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Encyclopedia > Dorsai!

The Childe Cycle is an unfinished series of science fiction novels by Gordon R. Dickson. The name Childe Cycle is an allusion to Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, a poem by Robert Browning, which provided considerable inspiration for elements in Dickson's magnum opus. Science fiction is a form of speculative fiction principally dealing with the impact of imagined science and technology, or both, upon society and persons as individuals. ... Gordon Rupert Dickson (November 1, 1923 - January 31, 2001) was a Canadian science fiction author. ... Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came painted by Thomas Moran in 1859 Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came is a poem by Robert Browning, written in 1855, first published that same year in the collection entitled Men and Women. ... Robert Browning For information about Robert X. Browning, Director of the C-SPAN archives, see Robert X. Browning. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ...

The series is sometimes referred to as the Dorsai series, as the Dorsai people are central to the series. The related short stories and novellas all center around the Dorsai, primarily members of the Graeme and Morgan families. The first story published, Dorsai! was originally to have been titled The Swissman, a reference to the Swiss pikemen of centuries past. It was published as a novel in Astounding Science Fiction. Astounding Stories was a seminal science fiction magazine founded in 1930. ...

While, on the face of it, the Childe Cycle is a science fiction series, it is also an allegory. In addition to the six science fiction novels of the Cycle, Dickson had also planned three historical novels and three novels taking place in the present day. It is known that one of the three historical novels would have dealt with John Milton, the author of Paradise Lost. Judging from the frequent mentions of him in the published science fiction portion of the Cycle, Sir John Hawkwood, a 14th century mercenary, would probably have been the subject of another. At least one of the contemporary novels was expected to deal with issues of space colonization, beginning a thread continuing through Necromancer and concluding with the full formation of the Splinter Cultures.[citation needed] An allegory (from Greek αλλος, allos, other, and αγορευειν, agoreuein, to speak in public) is a figurative mode of representation conveying a meaning other than (and in addition to) the literal. ... John Milton, English poet John Milton (December 9, 1608 – November 8, 1674) was an English poet, best-known for his epic poem Paradise Lost. ... Title page of the first edition Paradise Lost is an epic poem by the 17th-century English poet John Milton. ... Sir John Hawkwood (1320-1394) was an English mercenary or condottiere in the 14th century Italy. ... This 14th-century statue from south India depicts the gods Shiva (on the left) and Uma (on the right). ... A mercenary is a soldier who fights or engages in warfare primarily for private gain, usually with little regard for ideological, national, or political considerations, however, when the term mercenary is used to refer to a soldier of a national, regular army, it usually is an insult, epithet or pejorative. ...

As originally envisioned, the Cycle was to stretch from the 14th century to the 24th century; the completed books begin in the 21st century. The cycle deals with the conflict between progress and conservatism. It also deals with the interaction and conflict among humanity's traits, most importantly Courage, Faith, and Philosophy. This 14th-century statue from south India depicts the gods Shiva (on the left) and Uma (on the right). ... The 24th century (Gregorian Calendar) comprises the years 2301-2400. ... The 21st century is the present century of the Gregorian calendar. ...



The science fiction novels of the main Childe Cycle include:

The final book, to have been titled Childe, had not been completed at the time of Dickson's death, and has never been published. This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ...

In addition, there are four shorter pieces and two novels that take place in the same fictional universe as the Childe Cycle, but are not part of the core cycle. A fictional universe is a cohesive imaginary world that serves as the setting or backdrop for one or (more commonly) multiple works of fiction. ...

  • Lost Dorsai (novella) and Warrior (short story), published together in Lost Dorsai (1981)
  • Amanda Morgan (novella) and Brothers (short story), published together in The Spirit of Dorsai (1979)

In the latter volume, the stories are framed by a conversation between Hal Mayne and the Third Amanda Morgan, during the events of The Final Encyclopedia. Warrior (1965) and Brothers (1973) had previously appeared in other publications. The four works have since been collected in one volume as The Dorsai Companion (1986). A novella is a short novel; a narrative work of prose fiction somewhat longer than a short story but shorter than a novel. ... This article is in need of attention. ... A novella is a short novel; a narrative work of prose fiction somewhat longer than a short story but shorter than a novel. ... This article is in need of attention. ... Amanda Morgan (also ap Morgan for generations after the First Amanda. ...

