Wednesday, 23 April 2014

"Sandra Miesel's Technic Civilization Chronology," by Sean M. Brooks

Prefatory Note.  Dr. Shackley kindly published on his blog (April 26, 2012) an earlier version of this essay written by me.  Since then, I decided it needed to be revised, mostly from dating the birth of Nicholas van Rijn to 2421 instead of my earlier suggestion he was born in 2424.  And that made it necessary to revise my suggested dates for the birth of David Falkayn and many of the stories set during the Polesotechnic League.  I remained largely satisfied with the dates I proposed for the stories set in the Imperial era and made only minor changes to that part of the Chronology.

Several editions of the Technic Civilization stories of Poul Anderson (Gregg Press, Ace Books, Baen Books) have attached to them a chronology compiled by Sandra Miesel, an excellent commentator on the works of Anderson.  This chronology lists in internal chronological order all the stories and novels of the Technic Civilization series through periods like that of the Polesotechnic League and the Terran Empire.  Miesel also added many annalistic notes to her chronology.

For those who wish to read the Technic Civilization stories in chronological order, or merely to have a list of the stories in a correct temporal sequence, Sandra Miesel has done readers of Anderson's works a real favor.  However, commentators like Dr. Paul Shackley have discovered inconsistencies in some of Miesel's proposed dates which contradicts what the texts says.

For example, Miesel dates the birth of Nicholas van Rijn to AD 2376 and the crucial Polesotechnic League's Council of Hiawatha to 2400.  However, as discussed by Dr. Shackley in his note "Inconsistencies II," Nicholas van Rijn was born too late to have attended that council.  The section of Chapter IX of MIRKHEIM which discussed the Council of Hiawatha ended with "But when a century had passed--".  Nicholas van Rijn could not have attended that council because he was 80 years old at the time of the Mirkheim/Baburite crisis.  He would need to have been, implausibly, well over a century in age.

I have no objection to keeping Miesel's dating of the Council of Hiawatha to 2400, but I believe dating van Rijn's birth to 2421 is more accurate.  And since the Mirkheim/Baburite war came when van Rijn was 80 years old, that means it should be dated 2501 (not in 2456, Miesel's date).  This has the advantage of not contradicting what Chapter IX of MIRKHEIM said about "But when a century had passed."

Another error in Miesel's chronology contradicting what the texts say are her dates for "Lodestar" and MIRKHEIM.  She dates the events in "Lodestar" and MIRKHEIM to 2446 and 2456.  However, the Prologue to MIRKHIEIM clearly dates the events in that book to EIGHTEEN, not 10, years after "Lodestar."  My revision of her chronology dates those stories to 2483 and 2501.

The next major inconsistency in Miesel's chronology contradicting what the texts say came from her dating the foundation of the Terran Empire to the 28th century and the birth of Dominic Flandry to AD 3000.  These dates clash with what Chapter 10 of ENSIGN FLANDRY says, as the Merseian prime minister Brechdan Ironrede was going to the Imperial embassy for an official reception: "His destination was another offense, a compound of residences and offices in the garish bubble style of the Imperium four hundred years ago."  This indicates the Empire had existed for over four centuries by the time of ENSIGN FLANDRY (because it is reasonable to think schools of architecture needed some time after the Empire arose to become popular).

However, one problem with this dating is that we don't know how long the year of the planet Merseia was when compared to our Earth's year.  We don't know whether it was longer or shorter than the Terran year. Nonetheless it does indicate the Empire was older than the three centuries or so her chronology gives it by the time of ENSIGN FLANDRY.

Moreover, Miesel herself contradicts her chronology when she wrote in her "Introduction" for THE PEOPLE OF THE WIND (Gregg Press: 1977): "The Empire is its third century when it moves against the Domain in its first aggressive campaign against a civilized foe."  Another chronological indication can be found in Chapter 8 of Anderson's THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN, as Ivar Frederiksen briefly summarized the history of relations between the Empire and the Domain of Ythri: "Still, it [the Domain] grew.  So did Empire, Terra's, that is, till they met and clashed.  Couple centuries ago, they fought."  Now, if the Empire had existed a little over two centuries by the time of the Ythrian War and then that conflict was at least two centuries in the past by the time of THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN, that can only mean it had lasted more than four centuries by then.

