Monday, 28 September 2015

Old And New Reading

The previous post omitted details about the Solar System in the future histories mentioned, e.g.:

there are seven other rational species in the Solar System in Heinlein's Future History;

the Jovian moon Ganymede is colonized in Heinlein's Future History and in Anderson's Psychotechnic History;

in Larry Niven's Known Space future history, the colonization of the Martian surface is not economically viable but the colonization of the Belt is - whereas, in Anderson's Harvest of Stars future history, one reason to colonize Mars is that it can supply goods to asteroid bases.

Meanwhile, a copy of SM Stirling's Under The Yoke (New York, 1989) has at last arrived by post. The book is dedicated:

To Dave and Poul,
for their kind words.

And always, to Jan.

In the blurb on the back:

"It's an exciting, evocative, thought-provoking - but of course horrifying - read." -Poul Anderson.

So what can Poul Anderson fans do except also read and be excited, provoked and horrified? The Draka are well on their way towards world conquest and the von Shrakenberg family is back although represented by different members.

However, the end of September approaches and we have reached a round number of posts for this month. Consequently, I might take some time for other activities and for reading Under The Yoke before returning to the blog in October.

Addenda, 29 Sept '15: More details -

Known Space begins with the exploration, in the last quarter of the twentieth century, of Mercury, Venus, Pluto and Mars and the possible discovery of life on the dark side of Mercury back when it was thought that Mercury had a dark side. It later features an explosion on Pluto.

Poul Anderson's The Stars Are Also Fire includes SM Stirling among its Acknowledgments.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Cosmography

The Solar System comprises:

the Sun;
four inner planets, including the Earth-Moon double planet;
the asteroid belt;
four outer planets;
the Kuiper Belt;
the Oort Cloud.

In Robert Heinlein's Future History, the Moon and two inner planets, Mars and Venus, are colonized;

in Larry Niven's Known Space future history, the Moon and the asteroid belt are colonized, the Belt becomes politically independent of the UN Earth-Moon government and a human protector hides in the cometary halo;

in Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, two different extrasolar species are allowed to colonize Mars and the outer planet, Jupiter, respectively;

in Anderson's Harvest of Stars future history, Lunarians adapted to live in lunar gravity colonize the Moon and later Proserpina in the Kuiper Belt, from where they mine the comets of the Oort Cloud, and both Terrans and Lunarians colonize Mars;

the Oort Cloud "...mingled with the comet clouds of neighbor suns..." (The Fleet Of Stars, p. 38);

the nearest other star, Proxima Centauri, forms a triple system with Alpha Centauri A and B;

Lunarians have colonized asteroids of Alpha Centauri A whereas Terrans who colonized a doomed planet in that system have moved to systems further away.

Amaterasu

"In the ancient faith of her people, Amaterasu was the Sun Goddess, from whom flowed the light that gives life."
-Poul Anderson, The Fleet Of Stars (New York, 1998), p. 1.

This opening sentence of Poul Anderson's fourth Harvest of Stars novel connects with my recent religious philosophical reflections.

The Sun gives light and life. Because of the Sun, there are living beings and the light by which they can see. Thus, the One (all that is) knows itself by the light of the Sun. I think that "One Sun Now" would be a meaningful mantra although zazen is awareness without mantras. The One cannot be prayed to - unless we want to talk to ourselves. We are each our own local representative of the One, although we are still learning how to fulfill this role. Much of the time, our biological inheritance and social conditioning make us think that we are separate selves with the sole goals of survival and pleasure or make us identify with a single aspect of the One as against others.

Although it makes no sense to address the One, hypothetical beings, lower than the One but higher than us, can be invoked. My morning prayer, so to say, is:

"We meditate on the lovely light of the god Savitri; may it stimulate our thoughts." (See here.)

Solar deities are important personifications of the source of light and life and the solar disc can symbolize the One. Higher beings might be our future selves or descendants. Anson Guthrie refers to "...the gods..." (p. 5) because, in the Harvest of Stars future history, downloaded human personalities now direct the terraforming of entire planets.

Today And Tomorrow

This morning, I have finished rereading Poul Anderson's Harvest The Fire. Today, while the sky is blue, I will walk, then swim. Tomorrow I might start to reread Anderson's The Fleet Of Stars, unless a long awaited novel by SM Stirling at last arrives by post.

Proserpina is one of Anderson's most imaginative creations. Venator says that it is always night there but the Proserpinans carve vast colorful habitats inside this large asteroid and can simulate a sky on a ceiling. Jesse Nicol, dissatisfied in the Inner Solar System, goes to Proserpina to become one of their poets.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Some Details... II

"'...to know I'm a murderer, that's like a -, a -' Groping, he seized on an archaic symbol. '- a cancer in me.'" (Harvest The Fire, p. 138)

Cancer as an archaic symbol!

Nicol and Falaire lie on a bed in a spaceship cabin surrounded by:

"The moving, three-dimensional illusion of a forest..." (p. 137)

- with night sky, warm breeze, sounds of leaves and spice-like odors. They are used to such illusions and able to relax with them.

In a dreambox, Nicol sees:

from a point in space where the Sun is only the brightest star but star light is almost twice as bright as the Moon seen from Nauru;
some surface details and lights on Proserpina;
scenes of underground Proserpinan life, where a ceiling simulates a sky;
engineering projects to expand living space and exploit resources;
captains in taverns, returned from the comets;
a duel to the death, in spacesuits with swords...

Anderson intends us to admire the Lunarians but I cannot buy into everything that they do.

Some Details In Harvest The Fire

English has become Anglo, not Anglic.

The Lunarian Lirion is both a gourmet and a gourmand. (p. 74)

Falaire knows of Rapa Nui. (p. 128) I didn't - although, of course, I recognize the name "Easter Island."

The Lunarian secret society has an appropriate name, the Scaine Croi in Lunarian, the Loose Knife in Anglo. The conspirators cleverly give this name a literal meaning in order to entrap a pilot for their anti-matter hijack.

Within the Solar System, we are used to differentiating the inner planets from the outer planets with the asteroids between. Beyond that, we usually think, are interstellar space and other planetary systems but Poul Anderson opens up a whole new realm: the cybercosm reigns among the inner planets whereas Lunarians, adapted to live on the Moon, colonize Proserpina in the Kuiper Belt.

Anderson's contributions to science fiction remained original and creative right to the end of his long career.

Between Blogs

"Was The Domination Inspired By Merseia?" by Sean M. Brooks, no longer in the top spot on this blog, has been copied here.

This blog has recently had much discussion of time travel but more can be found here.

The Poul Anderson's Cosmic Environments blog collects several articles copied from this blog and a few first published there.

Some sf writers compared with Poul Anderson on this blog are discussed in their own rights here and here.

Some other kinds of fiction are discussed here and here.

And what I think is in another couple of blogs linked from the top of this one.

The Moon

I don't feel like doing this right now but someone might write a detailed analysis of journeys to the Moon in works by Jules Verne, HG Wells and Robert Heinlein, then lunar colonization in:

Heinlein's Future History;
Larry Niven's Known Space History;
three future histories and one time travel series by Poul Anderson.

Verne's characters merely circumnavigate the Moon I think because Verne could not think of a way to get them safely onto the surface or back off it;

Wells had Selenites, lunar natives;

Heinlein's Future History is the only future history old enough to include an account of the first journey to the Moon and tells it from an unusual perspective, not that of the astrogator in the rocket but that of the financier back on Earth;

Heinlein has three "first man on the Moon" stories - his Future History version, his Scribner Juvenile version and his film version;

Anderson, in his Harvest of Stars History, has Lunarians, human beings genetically adapted to live, work and breed in lunar gravity - although not unprotected on the lunar surface!;

in the low gravity, Lunarians stand where Terrestrials would sit and are perfectly adapted to colonize a dense asteroid in the Kuiper Belt and also the asteroids in other planetary systems;

they create colorful, vibrant habitats inside caverns of bare rock;

in Anderson's Harvest The Fire (New York, 1997), a frustrated poet on the Moon quotes Buzz Aldrin's "Magnificent desolation."

