Friday, 21 September 2018

Common Conceptual Space

Even a one-off novel not part of any series remains conceptually linked to its author's other works and also to those of other authors in the same milieu. A. Bertram Chandler symbolized this common conceptual space by positing that a space traveler returning from between galaxies might enter the alternative galaxy of a parallel universe. Thus, his John Grimes meets Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry. Also, the Grimes series closely connects spacefaring to seafaring.

Anderson's The Enemy Stars was written as a one-off novel although it later acquired a short sequel, "The Ways of Love." In recent posts, this novel's references to the Blackett magnetic effect and to germanium recalled James Blish's Cities In Flight whereas its instantaneous teleportation recalled two works in Blish's Haertel Scholium. Summarizing both this Scholium and the same author's overlapping After Such Knowledge Trilogy led to a comparison with the relationships between Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys and Anderson's Technic History.

These diverse interconnections stemmed from rereading The Enemy Stars to which I must shortly return.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Historical Fictions And Future Histories

In James Blish's Doctor Mirabilis, a demon possibly interacts with Roger Bacon, the precursor of all later scientists, including several scientific pioneers in Blish's futuristic sf. Blish's Black Easter and Cities In Flight refer back to Bacon.

In Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys, Gods definitely interact with Gratillonius, a military officer and political representative of that Roman Empire that is the precursor of Anderson's future Terran Empire. One of the Nine Witch-Queens of Ys mystically senses interstellar distances.

Thus, historical fictions and future histories interconnect. However, I think that Blish more effectively integrates historical fiction with fantasy and sf. The fabulous crossover between his After Such Knowledge Trilogy and his Haertel Scholium is summarized here.  


Recent mention of Zen on this blog inspired a new post on the Religion And Philosophy blog, here.

Recent discussion of James Blish on this blog inspired a new post on James Blish Appreciation, here.

Although I aspire to a multi-blog future, the main action remains here, on Poul Anderson Appreciation. In particular, this blog absorbs discussions that would otherwise have appeared on:

Science Fiction
Logic Of Time Travel

My next post, when I have reread more of The Enemy Stars, will be here.

Cosmic Noise And Sailing

Poul Anderson, The Enemy Stars, 11.

Sverdlov asks Ryerson whether he never feels violent with frustration at their predicament:

"Ryerson's tone came gnat-like in his earphones, almost lost in an endless crackling of cosmic noise. 'It doesn't do any good. My father taught me that much. We sailed a lot at home.'
"'The sea never forgives you.'" (p. 79)

Another description of cosmic radio noise (see here) and a confirmation that the spacemen who lived on an island did sail the sea also.

Teleportation And Instantaneity

Poul Anderson's The Enemy Stars recalls not only James Blish's Cities In Flight but also two of his Haertel Scholium works, "Nor Iron Bars" and "Beep"/The Quincunx Of Time. The common concepts are teleportation and instantaneity.

In The Enemy Stars, teleportation is instantaneous because the carrier wave is gravitational, not electromagnetic. In "Nor Iron Bars," when a spaceship assumes negative mass in order to make an FTL interstellar crossing, the ship collapses into the microcosm which is the only realm where mass can be negative and where it also turns out that parapsychological phenomena like telepathy and teleportation occur. Negative mass gives the ship some of the properties of a Dirac hole, meaning that it has to be echoed somewhere else in the universe by an electron and can be in two places simultaneously. Reverting to positive mass, it returns to the macrocosm but in the other location and thus has made an interstellar crossing of eight hundred light-years. However, the process weakens molecular bonds, making the ship's hull permeable to oxygen so that it cannot be reused.

In "Beep"/Quincunx, as in Cities In Flight, the above mentioned property of a Dirac hole is used to develop an instantaneous interstellar communicator. See The Dirac Transmitter.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Mortality And Fear

Aycharaych asks whether an immortal Bach could have composed the St. Matthew Passion. See here.

Maclaren asks:

"'Could Bach have loved his God so magnificently without being inwardly afraid of Him?'"
-Poul Anderson, The Enemy Stars, 10, p. 76.

So are both mortality and fear necessary for creativity? If you are on the same part of Earth as me, then sleep on it.

