Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jack Vance's "Brain of the Galaxy" aka "The New Prime" (novelette, leadership, free): There are many value-systems to judge a leader on

An illustration accompanying the original publication in Worlds Beyond magazine of short story Brain of the Galaxy by Jack Vance
There are several, but not too many, genre stories where candidates for a political office must pass some sort of test - not ballots - judged by an impartial computer. This story is of this class. Perhaps the best known example of the class is Michael Shaara's "2066 Election Day".

There is a Sanskrit phrase that succinctly summarizes the moral of this story: "Yatha raja, tatha praja". Literal translation - a population tends to reflect the attributes valued by its political leadership - is unsatisfactory, but that's the only one I can think up at the moment.

It got interesting only near end - where different threads come together in a context. Most of the earlier part is unsettling in that it comprises of short vignettes that each appear to be independent untitled stories & are all minor by themselves: a man finds himself naked in a social gathering & invents a way of evading moral police; a tribe finds its home destroyed by the enemy & extracts an equal revenge upon enemy home; a man, in adverse conditions, unsuccessfully looks for relics needed to save his lord; a competition where the most imaginative man wins; a soldier captured by enemy is subject to extreme torture. But plodding through these vignettes is worth the trouble, as the ending will show.


  1. "Obstinacy serves no purpose unless it advances a predetermined end."

Fact sheet.

First published: Worlds Beyond, February 1951.
Download full text as part of the scans of the magazine it originally appeared in.
Rating: A.
Related: Stories of Jack Vance.