Sunday, 31 December 2017

Alternative St Paul

From Logic of Time Travel:

Continued from St Paul.

Example (ii): St Paul converts Gentiles but also accepts that they must become Jews before they become Christians.

Result: A smaller Jewish Christian Church that would not be able to unify the Roman Empire unless it had a further split. Every alternative generates others and I cannot imagine the timeline beyond that point.

Example (iii): Paul believed that Jesus' return was imminent. How might this idea be used in fiction? A fantasy novel in which Jesus did return? That would be an alternative history and definitely not a time travel story.

Causality violation can transform time travel into alternative history, e.g., in two installments of Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series. However, many alternative histories are independent of time travel, especially those in which magic works or the supernatural exists, e.g., in Anderson's two Operation... volumes.

St Paul

From Logic of Time Travel:

Thought experiment:

consider a pivotal historical figure;
imagine that he was not born, died young or lived differently;
then imagine how history would have diverged as a result;
this is the premise of an alternative history or time travel story and a potential case for Poul Anderson's Time Patrol. See Who Makes History?


no Saul of Tarsus;
Christianity remains a small Jewish sect based in Jerusalem, worshiping in the Temple and led by James the brother of Jesus as well as by Peter and other original disciples of Jesus;
this sect ceases when Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed.

Petrine Christianity was a Jewish sect, worshiping in the Temple and expecting Jesus to return soon to rule the world as Messiah from Jerusalem but that did not happen. When Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed in 70 AD, most Petrine Christians reverted to orthodox Judaism. That could have been the end of the matter. However, meanwhile, Paul had founded Gentile Christianity.
-copied from here.

My sources on Paul are:

Karen Armstrong, The First Christian: St. Paul's Impact On Christianity (London, 1983);
E.P. Sanders, Paul: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2001).

I will reread these works for any further suggestions towards alternative history.

Who Makes History?

From Logic of Time Travel:

Marx wrote that men make their own history but not in circumstances of their own choosing. See here. He meant men collectively, not individually.

Archimedes claimed that, from a fixed point, with a long enough lever, he would be able to move the earth. See here.

Both were correct. History is collective human activity and individuals, like cogs, can move masses. An individual can redirect a political party that can lead a class that can change a country that can transform international alliances and the world economy. Lenin succeeded so far but was knocked back.

This is relevant to the idea of time travel. See Individuals. I hope to post on the extent of the contribution of Saul/Paul. See Sacrifice And Resurrection In Faith And Fiction.

El Jabato

From Comics Appreciation:

"In the 1950s and 1960s, the most popular comic books in Spain weren't about Superman and Spiderman - they told of the adventures of El Jabato, an imaginary ancient Iberian hero who fought against the Roman oppressors."
-Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind (London, 2014), Chapter 11, p. 211.

An addendum relevant to Poul Anderson Appreciation: Ancient anti-Roman freedom fighters, including the fictional individual, El Jabato, and the inhabitants of the historical town of Numantia, are regarded in Spain as symbols of national independence. The Numantians were defeated by the Roman general, Scipio Aemilianus, who had previously levelled Carthage. Delenda Est Carthago. All history is one story.

Messianism In Fiction

From Religion And Philosophy:

Fictional expressions of Christianity include:

Aslan telling the children that he has a different name in their world;

Poul Anderson's Father Axor telling Diana Crowfeather that he seeks evidence of the Universal Incarnation.

Anderson also transposes a familiar historical situation to a science fictional context in The Day Of Their Return:

the Terran Empire imposes direct rule on the planet Aeneas;
some Aeneans plan a military rebellion;
many expect the Return of the Ancients.

Reading about the religious and political situation in Judaea at the time of Jesus, I am reminded of how well Anderson conveyed this sense of Messianic expectation and social/political volatility.

Science Fiction, Swords And The Supernatural

From Science Fiction:

Science fiction is an extremely broad category. I have just read the concluding section of Prince Of Outcasts by SM Stirling. Soldiers fight with swords and the supernatural is manifested so is this sf? Yes. The story is set in the future. The premise of the series is that advanced technology has stopped working, therefore warfare has returned to swords. The supernatural is a transcosmic consciousness that had emerged from a previous cosmos and has caused the Change. Thus, every feature of the plot is scientifically rationalized although several volumes read like fantasy. The companion series, about the temporally displaced Nantucket, is time travel sf without any supernatural manifestations beyond the as yet unexplained Change/Event. The premise of divergent timelines allows for any number of coexisting scenarios as demonstrated in other novels and series by Stirling. Sf as a literary ghetto developed various stereotypes and cliches but is always able to transcend them.


