Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Wellsian And Stapledonian Anderson

In Poul Anderson's The Shield Of Time, an expedition from the far future travels to the Egyptian Eighteenth Dynasty in search of cultural inspiration. Similarly, I find inspiration among the blog posts of 2012 and 2013, which I currently revisit for "blog maintenance," a worthwhile and enjoyable but also time-consuming behind-the-scenes activity.

I find that I have referred to, but still have never read, The Infinite Voyage by Poul Anderson. See here. That volume has now been ordered. I have read slightly different accounts of its theme but will soon know.

An early work by Anderson that combines pulp absurdities with cosmic grandeur is "Flight to Forever," which is both Wellsian and Stapledonian, a claim often made on this blog. HG Wells introduced the idea of a scientist who invents a temporal vehicle, then sets off into the complete unknown of the future - tomorrow, the day after that and everything beyond them. The author is limited only by his imagination and by what he might extrapolate from history and from his contemporary period. After the introductory passages, the story could move in any direction. Different authors asked to extrapolate from the same opening section of a time travel story would create entirely dissimilar and unrelated narratives.

In "Flight to Forever," Martin Saunders and Sam Hull follow in the Time Traveler's footsteps, starting not from the author's "present" in 1950 but from his near future in 1973. Like the Time Traveler, Saunders returns at the end of the story to the day of his departure. However, like the narrator of Stapledon's Star Maker, Saunders has seen more than the future and end of life on Earth. He also been on a cosmic journey through time and space to the end of the universe. And, unlike Stapledon's narrator, he brings back the memory of a woman, Taury the Red. "Flight to Forever" ends with a sense of cosmic and personal completion.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I hope you enjoy THE INFINITE VOYAGE, despite it being meant as a brief, basic explanation of astronomy for children. I have regretted how few non fiction books Poul Anderson wrote, only IS THERE LIFE ON OTHER WORLDS?, THERMONUCLEAR WARFARE, and THE INFINITE VOYAGE. At least one more volume could be made from collecting his non fiction articles.

    And I do remember "Flight to Forever," definitely one of Anderson's earlier and cruder works. But still readable!


  2. Sean,
    I have seen THE INFINITE VOYAGE described as about "man's future in space," which would have been more interesting.
    This post contains an error and is due to be expanded.

    1. Kaor, Paul!

      You are right! I checked my copy of THE INFINITE VOYAGE, and while it does begin with some basic astronomy, it goes on to speculate about "man's future in space."