Thursday, 23 March 2017

More Kinds Of Interactions

See here.

The nature of an interaction may be ambiguous:

"Whether in superstition or in metaphor, Cerialis replied, surprisingly quietly, 'That will depend on the goddess, won't it?'"
-Poul Anderson, "Star of the Sea" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), pp. 467-640 AT p. 609.

Or theistic language may continue to be used when there is no longer any belief in it:

"A man had to take whatever the gods offered him, and they were a miserly lot."
-Poul Anderson, "Brave To Be A King" IN Time Patrol, pp. 55-112 AT p. 74 -

- especially when, as in this case, the individual is operating in an appropriate milieu.

Treating strangers as if they are gods or angels in disguise is good policy. Polytheism appeals to my imagination though not to my intellect. It would be good if invoking Neptune or St Nicholas before embarking on a sea voyage made a difference - but we can continue to appreciate the stories and imagery in any case. Presumably no one repeating the story of St Christopher believes that it is literally true?

Three Kinds Of Interactions With The Supernatural

Narratives in which:

the gods are real and come on stage, e.g., Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword;

the gods are real but remain off stage although their effects are felt, e.g., Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys;

the gods are real according to the characters, e.g.:

"...a stranger met might be anything from an outlaw to a wood-sprite or a godling in disguise."
-SM Stirling, A Meeting At Corvallis (New York, 2007), Chapter One, p. 15.

Norman Arminger role plays Norman brutality, complete with a tame Church, whereas the Dunedain role play Tolkien heroics, complete with references to that author's invented mythology. This plus Wicca make them "...Satan-worshippers...'" (p. 5), according to the "Normans."

Poul Anderson shows us Normans in Sicily, wrote Norse-derived heroic fantasy independently of Tolkien and also wrote some post-disaster fiction.


SM Stirling, A Meeting At Corvallis (New York, 2007), Chapter One, p. 12.

After the Change, these school subjects are boring:

"'...all that hooey.'"

These subjects are more like real life:

King Arthur;
Robin Hood;
Niall of the Nine Hostages;
Thor's trip to Jotunheim;
A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Connections with Poul Anderson's works:

Niall of the Nine Hostages destroyed Ys;
the former King of Ys formed a defensive alliance with British leaders of the generation before Arthur;
an immortal met the original of Arthur;
Anderson's fantasies feature Thor and a trip to Jotunheim although not Thor's trip to Jotunheim;
A Midsummer Tempest is a sequel to A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest.

And why did Shakespeare not write a Robin Hood play, having mentioned Robin in As You like It?

Fiction And Reality II

Yesterday was a day of fiction-reality interaction on the blog:

Lancaster, with its rich and varied history and Asian and European immigrants, feels like a precursor of Poul Anderson's Terran Empire - but that is because fiction reflects reality, in this case with international and interracial relationships projected onto an interstellar and inter-species scale;

we enjoy sitting at home safely reading about the exploits of Dominic Flandry while the media reports wars waged by Parliaments and, yesterday, an attack on the British Parliament.

When we read science fiction in the twentieth century, 2017 was part of the future but now, in 2017, it is the present from which humanity might advance to a high tech future like Anderson's Technic History or regress to a post-technological future like SM Stirling's Emberverse. (Stirling's fictional premise is that technology simply stops working but we can imagine several other ways to lose technology either through natural events or through our own actions.)

Today, plans are changing but I might be out in the good weather and not blogging as much.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Fiction And Reality

Dominic Flandry and his fiancee, Kossara Vymezal, march with Merseians to the Dennitzan Parliament. When Kossara begins to address the Parliament, the building is attacked and she is murdered/martyred. The account of her death is fictional but harrowing so it is not inappropriate to compare it to the kind of real events that are reflected in fiction.

On Saturday, 30,000 people marched through London to Parliament Square where we were addressed by several Members of Parliament. Afterwards, some of us crossed Westminster Bridge to our parked coach. We saw armed police at an entrance to Parliament. Today we hear news reports of an attack on Parliament in which several people, including one policeman, were killed. Fortunately, this real attack was not on the scale of the fictional one.

We did not expect to blog about either slavery or terrorism but cannot always choose our agenda.


Although I concluded the previous post by imagining that the international interactions of Terrestrial history might be followed by something like the interstellar interactions of Poul Anderson's Technic History, I really think that the future history of Anderson's Genesis is much more plausible: post-human intelligences spreading at sub-light speeds through a mostly lifeless galaxy - or maybe through a galaxy where, although organic life is common, everything else - multi-cellularity, consciousness, intelligence, civilization and technology - is rare. All that life requires is energized complex molecules changing randomly until one of them becomes self-replicating. Everything else requires a great deal more.

However, here is a paradox. If a writer of fiction imagines space travellers crossing an immense distance, like to the galactic centre or to another galaxy, but confines his account of those remote regions to what is known about them at the time of writing, then he is definitely wrong. Merely by travelling that far, explorers will learn considerably more than is known at present. As yet, not a single living molecule has been detected off Earth - but extrasolar planets are being detected all the time whereas none were known to exist when I read about the universe in the 1960s. More will be learned but none of it will be anything like what has been imagined.

Lancaster Life And The Blog

The previous post was occasioned by the fact that I had just attended a history class on Lancaster and the slave trade in the Friendship Centre at the Baptist Church near the Town Hall. Lancaster was the fourth biggest English slave port after Liverpool, London and Bristol.

The Baptist Church is almost opposite a Polish language Catholic Church where Sheila taught English to Polish immigrants. We are always involved in international interactions and now look forward to interplanetary and interstellar interactions. Although it will not really happen like this, we meanwhile imagine Adzel converting to Mahayana Buddhism, Axor converting to Jerusalem Catholicism, human Avaonians joining Ythrian choths, Dennitzan children hearing Eriau lullabies etc.

Slaves And Immortals

Recurrent themes on the blog include:

slavery in the Roman Empire, the Terran Empire, the Confederate States and the Draka Domination;
parallels with Neil Gaiman;
quotations from James Elroy Flecker.

One work, The Sandman: The Wake, unites these themes:

it is written by Gaiman;
it begins by quoting Flecker and draws imagery from this poem;
in its Epilogue, a black American woman does not understand why her British boyfriend continually apologizes to her for the slave trade - she does not know that he is an immortal and was a slaver.

Immortals interact with Southern States slavery in Poul Anderson's The Boat Of A Million Years. Boat is historical and speculative sf prose whereas Sandman is graphic fantasy. The Egyptian sun god is real in Sandman. Anderson's few immortals are mutants whereas Gaiman's single immortal has made a one-sided deal with Death just as Death's younger brother, Dream, has made a fairer deal with another Englishman, William Shakespeare, who wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest for Dream. Anderson wrote A Midsummer Tempest.

There are two kinds of fictional immortals: those who must move and change their identity every few decades to conceal their immortality (vampires are a sub-set) and those who can live openly in the future. Needless to say, the works of Robert Heinlein and Poul Anderson include both kinds.

Four Reasons To Fight With Swords

Many fictional characters fight with swords because their stories are set in the past.

John Carter fights with a sword because ERB wanted to write "sword and science" sf whether or not this made sense.

Dominic Flandry is able to fight with a sword because the Terran nobility is decadent and therefore practises archaisms.

SM Stirling's Emberversers fight with swords because the premise of their series is that technology and gunpowder have stopped working.

Have I missed anyone? (Addendum: Yes, but I will let readers find it.)

The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson
Rogue Sword by Poul Anderson
"Swordsman of Lost Terra" by Poul Anderson (here)
Swords Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Sword Of The Lady by SM Stirling


Memory is conscious or unconscious. Apparently, every experience is recorded unconsciously. A finite brain cannot accumulate unconscious memories indefinitely. Would memory overload drive an immortal brain mad or would the brain merely stop recording? In Poul Anderson's World Without Stars, the memories of immortals are artificially edited whereas, in Anderson's The Boat Of A Million Years, the handful of immortals learn within themselves how to cope with memory overload. Should we have been shown at least one who did not cope?

If an immortal being were to remain identical with his earlier self, then surely he would have to consciously remember earlier experiences some of the time? However, he would be able to remember any particular experience less and less often as he grew older. Thus, he would effectively become a different person, as if one had died and another had been born, but that is how life works in any case.