Monday, 29 February 2016

Space Battleships

"Lenin's bridge was enormous."
-Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, The Mote In God's Eye (London, 1979), p. 319.

Through prose and screen science fiction, we have become very familiar with a kind of vehicle that might never in fact exist: large faster than light interstellar spacecraft, often used for combat. Destruction occurs on stellar scales.

Flandry and a few other survivors fight on in a wrecked hulk in Ensign Flandry. Kirk destroys the Enterprise. Captain Rod Blaine must watch his ship, MacArthur, destroyed from the bridge of Lenin.

"Space battles are lovely to see." (p. 320)

That might be a matter of taste. But we have all seen Star Wars so perhaps we can judge for ourselves?

(I meant to save a few draft posts to publish tomorrow but the immediate future of this lap top has become uncertain so let's have five posts today.)

Grounded In The Past

A future history should show us that it is solidly grounded in past history. Manuel Argos explains his founding of the Terran Empire:

"'This is an age in history such as has often occurred before when the enforced peace of Caesarism is the only solution.'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Star Plunderer" IN Anderson, The Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011), pp. 325-362 AT p. 356.

"'It'll be an empire in fact...and therefore it should be an empire in name...It'll be even more of a symbol now than it was in its own age.'" (ibid.)

Argos recognizes that to keep the conquered inferior would make the empire unstable:

"'All races must be equal...I think I'll borrow a leaf from the old Romans. All worthy individuals, of any race, can become terrestrial citizens. It'll be a stabilizing factor.'" (p. 360)

Flandry's period is grounded in Argos who grounded himself in old Rome.

Larry Niven and Jerry Pourmelle's Second Empire of Man follows the First Empire which had followed the CoDominium of the United States and the Soviet Union. The Imperial Great Seal shows a crown, spaceship, eagle, sickle and hammer. (Mote, p. 6) Two Imperial battleships are called MacArthur and Lenin. We have a strong sense of shared past history as we read about MacArthur and Lenin exploring the Mote System.

Why Empires?

Why are there so many interstellar "Empires" in American sf? Notable examples are the works of Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Frank Herbert, H Beam Piper and Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle. Although James Blish's Cities In Flight features an interstellar "Hruntan Empire," the main emphasis of this series is on trade by the flying cities.

Empires resonate with much past Terrestrial history. The word "empire" evokes a realm both vast and powerful - although also oppressive and militaristic. It seems both implausible and unimaginative as a future form of social organization.

Poul Anderson wrote well about interstellar empires, then moved on to other kinds of fictional futures. "The Star Plunderer" makes the founding of the Terran Empire by Manuel Argos seem plausible and the Dominic Flandry novels make interstellar Imperial administration seem credible.

Greg Bear wrote:

"...Rome has been much abused. Lay off Rome for a while. And give me no spaceships in feudal settings...unless, of course, you are Poul Anderson, but you are most likely not."
-Greg Bear, "Tomorrow Through The Past" IN SFWA Bulletin, Fall 1979, pp. 38-41 AT pp. 40-41.

I agree that Poul Anderson made even feudalism with spaceships work. I can accept Niven and Pournelle's Empire of Man as part of a literary tradition and as the setting for their First Contact novel but sf must move on, as Anderson did.

Merseians And Moties

Poul Anderson's Ensign Flandry is the opening volume of the Dominic Flandry series, a major part of Anderson's History of Technic Civilization. In Ensign Flandry, the title character is given a guided tour of the planet Merseia but must leave in a hurry. Merseian supremacism threatens the Terran Empire. The problem is ideological.

Larry Niven's and Jerry Pournelle's The Mote In God's Eye is the opening volume of the Moties diptych, a major part of Pournelle's CoDominium future history. In Mote..., crew members and passengers from the human spaceship, MacArthur, are given a guided tour of the planet Mote Prime but must leave in a hurry. The Motie breeding cycle threatens the Second Empire of Man. This problem is biological.

I appreciate two works simultaneously without implying that there is any textual one-to-one correspondence. Both series are Heinleinian future histories although with a structural difference. Whereas Anderson's Psychotechnic History and, I think, Pournelle's CoDominium History were consciously modeled on Robert Heinlein's Future History, the Technic History grew into a vaster Heinleinian template by the fusion of two originally independent series.

A future history comprises several successive periods, e.g., -

Heinlein: technological advances, interplanetary imperialism, the Prophets, the Covenant, the first mature culture;
Asimov: Robots, Empire, Foundation;
Cities In Flight: the Vegan Tyranny, the Earthman culture, the Web of Hercules, new universes;
The Seedling Stars: Port Authority; extrasolar colonies; a far future "Watershed";
Psychotechnic: UN, Solar Union, Stellar Union, Galactic civilization;
Technic: several periods, including Commonwealth (van Rijn) and Empire (Flandry);
Niven: interplanetary exploration; UN and Belt, Man-Kzin Wars, Known Space, the Thousand Worlds;
Pournelle: CoDominium, First Empire, Secession Wars, Second Empire.

(Blog readers will recognize Asimov's as another fused future history.)

James Blish and Poul Anderson also link the future to the past -

After Such Knowledge:
Roger Bacon, possibly inspired by a demon, invents scientific method;
demons manifest in the twentieth century;
a Jesuit biologist suspects demonic influence on an extrasolar planet in the twenty first century.

The Boat Of A Million Years:
immortals live through history into an indefinite future. 

Substantial Reading

I am continuing to reread Larry Niven's and Jerry Pournelle's The Mote In God's Eye first because it has inspired reflections relevant to the blog and secondly because I have become sufficiently involved with the narrative to want to follow it to its conclusion, then maybe
tackle the sequel.

An sf novel gains substance when it is incorporated into a future history series. Spot the odd man out in this list:

an imminent cosmic collision is detected by the inhabitants of the spindizzy-powered planet, He, as it flies between galaxies;

the Ringworld is explored by a Puppeteer, a kzin, a man and a teela;

the Mote System is explored by the warships MacArthur and Lenin from the Second Empire of Man;

the planets Ythri and Gray/Avalon were discovered during the Grand Survey;

the planet Merseia, shielded from supernova radiation by agents of the Polesotechnic League, later became the principal adversary of the Terran Empire;

the planet Satan is exploited by the Solar Spice & Liquors Company;

the planet Mirkheim is exploited by the Supermetals Company until the Baburites go to war over it;

Avalon, jointly colonized by human beings and Ythrians, is attacked by Terran Imperials, including a Cynthian and a Jerusalem Catholic;

a Wodenite Jerusalem Catholic enters the Patrician System just before Admiral Magnusson, a Merseian sleeper, rebels against the Terran Empire;

the Cloud Universe is explored by a Ranger of the Commonalty;

Orbitsville is colonized by human beings from a future Earth.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Inter-Species Communication II

See Inter-Species Communication.

