Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Forest

I have just reread Poul Anderson's "The Long Remembering" and will reread his "The Forest" next but will get a night's sleep and do some other things first. The two stories are connected.

(i) Both are reprinted in collections where each story is preceded by a short auctorial introduction. In his introductions to both these stories, Anderson mentions the relevant opinions of his friend the French prehistorian Francois Bordes.

(ii) "The Long Remembering" is set in the Old Stone Age, maybe twenty thousand years ago. In his introduction to "The Forest," Anderson mentions that the Magdalenian set of cultures "...occupied western and central Europe from perhaps 16, 000 to 9500 BC..." and "Especially in its later phases it was the culmination of the Old Stone Age..." (Anderson, All One Universe, New York, 1996, p. 162). Thus, "The Long Remembering" is set towards the end of this period.

(iii) In his introduction to "The Forest," Anderson mentions innovations including dugout boats. The hero of "The Long Remembering," riding a log across a river, thinks of hollowing a log to keep his feet dry so, fictitiously, he was that innovator.

(iv) "The Long Remembering" is science fiction because it begins and ends with a twentieth century man who recovers ancestral memories with modern laboratory equipment. "The Forest" is what? Not historical fiction. Prehistorical fiction? Or, as Anderson's introduction at least implies, science fiction because the far past is as much a part of the universe explored by science as are atoms, DNA and the galaxy?

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