Friday, 31 May 2013

Outposts Of Empire

Poul Anderson's "Outpost of Empire" and The Day Of Their Return, set between the Young Flandry Trilogy and the Captain Flandry series, each describe an outpost of the Terran Empire.

The first highlights a character that had been briefly introduced in the first Young Flandry novel, Ensign Flandry, and the second introduces a character who re-appears, briefly but significantly, in the first of the three later Flandry novels. Thus, these two intermediate works are woven into the web of future historical interconnections.

I think that the speech mostly without articles that I noticed in the character Peter Jowett is repeated in another character, Tatiana Thane, and thus might turn out to be a feature of Aenean Anglic. I am rereading the Chunderban Desai chapters of The Day Of Their Return because these are rich in imaginative details and present a parallel narrative to the more active adventures of Desai's adversary, Ivar Frederiksen.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Linguistic Changes

Peter Jowett is an educated businessman and Member of Parliament, yet there is something odd about the way that he speaks to Commissioner Desai in Poul Anderson's The Day Of Their Return (IN Captain Flandry, New York, 2010).

On rereading, I realize that he speaks the Emperor's Anglic almost (almost) entirely without articles, the words "a" or "the" - although he does say "the" twice. Thus, he is like a Roman for whom mensa meant indifferently "table," "a table" or "the table," depending on context. This makes for slightly more clipped, telegrammic speech:

"'...I belong to class which Landfolk regard with suspicion...'" (p. 95)

"' began as scientific colony...'" (p. 96)

"'That's origin of University...'" (p. 96)

"'To maintain humans...on planet as skimpy as this...'" (p. 96)

"'When League broke down and Troubles came...'" (p. 96)

"'...we're minor part of Townfolk.'" (p. 97)

And so on.

So did Anderson intend Jowett to speak entirely without articles but let two slip through by mistake? The difference between Jowett's and Desai's speech is noticeable throughout their conversation and is a small part of how we see their characters.

Building On The Past

The first time I read Poul Anderson's The Day Of Their Return, I was not yet familiar with the Chronology of Technic Civilization and imagined that I was reading a work set two or three centuries before Dominic Flandry's lifetime so I was surprised when his name suddenly appeared in the text - although here he is merely quoted.

Like any good installment of a future history series, The Day Of Their Return is a major story in and of itself but also builds on what has gone before. The series has a pyramidal structure.

"The mutiny in Sector Alpha Crucis..." (The Day Of Their Return IN Captain Flandry: Defender of the Terran Empire, New York, 2010, p. 82) was the subject matter of the previous volume, The Rebel Worlds, with "...the Jihannath crisis..." (ibid.) in the background. We are told that "...Terra...brilliantly, put the rebels down..." (ibid.) but not that the brilliance in question was entirely possessed by one young Dominic Flandry.

A Merseian conceding that, recently, force has not worked well for his side, cites not only Jihannath but also Starkad where, again, they were foiled by Ensign Flandry, in Ensign Flandry. He also acknowledges that the joint commission on Talwin has worked well for Terran Naval Intelligence. That commission exists because of Flandry's initiative in A Circus Of Hells. In fact, a volume not featuring Flandry has become overdue in the series!

One of the viewpoint characters in The Day Of Their Return, Chunderban Desai, is from the planet Ramanujan which was first mentioned in a Nicholas van Rijn story. Here we learn that Ramanujan has a Mount Gandhi. Desai's cigarette holder, a present from a young daughter, is of " ivory..." (p. 86). We do not know whether land-whales are native to Ramanujan but we are told that his tobacco is from Esperance which was first mentioned in a, different, van Rijn story and also appeared in the early Empire novel, The People Of The Wind.

Uldwyr also refers to the Domain of Ythri with which Terra was at war in The People Of The Wind and Desai soon refers to the Troubles which were the subject matter of "The Star Plunderer" so , yes, Poul Anderson writes a solid future history series.

The Rebel Worlds And The Day Of Their Return

It is not immediately apparent to the reader how Poul Anderson's The Day Of Their Return follows from his The Rebel Worlds. In the former, the series character Dominic Flandry deals with Hugh and Kathryn McCormac. In the latter, we meet a new one-off viewpoint character, Ivar Frederiksen.

However, we were told that Kathryn's maiden name was Frederiksen. Hugh was Firstman of Ilion on Aeneas. When, at the end of The Rebel Worlds, Hugh and Kathryn went into exile, her brother, Edward, succeeded to the Firstmanship and Ivar is his son.

Thus, despite the absence of Flandry and the McCormacs from The Day Of Their Return, we are dealing with Kathryn's nephew who is also the heir of Hugh's successor. Anderson writes a direct sequel but disguises it by changing the characters and even the surname of the Aenean first family.

He also introduces a completely new character, Chunderban Desai, who has, since the McCormac's exodus, been appointed High Commissioner of the Virgilian System where the humanly colonized planet is Aeneas. Thus, the reader sympathizes both with Ivar trying to lead a new Aenean rebellion and with Desai trying to prevent it.

A commissioner is intermediate between a resident and a sector governor. Desai's superior is the Governor of Sector Alpha Crucis and the incumbent of that position has also changed since The Rebel Worlds. Desai has interesting conversations with Uldwyr of Merseia, Aycharaych of Chereion, Peter Jowett of the Web, Tatiana Thane of the University of Virgil, Colonel Mattu Luuksson of the Companions of the Arena and eventually with Ivar Frederiksen.

Like The People Of The Wind, The Day Of Their Return is a rich novel in Anderson's History of Technic Civilization that does not feature any of the series characters of that History.

The Turning Point

Three volumes:

the 1973 New American Library novel, The People Of The Wind;
the 1979 Berkley Books collection, The Earth Book Of Stormgate, which refers to The People Of The Wind;
the 2011 Baen Books collection, Rise Of The Terran Empire, which includes The People Of The Wind

- all bring the reader to the same moment in Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, the end of the Terran War on Avalon.

Thus, two historical processes are complete:

the rise, decline and dissolution of the Polesotechnic League;
the rise of the Terran Empire and its growth to its maximum diameter of 400 light years.

Other processes, beginning with the Decline and Fall of the Terran Empire, are still to come. The entire History up to and including the Terran War has set the scene for the longest section of the History, the lifetime of Dominic Flandry, which, before the Baen Books omnibus editions, comprised nine volumes (seven novels and two collections) plus one extra short story.

Flandry is more prominent in his period of the History than either van Rijn or Falkayn were in theirs but nevertheless an entire novel and short story in the Flandry period do not feature Flandry himself and there is an extremely interesting supporting character called Chunderban Desai.

Yet More On The People Of The Wind

I am posting while rereading. Thus, new points keep coming up.

(i) We learn another Nuevo Mexican place name: the Admiral had hunted in the Sierra de los Bosques Secos.

(ii) We learn more about the wreck of the Avalonian flagship, Hell Rock: when the Terrans invade, "...the robots within knew their foe and opened fire." (Rise Of The Terran Empire, New York, 2011, p. 625). But this "...poor old hulk..." is too far away and has too little ammunition or range to be worth the trouble of demolition.

(iii) Tabitha Falkayn describes the behaviour of "birds," human choth members: "'...promiscuous as kakkelaks...'" (p. 509) Later, she warns a Terran prisoner of war about some Avalonian ecological dangers: "'...if a kakkelak swarm started running up your trousers...'" (p. 570) Later again, we see kakkelaks in action against Terran invaders:

"Energy weapons incinerated at a flash hundreds of the cockroach-like things, twenty centimeters long, whose throngs blackened the ground between shrubs. They could not save the men whom these bugs had already reached and were feasting on...Having evidently gotten wind of meat in this hungry land, the kakkelaks swarmed toward the main base." (p. 637)

Good descriptions. My problem is I doubt whether any extra-solar planets will be even that hospitable!

