Monday, 19 November 2018

Wanda And Kinna

In Poul Anderson's The Shield Of Time, Wanda Tamberly enrolls in the Time Patrol Academy in the Oligocene period and is invited to dinner by Guion, an Unattached agent who works within the Patrol. A machine brings them drinks. In Anderson's The Fleet Of Stars, 7, Kinna Ronay enrolls in the University of Cromelin on Mars and is invited to dinner by Chuan, the synnoiont (human-AI liaison) of Mars. At a signal from Chuan, a servitor brings wine and Mozart plays. I thought that these two scenes were similar. Future domestic technology will make it unnecessary to move.

Yet again we encounter futuristic furniture:

"Kinna took a chair but did not at once relax into its form-fitting embrace." (p. 91)

Often, Anderson's characters are too tense to relax and enjoy their comfortable furniture.

Soulquest

Poul Anderson, The Fleet Of Stars, 6.

See Virtual Ultimate Reality?

A Soulquest Prior says:

"'Soulquest is much misunderstood. It did begin as a search for God, insight, ultimate truth, through cybernetics. But in the course of lifetimes, more and more the dream appeared empty. Few of us pursue it any longer. We draw on the system mainly for information, analyses, overviews, and symbolic virtualities. I myself do not seek enlightenment, only...reconciliation.'" (p. 74)

What? They didn't find enlightenment through computers so they stopped seeking enlightenment? The source of enlightenment is where it always was, within. What is the nature of being and consciousness? We are and we are conscious so what prevents us from answering the question? Inner delusions - to be dissolved by meditation.

Unrest

Poul Anderson, The Fleet Of Stars, 6.

There is no longer a President of the Federation but a Prefect of the Synesis. A speech by the Prefect provokes riots on Earth and the Moon. Today, in Lancaster, a newspaper headline informed me that troops are being deployed in case of civil unrest caused by the terms of the British withdrawal from the European Union!

The Prefect voices the inflammatory "'...conjecture...'" (p. 78) that Anson Guthrie on Demeter did not want Demetrians to hear new ideas that would make them question his rule. Of course we know that this cannot be true of Guthrie but see how it is possible to smear someone without even lying. You look peaceful but I "conjecture" that you are secretly planning violence...

Years ago, the then Archbishop of York said that the Resurrection of Christ must be an event of spiritual significance and cannot be a mere "trick with bones." I heard him say this on TV and thought nothing of it. Next, the TV news reported that the Archbishop of York had used the phrase, "trick with bones," in relation to the Resurrection of Christ! Political equivalent: I say, "No one can say that Winston Churchill was a traitor to his country." Then it it is (correctly) reported that I have used the phrase, "traitor to his country," in relation to Winston Churchill.

The Prefect accurately argues that:

cerebral data-storage capacity is finite;
endlessly accumulating memories would cause dementia;
memories could be edited, and stored elsewhere, with each new resurrection;
but then the eventual personality would no longer be identical with the original;
therefore, literal immortality is impossible.

A valid point. However, I agree with Fenn:

"'Um-m, a point. But I don't think I'd mind a run of several thousand years, myself. And after that - who knows?'" (p. 82)

The Prefect continues to use loaded language by saying that "'...the unnatural descent...'" (ibid.) of downloading and resurrection must eventually lead to extinction. Why is technological prolongation of life "unnatural" and should we not extend life if we can?

The Scenes So Far

I have reread Poul Anderson's The Fleet Of Stars as far as Chapter 6 (of 32) and p. 84 (of 403) and, so far, the settings have been:

the island of Tamura on Amaterasu, the terraformed fourth planet of Beta Hydri;

Zamok Sabyel', an orbiting stronghold in the system of Alpha Centauri A which is full of shards from a recent planetary collision;

Proserpina, a colonized asteroid in the Kuiper Belt of the Solar System;

the Habitat in Lunar orbit;

a Lunar city;

a plantation and a desert on the colonized planet, Mars;

download Guthrie's spacecraft as he makes two interstellar crossings -

- and we know of, although we are never shown, two other extra-solar colonies.

All this happens in a tiny volume of galactic space. Reading sf decades ago, I never knew that there was a Kuiper Belt or an Oort Cloud. Zamok Sabyel' and the Habitat are two enormous artifacts. The Proserpinan and Lunar environments are artificial and enclosed but spacious. Martian colonists live in airtight houses and cannot breathe the Martian air. Amaterasu already had oxygen in its atmosphere and is being made more Earth-like. Although this fictional universe is not human-friendly, two human species as well as post-organic intelligences are able to proliferate through it.

