Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Our Present Is Someone Else's Future

Poul Anderson has a Conquistador visiting a student's apartment in 1987:

"'So many books? You cannot be a cleric.'
"Why, I doubt if I have a hundred..."
-Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), p. 704.

SM Stirling has a Tartessian visiting the temporally displaced Nantucket:

"'A name for every street, and a number on every house,' he muttered to himself.
"Oh, he could see how useful that would be, but it was a bit daunting."
-SM Stirling, Island In The Sea Of Time (New York, 1998), p. 193.

In both cases, we get an intelligent man's perception of his future. I have quoted only one example from each work.

The Tartessian:

does not like to see a clock dividing his life up into seconds;
needs two days of close questioning before he understands that it is useful to have a mathematical symbol for nothing;
does not understand why there should be separate indoor latrines for men and women;
immediately sees the usefulness of placing a fire in a tiny alcove in the wall with a brick tunnel directing the smoke up out of the room;
knows that, to avoid killing trouble over women, it is necessary to understand not only the laws but also the ways that those are changed by unspoken taboos.

Pretty smart stuff.


David Birr said...

One running joke in the *1632* series is that Germans tend to be anarchic and think of Americans as obsessed with order ... in fact, ALL the people of the 1630s think of Americans as obsessed with order. They find it particularly amusing that when you go into a government building, there's a directory on the wall telling you which offices are in which rooms, and there are maps showing how to get to these rooms. And of course the rooms have the office names printed on the doors.

Even as they acknowledge that it makes finding the place you need easy, the "downtimers" snicker about how strict and uptight Americans must be. There's a nice bit about how one American punished a young princess when the princess had some of the signs moved to give wrong information....

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, David!

Ha! I remember reading something like that in THE GALILEO AFFAIR, about how strict and uptight the "uptimers" are. Very amusing!

As for the Conquistador we see in Poul Anderson's "The Year of the Ransom," the fact Don Luis HAD 100 books shows how the costs of buying books were going down, due to mechanical printing. I also think Don Luis commented disapprovingly of how poorly printed or bound many of Wanda Tamberly's books were. Until he realized cheap books could be easily replaced.

And the difficulty the Tartessian had grasping the purpose and utility of the Zero sign makes me want to start rereading ISLAND IN THE SEA OF TIME.


Paul Shackley said...

Luis is in Wanda's apartment so it is she who has 100 books.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Darn and drat! I though it was Don Luis who said, "Why, I doubt if I have a hundred..." I really should have checked "The Year of the Ransom."