Nuevo Mexico

Nuevo Mexico is a background planet, mentioned at least three times although never visited, in Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization:

Manuel Felipe Gomez y Palomares, an ensign in van Rijn's company, is from Nuevo Mexico;

the Nuevo Mexicans are "...poor and haughty colonists from the far side of Arcturus..." whose customs include great formality and courtesy (David Falkayn: Star Trader, New York, 2010, p. 278);

Fleet Admiral Juan de Jesus Cajal y Palomares and his daughter Luisa are from Nuevo Mexico;

"Luisa had been raised among folk who, if strict out of necessity on their dry world, were rich in honor and bore a hair-trigger pride" (Rise Of The Terran Empire, New York, 2011, p. 471);

Saint John, Hagios Ioannes and the continent of San Juan on Nuevo Mexico are named after the St John who wrote some books of the New Testament.

Only while writing this post have I noticed that the ensign and the Admiral have the same surname. This looks like another of those families that endure through successive periods of the History.

More On The People Of The Wind

Before attacking Avalon, the Terran Admiral prayed, indeed "begged":

"'Father, forgive us what we are about to do...'" (Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire, 2011, p. 515)

That is asking rather a lot, isn't it? He adds:

"'Father, have mercy on all who die. All.'" (ibid.)

Maybe that is a bit better? Although Ythrians of the Old Faith expect to go down hell-road to Illarian while those of the New Faith expect only to honor God the Hunter with a good fight when he stoops upon them.

"Avalon struck." (p. 535)

"The skies erupted in radiance." (p. 537)

Those two sentences, almost three full pages apart, describe the same event as viewed by different characters. Secret Avalonian ground-based defences strike and significantly damage the attacking Terran fleet although one Avalonian space boat is destroyed by "friendly fire."

Anderson obviously approves of Daniel Holm, who had organized those defences, but he lets a Terran character articulate the opposite view:

"''s old Holm, of course, and a few other old men and Ythrians, who don't care how many young die as long as they're spared confessing their own stupid, senile willfulness...'" (p. 603)

This is very convincing although we do know that "old Holm" is not senile and does care.

Terra is represented by the honorable, praying Admiral and by the odious Sector Governor who promoted this war that will enhance his career. While hoping to seduce the Admiral's daughter, the fifty-three year old Governor is pleased with his performance, "...acting the role of a boy who acted the role of an homme du monde!" (p. 472) We are pleased that his performance does not impress its intended victim.

Eve Davisson, an Esperancian "...willowy blonde..." dating a Terran space boat captain, reminds him that:

"'This world was settled by people who believed in peace...'" (p. 487)

but adds:

"'I shan't join the demonstrators, whatever some of my friends may say when they learn I've been out with an Imperial officer.'" (p. 488)

So, although we do not see them, we know that anti-war campaigners demonstrate in Fleurville and, this time in an Anderson novel, maybe we can think they are right? Later in the History, Dominic Flandry and his fiancee join beings of Merseian species marching to the Parliament on Dennitza.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Historical Periods

I am not sure about this but maybe it would be a good idea to interpolate new "frontispieces" or title pages at strategic points in the collected History of Technic Civilization to show the reader where each of the successive periods begins and ends and also how long each of them is.


before "Margin of Profit," THE POLESOTECHNIC LEAGUE;
before "The Star Plunderer," THE TROUBLES;
before "Sargasso of Lost Starships," THE TERRAN EMPIRE;
before "A Tragedy of Errors," THE LONG NIGHT;
before "The Night Face," THE ALLIED PLANETS;
before "Starfog," THE COMMONALTY.

In the current uniform edition, Baen Books' The Technic Civilization Saga, THE POLESOTECHNIC LEAGUE title page would come before the fourth of eleven works in volume I and THE TROUBLES title page would come before the fourth of six works in Volume III, which kind of demonstrates what a long and, it must be added, substantial sub-series THE POLESOTECHNIC LEAGUE is.

Battles In Space

 In Star Wars or Star Trek, we see space battles but, in Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, we read about them in detail:

the superdreadnaught leading the defence of Avalon is named after the site of an ancient battle on Ythri;

First Marchwarden Ferune of Mistwood has had the Anglic translation of the name painted on the sides, Hell Rock;

the command bridge is broad because Ythrians need room to stretch their wings;

the air is scented with blood odors when the ship is in combat;

Ythrians, unlike Terrans, would go insane if confined in spacesuits so do not wear them and a large hole in a compartment will kill them;

Hell Rock, orbiting Avalon, built in space and unable to land, is a planetoid too massive for dodging manoeuvres but able endlessly to blast attacking ships;

when a section of screen is turned off to launch missiles, energy weapons intercept whatever is then launched against the temporarily vulnerable part of the hull;

rays strike the hull but never for long enough to penetrate the heavy plates; 

layers of internal shielding resist lethal radiation from explosions at the limits of Hell Rock's defences so that ordinary medication suffices for the little that does penetrate;

when, finally, concerted attack by five battleships and their attendants bursts Hell Rock open, bulkheads seal to protect those still alive and the artificial planetoid fights on automatically to cover her crew's escape.

The Terran Supernova class superdreadnaught, Valenderay, is even stronger but must not be risked because its armament and armor are there to protect fleet command. A Meteor-class boat, launched from a ship, has a captain, an engineer-computerman and a  fire control officer whose energy weapons counteract enemy torpedoes.

Anderson writes as if he had had combat experience in the Terran Empire.

Going Bird

Poul Anderson excels at descriptive passages both of natural scenery and of crowded, bustling civic and commercial centers. On p. 499 of Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011) is his description of "...Avalon's second city...Centauri...," which I quoted in a much earlier post. On the following page, he presents one of his "list" descriptions that I have commented on before. Eleven kinds of pedestrians, five kinds of human noise and five kinds of street smells are listed, giving an impression, I suggest, of a dynamic urban environment.

Christopher Holm, who has joined an Ythrian choth, "gone bird," as Arinninian, draws a different conclusion:

"'...I'm proud to belong to a choth and not proud that members of my race elect to live in a sty.'" (p. 501)

Ythrians mate only when in heat. Gestation has to be short because adult Ythrians fly. The young cling to either parent until their wings have developed. Adult sexes are equal or nearly so. Occasional females able to ovulate at will used to be killed and are now generally shunned. Chris is shocked to find his chothmate Eyath's betrothed Vodan with a permanently-in-heat female before he goes to war. He expects purity of his chothmates whereas Tabitha/Hrill comments:

"'...don't you suppose, if [Eyath] heard, she'd be glad he's gotten a bit of unimportant fun and forgetting?'" (p. 508)

"Birds," human choth members, tend to be promiscuous but not with each other. Chris has some problem but, three times when speaking to Tabitha, he does not finish his sentence:

"'You wouldn't -' he stammered. 'I mean, somebody like you?'" (p. 501)

And later:

"'We birds -' He couldn't finish..." (p. 509)

When she challenges his use of the word "we," he replies:

"'Why, we...our generation, at least -'" (p. 509)

- and again does not finish. Tabitha understands what is going on well enough to tell him that his "" is neither as typical nor as serious as he thinks. (p. 510) But I am still having trouble with what his "case" is. She refuses his proposition, which he says was only intended to make a point, to show why he is upset about Vodan, but he has no difficulty in finding another sexual partner for what is left of the night.

Later: He expects the same "purity" of human chothmates that he finds among Ythrians and thus denies that the former are human?

Old Faith, New Faith

When Enherrian, an Ythrian, says that his drowned daughter fought well and gave God honor, a human being adds that she is in heaven but he must express this in Terran Anglic rather than in Ythrian Planha. The Ythrian does not understand and repeats that his daughter, Arrach, is dead.

"'So you don't believe that the spirit outlives the body?'
'How could it?...Why should it?'" (Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method, New York, 2009, p. 122)

I thought that that was an excellent passage, showing Ythrian unfamiliarity with and incomprehension at an idea taken for granted by many human beings and at least understood even by those who doubt or deny it.

It turns out that Ythrians of the Old Faith do have pagan ideas about gods and a hereafter. Draun of Highsky says:

"'We've many new-made dead this night. The more Terrans for hell-wind to blow ahead of them, the better.'" (Rise Of The Terran Empire, New York, 2011, p. 547)

And again, when attacking a Terran:

"'Hell-winds blow you before my chothmates! Tell Illarian they are coming!'" (ibid., p. 549)

This clearly assumes the continued existence of chothmates and enemies after their deaths.

