Friday, 12 February 2016

Beyond The Ice Wall

Here's a thing. A few works by sf authors are set in alternative universes where Earth is flat. Which ones? I think that Poul Anderson is on the list.

Google the Flat Earth Society for a completely different cosmology:

Earth is a disk with the North Pole at its center and an impenetrable Ice Wall around the circumference;

thus, when we say that a ship circumnavigates Antarctica, they say that it sails around the edge of the disk;

the Sun, small and close, moves around the sky, only appearing to sink below the horizon;

no one knows how deep the Earth is or what is beyond the Ice Wall;

on the other hand, the possibly infinite plain beyond the Wall must be uninhabitably cold and dark - perhaps the equivalent of a cosmic vacuum.

This sounds like a dramatic cosmos that would be a perfect setting for fantasy novels by Poul Anderson. In his Viking fantasies, characters leave Earth/Midgard not by ascending into space but by sailing far enough North into Jotunheim. The Flat Earth has similar fictional possibilities and is an interesting proof that some people will believe anything.


  1. Paul:
    Along the lines of Flat Earths, there's the World of Tiers by Philip Jose Farmer, created in a pocket universe where the laws of physics have been ... adjusted. It's SEVERAL flat earths stacked to form a sort of ziggurat of cylindrical plateaus. The builder's ultra-technology allowed him to manipulate gravity so the air pressure doesn't change significantly between the highest level and the lowest, a difference of something around 100 kilometers.

    Unsurprisingly, being capable of doing THAT led to him setting himself up as a god, to be worshiped by the people he'd kidnapped from various times and places in normal Earth's history. (He also used his technology to modify some of them into things like harpies, centaurs, and mermaids. NOT a fellow with much concern for the rights of anybody who isn't powerful enough to fight back. And he compared to his father and some of his siblings about the way John Rolfe VI compares to the Collettas.)

    *The Gates of Creation*, seen in Adrienne Rolfe's library, is the second book in the *World of Tiers* series.

    Disclaimer: I only read the first book of the series (decades ago) and a few passages from the second. I probably wouldn't have remembered it if you hadn't mentioned *The Gates of Creation*.

  2. David,
    Farmer has a short story that ends with Columbus' ships falling off the Earth.