Therefore, I would argue for dating the birth of Dominic Flandry to AD 3100, not 3000 (the year Miesel chose).  The later date better fits the chronological evidence I collected from the texts.  I am still puzzled how Miesel could have missed, for example, such crucial indications as the Prologue of MIRKHEIM saying the Baburite war occurred 18 years after "Lodestar."

In addition, I suggested below that Josip died in 3142 rather than in 3141 (Miesel's date was 3041) because a slightly longer reign for that Emperor fitted better the background of the stories.  That is, it gives more time for the events recorded in those stories to take place without being crowded together too tightly.

If the argument I gave above is correct, then that means many, not all, of the dates given by Miesel in her chronology needs to be changed.  Mostly by proposing dates later than the ones she chose.  In the chronology given by me below, the dates I advocate are given first while Miesel's dates are given in square brackets.  For the most part I used the "Chronology of Technic Civilization" to be found in the Gregg Press edition of ENSIGN FLANDRY.  I also thought it best, for simplicity's sake, to omit many of the annalistic notes added by Sandra Miesel.  I omitted many bibliographical details for similar reasons.

In my proposed revision of Sandra Miesel's Chronology I preferred to list the stories by their first magazine or book publication dates.  To be strictly accurate I should say that Poul Anderson revised a few of these stories: "Margin of Profit," "The White King's War," "Tiger by the Tail," "Honorable Enemies," and "Warriors from Nowhere."  These later versions should be considered canonical and first appeared in THE EARTHBOOK OF STORMGATE ("Margin of Profit") and in the Ace Books and Gregg Press editions of the Dominic Flandry stories ("The White King's War," GALAXY, October 1969, was incorporated in A CIRCUS OF HELLS).

The Breakup and the Polesotechnic League

2055  "The Saturn Game," ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION (cited as ASF), February, 1981
2150  "Wings of Victory," ASF, April, 1972
24th century  "The Problem of Pain," FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, February, 1973
2400  The Council of Hiawatha
2421 [2376]  Birth of Nicholas van Rijn
2451 [2406]  Birth of David Falkayn
2461 [2416]  "Margin of Profit," ASF, September, 1956
2461 [2416]  "How to be Ethnic in One Easy Lesson," FUTURE QUEST, ed. Roger Elwood, Avon Books, 1974
2468 [2416]  "The Three Cornered Wheel," ASF, October, 1963
2471 [2426]  WAR OF THE WING MEN, Ace Books, 1958
2471 [2426]  "Esau," ASF, February, 1970
2472 [2427]  "Hiding Place," ASF, March, 1961
2472 [2427]  "Territory," ASF, June, 1963
2473              "A Sun Invisible," ASF, April, 1966
2476 [2427]  "The Trouble Twisters," as "Trader Team," ASF, July-August, 1965
2478 [2433]  "Day of Burning," as "Supernova," ASF, January, 1967
3478 [2433]  "The Master Key," ASF, July, 1964
2482 [2437]  SATAN'S WORLD, Doubleday, 1969
2482 [2437]  "A Little Knowledge," ASF, August 1971
2482 [2437]  "The Season of Forgiveness," BOY'S LIFE, December, 1973
2483 [2446]  "Lodestar," ASTOUNDING: THE JOHN W. CAMBPBELL MEMORIAL ANTHOLOGY, ed. by Harry Harrison, Random House, 1973
2501 [2456]  MIRKHEIM, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1977
Early 26th century [late 25th century], settlement of Avalon
26th century, "Wingless on Avalon," BOY'S LIFE, July, 1973
26th century, "Rescue on Avalon," in CHILDREN OF INFINITY, ed. Roger Elwood, Franklin Watts, 1973
26th  centruy, dissolution of the Polesotechnic League