However, Enherrian was of the New Faith whose words tell the departed that he fought God the Hunter well and gave him honor, then:

"'Go hence now, that which [God's] talons left, be water and leaves, arise in the wind; and spirit, be always remembered.'" (ibid., p. 559)

Here, the body returns to nature but the spirit, going nowhere, is merely remembered.

From The Babur War To The Terran War

What a long way we have come in The Technic Civilization Saga, Volume III, Rise Of The Terran Empire:

(i) civil war in the Polesotechnic League for the industrial wealth of the planet Mirkheim;
(ii) colonization of the Hesperian Islands on Avalon;
(iii) colonization of the Coronan continent on Avalon;
(iv) the Troubles;
(v) Imperial annexation of Ansa and exploration of the Black Nebula;
(vi) war between the Terran Empire and the Domain of Ythri, with the Empire defeated on Avalon.

(i) and (ii) occur in the lifetime of David Falkayn whereas (vi) is set three and a half centuries later and is our last contact with a character surnamed Falkayn.

This is the pivotal volume of the History beginning with van Rijn and Falkayn aged but still active and ending not indeed with Dominic Flandry born but definitely with the Empire that he will defend having grown to its full 400 light year diameter.

Meanwhile, in (vi) The People Of The Wind, what exactly is Chris/Arinnian's problem when he is speaking to Tabitha/Hrill? This requires further thought.


Hloch explains the human concept of national government to fellow Ythrians thus:

" if a single group could permanently cry Oherran against the rest of society..." (Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method, New York, 2009, p. 104)

What is Oherran? When, two volumes of the Baen Books Technic Civilization Saga later, a minority of Avalonian choths opposes proposed defence measures and refuses to contribute, the Wyvan of the High Kruath threatens to call Oherran on them. They yield. (Rise Of The Terran Empire, New York, 2011, p. 494) The President of the Parliament of Man is shocked and also becomes conciliatory. He recognizes that this news is confidential because it would be a deathpride issue for the choths concerned and that to press the matter would risk civil war.

Oherran is a summons to everyone in the territory to attack the defiers of a Khruath decision. If this summons is rejected, then, since it is a deathpride matter, the Wyvans have no alternative to suicide.

"None who knew Liaw of the Tarns imagined he would untruthfully say that he had threatened to rip Avalon asunder." (ibid., p. 498)

Tuesday, 28 May 2013


A local science fiction fan suggested that some people view this blog but do not comment on it because they do not want to tangle with someone (me, apparently) who knows what he is talking about. Let me assure everyone that this is not the case. I have reread, found errors, corrected them and wondered why someone else did not point them out. (They have done, occasionally.)

There are regularly over 100 page views per day and this is an increase because I used to be pleased with just over 50. It would be good if some of those 100+ people could tell us who they are and what they think about Poul Anderson? They are bound to think different things because Anderson addressed many issues, several of them extremely controversial.

I find it very easy to read or reread Anderson's works and find something to say about them and other Anderson fans are bound to find different things to say so they are welcome to express them here, especially if they disagree with things that I have already said. Anyone advocating racist views would not find a platform here but no one seriously interested in Poul Anderson's fiction and philosophy could seriously advocate such views, could they?

So what does anyone that we have not heard from yet think of the King of Ys Tetralogy, the Time Patrol series or the History of  Technic Civilization?


Because Poul Anderson wanted the Terran Empire defended by Dominic Flandry to be like the Roman Empire, he even gave it slaves. Is this plausible? In any good future history, we are shown an unfamiliar aspect of a future society, then are shown the origin of that aspect in an installment written later but set earlier.

Thus, having learned about slavery among Ythrians, Philippe Rochefort reflects that the practice is being revived in the Empire, albeit limited by law, as a punishment and to get some social utility from criminals. Really? Current British law has a provision for "community service orders" which compel an offender to perform specified socially useful tasks or be returned to prison. But simply "selling" criminals to private individuals would, first, be unjust as a punishment because their treatment by their owners would be arbitrary and unpredictable and, secondly, it would in no way ensure that their owners made them do anything socially useful!

Rochefort asks himself how more moral Terrans are than Ythrians but then answers, "Man is my race." (Rise Of The Terran Empire, New York, 2011, p. 487)

Rochefort is a Jerusalem Catholic. Should his Church not condemn a revival of slavery? As I understand it, in the Roman Empire, St Paul, the founder of Gentile Christianity, did not condemn slavery but urged slaves to obey masters and taught that both master and slave were one in Christ but Paul was responding to an already existing institution, not to a practice revived after millennia of being morally condemned, and he thought that Christ would return soon so that everyone would be freed then.

Rochefort, preparing for war, is on Esperance, a planet that had been colonized by pacificists as we, the readers, were informed in a van Rijn story in the previous volume.

Build Up To War

The short opening paragraph of The People Of The Wind tells us that war is imminent. Next, Poul Anderson economically explains what the war is about and prepares his readers for the hostilities by recounting conversations between:

Daniel Holm, Second Marchwarden of the Lauran System, and his son, Christopher, who is also Arinninan of Stormgate Choth;

Arinninan and his chothmate, Eyath, a female Ythrian;

Holm Senior and First Marchwarden Ferune of Mistwood;

Arinninan and Tabitha Falkayn who is Hrill of Highsky;

Eyath and the male Ythrian, Vodan;

Ekrem Saracoglu, Imperial governor of Sector Pacis, and the Fleet Admiral's daughter;

Lieutenant Philippe Rochefort, captain of the Meteor-class space boat, Hooting Star, and his two-being crew;

Rochefort and the Esperancian Eve Davisson;

the Marchwardens, Matthew Vickery who is President of the Parliament of Man and Liaw of the Tarns who is Wyvan of the High Khruath.

That completes the first five of nineteen chapters: a great deal of characterization, human, Ythrian and Cynthian, interspersed with physical descriptions of Avalon, Esperance and the view from space.

Early Empire

It is good to have the History of Technic Civilization collected in chronological order of fictitious events in the seven uniform volumes of Baen Books' Technic Civilization Saga. Everything is there that we would previously have had to seek out in different places - most of us did not even have access to the never before reprinted "Sargasso of Lost Starships" - and the sequence of events is clearer.

Tabitha Falkayn says:

"...the Empire's been growing vigorously since Manuel the First." (Rise Of The Terran Empire, New York, 2011, p. 468)

We saw Manuel I in "The Star Plunderer," saw the Empire growing in "Sargasso of Lost Starships" and now see Tabitha in The People Of The Wind. These two short stories and one novel are the fourth, fifth and sixth of the six works collected in Volume III, Rise Of The Terran Empire.

Tabitha says that the Empire grows by partnership, purchase, exchange or conquest. The planet Cynthia, which is known to us, is an example of partnership ("'...the Cynthians found it advantageous...'" (p. 468)). We saw Ansa conquered in "Sargasso of Lost Starships" and now see the Planet-class cruiser Ansa as part of the fleet mobilized against Tabitha's planet. The Ansans would not have been flattered by her description of Terran conquests:

"' - always of primitives, or at most of people whose strength in space was ridiculously less than Greater Terra's.'" (p. 468)

In another conversation, the Imperial governor mentions that one issue between Terra and Ythri is:

"'...which of us shall absorb the Antoranite-Kraokan complex around Beta Centauri?'" (p. 473)

Tabitha's ancestor, David, had interacted with that complex two Baen volumes previously.

The governor adds:

"'The Ythrians have already gained more power, by bringing Dathyna under them...'" (p. 474)

I think that "Dathyna" should mean something to those of us who have read the History?

Finally, the governor argues that rectifying this Terran-Ythrian border will help to defend Terra against Merseia:

"'...the Rhoidunate is far off and not very big. But it's growing at an alarming rate, and aggressive acquisitiveness is built into its ideology.'" (p. 474)

David Falkayn helped Merseia in Volume II and Dominic Flandry will fight it in Volumes IV-VII.

Humanity As A Minority

I have always strongly disliked poultry and had to turn down a job that would have involved entering a large hut full of hens to pick up their eggs so how would I feel if I were Daniel Holm walking along a corridor in Avalonian naval headquarters where Ythrians, feathered and winged though not beaked, outnumber human beings? Holm himself grew up on this joint colony planet and is at home there.

