The Dramaturges of Yan
John Brunner

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The Dramaturges of Yan


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The Dramaturges of Yan

Copyright © 1972 by Brunner Fact and Fiction Ltd.


But according to that myth the dramaturges themselves had caused the breakup of the moon. [...]

Yet no one had been able to determine whether the suspicion was correct. For Earthsiders there was a body of knowledge called “science”, which began with steel and steam-engines and continued to go-boards and interstellar ships, but was a continuum at every stage, conditioned by an attitude of mind. If this system got results, the Yanfolk let it be inferred, in their opinion it was in spite of and not because of its postulates: a kind of magic. An Earthsider might argue that his view was correct because his machines worked when you switched them on. A Yannish opponent—not that they descended to this kind of debate—might quote Book Seven of the Mutine Epics and point to the Ring as evidence that that was also “the truth”.




Three X down, Erik Svitra said to himself, and went blue across the go-board, then purple. He was getting tired, and the guide-sequence he had memorised under hypnosis felt as though it would never end. One X diagonal, and pi to the e . . .

The board had been singing in F major. Abruptly it hit him with a bucket of nonexistent ice-water and put a smooth steel floor under his feet. He was through.

Note (Hal’s):
I’m including this just out of sheer delight in Brunner’s facility for immersing the reader in description without explanation.

— end note


“A terrible thing has happened!”

“There are going to be plenty of terrible things happening,” Dr Lem said. “So how has the sequence begun?”

XII “They talk as though the structure of their society were a tower, like the Mullom Wat, which has just that degree of flexibility needed to endure storms without resisting them. And the peak of the tower, the bit which sways furthest of all, is the bit which has to be of the finest workmanship.”

“The process which evolves, patiently, with endless refinement, the totality into which all else is absorbed: that is the masterpiece of masterpieces! And it’s nothing to do with individuals, except insofar as the time may be ripe for a particular person with a particular gift to leave his imprint on the ephemeral, malleable, fluid constituents of the culture.

“Where are the indices of a culture? In its museums? Never! They are in the nursery-rhymes the children are babbling, the culture-heroes they are taught to emulate, the slang phrases, the jokes which abstract the attitudes of the society into a quintessential distillate like—like the contents of a medical syringe!”


“And they’re in the ideals the members of that culture set for themselves, in the habits people have, in the tastes they show, in the preferences no matter how petty which they display.”



“I did what I always do—I dramatised. Have you woken in the morning to . . . ? Oh! I don’t know who your heroes are! But to a hero, who greeted you and enlisted you in the venture which made him that hero! To the company of conquerors who gave your planet to you, who welcomed you as one of their number and let you contribute to their great famous victory!”



XVII “So far we’ve never run across a non-human star-travelling species. But we’ve encountered seven quasi-humanoid intelligent races, and one of them—this one—is so remarkably like us, we can be sure beyond a doubt we shall very shortly be faced with a race that’s an out-and-out rival. The likeliest human group to encounter them is a distant colony, more remote than any of the present ones. That little outpost has to be able to stand up for itself, to make the right decisions, to behave with the right courtesy, firmness, whatever, to deal on level terms, as it were.”
XVIII “We are forever going to meet things without precedent as we spread through the galaxy. We are trying to evolve a code of principles which will serve us regardless of what happens. We will not wipe out somebody simply because what he does is unpredictable.”



“I just wanted to say I’m sorry I screwed things up. Just walked in and pow! Knocked things down!”

“Don’t blame yourself,” Marc said, staring at the floor. “That’s the history of man.”




“But what’s the use of hypothesising about something which is as far ahead of us as we are of the amoeba?”

“I don’t agree,” Marc said after a pause. “I think intelligence is a continuum, and that any rational creature able to transcend determinism—reflex—can in some sense communicate with and understand any other. There may be a gulf of the same kind as there is between a poet and a mathematician; one may have mental processes the other can’t imitate, because they’re not intrinsic to him. But one can understand the goals of the other, and to some extent the end products.”

“Perhaps,” Dr Lem conceded. “Just as you or I could share the excitement of a cosmogonist whose equations have balanced, indicating that his theory about the origins of the universe are logical ones, without either being able to grasp the factors involved or apply the necessary operators to them.”

“You take my point exactly,” Marc said. “If we are to call any being intelligent, there must be at least one area we can share and communicate about. The rest—well, they may be as inaccessible as the core of a gas-giant.”

“I wonder whether, one day, there might be a chain of such shared areas of experience, tenuous links that connect all the intelligent races in the galaxy, such that every thinking species has some data about each of the others, at tenth or fiftieth or thousandth hand.”



XXI “The saying goes that ‘it’s a big galaxy’—but it’s one of an uncountable number, and one lifetime is a minuscule fraction of the span of the universe. Nonetheless, there’s room in one lifetime to do amazing things!”
“Once you understand what it is to be old, you can never recapture what it was like to be young.”



text checked (see note) Jan 2006

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