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When Destiny Calls

Manifest Destiny

By Barry B. Longyear 

16 Jan, 2022

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

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Barry B. Longyear’s 1980 Manifest Destiny is a fix-up collecting four Quadrant Universe stories, as well as ancillary material. 

Legislative Assembly Resolution 991

4 September 2032 A.D.

Adopted without Dissent

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED:
That the Legislative Assembly of the Government of the United States of Earth, in all related matters that shall come before it, will decide all such matters in accordance with the Manifest Destiny of Man, that He shall reign supreme in this and in any and all other galaxies of the Universe.

And what glorious future do Earth’s star ship troopers spin from that resolve? It is one of endless war, conquest, and occasional genocides.


Remember when the 21st century was going to involve starflight? In this case, FTL + unchecked population growth + soaring industrial demands = a pressing need to expand across the Milky Way regardless of what other intelligent species might think. Indeed, some of the ancillary material makes it clear that a number of 21stcentury humans consider the very idea that alien preferences should play any role in human decision making as an affront to common decency. 

Longyear is (of course!) riffing on the 19th century belief held by many (but not all) Americans that America had a divinely appointed right — nay, duty! — to spread across North America, or at least those parts of North American incapable of mounting a sufficient defense. Once the US grabbed all the territory it could, many Americans felt mild regret about what was done to accomplish that (although not so guilty that they were inclined to give any of it back). 

Longyear was writing at a time when manifest destiny was no longer considered a good thing in polite American society; it was regarded by some as a blot on the nation. Hence his fix-up novel about manifest destiny in space is in no way sympathetic to the 21st century USEians and their bold plan to conquer the bwah-ha-ha universe. Actively hostile is closer to the mark. 

Readers may wonder what processes unified the Earth by 2030 and how exactly humans managed faster-than-light travel. This is a short fix-up, 245 pages in my copy. Not enough room for complex backstory. Longyear simply postulates that the USE exists and that it has the ethos and tech that it does and moves on. 

The stand-out in this collection (or at least the tale that my readers might have read) is the novella Enemy Mine . Enemy Mine is not the first story by a long shot to feature two enemies forced by circumstances to ally, but Longyear’s tale was sufficiently striking to win the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Locus Award for Best Novella. No doubt Enemy Mine played a role in making Longyear a finalist for the Astounding (then called the Campbell) Award for Best New Writer. It’s also the origin of the TV Tropes Enemy Mine trope1.

Although Longyear’s webpage says that Manifest Destiny is in print, and that all of his books are available from Amazon, I was unable to find new copies of this book from Amazon (US, Canada, and UK), Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, or Chapters-Indigo.

As for the stories themselves…

(All material not dated is original to the 1980 fix-up)

The Resolve” • short story 

Humanity — or Man, as it calls itself — resolves to conquer the Universe! 

Note that this is after humans discover alien life, but before they discover intelligent alien life. Or that there are polities that span large parts of the Milky Way. 

Legislative Record, November 5, 2052” • short story 

While some humans repent of the bloody course of action the Resolve has to date inspired, not enough of them do to alter the course of history.

The Jaren • [Quadrants Universe] • (1979) • novella 

Having handily crushed the Shikazu Empire, human tourists are amused to discover their drunkard Skikki guide Eeola does not consider himself a conquered person. To explain its perspective, Eeola provides the humans with a rambling account of its childhood and the Shikazu-Man war. In the end, it makes his point: the humans gained four worlds but did not conquer their people. 

I suspect Longyear had specific models in mind for the Shikazu’s Proud Warrior People and their decision to embrace a slow death over submission. 

Legislative Record, June 6, 2071” • short story 

The USE legislature rejects An Act Mandating the President-General of the USE States and Planets to Sign the Charter of the Ninth Quadrant Federation of Habitable Planets.” No puny alien federation is going to tell humans not to pursue needlessly destructive wars! 

Enemy Mine • [Dracon] • (1979) • novella 

Marooned on alien world after a space skirmish with Dracon forces, human star pilot Davidge is forced to ally with a Dracon castaway, Jeriba Shigan. As a consequence of the grudging alliance, the two discover that once circumstances force them to put the war aside, humans and Dracon have many virtues in common. When the parthenogenic Jeriba Shigan dies in childbirth, Davidge raises its child as his own. All well and good, but what will become of the pair when they are rescued after the war ends? 

Older readers who remember the Johnny Carson bitabout Iraqi propaganda claiming Bart Simpson was seducing G.I. wives may be amused to discover that Longyear wrote a similar moment of cross-cultural misapprehension when, affronted at the human’s aspersions towards a Dracon religious figure, the alien blasphemes Micky Mouse. 

Legislative Record, January 12, 2095” • short story 

Although the idea of bending the human knee to alien regulation is anathema, the legislature does not have a good workaround for cases where Quadrant Law happens to parallel human law. It’s not like the humans could repeal their own laws to give the aliens one in the eye!2

It would in fact be perfectly in character for the USE to do that, but in this particular case, the Savage Planet Law happens to be convenient. 

Savage Planet • [Quadrants Universe] • (1980) • novelette 

Seemingly constrained by a quirk of reproductive biology that makes it difficult for the Benda to form attachments to organizations larger than households, the Iron Age Benda seem doomed to domination by the RMI mining company. As RMI discovers to its cost, this assessment of the Benda is fatally flawed. 

It’s almost as though aliens can learn new things. 

Alien reproduction working differently from human reproduction is a running theme in these stories. Dracons are parthenogenic while Benda are like angelfish.

Legislative Record, February 2, 2114” • short story 

The eleven planets of the Rhanian Alliance secede from USE because USE joined the Ninth Quadrant Federation of Habitable Planets. FREEEEEEDOMMMM! A house divided cannot stand. The USE has no choice but to declare a war of reconquest on the Alliance. 

In this case, the freedom in whose name the Alliance secedes is the freedom to conquer and/or exterminate aliens. 

USE Force • [Quadrants Universe] • (1980) • novella 

His glorious military career having landed Merit in an Alliance POW camp on a particularly dismal (but strategically located) world, Merit stages a breakout. For the moment, Merit and company are effective enough to distract the Alliance forces, but they are heavily outnumbered. The USE reinforcements may well arrive too late to save them. 

The Resolve, Amended” • short story 

The USE legislature decides, essentially, that the whole a human boot, stamping on the face of the universe, forever” credo was a typo and that in fact humans will join the galactic community as equals. 

Pity this comes after at least one total genocide (and probably more) but oh, well. 

1: Enemy Mine also inspired a 1985 Wolfgang Peterson film adaptation. Maybe I should mention that this Hollywood film throws an actual mine into the plot, a mine which is run by enemies of both the human protagonist and his alien pal. It’s an Enemy Mine, see? 

2: I note that there are Trumpistas who will die of covid to own the libs.