Friday, 8 April 2016

An Interesting Variation

It seems to be second nature to Poul Anderson to use the Pathetic Fallacy. This would mean, e.g., that, when Tyra Nordbo tells Robert Saxtorph that her father disappeared on an interstellar expedition thirty years before, a cold wind suddenly blows shrilly outside.

Instead, something else appropriate happens. By coincidence, the musician in Harald's Terran Bar starts to play an army mourning song:

"I had a comrade." (Man-Kzin Wars III, p. 190)

The hair on Saxtorph's arms stands up. We know that such coincidences happen. But the point here is that the author knows exactly how to affect both his character and his readers. An sf fan reads on to find out what happened to Peter Nordbo but he has been affected by the coincidence although he probably does not pause to analyze it. Hard sf and literary criticism are usually worlds apart.

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