Sunday, 31 May 2015

Poul Anderson, Scientist

We would have read more about Poul Anderson's Japanese-American detective, Trygve Yamamura, if Anderson had earned more by writing about Yamamura and we would also have read more about Diana Crowfeather if Anderson had not wanted to write other sf like Harvest Of Stars and Genesis. Further, however, we would have read none of this if Anderson's original career plan had been realized:

"Science fiction writers tend to start out young. I began making professional sales while in college. My aim was to become a scientist, but after graduating, with no money left to continue, I supported myself by writing while I looked for honest employment. Jobs were scarce just then; the search grew more and more half-hearted; gradually I realized that what I was doing was what nature had cut me out for. Meanwhile I was learning the craft the hard way, at least as much through the rejections as the acceptances."
-Poul Anderson, Going For Infinity (New York, 2002), p. 66.

We must thank the Muses that jobs were scarce. And story-telling is one of the oldest forms of "honest employment." Poets recited epics about solar and stellar deities long before scientists understood solar or stellar processes.

So here are at least four alternative realities:

Poul Anderson, scientist;
Poul Anderson as primarily a mystery writer;
Poul Anderson continuing his major future history series at the expense of other kinds of hard sf;
the Poul Anderson we know.

I think we got the best option.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I agree we got the best option of the four kinds of road Poul Anderson might have chosen, turning his mind to other types of SF during his late phase (instead of continuing to write what we saw during his middle period). Altho I would have been pleased if he had written just one more novel featuring Flandry's daughter Diana.

But, Anderson's comment about learning the craft of writing the hard way, at least as much by the rejections he endured as by acceptances interested me. WHAT were those stories which were rejected by various editors? Have the texts of any of those rejected stories survived? If so, mightn't they be published? Even if, as is probably the case, some of those stories deserved to be rejected, I would still find them interesting to read. Another possibility is that some of those rejected stories were revised and later accepted by other editors.