Poul Anderson
The relevant quotes are:

"The nonhuman remains nonhuman. He can only show us those facets of himself which we can understand. Thus he often seems to be a two-dimensional, even comic personality. But remember, we have the corresponding effect on him."
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), pp. 264-265.

"'[Nonhumans] are too unlike us. You probably know better than I how vastly their psychologies, instincts, drives, capabilities differ from ours, and from each other's...I think we interact with them, and they with us, only on a rather superficial level. Partnership is possible between human and alien, yes. Sometimes even what the human feels as friendship. But how does the alien feel it? That may be ultimately unknowable, on either side.'"
-Poul Anderson, For Love And Glory (New York, 2003), Chapter IX, p. 53.

Bob Shaw
Bob told me that he never had conversations between human beings and aliens but there was some conversation with hyper-dimensional beings in the Orbitsville Trilogy and maybe between souls of different species in the scientifically rationalized hereafter of The Palace Of Eternity? In old age, we try to remember works read literally decades ago.

Carl Sagan
Sagan suggests a means of communication. See here.

Niven and Pournelle
When, in Anderson's A Circus Of Hells, an alien on her own planet shakes her head in disbelief, we ask, "Would she do this?" whereas, when one of Niven's and Pournelle's Moties nods her head, we soon realize that this is because she is trying to converse with human beings and is learning fast.

I am definitely signing off till next month. Excelsior.

A Unique Evolution

Let us consider the unique evolution of Poul Anderson's eight future histories in more detail. Since the first two histories have FTL, aliens and interstellar empires whereas the last two have STL, no aliens and human-AI interaction, that leaves four intermediate histories, none with FTL. It is as if Anderson deconstructs future histories, then rebuilds them from first principles.

In the Maurai History, mankind recovers from nuclear war and has barely resumed space travel by the end of the series - although the related time travel novel, There Will Be Time, tells us about an interstellar future.

In Tales Of The Flying Mountains, mankind colonizes the asteroids and is just beginning extrasolar colonization by the end of the series.

In the Rustum History, several extrasolar planets are colonized.

In the Kith History, there is interstellar trade. This history exists in two versions. In the first, there is a Star Empire and a journey to the galactic center at relativistic speeds by political exiles. In the second, there is a long journey to visit an alien civilization. So much time elapses that the theme of the rise and fall of civilizations returns.

In the last two histories, AI takes over.

Inter-Species Communication

How quickly or easily would human beings and aliens establish regular communication? It would be easier if both sides wanted to communicate and recognized the problems. In first contact with Ythri, the first problem is for human beings to recognize that the winged Ythrians are intelligent. In Poul Anderson's Technic History and For Love And Glory, there is recognition that inter-species communication must be to some extent superficial. There would be dialogue about matters of common interest but we can scarcely expect to penetrate the inner thoughts or feelings of an alien being. The British  sf writer, Bob Shaw, criticized Larry Niven for having Puppeteers converse like Harvard professors. Shaw had aliens but never any conversations with them.

A first attempt at communication is to repeat sounds heard or gestures seen. In Larry Niven's and Jerry Pournelle's The Mote In God's Eye, a Motie Mediator, i.e., a specialist in communication, amuses the human spaceship crew by instantly and accurately mimicking one man's theatrical shrug of incomprehension. More on this subject later.

Saturday, 27 February 2016


My two favorite kinds of science fiction are time travel and future history series: Wells and Heinlein.

Time Travel
There are two fundamental premises: the past either can or cannot be changed. Poul Anderson systematically examines both. In The Corridors Of Time and There Will Be Time, rival groups wage war throughout an immutable timeline by changing the significance of known events whereas, in the Time Patrol series, an organization prevents change in a mutable timeline.

Future History Series
Robert Heinlein wrote one Future History, although five early Scribner Juveniles share a background with each other and with the "Green Hills of Earth" period of the Future History. Thus, these five novels might count as a "Juvenile Future History."

James Blish wrote a four novel future history, Cities In Flight, a four story future history, The Seedling Stars, and the non-linear Haertel Scholium containing three distinct future historical sequences.

Larry Niven has the Known Space and the State/Smoke Ring histories.

I think that other future historians have one series each except Anderson who has at least eight. I am here counting the single novel, Genesis, as a series because its successive chapters cover geological ages. Anderson moves away from histories with FTL, aliens and interstellar empires towards histories with STL, no aliens and human/AI interactions.

These thorough treatments of time travel and future histories make Anderson unique among sf writers.

Space Age Theology

In Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, Christian characters speculate about Ythrian theology and about the Universal Incarnation. In James Blish's A Case Of Conscience, a Jesuit biologist wonders whether God or Satan created the intelligent Lithians.

In Larry Niven's and Jerry Pournelle's The Mote In God's Eye (London, 1959):

"It was [Chaplain Hardy's] job to determine if Moties were human. Horvath's scientists only wondered if they were intelligent." (p. 161)

I am not clear about how Hardy is using the word "human" here. Obviously, Moties are not of the same species as homo sapiens.

" was quite possible that [God] had created intelligent beings with no souls..." (ibid.)

Not in the Christian doctrine I was taught! We were told that Cartesian mind-body dualism was both revealed truth and philosophically provable.

"They might even be a form of angel..." (ibid.)

No. Angels are meant to be immaterial.

If I had Hardy to debate with, I would need first to clarify his understanding of Christian theology and secondly to articulate my disagreements with it.

Addendum: For discussion of the theology of aliens, see here and here.

Flying Mountains

In Larry Niven's and Jerry Pournelle's The Mote In God's Eye (London, 1959), an asteroid is described as a "...flying mountain." (p. 159) This evokes yet another Poul Anderson future history, although not one of the sequence of seven: Tales Of The Flying Mountains.

In ...Mountains, as in James Blish's Cities In Flight future history, space technology is based on control of gravity although in this case such technology facilitates asteroidal colonization but does not lead to an FTL drive.

I identified six future historical themes:

(i) near future technological advances and social changes;
(ii) a period of interplanetary travel;
(iii) an FTL drive;
(iv) extrasolar colonization;
(v) interstellar imperialism;
(vi) the rise and fall of civilizations -

- while acknowledging that not every future history addresses all of these themes. In fact, ...Mountains can alternatively be summarized as follows:

(i) and (ii) as above;
(iii) an STL drive;
(iv) the first extrasolar colonists still in flight.

...Mountains focuses on (ii) the interplanetary period and thus parallels:

Heinlein's The Green Hills Of Earth;
Asimov's I, Robot;
Blish's They Shall Have Stars;
Niven's Lucas Garner/Gil the Arm stories.

Anderson's other future histories also diverge from the (i)-(vi) model by omitting (iii) FTL and (v) interstellar imperialism.

Praising Fiction

"The best novel about human beings making first contact with intelligent but utterly nonhuman aliens I have ever seen, and possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read."

