Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Episodic Fiction

Poul Anderson, The Boat Of A Million Years (London, 1991).

Golden Age sf began as magazine stories, series and serials before being republished in books. Depending on its content, such a book could be classed as a collection, as a collected series or as a novel, although the "novel," when analyzed, could turn out to be composite. Thus, Poul Anderson's The Star Fox is not simply a single novel but is more accurately the collected and edited three-part Gunnar Heim series, or maybe serial.

Anderson's much later The Boat Of A Million Years is a long novel but constructed on the original model although, in this case, only one of its chapters had previously been published in Analog. The work could first have been presented as a series, or serial, before being collected as a past-present-future trilogy.

Instead, the public was presented with a single long volume encompassing an amazing breadth of content. Two readers known to me expressed dissatisfaction with the concluding futuristic chapter. They had enjoyed the historical fiction of the earlier chapters and regarded the unexpected futuristic sf as discordant whereas I have found Chapter XIX to be packed with content as I hope that recent posts have demonstrated.

The reader needs to appreciate this work for what it is, effectively a long series beginning on Earth in 310 BC but ending in space in an indefinite future. Each chapter needs to be read, and in some cases carefully reread, not dismissed because it differs from what went before. The entire work is about living with change.

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