Friday, 20 April 2012

The Structure of an Earlier Anderson Series

Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History covers:

(i) UN world government (4 stories) leading to Solar Union (7 stories);
(ii) an inter-Union period (2 stories) followed by the Stellar Union (4 stories and 2 novels);
(iii) a long period of (at least two) interstellar Empires (0 stories) followed eventually by human-Hulduvian division of the Galaxy (1 story).

At the time of writing this article, January 2011, I have not yet read "The Snows of Ganymede," set during the Solar Union, or "The Acolytes" or "Green Thumb," both set during the Stellar Union. Some of my remarks may need to be modified if and when I do read these works which were not included in the Baen collections of the early 1980's.

The UN government is served by the Psychotechnic Institute. The Solar Union is served by the Planetary Engineers and also by the Psychotechnic Institute until the latter is outlawed during the Humanist Revolt of 2170. The Stellar Union is served by its Coordination Service. We are not shown what occurs during the Empires but we can hypothesise a Space Navy and Intelligence Service similar to those that defend the Terran Empire in Anderson's Technic History. The later Galactic civilization is served by psychotechnicians. The only discernible connections between the successive periods are political "Unions" in (i) and (ii) and the science of "psychotechnics" in (i) and (iii).

The three periods are differentiated by modes of interstellar travel: 

(i) multi-generation ships, copied from Heinlein; 
(ii) hyperdrive, common to much sf; 
(iii) artificially mutated brains enabling human beings and their allies to control cosmic energies and thus to move themselves across space.

We know of the third long period only by reading a single short story, "The Chapter Ends," whose title refers to humanity's final departure from Earth. The placing of this story at the end of the Psychotechnic History means that the title also refers simply to the ending of the series. But the reference to psychotechnics is the only connection to the "earlier" stories. "The Chapter Ends" seems to refer back to a different history. The nobles, slaves and barbarians of the First Empire are at odds with the Union politics of the earlier periods. On the other hand, there have been tens of thousands of years for things to change.

The First Empire was ruled from Sol City. "The Star Plunderer" by Anderson describes the founding of a First Empire which was ruled from a Sol City but that story was incorporated into the Technic History where, according to the Dominic Flandry stories, the one and only interstellar Empire is ruled from Archopolis. Thus, "The Star Plunderer," a pivotal story in the Technic History, and "The Chapter Ends," nominally the concluding story of the Psychotechnic History, in fact form a miniature alternative "First Empire" future history. "Memory," set after the Fall of an interstellar Empire that is definitely not the one in the Technic History, might conceivably complete this trilogy. The three stages would be: 

the founding of the Empire;
the immediate post-Imperial period;
a much later post-Imperial civilization.

These three points in time could provide a framework for other stories to be written. We could have been told more about the Founder of the Empire, Manuel Argos, and no doubt someone like Dominic Flandry later defended the First Empire. 

In Anderson's Technic History, the Ymirites occupy only Jovoid planets so their "Dispersal" can interpenetrate the Terran Empire of terrestroid planets. In "The Chapter Ends," the Hulduvians also occupy only Jovoid planets but their manipulation of cosmic energies interferes with human manipulation of those same energies and vice versa so that, far from inhabiting interpenetrating realms, the two civilizations must agree to occupy different parts of the Galaxy. This is a Stapledonian culmination. Stapledon's Last Men died on Neptune but other races built a Galactic civilisation. "The Chapter Ends" indicates the beginning of an Andersonian multi-species civilization on a galactic scale.

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