Viagens Interplanetarias

The "Viagens Interplanetarias" series is a sequence of science fiction stories by L. Sprague de Camp, begun in the late 1940s and written under the influence of contemporary space opera and sword and planet stories, particularly Edgar Rice Burroughs's Martian novels. Set in the future in the twenty-first and twenty-second centuries, the series is named for the quasi-public Terran agency portrayed as monopolizing interstellar travel, the Brazilian-dominated "Viagens Interplanetarias" ("Interplanetary Voyages" or "Interplanetary Tours" in Portuguese). It is also known as the "Krishna" series, as the majority of the stories belong to a sequence set on a fictional planet of that name. While de Camp started out as a science fiction writer and his early reputation was based on his short stories in the genre, the "Viagens" tales represent his only extended science fiction series.

The "Viagens" stories were written in two phases; the first, written between 1948 and 1953 and published between 1949 and 1958, was a burst of activity that produced the first four Krishna novels and most of the non-Krishna pieces, including all the short stories. The second, produced at a more deliberate pace from 1977-1992, comprised the remaining four Krishna novels and the two novels of the Kukulkan sequence. The early works established the setting of a cosmopolitan future interstellar civilization comprising both Terrans and a handful of other space-faring races who trade and squabble with each other while attempting to maintain a benign stewardship of the more primitive planetary societies with which they come into contact. The later works assumed but largely ignored this background, concentrating exclusively on the adventures of Terrans on the alien worlds of Krishna and Kukulkan.

The setting

The "Viagens" universe is no mere picturesque backdrop for exploits of dazzling heroism, like those of de Camp's predecessors Edgar Rice Burroughs and E. E. "Doc" Smith, nor is it a carefully constructed and recounted future history like those of contemporaries Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Poul Anderson; rather, it is a fully imagined and realized future setting in which his protagonists, both ordinary and extraordinary, go about their lives and adventures. Most of the stories take place in the twenty-second century, after an initial period of exploration and diplomacy establishing the ground rules for interstellar commerce and contact, but before the higher civilization of the space-faring cultures has completely transformed those of the more primitive, planet-bound races. Given de Camp's view of even the most intelligent of beings as subject to the dictates of their instincts, emotions and self-interest, the "Viagens" universe represents a workable but decidedly imperfect future.

Just as de Camp attempted to do in the fantasy genre with his Pusadian stories for the Hyborian Age tales of Robert E. Howard, the "Viagens" tales represent both a tribute to contemporary space opera and sword and planet fiction and an attempt to "get them right", reconstructing the premises logically, without what he regarded as their technological, biological and anthropological absurdities. Thus he discarded such impossible but commonplace notions such as interfertility of human beings with humanoid alien races, civilizations possessing flying machines but no ground transport, bladed weapons and advanced gunnery coexisting in the same society, and faster than light travel.

De Camp did, however, underestimate the staggering impediments to even sub-light interstellar travel, assuming it would both be achieved quickly and soon develop into a relatively routine and comfortable system of commerce and travel linking nearby star-systems, much as sailing ships linked the early modern nations of Earth. He also assumed the parallel and convergent evolution of life on other worlds into types of higher multicellular lifeforms similar to those of Earth, and the ubiquity of intelligent life; thus his alien planets have both animal and plant life, with at least one species of animal life usually having achieved intelligence, and these alien intelligent species are in the main recognizably mammalian or reptilian.

There are definite story implications to the constraints adopted. An Earthman may fall in love with and wed an alien princess like Burroughs' John Carter of Mars does, but unlike Carter will never be able to found a dynasty. Nor will he be able to flit from Earth to the stars and back; an interstellar voyage takes months of subjective time and many years in objective time, rendering any decision to leave his own stellar system a difficult one, fraught with the consequences of being cut off from his friends, family and native culture for decades, during which they will age or develop much more than he will himself. De Camp somewhat mitigates the problem by postulating the development of longevity treatments that extend human lifespans to two centuries. Nonetheless, the effect is that space travel primarily attracts marginal and unattached members of society such as adventurers, entrepreneurs, con-men, utopian idealists, emigrants, and various admixtures thereof – or official representatives such as explorers, diplomats, and bureaucrats. Sterling, selfless heroes tend to be in short supply.

