In "Hunter's Moon," Anderson creates a background for how colonies in other solar systems might develop within the bounds of our current scientific understanding of the laws of physics. Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light; there are no "warp drives" and "hyperspace" which permit space travelers to circumvent or exceed the limits imposed by the nature of things. Messages sent by laser beams between Earth and Medea take fifty years to reach their destinations, meaning that Medea and the Castor C system are fifty light-years from Earth. Humans travel only from Earth to Medea because of the "time-stranger" consequence of returning to their home planet. The more than fifty year lag in technological development for Medeans would expand to over one hundred years by the time a return journey even made in spaceships approaching the speed of light was completed; such travelers would find themselves lost a century behind the times.
Interstellar colonization is controlled by precise scientific contributions to ensure that no planet or moon is sent more colonists than its ecology can support without lasting damage. All colonies are attempts to increase human knowledge of the universe, and the Medean one is no exception. These colonists know that their studies of extra-terrestrial life provide unique knowledge which may lead to medical advances, new perspectives on scientific and social issues, and a more mature understanding of humanity itself.
The story focuses on scientists on Medea who are doing the research that scientists on Earth want them to do. The main human characters, Jannika Rezek and Hugh Brocket, are studying two sentient species (there may be a third, but no one is sure of this) native to Medea. Part of what they hope to learn is how the species socialize and view the world. An important instrument in their investigation is one that was developed on Earth that allows the humans to experience in a dim way some of the emotions and thoughts of the alien species. The instruments are meant to conduct information only one way with the feelings and notions of the aliens traveling to the humans, but Medea is not Earth and the life there has its own natural laws, and some of the humans' emotions and ideas go to the aliens.
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