Anderson's works read like a culmination of all that has gone before.

WAS THE DOMINATION INSPIRED BY MERSEIA? by Sean M. Brooks

I have wondered how S.M. Stirling was inspired to write his four Draka books (MARCHING THROUGH GEORGIA, UNDER THE YOKE, THE STONE DOGS, and DRAKON).  One source to investigate is what Stirling himself said, such as the Introduction he wrote for DRAKAS! (a collection of short stories featuring the Drakas he had consented to other authors writing).  This is what Stirling wrote on page 2 of  DRAKAS! (Baen Books, 2000): "So a thought came to me, suppose everything had turned out as badly as possible, these last few centuries.  Great change make possible great good and great evil. The outpouring of the Europeans produced plenty of both."

I agree that Mr. Stirling's Draka books are dystopian alternate history science fiction, based on the premise of everything turning out as badly as possible.  BUT, what if, unbeknownst to Stirling, he had also been influenced in shaping the basic premises of the Draka stories by Poul Anderson's Technic Civilization stories?  Assume a small group of people with ideas similar to those of the Draka had left a hostile Terra soon after a FTL drive was invented to settle a planet deep in what became the dominions of Merseia in Anderson's Technic stories.

There actually was a human ethnic group within the Terran Empire whose ideas might have developed along the lines taken by the Draka if circumstances had been different!  I refer to the Zacharians, whom we see in THE GAME OF EMPIRE.  Matthew Zachary and Yukiko Nomura, the founders of the Zacharians, lived around the time when a FTL drive had been invented and mankind was beginning to leave the Solar System.  Their desire was to use genetic science to create an improved form of humanity which would provide the leaders of the human race.  To quote Kukulkan Zachary, from Chapter 17 of THE GAME OF EMPIRE: " ' Travel beyond the Solar System was just beginning.  Matthew Zachary saw what an unimaginably great challenge it cast at humankind, peril as well as promise, hardihood required for hope, adaptability essential but not at the cost of integrity.  A geneticist, he set himself the goal of creating a man that could cope with the infinite strangeness it would find.  Yes, machines were necessary, but they were not sufficient.  People must go into the deeps too, if the whole human adventure was not to end in whimpering pointlessness.  And go they would.  It was in the nature of the species. Matthew Zachary wanted to provide them with the best possible leaders.' "

All too predictably, the appearance of the genetically modified Zacharians aroused suspicions of them wishing to become a master race tyrannizing over mankind.  It caused the Zacharians to be alternately shunned or persecuted (with Kukulkan Zachary admitting the Zacharians MIGHT have become such a caste in the right circumstances).  It ended with the Zacharians settling the island they called Zacharia, on the planet Daedalus, orbiting the star named Patricius.  By the time the Terran Empire arose and restored order after the Time of Troubles, the Zacharians had become merely one more ethnicity in an Empire containing thousands of them.  Their resentment at this eventually led them to become traitors, co-conspiring with Merseia to place its agent Olaf Magnusson on the throne as a puppet Emperor.  Kukulkan Zachary tried to justify this in Chapter 20 of THE GAME OF EMPIRE by saying: " ' We owe the Terran Empire nothing.  It dragooned our forebears into itself.  It has spurned our leadership, the vision that animated the Founders.  It will only allow us to remain ourselves on this single patch of land, afar in its marches.  Here we dwell like Plato's man in chains, seeing only shadows on the wall of our cave, shadows cast by the living universe.  The Merseians have no cause to fear or shun us.  Rather, they will welcome us as their intermediaries with the human commonality.  They will grant us the same boundless freedom they desire for themselves.' "

Oh, the irony!  From aspiring to becoming the leaders of mankind, leaders who MIGHT have become like the Draka, the Zacharians eventually decided they would settle for becoming Quislings governing mankind under Merseian supervision.  And I disagree with Kukulkan Zachary--nothing prevented Zacharians from either enlisting in the Imperial armed forces or entering the Civil Service.  Being able and intelligent, many would rise to be among the leaders of the Empire.  But that would have meant adopting the preferred view of the Empire taken by both the other humans and non-humans within its domains, of becoming ASSIMILATED by the Empire, and renouncing the dream of ZACHARIANS being the leaders of mankind.

I wish to examine what we know of the ideology of racial supremacy which dominated Merseia in the days of the Terran Empire, to see how closely it resembled the beliefs of the Draka.  A few quotes from Chapter XIV of A CIRCUS OF HELLS will help: "They [the Merseians] didn't want war with Terra, they only saw the Empire as a bloated sick monstrosity which had long outlived its usefulness but with senile cunning contrived to hinder and threaten THEM..."  And: "No, they did not dream of conquering the galaxy, that was absurd on the face of it, they simply wanted freedom to range and rule without bound, and "rule" did not mean tyranny over others, it meant just that others should not stand in the way of the full outfolding of that spirit which lay in the Race..."

I did not believe a word of this!  As the Merseians expanded into the galaxy they contacted other intelligent races with as much right to exist as theirs.  Yet their reaction was to scorn them as beings inferior to them, and to dominate them because they were not Merseians.

In Chapter XIII of A CIRCUS OF HELLS we see some of Dominic Flandry's reflections about the Merseians and the beliefs driving them: "You gatortails get a lot of dynamism out of taking for granted you're the natural future lords of the galaxy," the man thought, "but your attitude has its disadvantages.  Not that you deliberately antagonize any other races, provided they give you no trouble.  But you don't use their talents as fully as you might.  Ydwr seems to understand this.  He mentioned that I would be valuable as a non-Merseian--which suggests he'd like to have team members from among the Roidhunate's client species--but I imagine he had woes enough pushing his project through a reluctant government, without bucking attitudes so ingrained that the typical Merseian isn't even conscious of them." 

The points I wish to stress about this otherwise out of context quote are these: Merseian belief in their superiority and destiny as rulers of the galaxy, their at best condescending attitude toward non-Merseians, a hint of how ruthless the Merseians could be to any who opposed them, etc.

The human ruled Terran Empire was Merseia's greatest and most powerful rival among oxygen breathing races.  How did at least some Merseian leaders regard humans and how would they treat humans?  An answer to these questions can be found in Chapter 10 of ENSIGN FLANDRY.  Brechdan Ironrede, Protector of the Roidhun's Grand Council, said of the human race: " ' They were magnificent once.  They could be again.  I would love to see them our willing subjects.'  His scarred features drooped a little. ' Unlikely, of course.  They're not that kind of species.  We may be forced to exterminate.' "  Note the casually chilling acceptance of the idea of exterminating an entire intelligent race.  And, by extension, all other non-Merseian races who dared to resist Merseian domination.

In ENSIGN FLANDRY we see one Merseian who did not believe in the evil ideology of racial supremacy and felt betrayed by his own leaders.  As Dwyr the Hook said in Chapter 12: " ' What was the conquest of Janair to me? They spoke of the glory of the race.  I saw nothing except that other race, crushed, burned, enslaved as we advanced.  I would have fought for my liberty as they did for theirs.' "  Dwyr concluded; " ' Do not misunderstand.  I stayed loyal to my Roidhun and my people.  It was they who betrayed me.' "  Dwyr thought like that because he had discovered how badly his own superiors had lied to him as regards being healed of severe war injuries.

