Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Fictional Histories And Poul Anderson

We all know that Robert Heinlein wrote the Future History and that some other American sf writers have followed this model. Thus, there are "future histories," including "the Future History," which was collected as The Past Through Tomorrow.

Future histories are one kind of fictional history. Others include:

JRR Tolkien's History of Middle Earth;
CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia;
Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain.

Not unrelated to the works of Tolkien, a Catholic, and Lewis, an Anglican, is the Bible, a multi-generational narrative comprising every kind of literature including:

theologically interpreted histories;
historical fictions (Ruth, Job and Jonah).

Also relevant is John Milton's theological trilogy:

Paradise Lost;
Paradise Regained;
Samson Agonistes.

With the passage of time, a future history becomes an alternative history. Also, an alternative historical series can become a fictional history. Thus, SM Stirling presents:

three novels about the gradual conquest of Earth by the Draka;
one novel about interstellar and inter-cosmic conflicts involving the Draka -


a trilogy about Nantucket translated to an alternative timeline;
a series about the Earth that Nantucket left behind.

Of the future history series that I have read, I think that Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization is the most substantial and comprehensive. We should always remember the original model:

Heinlein's Future History
I A collection about technological advances, eventually including interplanetary travel.
II A collection about the colonization and exploitation of the Solar System.
III A novel about the revolutionary overthrow of an American theocracy and two stories about different aspects of the post-revolutionary society, including the resumption of space travel.
IV A novel about a crisis in the post-revolutionary society.
V Two stories about a lost interstellar ship mentioned in Vol IV.

Some other future histories can be summarized briefly:

Anderson's Psychotechnic History
Solar Union
Stellar Union
Galactic civilization (query)

Anderson's Technic History
interplanetary and interstellar exploration
Solar Commonwealth and Polesotechnic League
Time of Troubles
Terran Empire
Long Night
civilizations in several spiral arms
a Galactic civilization

Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium Future History
the CoDominuim
the First and Second Empire of Man

James Blish's Cities In Flight
a novel about the discoveries necessary for interstellar travel
two volumes about Okie civilization
a novel about the post-Okie universe

Larry Niven's Known Space Future History
Too complicated to summarize briefly?


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I would classified the Biblical books of Ruth, Judith, Jonah, and Esther not simply as historical fictions but also as midrashim, edifying stories. And I think I like best the book of Jonah, at least partly because of the humor in it.

Job is usually considered one of the wisdom books of the OT. The Wisdom Books shows us Jewish thinkers striving to make sense of the world and of man's place in it. And also of God's role in the world and human affairs.

I would have included as well Asimov's Robots/Foundation stories in your Future History list, even tho we both agree in finding it unsatisfactory.


Paul Shackley said...

I agree that Robots/Foundation is in there but just didn't want to summarize it right now.