Saturday, May 22, 2010

Wikipedia - Alpha Ralpha Boulevard

Alpha Ralpha Boulevard
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard"
Author Cordwainer Smith
Country USA
Language English
Series Instrumentality of Mankind
Genre(s) Science fiction short story
Published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
Publication type Print (Magazine, Hardback & Paperback)
Publisher Mercury Press
Publication date June 1961
Preceded by "Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons"
Followed by "A Planet Named Shayol"

"Alpha Ralpha Boulevard" is a science fiction story by Cordwainer Smith, set in his Instrumentality of Mankind universe, concerning the opening days of a sudden radical shift from a controlling, benevolent, but sterile society, to one with individuality, danger and excitement. The story has been reprinted a number of times, including in The Rediscovery of Man[1] collection.

In an interview, Ursula K. Le Guin said about it:
To me encountering his works was like a door opening. There is one story of his called "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard" that was as important to me as reading Pasternak for the first time. [2]

The story is one of many set in a far future of mankind, with a wealth of history and social detail which remain hinted at or unwritten. Like J.R.R. Tolkien, Smith worked on this universe over years, and other stories were planned at the time of his death. The reader often has an uneasy sense that actual events underlie aspects of Smith's writing. Alpha Ralpha Boulevard was inspired in part by a painting from his childhood The Storm by Pierre-Auguste Cot, of two young lovers fleeing along a darkening path. Additionally, the names of the two principal characters, together with the conscious attempt to revive a French culture, recall the 18th century French novel Paul et Virginie. According to his widow and second wife, it was also partly about his first wife's attraction to another man. [3][4]Contents [hide]
1 Plot summary
2 Footnotes
3 See also
4 External links

Plot summary

The all-powerful Instrumentality government, which in its overprotectiveness has driven the purpose from human existence, decides to turn back the clock to a less sheltered historical human era of 14,000 years before. (i.e., our era.) Virginia and Paul are enjoying the first moments of the recreations of the old human language, French, reading their first newspapers, and going to their first cafe, where the bugs in process are not resolved to the point of understanding how to use money.

With the restoration of cultural differences and new individuality, old friends Paul and Virginia fall in love. Not everything from the Instrumentality era has vanished, especially the underpeople, a subclass of people bred with animals such as dogs, cats, and bulls to provide manual labor. Paul is accosted by a provocative dog-girl, then by a drunk bull-man, who attacks them. Another cat-girl, C'mell, rescues them from physical danger. She directs them to a cafe where Virginia begins to have qualms about the artificial aspects of the personality she's been given, and wonders whether her love for Paul is real or synthesized. She then meets another man she also finds attractive, Macht. Macht tells her of a computer, never understood by the Instrumentality, which has reached the status of a God, able to foretell the future. It can only be reached walking a ruined processional highway leading into the clouds: Alpha Ralpha Boulevard.

The rest of the story deals with their interactions with Macht and C'mell, and the death and awakening caused by their choices along the road closed to mankind for 10,000 years.
^ Mann, James A. (ed.), The Rediscovery of Man, NESFA Press, 1993.
^ MacCaffery, Larry and Gregory, Sinda, Alive and Writing: Interviews with American Authors of the 1980s, p. 177, University of Illinois Press, 1987.
^ Hellekson, Karen, The Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith, p. 107, McFarland & Company, 2001.
^ Elms, Alan C., Uncovering Lives: The Uneasy Alliance of Biography and Psychology, p. 26, University of Oxford Press, 1994.
See also
Ralph Alpher
External links
The Remarkable Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith
Alpha Ralpha Boulevard publication history at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database

5 out of 5

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