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Polynesians seem like a pretty good parallel on Earth. In the year 1000BC or maybe even 1000AD they had the best ability on the globe to travel long distances. But they used it to create small settlements that failed to develop further technologies.

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That's an interesting thought. But on the other hand, how much further technology could they have plausibly developed on such small islands without many resources? Maybe I'm missing some possibilities, but I think their limitations came from their environment more than their transportation.

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Hawaii and New Zealand are comparatively large and have more resources. On the other hand, they're both at the ends of their respective sailing directions, at least until you run into full size continent a long way further on.

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Apr 27Liked by Evan Þ

In Stranger in a Strange Land, at least, Heinlein was treating Valentine Michael Smith as a "man from Mars" in a classic literary sense: An observer of human society and culture from an outside perspective. The characteristic point of such narratives is to point out the follies and weirdnesses of the author's own society. I understand this used to be done with exotic aliens such as Persian visitors to Europe, before intercontinental travel became too easy for that to work. It's sort of the mirror image of Swift's creating analogs of Europe in places like Lilliput and Blefescu and sending a nondescript European, Lemuel Gulliver, to comment on them.

On the other hand, Heinlein's actual Martians did have some traits that reflected speculation about their biology: their curling up and hibernating when offended, their water sharing ritual, their odd reproductive biology in which female and male were different stages of the life cycle of the same organism—and their peaceful cannibalism, though Heinlein couldn't put that into a juvenile. Much of this followed from the idea of Mars as an ancient desert planet, which of course was becoming obsolete even as Heinlein was writing those books.

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