I have of late been reading (well, listening-to via Audible) many of the science fiction classics from yesteryear, by authors I missed out on in my youth (in those days mainly reading Van Vogt, Moorcock, Herbert, Harrison and Heinlein).
The most recent of these books is The Legacy of Heorot by Larry Niven et al.
The book has been described as “reworking the Beowulf legend in science fiction”. Niven amplifies Beowulf’s antagonist, Grendel, into a whole species of pseudo-reptilian super-monsters. Without revealing the whole plot, suffice to say that these creatures are portrayed as solitary, voracious, cannibalistic, and murderously territorial.
Whilst reading (listening), I’ve been struck by the parallels between these “Grendels” and prominent figures in the software community (individual consultants, opinioneers, etc.):
I see many such figures (including but not limited to folks in the Agile space) ploughing their own furrows, ignoring others of a similar ilk, minimising productive interactions and community.
Niven’s grendels are forever eating, and looking to eat. Eating is their core driver. The folks I have in mind seem likewise voracious in their hunt for revenues and clients (prey).
I see many such figures taking the ideas of others, retreading them, and selling them on as original and even proprietary. Analagous to intellectual cannibalism.
The grendels in the book each assiduously guard their own stretch of water (being basically amphibian), murderouly opposing any intrusion into their territory, with the utmost prejudice. I see parallels with (some, most?) of the aforementioned members of the software thought-leaders and opinion-makers “community”.
In the book, the human colonists eventually triumph over the grendels, through a combination of technology, self-sacrifice and strategic thinking. “They’re just animals” the colonists remark, by way of explaining their victory.
I’ve long sought to reach out and connect with our grendels, in an attempt to further the collective knowledge and impact of the software community at large. To little or no avail. Maybe our grendels’ fate is predicted by the fate of the grendels in the book – irrelevance and extinction.
The biology and life cycle of the grendels in the ‘Heorot’ books was devised by a friend of mine, the late Professor Jack Cohen, Emeritus Professor of Reproductive Biology at Birmingham University (UK). He was regularly the go-to person for writers looking for aliens. Jack was usually able to create creatures whose biology had very close analogues in terrestrial biology.