October 04, 2010

Buck Godot -- Gallimaufrey

I am completely out of it today. Two naps, more caffeine than usual, and I feel like I weigh about half a ton. I can't write.

But there is an idea that occurred to me the other day about Phil Foglio's "Buck Godot" stories that won't leave me alone. So here goes:

Early in the canon (maybe the story about the teleporter?) we learn about the law machines. They're sapient robots who, one day, appeared on all human worlds simultaneously and implemented The Law. Nobody knows where they came from, or why the human race was the only species they picked on in this way.

There were 21 (IIRC) elements to the Law, and each would come into force when a certain (unspecified) proportion of the population voted for it. But you could only vote "yes" and you could only vote once. When the required number of yes-votes had accumulated, that law went into effect and henceforth was enforced by the law machines.

The deal about New Hong Kong was that when the law machines arrived there, someone hacked the voting process and change it so that it read, "There is no law on New Hong Kong." It immediately accumulated an overwhelming number of yes votes, and though the law machines found the hacker and did something with him, they didn't change it. That's why New Hong Kong has such a wild-west feel to it. It's the only world in Humanspace where The Law doesn't apply.

Now... in Gallimaufrey we learn that for the last several hundred years, the human race has been the custodian of the Winslow, as part of a deal with the Prime Mover. In exchange, the Prime Mover guaranteed that the human race would not go extinct.

What occurred to me was that the Law Machines were the way that the Prime Mover fulfilled his side of the bargain. He's the one who created them and sent them to humanity, and their implementation of The Law had the effect of suppressing the most pernicious tendencies of the human race, which otherwise might have led to self-destruction. If I've got the chronology right, it seems that they showed up just about the time that humanity took over as guardians of the Winslow.

And the reason the Law Machines didn't override what happened on New Hong Kong was that their mission only required that enough humans survive to represent a viable breeding stock. If New Hong Kong did eventually self-destruct, it was OK as long as other human worlds continued to exist.

Not too impressive an idea, is it? But when ideas like this seize me, the only way I can get them out of my head is to write them down. And I don't have the energy to write anything else today.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Engineer's Disease at 04:38 PM | Comments (12) | Add Comment
Post contains 469 words, total size 3 kb.

1 Interesting - I hadn't thought of a possible connection between the Winslow and the Law Machines, since they were (IIRC) introduced in different story arcs.  It seems plausible, though preventing self-destruction by itself doesn't preclude an external source of extinction, such as war. 

I wonder if the author could be convinced to comment on this?

Posted by: Siergen at October 04, 2010 05:19 PM (Xh3Fu)

2 War was one of the things which was against The Law.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 04, 2010 05:35 PM (+rSRq)

3 Right, but The Law wasn't enforced on the universe as a whole, just on human worlds. (Though not just against humans!)

It's not enough. Law-bots may have done a good job of keeping people from killing each other, but they were clearly inadequate against an external threat, such as attack by another species... or, say, against a rogue bio-weapon.

That said, it's definitely got the right flavor to it. Prime Mover comes up with an elegant solution, implements it, quits worrying about the details. And yet with holes in it... well, we know that the Prime Mover is not nearly as omniscient as he's cracked up to be.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at October 04, 2010 06:18 PM (pWQz4)

4 And while it doesn't prevent the external threats you mentioned, there's no reason that the Prime Mover couldn't have implemented the Law Bots specifically to deal with within-species problems, while he plans on dealing with outside-species threats in other ways.

Posted by: Boviate at October 04, 2010 06:25 PM (PJNgE)


It isn't the whole solution, of course. But it was a good way to cope with the main threat facing humanity.

I just sent an email to Foglio. If I get a response, I'll let you know.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 04, 2010 06:31 PM (+rSRq)


This is what I sent:

I have no idea whether this is a unique idea or very widespread, or even whether it's canon. But I thought I'd share it with you, just in case you might find it amusing.

The Law Machines came out of no where and imposed the Law on all human worlds. No one knows who sent them, or what their ultimate mission is.

If I understand the chronology, they showed up about the time humanity became guardians of the Winslow.

I think it was the Prime Mover who sent them. And I think that the Law Machines are the primary means by which the Prime Mover prevented the human race from becoming extinct, because The Law suppressed the worse instincts and inclinations of the human race, which would otherwise have led to self-destruction.

And the reason why the Law Machines permitted the Law to be avoided on New Hong Kong was that their mission didn't require saving every single human world. All they needed was to protect an adequate breeding stock.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 04, 2010 06:57 PM (+rSRq)

7 In one of the original Starblaze edition graphic novels for Buck, a vicious trade war between two human factions that had resulted in heavy civilian casualties was generally agreed upon as the reason the Law Machines arrived--the first of two "Great Checks" upon Humanity.

The other Check, IIRC, was Lord Thezmothete himself, decreeing a version of the Prime Directive would be obeyed, as far as trade was concerned, to prevent over-exploitation of younger races.

Posted by: Douglas Oosting at October 04, 2010 10:36 PM (N9Lwt)

8 Steven, your readers are slightly scary.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at October 05, 2010 01:45 AM (PiXy!)

9 Slightly?  Hmpf.

Posted by: Mark A. Flacy at October 05, 2010 07:57 AM (Lbkvv)

10 "I don't know what they'll do to the enemy; but, by God, they frighten me." -- Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 05, 2010 08:19 AM (+rSRq)

11 "Run away!" -- Arthur, son of Uther Pendragon, from the castle of Camelot, King of the Britons, defeater of the Saxons, Sovereign of all England.

Posted by: Wonderduck at October 05, 2010 05:40 PM (blg68)

12 I say slightly because I could look up and spot my own Buck Godot collection from where I was sitting as I read this thread.

To a normal human, we'd probably rank as rather scary.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at October 05, 2010 06:53 PM (PiXy!)

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