Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Subsequent Readings And Subsequent Series

Rereading a favorite novel or series is part of our comfort zone even when the fictional characters experience extreme discomfort in a major war, Prophetic Interregnum, Dark Age, Time of Troubles, Long Night etc. During the first reading of a novel, we expect a "happy ending" or at least a satisfactory resolution whereas, on subsequent readings, we remember at least in general terms how the book ended and can instead appreciate the various narrative details. I have frequently demonstrated that Poul Anderson's works are particularly worthy of being reread.

A future history series can become a familiar mini-universe. We need to remember that each such series covers hundreds or thousands of years involving major conflicts for generations of fictional characters. Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization begins with psychological problems in the Saturnian system in the twenty first century and ends, millennia later, with an intercultural problem in a globular cluster in another spiral arm. Human beings act and interact not only in their immemorial Terrestrial environment but also in the vast spaces that are hostile to organic life.

Science fiction makes us feel familiar with such exotic scenarios whereas reality always turns out to be different from what was imagined. Anderson abandoned his first future history because:

"That clutter of props and backdrops came nowhere near hinting at the variety, strangeness, and sheer wonder of the real universe..."
-SFWA Bulletin, Fall 1979, p. 8.

He worked with different models that progressively diverged from earlier sf ideas.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

That's what I've done myself, with many of the books I've read and reread: "...remember at least in general terms how the book ended and can instead appreciate the various narrative details."

I can understand why Poul Anderson eventually became dissatisfied with the Psychotechnic Institute (NOT "League") series and abandoned. But he might have been too hard on some parts of it, esp. VIRGIN PLANET, a novel I thought very well done, excellently written, and carefully thought out.