Monday, 7 July 2014

Multiverse: First Impressions

Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois, Editors, Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson's Worlds (Burton MI, 2014).

To my considerable surprise, this new anthology contains no less than three Time Patrol stories:

"A Slip in Time" by SM Stirling;
"Christmas in Gondwanaland" by Robert Silverberg;
"The Far End" by Larry Niven.

So far today, I have read through "A Slip..." once, have read part of "Christmas..." and have yet to tackle "...End."

A while back, I set out my understanding of time travel here and here.

I am beginning to realize that not all of us have the same idea about what goes on in the Time Patrol universe! That is hardly surprising. I will discuss these three stories, then other items in Multiverse, over a number of posts, beginning with initial impressions.

SM Stirling writes in an afterword that Poul Anderson's Vault Of The Ages:

"...introduced me to the solidity of his world-building, something you could taste and smell and feel, and the way his characters inhabited their own reality, and also the mixture of hope and tragic stoicism that marked his universe." (p. 91)

There are four points here:

"...solidity..." I have tried to convey this by over-using the adjective "substantial."
"...taste and smell and feel..." Anderson often appealed to several senses in descriptive passages.
"...their own reality..." We feel that Anderson's fictitious futures are real places inhabited by people who experience their environments as concretely as we experience ours.
"...hope and tragic stoicism..." I have maybe highlighted this less but it is a recurrent theme -

- the Terran Empire will fall but there are hopeful signs that civilization will continue in some places or can be restored;
Time Patrolmen must endure history and know that, despite longevity treatment, each of them will die but nevertheless humanity will be transcended.

The Time Patrol's variable reality is subtle. At any moment of his existence, Manson Everard experiences one timeline and refers to others. Even though the others are said not to exist, they are related to each other successively and causally, e.g. in "Delenda Est":

timeline 1 in which Rome won the Second Punic War;
timeline 2 in which Neldorians intervened so that Carthage won that war;
timeline 3 in which the Patrol counter-intervened so that Rome won the war.

Neldorians traveled pastwards along timeline 1 and initiated timeline 2. Everard and Van Sarawak traveled pastwards along timeline 1, futurewards into timeline 2, then pastwards along timeline 2 and initiated timeline 3.

At each stage, a time traveler exists in only one timeline unless and until he initiates another timeline. Then, he exists in that second timeline unless and until he initiates a third. While in a "timeline 2," he cannot travel pastwards and arrive in a "timeline 1," yet this happens in "Christmas..." Everard and his companion travel pastwards from the twentieth century of a timeline in which the Patrol exists to the geological past of a timeline in which the Patrol was prevented from existing.

In "A Slip...," Manse and Wanda travel directly from the 2332 AD of a "timeline 1" to the 1926 AD of a "timeline 2." I think that, to arrive in a timeline 2, they would have had to travel pastwards along timeline 1 to some time before the moment of change, then futurewards again, as in "Delenda Est."

One last first impression for this post. In "Christmas...," Everard recalls:

"His rescue of Tom Nomura's girlfriend back in the early Pliocene, just as the Mediterranean was getting born." (p. 218)

But Tom, not Manse, saved Tom's girlfriend - unless Manse recalls a different timeline?

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