The Making of the Representative for Planet 8

BOOK: The Making of the Representative for Planet 8
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D
ORIS
L
ESSING

CANOPUS IN ARGOS: ARCHIVES

THE MAKING
OF THE
REPRESENTATIVE
FOR PLANET 8

Contents

Cover

Title Page

The Making of the Representative for Planet 8

Afterword

About the Author

By the Same Author

Read On

The Grass is Singing

The Golden Notebook

The Good Terrorist

Love, Again

The Fifth Child

Copyright

About the Publisher

The Making of the Representative for Planet 8
is the fourth in a series of novels with the overall title ‘Canopus in Argos: Archives'; the first is
Shikasta
(1979); the second
The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Fiv
e (1980); the third
The Sirian Experiments
(1981); and the fifth
The Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire
(1983).

The Making of the Representative for Planet 8

You ask how the Canopean Agents seemed to us in the times of The Ice.

It was usually Johor who came, but whichever one of them it was, arrived without prior warning and apparently casually, stayed for a short or a long time, and during these agreeable visits – for we always looked forward to them – gave us advice, showed us how we could more effectively use the resources of our planet, suggested devices, methods, techniques. And then left without saying when we might expect to see Canopus again.

The Canopean Agents were not much unlike each other. I and the few others who had been taken to other Colonized Planets for instruction or training of various kinds knew that the officials of the Canopean Colonial Service were to be recognized by an authority they all had. But this was an expression of inner qualities, and not of a position in a hierarchy. On these other planets the Canopeans were always distinguishable from the natives, once we had learned what to look for. And this made us more aware of what it was they brought to our own Planet 8.

Everything on Planet 8 that had been planned, built, made – everything that was not natural – was according to their specifications. The presence of our kind on the planet was because of them: because of Canopus. They had brought us here, a species created by them from stock originating on several planets.

Therefore it is not accurate to talk of obedience: does one talk of obeying when it is a question of one's origin, and existence?

Or talk of rebellion …

There was once a near rebellion.

It was when Johor said we should circle our little globe with a tall thick wall, and brought instructions in how to make building substances not then known by us. We had to mix chemicals in certain proportions with our own crushed local stones. To make this wall would take all our strength, all our effort, and all our resources for a long time.

We pointed this out: as if it were likely Canopus did not already know it! This was our protest, for we called it that, among ourselves. And it was the limit of our ‘rebellion'. Johor's smiling silence told us that a wall would have to be built.

What for?

We would find out, was the reply.

By the time the wall was completed, those who had been infants when it was started were old – I was one of them; and their children's children saw the ceremony when the last slab of shining black was swung into place on top of a construction fifty times as high as our tallest building, and with a breadth to match.

It was a marvel, this wall.

The black
thing
that circled our globe – though not at its widest part, not at its middle, a fact that made us question and doubt even more – drew us to it, attracted our minds and imaginations, absorbed us. Always were to be seen knots and groups and crowds of us, standing along its top; or on the observation platforms that had been placed all along it, for this purpose; or on high ground that overlooked it – high ground at a distance, for nothing near could give us an ample enough view. We were there in the early mornings when our sun flashed out over it, or at midday, when the glistening black flashed back light and colour to the sky, and at night, when the brilliant clustering stars of Planet 8 seemed to shine forth from within it as from dark water. Our planet did not have moons.

This wall had become our achievement, our progress, our summing up and definition: we were no longer developing in other ways, our wealth did not increase. We no longer expected, as we had in the past, always to be augmenting our resources: always to be making more subtle and fine and inventive our ways of living.

A wall. A great black shining wall. A
useless
wall.

Johor, the others who came, said: Wait, you will see, you will find out, you must trust us.

Their visits became more frequent, and their instructions were not always to do with the wall, and the nature and purposes of what we had to do were not easy to understand.

We knew that we had ceased to understand. We
had
understood – or believed we had – what Canopus wanted for us, and from us: we had been taking part, under their provision, in a long, slow progress upwards in civilization.

During this period of change, while our expectations for ourselves and our children were being tempered, our world continued mild in climate, and agreeable, and very beautiful. As always, we continued to grow more crops and beasts than we needed, and exchanged these with other near planets for their surpluses. Our population remained at the exact level required of us by Canopus. Our wealth was not increasing but we were not poor. We had never suffered harshness or threat.

