Friday, 14 October 2016

History

Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization and his Time Patrol series give us two different slants on history. By "history," I mean historical process, not necessarily the sequence of recorded events, although Anderson also covers the latter.

In the Technic History, we vicariously live a fictional history as it proceeds into the future. Characters live, age and die but are connected through time either by family descent or because earlier actions have later consequences. Some characters and their actions are pivotal. Others live ordinary lives in what are to us the exotic settings of future periods and extrasolar planets. It was said that Heinlein's Future History gave the future a daily life - as do some scenes and stories in Anderson's Technic History.

In the Time Patrol series, the entirety of human history is viewed as if from outside and from a superhuman perspective. Patrol agents chronicle the events that originally went unrecorded and intervene as necessary at crucial nexuses. Thus, this series does cover real history:

post-Roman Britain;
Cyrus the Great;
Mongol explorations;
the Second Punic War;
etc.

As I have said before, Anderson covers every possibility. The ultimate synthesis might have been a combined time travel and future history series - but that would have had to have been planned as such from the start. What in fact happened was that the van Rijn series and the Flandry series combined into a future history while the Time Patrol series grew from one short collection to two massive volumes. Maybe one of Anderson's successors can present a time travel organization intervening not only in past history but also in the events of a future history series?

Anderson did crossover a time travel novel, There Will Be Time, with his Maurai future history.

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