To see how humans inside the Empire reacted to Merseians claiming their race was superior to all others I'll quote from Chapter XII of A KNIGHT OF GHOSTS AND SHADOWS what Bodin Miyatovich, Gospodar of Dennitza and governor of the Taurian sector said: " ' The Empire would have to get so bad that chaos was better, before I'd willingly break it.  Terra, the Troubles, or the tyranny of Merseia--and those racists wouldn't just subject us, they'd tame us--I don't believe we have a fourth choice, and I'll pick Terra.' " Here we see Merseian rule considered so harsh it amounted to treating non-Merseians as mere animals.

I have reviewed Merseian ideas of racial superiority and how both humans and non-humans reacted to them.  What was the political form desired for giving Merseian ambitions a practical shape?  In Chapter 9 of ENSIGN FLANDRY Lord Hauksberg remarked that the electors from the landed clans chose the Roidhun from the landless Vach, the Urdiolch, dismissing that, however, as an unimportant detail.  Commander Max Abrams disagreed, saying: " ' It's not a detail.  It reflects their whole concept of society.  What they have in mind for their far future is a set of autonomous Merseian ruled regions.  The race, not the nation, counts with them.  Which makes them a hell of a lot more dangerous than simple imperialists like us, who only want to be top dogs and admit other species have an equal right to exist.  Anyway, so I think on the basis of what information is available. While on Merseia I hope to read a lot of their philosophers.' "

 I'm grateful how Dr. Paul Shackley's commentary on Stirling's DRAKON (Baen Books: 1996) brought to my attention certain passages in Chapter 14 of that book which strengthens my argument.  After becoming aware of Samothracian advances in science, the New Race Draka had discovered there was a faster means of reaching the stars.  A few quotes from a discussion held by the Archon and the Directors of his cabinet will show how Draka ambitions resembled those of the Merseian Roidhunate.  On page 275 of the paperback edition of DRAKON, the Director of Colonization said, "We anticipated thousands of millennia to bring the Galaxy under the Domination of the Race.  This will reduce the timescale by orders of magnitude." Another Director responded saying, "Something that the Archons of the colony worlds may not be entirely happy about."  Because the Draka colonies were completely independent of the Domination on Earth, they might fear the Domination would try to rule them.  Archon Alexis Renston replied: "Needs must--and they will need us to defend against the Samothracians.  For that matter, even with better communications, interstellar government will never be very tightly centralized."

What I quoted above fits in neatly with what Brechdan Ironrede said to his son in Chapter 3 of ENSIGN FLANDRY: "But we cannot merely fight for our goal.  We must work.  We must have patience.  You will not see us masters of the galaxy.  It is too big.  We may need a million years."  And, to repeat what Commander Abrams said in Chapter 9 of the same book: "What they have in mind for their far future is a set of autonomous Merseian-ruled regions.  The race, not the nation, counts with them."  Both the Draka and the Merseians thought it would take their races many thousands of years, even a million years, to conquer the galaxy.  And neither proposed to attempt setting up a galactic empire--rather, regions and planets would be ruled by autonomous Draka and Merseian states.

I previously mentioned Merseian philosophers--which reminded me of what S.M. Stirling's character, William Dreiser, had done on page 64 of MARCHING THROUGH GEORGIA (Baen Books: 1988): "He had done his homework thoroughly: histories, geographies, statistics.  And the Draka basics, Carlyle's PHILOSOPHY OF MASTERY, Nietzsche's THE WILL TO POWER, Fitzhugh's IMPERIAL DESTINY, even Gobineau's turgid INEQUALITY OF HUMAN RACES, and the eerie and chilling MEDITATIONS OF ELVIRA NALDORSSEN." It's disturbing to think there might be Merseian analogs of Draka philosophers like Naldorssen.  I can think of one possibly modifying factor: the Merseians belief in "the God" MIGHT soften the ruthless logic of their racist ideology.

To give a more adequate idea of what the Draka and their ambitions were like I'll quote from Stirling's fictional Draka philosopher Elvira Naldorssen's MEDITATIONS: COLDER THAN THE MOON (possibly the same invented book as the one mentioned in the previous paragraph), from page 230 of Stirling's MARCHING THROUGH GEORGIA: "The Draka will conquer the world for two reasons: because we must, and because we can. Yet of the two forces, the second is the greater; we do this because we choose to do it.  By the sovereign Will and force of arms the Draka will rule the earth, and in so doing remake themselves.  We shall conquer: we shall beat the nations into dust and re-forge them in our self-wrought image: the Final Society, a new humanity without weakness or mercy, hard and pure.  Our descendants will walk the hillsides of that future, innocent beneath the stars, with no more between them and their naked will than a wolf has.  Then there will be Gods in the earth."

In conclusion it will help if I listed the ways Merseia resembled the Domination of the Draka:
1. Racial superiority of Merseians over all non-Meseians.
2. Inferior status, within the Roidhunate, of all non-Merseian races.
3. Willingness to exterminate entire races.
4. Enslaving of conquered non-Merseians.

In Poul Anderson's Terran Empire stories the focus was on the decline of the Empire and the urgent need to defend it, to prevent civilization from falling, not primarily on Merseia (except as the enemy of the Empire). Still, I believe I have collected enough evidence to show that the Roidhunate was a nasty place for non-Merseians.  I regret how Poul Anderson never thought of writing a few stories set entirely inside the Roidhunate, showing us the views of both Merseians and non-Merseians.  If he had, and if based on the evidence I collected, Merseia would strongly resemble a non-human Domination of the Draka, on an interstellar scale.

S.M. Stirling is a known fan and admirer of the works of Poul Anderson. I think it was at least possible that, besides experimenting with writing dystopian science fiction, unconscious reflection on Merseia's racism and its consequences was a factor shaping how Stirling developed the Draka.  To say, nothing, of course, of how the Zacharians might have contributed to this process.

Continuing To Reread Harvest The Fire

Recently, I mentioned the ubiquitous "maintainors." The Peace Authority can use them to spy on citizens!

"...pinniped..." (p. 80)
"'...poetaster.'" (p. 83)
"...Otterburn." (p. 95)

The corridor outside the Lunarian Falaire's apartment has been programmed to resemble space, black with stars and a constellation above each door. Inside, her "...single great chamber..." (p. 91) extrudes and reabsorbs walls on command. With such technology, does she need a "...housekeeper..."? (p. 92) Yes, but it is a robot with its station by "...the cuisinator..."

Anderson's entire text is rich with rare vocabulary and with imaginative details of a high tech civilization, in this case on the Moon. Lunar colonization is a major feature of the early part of Robert Heinlein's Future History. Anderson updates lunar colonization even though it has not yet happened in reality.

Postcapitalism?

"...the status and encouragement of private ventures in a postcapitalist economy..." (Harvest The Fire, p. 75)

A contradiction? Maybe not. We know nothing about postcapitalism. Nineteenth century theoreticians assumed that collective labor would continue to be necessary to generate social wealth. Anderson instead imagines universal automation and nanotechnology controlled by self-evolving artificial intelligences. In the latter situation, I think that:

every human being being should have a substantial share in social wealth;

groups should have the resources for any ventures that they envisage;

but no group would be able to employ members of a work-force economically dependent on being employed.

It is this third point that differentiates postcapitalism and that is hardest to imagine. A character in Anderson's Starfarers says that he has the right to make money and to invest it, i.e., in the labor of others. Of course he does, provided that he is operating in an economy that is organized on that basis in the first place.

"Passage [to the Moon] would consume most of his small savings, and the cost of living would be higher; if he didn't want to exist in poverty, he'd need work, pay, to supplement his citizen's credit." (p. 88)

An economy in which someone who overspends his citizen's credit must choose between poverty and employment is still not postcapitalist.

Friday, 25 September 2015

O Brave New World?

Poul Anderson, Harvest The Fire (New York, 1997).

Aldous Huxley's Savage would prefer the miseries of the conflicted old world to the pleasures of the dystopian New World. Huxley said in his later written Introduction that he should have offered his characters and readers a third choice, a small community dedicated to sanity.

