Sunday, 21 January 2018

Important Dates

In futuristic sf, three dates matter:

When was a story published?
When is it set?
When am I reading it?

In Robert Heinlein's Future History, written mostly before 1950, Volumes I and II cover the period, 1951-2000. Volume III is Revolt In 2100.

In James Blish's Cities In Flight, Volume I, They Shall Have Stars (1956), was alternately entitled Year 2018!

The opening installment of Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, "The Saturn Game,":

was published in 1981;
begins with a fictional quotation dated 2057;
is set circa 2055, according to Sandra Miesel's Chronology of Technic Civilization;
is currently being reread and assessed in 2018.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Back To Norfolk

A TV program showed the Norfolk Broads. It was while in Norfolk and visiting Norwich Cathedral, that I conceptualized a synthesis of HG Wells' The Time Machine, Poul Anderson's Time Patrol and the BBC's Doctor Who. See here.

The mechanics of this synthesis were that:

The Danellians are the Time Lords;

the Time Traveler reaches the era of Morlocks and Eloi by passing through a quantum fluctuation.

The Danellians are a post-human evolutionary stage 1,000,000 years hence whereas the Morlocks and Eloi are devolved human beings in 802,701 AD. Thus, they are similar distances in the future although they cannot exist in the same timeline but a quantum fluctuation might account for time travelers encountering both of them and that is the extent of my inspiration this evening. I hope to be more energized soon.

Addendum: For blog references to Dame Julian of Norwich, see In Norwich and Future Ice Ages.

Difficult Words

I have commended Poul Anderson's immense vocabulary. Also:

The extent of Stirling's research is shown by the number of italicized non-English language words in his text. I have stopped googling them because this was interrupting the narrative too much. 
-copied from here.

To some of the guys I was at school with, reading a text with unfamiliar words would have been not a welcome learning experience but an unacceptable chore. Probably some of them never read a book after leaving school although, if they had been able to afford it, then they would have put their sons through the same expensive, single sex, denominational, boarding school, presenting a social facade of "good education."

Neil Gaiman's Rose Walker, reading an out of print fantasy novel, notes words that she will need to find in a dictionary whereas the woman sitting beside her in the plane says:

"That's why I like Judith Krantz, really. You don't have to look up any words with Judith Krantz."
-Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: The Kindly Ones (New York, 1996), 10. p. 22, panel 7.

I intend no insult to Judith Krantz with whom I was previously unfamiliar but not having to look up any words would have been a strong recommendation to some of my school acquaintances at the time when I was starting to read Poul Anderson.

Peasants And Time Travelers

OK. I have remembered the forgotten unwritten post mentioned here.

See the Peasants' Revolt. Would this have been a good time to intervene in English history?

Time travelers join the peasants. Using futuristic weaponry, they stun the king and nobles, thus preventing a military showdown. Next, they help the peasants and town dwellers to organize a system of agricultural production and trade that both employs and feeds everyone and that also enables them to plan longer term without restoring the exploitative feudal order. The time travelers would have to be on their guard against Time Patrol counter-intervention - and that is the problem in the Time Patrol universe.

Our aim - I am imagining myself as one of the time travelers - would be in accordance with the aims of L Sprague de Camp's Martin Padway and of Poul Anderson's Stane, not of Anderson's Neldorians or Exaltationists: to divert history onto a better course. Stane had no protection against the Patrol since he was unaware of its existence.

Unwritten Books II

Despite his massive output, Poul Anderson never wrote that potential sequel to his first fantasy novel, The Broken Sword. See Unwritten Books. On the one hand, the sequel does not exist. On the other hand, it does make sense to wonder what it would have been like. Some fiction writers reflect on the nature of fiction in their fiction, none more than Neil Gaiman in The Sandman. After the unpleasant fairy tale mentioned here, comes the following dialogue -

Magda: I always wondered what happened to the children, after they flew away...
Helena: They're just made-up people. They didn't really exist.
Magda: That doesn't mean they don't have stories.
-Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: The Kindly Ones (New York, 1996), 6, p. 18, panel 1.