The relative isolation of each star system from the others effectively precludes interstellar warfare, and the practical limitation of even extended lifespans limits the area of effective routine contact to nearby systems. Within this region an Interplanetary Council regulates relations between the various civilizations.

tar systems and planets

The main planets hosting intelligent life and their stars are Earth (Sol), Osiris and Thoth (Procyon), Krishna and Vishnu (Tau Ceti), Ormazd (Lalande 21185), and Kukulkan (Epsilon Eridani). These are the Terran designations; the local ones are rarely revealed. All are named for Terran gods because de Camp assumes that Terrans will have carried their penchant for naming planets after deities to other star systems, with each planetary system being named for a different pantheon – Egyptian for Procyon, Hindu for Tau Ceti, Persian for Lalande 21185, and Mesoamerican for Epsilon Eridani. (There is some confusion regarding the last of these; in addition to Kukulkan, another planet, Thor, is also stated to be a planet of Epsilon Eridani, though Thor belongs to a different pantheon from Kukulkan.) Some other planets are also occasionally mentioned in the series, and their inhabitants sometimes seen.

Terrans and the dinosaur-like natives of the planet Osiris are the main space-faring peoples; a third, the small, furry and bisexual natives of Thoth, a neighboring planet to Osiris, is dependent on Osirian technology. Pre-technological races include the humanoid inhabitants of Krishna and Ormazd, the centaur-like inhabitants of Vishnu, and the multi-legged inhabitants of Thor. The dinosauroids of Kukulkan have steam-based technology.

Earth is overpopulated and governed by a World Federation in which Brazil has become the paramount great power, and Terran space travel is monopolized by the Brazilian-dominated "Viagens Interplanetarias" agency. Terrans have colonized Thor and Kukulkan, straining relations with the native inhabitants, and are responsible for maintaining a technological embargo against the primitive planets of Krishna and Vishnu in the Tau Ceti system.

Krishna, the setting for most of the stories, is a world similar to Earth, though its humanoid natives tend to be more impulsive and volatile. Their planet is drier than Earth, having no ocean or continents as such, but rather a worldwide landmass dotted with numerous seas and lakes. As a result, much of its area is composed of broad desert and steppe regions inhabited by nomads who periodically overwhelm and destroy the civilizations of the better-watered and more settled regions. Thus Krishnan civilization, while older than that of Earth by tens of thousands of years, has never progressed to a technological stage, having been forced to continually rebuild itself in the wake of repeated disasters. In the region of the Triple Seas, the planet's largest drainage area and the setting of all the Krishna stories, the most recent disaster occurred over a thousand years prior to the contact era, when the Kalwmian Empire was destroyed and partially overrun by the Varastou people. At the time of the stories the Varastou nations themselves are similarly threatened by the nomads of Qaath. The presence of the Terrans with their superior technology complicates the situation, Despite the much-resented technological blockade, the local nations are beginning to develop their own technology after the Terran example, even as Terran culture undermines its customs and institutions. For instance, a railway network is slowly spreading around the Triple Seas, though the trains are pulled by elephantine local beasts rather than powered engines. The premier example of Krishnan adaptation is the island nation of Sotaspé, whose prince has established a patent system to encourage innovation.

Kukulkan is resource-poor, which along with the innate conservatism of its dinosauroid inhabitants inhibits its venerably ancient civilization from developing technologically. The natives do make limited use of steam power.

Ormazd is a world whose humanoid natives' unique biological traits have encouraged the development of hive societies similar to those of the social insects of Earth. Each is centered around a single ruling queen who alone can bear young, with a handful of males forming her harem and a host of sterile workers who make up the bulk of the population and perform all other societal roles. Contact with Terrans disrupts this system and leads to its overthrow.

Osiris is an arid world whose dinosauroid inhabitants are characterized as both sentimental and rapaciously capitalistic; they are also possessed of mind-controlling powers, generally referred to as "telepathic pseudohypnosis," against which other intelligent species must take special precautions.

Thoth, in the same star system as Osiris, is a wet planet whose natives are amoral and anarchic.

Vishnu, in the same star system as Krishna, is lush, tropical, and populated by barbaric centaur-like primitives.

The stories

The "Viagens" tales have never been published together as a complete set. The shorter pieces were initially published in several science fiction magazines in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and first appeared in book form in the 1953 collections "The Continent Makers and Other Tales of the Viagens" and "Sprague de Camp's New Anthology of Science Fiction" (which also includes non-"Viagens" stories). The novels were issued at various times by various publishers; Ace Books brought out a standard edition of the first five "Krishna" novels in the early 1980s, later adding the sixth and seventh; the eighth was never part of this edition, appearing later from a different publisher.

hort stories

De Camp's early short stories in the "Viagens" setting establish the background, provide some hints of his future's back history, and give glimpses of the routine of interstellar space travel, typical characters engaging in it, and some of the intelligent alien races, and the worlds they inhabit. Individual stories are set on spaceships traveling between planets and individual planets such as Earth, Krishna, Vishnu and Osiris.