We were a favoured planet, climatically, physically. Other planets suffered extremes of climate, knew heat that flayed and withered, and cold that kept great parts of them uninhabitable. Planet 8's position from its sun was such that along a narrow central zone there was heat, and sometimes discomfort. Temperate zones spread on either side. At the poles were frigid regions: but these were very small. The planet did not incline on its axis, or only so little that it made no difference. We did not have seasons as we knew other planets did.

In the regions where we all lived, there was never snow or ice.

We would tell our children: ‘If you travel as far as you can that way, as far as you can that way, you will come to places that lie more distant from our sun than we do. You will find thick water, not light and quick-moving as it is with us. The water is slow with cold, and on its surface it wrinkles as it moves, or even, sometimes, makes plates or flakes that are solid. This is ice.'

When, rarely, storms brought lumps of ice from the sky, a great thing was made of it; we called our children; we said: ‘Look, this is ice! At the poles of our world the cold slow water sometimes makes this substance, you might walk half a day and see no water that was not in this form: white, solid, glistening.'

And, when they were older: ‘On some other planets as much of their surface is ice as on our planet is vegetation and fruitfulness.'

We would say to them: ‘On our planet, in those regions lying back from the sun, sometimes from the sky fall small white flakes so light and so delicate you can blow them about and around with a breath. This is snow, this is how the water that is always in the air, though invisible to us, changes in those parts when it is frozen by the cold.'

And the children would of course marvel and wonder and wish they might see snow, and the gelid wrinkling waters, and the ice that sometimes made crusts or even plates and sheets.

And then, snow fell.

Across light blue sunlit skies drove thick grey that came swarming down around us in a white fall, and everywhere we stood about, gazing up, gazing down, holding out our hands where the faint white flakes of the tales we told our children lay for an instant before they sank into blobs and smears of water.

It was not a prolonged fall, but it was heavy. One instant our world was as always, green and brown, and coloured with the shine and glisten of moving water, and the easy movement of light clouds. And the next it was a white world. Everywhere, white, and the black jut of the wall rising from it, and on the top of the black, a white crest.

Very often, looking back, we say that we did not understand clearly what was happening, the importance of an event. But I can say that this fall of white from our capacious and mild skies was something that struck into us, our minds and our understandings. Oh yes, we knew, we understood. And, looking into each other's faces for confirmation of what we felt, it was there – the future.

That scene is as clear in my memory as any. We were all out of our dwellings, we had run together everywhere and were in groups and little crowds, and we were gazing into more than this cold white that had so suddenly enveloped us.

We were a tall lithe people, lightly but strongly built, and our colour was brown, and our eyes were black, and we had long straight black hair. We loved strong and vibrant colours in clothes and in the decoration of our houses: these were what we saw when we looked out at our world – the many blues of the sky, the infinite greens of the foliage, the reds and browns of our earth, mountains shining with pyrites and quartz, the dazzle of water and of sun.

We had not thought, ever, to wonder about our congruity with our surroundings, but on that day we did. We had never seemed to ourselves anything but comely, but against the white glisten that now covered everything we seemed to ourselves dingy and shrunken. Our skins were yellow, and our eyes puckered and strained because of the cold glare we could not escape except by shutting them. The strong colours of our clothes were harsh. We stood there shivering with the suddenness of the drop in temperature, and everywhere could be seen the same involuntary movement: of people looking at each other, finding what they saw ugly, and then, as they remembered that this was how they must be striking others, their eyes turning away, while they hugged themselves in their own arms not only because of the cold, but in a way that suggested a need for comfort, consolation.

Canopus arrived while the snow still lay, unmelted.

There were five of them, not the usual one, or two; and this alone was enough to impress us. They were among us while the snow melted so that our world returned to its warmth and the comfortable colours of growth – and while the snow again fell, and this time stayed for longer. Nor did they leave when this second affliction of white shrank and went. It was never the way of Canopus to demand, announce, threaten – or even to stand high on the crest of our wall, as we sometimes did on civic occasions, to address large crowds. No, they moved quietly among us, staying for a while in one dwelling, and then moving on to another, and while nothing dramatic or painful was ever said, before long we had all gathered from them what was needed.

The snow would come again, and more often; slowly the balance of warmth and cold on our planet would change, and there would be more snow and ice for us than there would be green and growth. And this and this and this was what we must do to prepare ourselves …

BOOK: The Making of the Representative for Planet 8
3.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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