Viagens Interplanetarias, a guest post by Paul Weimer
Posted January 13, 2014on:
Joining me today is reviewer, blogger, author, photographer, podcaster, and all around nice guy Paul Weimer, to discuss L. Sprague De Camp’s Viagens Interplanetarias series of short stories and novels.
An expat New Yorker that has found himself living in Minnesota for the last 9 years, Paul Weimer has been reading SF and Fantasy for over 30 years and exploring the world of roleplaying games for over 25 years. Besides his regular presence at SF Signal and his chatty presence on Twitter (@Princejvstin)Paul can be found at his own blog, Blog Jvstin Style, a contributor to the Functional Nerds, as a co-host on Skiffy and Fanty, occasional guest on SFF Audio, and many other places on the Internet. Read his story “Newton’s Method” in Tales of Eve, an anthology from Fox Spirit Press.
After World War III in the 1960’s, Earth became Brazilian for a while. The Southern Hemisphere was not as affected by the fallout and damage of the Northern Hemisphere, and so it, led by Brazil, led the world to recovery.
So when Man went to space, and eventually to the stars, the men and women who went to the stars spoke Portuguese. Exploring space and dealing with aliens requires an agency to handle the interactions. And thus, the Viagens Interplanetarias watches the starways.
The Viagens Interplanetarias is the eponymous name of a set of stories and novels written by L. Sprague De Camp. Written primarily in the 1950’s, the Viagens Interplanetarias novels have the virtues of De Camp’s strengths, in a light and fun setting he explored for decades afterwards.
The bulk of the Viagens Interplanetarias stories and novels are set on the planet Krishna, in the Tau Ceti system. In the 22nd century, Man has reached the Tau Ceti System [Among other planets], to discover a world with a rich ecosystem and intelligent humanoid life. The Krishnans are bipedal, semi-mammalian (they lay eggs), impulsive, warlike and passionate. The weather on much of the dry, warm Krishna means that they don’t wear many clothes, either. Oh, and they have green skins and feelers. And are attractive to humans, and vice versa. The inspiration, of course, are the Barsoomians of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Aside from the color of her skin, Dejah Thoris would feel extremely at home on Krishna.
The Krishnans have had a number of disasters over their long history, and so their technological development is far behind the visiting humans, roughly somewhere before the Renaissance on Earth. Through Regulation 368, the series version of The Prime Directive, The humans strictly quarantine what sorts of technology can be allowed by visitors to the planet, and strive to avoid having high technology or even the knowledge of such technology contaminate the Krishnans and alter their development.
Twenty years before Kirk, and forty before Picard, the Viagens Interplanetarias as an organization is extremely concerned about maintaining Regulation 368. However, Kirk, Spock and Picard were never asked to undergo voluntary brainwashing to keep from giving up the secrets of technology, either. And just as Kirk and Picard were to discover, the local aliens are extremely determined to get around this. Over the course of the stories, the Krishnans do make
technological gains and progress, partly on their own, and partly by squeezing some ideas out of visiting humans. Taken as a whole, the Krishna novels show that a society, its technology and its development, is never a static thing.
As a result of all of these conceits, the stories have an organic “Sword and planet” feel, again very much in the line of Edgar Rice Burroughs, but also C.L. Moore, Leigh Brackett and many others. Earthmen deal with local inhabitants on their level, with weapons and technology usually at a match. The Krishnans may be technologically behind the Earthmen, but they can hardly be thought of as less intelligent, as more than one human visiting their planet will learn to their misfortune.
The stories also feature a fair number of female characters and protagonists, a wide swath of minorities (Brazil is THE space power, after all), and sex. That last was rather risque at the time, it is novels and stories such as these and authors like Philip Jose Farmer’s The Lovers that shook the puritanical and prude viewpoint that dominated science fiction to that point.
Characters of both genders are shown in healthy sex-positive relationships, same-sex as well as opposite-sex. And, as you might imagine, interspecies relationships as well. I am fairly certain the infamous green skinned alien babes of Kirk’s swath across the galaxy owe some of their inspiration to the Krishnans.
Humor, too, is something lacking in a lot of modern SF that the V-I novels have in spades. The titles of the novels themselves are an extended version of wordplay, all of them in the form of [noun] of [word beginning with z]. Thus we get The Queen of Zemba, The Hand of Zei, The Tower of Zanid, and so forth. The tone is light and often action filled, with chases, escapes, swordfights, derring do, wordplay, scheming, double-dealing, and a lot of fun.
Given that Sword and Planet novels had fallen out of favor by the time De Camp started writing the stories and novels, the Viagens Interplanetarias novels are an early example of a rehabilitation and rebooting of a subgenre of science fiction by an author set on bringing that subgenre to a new audience. In that, he set the earlier conceits in a rational basis and rebooted it successfully, while introducing new ideas to his science fiction and audience. The novels and stories, although by modern standards are dated, and its innovations (for the time) are now routine, the Viagens stories remain entertaining to this day.