Human beings are the majority on Avalon as a whole - when Falkayn, founding the colony, requested and received Ythrian protection, some Ythrians joined this mainly human settlement - but they are a small minority in the Domain of Ythri. Holm is learning to accept this. Specifically, as Second Marchwarden of the Lauran System, he has persuaded the First Marchwarden, Ferune of Mistwood, that Avalon must have a unified command for defence but this will not prevent the rest of the Domain from retaining its "'...separate, loosely confederated planetary commands...'" despite unified Terran aggression (Rise Of The Terran Empire, New York, 2011, p. 456).

Avalonian human beings who want their planet to stay in the Domain and who therefore resist annexation by the Terran Empire are not disloyal to their species. One Empire, which, in any case, grants full citizenship to other races, is not the entire human race. Similarly, in a later period, Merseians who have settled on the human colony planet, Dennitza, and who prefer the Emperor to the Rhoidun, are not disloyal to their species. At least, they do not believe that the God intends the Race to have complete hegemony in the galaxy.

But what of human beings who willingly serve Merseia? Do they know that the Rhoidun's Council aims to subordinate or, failing that, to exterminate their species? If so, then, yes, they are guilty of a crime against humanity although no more so than against any other species oppressed by Merseia.

Superhero Parallels

Two minor comparisons between the DC Comics Universe and Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization -

(i) Members of the superhero team, the Green Lantern Corps, wear "power rings" that bestow super powers, including flight. One Corps member resembled a squirrel.

Members of the trader team sometimes fly using personal gravity harnesses. One team member resembles a squirrel.

(ii) Thanagar is inhabited both by winged, feathered, avian-headed humanoids and by fully humanoid beings whose policemen fly with artificial wings and belts of anti-gravity metal and wear hawk-like helmets. Two Thanagarian police officers came to Earth as the superheroes, Hawkman and Hawkwoman.

Avalon is colonized by winged, feathered Ythrians and by human beings some of whom fly with gravbelts.

Imperial Thanagar joined an Alien Alliance attack against Terrestrial superheroes whereas Avalon successfully resisted annexation by Imperial Terra.


Here the resemblances end. Graphic fiction can be as rich and dense as prose fiction can be but usually it is not because of its monthly publishing schedule.

Anderson's characters do not fight crime but earn a living and, when necessary, keep the peace.

Monday, 27 May 2013

The People Of The Wind

It is refreshing when rereading Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization to open an entire novel, The People Of The Wind, that is set long after the life times of Nicholas van Rijn and David Falkayn yet long before the birth of Dominic Flandry. These are the three main series characters yet three novels and thirteen short stories do not feature any of them.

Although Christopher Holm appears only in The People Of The Wind, his position in the History is strengthened by references in The Earth Book Of Stormgate to his activities as translator and compiler. And an ancestor of his is a supporting character in one Earth Book story.

The People Of The Wind describes in detail the physical environment of the planet Avalon, the nature of the winged Ythrians who have jointly colonized it with human beings, how the two races affect each other, the imperial pressure that builds into a war between Avalon and Terra and the massive destruction wreaked during a battle between space fleets.

Ythrian ways are different and some human beings are drawn to them. Christopher Holm, having become Arinninan, is now under choth law and custom, not human law. The opening paragraph sets the scene for a stormy period in Avalonian history:

"'You can't leave now,' Daniel Holm told his son, 'Any day we may be at war. We may already be.'" (Rise Of The Terran Empire, New York, 2011, p. 437)

Read on...

Humour And Point Of View

Let us follow what happens between van Rijn and Joyce with a few carefully chosen quotations:

"...Nicholas van himself quartered next to her and she had enough trouble by day fending off his ursine advances..." (David Falkayn: Star Trader, New York, 2010, p. 6)

"One hairy hand stole across the table and closed on Joyce's.
"'Here comes Uulobu,' she exclaimed, pulling free and jumping to her feet." (p. 20)

"He patted her knee...Joyce got up for another cup of coffee and seated herself at a greater distance." (p. 24)

"...he had had a hard life, poor thing. No one had ever really taken him in hand..." (p. 63)

"...after all, he really was a very interesting person..." (p. 76)

We might regard this as humorous or sexist but there is another feature to note. It is all narrated from Joyce's point of view. The flamboyant, larger than life van Rijn exists to be presented to the reader as perceived by others. In fact, is there any passage that is narrated from his point of view?

Definitive Passages

The two defining passages for the Polesotechnic League are:

the passage beginning "It is a truism that..." which occurs early in "Margin of Profit," and is repeated as an introduction to "Territory," the second story in Trader To The Stars;

the passage beginning with the quotation, "The world's great age begins anew...," which introduces Trader To The Stars and is attributed to "Le Matelot."

These two passages need to be highlighted at the beginning of the League period in any uniform edition of Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization so I suggest that Volume I of the History should begin with:

the three pre-League stories;
the "Le Matelot" passage;
"Margin of Profit" -

- which is followed by no less than four stories about different aspects of the League before its hero, van Rijn, returns as a series character. Thus, the Polesotechnic League becomes a substantial setting for later adventures of van Rijn and his protege, Falkayn.

The defining passage for the decline of the League is "Lodestar" at the end of Volume II. The implications of "Lodestar" are worked out in Mirkheim and indeed arguably in the remaining volumes of the Technic History.

T'Kelan Psychology

(Please bear with me while I discuss philosophy and religion on a Poul Anderson Appreciation blog. It is relevant.)

Human beings were active social organisms long before they became reflective individual subjects. Motivations precede morality. Immature and insensitive behavior existed long before the ability to feel any guilt about it. I think that this fact is the truth behind the myths of original sin or of karmic consequences from previous lives.

Each of us is born with baggage that is not of our choosing but I think that the baggage comes from biology and society, not from a "soul," whether created bearing original sin or transmigrating with bad karma - although "karma," meaning action and its consequences, certainly operates both in individual lives and in world history. Our origin as a species was a Darwinian ascent from animality, not a Biblical descent from innocence.

I discuss these profound issues here because that famous religious philosopher, Nicholas van Rijn, discusses them profoundly in "Territory," where he points out that our animal ancestors were arboreal herbivores before they became plains carnivores whereas t'Kelan animal ancestry was entirely carnivore. This explains otherwise puzzling t'Kelan behavior. They have more powerful killing instincts and are less gregarious:

"'Carnivores can't be. You get a big concentration of hunters in one spot, and by damn, the game goes away.'" (David Falkayn: Star Trader, New York, 2010, p. 56)

They never built nations. Individuals and small groups fight but larger groups, even when they exist, organize no wars. Prides wage no vendettas because one individual killing another is not regarded as bad. In fact, those who do not fight or own and defend territory for hunting are regarded as odd. Human beings who deny that they come to invade must be either lying or weak so van Rijn must prove his strength and courage before he can even begin to negotiate and trade. (Like PG Wodehouse's Jeeves, although in a completely different context, van Rijn has the knack of doing what looks like precisely the wrong thing, for example insulting a native leader, then turns out to have been precisely the necessary thing to do.)

"'We was animals long before we became thinkers and, uh -' van Rijn's beady eyes rolled piously ceilingward - 'and was given souls. You got to think how a race evolved before you can take them...I mean understand them.'" (p. 55)

But I think the evolution rules out the need to postulate souls. I have come to accept that van Rijn's Catholic faith is sincere - his dickering with St Dismas being merely the humorous expression of his mercantilism - but he thinks about business, leaving theologians to do what, as he says in "The Master Key," they are paid to do, for example to think about whether aliens have souls.

Reorganizing The Technic History

The first three volumes of Baen Books The Technic Civilization Saga by Poul Anderson, compiled by Hank Davis, are called:

The Van Rijn Method
David Falkayn: Star Trader
Rise Of The Terran Empire

The first two titles are unhelpful because both of those characters are in both of those volumes and the third title is questionable because the League still exists in the first half of the volume and the Empire does not exist until the concluding two items in the volume. In accordance with recent posts on this blog, I suggest that these volumes, with a slight re-arrangement of contents, could instead be called:

Rise Of The Polesotechnic League
Decline Of The Polesotechnic League
Rise Of The Terran Empire

or, more succinctly:

League: Rise
League: Decline
League And Empire

Previously, I agreed with seven volumes for the entire History but disagreed with volumes of uniform length, suggesting instead that the concluding three Dominic Flandry novels would make sense as a single volume to be called Children Of Empire and that the seventh volume could be a much shorter After The Empire containing no Flandry items.