In Harvest The Fire, a man called "Venator" (Latin for "Hunter") has been downloaded into the cybercosm but temporarily resurrected as:

"...a set of ongoing electrophotonic processes in a neural network that received its information through the sensors of the machine it walked in." (p. 61)

Venator reasonably asks:

"Who in their right minds would want a return of...?" (p. 63)

Here I will list the phenomena that Venator refers to:

war;
poverty;
rampant criminality;
disease;
famine;
cancerously swelling population;
necessity to work no matter how nasty or deadening the work might be;
mass lunacy;
private misery;
death in less than a hundred years.

I would regard a world freed from these evils as utopian, not dystopian. It would be an opportunity to learn, explore and create, not an occasion for indolence and boredom leading to suicide or extinction! Anderson's text implies that some of his characters are rightly discontented in this utopian scenario. Only when we learn that the cybercosm regards the actions of free human beings as a threat to itself do I start to agree with them.

Harvest The Fire, Prologue

See here.

The simulated Borges refers to Martin Fierro, Karnak and Cambaluc.

I have quoted here how World War I came to be called "Terran Planetary War, Phase One" in an unfortunate later addition to Robert Heinlein's Future History. In Anderson's Harvest The Fire, it is called "...the first Global War." (p. 13) Future historians, particularly those for whom Earth is not the only occupied planet, are bound to view WWI and WWII differently. They might have had interplanetary conflicts, not "World Wars" but "Wars Between Worlds."

In the terminology of Anderson's last future history:

a "dreambox" generates a fully realistic virtual reality based on a standard program chosen from "'...many millions of different milieus and situations...'" (p. 13);

a "quivira" generates an equally realistic but entirely new virtual reality by working with the "cybercosm" (the conscious AI internet).

Dreamboxes contain simulations of many historical figures but not of Borges who is by now little known. Therefore, Nichol, using a quivira, pays extra for a sophotect (an AI) to:

scan world databases;
synthesize a personality and a setting.

Nichol meets Borges.

Issues In Fictions

I am extremely impressed with the range of issues covered by the posts so far this month:

time
history
prehistory
civilization
the Aeneid
Greeks and Romans
Tacitus
the sciences
AI
the creation of life
surviving the end of the universe
quantum indeterminacy
chaos
the Crusades
the Knights Templar
Odysseus
Frankenstein
superheroes
future histories

I have begun to reread Harvest The Fire (New York, 1997), Volume III of Poul Anderson's later Harvest of Stars future history. In the Prologue:

Jorge Luis Borges wrote Ficciones;
Harvest The Fire is a science fiction novel by Anderson;
in Harvest The Fire, Jesse Nicol, living in our future, experiences the interactive fiction of a virtual reality in which he converses with the simulated Borges;
Nicol presents his real future history to Borges as a work of imaginative fiction;
Borges comments, "'You seem to have invented a world as complete as Tolkien's...'" (p. 21);
Nicol reflects that his account almost is a fiction, "...as far short as it fell of the richness of reality." (p. 28)

How many fictions within fictions are there here? Within Anderson's novel, there is Nicol's virtual reality and, within that, there is Nicol's almost fictitious account of Anderson's fictional future history.

Anderson maintains the consistency of his future history, e.g. p. 6 of Harvest Of Stars (London, 1994) introduces a gadget called a "maintainor" and more of these gadgets appear on p. 10 of Harvest The Fire. Such background details give future histories body and verisimilitude.

The Frankenstein Questions

The Frankenstein question has two forms:

Is it right for anyone, God or Man, to create human life?
Will scientists be destroyed by their own creations?

Some religious believers would jointly answer both, i.e., "Creation of life is a divine prerogative. Any scientists who usurp the divine role will rightly be destroyed by their own creation."

In Poul Anderson's The Stars Are Also Fire, humanly created artificial intelligences regard the continued existence of free human beings as a threat to their own destiny. In Anderson's Genesis, the existence of humanly created artificial intelligences has eventually caused the extinction of humanity but one AI has usurped the divine/Frankensteinian role of re-creating humanity! Thus, Anderson addresses both forms of the Frankenstein question.

Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus was the first science fiction novel. Anderson was a successor of Shelley not only because he wrote science fiction but also because he updated Frankenstein's questions. Shelley, of course, came long before Anderson's other main predecessors: Wells, Stapledon and Heinlein.

Unplannable Blogging

Recently, waiting for a book to arrive by post has meant that I posted much more about Poul Anderson's Time Patrol than expected.

Recently also, a blog reader sent me a copy of the imaged book which, in one chapter, considers possible responses to the end of the universe, which made me look up the two responses by Poul Anderson's AI in his Harvest of Stars future history, which in turn led to three posts about future histories and thus to this post about the unplannability of blogging.

Tomorrow, or rather today since it is nearly 1.00 AM, I will drive family members to a nearby town so might do far less blogging. And, unless Under The Yoke arrives soon, I might be temporarily at a loss as to what to blog about.

The Short Future Histories

The previous post postulated a conceptual sequence comprising one future history each by Heinlein and Niven and four by Anderson. Anderson succeeds Heinlein but also surpasses him both in the number of his future histories and in their length and scope.

For completeness, we should also mention four shorter and more specialized future history series by Anderson, covering respectively:

post-nuclear Earth;
asteroid colonization;
extrasolar colonization;
interstellar trade;
interstellar exploration.

The Kith history exists in two forms, the first emphasizing trade, the second emphasizing exploration. As always when formulating such lists, I learn more in the process.

Meanwhile, we have been assured that SM Stirling's Under The Yoke should still be in the post, Volume II not of a future history about men versus technology but of an alternative history about men versus men.

Connecting Future Histories

The previous post linked Heinlein's Future History to Anderson's Psychotechnic History, Technic History and Harvest of Stars tetralogy. These four series are all "future histories" although Heinlein's is also the Future History. I already knew that the Psychotechnic History was modeled on the Future History and that the Technic History grew to be a longer Heinlein-model future history but was surprised to realize that the Harvest of Stars history could be seen as a conceptual successor to the Technic History.

Heinlein begins by asking how technological advances might affect society in the near future (the 1950s). Anderson winds up by presenting a subtle account of conflict between humanity and AI technology - the Frankenstein theme but in an almost unrecognizable form. Thus there is a continuous conceptual progression from Heinlein's opening story, "Lifeline," to Anderson's two-word concluding chapter:

"FENN WOKE."
-Poul Anderson, The Fleet Of Stars (New York, 1997), Chapter 32, p. 403.

At least two other future histories should be included in this sequence:

Larry Niven's Known Space series, with the exploration of the Solar System followed by social problems on Earth, is like an update of Heinlein;

Anderson's Genesis takes human-AI interactions in a different direction and billions of years further into the future.

(Imagine reading all these works in this order for the first time!)

Genesis (New York, 2001) concludes:

"...she will abide, waiting for the judgment from the stars." (p. 248)

Thus, after all that time, there is still more to come.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Successive And Progressive Future Histories

(i) Poul Anderson's first future history, the Psychotechnic History, was modeled directly on Robert Heinlein's Future History. Thus, a Time Chart listed near future conflicts followed by further future interstellar travel, then some stories were written to fit into the Chart.

(ii) His second future history, the History of Technic Civilization, grew organically but came to express a qualified cyclical theory of history. Thus, in any civilization, either a wrong decision leads to recognizable stages of decline followed by breakdown or the society remains in free growth. Technic Civilization broke down but hopefully the later and larger civilization represented by the Commonalty will remain in free growth.

