Simple Liberty  



…And Then There Were None / The Great Explosion

by Eric Frank Russell

1951, 1962

Written by Darrell Anderson.

Eric Frank Russell’s 1962 novel The Great Explosion is about several groups of humans who colonize various planets after a general exodus from Earth. The Great Explosion is an expanded version of Russell’s original story . . . And Then There Were None, originally appearing in the June 1951 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine. The last third of The Great Explosion is a slightly revised version of the original 1951 story. The Great Explosion is an uncomplicated political satire and can be read in an evening’s sitting.

In that story, a few hundred years after the great exodus and thanks to the invention of high-speed planetary travel, Terran (earthling) “diplomats” went seeking the people who colonized those other planets. In Russell’s original story, only one planet was involved, in the expanded version several planets were visited. All the people in those new settlements were anti-political to one degree or another. With each visit the diplomats were frustrated in their efforts to convince the inhabitants of a “need” to join Terrans in a political alliance. Yet, after all, there is a reason why those humans left Earth in the first place.

In Russell’s original story, the people of that planet called themselves Gands, in honor of Mahatma Gandhi. As might be expected after several hundred years, none of the visiting politically correct Terrans had any idea who Gandhi was. However, the Gands were not merely anti-political, but anarchists to the full definition of the word. So much so that they refused to do anything that they didn’t want to — period. Free association and voluntary exchange was the core of their social structure.

Gands were fond of short-handed words. For example, they created the word myob, which was short for mind your own business. Terrans initially did not understand the meaning of myob, creating for some comical situations.

Gands also talked about obs, the basis for their wealth exchange system. As explained in that story, obs was verbal short hand for obligations. That exchange system was an unwritten IOU system — physical currency was not used. Obs were neither tangible, nor physical IOUs, but “recorded” only in each individual’s mind. Obs were another way of declaring a debt was owed in any unfinished exchange of wealth. Each individual was responsible for tracking personal exchanges of wealth. In Russell’s story, an individual who accepted community help to build a house owed several years’ worth of obs to those who helped. The concept is not so ridiculous; people today “plant obs” on one another on a regular basis — you help your neighbor build his porch deck, and your neighbor then helps you. Such a system is merely exchanging wealth for wealth without the nonsense and burden of a common medium of exchange.

The Gands also had a motto of their own, in Gandian shorthand of course. F — I.W. The phrase was shorthand for Freedom — I won’t. This motto was the cornerstone to Gandian life. Gands believed that their motto was “the mightiest weapon ever thought up by the mind of man.”

In one scene, one of the visiting Terrans pretended to use the threat of a deadly weapon to convince one of the Gands to perform an action. The Gandian refused and the logic provided was simple and irrefutable. The Gandian agreed when the Terran argued that the Gandian would be dead, but then added that the Terran still would have to find somebody to perform his dirty work — and the next Gandian also refuse to comply. Theoretically, the Terran could kill every Gandian and eventually would have to perform the dirty work himself. In other words, unlike on Earth, on Gand the act of using force and coercion and the threat of violence was utterly futile.

The idea of non-aggression and liberty permeated every aspect of Gandian life. They refused to be slaves. Any intruder who violated the simple social rules of Gand was called an Antigand.

Throughout the story, Gands were fond of reminding each other that they were free. Throughout conversations, Gands would end a statement with, “That’s freedom isn’t it?” The phrase was merely part of Gandian essence, like common phrases used today. Sort of like the way Canadians are known for ending sentences with, “eh?”

Indeed, this philosophy must permeate the entire culture. Solidarity is critical. Every Gand knew that submitting to the rule of another provided an illusion of legitimacy to the ruler. Gands knew full well what was at stake — their freedom.

In the end the Terrans diplomats departed Gand — quickly. The diplomats realized that after being introduced to Gandian philosophy, many of the spaceship crew were seceding to remain on Gand. There would be an insufficient number to operate the ship if enough of the crew disappeared, leaving the diplomats stranded on an anarchist world. The Gands had no issue with those Terrans who decided to peacefully remain on Gand, and in fact, encouraged them to stay. After all, that’s freedom isn’t it?


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