Sunday, 16 March 2014


Poul Anderson, The Corridors Of Time (London, 1968).

What would it be like to have an instant translator in your ear? Of necessity, it would be "' artificial memory center...'" (p. 43), bestowing not only immediate understanding and fluent speech but also much background knowledge. Thus, when Storm utters the place name, "Avildaro," Lockridge instantly knows that:

"Avildaro" is an elision of an older name meaning "Sea Mother House";
the goddess of the village is an avatar of the Huntress in the forest;
the villagers have lived there for centuries;
they are descended from reindeer hunters who came when the glaciers receded;
the hunters became fishers when the herds followed the ice into Sweden and Norway;
locally, they have more recently learned farming from immigrants further inland;
but they still follow the sea goddess who is not known by the charioteers;
the charioteers worship male gods and trouble the peace -

- Lockridge must stop the distracting memory flow.

Anderson has thought through what an artificial translator would have to be like, then used it as a new way to do what he always does - telling us how people in the past lived: another perfect blend of science fiction with historical, or in this case prehistorical, fiction.

No comments: