Thursday, 26 January 2017


I have long been dissatisfied by most allegedly "science fiction" movies and TV shows.  I've seen very little of either real science or at least semi-plausible speculative advances of science in them.  And I have to say that most of them are also unsatisfactory when it comes to extrapolating possible changes, advances, retrogressions, etc., in both human and non human societies in the future.  And that reminds me of how unconvincing I've seen speculative depictions of what non human alien races LOOK like.

Poul Anderson was and is one of the few science fiction writers who have really pleased and satisfied me as regards the points I listed in the prior paragraph.  Even when he goes beyond what we currently know in the sciences, he is careful to explain how things like a FTL drive MIGHT work (and SOME scientists don't totally dismiss FTL as a possibility).  Anderson is also very convincing in showing how human societies of the future might arise and work.  And I especially admire the skill and care in how he worked out ways non human intelligent races might evolve, live, think, organize themselves into societies, etc.

I have long wished some adventurous movie producer or director would take a chance and try filming versions of some of Anderson's stories and novels. It's my view that cinematic versions of his Nicholas van Rijn and Dominic Flandry tales would be good candidates for such an effort.  I have thought that a good choice for such an experiment would be a filmed version of Anderson's "The Game Of Glory."  Because that story might need only minimal special effects and could be filmed mostly in, say, the Bahamas Islands.  I think a film like that would be a good way for a producer/director to gain experience in how to satisfactorily produce cinematic versions of some of Anderson's stories.

Here I digress a bit.  Many of the STAR WARS movies famously begins with a textual crawl beginning with the words "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..."  The purpose of the textual crawl is to impart to viewers some background information and help set the mood desired for watching the movies.  It's my belief that any filmed versions of the Nicholas van Rijn or Dominic Flandry stories should begin with a similar textual crawl.  AND, a text that could be used for introducing any Flandry movies already exists.  I have a first edition hardback  copy of Anderson's collection FLANDRY OF TERRA (Chilton Books: 1965).  The jacket cover text for this edition would, with some editing, make a very good textual crawl for these hypothetical Flandry movies.  The text below was copied from the book jacket.
Captain Sir Dominic Flandry of Terra's Imperial Naval Intelligence Corps returns, dashing and debonair as ever, for more adventures among the stars

Long before Flandry was born, mankind had spread widely through the galaxy.  Humans had colonized many strange planets.  Then came a Time of Troubles out of which eventually arose the Terran Empire, rich and peaceful.  But some of those ancient colonies had been lost, and in these lost colonies, civilization had gone its own curious ways.

Now the Empire has grown old.  It wants nothing but peace in which to enjoy the pleasures of its wealth.  No longer are the barbarians and the rival, non-human powers held at bay.  Hungrily, they press inward.  Only a few devoted men risk their lives to stop the march against mankind.

Captain Flandry is one of these.  Spying, intriguing, fighting--joking, drinking, wenching--he goes from world to world on his lonely missions.
The text quoted above was a general summary--next came material specifically relating to the stories in FLANDRY OF TERRA.  The material I'll be quoting should be included after the text quoted above for the movies made for different stories.  For Nyanza, the planet seen in "The Game Of Glory," the book jacket said: "One such involves a world of ocean, settled by humans of African descent long before.  Somewhere, hidden from prying eyes, is an enemy agent--and what an agent!  He has to be found, and found at once, all one hundred feet of him!"

The text I'll be quoting here should be placed after the indented material I quoted above for any filmed versions of "A Message In Secret":  "Next, rumors reach Flandry of suspicious goings on through the chilly plains and polar snows of Altai, the lost ice world settled by clans of Mongols.  He suspects that Merseia, Terra's great enemy, is somehow involved, and goes there to see for himself.  At first the Kha Khan receives him hospitably, even sending him a girl from the royal harem.  But this girl blurts out the truth, that Merseian agents are indeed at work to turn Altai into a military base.  Flandry has to escape the palace to save his life and hers.  Then he has to warn Terra--and he is cut off in the wilderness, with no way to get at a spaceship. The best of fighting men can accomplish only so much; after that, he must depend on his own wits."  And I especially admired the ingenious way Flandry found for getting a message sent to the Empire!