The two other novels are:

  • Young Bleys (1991)
  • Other (1994)

These two novels concern the background and development of Bleys Ahrens, the antagonist of The Final Encyclopedia and The Chantry Guild. They take place in the decades leading up to those books, and were apparently added to the original series outline to provide more detail of the ultimate conflict in Childe.

The first published reference to the Dorsai came in Lulungomeena, a short story published in 1954, in Galaxy Magazine and later dramatized on the X Minus One radio program. The narrator is a man from "the Dorsai planets," who has been working far from home for a long time. A hint was given of the nature of the Dorsai people as tough and matter-of-fact, but little else was told of them at that time. Galaxy Science Fiction magazine was the creation of noted pulp magazine editor Horace Leonard Gold, generally known as H. L. Gold. ... Some listeners to Robert Heinleins Universe had previously read the story in Dells 1951 paperback edition. ...


The main sequence novels basically fall into four periods approximately a century apart.

  • Necromancer - Late 21st century, shortly before humanity begins star travel
  • Tactics of Mistake - Late 22nd century, in the early development of the splinter cultures
  • Soldier, Ask Not and Dorsai! occur around the same time as each other, and overlap, with some events described in both novels. Late 23rd century, after the splinter cultures have fully developed.
  • The Final Encyclopedia, followed by The Chantry Guild - Mid-24th century, as the final conflict develops among the cultures.
  • The final planned volume, Childe, was to resolve the conflict which had been set up in the last two books. Its events would immediately follow the events of The Chantry Guild.

Many prefer to read the early novels in the order they were written rather than the chronological order of the events. Specifically, there are elements in Necromancer which are much clearer if one has already read Dorsai!

Splinter Cultures

By the late 21st century, human culture begins to fragment into different aspects. Following the events of Necromancer, humanity has colonized some 14 Younger Worlds. The inhabitants of these worlds have evolved culturally, and to some extent, genetically, into several specialized Splinter Cultures. This was done by the racial collective unconscious itself as an experiment to see what aspects of humanity are the most important. The inhabitants of Earth (now called Old Earth, since New Earth is one of the Younger Worlds) remain "full spectrum humans" as a control. Collective unconscious is a term of analytical psychology originally coined by Carl Jung. ... In the scientific method, a control experiment is an experiment where the variable that is being investigated or tested is kept constant. ...

The interstellar economy is based on the exchange of specialists, which puts Old Earth, the jack of all trades, at something of a disadvantage.

Of all the Splinter Cultures, three are the most successful:

  • The Dorsai (Courage): The Dorsai, inhabitants of a Younger World also called Dorsai, are honorable, elite mercenaries. Given the book-selling nature of their occupation, the Childe Cycle focuses mainly on their exploits, to the extent that the Cycle is sometimes called the "Dorsai series". The culture tends to have a number of Gaelic influences, including a love for the bagpipes, although their ancestry is drawn from all races and cultures. Dickson also mentioned in lectures that the "ethnic food" of the Dorsai is fish and chips, due to the great amount of surface water and oceans on their homeworld, with mutton being the most common red meat in the Dorsai diet.
  • The Exotics (Philosophy): The Exotics are the inhabitants of Mara and Kultis. They are peaceful philosophers, the descendants of the 21st century Chantry Guild. The traits which Dickson assigns to the Exotics in many ways mirror the Human Potential Movement of the 1960s, in combining elements of Eastern philosophy and religion with psychology. The Exotics clearly have some vaguely described level of paranormal powers. They can, among other things, communicate between star systems far more quickly than a ship can travel, an ability no other culture has. The Exotics hire themselves out as psychiatrists and mediators, among other things. (Commentary: the paranormal abiity of the Exotics is never shown definitively, and one of the later novels (reference required) states that their communications ability is based the use of a carefully hidden network of spaceships used innovatively, rather than on paranormal abilities.)
  • The Friendlies (Faith/Fanaticism): The somewhat ironically named Friendlies inhabit the worlds of Harmony and Association. Friendlies can be true faith-holders, or they can be fanatics. The difference, according to the Cycle, is that true faith-holders are guided by their faith, while fanatics use their faith to justify their actions. The Friendly homeworlds experience continual sectarian civil war. On their home planets, they are primarily agrarian, but, like the Dorsai, they earn interstellar credit as mercenaries, fighting in other people's wars. Unlike the Dorsai, Friendly mercenaries are drafted cannon-fodder, with largely green troops and high casualty rates. However, they are tenacious defenders. While the Friendlies are sometimes presented as villains, their faith is co-equal in importance to humanity with the Courage of the Dorsai and the Philosophy of the Exotics. A recurring theme in the series is the experience of a young man placed among Friendlies, forced to gain respect for them. Dickson based the Friendlies on the Oliver Cromwell's "Roundheads" of the English Civil War.

