Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Link To Golden Apples Of The West

Golden Apples Of The West

Potentialities And Symbols

Poul Anderson, Tau Zero, CHAPTER 2.

Telander, begining his third interstellar expedition, has learned from experience:

psychoprofiling tests miss potentialities, for good or bad, that develop in people when they traverse interstellar distances;

symbols, like officers living in officer country, are important as Ingrid will learn on a five year voyage.

Right. Poul Anderson has invested a lot of thought into the human dynamics of interstellar travel. We know that we are going somewhere with these characters. We just don't yet know where.


I watched and Ketlan rewatched American Gods, Season 1, Episode 1. I am reminded of the many parallels between Neil Gaiman and Poul Anderson, including:

Odin adapted as a fictional character;

ancient gods still existing and interacting with personified/deified information technology;

gods existing because they are believed in and retiring when they are no longer believed in. (See Where Do Gods Go?)

For the second and third points, see Poul and Karen Anderson's "A Feast For The Gods," discussed in Gods Stories.

At the same time, Anderson's hard sf and speculations about interstellar travel do not overlap with anything in Gaiman's works.

Lars Telander

Poul Anderson's Tau Zero does not give any year dates. The following improvised chronology begins with Lars Telanders' birth as time zero. Bracketed numbers are his time dilated age.

0          Telander born in Dalarna.
3           Alpha Centauri expedition leaves.
6           Maser messages from expedition.
25        Telander on Epsilon Eridani expedition.
54 (36) Return from Epsilon Eridani.
55 (37) Telander on Tau Ceti expedition.
86 (50) Return from Tau Ceti.
89 (53) Leonora Christine leaves.

Telander is:

a crew member to Epsilon Eridani;

first officer to Tau Ceti but becomes commander when the captain dies;

captain of the Leonora Christine.

At age 53, he has adolescent great-grandnephews in Dalarna.

Blish And Shaw On Tau Zero

Whereas the image here quotes James Blish praising Poul Anderson's Tau Zero in the highest possible terms, the British sf author, Bob Shaw, said in conversation that, in the second half of the novel, cosmological and interpersonal narratives alternate without being integrated so which of these two critics is right? Blish extravagantly implies that, as cosmological hard sf, Tau Zero cannot be improved upon whereas Shaw suggests one way in which it might be improved. I have not kept up with more recent sf so has any of Anderson's successors done a better job with this kind of sf?

Stars Seen From Space

Poul Anderson, Tau Zero, CHAPTER 2.

Stars throng space. They show their colors: Vega blue; Capella golden; Betelgeuse red. We remember Vegans in James Blish's Cities In Flight and Betelgeuseans in Anderson's Technic History. Stars invisible from Earth hide the constellations from untrained eyes.

"The night was wild with suns." (p. 18)

We remember Anderson's phrase, "A wilderness of suns...," see here.

The Milky way belts heaven but we have already quoted this. See The Milky Way Thread. The Magellanic Clouds glow and the Andromeda galaxy gleams. In the Technic History, other galaxies are mere background but Tau Zero will go intergalactic.

Beginning Tau Zero, Chapter 2

Poul Anderson, Tau Zero (London, 1973), CHAPTER 2.

Is Blish right?

"...Leonora Christine resembled a dagger pointing at the stars." (p. 17)

A threat of human aggression exported from the Solar System although that does not happen in this novel.

"The time since the basic idea of [a Bussard ramjet] was first conceived, in the middle twentieth century..." (p. 18)

An acknowledgment that this idea is not original with the author.

"...had included perhaps a million man-years of thought and work directed toward achieving the reality; and some of those men had possessed intellects equal to any that had ever existed." (ibid.)

A reminder that this Bussard ramjet will not be like earlier ideas of Bussard ramjets.

I think that I will continue to find enough in Tau Zero to make it worthwhile to read through it again. The present blog focus is on Anderson's accounts of interstellar travel and there are many of those in short stories as well as in novels.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Men And Women

Poul Anderson, Tau Zero, CHAPTER 1.

Twenty five men and twenty five women will take five years to reach another planetary system. They have antisenescence treatments as in some other Anderson futures. They will explore the third planet. If it is uninhabitable, then they will take five years to travel back to Earth. If habitable, they will colonize.

Since the crew are going to pair off, Lindgren stops saying goodbye to her family and spends a day and an evening, then a night, with Reymont to check with him whether he and she can make a couple. I cannot remember from previous readings of the novel whether they stay together throughout what becomes a very long intergalactic, and even intercosmic, voyage.

Unfortunately, we bid farewell to Stockholm at the end of CHAPTER 1 but Anderson has given us way more information about that city than we had any right to expect. Stockholm has become special to me because of Stieg Larsson and it is good to find so much about the city also in Anderson.

Ingrid Lindgren

Poul Anderson, Tau Zero, Chapter 1.

Ingrid Lindgren grew up near Drottningholm.

She reflects that St. John's Eve balfires:

"...had once been lit to welcome Baldr home from the underworld..." (p. 15)

Were they? I thought that he was not due to return until after the Ragnarok - which Reymont mentions on p. 14.

Lindgren also thinks that:

"...it would be a joy to believe in some kind of religion, since that would perfect the world by giving it purpose, but in the absence of convincing proof she could still do her best to help supply that meaning, help mankind move toward something loftier -" (p. 16)

Purpose and meaning are not identical. The world has value most of the time because it sustains life and consciousness but it cannot have a purpose because only consciousnesses, existing within the world, are purposive. It is the European religious tradition that has sought intellectual proof of its doctrines. Other traditions express contemplative experience.

A character's views are not necessarily those of the author but they can be. Sean M. Brooks thinks that Anderson at least wanted to believe.

Pulp And Philosophy II

See Pulp And Philosophy.

These reflections on the philosophical implications of the defeat of fictional villains were prompted by at last reading about the destruction of that recurring fictional villain of the 1960s, Thrush. See recent posts on the Personal and Literary Reflections blog, e.g., here.

Here is another philosophical issue. Ernst Stavro Blofeld, founder and director of Thrush's literary predecessor, SPECTRE:

"...had decided that fast and accurate communication lay, in a contracting world, at the very heart of power. Knowledge of the truth before the next man, in peace or war, lay, he thought, behind every correct decision in history and was the source of all great reputations."
-Ian Fleming, Thunderball (London, 1961), 5, pp. 39-40.

That is why Thrush pioneered information technology and was eventually coordinated by three Ultimate Computers and why one of its surviving members reflects that the value in the Hierarchy was information which can be lost for a while but generated anew. Historical knowledge can be lost irretrievably but practicable information can be generated anew until entropy ends everything. But how did the energy that runs downhill get up the hill? Apparently, energy and virtual particles are created in a vacuum so is there a technologically accessible source of endlessly renewable energy as at the end of Poul Anderson's The Avatar?