"A spellbinder, a swashbuckler...and best of all it has a brilliant new approach to that fascinating problem - first contact with aliens."

-both on the back cover of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, The Mote In God's Eye (London, 1959).

High praise from the highest places in American sf!

My Comments

It is difficult, if not impossible, to say which is the finest sf novel we have ever read but, if I were to try, several by Poul Anderson would compete for top place, e.g., The People Of The Wind makes the human-Ythrian planet, Avalon, feel like a real place.

Contact by Carl Sagan is a major first contact novel.

Herbert's Dune, widely praised as a major sf novel, contains inconsistencies of point of view, a flaw which I have also found in Mote.

Verisimilitude And Humor

Poul Anderson describes as if from experience combat between fleets of faster than light interstellar spaceships, e.g., when the Terrans attack Avalon in The People Of The Wind or clash with Merseians in Ensign Flandry. See here and here.

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle display the same apparent familiarity with interstellar warships:

"'Morning' on a warship is a relative thing. The morning watch is from 0400 to 0800, a time when the human species would normally sleep; but space knows nothing of this. A full crew is needed on the bridge and in the engine room no matter what the time."
-The Mote In God's Eye (London, 1959), p. 140.

Of course it is. We knew that, didn't we? - or realize that we should have done.

Although Anderson occasionally deploys humor, sometimes to good effect, Niven and Pournelle maybe surpass him in this respect:

"[Sally's] face and voice as she said, 'Yes, Mr. Renner?' somehow informed Renner that he looked like a cross between a man and a mole - a remarkable feat of nonverbal communication." (pp. 139-140)

Star Trek And The Future Histories

David Birr explains this bizarre cover image in a comment here.

Star Trek TV series, films and novels have become a future history and a cultural reference point. When I told a friend about a "reality storm" in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, he remarked that that sounded like something out of Star Trek, then laughed when I told him that one of the characters had said that that sounded like something out of Star Trek.

A narrator in Robert Heinlein's The Number Of The Beast compares the bridge of Lazarus Long's spaceship to the bridge of the Enterprise - although I would prefer not to refer to The Number Of The Beast.

Isaac Asimov scientifically advised Star Trek. James Blish adapted episodes as short stories and wrote the first Star Trek novel. At a Memorial evening for James Blish in London, Charles Monteith of Faber and Faber described Blish's Cities in Flight future history as "a higher and greater Star Trek."

Larry Niven adapted a Known Space story as a Star Trek animated episode. Niven and Jerry Pournelle place a Chief Engineer from New Scotland on a Navy spaceship and say that this ethnicity is common among Engineers.

If Kirk were in Intelligence and Vulcan were in the Klingon Empire, then Star Trek would parallel Poul Anderson's Flandry series. Many sf stories about spaceship crews exploring extrasolar planets could be adapted as Star Trek episodes.

Addendum: Are Moties like intelligent tribbles?

Friday, 26 February 2016

Imaginative Aliens

Which of the future histories in the American sequence that we have been discussing presents the most imaginative aliens? It was clever of Niven and Pournelle to make their Moties asymmetrical. However, apart from that single important difference, a Motie's body is recognizably a humanoid form with two right arms and one right ear.

Niven's three-legged Puppeteers with their brains inside their bodies are definitely not humanoid. Nor are Poul Anderson's less well known Smokesmith the Reardonite or Rax.

One of Anderson's Didonians comprises three temporarily linked bodies. Although each of these bodies is comparable to a Terrestrial animal - rhino, goose and ape - their transient tripartite consciousnesses are entirely alien. See here.

Thus, here are five interesting alien intelligences appearing respectively in four future histories:

Pournelle's CoDominium series;
Niven's Known Space series;
Anderson's Psychotechnic History;
Anderson's Technic History.

Master Of Future Histories And A Few Questions

Poul Anderson wrote not only a robot story in his Psychotechnic History but also a US Robots story for Isaac Asimov's future history. Thus, of the seven future histories mentioned in the previous post, Anderson:

wrote two (Psychotechnic, Technic);
contributed to three (Asimov's, Niven's, Pournelle's);
addressed issues from two (Heinlein's, Asimov's) -

- and also wrote several other future histories. This gives Anderson a preeminent position as a future historian.

Regarding the issue that I raised concerning the locations of Alderson Points in Niven and Pournelle's The Mote In God's Eye (London, 1979), maybe the giant star had expanded to encompass the Point? However, the star is merely as big as the orbit of Saturn whereas the Points are described as located far from either stars or large planets.

Mote contains unexpected humor:

"'Let's go make first contact with an alien, Mr Renner.'
"'I think you just did that,' said Renner. He glanced nervously at the screens to be sure the Admiral was gone.'" (p. 110)

Is it appropriate that, as human beings approach first contact, some italicized passages present an alien pov? Is it appropriate that, in one such passage, the omniscient narrator informs us:

"The Engineer knew enough about the warship already to scare the wits out of Captain Blaine if he'd known." (p. 114)?

A passage on pp. 59-61 presents Blaine's pov:

"...Rod thought..." (p. 60);
"...Rod felt a wild internal glee..." (p. 61).

However, the same passage also informs us:

"...[the scanners] also showed several odd black silhouettes against that white background. Nobody noticed..." (p. 59)

Nobody, not even Rod, noticed? So this is the omniscient narrator again. Is his presence appropriate?

(Yet again: a large round number of posts near the end of a month. Do I take a break till Mar 1st or maintain the pace with the posts? We will find out.)

A Vast Space

I am mentally hovering over a vast conceptual space occupied by seven future histories written by six American sf authors. Beginning with Poul Anderson's monumental History of Technic Civilization and his earlier, shorter but surprisingly substantial Psychotechnic History, we look back to Anderson's predecessors, Heinlein, Asimov and Blish, and forward to his successors, Niven and Pournelle.

There are other future historians and other future histories by Anderson. However, these seven series can be considered as a group because four were edited by John W Campbell, two were written by Anderson and the last two incorporate collaborative writing, including contributions by Anderson. Anderson's Psychotechnic History addresses Heinleinian immortality and multi-generation interstellar spaceships and Asimovian robots and predictive social science. Pournelle's future history culminates in two novels co-written by Niven, with advice from Heinlein.

This makes the seven series sound like a single series. However, they remain seven distinct timelines. Common themes are:

(i) near future technological advances and social changes;
(ii) a period of interplanetary travel;
(iii) an FTL drive;
(iv) extrasolar colonization;
(v) interstellar imperialism;
(vi) the rise and fall of civilizations.

Heinlein, leading the way, concentrated more on (i) and (ii), reaching (iii) and (iv) only at the end of his original five volume Future History. (I do not accept any later volumes as valid continuations.)