(iii) In his last, Harvest of Stars, future history, technology advances to a level that seems to preclude any further decline or breakdown:

in the Solar System, a declining human population is entirely supported by self-evolving AI's;
in other systems, technology enables human colonists to -

- record their personalities as conscious AI's;
reincarnate the recorded personalities in newly grown organic bodies;
effortlessly produce any necessary artifacts without needing to distribute them through a market;
transform lifeless planets into habitable environments, each presided over by an AI nature deity based on a former human personality.

This sounds like:

abundantly overflowing social wealth that no longer needs to be hoarded, guarded or fought over;
ultimate free growth.

Two Ways

See The Stars Are Also Fire II.

I said here that I remembered only one of the two ways that Poul Anderson's AI might survive the end of the universe. The two ways are presented on p. 546 of The Stars Are Also Fire (New York, 1994). See also the above link.

Sophotects/AI, reproducing in any matter, not just on planets, spread and communicate between galaxies at sub-light speeds. If there is a heat death of the universe, then they will continue to use energy from disintegrating black holes and particles. If there is a cosmic contraction, then they will experience an infinite number of events and thoughts in the finite time before the singularity. In either case, they will be immortal.

Thus, only the first is a way to survive a heat death but both are ways to survive the end of the universe. "In the end was the Word..." (p. 547) This has to be the ultimate sf speculation.

History And Science In Poul Anderson's Works

History
People live in it.
Immortals live through it.
Time travelers move through it.
It moves into the future  -
- and into divergent timelines.
An AI consciously simulates it.

Anderson realizes historical periods and processes by deploying much detailed historical knowledge.

Science
People apply it.
With space technology, they explore the Solar and other Systems, continually confront the danger of the unknown, colonize terrestroid environments and render lifeless rocks habitable.

Anderson realizes interstellar exploration and colonization by deploying a vast knowledge of physics, chemistry and biology.

Synthesis
Historical and scientific knowledge converge when, for example, a declining Empire clashes with its expanding rival on a fully realized planet with two intelligent species, land-dwellers and sea-dwellers. The declining Empire, originally introduced as a conventional backdrop for space opera action-adventure, becomes instead the occasion for a serious discussion of cyclical patterns in the rise and fall of civilizations.

Thus, we read about the decline of Roma/Rome in a historical fantasy and about the decline of Terra/Earth in a future history although in the latter case, we also read about many planetary environments and their inhabitants.

Problems With Tenses

I continued to read KW Jeter's Morlock Night partly because of its lavish style and partly because there is always the hope of an original contribution to time travel fiction. In the latter case, it would have been possible either to compare or to contrast this new work with the major contributions of Poul Anderson and of others who have been mentioned.

However, I cannot take Morlock Night seriously either as a sequel to The Time Machine or as any other kind of time travel novel. It was written as part of a projected series about successive historical reincarnations of King Arthur yet this fact is concealed in the blurb.

In the text, Merlin, no less, states:

"'The year 1892 has become the hole through which the Sea of Time is leaking away. Even as we sit here the events of the years before and after this date are blurring into our own time. If the process is not halted and reversed, soon all Time from the Earth's beginning to its end will run together into one year, then contract into a single day, a minute, second, then - like that! Blink out of existence. Leaving that dark, timeless desert you found yourself in.'"
KW Jeter, Morlock Night (Oxford, 2011), p. 70-71.

Poul Anderson mentions some "...blink[ing] out of spacetime..." ("Delenda Est" IN Time Patrol, p. 204) but nothing on this scale:

"...1892 has become..." (my emphasis). 1892 is a period of time. But we are supposed to accept that there was a time before it had become a hole and that this conversation is occurring at a time after it has become a hole.

"...as we sit here the events of the years before and after this date are..." (my emphasis). Thus, at this moment, events that occurred before this moment and events that will happen after this moment are undergoing a process.

How can events from earlier and later times "blur into" the present time? Along what temporal axis does this "blurring" process occur? 

Need I go on? (I cannot read any more.)

Hypothetical Sequels

My ideas for a sequel to The Time Machine are here.

How might Poul Anderson have continued his Time Patrol series? Manse Everard would have had to leave that New York apartment and to move elsewhere/when and his relationship with Wanda Tamberly would have had to go somewhere, possibly towards marriage, as in SM Stirling's "A Slip In Time." (see here.)

Beyond that, each Time Patrol installment has been unique and unpredictable. For present purposes, I will count The Shield Of Time as three installments. Thus, the entire series comprises thirteen installments of two kinds:

those in which the Patrol contends with human villains/time criminals;
those in which the Patrol must address some other kind of problem generated by time travel.

The stories with villains are a minority and maybe develop the idea as far as it will go:

an individual villain (one story);
a collective villain (one story);
a more sophisticated collective villain (three stories).

For readers who enjoy heroic detective work followed by heroes versus villains action, there is plenty of that in these stories. In the remaining eight installments:

Patrol Specialist Keith Denison unintentionally becomes Cyrus the Great;
the Mongols threaten to invade North America;
a Patrol agent saves the life of a colleague who, according to the records, never returned home;
a Patrol agent mistaken for Wodan must betray his followers to preserve history;
a Patrol agent unintentionally inspires a pagan prophetess who will change history unless the Patrol counterintervenes;
a Patrol agent intervenes to help the Beringians;
a medieval man is a personal causal nexus;
an indiscreet Patrolman is arrested by the Knights Templar.

Any fourteenth installment would probably have been of the second kind but there is no way to project either its plot or its historical setting.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Time Machine And The Time Patrol

(i) HG Wells' The Time Machine is a novel about a scientist exploring the future whereas Poul Anderson's Time Patrol is a series about an organization preserving the past.

(ii) The Time Machine and the Patrol timecycles are open temporal vehicles that the traveler sits on, not in.

(iii) The Patrol message shuttles recall the Time Traveler's model Time Machine.

(iv) In both cases, time travel is technological, not magical or supernatural.

(v) Humanity devolves into Morlocks and Eloi or evolves into Danellians.

(vi) In both cases, other periods are described colorfully and vividly.

(vii) The Time Machine hints at "...curious possibilities of anachronism and of utter confusion..." (see here) whereas the Time Patrol series examines time travel paradoxes with subtlety and ingenuity.

In a completely different way, The Time Machine and The War Of The Worlds are forerunners of Doctor Who:

The Time Traveller = the Doctor;
The Time Machine = the TARDIS;
Weena = companion;
Morlocks and Eloi = Daleks and Thals;
Martians (evolved beings in tripod vehicles) = Daleks (mutated beings in protective machines);
Martians invading Earth = Daleks invading Earth.

Related Reading II

Guy Consolmagno and Paul Mueller (see here) propose that:

"...the universe is either a chaos or a logos..."
-Would You Baptize An Extraterrestrial? (New York, 2014), p. 226)

Two observations:

(i) In Christian theology, which is their standpoint, the term logos is applied to the divine creative principle. Therefore, I suggest that, within the created universe, the contrast should be between chaos and cosmos.

(ii) However, can statistics and quantum mechanics not synthesize these antitheses? Thus, a single reality would appear to be either chaotic or ordered depending on perspective? In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series, quantum chaos underlies causality:

"'To [the Tyrians] the world isn't entirely governed by laws of nature; it's capricious, changeable, magical.'
"And they're fundamentally right, aren't they? The chill struck deeper into Everard." (Time Patrol, p. 254)

Meanwhile, KW Jeter's Morlock Night is readable but more like a work that references The Time Machine than like a sequel. But this has made me think again about comparing The Time Machine and the Time Patrol...

Related Reading

Tacitus' biography of his father-in-law, Agricola, is pure hagiography.

Guy Consolmagno and Paul Mueller (see here, here and here) rightly say that there are two creation stories in Genesis but also that there is another such story in Maccabees. I am not familiar with the latter. They mention some possible responses to the heat death of the universe but not the two that are posited in later works by Poul Anderson: AI expects to survive by utilizing the energy of particle decay or by - some even more obscure means, which I cannot remember.