However, I now think that my idea for the fifth volume might be too long. Also, it would include disparate materials and should therefore be split into a very short Outposts Of Empire, to contain only "Outpost of Empire" and The Day Of Their Return, and the shorter Flandry works collected as Flandry And Empire. The existing fourth volume, Young Flandry, would remain as it is.

This list of eight titles would more clearly display the historical development in the series.

T'Kelan Society

 Right now, I am so immersed in Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization that I feel as if I am living inside it: not a bad place to be but how long can I stay here?

Meanwhile, here we go with t'Kelan society:

the basic social unit everywhere on the planet t'Kela is the pride;

a pride is the oldest male, his wives (there are about three females to every male), their children and some of the leader's father's widows;

all hunt but only males fight;

the largest pride is about twenty which is "' many as can make a living in an area small enough to cover afoot, on this desert planet...'" (David Falkayn: Star Trader, New York, 2010, p. 32);

savages have no organization beyond the pride;

in the most advanced, Kusulongo, society, covering half the northern hemisphere, ten to twenty prides form a cooperative "clan," claiming a common male ancestor, each following wild herds through its own large territory, with all clans loosely federated into a "Horde," each of which annually meets at a traditional oasis for trade, socializing, marriages and also arbitration or combat because clans often argue over honor or ammonia wells;

Kusulongans nearly always marry within their Horde which is distinguished by dress, customs, gods ("Real Ones") etc;

there are individual clashes and Volkerwanderungs but no organized wars between Hordes (is this for pragmatic economic reasons as Joyce suggests or for deeper psychological reasons as van Rijn suspects?);

the Ancients, survivors of the lost civilization in their mountain city, are paid for their services as record keepers, physicians, metallurgists, weavers, gunpowder manufacturers, magicians and astronomers able to predict solar flares.

The next topic, which will complete the picture, is t'Kelan psychology.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Making Sense Of T'Kela

Would it really be possible to make a profit selling drink and spices after crossing interstellar distances at super-light speeds and negotiating with alien intelligences? It sounds like an astronomically expensive way to do it.

In "Territory," Nicholas van Rijn visits the planet t'Kela:

t'Kela's sun is a very old type M dwarf with few heavy atoms;

half an AU out, t'Kela is about 40% more massive than Earth with a low specific gravity but some iron and copper;

suns like t'Kela's emit so little ultraviolet that they do not energize "...primordial organic materials..." to interact very fast (David Falkayn: Star Trader, New York, 2010, p. 24);

so life starts slowly in the liquid ammonia oceans;

it usually uses carbon dioxide and ammonia to photosynthesize carbohydrates and nitrogen, the latter breathed by animals;

but, possibly because of some catalytic agent, life sometimes evolves differently, for example on t'Kela and, in another planetary system, Throra;

oceanic ammonia hydroxide contains some liquid water;

t'Kelan and Throran plants use gaseous carbon dioxide and "dissolved" water to photosynthesize carbohydrates and free oxygen;

animals reverse this process but a specialized molecule holds the released water in their tissues so that plants have to retrieve it from decaying organisms;

oxygen from plants attacks ammonia but slowly because solid ammonia sinks to the bottom of lakes and oceans where it is protected from the air;

gradually, "...ammonia and oxygen yield free nitrogen and water..." (p. 25);

water freezes, seas shrink, air loses oxygen, deserts grow;

on Throra, a bigger planet with a denser atmosphere, therefore more heat conservation, nitrogen-fixing bacteria halted the drying-out a billion years ago;

on t'Kela several thousand years ago, so much ammonia was lost that the greenhouse effect, dependent on carbon dioxide and ammonia vapor, was significantly reduced;

increasing quantities of ammonia solidified and fell to the bottom where they were protected from melting;

carbon dioxide seasonally condensed or even solidified;

plants, needing carbon dioxide and ammonia, died and animals with them;

continent-sized areas became barren, agricultural civilization was destroyed and nitrogen-fixing bacteria were annihilated;

higher animals will be extinct within a thousand years, all life in ten thousand;

however, human beings from Esperance will reintroduce nitrogen-fixing bacteria;

a microagricultural program using soil chemistry will produce a suitable ecology;

the Esperancians will also melt and electrolyze water, releasing oxygen both to refresh the air and to burn t'Kelan petroleum, thus generating carbon dioxide to strengthen the greenhouse effect;

released chemical energy will supplement newly installed nuclear power stations "' do the electrolysis and to energize the combination of hydrogen from water with nitrogen from the atmosphere, recreating ammonia.'" (p. 27)

The Esperancian Joyce explains this process, then t'Kelan society, to van Rijn, thus enabling him to deduce why t'Kelan and human psychologies differ. He articulates some basic insights about the evolutionary and biological bases of psychology but these will have to wait until a later post.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Margins Of Profit III Etc

That last post was cut short by the need to eat a meal. I meant to add not only that the concluding Flandry novels follow a period of civil war and usurpation but also that the splendid Chunderban Desai expounds a theory of "change and decay" on an imperial scale. The feeling of end times  generated in Mirkheim, set during the latter days of the Polesotechnic League, is echoed in the evocatively entitled A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows, set during the latter days of the Terran Empire.

But Anderson does not repeat himself, at least not in this series. The later problems of imperial decadence are not the earlier problems of state/monopoly capitalism and the two periods differ considerably in tone.

Desai is a native of Ramanujan, as is van Rijn's captain in the first story of Trader To The Stars. Van Rijn's companion in the second story in that collection is from Esperance which we see in The People Of The Wind. An ensign in the third and last story in Trader To The Stars is from Nuevo Mexico, as are the Fleet Admiral and his daughter in The People Of The Wind. Many of Anderson's invented planets are re-mentioned although not always remembered until rereading reveals the interconnections between background details of different works.

The second story in Trader To The Stars, "Territory," presents an extremely elaborate, even for Anderson, explanation of its fictitious planet's environmental features and ecological problems. I will shortly summarize one character's account to van Rijn in the hope of making this clearer at least to myself.

The original version of "Margin of Profit," already discussed, is included as an appendix to the online edition of Baen Book's The Van Rijn Method. I suggest that, in any printed Complete Works, that original version should be not an appendix to the History but just another item among the Complete Short Stories, where it could be regarded as a non-series work that is set in a timeline different from although similar to that of the History.

Alternatively, since Anderson made some, lesser, revisions to the shorter Flandry works, there could be an Alternative Technic History Volume in which the original "Margin of Profit" would be followed by the original Flandry stories, one of which does refer back to van Rijn - unless, of course, that story was not among those revised.

This is a bigger issue with James Blish whose Complete Works would definitely have to include a volume of the original, shorter versions of several works.

Historical Families

Although Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization is in no way the story of a single person or the history of a single family, certain individuals and lineages make their mark.

Nat Falkayn is the son of Nicholas Falkayn who is the son of David Falkayn and the great-great-grandson of Nicholas van Rijn who is also the father of Eric Tamarin, heir apparent to the Duchy of Hermes, David Falkayn's home planet! Ivar Holm is an ancestor of Daniel Holm whose son Christopher marries Tabitha Falkayn, a descendant of David.

Max Abrams' daughter Miriam marries Dominic Flandry who had already had a son, Dominic, by Persis d'Io, and a daughter, Diana, by Maria Crowfeather. We know of three different generations of Kitteridges on the planet Vixen. Manuel Argos founded the Terran Empire. Later dynasties and at least one would-be pretender claim Argolid descent. But Hans Molitor usurps and is succeeded by his sons.

What Anderson clearly shows, however, is that civilization and history are much greater than any great individual or powerful family. He welds together many works that are not just a van Rijn series followed by a Flandry series. There are many situations in which these familiar names do not get mentioned.

Just as the Polesotechnic League rises and declines, the Terran Empire goes through comparable phases. The concluding Flandry novels follow the period of civil war and usurpation.

Decline And Fall

The previous two posts identified, within Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization:

3 pre-Polesotechnic League stories;
11 works about the rise of the League;
5 about its latter days and decline.