Every character that is still alive at the end of a story has more stories even if we do not read them. There are many in Poul Anderson's works.

Good Morning

Here, we are still sitting around in nightwear, recovering from bad colds. Last night, I had an idea for a post but was too tired to write it. Now, I cannot remember it. Let this post be its memorial.

Whenever I reread Poul Anderson's excellent time travel novel, There Will Be Time, I skip past Jack Havig's satirical political pamphlet which does not appeal to me - the one sour note in a brilliant sf novel. Whenever I reread Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: The Kindly Ones, I skip past an illustrated fairy tale narrated by one of the characters, Gaiman's point being that the earliest versions of the fairy tales were indeed unpleasant.

The Sandman feels similar to Anderson's time travel fiction because it includes installments set in ancient Africa, Greece, Rome, Baghdad, China etc, through six centuries of English history and during the French Revolution and there is even limited time travel in the "soft places." A University course in Science Fiction might incorporate Anderson-Gaiman Studies.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Detectives II

Isaac Asimov's and Larry Niven's future histories each incorporate a detective series. Poul Anderson's Technic History does not but could have. There are bound to be both private and police detectives in Chicago Integrate and Archopolis. In fact, Nicholas van Rijn applies Poirot-like deductive skills in order to understand new planetary environments and alien species whereas Dominic Flandry is an Intelligence agent, which is detective work on a larger scale.

In the Psychotechnic History, two early stories are about UN Intelligence men.

The Stars Are Also Fire incorporates a murder investigation.

In the Rustum timeline, a private investigator implies that he is descended from Holmes.

In the Maurai History, Intelligence men have to monitor technology.

In After Doomsday, detective work is necessary in order to discover who destroyed Earth.


The next thing on TV is a regular series of GK Chesterton's Father Brown albeit with original scripts. Poul Anderson wrote Catholic priests and a detective series although not both together.

There are specialist detective fiction bookshops just as there are specialist fsf bookshops. Presumably Anderson's Trygve Yamamura novels are on sale in the former. Does anyone know Anderson only as a crime fiction author?

One way to diversify detective novels is to make the detective unusual:

the first consulting detective;
a British aristocrat;
a retired Belgian policeman;
an English spinster;
a Catholic priest;
a Japanese-Norwegian San Franciscan Buddhist ex-policeman;
a Sicilian Police Inspector.

Probably every interesting variation has been imagined by now. I like Yamamura and am closer to his wavelength than to Brown's.

Westminster Abbey And Back To The Future

Reading Poul Anderson in Britain, I am pleased to find Anderson's references to British history.

Watching TV while still recuperating from a cold, we find a Time Team program about Westminster Abbey.

These two lines of thought come together beautifully here:

"...many years ago, on my first visit to London, I was wandering through that charming old junkshop they call Westminster Abbey and abruptly, without warning, came upon the grave of Isaac Newton. The memory of that can still send a tingle up my spine."
-Poul Anderson, "The Discovery of the Past" IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 182-206 AT pp. 182-183.

The concluding paragraph of "The Discovery of the Past" lists the ways in which we can mentally visit the past:

contemporary writings;
modern scholarship;
archaeological and historical fiction;
sf time travel.

Then, at the bottom of p. 206:

"We can return pleased, refreshed, better able to understand our own age and even, it may be, the future."
-op. cit., p. 206.

The following page begins with the Title, "Flight to Forever."

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Perrenial Professions?

An immortal living through history needs to move around to conceal his longevity and also needs to earn a living. Some fictional immortals practice different lines of business down the centuries. At least two that I know of identify a kind of work which they think will always be needed and stay with that.

For Poul Anderson's example, see More On Patulcius.

Neil Gaiman's Bernie Capax:

""From time to time he's done other things, but mostly he's been a lawyer of one kind or another.
"People always need lawyers."
-Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: Brief Lives (New York, 1994), Chapter 3, p. 2, panel 1.

So what happens to them? Capax dies when a wall falls on him and Patulcius outlives the need for archivists.