Friday, 25 December 2015

Untold Stories?

An author might create more background material for a work of science fiction than appears in the text. For example, a planetary ecology requires more globally interacting geographical areas and local environments than the hero is likely to encounter while traversing the planetary surface. Thus, the Author's Note to Poul Anderson's Virgin Planet discloses details about an uninhabited continent that remains unvisited during the novel.

Robert Heinlein's Future History Time Chart presents data, like an Antarctican Revolution, that do not appear in any of the stories and even lists in brackets six "stories-to-be-told" that never did get told. Might there be some such untold stories in Anderson's Psychotechnic History? Of course, none are listed in the Chronology. However, Anderson tells us that he:

compiled a Heinleinian chart of story titles;
occasionally wrote a story corresponding to one of the titles;
eventually did not complete the series but merely gave it up.

So there might have been more titles on his original time chart? The opening story mentions but does not feature Valti, the founder of psychotechnics. The Traveler crew had many adventures before colonizing Harbor. One involved riding and talking with centauroids en route to attack their winged enemies' aerial city. This adventure is mentioned again but not recounted. We learn that the centauroids, birds and flying city were on the planet Aesgil IV. But we would like to read that adventure.


David Birr said...

Yet once again I bring up H. Beam Piper, another who plotted out a Future History in some detail. His friend Jerry Pournelle wrote an introduction to one collection of Piper's short stories in which he mentioned:

"His extensive notes have never been found; yet I know that he kept a well-organized set of looseleaf notebooks, with entries color-coded; a star map of Federation and Empire; a history of the System States War; and other materials.... Somewhere out there is a gold mine."

Another writer, John Carr, noted that Piper had dreamed of setting at least one story, some of them book-length, in each century of his Future History -- which, like Anderson's and Heinlein's, covered thousands of years. "...file folders for each century containing all the pertinent data and characters." Forty, fifty, perhaps as many as sixty untold stories....

"Piper himself had a cyclical view of human history, one based on his study of history and certainly influenced by Arnold Toynbee.... Piper's civilizations pass through many of the same phases, the *universal state*, the *time of troubles*, and the *interregnum*, that Toynbee used to describe past civilizations." -- John Carr
(Can you hear the echo of Chunderban Desai talking to Flandry, there?)

Alas, Piper committed suicide because he believed his career was on the rocks -- a payment for one (or several) of his latest stories was literally in the mail to him, but he didn't know that, and shot himself. His final note stated, "I don't like to leave messes when I go away, but if I could have cleaned up any of this mess, I wouldn't be going away." And amidst the "mess," the file folders and notebooks for Piper's Future History vanished....

Anonymous said...

I have also enjoyed H. Beam Piper's stories. I'm from Pennsylvania, and LORD KALVAN OF OTHERWHEN is set right in the area where I grew up.

Best Regards,
Nicholas D. Rosen

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, David!

Horrible and tragic, how H. Beam Piper died. I wish he had held off from committing suicide till those payments for his stories had arrived. That might have convinced Piper he was NOT a failure.

Sadly, Piper most likely personally destroyed those file folders and notebooks before he died.