Sunday, 19 February 2017

Hello

Hello, everyone. Thank you for continued page views and combox discussion. It has been a nightmare. I have not been able to post and am able to do so now only because of Ketlan's technical skills. Early tomorrow morning, I will depart on a coach holiday, not taking the new lap top with me. Sheila and I will return from Cornwall late on Friday.

Posts for publication have been drafted and SM Stirling's Dies The Fire is being read. It features a Steve Matuchek (!), another good villain, more good people with survival skills, informed treatment of Wicca and self-confessed "food porn"! This blog and others will continue although maybe at a more leisurely pace.

Long live the Emperor! - although not the Protector/would-be Emperor in Dies The Fire. It is good that society survives and better if guys like him don't get control of it.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Time, Anderson And Stirling

Sometimes sf writers make evocative use of the concept of altered timelines. Poul Anderson does this in his Time Patrol series. See here and here.
-copied from here.

The two links in the above quotation show:

passages from Anderson's The Shield Of Time;
his creatively imagined interactions between alternative timelines;
parallels with an alternative history novel by SM Stirling.

Alternative history by SM Stirling will be, and a rereading of The Shield Of Time will probably be, early themes on this blog.

A Recurrent Theme

Although we have a Logic of Time Travel blog, time travel crosses the blogs. We have recently posted about:

the Time Patrol;
There Will Be Time;
time travel in Smallville;
time travel in Jerusalem (and here);
the Nantucket trilogy;
ghosts and time travelers here.

Those posts are spread across five blogs. But time travelers get everywhere - and when.

Monday, 6 February 2017

An Old Inn

A writer either of historical fiction or of science fiction involving time travel to the past can potentially find background material in any new information about a historical period.

Today, walking along Lancaster Canal, we visited the Hest Bank Inn which:

has existed since the sixteenth century;
originally brewed mead;
was captured by both sides in the English Civil War;
became a den for highwaymen;
displayed a light to guide travelers across the treacherous sands of Morecambe Bay;
nowadays serves Lancashire cheese and onion pie.

We may safely conjecture that Time Patrol agents on a mission to counteract extratemporal interference in the Civil War would stay overnight in such an inn and might even revisit it when they had returned to their own periods.

Also, Patrol agents operating in England would almost certainly recruit a certain private inquiry agent in his retirement to enlist his help in a case involving Jonathan Wild, the Moriarty of an earlier century.

The Fiction/Science Fiction Interface

"'They'll find the molecular basis of heredity, approximately ten years from now.'
"'What?' I sat bolt upright. 'This you've got to tell me more about!'"
-Poul Anderson, There Will Be Time (New York, 1973), V, p. 47.

In this dialogue, the first speaker, Jack Havig, knows what will happen ten years hence because he is a time traveler. That is science fiction. The molecular basis of heredity will be discovered. Is that science fiction? No, because the book was published in 1973. But exactly that same sentence:

"They'll find the molecular basis of heredity..."

- would have been sf if published fifty years earlier.

A contemporary novel by the same author could have featured a minor character called Jack Havig. The reader would have learned that that character was a time traveler by reading There Will Be Time. Also, ambiguity is possible: Jack tells fascinating stories about the future Maurai Federation that he claims to have visited. Is he really a time traveler or just a good story-teller?

I think that imaginative writers can probably do more creative work at this interface between genres. A historical novel, a contemporary novel and a futuristic novel could be linked by the reader's knowledge that one of the characters is an immortal or a time traveler.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Iambic Pentameter

Copied from here. (Rereading the Comics Appreciation blog, I realized that this post should be copied to here because of its concluding reference to Poul Anderson.)

