Thursday, 13 November 2014

Endings And Beginnings

"Hloch has therefore chosen two final tales as representative. That they are told from youthful hoverpoints is, in his mind, very right.
"The first of them is the last that Judith Dalmady/Lundgren wrote for Morgana. Though she was then in her high old age, the memories upon she was drawing were fresh."
- Hloch of Stormgate Choth
The Earthbook of Stormgate

Points of interest:

(i) Ythrian/Planha phraseology - "...youthful hoverpoints..."

(ii) Endings are beginnings. Thus, it is appropriate to conclude the Earth Book with two juvenile adventures.

(iii) The theme of endings as beginnings is reinforced when "The the last..."

(iv) The reference to Judith Dalmady connects this story back to the earlier Earth Book story, "Esau," about Judith's father.

(v) Endings and beginnings are emphasized yet again as Judith " her high old age..." draws on fresh memories. The young teach the old as well as vice versa.

From our point of view, the purpose of the Earth Book was to collect the remaining Polesotechnic League stories. From Hloch's point of view, his purpose was as explained in his opening introduction:

"This is the tale, told afresh, of how Avalon came to settlement and thus our choth to being. This is the tale as told, not by Rennhi and those on whom she drew for the Sky Book, but by Terrans, who walk the earth."
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 77.

Some of the stories are not relevant to Avalon but Anderson ingeniously makes them relevant. Thus, David Falkayn founded the Avalonian colony; therefore, Avalonians should know something of Falkayn's mentor, Nicholas van Rijn, and especially of van Rijn's encounter with another winged species, the Diomedeans. "A Little Knowledge" deals with the nearby planets Paradox and Trillia and gives:

"...a glimpse into some of the troubles which Technic civilization was bringing upon itself..."
-Poul Anderson, David Falkayn: Star Trader (New York, 2010), p. 599.

It does and, for this reason, I now accept that this story belongs between Satan's World and "Lodestar" in the Technic History:

Satan's World shows an external threat to Technic civilization (it is a big universe out there);
"A Little Knowledge" shows problems beginning within that civilization;
"Lodestar" shows Falkayn's response to the problems;
in Mirkheim, the problems come to a head.

Ten years elapse between the van Rijn/Falkayn novel, Satan's World, and the van Rijn/Falkayn short story, "Lodestar," so it is appropriate that we are shown events occurring elsewhere between these two works. And "A Little Knowledge" includes an appropriate reference to van Rijn himself.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

And one of the things we should note about "A Little Knowledge," aside from the fact that it can be very risky to UNDERESTIMATE your opponent, is how the story ties in with comments elsewhere about how barbarians got their hands on spaceships and nuclear weapons too soon. The villains in "A Little Knowledge" were among those unscrupulous and irresponsible persons who sold advanced technology to wild races whose only idea on what to do with it was to wage war on each other and the civilized space faring races.


Paul Shackley said...

Exactly. This story feeds into "The Star Plunderer." No installment of the Technic History is inconsequential.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I agree, altho I suggest it was probably after rereading "The Star Plunderer" that Poul Anderson realized how it might be possible to tie in the idea of barbarians getting advanced technology too soon into later stories such "A Little Knowledge." I would also point out Dominic Flandry's reflections in the revised version of "Tiger by the Tail" on how savages could acquire advanced technology. Either from irresponsible merchants or from other barbarians who had gained such knowledge and technology