Within this larger context, let me address two specific issues within Niven and Pournelle's The Mote In God's Eye (London, 1979). On p. 16, First Lieutenant Cargill, complaining about Engineer Sinclair's exaggerated Scottish accent, accuses him of speaking normally when he gets excited whereas, on p. 92, Cargill says that he sometimes cannot understand Sinclair when the latter is excited. So which way round is it?

P. 32 informs us that tramline end points are far from large masses whereas p. 97 informs us that the Alderson Point (presumably the same thing?) to a large star is within the star. (A spaceship's force field enables it to enter the star.)

The Imperial Church

In Niven and Pournelle's Second Empire of Man, as in Poul Anderson's Terran Empire, English has become "Anglic." However, I think that, in another volume of the CoDominium future history, the word used is "Angelic," which is neat because the Empire of Man is officially Christian.

Three religions are mentioned:

Islam on the planet, Levant;
the Church of Him, founded on New Scotland in 2882;
the Imperial Church.

Again, in Anderson's Technic History, the Jerusalem Catholic Church is either a new denomination founded in the future or the Roman Catholic Church with its headquarters moved back to Jerusalem. It is probably the latter. For example, it has religious orders, e.g., the Galilean Order.

Unless the meaning of the word "Cardinal" has changed, the Church in the Empire of Man is Roman Catholic. A Cardinal blesses a spaceship and the Cardinals are the electoral college for the Papacy. I deduce that the Pope resides not on the devastated Earth but on the planet Sparta, of which he might be the Bishop or Archbishop.


one theme or trope to be found in both writers works is how they agreed all organized societies need to have SOME signs of respect or ceremonial for their leaders or states.
-copied from here.

Sean Brooks refers to Poul Anderson and SM Stirling. We find the same point made in The Mote In God's Eye (London, 1979) by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.

All stand when the Imperial Viceroy enters the Council Chamber. Captain Blaine reflects that the Emperor and his Viceroy are only men:

"But they held responsibility for the destiny of the human race...someone had to act in the name of mankind...No, the ceremonial entrance wasn't exaggerated. Men who held that kind of power should be reminded of it." (p. 76)

I hope for a less top-down form of social organization in the future but agree that ceremony is a way to mark and enact important events. Niven and Pournelle with their Empire of Man, and Anderson with his Terran Empire, project ancient forms into a technological future. As society changes, we will find new ways to express what is important.

Thursday, 25 February 2016


A fictional galaxy can be empty of intelligent life, except on Earth, or full of humanoid beings or somewhere on a spectrum between these two extremes. For one James Blish future history, see here.

Poul Anderson's Terran Empire rules a volume of space inhabited by many humanoid, and some more exotic, beings whereas Larry Niven's and Jerry Pournelle's Second Empire of Man rules only human colony planets until there is First Contact with the Moties.

The purpose of comparing two works is not to denigrate the currently read work by comparison but rather to enjoy both works simultaneously, appreciating contrasts as well as parallels. Because of blogging and other activities, I am rereading Niven's and Pournelle's The Mote In God's Eye at a snail's pace. However, I remember from previous readings that the protagonist, Rod Blaine, loses his first command as does Anderson's Dominic Flandry in The Rebel Worlds. On the other hand, neither of these characters was destined to captain a spaceship. Blaine has aristocratic responsibilities and Flandry is better suited to Intelligence work.

I will continue to reread Mote, not specifically seeking comparisons with Anderson's Technic History, but probably continuing to find points of comparison with other future histories, including the several by Anderson. 

Survival And Diversity

On Earth, the inescapable result is the Great Patriotic Wars, the long-delayed Third World War that begins and ends with massive nuclear exchanges. Much of Earth is devastated; civilization collapses and much of the surface is rendered temporarily uninhabitable.
-copied from here.

I have copied this passage from the Wikipedia article on the CoDominium because it confirms my earlier deduction that the Great Patriotic Wars are a delayed World War III.

The purpose of American future histories seems to be to move human beings out of the Solar System! - although interstellar travel was only just beginning at the very end of Robert Heinlein's original five volume Future History.

There is no doubt that dispersing humanity through space is a sure way to racial survival. Even ex-convicts living on Welfare or isolated colonies reduced to barbarism are at least living human populations which would not be possible on the surface of a single devastated planet. However, Poul Anderson in several works goes further, seeing an interstellar diaspora as the way to ensure that cultural diversity which is the essence of humanity.

Blog Rationale

(Can anyone explain this cover?)

I never know how many blog readers are regular or new so I do not know how often to explain the blog. The focus is Poul Anderson. However, this can involve discussing Anderson's relationships to his predecessors, contemporaries or successors. Sometimes several posts shift to one of those other authors although, so far, the focus has always returned to Anderson. Those predecessors etc are pretty impressive -

science fiction: Mary Shelley
artificial life: Mary Shelley
time travel: Twain, Wells, de Camp, Heinlein
future history: Wells, Stapledon, Heinlein
cosmic fiction: Stapledon
alien invasion: Wells, Heinlein
space travel: Wells, Verne, Heinlein
hard fantasy: Heinlein

future history: Niven, Pournelle
alternative history: SM Stirling

Having explained this, I will continue to mention Niven and Pournelle's The Mote In God's Eye. Can anyone explain this Star Trek/Mote cover? I did not find an answer by googling.

In Mote, Imperial Space Navy regulations about alien contact define sentient beings as employing tools and communication in purposeful behavior but then state that an alien hive rat meets this definition yet is not sentient. Surely the regs just need to clarify "communication" as language, not mere signals? Hive insects signal to each other but do not converse about or discuss anything.

More On American Future Histories

I listed four Campbell-edited future historians (Heinlein, Asimov, Blish and Anderson) but maybe should have included a fifth:

"H. Beam Piper was first and last a John W. Campbell writer, his first SF story, "Time and Time Again," appeared in Astounding in April 1946, and his last, "Down Styphon!," in Analog in November 1965."
-John F. Carr, "The Terrohuman Future History of H. Beam Piper" IN Bulletin of the Science Fiction Writers of America, Fall 1979.

However, returning to the authors that I do know something about, Poul Anderson not only wrote hard science fiction in the tradition of Robert Heinlein  but also, and completely independently of JRR Tolkien, wrote heroic fantasies derived from Norse mythology. These two literary traditions converged when Heinleinian sf writer Jerry Pournelle included "Sauron supermen" in his CoDominium future history.

In The Mote In God's Eye (London, 1979), Niven's and Pournelle's characters speculate as to whether isolated extrasolar colonists might not only regress sociologically but also evolve biologically. The concluding installments of Poul Anderson's Technic History address this question.

Mote presents its own distinctive version of hyperspace: instantaneous transit along "tramlines" (p. 32) between certain stars, with the usual restriction that this kind of travel is impossible from too deep within a gravity well. Travel time is necessary to and from tramline end points. By contrast, I think that the version of hyperspace in Anderson's Technic History is unique because it involves many instantaneous quantum jumps through normal, familiar, 3D space, not through any other kind of space.