My proposed Volume II of the History would comprise:

2 van Rijn in space stories;
2 trader team stories;
2 van Rijn at home stories;
3 works about the beginning of the end of the League.

In addition, according to Sandra Miesel's Chronology of Technic Civilization, "Wingless" and "Rescue on Avalon" are also set before the dissolution of the League. However, they are about the colonization of Avalon, not about the League's decline.

Moving on within Volume III of the History, "The Star Plunderer" ends with Manuel Argos proclaiming an Empire. Thus, that Empire does not yet exist within this story. Thus, further, this single story is the only work set during the period of the Troubles between the League and the Empire just as "A Tragedy of Errors" is the only work set during the Long Night between the Empire and the Allied Planets. There are eighteen works set in the League period, seveneen set during the Imperial period and a further eight set before, between or after these two main periods.

However, the purpose of the previous two posts was to fine tune the League period into a Rise and a Decline and I think they succeeded to some extent. Moving one introduction to an earlier point in the sequence and one story with its introduction to a later point would avoid giving the reader mixed signals about when the Decline starts and when the Rise began.

Rise And Decline Of The Polesotechnic League III

Continuing the reasoning from the previous post:

(xi) "The Three-Cornered Wheel" and "A Sun Invisible" show Falkayn's pre-trader team career and are rightly the sixth and seventh stories in Volume I. In the latter, Falkayn is working for van Rijn's Company and we have already met van Rijn.

(xii) "The Season of Forgiveness" describes later events on the first planet visited by Falkayn and is rightly the eighth story in Volume I.

(xiii) The Man Who Counts is van Rijn's second appearance. Until now, we have not known that he will become a series character. He appeared once, then became part of the background. It makes sense for him to return in this novel which is the ninth work in the series.

(xiv) I find it easier to think of Volumes I and II as nine works each rather that the eleven in Vol I and seven in Vol II of the Baen Books Technic Civilization Saga. With nine each, the contents of Trader To The Stars do not get split between volumes.

(xv) In any case, as things stand in the Baen volumes, the tenth work is the van Rijn story, "Esau," and the Earth Book Introduction to this story informs us that at this time the early League philosophy and practice were becoming archaic or obsolete so maybe this work should come later?

(xvi) The eleventh work is the van Rijn story, "Hiding Place," which is preceded by an introductory passage beginning "'The world's great age begins anew...'" However, this passage originally introduced not just this story but the collection Trader To The Stars and it refers to the Polesotechnic League period as a whole so maybe this introduction should be moved to before "How To Be Ethnic In One Easy Lesson," which I would place fourth in the series?

(xvii) I would therefore have "Hiding Place," without this introduction, opening Volume II where it would be followed by another van Rijn story, "Territory," and two trader team stories, "The Trouble Twisters" and "Day of Burning." That gets us four stories into Vol II which must end with "Lodestar" so there are only four stories left to be accounted for.

(xviii) Van Rijn having sent trader teams out, it makes sense that he now stays at home where problems can be brought to him so "The Master Key" and "Esau," the latter with its hint that early League practice is becoming archaic, can fit here.

(xix) Satan's World features an external threat to the League requiring a response both from van Rijn and from the Falkayn trader team and there is also a hint that the League could have internal problems as well.

(xx) As its Earth Book Introduction says, "A Little Knowledge" gives a glimpse of troubles internal to Technic civilization so this story rightly comes between Satan's World and "Lodestar".

In this way of presenting the series:
three stories precede the League;
eleven works from "How To Be Ethnic..." to "The Master Key" show the League rising;
five works from "Esau" to Mirkheim show the League aging, then declining.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Rise And Decline Of The Polesotechnic League II

I am not sure that this problem is fully resolved yet: how to arrange the stories in such a way that they clearly show first the rise, then the decline, of the Polesotechnic League. Certain points are clear enough.

(i) Both "The Saturn Game" and "Wings of Victory" are pre-League and rightly come at the very beginning of Volume I of The Technic Civilization Saga or of any other uniform edition of the series.

(ii) I think that "The Problem of Pain" is also pre-League but, in any case, it is definitely the third story in the History.

(iv) From the fourth story onwards, the League definitely exists.

(v) The fourth story could be either "Margin of Profit," which introduces Nicholas van Rijn, or "How To Be Ethnic In One Easy Lesson," which introduces Adzel. Sandra Miesel's Chronology lists both as occurring in the same year. I would prefer to start with the Adzel story in order slightly to delay the appearance of van Rijn.

(vi) We know that van Rijn was born poor, worked as a spaceman and built the Solar Spice & Liquor Company from nothing but we do not see any of this happening. When introduced to the reader, van Rijn is already rich, successful, powerful and older than the other characters that he is dealing with - although he also ages significantly and visibly during the series.

(vii) So far, that gives us an order for the first five stories in Volume I.

(viii) Mirkheim is a sequel to the trader team series and rightly opens Volume III.

(ix) "Lodestar" is the prequel to Mirkheim. Van Rijn has visibly aged, the League is now in serious decline and this is the last time that we see the trader team in action before they disband - van Rijn has to bring them back together after a considerable interval in order to address the Mirkheim crisis - so "Lodestar" rightly closes Volume II.

(x) That leaves us with twelve works to sort out between the first five in Volume I and the last one in Volume II.

Margins Of Profit II

The original "Margin of Profit" is in Un-Man and other novellas (New York, 1962).

The revised "Margin of Profit" is in The Earth Book Of Stormgate (New York, 1979) and in The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009).

"...Batavia's towers..." (Un-man, p. 106) become "...Djakarta's towers..." (Van Rijn, p. 139) but otherwise the description of the location by the Java Sea is unchanged.

A "...referobot..." (p. 106) becomes a "...datacom..." (p. 139)

St Dismas as "...the precise and perfect patron for van Rijn...," in the opinion of a union leader (p. 107), is omitted from the revision. 

"...the Solar Federation..." (p. 107) becomes "...the [Solar] Commonwealth..." (p. 140)

Added in the revision is van Rijn questioning why women would join "...a brotherhood." (p. 139)

"'Now get out!'" (p. 109) becomes "'Now, would you like to join me in the bar? - No? Then good day to you, Captain, if possible.'" (p. 144)

So the union leader is a bit less perspicacious and van Rijn is a bit more polite! But there are too many textual changes to note them all here.

A Black Nebula Series?

PLANET STORIES covers sent by Sean M Brooks as possible illustrations for his article, "Anderson's PLANET STORIES Tales", have at least three noteworthy features:

(i) female figures in poses common to such covers;

(ii) we recognize AA Craig as one of Hloch's sources for The Earth Book Of Stormgate;

(iii) the left hand cover somewhat dishonestly describes "Sargasso of Lost Starships" as "a Dark Nebula novel" whereas it is the Dark Nebula short story.

Imagine the implications if say three or more Dark Nebula novels were to be incorporated into Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization! What other planets would be in the Nebula? Why is the cosmic energy source more accessible from there than from anywhere else? Would the cosmic energy generate different powers in organisms with different biologies? Did the Chereionites visit there in the galactic past? Might Flandry have to go there on behalf of the Empire?

We can at least imagine Anderson continuing to write his series in some happy realm of the hereafter. In Valhalla, Vikings fight all day and are resurrected to feast every night. For some of my former teaching colleagues, the equivalent would be cricket all day followed by food and beer back at the Punch Bowl Inn every evening. An author might write a new novel each day and discuss it with fellow writers and fans in a Convention bar in the evening?

After speculating about the Resurrection, CS Lewis wrote:

"Guesses, of course, only guesses. If they are not true, something better will be." (Letter To Malcolm: Chiefly On Prayer, London, 1966, p. 124)

I can only say, "Myths, of course, only myths, but ones that express the best that we can conceive or imagine."

From the Black Nebula to Valhalla to the Punch Bowl to a Convention in the Sky to Heaven and back:

"Methinks it is no journey."

Later: In Heaven, presumably an unlimited realm of permanent negative entropy:

we would not read but live novels;
authors would not write fictitious texts but program virtual realities;
we would experience van Rijn's hospitality, the planet Avalon, Flandry's space battles etc;
or, as Lewis wrote, if not this, then something better.

