[LMB] Cul-de-sacs

John Lennard john.c.lennard at gmail.com
Fri Apr 20 17:37:27 BST 2012

Tel: Wormhole geography-style problems aren't new. There are plenty of
places on Earth where it is difficult to impossible for ships to get
from one place to another without going through the territorial seas
of a third power (like Denmark). These questions have been considered
at length many time as various people fought one another. Consensus
and historical practice is that allowing warships of belligerent
powers through these areas on a non-preferential basis with certain
restrictions is compatible with neutrality.

John: Some aspects of wormhole astrography are approximately suggested in
RL geography; others aren't, including the absolute condition. Anywhere on
earth except an island you also have land access (and latterly air access)
-- convenience, practical military possibility at a given time, and maximal
profit valorising a given sea-route via third-party waters is qualitatively

The Baltic and control of the Skagerrak, Kattegat, Sound, and Great Belt
may be as close a 3-D version as is possible, I grant, but it remains
critically not 4-D. No ToI can be created, nor can Baltic access be
absolutely blocked.

If we have to have an analogy -- posit that 1. we finally get our space act
together and discover there are Atlanteans living on Mars. Atlantis had a
space programme and settled it, then went down and all contact was lost,
then forgotten. And 2. there is only one place on earth from which it is
possible to go by rocket to Mars, or for Martians to land any rockets they
buy. (I realise this makes no rocketry sense, but it's a necessary
condition in trying to replicate the relevant issue.) And 3. this singular
place is in a fairly small polity without much military muscle.

So, hello Mars. Hmm, that's some nice real estate you have there. And a
couple of decades later a large, aggressive polity pays off the small
polity to use the access point to invade Mars. Twenty-year war. Retreat.
And lo and behold, forty years after that the Martians arrive in force and
secure the access point for themselves. They don't conquer anything but the
small polity, but that they hold with everything they've got. And when you
try to explain to them that the rights of the small polity's citizens to be
free and self-determining are infinitely more important than their right to
seek to prevent any possibility of a second invasion ... you're surprised
to find them sceptical?


I'm also not at all sure that we can readily or accurately model the
differences between a one-wormhole cul-de-sac and a five-wormhole
cul-de-sac. It -may- be only a matter of degree, or it may not. From the
Barrayaran practical p-o-v, securing their galactic access and preventing
any hostile force from entering the Barrayar wormhole at Komarr, it
certainly has very substantial implications.

(Fic sidenote: there must be military installations and a great deal more
than picket forces at -every- wormhole connection along the B-K route. Has
anyone ever seen a fic set at any of them? Is there a Kyril Island aspect
to some postings there? Or are they critical-but-dull posts that can be an
important step up the promotion ladder? You do your stint there --  good
tick, move on and up.)

John Lennard, MA DPhil. (Oxon.), MA (WU)

General editor, Humanities-E-Books Genre Fiction Sightlines and Monographs

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