A Fifth Parameter?

by John Michael Greer
(Cumberland, MD USA)

A fine example of the species

A fine example of the species

Zendexor, I like your four parameters -- though I'd be willing to give some wiggle room on Pluto-as-planet, since asteroids and other smaller-than-a-planet bodies are must-have ingredients for a proper OSS setting. ("The Master of the Asteroid" convinced me for life that really little lumps of orbiting rock are seriously underrated as a setting for SF.) I'm going to suggest, tentatively, one other thing that an OSS series ought to have, which is a lot of technological diversity.

Think of Leigh Brackett's solar system. You've got standard high-tech Terran weapons, spacecraft, and the like, but you've also got low-tech Venusian gear, and Mars has a good blend of archaic technologies that humans don't yet understand with the much simpler technologies of the Martian decadence. I'm thinking here, among many others, of "The Beast-Jewel of Mars" -- there are the Shanga jewels created in the distant era of Caer Dhu, the products of a fantastically complex archaic technology, but the Martians at the time of the story use whips and spiked knuckle-dusters to beat up the protagonist. If everyone were armed with needle-guns it wouldn't be half so fun.

To my taste, one of the things that makes a good OSS story good is that you can never be sure what kind of technology you're going to meet when you open the hatch and set foot on the planet of your choice. Swords, ray guns, or unknown forces no Terran scientist has yet understood? It adds to the romance. Still, what say you?

{Z: I like this fifth parameter. It goes nicely as the technical/economic equivalent of my socio-political ramshackle-ness stipulation. I could thus place it alongside the political-diversity requirement.

Barsoom is an obvious example: radium pistols and swords - worn by the same warriors! Wyatt Earp would have dispensed with the sword, but perhaps the Martians aren't crack shots - whereas they have an inborn talent for fencing. So the pistols are a last resort...}

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