SM Stiring's Under The Yoke resolutely refuses to arrive. There is almost a Draka stubbornness about this.

I have bought KW Jeter's Morlock Night, yet another sequel to You Know What. Jeter's text is well written and imaginative with many good qualities but simply not a continuation of Wells' narrative. I suggest that the Morlocks should have been kept out of the title. Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series, while certainly not a sequel, is an excellent conceptual successor to The Time Machine.

Jeter's book is introduced by Tim Powers, the author of one of the great circular causality novels of the universe. See here.

Odysseus

When the Atlantic poured into the Mediterranean:

"...her task was to make a full-sensory record of the whole thing, from its beginning until the day when, a hundred years hence, the basin was full and the sea lapped calm where Odysseus would sail." ("Gibraltar Falls" IN Time Patrol, p. 117)

"Far and far away, a sail passed by. It could have been driving the ship of Odysseus." ("Ivory, And Apes, And Peacocks" IN Time Patrol, p. 326)

Thus, Poul Anderson's hard sf twice refers to Greek mythology and to the beginnings of European literature. (Yahoo is having technical difficulties so I am illustrating this post with an already-used cover of the Iliad instead of finding an image for the Odyssey.)

"It could have been driving..." Of course, Patrol Specialists or civilian scientists will have learned the truth behind the myths. Anderson could have written a Homeric fantasy, a historical fiction or a time travel story based on Odysseus as well as a retelling of King Arthur - but he did give us Odin, Theseus and, with Karen Anderson, the King of Ys.

Later: Yahoo back on line.

Everard's Apartment IV

See here.

How often do we see Manse Everard alone in his New York apartment? After returning from the Time Patrol Academy, he must read a dozen newspapers a day to look for indications of unauthorized time travel. What indications? He has been trained to spot them but we are not told what they are. Is unauthorized time travel that common? Or is he being given make-work until he initiates the sequence of events that will cause him to be promoted to Unattached status? He is alone and restless in his apartment when, instead of the newspapers, he reads the "...collection of Victorian and Edwardian stories..." (Time Patrol, p. 18) that does in fact generate his first job.

We learn that the apartment includes a study where a dummy computer conceals Patrol technology that seems to be voice-controlled:

"'Give me the file to present date on Specialist Wanda May Tamberly,' he ordered, adding sufficient information to identify." (The Shield Of Time, p. 177)

This passage presents nearly three pages of Everard alone in the apartment whereas usually when we see him there he is receiving a guest and, when that guest is Carl Farness, Carl narrates so that we cannot before or afterwards see Everard alone. By phone, Everard arranges to meet Wanda in San Francisco at three o'clock the following afternoon. Next day, he works till dusk in the apartment before going to city headquarters to check out a hopper and jump back in time to three o'clock in San Francisco. However, we are not told the nature of the work that kept him in his apartment into the evening.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Long To Reign

Charlie Whitcomb's attitude to the late nineteenth century is that of Jack Finney's time traveling character's:

"Whitcomb got a faraway look in his eyes. 'I'd like to have lived here,' he said.
"'Yeah? With their medicine and dentistry?'
"'And no bombs falling.' Whitcomb's answer held a defiance." ("Time Patrol" IN Time Patrol, p. 28)

Whitcomb's fiancee was killed by a V-bomb in London in 1944. Later, however, he gets his wish. Charlie and Mary Whitcomb live in London from 1850, knowing that Victoria, having already reigned from 1837, will not die until 1901. The remainder of their lives will be spent during her reign.

I was born in 1949. Elizabeth II has reigned since 1952. Thus, I have no memory of any previous monarch. I would like to be employed by the Time Patrol to live through the 1950s in the town where I grew up, making a full sensory recording of the decade. I would see my younger self at church and would listen to the sermons and even the Latin liturgy with some understanding. To re-experience the '50s without the limitations of a child's mentality, and to know what was coming and when, while also being able to vacation in other periods without missing a moment of the 1950s! I would also want to make some changes but would not be able to get away with that in a timeline guarded by the Time Patrol.

"This was the first moment..."

The first Time Patrol story, "Time Patrol," includes a vivid description of Victorian London as perceived by a time traveler, Manse Everard. The passage is quoted here.

Once again, there is a reference to the decline of Western civilization. These references, in the Time Patrol series, are dated 1858, 1894 and 1902. Each time, the reference is attributed to a Time Patrolman who knows what will happen in 1914.

There are a few other points of interest:

"The train was almost familiar, not very different from the carriages of British railways anno 1954, which gave Whitcomb occasion for sardonic remarks about inviolable traditions." (Time Patrol, p. 25)

British humor! This can raise a smile even though we do not read exactly what Whitcomb said. But it seems appropriate that time travelers should travel in a train that has not significantly changed its design from 1894 to 1954.

"In a couple of hours it let them off at a sleepy village station among carefully tended flower gardens..." (ibid.)

The station is among flower gardens but some British village railway stations are noted for their flower gardens. This kind of peaceful scene shows us part of what the Time Patrol protects, not only the superhuman Danellians in the far future but also the many periods when human beings are able to live comfortably. Dominic Flandry prolongs the Terran Empire for this reason - as well as for his own continued pleasure.

We recognize the private agent whom Everard and Whitcomb meet at the Wyndham estate:

"...he was tall, thin, hawk-faced, and accompanied by a burly, mustached fellow with a limp who seemed a kind of amanuensis." (ibid.)

Unmistakable. Well, I did not recognize them on a first reading but I was comparatively young then. Everard does not seem to recognize them even though it was one of that mustached fellow's memoirs that has brought him and Whitcomb to Victorian England.

Change II

See Change.

Science fiction is about change:

a short story can show a single technological advance affecting society (Heinlein: nuclear power; Asimov: robots; Niven: organ-legging);

a futuristic novel shows society changing over time (Wells' The Sleeper Wakes: global industrial capitalism; The Time Machine: devolution of social classes);

a future history series shows further changes over time (Heinlein: space travel but also social regression; Asimov and Anderson: interstellar imperial rise and fall and human-AI interactions);

Wells technologized warfare with tanks, aircraft and atomic bombs;

the first five installments of Heinlein's Future History each focus on a single technological advance, although the first is suppressed;

Anderson's History of Technic Civilization covers the rise and fall of post-Western, interstellar Technic Civilization with additional information on one earlier and two later interstellar civilizations;

Anderson's Time Patrol series dips in and out of Terrestrial history and prehistory -

the Oligocene
the transition from the Miocene to the Pliocene
the Pleistocene
Beringia
ancient Persia
Bactria
the Roman Empire
Goths and Germans
post-Roman Britain
the Middle Ages
pre-Columbian North America
the nineteenth century
Victorian London
World War II
late twentieth century New York and Amsterdam
a lunar base in 2319
galactic conflict in 19352 AD
hints about many other future periods -

- but not Technic Civilization. These are different fictional universes. Each is a complete, self-sufficient series - worthy successors respectively of Heinlein's Future History and of Wells' The Time Machine. Everyone has at least heard of The Time Machine. The phrase has entered the language. Anyone who wants to know more about the literature of change should at least check Heinlein and Anderson.

Summarizing significant science fiction always feels fresh, which is why I keep doing it.

Change

Yet another Time Patrolman surrounds himself with artifacts from previous decades. In Shalten's Paris flat:

"The clutter around him, furniture, hangings, pictures, books, busts, bric-a-brac, declared a solidity that had endured and accumulated since the Congress of Vienna." (The Shield Of Time, p. 119)

-thus for eighty seven years. Yet again, Poul Anderson shows us the quiet before the storm.

The quiet:

"...under trees where green had begun turning yellow and brown, people thronged the sidewalks. Cafes, boutiques, boulangeries, patisseries did lively trade. The noise that rolled in was full of cheer." (ibid.)

