Friday, 20 April 2012

The Earth Book of Stormgate

"Wings of Victory" and "The Problem of Pain" describe early human-Ythrian contact. "Wingless," "Rescue on Avalon" and The People of the Wind are set on the joint human-Ythrian colony planet, Avalon. The Earth Book of Stormgate is a collection beginning with "Wings of Victory" and "The Problem of Pain" and ending with "Wingless" and "Rescue on Avalon." Between these end points, the collection contains seven stories and one novel set during the Polesotechnic League period of Anderson's History of Technic Civilisation. The People of the Wind is set in the early Imperial period.

  In The Earth Book, an Avalonian Ythrian, Hloch of the Stormgate Choth, fictitiously writes a general introduction, introductions to particular works and a general conclusion. He writes in the aftermath of the Terran War on Avalon as described in The People of the Wind. Hloch's contributions enhance the fictitious history which is already rich in the individual stories. For example, the hero of "Esau," Emil Dalmady, comes from the colony planet Altai later visited by Dominic Flandry during the later Imperial period. Dalmady reports to Nicholas van Rijn, a Master Merchant of the Polesotechnic League. He meets an alien race, the Baburites, who will later invade Hermes (home planet of David Falkayn, protege of van Rijn and Founder of the Avalonian colony) and Mirkheim (an important planet discovered by Falkayn). Hloch adds that Dalmady's children moved to Avalon where works written by his daughter were included in The Earth Book. These include the story about her father entitled "Esau" and another about Falkayn's grandson on Avalon.

Hloch also tells us that, when the League was breaking up, van Rijn and Falkayn moved records from Earth to Hermes. Later acquired and deciphered by Hloch's mother, these records revealed previously unknown information about Falkayn on the planet Merseia (Flandry's later enemy) and about van Rijn's belated arrival at Mirkheim. Hloch and Arinnian, the latter a character from The People of the Wind, work this information into narrative form which we read as stories in The Earth Book. By telling us how the stories originated, Hloch adds to the history behind the stories.

The first Ythrian story is pre-League. Avalonian stories are post-. Thus, The Earth Book spans the League period. But there are other works set in the same period:

a three story van Rijn collection;
a three story Falkayn collection;
two novels featuring both characters.

There is also one story, "The Saturn Game," set long before "Wings of Victory" and there are two stories of the early Empire set before The People of the Wind. I suggest that all these works from "The Saturn Game" up to and including The People of the Wind can be seen as an expanded Earth Book. Imagine that Hloch's successor as an Avalonian historian finds these works and includes them in chronological order in a later edition of The Earth Book although without adding introductions as Hloch had done. Hloch's commentaries would remain although with "The Saturn Game" now preceding even his general introduction. The work would comprise several volumes but with a changed reading order. For example, the first two Falkayn stories belong in an early introductory section or volume, not in the later Trader Team section.

The proposed expanded Earth Book would differ in two ways from the first three volumes of the current Baen editions of the Technic History. First, where there are introductions or afterwords by the human author Anderson, I suggest that these should be preserved and published but in an Appendix at the end of the series so that they do not interrupt the flow of the Avalonian narration. Secondly, I disagree with the way the volumes are divided up. For example, I argue that the van Rijn/Falkayn novel, Mirkheim, should conclude a Trader Team volume, not introduce a Rise of the Terran Empire volume. A better title for The Rise of the Terran Empire, minus Mirkheim, would be Avalon and Empire. The Empire is not founded until "The Star Plunderer" which comes after "Rescue on Avalon." (Anderson's future history is richer and better written than Asimov's series containing Foundation and Empire.) I think it makes sense to read the van Rijn works en bloc, then the Trader Team series, starring Falkayn, en bloc.

However, Baen and their editor, Hank Davis, are doing something I could not do: letting everyone read Anderson's series from beginning to end for the very first time.

Anderson, Poul. The Earth Book of Stormgate, New York, 1978.

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