Wednesday, 13 July 2016

In The Pasts, Presents And Futures

I have been rereading some Poul Anderson novels that are set in the past and that involve fantasy to a greater or lesser extent. Eleven volumes answer this description and four of the eleven form a tetralogy. There are also five volumes of straight historical fiction without any fantasy and three of the five form a trilogy. Two novels set almost entirely in the past are science fiction because they feature space travel and time travel, respectively. One novel about immortals, two novels about time travel and one series about time travel cover past, present and future whereas four fantasy novels are set in three different alternative histories - an alternative seventeenth century, an alternative twentieth century and a medieval mythological realm - and also, in one of the novels, an inter-universal meeting place that is also the setting of two short stories.

As ever, Anderson gives us the impression that he has systematically explored every possibility, three genres and four kinds of time periods: past, present, future and alternative. Moving forward into the twentieth century of our familiar timeline, we find not only one fantasy and/or psychological novel but also a fourth genre in the form of a detective fiction trilogy. It is superfluous to add either that Anderson created many fictional futures, including several future histories, or that one of these future histories is linked to one of his time travel novels. If we did not think that he addressed every possibility before, then we do now.

I set out to refer only to past fantasy novels but the entire body of Anderson's works is so interconnected that it is impossible to stop. I have also said most of this before but it always seems fresh and maybe each formulation is slightly different. I have enjoyed going back to the past but am not sure where to turn when I eventually finish rereading The Merman's Children.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I've said this before, but it bears repeating: what particularly interested me about THE DEVIL'S GAME and THE BOAT OF A MILLION YEARS was how all or parts of those books were set in OUR now past twentieth century. One conclusion I drew was that Poul Anderson was perfectly capable of writing stories set in his contemporaneous times.

And, yes, THE DEVIL'S GAME does read as either a psychological novel or a fantasy. More likely, both.