Marlowe: I'll stick with boys...my horned "actresses."
Shakespeare: More wine! More ale! And buss me quick, my sweet!
Sweet Kit. The play I gave you. Did you read...?
Marlowe: I must confess I have. I thought it, well...
You act well, Will, but...listen, let me read...
"Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night!
"Comets importing change of times and states,
"Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky,
"And with them scourge the bad, revolting stars."
At least it scans. But "bad revolting stars"?
Shakespeare: It's my first play.
Marlowe:                                And it should be your last.
Shakespeare: God's wounds! If only I could write like you!
In Faustus, where you wrote...
"To God! He loves thee not! 
"The God thou servest is thine own appetite, 
"Wherein is fixed the love of Beelzebub.
"To him I'll build an altar and a church,
"And offer lukewarm blood of new-born babes."
It chills my blood!
Marlowe:             And so it should, good Will!
Shakespeare: I would give anything to have your gifts.
Or more than anything to give men dreams,
That would live on long after I am dead.
I'd bargain, like your Faustus, for that boon.
Dream: Are you Will Shaxberd?
Shakespeare:                            Aye, sir. Have we met?
Dream: We have. But men forget, in waking hours.
I heard your talk, Will. Would you write great plays?
Create new dreams to spur the minds of men?
Is that your will?
Shakespeare:   It is.
Dream:                    Then let us talk.

Neil Gaiman says on p. 56 of Hy Bender's The Sandman Companion (London, 1999) that he wrote this dialogue (The Sandman: The Doll's House, New York, 1995, pp. 125-127) in iambic pentameter so I have tried to transcribe it accordingly but am not sure whether I have laid out the first three lines of the quotation from Faustus correctly.

This is another parallel with Poul Anderson. Anderson's Shakespearean novel, A Midsummer Tempest, is presented as prose although much of its text is blank verse, some is rhyming verse, one passage is a Shakespearean sonnet and several chapters end in rhyming couplets (and here).                

Genre Fiction

Poul Anderson wrote:

science fiction, including space opera and speculative fiction;
fantasy, including heroic fantasy and historical fantasy;
historical fiction;
detective fiction -

- four genres with several sub-genres. Did Anderson write any mainstream fiction, if not in novels, then in short stories?

Story-telling is ancient and pre-literary but how and when did genre fiction arise? Alan Moore's Jerusalem presents an account. In the interests of multi-blogging, I will shortly summarize that account on the Personal and Literary Reflections blog, then link this post to that summary.

Later: link.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Where Were We?

The blog is primarily about Poul Anderson.
This has involved comparing Anderson with many other writers.
Some posts have focused on SM Stirling as a colleague and worthy successor of Anderson.
Before Christmas, I began to read Dies The Fire. See also here.
At Christmas, I received Alan Moore's voluminous Jerusalem, which I am still reading and posting about here.
I have tried to link everything.
Multiple blogging is like juggling.
Normal service will be resumed.

Words And World

Language is like either clear or stained glass. We look either through or at it. Someone writing about Isaac Asimov said that Asimov's prose is totally like clear glass. The reader attends only to the content. In Poul Anderson's works, we appreciate the content, imaginative narratives with rich characterization imparting much scientific and historical information, but also Anderson's uses of language, in particular his vivid descriptions and the prevalent but understated pathetic fallacy. Read everything twice, the second time pausing to savor the descriptions of stars seen from space, of seasonal changes or of alien landscapes.

The process of writing focuses the writer's, if not also the reader's, attention on choices of words. In a recent post, having typed the phrase, "timeless treasure," and the adjective, "topical...," I cast about for a second alliterative noun. I like the phrase, "Where were we?," because each word is a diminution of its predecessor. And that should be the title of the next post.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Time And Motion

Is time a fourth dimension that might be traversed by immaterial consciousnesses and/or by material "time machines"?

We discussed relevant fiction by Wells, Blish and Anderson under the sub-heading "Means of Time Travel" in "Time Travel and Poul Anderson," here. More recently, we have discussed relevant fiction by Alan Moore in:

Walking Back
The Road Ahead
"Upstairs"
Conceptual Issues
Two Accounts
Wells, Blish And Moore
Moving Through Time? 
Upstairs

- and in other recent posts.

Certain ways of thinking about time seem to be embedded in consciousness even though they do not stand up to closer analysis. I hope that readers of Poul Anderson Appreciation will also read some of the relevant posts on the Personal and Literary Reflections blog.