“Worlds of Origin,” Jack Vance, 1957 — Inspector Magnus Ridolph is on holiday in The Hub, a space station. When a murder occurs, he’s asked by the hotel management to help solve the crime. Ridolph uses “cultural analysis,” a study of each suspect’s world of origin and cultural beliefs, to solve the case.
Comments: Read in Tales of Superscience. Interesting detective story, light-hearted, with a few preliminary meditations on concepts, naming, and language. A warm-up to Vance’s exquisite “The Moon Moth” (1961), perhaps. A nice bit about how “fixing sounds to reality” (using words to represent concepts) causes one to miss intuitions even if it allows for humans to retain concepts in their minds; another brief passage about life being defined by motion.
The Hecatean stepped forward. “You men are amusing beasts. Each of you has his private name. I know who I am, why must I label myself? It is a racial idiosyncrasy, the need to fix a sound to each reality.”
“We like to know what we’re talking about,” said Pascoglu. “That’s how we fix objects in our minds, with names.”
“And thereby you miss the great intuitions,” said the Hecatean. His voice was solemn and hollow. “But you have called me here to question me about the man labeled Bonfils. He is dead.”
Author: Wikipedia: “John Holbrook Vance (born August 28, 1916 in San Francisco, California) is an American mystery, fantasy and science fiction author. Most of his work has been published under the name Jack Vance. He has also written 11 mystery novels as John Holbrook Vance and three as Ellery Queen, and has once each used pseudonyms Alan Wade, Peter Held, John van See, and Jay Kavanse.”