Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Cold War SF

Science fiction set in the future always reflects its author's present. Thus it becomes dated while remaining futuristic and, if it becomes classic, then it is also timeless. Homer and Wells are never out of date.

Cold War-influenced sf anticipated war or dictatorship. Take twelve timelines -

Heinlein's Future History: a World Federation Space Patrol preventing nuclear war;

Heinlein's Farnham's Freehold: nuclear war followed by a slave-owning society;

Asimov's future history: a radioactive Earth presumably caused by near future nuclear war, although later explained differently;

Anderson's Psychotechnic History: World War III followed by a UN world government;

Anderson's Maurai History: the Judgment War followed by the Maurai Federation;

Blish's Cities In Flight: Cold Peace, Fall of the West, Bureaucratic State;

Blish's A Case Of Conscience: UN government of a Shelter society;

Pournelle's CoDominium History: US-USSR CoDominium followed by the Great Patriotic Wars;

Stirling's Draka History: Final War followed by the Draka Final Society with extrasolar opposition;

Anderson's Technic History: not Cold War but interplanetary exploration;

Niven's Known Space History: not Cold War but interplanetary exploration;

who wrote this one?: collapse of the USSR in 1989.

World War III and space travel were two kinds of fictional future and both are represented here. The global reclamation in progress during Anderson's first Technic History story reminds us of the efforts of the UN world government in his earlier Psychotechnic History.

Future historians, Wells, Stapledon and their successors, may begin in the pedestrian present but then soar -

Heinlein: after dictatorship, revolution and further unrest, the first mature human civilization;
Asimov: Galactic Empire;
Blish: two interstellar civilizations, then the creation of new universes;
Anderson (Psychotechnic): Solar Union, Stellar Union, Galactic civilization (I have accepted the concluding story as part of the series although it is contested);
Pournelle: two Empires of Man and First Contact with the Moties.

In Pournelle's series, military conflict is not escaped but exported!

The present blogger has:

accepted SM Stirling as a successor of Anderson;
enjoyed Pournelle's King David's Spaceship as a future historical novel similar to several such works by Anderson;
invested in a copy of The Prince by Pournelle and Stirling.

Pournelle's future history has three parts:

The Prince;
War World;
the Second Empire.

I need to read Anderson's contribution to War World but right now The Prince is in front of me and has prompted this post. I will make a start on the first Pournelle-Stirling novel and find out whether it inspires any thoughts to be recorded here.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Just a few random, scattered thoughts from me.

I would argue that Anderson's period of interplanetary exploration in the Solar System before FTL was invented in his Technic History SUCCEEDED our real world Cold War.

Been trying to remember which SF author wrote of the USSR collapsing in 1989, but can't think of any.

And Asimov's First Galactic Empire arose only after the galaxy had had many thousands of independent worlds for several tens of thousands of years.

And I still contest including "The Chapter Ends" in Anderson's Psychotechnic series! (Smiles) It's simply too different from the rest of the stories in that "timeline" for me to agree it belongs there.

And I expect military conflict to always follow mankind wherever the race goes in the universe.

And I will be very interested in any comments you make about Pournelle/Stirling's THE PRINCE. And any Andersonian allusions and connections you find.


Paul Shackley said...

I agree Technic History interplanetary exploration followed the Cold War. What I meant, and did not express clearly enough, was that the series begins with interplanetary exploration, not with the Cold War. The latter had indeed happened earlier.
The 1989 reference was a joke, sort of. I was simply listing our timeline among the fictitious ones.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Oops! Now I understand better what you meant in your allusion to "The Saturn Game."

Ha! Your mention of "1989" was merely a jest? Gotcha! But, strictly, the late, unlamented USSR collapsed in 1991. What happened during the two previous years was the Eastern European Soviet dominated puppet regimes and then parts of the USSR itself shaking off the Soviet yoke.


Paul Shackley said...

OK. 1991 it is.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Sorry, I was being nerdy and nit picky! (Smiles)