We recognize Anderson-type world-building in the description of the New Caledonia star system on pp. 32-34 of Mote. I do not think that Heinlein did this? Direct Imperial rule of New Chicago after the defeat of its rebellion recalls the comparable situation on Aeneas in Anderson's The Day Of Their Return.

For the nationality of a space warship's Chief Engineer, Niven and Pournelle follow neither Heinlein nor Anderson but Star Trek:

"Like many engineering officers, Sinclair was from New Scotland. His heavy accent was common among Scots throughout space." (p.15)

How can a handful of writers create such fascinating texts? It continues to be a blast.

An American Sequence

I have referred to an American sequences of future histories:

Anderson (2)

To complete the connections, we might consider a few parallels between Heinlein's Future History and Niven's Known Space History.

Heinlein begins with four stories describing technological advances in the second half of the twentieth century. Niven begins with four stories describing interplanetary exploration in the last quarter of the twentieth century.

In the Future History, a period of interplanetary expansion is ended by the Prophets. In the Known Space History, a Golden Age in the Solar System is ended by the kzinti.

In both Histories, there is then an interstellar civilization with FTL travel.

Five First Empires

(i) After the Fall of the Galactic Empire, the Second Foundationers plan to build a Second Empire in a mere thousand years. If they succeed, then the fallen Empire will be renamed the First.

(ii) Donvar Ayeghen, President of the Galactic Archeological Society, refers to excavations in the ruins of Sol City, Terra, and to Manuel Argos, the Founder of the First Empire.

(iii) Galactics who have come to evacuate Earth fly among the ruins of Sol City, capital of the legendary First Empire.

(iv) When Leonidas IV proclaims the Second Empire of Man in 2903, the Empire that had ended in 2640 becomes the First.

(v) The Terran Federation is succeeded by the First Galactic Empire.

(i) = Isaac Asimov's Foundation future history.
(ii) = Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization.
(iii) = Anderson's Psychotechnic History.
(iv) = Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium future history.
(v) = H Beam Piper's Terrohuman Future History.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Comparative Chronologies II

I have found some more point of view discontinuities in Larry Niven's and Jerry Pournelle's The Mote In God's Eye but am not proposing to analyze them all right now.

I am interested in some chronological similarities and dissimilarites between the Technic and CoDominium Histories.

Hyperdrive is discovered in the twenty-second century whereas the Alderson drive is tested and perfected in 2008.

Extrasolar planets are colonized in the Breakup of the twenty-second century whereas, during the Codominium, extrasolar colonization begins in 2020 and mass out-system shipment of convicts begins in 2040.

The Time of Troubles brings down the Solar Commonwealth in the twenty-seventh century whereas the Great Patriotic Wars end the CoDominium in 2103.

Manuel Argos proclaims the Terran Empire about 2700 whereas Leonidas I proclaims the Empire of Man in 2250.

In the mid fourth millennium, the Long Night ends the Terran Empire, leading to war and piracy, whereas, in 2640, Secession Wars and Dark Ages end the First Empire, leading to piracy and brigandage.

The Allied Planets recivilize separated colonies in 4000 whereas Leonidas IV proclaims the Second Empire in 2903.

Dominic Flandry is on Starkad in 3019 whereas the Second Empire makes First Contact with the Moties in 3017.

(These are very approximate comparisons. I have taken the dates from Sandra Miesel's Chronology of Technic Civilization and from the Chronology in The Mote In God's Eye. For discussion of Miesel's Chronology, see here.)

Comparative Chronologies

In an sf future history series, which comes first: the stories or the time chart/chronology? In the case of Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History, Anderson has told us that, following Robert Heinlein's example, he compiled a time chart, then wrote several stories that fitted into that chart, whereas, in the case of his Technic History, the stories, originally two independent series, came first; the Chronology of Technic Civilization has been compiled later by Sandra Miesel.

When future historian Jerry Pournelle created the CoDominium History, he had the fine examples of Heinlein and Anderson to follow if he wanted to. Pournelle's Chronology begins by clearly showing when his CoDominium timeline diverges from ours:


1969  Neil Armstrong sets foot on Earth's Moon.
1990  Series of treaties between United States and
          Soviet Union creates the CoDominium.

The Chronology continues with an interstellar drive in 2008 and interstellar colonies in 2020. This CoDominium timeline displays some parallels with James Blish's Okies timeline which has Colonials leaving the Solar System in 2021 and a Proclamation of US-USSR unification in 2027.

My rereading of Poul Anderson's For Love And Glory has been interrupted by rereading Alan Moore's Watchmen, which in turn has been interrupted by rereading Larry Niven's and Jerry Pournelle's The Mote In God's Eye (London, 1979). These works in turn have generated posts on World Wars and Chronologies. Reading or rereading, even if chaotic, usually provides material for blogging. However, this lap top is rapidly declining so there may be further technical delays.

Niven and Pournelle begin what feels like a substantial novel set in an interstellar empire comparable to Anderson's Terran Empire. In the first full paragraph on p. 17, the omniscient narrator tells us what the Imperial forces find on entering New Chicago and also how the New Chicago revolt had affected the Empire. The second paragraph presents Sally Fowler's point of view: she felt the Marines' eyes on her. The third paragraph recounts word for word what one Marine guard thinks about Sally. The fourth paragraph reverts to Sally's point of view: she felt nothing. This page is a bit too disjointed pov-wise.

The Three World Wars

We are familiar with World Wars One, Two - and Three. The first two were collective experiences and have become history whereas the third has been projected and imagined. We read about it not in history books but in science fiction novels, including "future histories."

Twentieth century science fiction had three kinds of scenarios:

(i) near future space travel and interplanetary colonization;

(ii) near future nuclear war destroying civilization;

(iii) combinations of aspects of (i) and (ii), e.g.:

civilization survives nuclear war as in Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History, Maurai History, Twilight World, Shield and Vault Of The Ages;

some people got off Earth, e.g., onto Ray Bradbury's Mars, before the nuclear war;

space-based precautions against nuclear war - the Space Patrol in Robert Heinlein's Future History or the Lunar Guard in Anderson's Psychotechnic History.

Anderson's many works of science fiction seem to present each possible answer to every speculative question about aliens, telepathy, immortality, FTL, AI, time travel etc. In accordance with this apparently systematic approach, several, though not all, of Anderson's fictitious futures include World War III as a historical event.

For some other fictional treatments of nuclear war, see here.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Future Histories Overview

Some future histories I am unfamiliar with and would welcome input:

Cordwainer Smith;
H Beam Piper;
Marion Zimmer Bradley.

