Four Lords of the Diamond (01/13/15)

“Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories.”
― Arthur C. Clarke

TITLE: Four Lords of the Diamond
AUTHOR: Jack Chalker

This is a four book set that has some extremely interesting thoughts on the structures, economics and advancement of human societies. The author was a history teacher at first and ended up a science fiction writer. The first forty or fifty pages in the first volume will tell you if you like it or not. It will probably be necessary to find it in a used bookstore or on the net. The author’s works have been translated into many languages. I do warn you this author is addicting. If you read it you will ask yourself how is it possible a three-dimensional human being could have such an imagination.

The setting is hundreds of years in the future when humanity has achieved interstellar travel and colonized a third of the galaxy. The name of this collective of worlds is known as the Confederacy. This series is about four planets in a single solar system in this Confederacy known as the Warden Diamond. They are prison colonies. They are about as perfect a prison ever because when they were explored a submicroscopic organism showed up a few months after colonization. This organism infected humans and for some reason could only live within that particular system out to a distance of about half a light year. It adapted to the host and integrated with it so when it died the host died. The worlds were each very different but all could support human life.

The Confederacy is what many would call perfect, at least as perfect as could be envisioned by the present day reformers. There is equality, no one is hungry, no one lacks medical care and everyone is employed. People are born in labs and raised and bred for their jobs. They are all within a certain height range and there are no racial differences racial characteristics having been bred into a standardized norm. It was a very structured society and stepping outside certain social norms was rare but there were a few here and there that managed to beat the system. They were the smartest and most resourceful and were highly intelligent people that became greedy or came from the worlds on the edges of civilization known as the frontier. Wanting to get them out of society but not wanting to lose the intelligence they possessed and potential benefits from that intelligence they put them on the Warden planets thus removing them from society but still able to monitor them for something of value. The worst of this criminal lot rose to the top and became lords of these worlds and still controlled much of the criminal activity in the Confederacy. (It is interesting to note that these criminals set up very crime free worlds. They did not do so nicely I might also add.)

It was discovered that an alien species had infiltrated the Confederacy and was planning a war against it. The Confederacy had no information on the aliens but traced them to the prison worlds and discovered these aliens had made an alliance with the four lords against the Confederacy. The Confederacy was faced with needing information about their enemy but if an agent was placed on them the agent would be trapped on the worlds just as the criminals were. Loyalty was hard to keep under those circumstances and in at least one case the agent became the lord himself. What to do, what to do?

They hit upon the idea of using a process of mind imprinting they had developed that could imprint an exact duplicate of a person’s mind in the body of another. This left two agents each self-aware and each as much an individual as the other and each with identical memories. The process killed the original person by destroying the mind but the body was left perfectly intact. They did this to four criminals and placed the imprint of their best agent in their bodies and placed tiny transmitters in their bodies and everything they did would be recorded in a master computer in a space station outside the danger zone of the worlds. They were then officially sentenced as if they were the original criminals to these worlds, one agent for each world. This agent was an assassin for the Confederacy that hunted down extreme deviants in the society. Most anti-social people could be psychologically manipulated and reprogrammed but a few were such hard cases they had to be eliminated. The best were sent to the Warden Diamond. The mission of the agents was to hunt down and kill the lord of each world in an effort to buy time to assess the enemy. After a period of time on the worlds the original agent in a space station would plug into the computer and experience the entire activity of the duplicate agent on each world. The following are a few paragraphs from each book of the set. Of the four planets Lilith was the first colonized because it seemed to be a tropical paradise.

 

VOLUME ONE: Lilith: a Snake in the Grass.
FROM THE PROLOGUE: Background to trouble.

“The Confederacy,” the commander stated needlessly.” Seven thousand six hundred and forty-six worlds, by last count, over one third of a galaxy. Quite an accomplishment for a race from a single planet out there on that one little arm. Planets terraformed, planets where the people were adapted to the place, even planets with sixty other intelligent native lifeforms on them, all now nicely acculturated to our way of doing things. We own it, we run it our way, and we’ve always had our own way. Not a single one of those other races was ever in any position to challenge us. They had to accept us and our way, or they died in much the manner of our own native world was pacified so many centuries ago. We’re the boss.”

The young man didn’t respond. He felt no need to. Born and raised in this culture, he simply took what Krega was saying for granted, as did everyone else.

