Saturday, 24 June 2017

Routes Through The Blogs

Three posts compromise links to a lot of other posts. They are:

Literary Comparisons;
Great Cities;
The Food Thread.

Thus, I hope that any interested readers will be able to find non-linear routes through this and other blogs. There is also a circular sequence of links that can be entered here although I would have to rediscover the precise sequence by trial and error.

The authors listed in "Literary Comparisons" wrote prose fiction, drama, poetry or graphic fiction.

The cities include the mythical Ys, the Biblical Tyre, the present day Birmingham, the future Archopolis, the alien Ardaig, the small market town historically classified as the City of Lancaster and three versions of York (historical, alternative and "AI emulated").

Another route through the blog is to search, e.g., for Martians, immortality, humour/humor or unemployment. So I trust that readers will be able to find informative or interesting lines of thought during periods when less new posts are being published.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Indian Summer II

Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry does two things with Indian summer and autumn;

describes them beautifully;
uses them as an appropriate metaphor for stages in the decline of Technic civilization.

For both, see here.

SM Stirling's Mathilda Arminger experiences an Indian Summer:

"Indian Summer here in the Kickapoo Valley had a dishevelled beauty not quite like anything back home, full of a sadness that was like a recollection of childhood..."
-SM Stirling, The Sword Of The Lady (New York, 2009), Chapter Thirteen, p. 375.

We are told that she does not recollect her actual childhood:

"...but somehow the world itself embodying the feeling the memory brought. The security she'd felt at [her father's] effortless strength, the bitterness not just of loss, but loss of that child's innocent trust." (ibid.)

Innocence lost is the pervading theme of Anderson's Time Patrol series. See here.

Stirling goes on to describe the Indian Summer:

"The leaves were still a mantle of old birch gold and maple crimson, lit at their tops with the last light..." (ibid.)

An Old Friend

A familiar line of poetry is like an old friend:

"Thy captains chase the morning down the sea!"
-SM Stirling, The Sword Of The Lady (New York, 2009), Chapter Thirteen, p. 373.

For previous discussion of this line, see here.
For further discussion of its author, see here.

And, since I am about to make a morning trip to a sea coast, that's all, folks!

Feast

SM Stirling, The Sword Of The Lady (New York, 2009), Chapter Twelve.

It has become a habit to summarize Mr Stirling's descriptions of food although I am thinking that I might take a break from it. It might become:

"A custom more honoured in the breach than the observance..." (see here)

However, here is a feast indeed:

onion, cheese and beer soup, cooked to a family recipe;
bratwurst simmered in beer broth with onions, then grilled, served with buttered crusty rolls, sauerkraut and sauteed onions;
honey-glazed chicken breasts;
steaks with garlic;
pork cops;
racks of ribs;
skewers of venison, lamb and onions;
potatoes with bacon, topped with grated cheese;
beer;
cider;
applejack;
cherry brandy;
peach brandy;
whiskey;
vodka;
pumpkin, apple, peach, cherry or rhubarb pies with thick whipped cream sweetened with maple sugar or honey.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Philosophy II

Poul Anderson's Ivar Frederiksen reflects that it is bleak to believe only in accident. I quote and reply here.

SM Stirling's Sandra Arminger reflects:

"'There are times when it's inconvenient to be an atheist...I simply don't have anyone to be thankful to. My eternal gratitude, O blind and ontologically empty dance of atoms just isn't very satisfying, somehow.'"
-SM Stirling, The Sword Of The Lady (New York, 2009), Chapter Eleven, p. 319.

I completely disagree. Who says that the only alternatives are theism and an empty dance of atoms? That is theist propaganda. "Dancing atoms" are mechanical materialism, not dynamic materialism. The ultimate reality, philosophically called "matter" or "being" because it is independent of consciousness, is energy which takes every form, including the forms both of atoms and of conscious beings.

Blindness is a defect in sighted organisms but not in being as such. In any case, being becomes conscious in animals and human beings. "Ontology" means "knowledge of being" and atoms are one form of being, thus are not "empty" of being. The Buddhist ontological category of "emptiness" means not that nothing exists but that every subject and object of consciouness is a transient interaction, not a permanent substance.