Planet Stories III

Two posts ago, my American correspondent, Sean M Brooks, listed thirteen PLANET STORIES stories by Poul Anderson. We know six, just under half, of them. First, there is:

An Early Terran Empire Tetralogy
"The Star Plunderer"
"Sargasso Of Lost Starships"
"Tiger By The Tail"
"The Ambassadors Of Flesh"

Of course, it is only with the benefit of hindsight that we link the two "Solar Empire" stories (the first and second) to the two Dominic Flandry stories (the third and fourth) and re-arrange them into this order. We are impressed and grateful that such a large oak tree of future history grew from the small acorn that was these pulp stories.

"Star Ship" belongs to Anderson's earlier, Psychotechnic, future history and "Captive of the Centaurianess," I think, has the same background as "A Bicycle Built For Brew," although I have yet to reread "Captive..." to confirm this.

Thus, as with James Blish's "Sunken Universe," some early pulp fiction was preserved by incorporation into later, more significant, series.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Margins Of Profit

I have been side-tracked from Poul Anderson's collections back to his Technic History but there is an overlap because the original version of "Margin of Profit" is in the non-History collection, Un-Man and other novellas, whereas the revised version is in the Technic History collections, The Earth Book Of Stormgate and, more definitively, The Van Rijn Method.

The original version is set in an alternative timeline where:

there is a Solar Federation, not a Solar Commonwealth;
the "Martians" are natives of Mars, not colonists from outside the Solar System.

In both versions, as in the later story, "Hiding Place," a spaceship captain is also a Lodgemaster of the Federated Brotherhood of Spacemen. This would create a conflict of interest if a brother needed Brotherhood representation when in a dispute with the captain. There would have to be crew representatives as well as the Lodgemaster on board a ship.

"The regalia of a Lodgemaster in the Federated Brotherhood of Spacemen was stiff with gold braid, medals, and jewelry, far removed from the gray coverall he wore on deck..." (Un-man..., New York, 1962, p. 105)

"The formal garb of a Lodgemaster in the Federated Brotherhood of Spacemen was a far remove from the coverall he wore in his ship..." (The Van Rijn Method, New York, 2009, p. 138)

Anderson toned down the Lodgemaster's apparel from ostentatiously expensive regalia to undescribed formal garb! That regalia is a far remove from what many trade union members would want their representative to wear at their expense. In a life or death matter like Borthu, many union members would demonstrate outside a meeting between Lodgemaster and employer. Some would want to attend the meeting even if not invited although it would be advisable to go in unarmed. A fire fight with van Rijn's security would solve nothing. In fact, lobby guards a kilometer below (!) had disarmed the Lodgemaster on his way in so a forced entry by demonstrators would be difficult.

The textual differences between the versions are probably too numerous to enumerate although I will see what I can do in subsequent posts!

Anderson's PLANET STORIES Tales by Sean M. Brooks

When Poul Anderson was a young writer who was still, in may ways, learning how to write, he contributed a dozen or so stories to PLANET STORIES.  Here I both list those yarns and offer some comments about those PLANET STORIES tales by both Anderson and me.

"Star Ship," PLANET STORIES, Fall 1950
"Witch of the Demon Seas," PS, January 1951
"Tiger by the Tail," PS, January 1951
"Duel on Syrtis," PS, March 1951
"The Virgin of Valkarion," PS, July 1951
"Lord of a Thousand Suns," PS, September 1951
"Swordsman of Lost Terra," PS, November 1951
"Sargasso of Lost Starships," PS, January 1952
"Captive of the Centaurianess," PS, March 1952
"War Maid of Mars," PS, May 1952
"The Star Plunderer," PS, September 1952
"The Ambassadors of Flesh," PS, Summer 1954
"Out of the Iron Womb," PS, Summer 1955

Most of these stories have been republished in collections including works by other authors or as one author (Anderson) anthologies.  But I have not yet managed to read "Witch of the Demon Seas," "The Virgin of Valkarion," or "War Maid of Mars."

Although best known for his excellent hard SF and fantasies, Poul Anderson also wrote some of the finest and purest quill pen pulp SF to be found.  Two examples being "Lord of a Thousand Suns" and "Swordsman of Lost Terra."  But I wish to let Anderson himself comment on the tales he wrote for PLANET STORIES.  The text quoted below came from his essay "Concerning Future Histories" (BULLETIN OF THE SCIENCE FICTION WRITERS OF AMERICA, Fall 1979), quoting from page 8.

   Way back when, I was for a short time a mainstay of PLANET STORIES.  That magazine is today of fond memory, but at the time it was considered trash by many fans because it frankly went in for straight adventure with a science fictional back-ground.  Myself, I saw nothing wrong with that.  The action story has been a legitimate form since Homer, if not before. (It might be remarked, too, that PLANET occasionally ran stuff by such people as Ray Bradbury, Margaret St. Clair, and William Tenn which nobody else dared touch.  And even in the swashbucklers, characters were permitted to have sex lives.)  I was young and poor and wanted money to travel on, I could write derring-do very fast; why not?  Therefore I churned out a total of about a dozen.  That was all.  They caused persons who think in categories to dismiss me as nothing but a blood-and-thunderer, and those folk took a long time to change their minds.  Some never had.  No matter, I don't feel the least apologetic for having thus earned the means to widen my horizons.  Those tales were in no way memorable, but they weren't pretentious either, and if they gave a little diversion to most of their readers, they served their purpose.
It's my view that here Anderson was being too modest about the quality of the tales he wrote for PLANET STORIES.  As I've already said, I believe he wrote some of the finest pulp SF to be found.  Also, the additional text quoted below from "Concerning Future Histories" (also from page 8 of the above mentioned BULLETIN) explains why I believe his PS tales to be much better than average.
   Nevertheless, I quickly grew tired of certain cliches in the genre.  The uniformly noble and Nordic heroes,   the incredibly complete resolutions of all problems. Why not do something a bit more believable?  This was the origin of "Tiger by the Tail," the first story about Dominic Flandry.  In name and temperament, he was Gallic; a Frenchman has actually congratulated me on the characterization.  He was an intelligence officer in the service of a Terran Empire far gone in decay, losing the very will to defend its frontiers, while alien enemies pressed ever harder inward.  He recognized the corruption of his society in his own spirit.  But somebody had to try keep things hanging together somehow, at any rate through his lifetime.  After all, civilization was much more enjoyable than barbarism, or death.  Besides, the work itself was the most interesting activity in sight, in between bouts of sensualism, and he did keep a few fugitive ideals and loyalties.
I agree with what Anderson said about those "cliches in the genre."  What I read in the stories he wrote for PS makes it plain he transcended those shop worn tropes.  I thought of "Captive of the Centaurianess" as one example because of how he used sardonic humor to turn inside out those cliches.  And the same was true of "Tiger by the Tail," with its theme of how noble, honorable barbarians versus a "corrupt" civilized man was shown to be false and the civilized man was wiser and more decent than the barbarians he opposed. A writer who was merely a hack would probably have taken the opposite tack.

What kind of magazine was PLANET STORIES?  To answer that question I'll quote a bit from Malcolm J. Edwards entry for PS on page 937 of THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCIENCE FICTION (1993, ed. by John Clute and Peter Nicholls): "Subtitled in its early years "Strange Adventures on Other Worlds--The Universe of Future Centuries," PS was the epitome of pulp SF.  Its covers were garish in the extreme, and its story titles promised extravagantly melodramatic interplanetary adventures (which the stories themselves frequently provided)."  And Poul Anderson wrote tales for PS which fit this description (and the wonderfully lurid covers) while also improving on or even transcending those cliches he came to dislike. 

More Details In The Master Key

The narrator of "The Master Key" describes Nicholas van Rijn as "...the single-handed conqueror of Borthu, Diomedes and t'Kela!" (David Falkayn: Star Trader, New York, 2010, p. 281)

Thus, "Margin of Profit," The Man Who Counts and "Territory" precede "The Master Key" chronologically. "Margin..." introduces van Rijn, and The Man Who Counts develops his character at greater, novelistic, length, then the van Rijn series proper kicks off with "Esau" and the three stories collected in Trader To The Stars, including "Territory" and "The Master Key."