“Well, we’ve now met our technological equals, perhaps even slight technological superiors,” the commander continued. “Analysis made the obvious deductions. First, we are always expanding. Obviously there is another dominant race and culture doing the same from some other point in the galaxy. They discovered us before we discovered them – bad luck for us. They scouted, probed, and analyzed us, and came up with several facts. Second, our ultimate collision is unavoidable. We’re starting to compete for the same space. Third, they are probably smaller than we, numerically weaker, as it were, but with a slight technological edge. They assume war, but they are not certain they could win it. If they had been sure they would have attacked by now. That means they need information – lots of it. How our military organization is set up. How our defenses are established and would be used. And most important, how we think. A total understanding of us while we remained in ignorance of their ways would give them and their war machines a tremendous edge, assuming equal firepower. Fourth, they’ve been at this for some time, which means our collision is still way off, perhaps years. Finding us was probably accidental, some scout of theirs who got overextended, lost, or just overly ambitious. They’ve been around long enough, though, to make robots that pass for humans, to put spy stations in orbit around Military Systems Command, of all things, and to work out a deal with some of our own to help sell us out.”

Mankind had perfected a formula long ago, one that worked. It was neither free in a libertarian sense nor in a personal sense, but it was efficient and it worked – not just for one world but for every world, across an interstellar empire so vast that only total cultural control could keep it together. The same system everywhere. The same ideas and ideals, the same values, the same ways of thinking about things – everywhere. Flexible, adaptable to different biomes and even, with some wrenching adjustments made mercilessly, adaptable to alien cultures and lifeforms. The formula was all pervasive, an equalizing force in the extreme, yet it provided some play for different conditions and a measure of social mobility based on talent and ability.

There were of course populations that could not or would not adapt. In some instances they could be “reeducated” by means of the most sophisticated techniques, but in others they could not. These were not merely alien worlds where the formula simply couldn’t be tried because of their very alienness – those were ruthlessly exterminated as a last resort. Every system also bred individuals who could circumvent it and had the will and knack of doing so. Such people could be extremely dangerous and had to be hunted down and either captured for reeducation or killed outright.

“In the early days, however, the powers that be were much softer on those who couldn’t otherwise be dealt with,” Commander Krega told him. “They had not yet reached the absolute perfection of our present system. The result was permanent exile in the Warden Diamond, as you know. We still send a few there – the ones with particular talents and abilities we need or those who show potential for some great discovery. It’s paid off, too, that policy, although we ship barely a hundred a year out there now.”

The misfits were sent there in droves – all those whose connections could avoid the psyche boys, who had genius or some sort of talent that would be destroyed by reeducation, political prisoners from countless worlds – all sent there rather than killed or mentally altered in the hope that some future successful rival would remember they didn’t kill or psyche the deposed but exiled them. Male, female, it didn’t matter. The best anti-socials, the political-criminal elite. And there they lived and bore their children and died, and their children lived and bore their children, and so on.

So these worlds were run, dominated in fact, by a criminal elite imprisoned forever and with little love for or feeling of kinship with the masses of the Confederacy. Nonetheless, they had commerce. The organism could be killed, sterilized out, a complex process, on unmanned ships. So other criminal geniuses, those not yet caught or in charge of governments, could establish caches of money, jewelry, precious art, and stolen goods of all types on the Warden worlds with no fear that the Confederacy could touch them.

 

FROM CHAPTER FIFTEEN: A dialogue

Father Bronz snorted contemptuously. “Then you do not see what you see. Consider the so-called civilized worlds. Most of humanity have been equalized into a stagnant sameness beyond belief. On a given planet everybody looks pretty much the same, talks pretty much the same, eats, sleeps, plays pretty much the same. They’re pawns all of them. They think the same. And they are taught that they are happy, content, at the pinnacle of human achievement, the good life for all, and they believe it. It’s true they are coddled more, their cages are gilded, but they are pawns all the same. The only real difference between their pawns and ours is that ours know that they are pawns and understand the truth of the whole system. Your civilized worlds are so perfectly programmed to think the same that they are never even allowed to face the truth.”

“It’s a pretty comfortable pawnship,” I pointed out, not really conceding his point but allowing his terms for argument’s sake.

“Comfortable? I suppose so. Like pet canaries, maybe. Those are small birds that live in cages in people’s homes, in case you don’t know – not on the civilized worlds, of course, where pets are not thought of. But at any rate these birds are born in cages; they are fed there, and their cages are regularly cleaned by their owners. They know no other life. They know that somebody provides them with all they need to exist, and having no other expectations, they want for no more. In exchange, they chirp comfortably and provide companionship to lonely frontiersmen. Not only is no canary ever going to engineer a breakout of that cage, but he’s not even going to imagine, let alone design and build, a better life. He can’t even conceive of such a thing.”

“Those are animals,” I pointed out. “Like Sheeba here.”

