Sunday, 11 December 2016

Gods And Time

What two words could be more evocative than "gods" and "time"? Poul Anderson writes about gods in heroic fantasy novels, about the passage of time in accounts of relativistic interstellar travel and about both in "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth" and "Star of the Sea," which could be collected as The Gods Of Time.

"'...against time the gods themselves are powerless.'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), pp. 333-465 AT p. 457.

The statement that even gods are powerless against time is a powerful affirmation that human beings are certainly powerless against it.

In a divergent timeline, the Emperor Frederick says, "'...if time allows...,'" not "'...if God allows....,'" as if he somehow senses that he owes his current triumphs to a temporal aberration. (The Shield Of Time, New York, 1991, p. 395)

"Star of the Sea" and The Shield Of Time have certain common features:

each is a novel although the former is shorter and was published in an omnibus collection, not as a separate volume;
each introduces a new variation on the causality violation idea;
each ends with an unexpected revelation.

At the end of The Shield..., Manse Everard and Wanda Tamberly learn the ultimate purpose of the Time Patrol. At the end of "Star of the Sea," the reader realizes that aspects of a goddess have been incorporated into Mary, Stella Maris, Star of the Sea. The Time Patrol's role in this incorporation will be the subject of a further post.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And what HAPPENED afterwards in both the alpha and beta timelines we saw in THE SHIELD OF TIME? Both of them were, in different ways, dangerously flawed (one had the Church dominating the state; the other had the state controlling the Church). How did people react to or think about the "irruptions" of the Patrol into their worlds? Such questions are inherently unanswerable because Poul Anderson never chose to write stories set only in "deleted" universes.

Merry Christmas! Sean

S.M. Stirling said...

I think that when Poul had Frederick say "if time allows" rather than "if God allows", as a medieval man usually would (it's an exact counterpart of the Islamic "Inshallah"), he meant to indicate that Frederick was extremely secular-minded for a man of his times. This ties in with the fate of the Christian church in the timeline that this Frederick founds, where it becomes a subordinate organ of the State in a Universal Empire.

Paul Shackley said...

Mr Stirling,
Yes, my idea that Frederick could sense that he was in a divergent timeline is more than a little fanciful.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul and Mr. Stirling!

And did Medieval philosophers and theologians of our timeline's Frederick II's period have any ideas that could have led to speculations about alternate worlds? And might the irruptions of the Patrol into the alpha and beta time worlds of THE SHIELD OF TIME have led to such speculations? Impossible to answer, of course, except as fictions.