Thursday, 18 February 2016

The Pathetic Fallacy In FLAG

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

Sorry, folks. I got into an argument on another blog. And I had to attend the remnant of our sf group, where we mentioned some old Philip Jose Farmer novels while mainly discussing other topics.

Meanwhile, in FLAG, Lissa jumps up angrily:

"'Whoa, there!' Hebo rose too. A cloud passed over the sun, blown from the west. A wild creature screamed." (p. 25)

A cloud obscures the sun just as the characters are, potentially, about to fight. But why should the cloud be blown from the west? The characters are on an extrasolar planet. Thus, east and west can have no symbolic significance, as they do on Earth where both "the West" and "the East" have acquired powerful connotations - and not always what we think. To Chinese Buddhists, their wisdom had come from the West. Thus, there was even a mythical Western Paradise. Returning to the pathetic fallacy on an extrasolar planet, the wild creature simultaneously screaming is very explicit.

Returning to the character interactions in FLAG, how does a "' entrepreneur...'" (p. 21) earn a living in a civilization with faster than light interstellar travel? Learning of the discovery of an Earth-like planet, Hebo goes there. Someone wanting to colonize the planet might pay for specific information. In fact, there is a Forerunner artifact on the planet so a news agency or a scientific institution might pay to be told about that.

"'Information's really the one universal currency.'" (p. 26)

- as James Blish's John Amalfi said, although he used the word, "knowledge."

However, Lissa's expedition has arrived and will not oblige Hebo by keeping the existence of the artifact secret. This is one of the things that people might fight about in an interstellar civilization.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    And I have been reading, with interest, that debate you had on that other blog, and how the arguments were then transferred to the "Religion and Philosophy" section of your blog. Interesting, and above my noggin! (Smiles)

    While I agree it would be out of place to transfer the Terrestrial connotations of "East and West" to an extra Solar planet, things like clouds and screaming beasts could still be use to exemplify the pathetic fallacy. Is it your belief that Poul Anderson tends to overuse this literary device?


  2. Sean,
    Far from it. He uses it brilliantly and it will affect the readers whether or not they recognize it. I have got used to examining every detail, hence my querying of the significance of "...from the west."

    1. Kaor, Paul!

      I agree; and I'm reading the collection called COLD VICTORY (currently "The Troublemakers"). That's one of Poul Anderson's early stories, belonging to his early phase. I can tell that, while eminently readable, it's not quite as skillfully written as the works of Anderson's middle and late phases. E.g., not like how he uses the pathetic fallacy in his later phases.

      I admit I had not noticed the pathetic fallacy as used by Anderson as often as you have--which I consider an example of the skill any good writer has to have to carry it off successfully.