Worldbuilding and the Promise of SF: The Enemy Stars by Poul Anderson

I first read Poul Anderson’s The Enemy Stars in 1976, not all that long after its first publication in 1959. If I had not already been an Anderson fanboy, this book would have made me one. The novel had sense of wonder in spades, and the stock elements in the book were ones as yet unfamiliar to me. I was the ideal reader, being an undemanding, gullible fifteen-year-old. Later rereadings revealed some characteristic Poul Anderson weaknesses. Yet the book does one important thing right, which is why I still reread it from time to time.

Autocratic Earth dominates its extrasolar colonies thanks to a network of “mattercasters.” The mattercasters deliver people, or goods, instantaneously; however, the terminals must first be placed by ships operating at sublight speeds. Expanding the network of mattercasters is the work of generations. Humans have invested centuries in this task, but have only explored a ...