To Get Those Souvenirs
By Jerry Pournelle
Jerry Pournelle’s 1977’s High Justice is a collection of short stories set in the Laurie Jo Hansen continuity (which is also featured in Exiles to Glory).
Scandal-plagued America turned to messianic figure Greg Tolland to rescue it from corruption. Alas, Tolland’s People’s Alliance proved just as corrupt as its predecessors. If America and the lesser parts of the world have a future, it is in the hands of visionary capitalists like Laura Jo Hansen.
A Matter of Sovereignty • (1972) • novelette
With the help of friendly Tongans, Hansen’s company Nuclear General recovers a ship loaded with valuable fissionables (recovers it from rascally Fijians and their unnamed continental patrons). NG also negotiates a change in ship registration from American to Tongan. This allows NG to evade the US’s corrupt and unhelpful regulations.
Darn Washington’s bureaucrats and their red tape!
Given Pournelle’s political affiliations, my guess is that Fiji’s patrons are the Red Chinese (who featured as antagonists in a couple of early Pournelle thrillers.). It’s probably not the African Bloc (antagonists in Exiles to Glory) because the bloc has not yet formed. I think.
“Power to the People” • (1972) • short story
An attempt to introduce “instant industrialization” to Namibia runs aground on the ambitions of a powerful but corrupt local politician named Ifnoka. Nuclear General and its allies (including a coalition of churches) out-maneuver the rascally African by arming his political rivals.
“Ifnoka” is one of those charming fake African names Analog writers so love. This is, I believe, the only instance of that name anywhere. Ifnoka is actually an African-American originally named Henry Carter who took advantage of the Emigrant Act of 1982, which offered “Two thousand dollars and a one-way ticket to anywhere you wanted, just renounce your US citizenship and residency right forever...” Even taking inflation into account, that’s only 12k in current dollars to leave the US forever. We’re never told why the US has this policy or why anyone would take the US up on it. As to the first, it’s probably Pournelle’s modernization of the Back to Africa movement. As to the second, that anyone takes the US up on such a cheap-ass offer implies that the US in this continuity is kind of a “shit-hole” (to borrow a popular presidential term).
By the way, this may be how the African Bloc began. Go team Nuclear General!
Enforcer • (1974) • novelette
Doyle, a problem-solver for INTERSECS, is sent to deal with the complications caused by the rise of a new Argentinian junta. Most of the junta members can be bullied or bribed into allowing the current agreements governing INTERSECS’ offshore mining operations to stand. One member, Colonel Ortiz, is both vexingly incorruptible and determined to break INTERSECS’s hold on Argentina. It’s up to Doyle to preserve INTERSEC’s rightful prerogatives with research and psychotropic weapons!
In this setting, companies offer citizenship. We’re not told what benefits this brings to the citizens. Companies also have the right to convict people to years of involuntary labour. People who object to this policy are the bad guys. Which reminds me, I really should review Jim Baen’s one-and-only SF novel.
High Justice • (1974) • novelette
Aeneas Mackenzie was the right-hand man for President Greg Tolland until he proved too incorruptible for Tolland’s People’s Alliance. Exiled from the Tolland Administration after discrediting Tolland’s associates (although not Teflon Tolland himself), Mackenzie is at loose ends. His former lover Laurie Jo Hansen recruits him to visit her borderline-insolvent space station, there to deal with Tolland-backed sabotage and murder. Is Mackenzie ruthless enough to do what’s necessary to save space industrialization?
Duh, of course yes he is.
I suspect if only poor Ortiz had avoided having his frontal lobes melted by Doyle, Ortiz and Mackenzie could have had an interesting conversation about the advantages and drawbacks of being incorruptible.
The whole “politician swans in pretending to be squeaky clean only to turn out to be the same as the corrupt sort of politician he replaced” seems a little far fetched. Surely, having been burned once, the voters would exercise due diligence?
Extreme Prejudice • (1974) • novelette
A scientist/assassin who defected from the People’s Alliance wet-work arm after being ordered to kill Mackenzie (before the corruption scandal) is himself targeted for death.
The most interesting bit in this story is the talking dolphins. Talking dolphins were very in back in the 1970s.
“Consort” • (1975) • short story
Earth is a lost cause but escaping to the Moon requires an atomic motor too massive for her company’s laser-launchers. She needs access to America’s space shuttles, something her old enemy Tolland is unlikely to grant. Happily, not only does Laurie Jo Hansen know that Tolland is hopelessly corrupt, she can prove it and that may be enough to force cooperation from her antagonist
Remember laser-launchers? They used lasers to heat reaction material in launch vehicles. Cool idea which, like a lot of cool ideas, hasn’t gone anywhere.
Tinker • (1975) • novelette
Long after Laurie Jo and her consort Mackenzie fled to the Moon, the asteroid belt is a thriving concern. At least for the most part. The asteroid Jefferson is not thriving. However, they have a cunning and quite underhanded plan to address this. Independent spacer Kephart will be reluctantly entangled in this plan.
The happy ending in this story is that Jefferson is forcibly turned into a company town, having made the mistake of discovering what it takes to get the full attention of the Hansen concern. Speaking of happy endings, if these stories and the single novel in this setting are any guide, the entire space economy consists of resource extraction and space prostitutes.
As a teenager I was mildly outraged at the revelation that fusion-powered spaceships are insanely expensive. Kephart lucked into his through a fluke. Now I am just mildly curious why the ships need living pilots and why places like Jefferson aren’t using the proven technology of launch lasers to send payloads on their way.
Mostly I ignore editions from a particular publisher (and I’ll zap the Amazon links if anyone helpfully adds them in comments) but in this case, there are two things I’ll mention. The first is that the 2008 omnibus is lightly updated in ways that don’t actually manage to make this timeline similar to ours. The second is that the blurb on this cover
baffles me. “The Book That Started It All!”? What did it start? An abortive future history with a single collection and one novel in it? Not a wave of near-future space colonization stories; I sought those out with the fervour of a pack of starved dogs swarming a homeless person and I can tell you they remained scarce until the ‘00s.
Print runs in the 1970s were huge. If you need a dated hard-SF collection with troglodytic politics and cool space ships, no doubt your favourite used book source can find one for you.