Sunday, 15 December 2013

Fictional Forms

It is time for another pause on this blog - although they never seem to last long. I am in bed with a cold, sitting up, reading and blogging. Fiction comes in three forms:

verbal;
visual-verbal;
audiovisual.

At present, I prefer visual-verbal so I am still rereading Neil Gaiman's The Sandman graphic novels and posting about those (see here), focusing on their considerable philosophical content. I cannot read Gaiman without remembering Anderson or vice versa:

A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest;
Odin as a fictional character;
an inn between the worlds;
temple prostitution;
fictions in which figures from different mythologies coexist and interact;
the alternative potential futures of the Roman Empire-

- and I have probably missed something.

Non-overlap areas:

Gaiman presents painfully intense children's points of view, also sympathetic feminine povs;
Anderson was a prolific master of hard sf who also wrote historical fiction and detective novels.

8 comments:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I'm sorry you are not feeling well and I hope you soon recover!

Hmmm, Amderson speculated about "...the alternative potential futures of the Roman Empire"? While of course we both know Anderson wrote his full share of "alternate history" stories, I don't recall him doing much of that kind of writing about Rome. The four volume novel THE KING OF YS is based firmly on the known actual history of the Later Roman Empire in the West. Did you have his Time Patrol story "Amazement of the World" in mind?

I don't know if you have read any of the works of Harry Turtledove, a writer of whose works I used to be a fan of. He HAS speculated about alternate histories of the Roman Empire. The most thorough presentation of his ideas on that can be found in his Basil Argyros stories, collected in AGENT OF BYZANTIUM (was this imitated from Anderson's AGENT OF THE TERRAN EMPIRE?). Too briefly, Turtledover speculated about what might have happened if Mohammed had not founded Islam but had become a Christian. He believes that would have allowed the Eastern Roman Empire, not being forced to fight desperately for bare survival against jihadist Islam,to reconquer most of what was once the Western Empire and take a far more active part in western European affairs.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
Check Poul Anderson, PAST TIMES (New York, 1984), pp. 189-190. (I have mentioned this before but no one can possibly remember everything on this blog!)
Paul.

Paul Shackley said...

I started reading Turtledove's first alternate WWII novel but didn't really get into it.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Replying to both your notes here. I checked my copy of PAST TIMES, and I now undestand what you meant. In his "The Discovery of the Past," Anderson gave us a little parable about what a writer in the reign of Augustus who wanted to speculate about Rome's future might have thought. This hypothetical writer thought of three possibilities: further expansion till Rome ruled the entire world, Roman borders remaining more or less along the lines of the Rhine and Danube rivers, or the Empire falling and only ruins existing a thousand years later. Anderson then pointed out this fictional writer never thought of what ACTUALLY occurred, the rise of Christianity and how that faith won over both Romans and barbarians, and inspired utterly different civilizations.

A COMPLETE COLLECTED WORKS OF POUL ANDERSON should include several volumes merely for his fascinating, but too easily overlooked essays!

I ultimately became dissatisfied with Turtiedove's alternate WW II series. Largely because, I'm sorry to say, because of some indications of anti Catholicism in them. Which irked me. More importanlty, I found his short story, "Under St. Peter's" gravely offensive to me as a Catholic. I strongly regret having to think Turtledove MIGHT be anti Catholic.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
I didn't get as far as any anti-Catholicism. An author should know not to offend readers because of their beliefs and should learn how to raise issues in such a way that they are dramatized and maybe discussed by his characters and can be discussed by his readers. Anderson and Blish managed to treat Catholicism in fiction without offending readers.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I completely agree with you. In fact, A CASE OF CONSCIENCE made me wonder if James Blish was a CATHOLIC, not the atheist/agnostic I later found out he actually was. Blish knew how to discuss beliefs he did not share without being insulting and offensive.

And that was true, of course, of Poul Anderson. And, as I'm sure you recall, I also had my doubts of how much of an agnostic he truly was. I got the impression that Anderson at least wished he believed in God. And he was not in the least insulting and offensive to honest Christians, Catholic or Protestant. Instead he respected Christianity, most especially it seems, the Catholic Church.

The one religion Anderson did not seem to have liked or respected was Islam. A view seen in, I think, HARVEST OF STARS. But he was careful to distinguise between the dislike he had for Mohammed and his teachings and the respect he had for decent Muslims.

Sean

ndrosen said...

I think we can give Anderson credit for presenting a painfully intense child's point of view in ORBIT UNLIMITED. The child in question is about six, and has problems with his stern father; his mother, when he sees her consoling his father instead of him; bullies at school; and a bratty younger brother.

Best Regards,
Nicholas

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Nicholas!

Interesting, I completely forgot how the last part of ORBIT UNLIMITED focuses on the very young Daniel Coffin. And a large part of the importance of Dan Coffin in that part of ORBIT was the discovery of how he was the first of the second generation of colonists on Rustum found to be able to breath and live without difficulty in the lower regions of the planet.

Let's not be too hard on Joshua Coffin, he was stern but also a just man trying to do his best for his children and the Rustum colony. And he did not hestiate at all in doing his utmost in searching for young Dan when the boy went below into regions most of the colonists could not easiy breath in.

Sean