Longer works

The longer tales are all adventures taking place on the planets themselves, with few passages set aboard spacecraft. They consist of a few stand-alone stories and two sequences of novels set on the planets Krishna and Kukulkan.

tand-alone works

"The Continent Makers", in which geophysicist Gordon Graham helps defeat a Thothian conspiracy to plant a colony on Earth, has the most extended vision of de Camp's future Earth and its dominant power, Brazil. The presence of two Krishnan expatriots serves to tie the story in to the Krishna sequence.

The novel "Rogue Queen" tells of the second contact of the interstellar civilization with the newly-discovered planet Ormazd from the point of view of native humanoid Iroedh, showing how her hive society is inadvertently but inevitably undermined and transformed by the advent of the Terrans. This, de Camp's most influential "Viagens" novel, was one of the earliest science fiction novels to deal with sexual themes.

The Krishna novels

The eight novels of the Krishna sequence follow various Earthmen and occasional other aliens in their encounters with the pretechnical local culture, in which their pursuit of their own often petty ends tend to have ramifications ranging from minor to history-changing on a society struggling to adapt to the more advanced civilization. The novels were written in two phases, the first four in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and the last four from the late 1970s through the early 1990s.

It will be noticed that the titles of all of de Camp's Krishna novels have a "Z" in them, a practice he claimed to have devised to keep track of them. He did not follow the practice for short stories set on Krishna.

The first series

The first four novels feature different protagonists, and are unified primarily by their common setting and a number of recurring secondary characters, generally "Viagens" officials based at the Terran spaceport of Novorecife, but also a few important native Krishans.

In "The Queen of Zamba" Canadian private investigator Victor Hasselborg disrupts English adventurer Anthony Fallon's scheme to break Earth's techonlogical blockade and unite the backward kingdoms of Krishna into a single empire.

In "The Hand of Zei" Dirk Barneveldt, would-be rescuer of a kidnapped explorer, finds he must clean out a nest of pirates, break up a drug trade that threatens Earth, and overthrow a matriarchy in order to achieve his goal.

"The Virgin of Zesh" follows the flight of missionary Althea Merrick from an unwanted marriage to a colony of utopian expatriates, where she becomes embroiled in the affairs of some peculiarly intelligent aborigines.

"The Tower of Zanid" returns the spotlight to Anthony Fallon as he investigates the disappearance of a number of Terran scientists, helps an archaeologist penetrate the secrets of an ancient temple, and juggles dual roles as a member of the local civic guard and spy for the enemy horde of Qaathian nomads, all the while scheming to recover his lost throne. The book is notable for its favorable portrayal of an African character, omnicompetent Terran consul Percy Mjipa, at a time when most science fiction still depicted such characters rarely and stereotypically.

The second series

The later Krishna novels, some of which de Camp wrote in collaboration with his wife Catherine Crook de Camp, are interwoven with the earlier sequence chronologically. They concentrate primarily on two recurring protagonists, Terran tour guide Fergus Reith and his on-again, off-again lover, anthropologist Alicia Dyckman, usually relegating both major and minor returning characters from the previous sequence to secondary roles.

"The Hostage of Zir" introduces Reith as an inexperienced, misfortune-plagued guide leading his first tour of Krishna and inadvertently becoming entangled in Krishnan politics, first in a power-struggle between the bandit ruler and the religious leader of the restive province of Zir and afterwards in the mechanations of the devious regent of the kingdom of Dur.

"The Prisoner of Zhamanak" relates the quest of Terran consul Percy Mjipa (first introduced in "The Tower of Zanid") to free the trouble-prone Dyckman from captivity in the hostile native kingdom of Zhamanak; Dyckman meets and becomes involved with Reith at the end of the story.

In "The Bones of Zora" Reith and Dyckman, divorced after a disastrous marriage, find themselves assisting rival palaeontologists attempting to prove competing theories regarding the evolutionary past of Krishna.

"The Swords of Zinjaban" reunites the pair as liaisons for a Terran company hoping to film the first movie on the planet, first as guides helping the advance party scout locations, and then as advisors to the actual production. Complications turn up in the form of several of Reith's old flames and an invasion of the nomadic hordes of Qaath.

