Monday, 15 June 2015

Texts And Contexts

Each story can be considered from more than one angle. For example, I regard "The Saturn Game" and "The Problem of Pain" as the first and third stories in Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization and "The Master Key" as a later story in that same History. However, in the retrospective collection, Going For Infinity (New York, 2002), these stories are presented among others and in a different order:

"The Saturn Game" reflects Anderson's life-long interest in astronomy and, in particular, the fact that Voyager One was about to scan Iapetus shortly before this story, set on that Saturnian moon, was due to be published;

"The Master Key" is included because "This book would be incomplete without a van Rijn yarn..." (p. 153);

"The Problem of Pain" is included to showcase the Ythrians, a fictional species that had resulted from a suggestion made by John W Campbell.

When introducing "The Problem of Pain" in Going For Infinity, Anderson does at last mention that:

he had been writing stories about Flandry of the Terran Empire;
he had realized that van Rijn could have lived centuries before Flandry;
this generated further stories about how the libertarianism of the earlier period had devolved into the decadence of the later period and about what came after that;
in this history, human beings and Ythrians jointly colonized a planet which some of them explore in "The Problem of Pain."

Thus, much of the History is briefly summarized but almost as an afterthought and the involvement of "The Saturn Game" is not mentioned, nor is Flandry included in this volume. These three stories could also be reprinted in anthologies covering, respectively:

exploration of the Solar System;
alien species;
treatment of theological issues in sf.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I think it was unfair to characterize the early Terran Empire as decadent. My view is that the Early Empire was not decadent, that this can only be accurately attributed to much later, such as the reign of Georgios. And some might argue that this decadence only became obvious in the reign of his unworthy son Josip III.

Once you mentioned it, I am surprised Anderson did not include one of the Flandry stories in GOING FOR INFINITY. "A Message in Secret" might have been a good choice for GOING.