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“Force, he believed, was the last resort of incompetence; he had said so frequently enough since this operation had begun. Of course, he was absolutely right, though not in the way he meant. Only the incompetent wait until the last extremity to use force, and by then, it is usually too late to use anything, even prayer.” – H. Beam Piper, A Slave Is a Slave
H. B. Piper* was a science-fiction writer of the 1940s through 1960s. He wrote these words in 1960, for a story first published in 1961. It was his response to Asimov’s more famous “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent,” explaining why this is so.
“Every society rests on a barbarian base. The people who don’t understand civilization, and wouldn’t like it if they did. The hitchhikers. The people who create nothing, and who don’t appreciate what others have created for them, and who think civilization is something that just exists and that all they need to do is enjoy what they can understand of it—luxuries, a high living standard, and easy work for high pay. Responsibilities? Phooey! What do they have a government for?
“And now, the hitchhikers think they know more about the car than the people who designed it, so they’re going to grab the controls.
“Isn’t it wonderful; if you have a few problems, you have trouble, but if you have a whole lot of problems, they start solving each other.” – H. Beam Piper, Ministry of Disturbance
Problems? We all have problems today. Enough problems that this aphorism (which Piper used some variant of in several stories) begins to apply. If you have enough problems you can put them together to start solving themselves. It is a principle I have cheerfully, indeed ruthlessly, applied since my early teens when I first came across it in one of Piper’s sci-fi novels.
Korzybski. I’m not sure where or when I first heard the name. I do know the who, though. H. Beam Piper was the finest writer that most people have never heard of. He was primarily a science fiction writer from the mid-1940s to 1964, when he died. He introduced me to many other writers and ideas. James Branch Cabell? The time theories of J. W. Dunne? Charles Oman’s The Art of War? Carl von Clausewitz? All of these and more were referenced in his works. And Korzybski.
“That sounds like Korzybski,” Pierre said, as they turned onto Route 19 in the village and headed east. “You’ve read Science and Sanity?”
“I’m sorry, Prince Edvard. You had a wonderful civilization here on Marduk. You could have made almost anything of it. But it’s too late now. You’ve torn down the gates; the barbarians are in.”—Spoken by Prince Lucas Trask in H. Beam Piper‘s Space Viking This has been on my mind often in the last eight […]
Beliefs I believe in reincarnation. My particular (or peculiar) set of beliefs gelled with an epiphany one day. The epiphany was that karma, as generally taught and thought of in the West, really makes no sense and that I did not believe in karma, but I did believe in grace. I grew up with the […]
My father read science fiction. He bought and saved science fiction magazines, starting about 1948. They were mostly Astounding Science Fiction (which later became Analog) but Galaxy, If, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and a few others were thrown in. Preview Open