Anderson And Blish II

Poul Anderson's main future history series, the History of Technic Civilization, is complete in seven omnibus volumes whereas James Blish's main future history series, the Okie history, is complete in a single omnibus volume, Cities In Flight.

Anderson wrote five volumes of "straight" historical fiction, without any admixture of sf or fantasy, whereas Blish wrote one historical novel, Doctor Mirabilis - incorporating ambiguity as to whether Roger Bacon's inner voice was literally demonic.

Anderson wrote four novels of historical (Correction: heroic) fantasy whereas Blish wrote two volumes of contemporary fantasy, retroactively united as a single work.

Anderson addressed theological issues in different works whereas Blish wrote a theological trilogy comprising his historical novel, his contemporary fantasy and one futuristic sf novel.

Anderson's output was much bigger which is at least one reason why this Poul Anderson Appreciation blog is much longer than the James Blish Appreciation blog.

Passing The Time In Space

Poul Anderson, The Enemy Stars, 10.


plays chess with Sverdlov;
argues No versus Kabuki with Nakamura;
shocks Ryerson with limericks;
shaves regularly;
dresses fastidiously.

Nakamura contemplates paradoxes;
Ryerson quotes the Bible;
Sverdlov looks at photographs of past mistresses.

All human life is there.

Once, meditating in the "quiet room" of a Youth Hostel, I was joined by a Japanese man who seemed to be reading his Bible!

I cannot understand the value of contemplating the sound of one hand clapping. We know that there is not meant to be any answer so how can we look for an answer? Fortunately for us, the "ancestors" have formulated every possible practice so we are able to test which of the various ways or paths makes sense to us.

The Bible And Neo-Heathenism

(An odd compilation.)

See A Note On Anderson's Use Of The Bible.

David Ryerson reflects:

"'"The heavens declare the glory of God...and the firmament showeth his handiwork."....It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Enemy Stars, 6, p. 47.

"So this is how it feels, when the God of Hosts lays His hand upon a man..." (9, p. 66)

"Thou, God, watchest me, with the cold ashen eyes of wrath." (p. 67)

David's doctrinaire father, Magnus, prefers heathens to atheists. (2, p. 15) We infer that there are heathens on the future Earth. Does the opening of an interstellar frontier re-awaken ancient awe? James Blish's Okie swear by the gods of all stars. See here.

Anderson And Blish

Poul Anderson, The Enemy Stars.

A Poul Anderson novel set in interstellar space is bound to be rich in descriptions of stars and galaxies, e.g.:

"The farther stars blended into the Milky Way, a single clotted swoop around the sky, the coldest color in all reality. And yet farther away, beyond a million light-years, you could see more suns - a few billions at a time, formed into the tiny blue-white coils of other galaxies." (9, p. 63)

This galactic setting and also some technical details recall James Blish. Maclaren, explaining conditions around the dead star, says:

"'Blackett effect...Magnetic field is directly related to angular velocity.'" (8, p. 58)

In Cities In Flight, Blish rationalizes antigravitic FTL with:

"...the Blackett-Dirac equations, which as early as 1948 had proposed a direct relationship between magnetism, gravity, and the rate of spin of any mass."
-James Blish Cities In Flight (London, 1981), p. 237.

When spaceship repairs are necessary, Ryerson complains:

"'...we don't have four spare kilos of germanium aboard.'" (9, p. 65)

Blish's Acreff-Monales explains:

"Long before flight into deep space became a fact, [germanium] had assumed a fantastic value on Earth. The opening of the interstellar frontier drove its price down to a manageable level, and gradually it emerged as the basic, stable monetary standard of space trade. Nothing else could have kept the nomads in business."
-op. cit., p. 240.

Anderson has interstellar Nomads in his Psychotechnic History and the opening of an interstellar frontier early in his Technic History.

Cities In Flight addresses many familiar Andersonian themes:

Jovian surface conditions
power politics
a rationalization of FTL
anti-agathic drugs
an interstellar frontier
economic decline on Earth
one installment with a juvenile protagonist
extrasolar colonies
interstellar trade
interstellar empires
hostility between the authorities and the nomads
battles in space
a future history
references to a theory of history
the rise and fall of a civilization
a problem-solving hero
theological questions
intergalactic travel
other universes
cosmic destruction and creation
a cosmic climax

In other works:

historical fiction
theological fantasy

Anderson and Blish: read both.