The storm:

"Everard tried not to remember that in a dozen years this world would crash to ruin." (ibid.)

The chapter is headed 1902 A. D. Visiting Paris in that year, Everard reflects that:

"...California, 1987...was quite another world, remote as a dream - a nightmare?" (pp. 119-120)

The entire Time Patrol series is about change, even before humanity. The pouring of the Atlantic into the Mediterranean:

"...would move the planet from its Miocene to its Pliocene epoch." (Time Patrol, p. 119)

"...now had begun a hundred years of thunder. When that was done, nothing would ever be the same again." (p. 114)

The Quiet Before The Storm

As previously noted, Poul Anderson's "The Sorrow Of Odin The Goth" closes with the pathetic fallacy of a storm and the Huns approaching simultaneously. To the dying Ermanaric, thunder sounds like Hunnish horse hooves.

However, earlier in the narrative, although later in history, Anderson presents a peaceful scene that exemplifies the metaphorical phrase, "the quiet before the storm."

"...a stroll along Unter den Linden. We came back to his house through a summer twilight. Trees breathed fragrance, horse-drawn vehicles clop-clopped past, gentlemen raised their tall hats to ladies of their acquaintance whom they met, a nightingale sang in a rose garden." (Time Patrol, p. 400)

Anderson piles it on here: summer twilight, fragrance, ladies and courteous gentlemen, a nightingale, roses, a garden. There is the quiet but where is the storm? Well, the very next sentence reads:

"Occasionally a uniformed Prussian officer strode by, but his shoulders did not obviously carry the future." (ibid.)

Should they have? Yes, this is 1858. Ganz, the owner of the twilit house says:

"'Let me enjoy my life in these decades that suit me. Too soon will they end...before Western civilization begins self-destruction in earnest...'" (ibid.)

We still live in Western civilization (I think) but did its long term death throes begin in 1914 or earlier? What does the Patrol know that we don't? One of the few good points in a later time travel novel by Robert Heinlein was the insight that historical perspectives change with time. The 1914-'18 conflict is successively called the War, the Great War, World War I, Terran Planetary War Phase One...

Monday, 21 September 2015

Exempli Gratia

(This image shows the King's Palace in Berlin, 1858.)

I have learned a Latin phrase by reading Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series. Time Patrolman Herbert Ganz, based in Berlin in 1858, says:

"'...before Western civilization begins self-destruction in earnest, I must needs have aged my appearance, until I simulate my death.... What next? Who knows? I will inquire. Perhaps I should simply start over elsewhere: exempli gratia, post-Napoleonic Bonn or Heidelberg.'" (Time Patrol, p. 400)

We already know from MGM that "Ars Gratia Artis" means "Art for the sake of art." Thus, "exempli gratia" means "for the sake of an example" and is abbreviated "e.g." I have never wondered what the letters, "e.g.," stood for and would not have found out if I had not googled "exempli gratia" after rereading it in "The Sorrow of Odin The Goth."

"...post-Napoleonic..." would mean post-1815? Thus, Ganz would perhaps live through much of the nineteenth century a second time while avoiding contact with his younger self? Where/when after that? Patrollers do not die of disease or old age and Ganz avoids violent eras such as:

"...the early Germanic milieus which were his field of research." (ibid.)

"'They are unsuitable for a peaceful old scholar...,'" he says. (ibid.) 

So how is he going to die?

Staying in character, he continues to use spectacles but presumably will let Patrol medics fix his eyes when he moves elsewhen and changes his identity.

Out Of The Past

It seems appropriate that the Time Patrol, which guards the past, houses itself in dated surroundings. Patrol members have met in anachronistic hotels and one front for the Patrol is a used bookshop. Of the London office, 1890-1910, Anderson writes:

"There was a unexpectedly heavy effect to the oak furniture, the thick carpet, the flaring gas mantles. Electric lights were available, but Dalhousie & Roberts was a solid, conservative import house." ("Time Patrol" IN Time Patrol, p. 21)

Quite right! When initially contacting the London office, Everard, opening the message shuttle, found:

"...a sheet of foolscap covered with neat typing - yes, the typewriter had been invented by then, of course." (p. 19)

Would messages from earlier milieus have been handwritten? Patrol personnel would use future communication technology only when safely concealed from contemporary observation so maybe yes, handwritten notes even from earlier in the nineteenth century when:

"Herbert Ganz...liked being Herr Professor at the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin..." in 1858 (pp. 399-400).

Personal Pasts

HG Wells' The Time Machine is about travel to the remote future. Poul Anderson's The Time Patrol is about travel to the historical or, less often, the prehistorical past. However, sometimes Time Patrollers make shorter pastward journeys. Manse Everard travels from 1954 to 1947 to rendezvous with Charlie Whitcomb:

"London, 1947. He sat for a moment, reflecting that at this instant he himself, seven years younger, was attending college back in the States." ("Time Patrol" IN Time Patrol, pp. 21-22)

Later, he goes to London, 1944:

"The younger Manse Everard, lieutenant in the United States Army Engineers, was somewhere across the Channel, near the German guns. He couldn't recall exactly where, just then, and did not stop to make the effort. It didn't matter. He knew he was going to survive that danger." (p. 45)

Wanda Tamberly has a similar experience in 1965:

"On this gentle April afternoon, across the Bay in San Francisco, Wanda Tamberly was being born. Time Patrol agent or no, she must stave off a certain eeriness. Happy birthday, me." (The Shield Of Time, p. 159)

Everard also visits a historical period that is very close. In 1894:

"At this moment, his mother had not been born, his grandparents were young couples just getting settled to harness..." (Time Patrol, p. 24)

Other stories have been written that focused on the potential paradoxes of time travel within a single lifetime. See here. Also, The Time Travelers' Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and  Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson.

Causality

A particular causal sequence may be so long and complicated that it is impossible to discover its every stage and detail. This is even more so if the sequence involves human actions, therefore also conscious perceptions and motivations. An explosion causes destruction but a motive for murder may not cause murder. (A witness thought that he saw one man deliberately ram another man's car. What he in fact saw was the first man deliberately reversing his car and that car ramming the second man's car.)

Time travelers may be able to follow a causal sequence back through time. However, they must often observe and inquire discreetly. In the Time Patrol timeline, the existence of time travel must be kept secret until a far future date. In any case, if time travelers are seen to be observing or are recognized as time travelers, then this will affect the behavior of those that they are observing and will thus change the sequence of events.

The problem is magnified if the causal sequence itself involves time travel. If one of the events in an observed sequence is the arrival of a temporal vehicle, then that vehicle has departed from another time, past or future. It is no longer sufficient for the observers simply to continue moving backwards in time. If, as in the Time Patrol universe, time travel is in fact space-time travel, then the vehicle may also have departed from another place. The problem is magnified even further by variable reality. An arriving time machine may not have departed from any past or future time...

When researchers obtain their own copy of Tacitus' Histories, they find that it differs from the standard version. Everard wonders:

"Sheer happenstance; or was it? (Causality can double back on itself in strange ways.)" ("Star Of The Sea" IN Time Patrol, p. 486)

So strange that even the Patrol will not be able to unravel them?

"'Of the Histories, the oldest copy that survived contained only four books of the original twelve, and part of the fifth. That part broke off in the middle of describing what we have become troubled about. Naturally, when time travel is developed, an expedition will in due course go to his era and recover the lost sections.'" (p. 484)

Copies have been recovered and accepted as "standard." However, the newly obtained copy diverges but:

"'...the chronicle as such, the narrative line, does not split until the fifth book, very soon after the scene where the copy that survived breaks off. Is this coincidence?'

"'I dunno,' Everard replied, 'and better we pass that question by. Kind of spooky, huh?'" (p. 487)

They never do return to that exact question. Anderson's narrative generates the impression of unexplained mysteries.

