind. The ship was engineered or born purposefully as a sentient ship which nurtures its crew. Unfortunately, the crew died thousands of years previously and the ship has come to a star, that is about to go nova, to die. Tam goes aboard the ship and bonds to it, relieving his own loneliness and the ship's.

I am a little surprised that there is little reference to Le Guin's short story. There are some differences. Tam is able to find some respite with Data since he is sentient but not organic. And Data brings back a message from Tam that he has found joy at last. It is a more satisfying ending. Le Guin is not terribly big on ending's. I think that is why I like her works.

No comments:

Post a Comment