Life On Mars

Poul Anderson, The Fleet Of Stars, 5.

In Martian gravity, Lunarians become short and stocky whereas Terrans become tall and thin. We knew that, didn't we?

Terrans traveling into the desert record a travel plan whereas  the reckless Lunarians, bound by honor, not by law, do not.

Lunarians release, hunt, kill, repair, then re-release, eight-legged, solar-powered robots.

Phobos, small and visibly lumpy, casts shadows and climbs rapidly but presumably dos not "hurtle" (ERB).

Martians cannot afford self-guiding machinery because successive Terrestrial regimes have not fully supported interplanetary colonization. Society limits technology.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Similarities And Differences Between Lunarian And Terran Plantations On Mars

Poul Anderson, The Fleet Of Stars, 5, p. 61.

Similarities
A buried network of aquaria with ice worms and other symbionts supplies a mat of low-growing solaria;

roots, bacteria, agrichemistry and machines create soil incorporating clatherated water, minerals and humus.

Differences
Terrans raise plants requiring intensive attention;

Lunarians favor ironroot, amberwood and ramalana for trade;

a Lunarian plantation includes Mars corn and a vaquetilla sheltering vegetables.

And every single future society imagined by Poul Anderson is realized with this amount of detail.

Water

Poul Anderson, The Fleet Of Stars, 5, pp. 59-60.

Earthlings stride; Selenites bound; Martians lope.

A Lunarian "etaine" mines a water lode and a "courai" markets the water but the lode will soon be used up.

The Terrestrial "Synesis" stopped exporting water to Mars because the Martians had a supply and the easily mined comets had been used up.

On Luna, everything is of necessity sealed tight whereas, on Mars, water molecules escape into the atmosphere where ultraviolet radiation cracks them apart so that the oxygen binds to rocks while the hydrogen escapes into space. Soon, Martians will face the following options:

live underground;
leave Mars;
build ships and robots to mine the Kuiper Belt;
trade with the Proserpinans.

Their problems are similar to ours but also different.

Mars And The Milky Way

Poul Anderson, The Fleet Of Stars, 5.

A by now familiar scene but this time viewed from the Martian surface:

stars seen clearly and abundantly when there has been no wind;

"...the Milky Way frozenly cataracting through silence..." (p. 58);

Deimos, glimmering and moving slowly (not fast as in ERB);

Earth, "coruscant blue..." (ibid.)

One of Isaac Asimov's Black Widower stories turns on the observation that, from Mars, Earth's Moon should be visible as an orb alongside Earth.

Thunder

"The last thing he heard was thunder. It sounded like the hoofs of horses bearing westward the Hunnish midnight."
-Poul Anderson, "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2010), pp. 333-465 AT 374, p. 465.

As we have noticed before, Huns and thunder approach together.

"He went into his room and shut the door, and immediately afterwards I heard him turn the key in the lock.
"Overhead there was a low rumbling of thunder. The storm was coming nearer.
"I went to bed with a slightly uneasy feeling induced by the sound of that turning key.
"It suggested, very faintly, sinister possibilities."
-Agatha Christie, Curtain: Poirot's Last Case (Glasgow, 1980), CHAPTER SEVENTEEN, p. 155.

Here, thunder and murder approach together. Thunder plays an identical role in both narratives.

Colonizing Mars

In Robert Heinlein's Future History, Earthmen colonize the Moon, Mars and Venus and, in one of his earlier Scribner Juveniles that are closely connected to the Future History, Ganymede also is terraformed and colonized.

In Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History, these same planets are colonized.

In Larry Niven's Known Space future history, Earthmen, knowing that Venus is uninhabitable and preferring to avoid deep gravity wells, colonize and exploit the asteroids so that before long the Belt needs a Political Section to deal with the UN Earth-Moon government.

In Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains, gravity control makes it possible to terraform and colonize the asteroids.

In Anderson's The Fleet Of Stars:

the Moon is colonized as "...a site for solar energy collectors and a staging area for interplanetary operations..." (5, p. 53);

wealth is mined from asteroids and comets;

Mars is colonized because -

the volcanoes, water and atmosphere of the early Mars had concentrated valuable materials;

low gravity and proximity made it easy for colonists to supply asteroidal workers with food, goods etc;

life support does not require Lunar-style domes or excavations - airtight buildings suffice;

metamorphic plants can grow on the surface;

both Terrans and Lunarians can reproduce in Martian gravity.

The Republic of Mars becomes a nation that endures even when the asteroids are no longer being mined.