Saturday, 26 November 2016

The Trojan Tradition, Past And Future

Greek dramatists addressed Homeric myths, e.g., in Trojan Women.

Olaf Stapledon's "Last Men" narrator compared the Neptunian observers of the Great War with the Olympian observers of the Trojan War.

And that raises a different point. Last Men In London is the companion volume to Stapledon's future history, Last And First Men. We have frequently discussed the sf future historical tradition prominently although not exclusively represented by Wells, Stapledon, Heinlein and Anderson. (I have just learned of a pre-Heinlein American future historian called Neil R. Jones.)

Stapledon's two Last Men volumes were published in 1930 and 1932, respectively. Thus, Last Men In London assumes the perspective of the long future historical narrative that had been recounted in the previous volume yet focuses on (what we call) World War I and the immediate aftermath of that conflict as "the present." Anderson's first future history series begins in the aftermath of a twentieth century World War III whereas his second, and main, future history begins with interplanetary exploration in the mid-twenty first century. Before Anderson but after Stapledon, Heinlein's Future History had begun in 1952. In a later volume, Heinlein interestingly sends a major character of his Future History on a time travel journey to the World War I period and even into combat - but really makes a mess of the whole idea.

Thus, a major role of future histories is to inform us not of the future but of earlier perspectives on the future. It is easy to empathize with the retro-sf of SM Stirling's Lord of Creation novels. In these books, Stirling effectively says, "Let's just write about the Solar System as it used to be imagined."


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Of Stirling's stand alone novels I esp. enjoy THE PESHAWAR LANCERS and CONQUISTAOR. And I think his two Lords of Creation books among his most "Andersonian" works. Precisely because they are not only "retro SF" but also uses space travel. And, Poul Anderson even cameos IN THE COURTS OF THE CRIMSON KINGS!


S.M. Stirling said...

I think Poul would have enjoyed the Mars/Venus books.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

I certainly hope Poul Anderson would have LOVED your Lords of Creation books! I found esp. interesting and convincing your depiction of how humans transported to Mars many thousands of years ago might have developed.

And your four Draka books were very fascinating, in a gruesomely dystopian way. In the Draka books we see INTELLIGENT and clever tyrants and the kind of monstrous world they created. Not the, fortunately, bungling incompetence we saw in our real world Communists and Nazis. But, alas, far, far too many still died at their hands.

Sean M. Brooks