The ones that I do know divide into four groups:

RC Churchill (not well known)


An American sequence (overlapping with "Campbell")
Anderson (2)

Anderson's later future histories
six or seven

The magnitude of Poul Anderson's contributions is evident from these lists.

Designing Worlds

I strive to appreciate the physical settings of the fictional events in Poul Anderson's works, e.g.:

the city of Archopolis in Dominic Flandry's period;
the environments of planets like Diomedes, Avalon, Aeneas, Imhotep and Daedalus;
the city of Inga on the planet Asborg in For Love And Glory.

By taking notes on what we are told, I usually find that the characters move through a fully realized and consistent environment. In fact, the author has usually imagined more than we are shown in the action of a single novel. In prose fiction, the author must do all of this creative work himself, although he might acknowledge advisers.

Visual media are more collaborative. In a film adaptation, how many people would design the costumes worn in Archopolis? Dave Gibbons, who drew Alan Moore's Watchmen, writes:

"Whilst Alan was coming up with new character names and backgrounds, I thought about the ways Watchmen's alternate world differs from ours and presented him with notes about fashions, social and scientific changes, and so on. I mentioned the idea of pirate comics, reasoning that a world with real super heroes would have no need of them in comics."
-Dave Gibbons, Watching The Watchmen (London, 2008), unnumbered page.

This comparison of Anderson's prose novels with Moore's and Gibbons' graphic novel is not as fanciful as it may appear because Gibbons had written a few pages previously:

"I had an epiphany one day when I realized that Watchmen was not a super-hero book as such, but rather a work of science fiction, an alternate history."

Watchmen shows its readers an alternative New York just as an AI "emulation" in Anderson's Genesis immerses two of the characters in an alternative York.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Relationships Between Future Histories

Maybe two groups of future histories overlap? On the one hand, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, James Blish and Poul Anderson were four Campbell-edited future historians. On the other hand, five particular future histories (maybe) form a literary sequence:

Heinlein, the Future History;
Anderson, the Psychotechnic History;
Anderson, the Technic History;
Larry Niven, the Known Space History;
Jerry Pournelle, the CoDominium History.


modeled the Pschotechnic History on the Future History;
made Rhysling from the Future History a guest in the Old Phoenix;
wrote one story set in the US Robots period of Asimov's future history;
wrote three stories set in the Man-Kzin Wars period of the Known Space History;
wrote one story set in the War World period of the CoDominium History.

Heinlein advised Niven and Pournelle on the first of their joint novels set in the CoDominium History. Niven and SM Stirling contributed separately to War World whereas Pournelle and Stirling contributed jointly to the Man-Kzin Wars. And I may have missed some details here.

Addendum: I did:

 Pournelle and Stirling contributed jointly to the Falkenberg period of the CoDominium History;
Niven adapted a Known Space story as a Star Trek animated episode and Alan Dean Foster adapted the episode as a prose story.

The Green Of Earth And Home

Let us follow a chain of associations through the works of Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, James Blish and Poul Anderson.

"We pray for one last landing
"On the globe that gave us birth;
"Let us rest our eyes on fleecy skies
"And the cool, green hills of Earth."
-Robert Heinlein, The Green Hills of Earth (London, 1967), p. 141.

Asimov: a story called "Mother Earth."

Blish: a novel called Earthman, Come Home and, in another work, sister planets called "Home" and "Rathe."

"...Homelike splashes of green."
-Poul Anderson, Young Flandry (New York, 2010), p. 273.

"...a longing seized her for the cool green hills of home."
-Poul Anderson, For Love And Glory (New York, 2003), p. 178.

I propose the Terrestrial tricolor:

blue for the oceans;
white for clouds;
green for life.

Further, alternative human traditions could be celebrated by an optional symbol in the lower corner of the green band. I favor a red star but expect blog readers to have other ideas.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

A Comics Cosmic Conflict

For a change of pace from prose fiction, I am rereading The Ultimates: Vol 2, Homeland Security (New York, 2004)  by Mark Millar (writer) and Bryan Hitch (penciler).

However, Poul Anderson fans will recognize one of Anderson's basic themes when a shape-changing alien explains his plans to a captured super-heroine. (Villains rarely learn that they explain their plans to a prisoner so that that prisoner can then escape and thwart those plans.)

Herr Kleiser: It was never in our interests to eradicate life, just to cure you of this independent thought problem. Picture the universe as a living, breathing organism and you will appreciate the importance of its many moving parts all working in synchronicity with one another. This malfunction, or free will as you might call it, disrupts the entire body and it's our function to repair these areas before the problem spreads.

Janet Pym/The Wasp (miniaturized, naked and enclosed in a test tube): You mean this isn't just happening here?

Kleiser: Oh no, we've been secreted into trouble spots from the top of the universe to its southernmost tip, Mrs. Pym. We've been doing this since the dawn of time.
What you saw during World War Two when we first made an effort to bring order to the Earth was just a microcosm of what's been happening all across the galaxy. But this isn't war, you understand. The procedure against some isolated cells is nothing more than a simple biological function...
...We're really nothing more than the universe's immune system.

How many of Poul Anderson's human or post-human characters regard human freedom as mere disruption of what would otherwise be perfectly orderly systems? And does any of his heroes not value freedom above everything else?

City Life II

See City Life.

Inga is described as "...a lively town." (FLAG, Chapter XXXII, p. 168) Torben Hebo, returning from Earth to Asborg after his memory editing, finds a small apartment and studies the public database on the black hole collision. Not finding a Neocatholic church, he occasionally attends Josephan.

Through the wall transparencies in his apartment, he sees the city lighting up at dusk while losing sight of the hills where he had walked during the day. Called by Romon Kaspersson Seafell on the screened telephone, he is invited to dinner at the Baltica, located in a clear dome on the top of one of the tallest towers with a view of city lights and of an Asborgian moon. Between the tables, designer flowers display multiple colors and sing.

The dinner conversation soon turns to business so that might be the end of our information about the lively town. We learn that a man changes one part of his name when he changes his patronage. Esker Harolsson Windholm has become Esker Harolsson Seafell. We already know of some of the underlying conflicts.

Hands Or Tails

The Technic History And Potential Histories
Aliens In Anderson And Niven

We discussed alien bodily forms in the above articles but may not have mentioned tails:

kzinti -

- and no doubt many other intelligent species are tailed so why aren't Terrans? A tail can be used as an extra limb. Karl the Gargantuan points with his. Merseians sit on theirs and touch them for greeting. Susaians cling with their tails in free fall:

"'...tell them to link hands or tails or whatever...'" (FLAG, p. 153)

In Kilgore Trout/Philip Jose Farmer's Venus On The Half-Shell, when a man visits a planet of tailed humanoids, they assume that he will want one surgically implanted. So why did Terrestrial human beings evolutionarily lose their tails?

Large And Small

Poul Anderson, For Love And Glory (New York, 2003).

