Friday, 18 December 2015

"More Lasting Than Bronze"

If the two missing stories were to be included in a future edition of Poul Anderson's Starship, then the Psychotechnic History would be complete in five regular volumes: three collections and two novels. There are two ways to publish a future history series: either in single novels and standard-sized collections or in omnibus volumes.

In the thirty second century of this future history, the depopulated, forested Earth is the human center of scientific research, education, the arts and the Stellar Union Coordination Service. It follows that there are libraries of all surviving literature. A Nomad ship has a library and its captain's cabin has a shelf of well used micro-books in various languages. So what will still be read? I suggest at least:

Homer - epics, myths;
Shakespeare - drama (histories, comedies, tragedies), sonnets;
the Bible - many kinds of writing edited to present a continuous narrative from creation to new creation, albeit based in a prescientific cosmology.

Shakespeare was referenced and quoted earlier in this future history. When a Coordinator traveling with a Nomad sees the stars from space, he quotes:

"The heavens declare the glory of God...and the firmament showeth His handiwork."
-Poul Anderson, The Peregrine (New York, 1979), Chapter VII, p. 52.

The Nomad, puzzled, asks, "'What's that?'" and is told, "'An old Terrestrial book...Very old.'" (ibid.)

In fact, the Old Testament. The Nomad captain is familiar with the Bible. When reflecting that those who have enslaved a planet of barbarians are gradually becoming barbarized, he quotes:

"What shall it profit a man if he gaineth the whole world and loseth his own soul." (Chapter IX, p. 77)

Despite the change of cosmology, what could be more appropriate? They have gained a planet but are losing their identity.

Literature lasts. Horace (see image) wrote, "Exegi monumentum aere perennius," "I have erected a monument more lasting than bronze."

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