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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 406

Martin is well known in science fiction for his fertility of invention, especially in the creation of monstrous and threatening worlds. He displays this talent to the full in his presentation of the “bio-wars” of Tuf Voyaging . The monsters that are released on the decks of the seedship in...

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Martin is well known in science fiction for his fertility of invention, especially in the creation of monstrous and threatening worlds. He displays this talent to the full in his presentation of the “bio-wars” of Tuf Voyaging. The monsters that are released on the decks of the seedship in “Plague Star” include a “hooded dracula,” “hellkittens,” a “rolleram,” and a “walking-web,” as well as a tyrannosaur. The fighting beasts for Norn and the monsters used on both sides on the water world are also brilliantly imagined. Martin uses his imagination in a more peaceful mode in creating food plants for every possible ecological niche as a temporary solution to the population explosion of S’uthlam.

A further attraction of Tuf Voyaging is the character of the hero, distinguished not only by his antiheroic girth, physical laziness, and love for cats but also by his characteristic mode of speech, which is ironic, unemotional, understated, and frequently misunderstood by his employers. Underlying the entire sequence are serious points both about ecology and about the aggressive behavior patterns of much contemporary fiction. In Tuf Voyaging, the urge to reach for a blaster or call up a space armada never works: True solutions are always unexpected. To find them, one needs to understand the entire situation, which includes those demanding a solution, who invariably prove to be part of the problem.

In the three-story S’uthlam sequence, Martin dramatizes the basic problem of overpopulation. Overpopulation, he shows, is never cured by providing more resources, for resources are always in the end finite. The cure is to reduce the population pressure. If this cannot be done by agreement, it will be done by famine, war, or, in Martin’s world, ecological engineering, in this case a food plant with contraceptive powers. The story is set in the far future, but it is evident that its point could as easily be applied to present-day circumstances.

Martin’s rational approach contrasts with the strong suggestions of myth in his names and titles: The seedship is the Ark, and story titles include “Call Me Moses,” “Loaves and Fishes,” and “Manna from Heaven.” Tuf is seen as godlike, with the power to inflict plague or (by cloning) raise the dead. This view, though, seems to be yet another mistake by Tuf’s employers. Both hero and author are agreed in promoting a severely scientific, rather than divine, cause-and-effect image applicable to both present and future.

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