Other Splinter Cultures include the hard scientists of Newton and Venus, the miners of Coby, the fishermen of Dunnin's World, the engineers of Cassida, the Catholic farmers of St. Marie, and the merchants of Ceta. The 21st century is the present century of the Gregorian calendar. ... The Human Potential Movement came out of the social and intellectual milieu of the 1960s and was formed to promote the cultivation of extraordinary potential believed to be largely untapped in most people. ... This does not cite its references or sources. ... Psychology is an academic and applied field involving the scientific study of mental processes and behavior. ... Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that studies and treats mental and emotional disorders (see mental illness). ... Oliver Cromwell (April 25, 1599–September 3, 1658) was an English military and political leader best known for making England a republic and leading the Commonwealth of England. ... The Roundheads was the nickname given to supporters of the Parliamentarian cause in the English Civil War. ... The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations which took place between Parliamentarians (known as Roundheads) and Royalists (known as Cavaliers) from 1642 until 1651. ...

The internal consistency of the series suggests that the resolution to be sought in Childe is the evolution of Responsible Man, individuals who integrate the three disciplines of the Dorsai, the Exotics, and the Friendlies to the overall advancement of humanity, and who do possess explicit if not yet well-defined paranormal abilities. As of The Chantry Guild, only Donal Graeme/Hal Mayne has achieved the full status of Responsible Man. The conflict which drives this evolution is the developing war between Old Earth, supplemented by the Dorsai and the Exotics, and the organization of Others led by Bleys Ahrens, with the aid of the Friendlies and a powerful (but largely irrelevant to the psychological conflcit) coalition of the technically inclined younger worlds. The strength of the Others is that they are hybrids of two of the Splinter Cultures (Ahrens is of Friendly and Exotic extraction), and while less capable than the emerging Responsible Men they are significantly more numerous, and more interested in gaining power for themselves (as by Ahrens using his combined background to manipulate the entire Friendly culture to support his war against the Dorsai, Exotics, and Old Earth).

Planets of the Childe Cycle

Dickson has admitted that he was frequently inconsistent on the total number of inhabited worlds. The correct total is sixteen, counting Old Earth, under nine stars. (Of the list below, Oriente is not inhabited.)

  • Sol
    • Mercury – Site of Project: Springboard during the 21st century. Not a major inhabbited world.
    • Venus – Hard Science culture. Research stations were set up early, expanded, and eventually became connected together.
    • Old Earth – Homeworld of Humanity, and most populated and richest of the worlds. Politically not very united.
    • Mars – First human colony to be terraformed. Cold, and is not a major power.
  • Alpha Centauri – Has 12 planetary bodies.
    • Newton – Hard Science culture, the leading world in science. It is also known to have the best physicists.
    • Cassida – Hard Science culture, known for its technicans and engineers. A poor world, it also provided mercenaries.
  • Altair
    • Dunnin's World - A harsh, dry world, with low population and resources.
  • Epsilon Eridani – Both Harmony and Association are ruled by the Joint Church Council (United Council of Churches). Both worlds are known for their cheap but poor mercenaries.
    • Association - Poor world, lacking in many resources and has poor soil for growing crops.
    • Harmony - Similar to Association.
  • Fomalhaut
    • Dorsai – A watery world of primarily island settlements. Known for having the highest quality professional mercenaries, and for producing soldiers unlike any other.
  • Procyon – Mara and Kultis are ruled by the Exotics, and are known for producing the best psychologists.
    • Mara
    • Kultis
    • Ste. Marie – A small Roman Catholic farming world.
    • Zombri – An uninhabitable small world. Despite this, it is a strategic location.
    • Coby – Mining planet. A world of tunnels and mines, where the surface is uninhabitable. Since all the other settled worlds, unlike Earth, are metal-poor, Coby is the primary source of metals for the other planets.
  • Sirius
    • New Earth – Once had an atmosphere of hydrogen sulphide. By the late 23rd Century, it had long been terraformed with a more breathable atmosphere. Has a large variety of cultures. Atland, a terrority of New Earth, had a civil war fought between the North and South Partitions.
    • Freiland
    • Oriente – an uninhabited planet, airless with a highly eccentric orbit. It is important only as a strategic military base in Dorsai!
  • Tau Ceti
    • Ceta – Commercial low-gravity planet.

