Vineland, Providence and Fate


Vineland (why it would never have worked, at least not how intended).

The Anse-aux-Meadows (né: méduse cove) discovery (1960) is revealed as a hoax in Kim Stanley Robinson contemporary (1961) short story "Vinland the Dream". Whisper reference: Kensington stone. Wider fold: Piltdown fraud. (Given rational: racial pride of post Vineland immigrants. Pro domo, not sure if they had that much to complain. Will leave that to the Skraeling side.) INFOCOM tie in (Zork III), extra textual: anybody can bury a butternut or two to convey hinterland roaming. Remaining problem, how to break the sad truth to all those highly motivated volunteers at the dig site. (In case in needs pointing: the story did not make it into National Geographic. The rumors of fraud were apparently somewhat premature.)

Armchair consideration: Eric the Red came within an inch of writing alternative history, however involuntary. Involuntary as in ironic. Keyword: human intent and higher purpose. A foothold and some brotherly reception of state kissing would just probably have helped in equalizing the immunity odds, at least in the long term. Apodictic: no population is every wiped out by germ susceptibility alone. The decisive factor was always the accompanying habitat destruction. Habitat destruction as in mass billeting and overwhelming force. Truism: a decimated population will always recover given enough time. As for actual fact, the infiltration window was closed again much too soon. In contrast: an understaffed, long term trading post would have been just what the doctor ordered. Some technology exchange an added plus. (Lenin: Those Vikings will sell you the very rope by which they will be hanged.)

Switching from Diamond to Clive Finlayson (all in day's work). Background observation: the ice ages come the Neanderthals withdraws. Probably a form of long term, Helliconia type transhumance. (Déjà vu: the preferred refuge areas are located South of Torreveja-Benidorm, just what you would expect). Red Book complement (as long as the chiasm is suave enough): the glaciers dwindle the brave warrior advances... Rude awakening: our hunting grounds have been take. The open countryside just crawling with art loving mammoth hunters. Related truth: vacated tundra (even as temporarily unattended bus seats, loo break) never remain vacated for long. The adage about actual possession story (nine tenth of the law). As for the not so successful claim staking in a far distant parallel universe: textile markers make for good floor mats. Venue: long haul busses with an insufficient number of seats. Law of the freedom fighting jungle. - The actual Finlayson argument goes some like that: Neanderthals did specialize in raw strength. In extension: confined to wooden areas where ambushes and close combat strategies did work best. (They had to pay with fractured bones for their lifestyle preferences.) Corollary, Neaderthals were only second best in the kind of endurance sports which a wide open tundra setting did favor. Nobody claims that there was a cataclysmic shot out. Just a limited resource story. The world is always crowded. (Finlayson seems to deny any causal connection. Sheer happenstance. The one instance were I cannot quite follow the otherwise highly perceptive presentation. This is probably in part a semantic question. What are you willing to define as peaceful extinction.)

¹) Jared Diamond: 'Guns, Germs and Steel'. Tentative sum up: The practical handbook of how to displace native populations without intentionally planning to do so. When it works (Mayflower) and when not (Erik the Red). Also covered (sideline): a few practical hints for economic self destruction. Disavowal: Not actually read. Assessment is based on second hand references and excerpts. Just a convenient handle. Standard excuse: most theories are well absorbed by secondary breathing long before they figure in any official curriculum.

Jared Diamond fib (first contact context), not verbatim: 'natives knew instinctively that all those healthy looking tourists were in fact carriers of nasty germs'. Is that not exactly the reason why Catherine the Great outlawed the kissing of reliques in Moscow during the Turkish plague in 1771. Germ awareness from above. Whatever it takes to incite street riots. Suitable source language pun: 'bogged down' by tradition. In a similar vein (field researcher Richard Burton): The relatives of the deceased were completely unaware of elementary hygienic precautions. Unvarnished: lots of corpse kissing. In context: some indirect endorsement of more advanced Islamic funerary practices.

²) Clive Finlayson: 'The Humans Who Went Extinct'

In the same vein (timing is everything) - not directly related

Prescott reports how Cortez enforced discipline in his motley crew. Search term: the nearly hanged chicken thief (Alvarado did cut the rope in the nick of time. Cortez did turn a blind eye or did not actually notice it.) Prescott's comment on the barter transaction (crimson caps and more) rings also somewhat false. Approximately: 'both sides thought they got the better of each other'. Prescott would obviously have agreed on principle that the gifts were not exactly equal in value. Trivial enough. (Technical excuse: it is not exactly cheating if your transaction are based on unsustainable market value.) It is still worth pointing out that the arrival of a single heretical East Indian ship would sufficed to crashed that particular trinket's markets. Overheard trader comment: what a schoolboy prank. Less parochial, General Relativity (ever so slightly modified) stipulates, that two different value systems cannot co-exist indefinitely. Different take: Cortez's instinctive feeling that time was of the essence was essentially correct. There is no way to call for a time out and resume the conquest in a couple of years. Too much would have percolated by then. Prescott's prophetic visions are not particularly convincing. Things were not quite as predestined as they seen. Neither Cortez nor Montezuma were experts in germ warfare. There are other differences. A germ window may remain open for 5 generations (just an ad hoc figure, so and so many score of years diction - actually influenced by 30 Year War aftermath calculations and therefore questionably in the given context). A population will in the end recover if the habitat is still there. Ample time for a fait accompli. In contrast: a single letter to Montezuma from a well informed European source would have sufficed to prick the soap bubble of Cortez' roadshow. Minor hint from a higher plane: just turn to Ebay and check the actual value of the proffered exchange goods. Prosaic: novelty markets are rather transient by nature. In extension, Montezuma could have recruited a near unlimited number of comparatively smallpox resistant Swiss guards if there had been a free bullion market. Hire 10 and get free Clydesdale (they will not be able to tell the difference from a charger - if there is one). We will even throw in a few corporate lawyers. The better kind of furniture polish. Rephrased: Tenochtitlan would have weathered the storm practically unscathed if the market had been open for rival bidders. Montezuma could also have anticipated the discovery of the New World and bankrolled smallpox research. The tenured teocallis were there and think tanks are cheap.

Fast forward: the interior of the African continent was shielded by a biological palisade (malaria plus) until the middle of the 19th century. Scientific pretext for the final assault, let us discover the sources of the Nile. The going was however never quite as easy as in the New World. Well known lament of the second hand arms dealer Rimbaud: it bodes ill for the future if a buyer (at this particular occasion, the Negus or one of his deputies) is too savvy. You know that world history works against you if you can only palm off second rate falconets at a heavy discount. Montezuma was less choosy. (A crossbow did change hands during one of the orchestrated potlatches. The exchange goods were exhibited during recruitment drives.) It could still be argued that Meso-America deserved its fate. The incumbent theocracy was simply too wasteful. No sense for the proper exploitation of given resources. Vote efficiency, vote Cortez. The Better Business Bureau (think Heinlein's Space Cadets) might also have objected to some of Cortez' strong-arm tactics (from the little conquistador handbook: stalled trade negotiations, sequestrate the ringleader). Downsizing: a replacement at the top of the feudal Avon pyramid (skins or skin care, why quibble) looks always more dramatic than it actually is.

- aymar55 -