"As the judgment instant neared, you forgot your merely mortal quarrels." (Chapter XXV, p. 140)

Big problems chase out little problems. It is good to have big problems occasionally just to put the little ones in perspective. Sometimes, the bigger problems also can be transcended:

"They've forgotten their feud, Lissa thought. I have too. At least, it doesn't matter anymore. Probably it will again, when we are again among human beings. But today it's of no importance whatsoever." (Chapter XXVI, p. 143)

Passages in hard sf novels can relate to here and now experiences. In zazen, just sitting meditation, we do not prevent thoughts from arising but instead practice not thinking about them. Thus, any memory, image or phrase might arise but the practice is to let each of them pass like a cloud in the sky. Once, something that was bothering me kept entering my mind as expected during half an hour of meditation. However, when I had finished meditating and stood up, I was instantly elated. It was exactly like being in a plane under dark storm clouds when the plane suddenly ascended vertically into a clear blue sky full of light. I knew then that the place above the clouds existed, that I would soon return back down beneath the clouds and that that did not matter.

New Worlds And A New Cosmos?

Poul Anderson, For Love And Glory (New York, 2003), Chapter XXVI.

A rotating black hole has both an event horizon and an ergosphere. When two black holes meet, the energies released cause some gas clouds to exceed ergospheric escape velocity. Receding, the clouds hold together either because of magnetic bottle effects or because each has become the atmosphere surrounding a new planet-sized mass, as if the union of black holes had begotten worlds.

Meanwhile, during the microseconds of fusion, the ergospheres, the event horizons and spacetime are contorted:

"'For an instant, the gates stood open between entire universes.'
"'The hints alone should reveal a new cosmos to your minds...'" (p. 143)

Why "between" universes?
Is each singularity regarded as matching the singularity of a white hole in another universe?
(But the singularities were not uncovered during the collison.)
A new cosmos or a new understanding of this cosmos?

Either way, new worlds whether material or conceptual.

When Time Patrolman Manse Everard relates sagas and Eddic and skaldic poems to the Emperor Frederick in 1245alpha AD, the latter exults:

"'You open another whole universe!'" (The Shield Of Time, p. 396)

The Eddic universe is conceptual but certainly "other." I remember the imaginative impact the first time I read Encyclopedia articles about Norse mythology and about Buddhism. In the first, gods who will die; in the second, not a strange god but a compassionate man. This takes us away from black holes but it is all one in Poul Anderson's imagination.

What Is A Weapon? II

One character argues that collective consciousness is necessary to unite humanity against extragalactic invaders but why should beings capable of intergalactic travel invade? As Alan Moore’s character, Skizz, says:

“When technology…has reached…a certain level…weapons are redundant. When you already have…all that you need, then…why fight?”

-copied from here

I have copied this passage from the Science Fiction blog in order to back up the point about technology and weapons. Skizz also says, although I am not about to look up the reference at this time of night, that his people have instruments that militaristic Earthmen would regard as weapons.

My point here was that I thought that Alan Moore displayed greater insight than Isaac Asimov. Moore, Niven and Anderson all make observations that break down the distinction between technologies designed to be used as weapons and technologies powerful enough to be used as weapons even though there intended purpose was, e.g., transport. Niven makes this point with both a car and a spaceship. Pretty smart stuff. 

Saturday, 20 February 2016

What Is A Weapon?

Any powerful technology can be used destructively. Larry Niven shows this in two short stories:

a hitchhiker holding a knife to a driver's throat is powerless when the driver, a professional actor, pretends to be suicidal and begins to drive dangerously, threatening to crash the car;

a kzinti telepath reports that a human spaceship has no weapons but then the human pilot aims his laser drive at the kzinti ship, fighting as he flees.

Similarly, weapon systems can be put to peaceful uses. In Poul Anderson's For Love And Glory:

antimissile screens can deflect solar flares;
warheads can excavate where shelters are needed;
energy beams drill through ice, giving access to the minerals beneath.

So does a ship carrying what look like weapons necessarily have belligerent intentions? Intelligence and diplomacy would be crucial in inter-species encounters.

Cosmic Conflicts

In Ensign Flandry, a rogue planet will strike a star, making it go nova, thus destroying its planetary system, including one planet with two intelligent species.

In For Love And Glory, two black holes will coalesce.

So far, these are collisions, not conflicts. It is consciousness that causes conflicts. Conscious beings seek to gain from knowledge of imminent cosmic collisions and therefore practice not only knowledge-seeking but also secrecy.

In Ensign Flandry, a Merseain Fodaich says in accented Anglic:

"'...interdicted region...Turn back at once.''" (Young Flandry, p. 174)

Captain Einarson replies:

"'His Majesty's government does not recognize interdictions in unclaimed space...'" (ibid.)

In FLAG, Dominator Ironbright says:

"'Your presence is inadmissable. This region is closed. Remove yourselves.'" (p. 124)

Captain Valen replies:

"'We are not aware of any such interdiction...By what right do you declare it? It seems to be in violation of treaty agreements and general custom.'" (p. 125)

It seems that it is easier to change fictional universes and alien species than to change the nature of political and military conflicts!

Civil Strife

This Saturday afternoon, I neither read nor blogged but attended a community event described on another blog. This event turned out to be peaceful and harmonious although it had been organized in response to potential strife.

Such strife is an unfortunate aspect of contemporary society. Science fiction can show us utopias free from civil strife or dystopias where conflicts have intensified but how much sf presents street conflicts in future cities?

In Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium future history, John Christian Falkenberg's troops face street demonstrators and, in Poul Anderson's A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows, a group of beings Merseian by species but not by loyalty marches on the Dennitzan Parliament, with Dominic Flandry and his fiancee hidden among their ranks. For me, that latter scene rings true.

However, maybe most fiction shows us the leaders and decision-makers at the top of a society rather than conflicts arising from below?

Two Black Holes Converge

Poul Anderson, For Love And Glory (New York, 2003), Chapters XX-XXI.

They look like two comets. Their manes, shading from intense gold to blood red, meet and roil. Their joint gravitation doubles the quantity of interstellar gas pulled in, blazing with radiation. The interacting accretion discs generate visible light, then increasingly hard X-rays.

In the shock front is a diamond pattern with intricate looping strands. Possibly the event horizons are distorted, affecting magnetic fields and charge distributions. The black holes outshine a nearby giant star. Although they graze rather than collide, their masses are expected to fuse.

A spaceship that can jump around through hyperspace near the convergence is able to record data from different angles and distances.

Alternative And Future Histories

Poul Anderson wrote alternative and future histories, although considerably more of the latter, and also contributed one story to the War World period of Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium future history.

SM Stirling has specialized in alternative histories and has also contributed to the CoDominium history which covers:

interstellar colonization;
interstellar empire;
future warfare;
First Contact (two novels co-written with Larry Niven).