The Time of Troubles and the Terran Empire

2600-2700 [27th century]  The Time of Troubles
Late 27th century, "The Star Plunderer," PLANET STORIES (cited as PS), September, 1952
2700  Manuel Argos founds the Terran Empire, Principate phase begins
28th century, "Sargasso of Lost Starships," PS, January, 1952
29th century [30th C], Covenant of Alfzar
2925 [29th century], THE PEOPLE OF THE WIND, New American Library, 1973
3100 [3000]  Birth of Dominic Flandry
3119 [3019]  ENSIGN FLANDRY, Chilton, 1966
3121 [3021]  A CIRCUS OF HELLS, New American Library, 1971
3122 [3022]  Josip succeeds Georgios as Emperor
3125 [3025]  THE REBEL WORLDS, New American Library,1969
3127 [3027]  "Outpost of Empire," GALAXY, December, 1967
3128 [3028]  THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN, Doubleday, 1973
3132 [3032]  "Tiger by the Tail," PS, January, 1951
3133 [3033]  "Honorable Enemies," FUTURE COMBINED WITH SCIENCE FICTION STORIES, May, 1951
3135 [3035]  "The Game of Glory," VENTURE, March, 1958
3137 [3037]  "A Message in Secret," as MAYDAY ORBIT, Ace Books, 1961
3138 [3038]  "A  Plague of Masters," as EARTHMAN, GO HOME, Ace Books, 1961
3140 [3040]  WE CLAIM THESE STARS! (also HUNTERS OF THE SKY CAVE), Ace Books, 1959
3042 [3041]  Hans Molitor succeeds Josip as Emperor after brief civil war, supplants short lived Imperial relative as Emperor.
3143 [3042]  "Warriors from Nowhere," as "Ambassadors of Flesh," PS, Summer, 1954
3148 [3047]  A KNIGHT OF GHOSTS AND SHADOWS, New American Library, 1975
3155  Dietrich succeeds Hans as Emperor
3157  Gerhart succeeds Dietrich as Emperor
3162 [3061]  A STONE IN HEAVEN, Ace Books, 1979
3167 [3064]  THE GAME OF EMPIRE, Baen Books, 1985
Early fourth millennium, the Empire enters its Dominate phase
Circa AD 3500, Fall of the Terran Empire, the Long Night begins.  War, piracy, anarchy, economic collapse, and isolation devastate countless worlds.

The Long Night

3600  "A Tragedy of Errors," GALAXY, February, 1968
3900  THE NIGHT FACE, Ace Books, 1978
4000  "The Sharing of Flesh," GALAXY, December, 1968
7100  "Starfog," ASF, August, 1967


Anonymous said...

Dear Sean,

"For example, Miesel dates the birth of Nicholas van Rijn to AD 2376 and the crucial Polesotechnic League's Council of Hiawatha to 2400. However, as discussed by Dr. Shackley in his note "Inconsistencies II," Nicholas van Rijn was born too late to have attended that council. "

Hmm. I interpreted this as meaning that at the time of the Council of Hiawatha, Nicholas van Rijn was a young man, not yet rich or influential, but not as meaning that he had not been born. The "century" since the C of H need not be precise. On the other hand, you certainly could be right, insofar as there is any right about a not-perfectly-consistent subcreation.

Best Regards,

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Nicholas!

I'm delighted to get some comments from you. Many thanks!

I do see what you mean by saying my comments could be understood as meaning Nicholas van Rijn was not yet prominent and powerful enough to take part in the Council of Hiawatha. As, as I'm sure you now know, I was trying to say van Rijn had not even been born yet, that according to MIRKHEIM, he could NOT have been yet alive at the time of the Council.

But, I believe it's necessary to take a fairly literal view of MIRKHEIM, when it said the Mirkheim/Babur crisis only when "But when a century had passed--". That's why I eventually decided my original suggestion for dating van Rijn's birth at 2424 was an error. It put the Baburite war a little too far beyond that "century."

Sincerely, Sean

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I'm sure you remember our discussion about a hoped for COLLECTED COMPLETE WORKS OF POUL ANDERSON. And we agreed that the original forms of stories revised by Anderson should be placed in appendices, with the revised versions becoming "canonical." I think the five stories I listed in my last paragraph long enough to justify them being placed in a separate volume of their own in a COMPLETE WORKS OF POUL ANDERSON.