Standards Of Learning SOL stands for The Standards Of Learning. ... Alpha Centauri (α Cen / α Centauri) is the brightest star system (a triple star system) in the southern constellation of Centaurus, and contains the fourth brightest star in the night sky, with an apparent visual magnitude of −0. ... Altair (α Aql / α Aquilae / Alpha Aquilae / Atair ) is the brightest star in the constellation Aquila and the twelfth brightest star in the nighttime sky, at visual magnitude 0. ... Epsilon Eridani (ε Eri / ε Eridani) is a main-sequence K2 class star in the constellation of Eridanus. ... Fomalhaut (α PsA / α Piscis Austrini / Alpha Piscis Austrini) is the brightest star in the constellation Piscis Austrinus and one of the brightest stars in the nighttime sky. ... Procyon (α CMi / α Canis Minoris / Alpha Canis Minoris) is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Minor and the eighth brightest star in the nighttime sky. ... Sirius (α CMa / α Canis Majoris / Alpha Canis Majoris) is the brightest star in the night-time sky, with a visual apparent magnitude of −1. ... Tau Ceti (τ Cet / τ Ceti) is a star commonly mentioned by science fiction authors since it is similar to the Sun in mass and spectral type in addition to being relatively close to us. ...

Primary characters

  • Necromancer
Paul Formain
Walter Blunt
Kantele Maki
  • Tactics of Mistake
Cletus Grahame
Eachan Khan
Melissa Khan Grahame
Dow deCastries
  • Soldier, Ask Not
Tam Olyn (as a young man)
Jamethon Black
Kensie and Ian Graeme (Great-grandsons of Cletus and Melissa)
  • Dorsai!
Donal Graeme (Great-great-grandson of Cletus and Melissa)
Anea Marlivana
William of Ceta
Ian Graeme
  • The Final Encyclopedia and Chantry Guild
Hal Mayne
Tam Olyn (as a very old man)
Bleys Ahrens
Amanda Morgan (the third of that name)

Amanda Morgan (also ap Morgan for generations after the First Amanda. ...


Throughout the series, Dickson's primary interest is the characters, not the hardware, much of which is explained only to the point where the reader will understand how it relates to the people around it and thus share the author's imagery.


The invention of the hyperdrive allowed the colonization of the Younger Worlds. (The hyperdrive used in the Childe Cycle appears in many of Gordon R. Dickson's works.) It uses an application of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. During a jump, a spaceship's position becomes infinitely uncertain, and occupies every position in the universe, before resolving again at a specific point. The jump itself is instanteous, but each jump requires a lengthy calculation. A jump is never exact, and long journeys require several jumps, each getting closer to the final destination. A certain percentage of jumps never resolve, and the ships are never seen again. Because of this, the higher the number of jumps, the greater the risk. By the 24th century, a ship could jump directly off a planet's surface, but only the Dorsai are brave/foolhardy enough to do this on a routine basis. Hyperdrive is a name given to certain methods of traveling faster than light (FTL) in science fiction. ... Gordon Rupert Dickson (November 1, 1923 - January 31, 2001) was a Canadian science fiction author. ... In quantum physics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, sometimes called the Heisenberg indeterminacy principle, expresses a limitation on accuracy of (nearly) simultaneous measurement of observables such as the position and the momentum of a particle. ... The 24th century (Gregorian Calendar) comprises the years 2301-2400. ...