In the previous post on "The Master Key," I neglected the detail that the narrator's friend, Harry Stenvik, speaks with a "...soft Norse accent..." (p. 276) These cumulative details, although usually instantly forgotten, build up a solid picture of the characters and their environment. We remember that what we read was substantial even though we forget most of it.

Often we are told which colony planet a new character hails from. Sometimes, though not always, we know the planet from elsewhere in the Technic History. Harry's son's ensign is from Neuvo Mexico (not known) beyond Arcturus. In other stories:

Emil Dalmady is from Altai (known);
the narrator of "The Problem of Pain" meets Peter Berg from Aeneas (known) on Lucifer (not known) where they discuss Gray/Avalon (known);
Noah Arkwright quotes a prospector on Quetzalcoatl (not known);
Urwain the Wide-Faring mines on Despair (not known);
the pretender Magnusson's wife is from Nyanza (known);
two very different characters come from Ramanujan.

I will remember more items for this list when walking down the stairs.

More On Van Rijn

Poul Anderson revised "Margin of Profit" for The Earth Book Of Stormgate and the revised version was reprinted in The Van Rijn Method. However, I have the original version in Un-Man and other novellas so I will read it for the first time for comparison. Hank Davis, compiler of The Technic Civilization Saga of which The Van Rijn Method is Volume I, wrote that the revision intensified van Rijn's characterization and fitted the story more consistently into the Technic History so I will look out for any inconsistencies.

Also, although I have reread "Territory," the second story in the van Rijn collection Trader To The Stars relatively recently, I have again forgotten almost all the details. Van Rijn and a handful of human beings, including a woman with whom he interacts, are on another planet where they have some trouble with the natives and van Rijn for once exercises some combat skills. At the end of the story, they have solved their problems but will remain stranded on that planet for a while? Or will have a long journey home? I think.

Reading these two stories is next on the agenda so these volumes will accompany us on a trip to nearby waterfalls which my family want to photograph.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Galactic Civilization

We have perhaps three sources of information about the galactic civilization that will exist long after the Terran Empire and the Long Night:

Donvar Ayeghen's Introduction to "The Star Plunderer";
Michael Karageorge's Introduction to "Sargasso of Lost Starships."

It was inappropriate that The Long Night (see image) included "The Star Plunderer," about the founding of the Terran Empire, and "Outpost of Empire," set during the Imperial period, since the Long Night is precisely what happens after the Fall of the Empire.

Strictly speaking, the Long Night is the period between the Fall and the restoration of civilization. However, an Imperial might use the term more loosely just to mean anything and everything happening after the Empire. In that broader sense, the Introductions to "The Star Plunderer" and "Sargasso" are written during the Long Night. Ayeghen and Karageorge must be later even than the Commonalty described in "Starfog" because that organization serves just one spiral arm of the galaxy whereas Ayeghen, to whom Karageorge refers, is the President of a Galactic Archaeological Society.

Winston P Sanders was a pen-name of Poul Anderson and a character in Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains and now we learn that a Winston P Sanders IX is a contemporary of Ayeghen and Karageorge! However, since Karageorge's Introduction is neither written by Anderson nor even intended seriously, perhaps we should treat it with some skepticism? Fortunately (?), it does not tell us a great deal except that the history and literature of the early Empire remain well known in that remote period.

Since Ayeghen refers to the Empire founded by Manuel in "The Star Plunderer" as the First Empire and since Laure in "Starfog" reflects on strange forms of humanity in other spiral arms, we might deduce that some of those strange forms remain Imperialists?

Stories In Series

When a story is part of a series, we can ask:

(i) How does it stand up as an individual story?
(ii) How does it contribute to the series?

In Robert Heinlein's Future History, several stories are set on the Moon between the death of DD Harriman, "the Man who sold the Moon," and the Prophetic Interregnum. These stories share the common background of this period of the History although none of them advances the History whereas "If This Goes On -" informs us of two history-changing events, first the Interregnum, then the Second American Revolution that overthrows the Prophets and establishes the Covenant which provides the basis for subsequent stories.

Heinlein is relevant to Anderson for several reasons including that:

Anderson modeled his Psychotechnic History directly on the Future History;
Anderson's van Rijn series, Flandry series and several other works grew together into the Technic History which is similar to the Future History but on a vaster spatio-temporal scale.

Rereading and reflecting on Anderson's early story, "Sargasso of Lost Starships," has made me conclude that:

(i) it stands up as a pulp adventure story with imaginative super-powered villains;
(ii) it contributes to the Technic History by introducing two alien races that appear later, by informing us of Manuel I's first two successors and by presenting a period when the Terran Empire has grown large enough to be viable and defensible although not too large to be governed from a central point.

This story, in which the Empire annexes the planet Ansa, is therefore an appropriate intermediate stage between "The Star Plunderer," in which Manuel Argos founds the Empire, and The People Of The Wind, in which the Empire fails to annex the planet Avalon.

The Master Key

I remarked once before on the elaborate structure of "The Master Key" by Poul Anderson. It is a Nicholas van Rijn story but we do not just get van Rijn and a few subordinate characters. We get:

the narrator;
the narrator's friend;
the friend's son;
the son's ensign;
the son's and ensign's employer, van Rijn.

Many rich details give substance to the story.

(i) Long ago on another planet, the narrator and his friend, Harry Stenvik, discomfited "...a king who set himself above the foreign merchants." (David Falkayn: Star Trader, New York, 2010, p. 275) This reads like a reference back to an earlier story in the series but is not. We know only the little that we are told here. The narrator uses that familiar, evocative phrase, "...the wench is dead..." (p. 275) to communicate that there were intense experiences back then but it is all over now.

After humiliating the king so that "...the name of the Polesotechnic League was great in the land...," the two friends "...made inroads on the stock-in-trade of the Solar Spice & Liquors Company factor..." (p. 275) I think this means that they were van Rijn's competitors?

(ii) When the narrator makes a brief business trip to Earth, van Rijn invites him to dinner because Harry will be there. As the narrator's flitter lands outside van Rijn's penthouse on top of the Winged Cross, we are treated to an Andersonian descriptive passage:

"A summer's dusk softened the mass of lesser buildings that stretched to the horizon and beyond..." (p. 276)

He walks among roses and jasmine. Inside, he and Harry "...crossed a few light years of trollcat rug to the far end of the living room. Three men sat by the viewer wall, at the moment transparent to sky and city." (p. 277) I cannot help thinking: imagine a story set in a universe where there really was a rug several light years long.

If we have read the series in sequence, then we have been here before. "Esau" began when Emil Dalmady's cab landed on the Winged Cross and "The garden was fragrant around him in a warm deep-blue summer's dusk..." where other towers "...were an elven forest..." (The Van Rijn Method, New York, 2009, p. 519). Dalmady also "...crossed an improbably long stretch of trollcat rug to the VieWall end of a luxury-cluttered living room..." (ibid., p. 520)

(iii) Harry, married to Sigrid, "...had built a house on the cliffs above Hardanger Fjord and raised mastiffs and sons." (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 276) The narrator begins to tell us about his own personal circumstances but then breaks off, although we do know that he has been on a planet with ammonia in its atmosphere where he has had to handle a lot of negotiation and some violence.

I have summarized only as far as the top of the third page of a fifty two and a half page story, my point being that these two or three pages contain rich details which are there for us to reread at any time but that we will soon forget if we simply read through once to find out what happens in the story. Harry and the narrator have entered the penthouse, crossed the rug and approached three seated men. We know that one of the three should be their host. Further, conversation in the doorway has informed us that Harry's son, Per, now a Master Merchant of the Polesotechnic League, is present with a story to tell.

That will be our story, containing adventure and violence enough, but it will be related in a relaxed conversational style so that, although we accompany Per and his ensign to the mysterious planet Cain, we never really leave the comfort and security of van Rijn's penthouse where our host, never leaving his lounger, bellows for beer, hears the story and solves the problem.

The narrator "...bowed to him as is fitting to a merchant prince..." (p. 277)

Is it? These are the customs of the Polesotechnic League. Van Rijn was born poor so a very interesting novel could have been written about his rise to wealth. JRR Tolkien rightly wrote of The Lord Of The Rings, "It is too short" and the same can be said of the History of Technic Civilization.