“Animals, yes,” he acknowledged, “but so are the humans of the civilized worlds. Pets. Everybody has an apartment that is just so in size, just so and furnishings, just so in every way the same. They look the same and wear the same clothes, as if that mattered, and they perform jobs designed to keep the system going. Then they return to their identical cubicles, get immersed in entertainment that involves them totally in some formula story that’s all about their own world, offering nothing new in thought, idea, concept. Most of their free time they spend on drugs in some happy, unproductive never-never land. Their arts, their literature, their very traditions are all inherited from history. They have none of their own. We’ve equalized them too much for that – equalized out love and ambition and creativity, too. Whenever equality is imposed as an absolute, it is always equalized at the least common denominator, and historically, the least common denominator of mankind has been quite low indeed,”

 

FROM VOLUME TWO: Cerberus: A Wolf in the Fold
FROM THE PROLOGUE: Beginning again

There was not supposed to be fear in a structured and ordered society of the civilized worlds; there was some sort of law against it. Clearly, there was nothing to fear anymore. And in a society like that, somebody who knew the true folly of complacency could get away with almost anything.
Genetic and social engineering, of course, had reached the state of the art. People did not look alike. Experiments have demonstrated that such a dire action tended to kill self-esteem in identical looking people and cause them to strive, somehow, for the most bizarre ways to prove their uniqueness. Nonetheless, variety was kept within bounds. Still, people were all physically beautiful, the men uniformly trim, lean, muscular, and handsome, the women exquisitely formed and stunning. Both sexes were generally of uniform height, about 180 centimeters give or take a few, and had a uniform bronzed skin tone. Previous racial and ethnic features merged into an average without extremes. Their family was the State, the all-powerful Confederacy that controlled some seven thousand six hundred and forty-two worlds over a third of the Milky Way Galaxy; the worlds themselves had been terraformed to conform as much as possible one to another. Medical science had progressed to the point that much of what ails people could be easily repaired, replaced, or cured. An individual could remain young and beautiful until he died, quickly, quietly, at an age approaching a hundred.

Children were unknown in the civilized worlds. Engineers did all the work and maintained the population stability at all times. Children were born in Confederacy labs and raised in Confederacy group families in which they were carefully monitored, carefully raised and controlled, so that they thought as the Confederacy wished them to think and behave, as the Confederacy wish them to behave. Needed proclivities could be genetically programmed, and the child then raised with all he or she needed to become the scientist, the engineer, the artist, the entertainer, or, perhaps, the soldier the Confederacy required. All were not equal, of course, but living in the civilized worlds required only average intelligence, and only the specialized jobs required geniuses. Besides, overly bright people might become bored or question the values and way of life of the civilized world.

There were worlds beyond the civilized world – the far and between; in fact, the society of the civilized worlds was the most egalitarian society ever known to Man. Places were found outside the structure for obvious aberrations. For those few who weren’t detected until too late, a small, specialized group known as Assassins ferreted out the rotten apples and eliminated the threat.

There were worlds beyond the civilized worlds – the frontier, where nothing had yet been standardized. The best Confederacy analyses had predicted early on that a society such as the civilized worlds bred stagnancy and loss of creativity and drive, thus ending innovation and racial growth and eventually leading to the destruction of the human race from internal rot. To prevent all that, a small percentage of humanity was permitted to keep pushing outward, discovering and conquering new worlds and living in a more primitive style. Still subject to random gene mixing in the old tried-and-true ways, people out on the frontier were still very different looking. Tight control was not exercised, for the Confederacy was not looking to make things easy out there. Hardship, deprivation, fierce competition, and aggression – all forced innovation, which was the safety valve for humanity, the system had worked for nine centuries because none were left to oppose the Confederacy – no alien races that could not be subjugated or eliminated easily, no competing empires that could threaten Man and his own empire.

Until now.

 

FROM CHAPTER THIRTEEN: The Easy Way Into an Impregnable Fort

“To the state, of course. To understand my job, you have to remember that our task is to restore abnormal people to normal. Normality is not an objective standard, but rather a subjective term imposed by each society on its people by laws and culture. Ancient cultures used to sacrifice people to appease the gods. In those societies, anybody who objected to that sacrifice or doubted the existence of the gods wasn’t normal. The social fabric of the civilized worlds would be horribly abnormal too many of our own ancestors, but it’s ours. We are born into it and except most of its values, even if we question or violate one or two. Cerberan culture is nothing but a modification of the civilized worlds‘own culture adapted to local conditions and limitations. Deep down you can understand that.”