Domitian

Time travelers study history:

"'Sociologists studying Rome, early second century A.D., found on short notice that they needed to know what the upper classes thought of the Emperor Domitian, who died a couple of decades earlier. Did they really remember him as a Stalin, or concede that he'd done a few worthwhile things? The later sections of Tacitus eloquently expressed the negative view...'"
-Poul Anderson, "Star Of The Sea" IN Time Patrol, p. 486.

Tacitus wrote:

"In Republican times biographies and even autobiographies of outstanding individuals were written and admired; but they are out of fashion in an age hostile to excellence, when a brilliant career has become so hazardous and talented biographers so reluctant. Indeed, under the tyrannical rule of Domitian the authors of two such works were condemned to death and the books destroyed, as part of a calculated attack on freedom of expression in Rome. Although the new regime is far more liberal, we are slow to recover from fifteen years of such oppression - and in writing a biography of my father-in-law Agricola I feel I must ask indulgence both for my theme and for my lack of literary skill."
-D.E. Soulsby, Tacitus, Selections From Agricola (Cambridge, 1973), p. 2.

Brilliant careers becoming hazardous reminds us of what Chunderban Desai said to Dominic Flandry about the later phase of the Terran Empire. And now I really must get back to reading some Latin...

"Gnaeus Iulius Agricola, vetere et inlustri..."

Sunday, 20 September 2015

"One Swirl On A River"

Manson Everard graduates from the Time Patrol Academy in the Oligocene:

brief ceremony;
huge party;
arrangements for reunions;
return to the place and hour of recruitment
(for Everard, New York, 1954);
recruitment officer's congratulations;
list of contemporary agents, some in Intelligence;
return to apartment;
special consultant to Engineering Studies Co;
read newspapers for indications of time travel;
be ready to respond to a call.

"It was a peculiar feeling to read the headlines and know, more or less, what was coming next. It took the edge off, but added a sadness, for this was a tragic era." (Time Patrol, p. 17)

I first read that about 1960, six years after 1954, and am now rereading it in 2015, sixty one years after. Everard would have known what was coming next at least until 2000, the end of his "milieu." When the time was right, i.e., when The Shield Of Time was published in 1990, a Patrolman casually mentioned Gorbachev but Everard would have known that name from 1954.

On pp. 17-18 is a passage, quoted before, where Everard, looking out at a hurried New York street, reflects that "...it was all one swirl on a river..." (p. 17) from the prehuman past to the Danellian future. But, of course, as we reflected recently, the Danellians begin a mere million years hence so what happens during and even after their era? Time Patrol narratives almost imply that the Danellians occupy the End of Time whereas nothing is really the End except the much later heat death of the universe - assuming that twentieth and twenty first century scientists are right that that will happen.

"Lights flamed against a hectic sky..." (p. 17) -

- prepares the reader for almost any dramatic events to follow.

Everard finds an indication of unauthorized time travel not in a newspaper but in "...a collection of Victorian and Edwardian stories." (p. 18) It was not until sometime in the 1970s until I read that same collection and found the reference to:

"...a tragedy at Addleton and the singular contents of an ancient British barrow." (p. 18)

Of course Anderson had to have been referring to something but it had never occurred to me to wonder what.

Tacitus, Cerialis And Maybe The Draka?

Can I continue to post indefinitely about Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series? That does seem impossible although I have astounded myself several times already. However, two things should happen this coming week.

First, tomorrow, Monday, I must prepare for a Latin class on Tuesday. We are reading Tacitus, who mentions Cerialis. Remember the Time Patrol story, "Star Of The Sea." Also note the attached image. Thus, we are engaging, in the original language, with the history that provides the background for Anderson's historical science fiction.

Secondly, surely SM Stirling's Under The Yoke should arrive from the US, unless the order has gone completely awry? Regular readers know that Poul Anderson Appreciation sometimes focuses backwards onto Wells, Stapledon and Heinlein and sometimes focuses forwards onto Stirling who has developed one aspect of sf, alternative histories, in far greater detail than even Anderson did.

So I don't know what the next few posts will be about, just that there will be some.

Travel In Different Directions

Several kinds of travel as yet exist only in science fiction:

aircars;
faster than light (FTL) interstellar travel;
instantaneous transportation;
teleportation (which might be at light speed);
time travel;
travel in other directions - between timelines, universes etc.

As usual, I wound up with a longer list than expected when I started to write it.

In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series, in 19352 AD:

"'...the various governments were pawns in a galactic game. The time effect was the by-product of a search for a means of instantaneous transportation, which some of you will realize requires infinitely discontinuous functions for its mathematical description - as does travel into the past.'" (Time Patrol, p. 9)

Especially in an Andersonian hard sf context, the phrase "...galactic game..." strongly implies FTL, although this is not made explicit. Thus, people with FTL (we think), seek instantaneous travel and find time travel, in fact space-time travel which therefore includes instantaneous travel - if the traveler changes his spatial but not his temporal coordinates.

We have already asked why Everard and Whitcomb were trained to handle spaceships if, at that stage, they were expected to work only in their own 1850-2000 milieu. But other questions arise about space travel:

Surely there will be many different kinds of spaceships in future eras?
Both for training and for operations, the Patrol has large spacecraft in past eras so they must be able to move such large objects through time?

For story purposes, we see only timecycles and other small vehicles moving along Earth's world line. In the future, they must have spacecraft that can transport prisoners instantaneously to the (extrasolar?) exile planet and that can also travel to the Oligocene to be used for the training of Time Patrol cadets. The possibilities seem endless.

15 April 1610

How often do we see Manse Everard in a spaceship? At the Time Patrol Academy in the Oligocene, he is taught how to handle one. While fellow cadet Whitcomb chats to their instructor:

"Everard said nothing. He was too captured by the spectacle of Earth, rolling enormous against the stars." (Time Patrol, p. 14)

On 15 April 1610 (pp. 719-722), his timecycle materializes in the receiving bay of a ship in Earth orbit (very like a "transporter" arrival in Star Trek):

"It was orbiting dayside when Everard arrived, and the planet stretched vast, blue swirled with white around the ruddinesses that were continents." (p. 719)

(My lap top recognizes "ruddiness" although not the plural "ruddinesses." However, Anderson not only deployed a vast vocabulary but also used it creatively.)

This time, Everard is too busy to enjoy the view. His colleagues have, by orbital observation, identified the exact moment of Castelar and Tamberly's arrival at Machu Picchu (see image). The Patrol will strike the Exaltationists immediately after Castelar's escape.

"Not before, because that did not happen. We dare not undermine even this forbidden pattern of events." (p. 720)

But they do undermine another forbidden pattern. Castelar and Tamberly had disappeared from within a treasure house but the Patrol puts them back in there almost immediately after the Exaltationists had kidnapped them, thus canceling the experiences of the Patrol agent who had investigated the disappearance - and thereby also cancelling how many other related events? I suspect that the threads of the story might unravel at this point.

Back in 1610, the Patrol must strike immediately after Castelar's escape so that the Exaltationists have no time to think, "He has escaped. He might alert the Patrol. Flee!" Armed timecycles jump from within the spaceship to the "...enormous azure..." (p. 720) above Machu Picchu. Everard materializes near the permanently aloft Exaltationist sentry and Gunner Tetsuo Motonobu, sharing Everard's cycle, shoots him down. Everard power-dives, protected from wind by "...an invisible force screen." (p. 721) His fellow agents fire at the buildings occupied by Exaltationists and the battle is over when Everard arrives. Varagan has escaped because he was just about to go elsewhere/when for medical attention to a bad sword wound. Others who scattered randomly on timecycles might never find each other.

In the east, Everard sees:

"...the Gate of the Sun on its ridge, edged black against heaven." (p. 722)

The Exaltationists wear black. They will rise again.