Thursday, May 10, 2007

"Second Down" (short story): Symbiosis of hominids & cattle, with cattle as masters!

In spirit, this story has something in common with the story of Moonface in "2001 A Space Odyssey". But the link is tenuous; this is generally a different story.

It concerns the transformation of an almost animal community into a technological civilization. And is well written, even with some rather incredulous assumptions.

There is another view I can take of this story - as an allegory in the tradition of "Animal Farm" of George Orwell. Kind of relationship between those in services business, & those who dirty their hands with material things - who contributes more? But I doubt that was the view taken by author when this story was written.

Story summary (spoiler).
Story is set on a world different from earth, & concerns two different species of local animals.

From the descriptions, this world appears to be very similar to earth, except that there are two suns - a bright one like our sun, other just gives some orange colored light but no heat.

One of the species is what we would call cattle; other are hominid. But details are different from familiar forms. Story is essentially of cattle; hominids are secondary, & used as tools by cattle.

These cattle are very smart - very good at abstract mathematics & philosophy, but with no control whatever over their environment. Constant fight for food. No tools. Nomadic gazers under open skies. They are also telepathic - at least when communicating among own species, though they can communicate with sounds, & also have own forms of music & dance.

Hominids live on a tiny island in the delta of a river. From the descriptions, they appear to be at about the level of development that humans were about 10,000 years back. There is agriculture, village life, tools made from natural materials. Metals are about to be discovered.

There is a bit of anomaly here. Animals at this level of development, & confined to a single island in a river? While the cattle are hunted by carnivores, they are left in peace by hominids! Note at this stage, not only were humans everywhere on earth - including Americas, but the first Polynesians were were crossing half the Pacific in their tenuous canoes to colonize Hawaii!

OK - let's get back to story.

This is the situation when one of the smarter cattle members discovers this hominid community. He quickly has them dancing to his tune, & is treated by them as a godman. And he figures a way of combining the use of his kind's cattle-brains to these hominids that can control their environment.

Story ends in the two species comfortable in a kind of symbiotic relationship where cattle are masters.

And we are also shown some magic. In less than a generation, the combined civilization moves from hominids at the level of humans of about 10,000 years ago, to that of around 1400 AD!

Fact sheet.
Second Down, short story, review
Author: Arthur C Clarke
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: A

The story appears in the following collections.

  1. "Expedition to Earth"
  2. "The Collected Stories of Arthur C Clarke"


Buy Kamagra said...

OK I will take into acount for my future readings, with the only fact that you mentioned space odyissey was enought to motive me.

Clive Silas said...

Second DAWN. It's about the dawn of civilization, not football.