Thus, The Prince by Pournelle and Stirling looks like a good prospect to read after my current rereading of Anderson's For Love And Glory, which, however, will continue for some time.

I think that I have read Anderson's War World story, "The Deserter," somewhere but do not think that it is in any of his own collections. Any information on this would be appreciated.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Contemporary Fantasy And Science Fiction

On this blog, I discuss the works of Poul Anderson and of a few other authors, usually relating the latter to the former. While blogging, I have, on the recommendation of correspondent Sean M Brooks, also begun to read the alternative history novels of SM Stirling. However, there remain many current works of fantasy and sf with which I am still unfamiliar. For example, Sean has also mentioned the novels of John C Wright.

I would welcome any comments or contributions along the lines of:

if you like Anderson, you might like X;
X, like Anderson, writes in the tradition of Wells, Stapledon and Heinlein;
X is completely unlike Anderson but worth reading in any case.

Thus, Anderson's comprehensive canon functions as a lens through which to view the entire range of fantasy and sf. Possible lines of inquiry are:

Are any other space operas as substantial as the Dominic Flandry series?
How does Michael Moorcock's Multiverse compare with Anderson's Old Phoenix sequence?
Apart from Audrey Niffeneger's superb The Time Traveler's Wife, do any recent time travel novels match the contributions of Anderson or of Tim Powers?
How many authors write convincing accounts of remote futures of artificial intelligence and abundant wealth?
Who else writes good military sf?
What other trends is Shackley completely unaware of?

Going Hyper

When fictional characters travel in a jet plane, the technical parameters of their journey are laid down by factors external to the fictional text whereas, when an sf writer invokes "hyperspace," he can say what he wants. Thus:

in Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, travelers take time to cross interstellar distances faster than light and cannot communicate by hyperspatial pulses across more than a light year;

in Anderson's For Love And Glory (New York, 2003), travelers take no time to jump across even greater distances and can communicate between planetary systems by hyperbeam;

Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven and others have their different versions of hyperspace - indeed, Niven rightly raises further questions about his version later in the Ringworld series.

In FLAG, a spaceship melodiously says:

"Stand by for hyperjump,'" (p. 88)

- and, in Ensign Flandry, a ship's captain announces:

"'Stand by for hyperdrive. Stand by for combat. Glory to the Emperor.'" (Young Flandry, p. 172)

But they are talking about different kinds of hyperspace.


Poul Anderson, For Love And Glory (New York, 2003), Chapter XIV.

Here, we compared Poul Anderson's Nicholas van Rijn and SM Stirling's John Rolfe as different kinds of leaders. Now we find a third example. Lissa Davysdaughter Windholm thinks:

"'I'm only a planetarist. And even that title is a fake. I don't do geology, oceanography, atmospherics, chemistry, biology, ethology, or xenology. I dabble in them all, and then dare call myself a scientist." (p. 85)

So what is her contribution?

"I help get the specialists together, and keep them together, and sometimes keep them alive. That's my work. That justifies me being here..." (ibid.)

It does indeed. So that work must be generally acknowledged and respected? No:

"...though I had to force it every centimeter of the way." (ibid.)

Leadership indeed.

I googled "planetarist" but found a different meaning for it.

Forest And Ruins

Poul Anderson, For Love And Glory (New York, 2003), Chapter XIII, pp. 78-81.

In order to decide which memories to erase, Torsten Hebo travels around on the Earth. Over eight centuries ago, he was married in a church in a town where there is now a forest. He wonders where his first wife is. She might still be alive, like him. However, for practical purposes and even for survival, he needs to preserve his more recent memories. They must even be reconstructed and reordered.

But, on the other hand, the deleted memories will be recorded on crystal and given to him for playback. Some can be virtualized. Others will be mere words and indistinct images. When reading World Without Stars, we theorized that a character wrote an autobiographical journal precisely because his memories were periodically edited. FLAG presents superior technology capable not only of deleting but also of recording and playing back.

This chapter also discloses more about Earth. People who spend most of their time communing with AI's are more interested in the occasional sensory experience of nature than in the recollection of human history. However, the database can present history in virtuality or can even physically rebuild the Parthenon, Broadway, Cape Canaveral etc. (I think that that is what the text means.) The original state of an ancient structure must be half imagined but by immense artificial intelligences utilizing every recorded datum.

I think that I would be able to find a place in such a peaceful and intellectually active social environment.


"From delusion, lead me to truth.
"From darkness, lead me to light.
"From death, lead me to immortality."

I adapt this Upanishadic prayer thus:

"From delusion, lead us to truth.
"From darkness, lead us to truth."

I make it collective, not individual, and I differentiate truth and light from immortality. These are different issues.

How do sf characters live long or approach immortality?

The Howard Families are bred for longevity. Lazarus Long is an early Howard, too early for the breeding program to have caused his longevity so he is a mutant. Poul Anderson's Hanno is another. The Remillard family in Julian May's Galactic Milieu have an immortality gene. Other characters benefit from medical technology:

Hugh Valland, antithanatics;
John Amalfi, antiagathics;
Louis Wu, boosterspice;
Torsten Hebo, frequent rejuvenations;
Dominic Flandry, antisenescence.

Traditions And Institutions

Poul Anderson, For Love And Glory (New York, 2003).

An Asborgian is identified by a personal name, a patronymic and the name of a House. Thus, Romon Kasperson Seafell converses with Lissa Davysdaughter Windholm.

When Romon suggests that Lissa dislikes the Seafell approach, she replies:

"'I don't hate it. A matter of taste. The communal versus the corporate style? ...They say diversity makes for a healthy society.'" (p.45)

I took this to mean that Seafell was communal whereas Windholm was corporate. See here. But maybe I got them the wrong way round? Later, Lissa refers to:

"'...a clutch of reckless commercialists like the Seafell.'" (p. 60)

When reading about a fictitious future society, we do not already know any background details and are entirely dependent on the unfolding narrative. The author can hint, conceal, imply etc but must eventually tell us enough for complete comprehension - at least for the current narrative. A skilfully written sequel can overturn some of our impressions.

City Life

Poul Anderson, For Love And Glory (New York, 2003), Chapter X.

Asborg's largest "free city" (p.56) is Inga - "free" meaning that it is neither owned nor controlled by any of the landholding Houses? (maybe).

Inga has towers, slipways and a harbor with walls along the docks. Although the harbor is quiet at night, traffic, light and life continue in the city center.

The opening paragraph of Chapter X addresses three senses:

(i) because the dock walls block the city lights, some stars are visible and a rising moon lights the waves -

(ii) - which lap audibly against the piers despite the urban throb;

(iii) there are smells of salt, engines and cargo.

Thus, ancient human life continues on an extrasolar planet despite the changed conditions on Earth.