This is what the book jacket said about the last story in FLANDRY OF TERRA, "The Plague Of Masters": "Unan Besar is almost the opposite of Altai.  This is a warm, rainy planet whose civilization has developed from a Malayan stock.  It looks peaceful, backward, even idyllic.  But Flandry soon finds it is under a ruthless scientific tyranny.  And almost at once, the agents of that government are out to kill him.  He takes refuge in the slums, is captured by Kemul the mugger, and brought before beautiful, catlike Luang.  His first need is a supply of those pills without which men soon die in the poisonous atmosphere of Unan Besar.  After that he must get off the planet and break the stranglehold of its government.  But Luang shows no particular interest in helping him."

I think the text about Unan Besar should be edited before being placed at the beginning of any filmed version of "The Plague Of Masters."  First, I would eliminate as unnecessary the mention of Altai.  Second, I think too much is given away about the plot of the story with the mention of how a special medicine is needed for human beings to continue living on Unan Besar.

IF done well I think any filmed versions of stories featuring Nicholas van Rijn and Dominic Flandry would be better, more convincing, than the STAR WARS or STAR TREK shows and movies.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Pun And Gun

"Both guards bent close to the lying man."
-Poul Anderson, "Say It With Flowers" IN Anderson, Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984), pp. 103-125 AT p. 118.

"...lying..." turns out to have been a pun. Flowers, a prisoner, has faked an illness to get a drop on his guards. Like moments of realization, "hero punches guard and grabs gun" is a standard Anderson plot maneuver. But it has to be presented plausibly and Anderson manages that here.

The war for asteroid independence has begun before this story starts and ends before it does. This is an economically written future history. Flowers winds up not only meeting but even employing the North American Intelligence officer who had interrogated him.

Interlude 3 confirms that there were Soviet asteroid colonies. Thus, the Soviet Union lasted much longer in the Flying Mountains timeline than it did in ours. Check out its parallel histories in James Blish's Cities In Flight and in Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium History.

"Say It With Flowers"

Can anyone see what is happening here?

The third tale of the flying mountains is called "Say it with Flowers";

it is about Lieutenant Robert Flowers, Space Force of the Asterite Republic, during the war for asteroid independence;

Flowers is tattooed with a comet that is also a flag, a dancing naked woman and, as a recent addition, a design of roses and lilies;

on a recent drinking spree, Flowers blacked out, does not now understand why he chose the flowers tattoo and intends to have it removed;

Flowers in his courier boat is captured by an enemy cruiser;

enemy Intelligence is unable to decipher Flower's dispatches;

however, after interrogating him under drugs and brain stimulation, they conclude that he is no one important.

The clue is in the title.

Friday, 20 January 2017


In Poul Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains, asterites discuss the newly elected Social Justice administration in North America.

In Anderson's contribution to Isaac Asimov's Robots series, two men out in space discuss Stephen Byerley (see here) who has recently been elected on Earth.

In 2017, people around Earth discuss the newly elected President of the United States.

When I started reading science fiction, including works by Poul Anderson, in the 1960s, all three of these statements would equally have been sf.

Next year will be 2018. Year 2018 was an alternative title of Volume I of James Blish's Cities In Flight Tetralogy which begins with politics in Washington.

It is good to read about the future, then to live it.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

What Is A Weapon? II

An asterite defies the North American Space Navy:

"'The station hasn't got any armament, but trust the human race to juryrig that. We commandeered the scoopships belonging to this vessel and loaded them with Jovian gas at maximum pressure. If your missile detonates, they'll dive on you.'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Rogue" IN Anderson, Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984), pp. 45-100 AT p. 95.

See What Is A Weapon?

This adaptation of peaceful technology for warfare is another conceptual parallel between Anderson's Tales Of the Flying Mountains and Larry Niven's Tales of Known Space.

Also relevant is a very perceptive comment by an Alan Moore character:

As Alan Moore’s extraterrestrial character, Zhcchz (“Skizz”), says:

“You…refuse to…understand. When technology…has reached…a certain level…weapons…are redundant. When you already have…all that you need, then…why fight? We…have devices…that you would call weapons. To us…they…are tools.”
-copied from here.
We do not fight for the air that we breathe and I am confident that we will not fight for anything when technology has been used to make everyone rich.