The Kukulkan novels

Like the Krishna novels, the two books of the late Kukulkan sequence focus on the adventures of Terrans on a relatively primitive alien world, in this instance a somewhat more advanced planet ruled by a species of dinosaur-like creatures superficially similar to the Osirians. Earth has colonies on Kukulkan, leading to inevitable friction with the native inhabitants, and the protagonists must deal with threats from both cultures.

In "The Stones of Nomuru", archaeologist Keith Salazar defends his dig against both the development plans of an avaricious fellow colonist and invasion by a Kukulkanian warlord.

"The Venom Trees of Sunga", set a generation later, follows Keith's son, biologist Kirk Salazar as he studies a local species and seeks to protect its habitat amid a struggle between a logging magnate and Terran cultists.

Importance in the history of science fiction

The "Viagens" series is notable in the development of American science fiction of the 1950s for bringing a more realistic attitude to bear on some of the less credible features then commonplace to the genre, reimagining them in terms of the possible. It also leavened the hero-worship, sexism, prudery, ethnocentricity and nationalism then characteristic of the genre with a more skeptical view of human nature, strong characters of both genders for whom sex was a normal aspect of life, and an ethnically varied, international cast. De Camp's work helped prepare the field for the works of later, more iconoclastic writers, to the degree that when he returned to the series in the 1970s his own innovations had themselves come to appear routine and commonplace.

Bibliography

The stories

*Krishna
**"Finished" (1949)
**"Calories" (1951)
**"Perpetual Motion" (1950)
**"The Queen of Zamba" (1949) [vt "Cosmic Manhunt" (1954)] , ISBN 0-441-69658-9
**"The Hand of Zei" (1950), ISBN 0-671-69865-6
**"The Hostage of Zir" (1977)
**"The Prisoner of Zhamanak" (1982)
**"The Virgin of Zesh" (1953), ISBN 0-441-86495-3
**"The Bones of Zora" (1983) (with Catherine Crook de Camp)
**"The Tower of Zanid" (1958), ISBN 0-441-86495-3
**"The Swords of Zinjaban" (1991) (with Catherine Crook de Camp)
*Earth
**"The Colorful Character" (1949)
**"The Inspector's Teeth" (1950)
**"The Continent Makers" (1951)
*Osiris
**"Summer Wear" (1950)
**"Git Along!" (1950)
*Vishnu
**"The Galton Whistle" (1951)
**"The Animal-Cracker Plot" (1949)
*Ormazd
**"Rogue Queen" (1951)
*Kukulkan
**"The Stones of Nomuru" (1988) (with Catherine Crook de Camp)
**"The Venom Trees of Sunga" (1992)

Collected editions

*"The Continent Makers and Other Tales of the Viagens" (1953; includes "The Inspector's Teeth," "Summer Wear," "Finished," "The Galton Whistle," "The Animal-Cracker Plot," "Git Along!," "Perpetual Motion," and "The Continent Makers")
*"Sprague de Camp's New Anthology of Science Fiction" (1953; includes "Calories" and "The Colourful Character," along with non-"Viagens" stories)
*"The Virgin of Zesh & The Tower of Zanid" (1983; includes the title pieces)

About the series

*"GURPS Planet Krishna", by James Cambias; edited by Sean Barrett. ISBN 1-55634-263-2

References

*cite book | last=Cambias | first=James | title=GURPS Planet Krishna | location= | publisher=Steve Jackson Games | pages= | date=1997
*cite book | last=Laughlin | first=Charlotte | coauthors=Daniel J. H. Levack | title=De Camp: An L. Sprague de Camp Bibliography | location=San Francisco | publisher=Underwood/Miller | pages=44-47, 63-64, 66-67, 92, 84, 87, 90-91, 96-97, 102, 145, 160, 165, 175, 229, 257, 264 | date=1983
*De Camp, L. Sprague. "The Krishna Stories." (Essay, versions of which appear in both the Cambias book and de Camp's "The Prisoner of Zhamanak".)

External links

* " [http://softrat.home.mindspring.com/krishna/viagensi.html Tales of the Viagens Interplanetarias and other works of L. Sprague de Camp] " - a tribute site by "Softrat" including a list of the Krishna stories with one-line summaries, a Krishna glossary, and a map of the area of Krishna south and east of Novorecife that appears based on an original by de Camp
* " [http://www.illuminati.net/gurps/books/krishna/ GURPS Planet Krishna] " - GURPS' website for its "Planet Krishna" reference book, with excerpts


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