“Ah! Love!” he sighed. “Our craziest failing. It has almost been eliminated on the civilized worlds, and it’s pretty damn rare here on Cerberus, too. But give it half a chance, give it a little crack to slip into and it raises its head nonetheless. Look, Zhang, I can tell you really don’t like Cerberan culture very much, but next to the frontier the Warden worlds – all of them – allow one thing that makes them, I think, better places. Here we still dream, we still fantasize and romanticize. On the civilized worlds they’ve eradicated that, and they know it. That’s why the frontier’s a continuing operation. It’s the only place where people can still dream. All of humankind’s advances – since the precursor of Man came down from the trees on ancient primordial Earth – have resulted from dreams, fantasies, imagination. Dylan broke free of the motherhood for a dream – she found a way. But as with the civilized worlds, which were begun with the most glorious of dreams in mind, the reality proved less than that. Hollow.”

 

VOLUME THREE: Charon: A Dragon at the Gate
FROM CHAPTER THREE: Orientation

“Maybe you do, maybe you don’t,” Garal replied. “First of all, there’s that self-control, a certain mental ability and attitude set that you just can’t teach. The fact is, most people can’t handle the discipline involved, or can handle it only to a degree. Needless to say, it’s also not in the best interests of the powers that be for everyone to develop this ability, even if they could. It is this way all over. There are few wolves and many sheep, yet the wolf rules the sheep. There are masses of people, nearly countless people, in the Confederacy, yet their entire lives, from their genetic makeup to jobs, location, even how long they will live, are in the hands of a very few. Please don’t expect Charon to be any different.”

“There are many. I fancy myself one, in fact. You are as much an outcast as any of us, yet far more than we, you are the product of the society that cast you out. It is a society that aims overall for the common good, but to achieve that aim it requires all its citizens to take a certain viewpoint that is not necessarily the only one. Many of us are criminals by any light, of course, but many more are criminal only because we dared take or develop a different viewpoint than the one the Confederacy favors. Throughout man’s dirty history ‘different’ was always equated with evil, when ‘different’ is – well, simply ‘different.’ If their system is perfect, why do they employ detectives, assassins, and, for that matter, how the hell can they produce us?”

She chuckled dryly. “The risk. What risk? You have too high an opinion of the Confederacy, Park. That’s your trouble. You see only what’s on top, out there for show, and you swallowed whole, just like most of the jerks. You think the Four Lords just sit here and run their little worlds? Just because they’re trapped here? That’s a laugh. They run a lot you don’t see all over the Confederacy. They’re just the new examples of what’s been around for thousands of years – maybe forever. A business. A business that sells things that nobody else does. Things that people say they don’t want, but they really do: perversions, gambling outside the official casinos, special loans, even promotions. Fancy jewels, works of art, stuff like that is stolen or bought and a lot of it comes here, to the Diamond. They’re everywhere and into everything. Drugs for bored frontier folk and space navy people who might be out for a year or more. Anything you want they can get – anywhere – at a price.”

 

VOLUME FOUR: Medusa: A Tiger By the Tail
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: A Victim of Philosophy

“I told you I found your system repugnant.”

“Do you really? And what are the civilized worlds if not an enormous collection of sheep, bred to be happy, bred to do their specific jobs without complaint, and also without ambition or imagination. They look prettier, that’s all – but they don’t have to survive the hard climate of Medusa. What you see down there is simply a local adaptation, a reflection of the civilized worlds themselves. And do you know why? Because most people are sheep and are perfectly content to be led if they are guaranteed security, job, protection, and a full belly. In the whole history of humankind, whenever people demanded democracy and total independence and got it, they were willing and eager to trade their precious freedom for security – every time. Every time. To the strong-willed, the people who knew what to do and had the guts to do it. The people who prize personal power above all else.”

“We don’t have cameras in people’s bathrooms,” I responded lamely.

“Because you don’t need cameras in the bathroom. You had centuries of the best biotechnology around to breed out all thoughts of deviant activity, and a barrier not of energy but of tens of thousands of light-years of space to keep out social contamination. The few who slip by, people like you, are sent here. That’s why so many of them wind up in charge, and why the system here is a reflection of the civilized worlds. We grew up there, too, Bul, so it’s the system we know and understand best. We’re the people most fit to rule, not by our own say so, but the Confederacy’s. That’s why we got sent here.”

“Then you are naive. Both Medusa and the Confederacy have given the masses exactly what all the social reformers have clamored for all these years – peace, plenty, economic and social equality, security. All other alternatives that are not variations of the plan have resulted in mass privation. You saw nothing wrong with the Confederacy while you were there because you were part of the power structure, not one of the sheep. You chafed here because we tried to make you a sheep. But if you’d come in as a government official, perhaps a monitor officer, you’d have felt right at home.”

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