Thursday, 13 March 2014


HG Wells' The Time Machine has two first person narrators, the outer narrator and the Time Traveler. Thus, the outer narrator asks us only to accept that the Time Traveler told his dinner guests a story - although he does see the latter depart on a second temporal journey at the very end of the novel.

Poul Anderson's There Will Be Time (New York, 1973) is more elaborately structured. Doctor Robert Anderson, whose name, I think, recalls Robert Anson Heinlein, was born in 1895, the year of publication of The Time Machine. According to the Foreword, this Anderson left his distant relative, Poul Anderson, "...a boxful of material..." (p. 6) that is the basis of There Will Be Time.

The career of the time traveler, Jack Havig, is recounted in the third person but Dr Anderson had "...brought him into the world." (p. 9) Whenever this Anderson is on stage, usually in conversation with Havig, he narrates in the first person. He sees Havig's navigation device, the chronolog, meets another time traveler, Leonce, and advises Havig but cannot himself embark on any time journeys and does not get directly involved in the action against the time traveling brigands of the Eyrie. Thus, Robert Anderson is an intermediary between the novel's hero and its author.

In the Foreword alone, the author directly addresses the reader, beginning:

"Be at ease. I'm not about to pretend this story is true." (p. 5)

Thus, Poul Anderson presents three levels of narration whereas Wells, who is acknowledged in the text, had presented only two. The upshot is that three works of fiction, The Time Machine, this Anderson novel and Anderson's Maurai series exist because of the influence of (real) time travelers directly on Wells and indirectly on Poul Anderson through Robert Anderson. Complicated.

For a while, there is concern that the Eyrie, hunting Havig, might find their way to Robert and even to Poul who has published stories about the Mauria. However, when Havig has "...skimmed..." (p. 129) copies of the stories by "'[t]his other Anderson...,'" who is merely "'...a connection of a connection...,'" he comments:

"'...he's guessed wrong more often than right...These stories never had wide circulation. They soon dropped into complete obscurity.'" (ibid.)

Let us ensure that this last prophecy is incorrect.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Drat! ROBERT Anderson, not John. Again, my faulty memrory erred!

While I know Poul Anderson did not pretend to believe THERE WAS TIME is based on real facts or history, that boxful of material he mentioned in the Foreword still makes me curious. Among the boxes of papers Greg Bear told me his father in law left behind when he died? And I would like to know if PA indeed had a distant cousin named Robert Anderson who was born in 1895.


Paul Shackley said...

That Foreword was very skilfully written to convey verisimilitude.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Indeed it was! The Foreword to THERE WILL BE TIME actually made me wonder for years if I would see events developing as the book indicated. (Wry smile)

And I certainly don't want the three Maurai stories: "The Sky People," "Progress," and "Windmill" (along with ORION SHALL RISE) to fall into forgotten obscurity. Interested readers can find the three shorter Maurai stories in the anthology MAURAI & KITH.