I am "atheist" towards monotheism and agnostic but sceptical towards polytheism and I feel gratitude towards:

being, which takes every form and knows itself through us;
whatever gods may be;
the ancestors without whom we would have nothing.

Literary Geography II

I am reminded of Literary Geography because:

Ian Fleming stated that SMERSH HQ was in 13, Stretenka Ulitsa, Moscow, so a reader sent him a photograph of the building to show that it wasn't;

 much of North America is "Montival";

Nicholas van Rijn has a penthouse in Chicago Integrate (see here), a mansion on Kilimanjaro (see here) and an office in Djakarta (see here);

Terran Admiralty Center is in the Rockies (see here) but we are not told where the capital, Archopolis (see here), is.

I suppose that future and alternative geographies differ from allegedly real geographies. Fleming claimed in an Author's Note that his information was accurate. But, in terms of literary geography, SMERSH HQ is exactly where Ian Fleming says it is.

The Hardest Thing

SM Stirling The Sword Of The Lady (New York, 2009), Chapter Eleven, p. 315.

The Lady Regent Sandra Arminger tells everyone, including her confidential secretary, to leave her, then reflects:

"Sometimes that's the hardest thing to take...Never really being alone anymore. They're always there, listening, watching, may their dear loyal souls fry." (p. 315)

Time Patrolman Keith Denison/Cyrus the Great tells his colleague, Manse Everard:

"'Sometimes I've thought that's the hardest thing to take about this situation, never having a minute to myself. The best I can do is throw everybody out of the room I'm in; but they stick around just beyond the door, under the windows, guarding, listening. I hope their dear loyal souls fry.'" (Time Patrol, p. 81)

The Time Patrol remains an endless source of quotations and comparisons.

Small Solutions To Big Problems

Turning to graphic fiction for a change from prose, I read:

"...downsizing conventional numbers and reinvesting in a small, Superhuman Unit for Twenty-First Century problems."
-Mark Millar, The Ultimates, Vol 1, Super-Human (New York, 2005), Chapter Two, Big, p. 7, panel 2.

This speech balloon describes a superhero team but also recalls two of Poul Anderson's time travel organizations. See:

An Army Of One;
Team Work And Individual Excellence.

A Time Patrol Academy graduate armed with weapons from uptime would be equal to Tony Stark who is the superhuman Iron Man only when wearing his suit. Both can replace a battalion.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Will There Be War?

Will the future be like the past, an endless succession of wars and transient civilizations? Not necessarily. Most of the past was not like that. Civilization is a recent invention. A civilization with advanced technolgy but still unresolved internal conflicts can be expected to destroy itself, not to endure through further millennia.

Many of Poul Anderson's works project future wars. However, in different timelines, the Time Wardens Period and the Star Masters period seem to have resolved social conflicts and to have ended wars.

High-tech low-population futures are shown in Midsummer Century by James Blish and in October The First Is Too Late by Fred Hoyle. However:

the Birds attack Blish's Rebirth IV civilization;
Hoyle's future society remains peaceful by staying small and avoiding scientific or technological advances - in other words, they give up.

Filling The Universe

Should human beings spread to fill the universe and try to survive beyond the end of it?

Poul Anderson's characters of whom he approves try to explore and colonize as far as possible and his artificial intelligences have plans to survive the universe. See here. Asimov has a story in which entropy is eventually reversed. See here.

CS Lewis' evil scientist, Weston, wants mankind's descendants to spread throughout the universe but he has no answer for what to do when the last star dies. In Fred Hoyle's October The First Is Too Late, a man living six thousand years in our future argues that stars and galaxies will die and that material continuity is impossible. Hoyle seems to have abandoned his theory of the steady state universe.

Having reread October... to the end, I find that I do not understand everything that happens in it but will leave that discussion to anyone else who wants to read the novel. It is certainly worthy of thought and discussion.

The narrator of October... compares human beings disturbed by the intervention of a higher intelligence to ants disturbed by a man lifting a stone. The same comparison is made in Wells' The War Of The Worlds. Hoyle's future humanity covers a quarter of the Terrestrial land surface, an issue that we discussed here.

I think that that completes current thoughts on this novel by Fred Hoyle. It has been a fascinating digression.