When the hyperdrive was first invented, a jump would cause passengers severe disorientation. During the Necromancer period (21st century), the disorientation was so bad that the technology was limited to inanimate cargos. The invention of certain drugs enabled human passengers to use the hyperdrive. By the 23rd century, these drugs were only necessary in the case of repeated jumps. By the 24th century, the jumps were hardly noticeable. The 21st century is the present century of the Gregorian calendar. ... The 23rd century (Gregorian Calendar) comprises the years 2201-2300. ... The 24th century (Gregorian Calendar) comprises the years 2301-2400. ...

Except for the hyperdrive, technology is not a large part of the Childe Cycle. This is partly because the "science fiction" is used mainly as a setting, the real focus of the Childe Cycle is elsewhere.


A large part of the series focuses on the exploits of the Dorsai. In the face of escalating countermeasures, the Dorsai choose to use relatively simple weapons, which are less likely to be jammed. The other militaries follow suit. By the 23rd century, the average civilian sports hunter has a more technological weapon than the average soldier. In fact, "advanced" small arms are treated with derision, such as the "Dally Gun" which Cletus uses to break up an ambush in Tactics of Mistake. The Dally Gun is possibly derived from an Armalite weapons system of the 1960s, the Stoner 63, which (like the "Dial-A-Gun" from the story) was designed with interchangeable components for reconfiguration as needed for a particular mission. The Stoner 63 and the Dally Gun were both considered failures. The 23rd century (Gregorian Calendar) comprises the years 2201-2300. ... ArmaLite, originally the ArmaLite Division of the Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation, is one of the most influential corporations in the history of 20th century small arms. ... Caliber: 5. ...

The main infantry weapon throughout the Cycle is the cone rifle. This simple weapon uses chemically self-propelled flechettes. These flechettes are cone shaped, allowing them to be stacked into tubes. The rifles are little more than launching platforms with triggering mechanisms. Because the cones (which explode on impact) accelerate after being fired from the rifle, they are more deadly at long ranges than short. Also used are spring rifles, utilizing a 5,000 sliver magazine in a non-metallic mechanism to fire a sliver up to one thousand meters. The word flechette is French and means dart (literally, little arrow). It is a projectile having the form of a small metal dart, usually steel, with a sharp-pointed tip and a tail with several vanes to stabilize it during flight. ...

Power guns were used (in Brothers, Ian uses his pistol to slag a lock, sealing the room into which he has placed Kensie's body), as well as sonic cannons.

The Final Encyclopedia

While the concept of the Final Encyclopedia as an information construct containing the total sum of human knowledge came about in the early days of computer technology (though including such fictional progenators as the Brain of the Skylark of Valeron in E. E. Smith's Skylark series), the conceptualization anticipated the concept of cyberspace and, of course, of wiki. It is noteworthy that William F. Gibson paralleled Dickson's title Necromancer for his definitive cyberpunk novel, Neuromancer. Gray Lensman in Astounding Oct. ... Binomial name Alauda arvensis Linnaeus, 1758 The Skylark (Alauda arvensis) is a small passerine bird. ... It has been suggested that Virtual world be merged into this article or section. ... A wiki (IPA: <WICK-ee> or <WEE-kee>[1]) is a type of website that allows the visitors themselves to easily add, remove and otherwise edit and change some available content, sometimes without the need for registration. ... William Ford Gibson (born March 17, 1948, Conway, South Carolina) is an American-born science fiction author resident in Canada since 1968. ... Berlins Sony Center in Potsdamer Platz reflects the global reach of a Japanese corporation. ... Neuromancer by William Gibson is the most famous early cyberpunk novel and won the so-called science-fiction triple crown (the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award, and the Hugo Award) after being published in 1984. ...

  Results from FactBites:
Dorsai Spirit by Gordon R. Dickson : Booksamillion.com (0312877617, Paperback) (284 words)
No one man rules the Dorsai, but their mastery of the arts of war has made them the most valuable mercenaries in the human universe.
And The Spirit of Dorsai, written two decades later, is Dickson s great novel of the women of the Dorsai.
For the warrior spirit of the Dorsai does not, cannot reside solely in the men of that race" for when the mercenary Dorsai go to their wars, it is their women who defend their home planet from the predators of the universe.
  More results at FactBites »



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