Pivotal Characters

Starting to post about "Pivotal Characters," I find that I have already posted about "Important People"! My point is that a future history is about future historical events - to quote Wells, "Things To Come" - and about the future of humanity - to quote Stapledon, "Last and First Men." Thus, a series just about a single individual like Nicholas van Rijn or Dominic Flandry, is not a future history. However, particular installments of a future history series feature individual characters and early installments might feature some characters whose role is pivotal for the subsequent history. We can look for such characters although we will not necessarily find them in every case. With an eye to that earlier post but also making some additions or alterations, we find:

de Windt wrote Social Nucleation.

Harriman "sold the Moon."

I think that we were told the name of the founder of US Robots?

Rullman invented pantropy.
Wagoner secretly oversaw the development of the spindizzy and the antiagathics.
Haertel invented the Haertel overdrive.
Wald invented the Dirac transmitter.

Valti wrote the first psychotechnic equations.
Emett discovered gyrogravitics.
Anson Guthrie founds Fireball.
Guthrie's granddaughter is the "Mother of the Moon." See here.

Filming Poul Anderson

See "Textual Crawl For Flandry Movies" by Sean M. Brooks here and "Filming It" by me here. The latter links to a post about filming Mirkheim which links to a post about filming the introductory passage of "The Game of Glory." See also "Film Versions," here.

Although I welcome Sean's discussion of how to introduce films based on Poul Anderson's works, I think that the book blurbs that he cites are rather too wordy and "spoiler" for this purpose. The famous intro to Star Trek might serve as a model. Something about how mankind has spread into - rather than "through" - the galaxy would certainly make sense as an opener to any film or TV episode set in Anderson's Terran Empire.

However, I like my proposed start for "The Game of Glory," simply a narrator's voice quoting the opening sentence:

"A murdered man on a winter planet gave Flandry his first clue." See here.

The Rogue

Like Robert Heinlein's "Logic of Empire," Poul Anderson's "The Rogue" presents economic imperialism in the Solar System:

"'What the new government wants is something like the eighteenth-century English policy toward America. Keep the colonies as a source of raw materials and as a market for manufactured goods, but don't let them develop a domestic industry.'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Rogue" IN Anderson, Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984), pp. 45-100 AT p. 85.

Not only America but also India?

So we are not just reading about men in spacesuits. (My childhood idea of sf.) We might discuss the Social Justice party and Systemic Developments but I suspect that this would merely rehash issues from previous posts.

When Mike Blades realizes how he can resist North American Naval encroachment on his asteroidal enterprise, we get yet another Moment of Realization: Mike drops his wine bottle, stares ahead and eventually whispers that he really thinks they can swing it. (p. 86)

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Exploring And Exploiting The Solar System II

In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series, human beings colonize the Moon, Venus, Mars and the Saturnian moons. Of course, the Time Patrol is a historical time travel series, not a tenth future history. However, this involves extending the same science fictional imagination in the opposite temporal direction. Further, the Time Patrol presents an implicit future history, giving many hints about future periods. See The Time Patrol Timeline.

Poul Anderson wrote:

more future histories than any other sf author;
a time travel series, the Time Patrol, to which nothing else is comparable.

Like Heinlein's Future History and Anderson's own Psychotechnic History, the Time Patrol series can be appropriately collected in two dense volumes. See here. In fact, it has been although I slightly disagree with the order in which the installments are presented.

Exploring And Exploiting The Solar System

In Robert Heinlein's The Green Hills Of Earth, human beings colonize the Moon, Mars and Venus. In Heinlein's "Misfit," they move an asteroid. In his early Scribner Juveniles, which I classify as a Juvenile Future History (and here), they colonize the Moon, Mars, Venus and Ganymede.

In Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, human beings, assisted by robots, work on Mercury, a space station and an asteroid.

In James Blish's They Shall Have Stars, human beings explore Jupiter by remote control.

In Larry Niven's Tales Of Known Space, a cyborg and his human partner explore Mercury and Venus. Later, the Belters colonize and exploit the asteroids.

In Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History, human beings colonize Mars and Venus.

In Anderson's "The Saturn Game," human beings in a solar-powered space fleet explore the Outer Solar System.

In Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains, asterites use gyrogravitics to colonize and exploit the asteroids and to mine the Jovian atmosphere.

In Anderson's Harvest Of Stars, some human beings live in a space habitat whereas others are adapted to live in Lunar gravity. Later, some Lunarians colonize a newly discovered outer planet.

That is nine future histories:

two by Heinlein;
one each by Asimov, Blish and Niven;
four by Anderson.