At five hundred pages, spanning hundreds of earth years and a fair few light years, it is not an exaggeration to say Where-Stand-All: Episodes in the Foundation of Hodrin Civilization, is a science fiction epic. In the tradition of social science fiction; a sub-genre of sci-fi it less concerned with technology and space opera and more with sociological speculation, it is a predictive, precautionary, but ultimately optimistic story. At its core is the belief in the capacity of every individual to be ingenuous, compassionate and mindful, be they Hodrin or Human. By following the birth of the Hodrin civilization (four armed beings with distinctive eye ridge nodules that convey mood) from its scattered populations, through to its highly organised and far reaching domination of Where-Stand-All and beyond, so we too understand the birth of our own civilization and how innovation and progress can lead to both joy and anguish.
The novel eloquently illustrates how culture is both a civiliser and savager.
Its ‘extra-terrestrial’ writer/interpreter, Farrold Saxon, reveals intimate and farsighted knowledge of Where-Stand-All and its inhabitants on a planet closer to the centre of the galaxy than ours. I delighted in the uncomplicated, compassionate nature of the Hodrin and marvelled at their rational organisation of society. Each and every Hodrin is given a name that conveys their true nature, celebrating differences and finding strengths within those differences. Gender inequality is not a word the Hodrin-kind would recognise. Male Hodrin have little speech, but the ability to mind-join with each other and ‘see’ the future. Female Hodrin cannot foresee the future, but can turn the male ‘seeings’ into practical and organised benefits for all. It is not a case of one sex is better than the other rather neither sex can progress without the other. That is not to say the Hodrin do not encounter difficulties. The use of Great Nut syrup to dull the minds of the males and keep them subservient reminds our own kind of the stifling of female progress through economic dependency. The classification of Hodrin based on fur colour, and the restrictions on mating between these different types, is a reminder of how our culture has created equally arbitrary divisions.
The message throughout the novel is one of tolerance, respect and a need to be true to one’s own nature. The Hodrin show us how to live authentically and in tune with each-other and our environment. The Hodrin also remind us of what happens if we try to stifle our desires, or subvert others to our will.
As with the rise of all great civilizations, crisis comes to Where Stand All in the form of the Squeeze, and just like the impending crisis in our world, Hodrin-kind must find a way to exist in harmony or risk extermination.
As you read Where-Stand-All you can’t help but compare it to our world, but it is more than an allegory, it is a message. We are the makers of our own destiny. Each and every one of us must own our thoughts and our actions. We all have a contribution to make, be that a poem or an engineering miracle, or the simple act of holding a hand at the end of a life. If we are true to ourselves and resist those that would divert us with the ‘false idols’, then we too can be magnificent in our own nature.
You won’t be the same after reading Where-Stand-All, but you will be better. And if you are anything like me, you will be left mulling over your potential Hodrin name and what it tells you about your true nature.
This novel should be required reading for sociology students everywhere and a rite of passage for every teenager who has ever asked the question: why is the world the way it is and can we make it better?