Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Call Of The Old Days

Nicholas van Rijn, Master Merchant, Polesotechnic League, reflects:

"He thought back to the days when he had ridden ships through yonder spaces, bargaining in strange cities or stranger wildernesses, or beneath unblue skies and in poisonous winds, for treasures Earth had not yet imagined. For a moment, wistfulness tugged at him. A long time now since he had been any further than the Moon..."
- Poul Anderson,The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 147.

This is in the story that introduces van Rijn. So here is a potential series: how van Rijn, born poor, worked as a spacehand and became rich. Anderson's History of Technic Civilization contains several proto-series, single stories that could each have initiated a series, and potential series, chronological gaps that could each have been filled with an entire sequence of adventures. Van Rijn's earlier life is yet another in the latter category.

Hercule Poirot retired as a uniformed policeman before becoming a private detective and I have heard that Agatha Christie realized that she had a problem, writing a long series about a character who was old to begin with. Anderson shows us the older van Rijn and the younger Falkayn as they age. They remain active and learn as the world changes around them. 

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Yes, I agree, I would have liked to have known more about origins and earlier years of Nicholas van Rijn. And how an ambitious spachand, however able and shrewd, managed to begin his rise to great wealth and power. And just how did a Dutch/Indonesian like Old Nick end up a pious, tho not exactly viceless Catholic?

As for the problem of how to plausibly write a long series of stories BEGINNING when the viewpoint character was already getting elderly, Poul Anderson solved that by hpothesizing that medical science and technology had advanced to the point that most using such technology could live vigorously to about age 100. So, Old Nick could be about 50 in "Margin of Profit" and aged 80 in MIRKHEIM.

In fact, we first see "antisenescence" technology mentioned in "The Star Plunderer" by Manuel Argos no less!