From Science Fiction:

According to Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (London, 2014), human agelessness and post-organic intelligences may be imminent.

In Poul Anderson's sf:

aging is ended in World Without Stars and in The Boat Of A Million Years;

post-organic intelligences coexist with human beings in the Harvest of Stars Tetralogy and supersede humanity in Genesis.

I have referred to Anderson's ageless characters, Hugh Valland and Hanno, as "immortal" although they are not immune to either accident or violence. See Two Unaging Men. Harari contributes appropriate terminology:

"A few serious scholars suggest that by 2050, some humans will become a-mortal (not immortal, because they could still die of some accident, but a-mortal, meaning that in the absence of fatal trauma their lives could be extended indefinitely.)" (p. 301)

I think that John W. Campbell said, "The first immortal man has already been born." By googling, I found similar claims. See here.

See also Hanno, Lazarus Long And John Carter.

Since Christmas Eve

I have published 21 posts on 7 blogs:

on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 3;
on James Blish Appreciation, 2;
on Science Fiction, 2;
on Religion and Philosophy, 2;
on Personal and Literary Reflections, 8;
on Comics Appreciation, 1;
on Logic of Time Travel, 3.

Posts on other blogs that are relevant to this blog will be copied here.

Tomorrow And Next Year

Tomorrow, I will be 69 and recovering from a Goth New Year Masked Ball at the Morecambe Winter Gardens tonight (see image) and we will eat at our daughter's and granddaughter's apartment in the evening. I would like to visit tomorrow on Wells' Time Machine or a Time Patrol timecycle, then return to today.

Next year:

Volumes 2 and 3 of The Complete Psychotechnic League;
Volume 1 of a new alternative history trilogy by SM Stirling;
what else?

The Complete Psychotechnic League, Volume 1

The Complete Psychotechnic League, Volume 1 (Riverdale, NY, 2017), has come into my possession as a Christmas present. The back cover blurb quotes:

"Anderson fuses elegiac prose and a sweeping vision of man's technological future..."

I couldn't have put it better myself.

This edition has a new two-page Preface by David Afsharirad:

" is not really the job of science fiction to accurately predict the future." (p. 2)

Obviously not. Continuing:

"In truth, science fiction is always about the time in which it was written..." (ibid.)

Not strictly true. Science fiction cannot help but reflect the time in which it was written but it can also predict and warn:

Wells on the future of warfare;
Larry Niven on the future of organ transplanting;
Heinlein got it right that space travel would start, then be abandoned for a while;
we have seen that James Blish's The Quincunx Of Time is genuinely about the future.

Afsharirad continues:

"...and great science fiction is about the always changing yet eternally constant human condition." (ibid.)

And that is a good summary of Poul Anderson.

Monday, 25 December 2017

Christmas II

For posts published on Christmas Day in previous years, see here.

For discussion of Poul Anderson's Christmas story, "The Season of Forgiveness," see:

In The Pleiades 
In The Pleiades II
Ivanhoan Religion

For an illustration of Conan Doyle's Christmas story, see Christmas.

For the embodiment of divinity, see:

Embodied Divinity
Embodied Divinity II

Later: Today, most posts have been on another blog here but have addressed issues relevant to concepts of time and time travel.  

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Christmas And Comments

Happy Christmas and thank you for 293 page views so far today despite no posts until now. For posts on another blog, see Alma. Alan Moore, like Poul Anderson, addresses the idea of time travel and even has characters who are able to walk along the temporal dimension.

Ketlan, still in hospital but able to use his lap top, hopes that he has solved a problem that had recently prevented a regular correspondent from commenting. Further, Ketlan informs me that Chrome users, previously unable to comment, now are able to do so. This might solve a problem that I know existed for at least one other blog reader a while back.

I look forward to receiving comments from old and new correspondents after Christmas and in 2018.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Divine Weapons

An archer is commended:

"'Wuldor couldn't do better.'"
-SM Stirling, Prince Of Outcasts (New York, 2017), Chapter Twenty-One, p. 462.

When I read this, I thought that we had discovered a new archer god. However, Wuldor turns out to be identical with Ullr whom we have encountered before. See here. I have also drawn attention to Usil. Archer gods are rare despite the former importance of archery? More prominent divine weapons are spear, hammer, sword (for these three, see here) and thunder-bolt. Thor, god of thunder, wielding a hammer, was identified with Jupiter, wielding the thunderbolt.

Stirling also shows us the weapon of the Japanese gods, the Kami - the Divine Wind, Kamikaze.

Addendum: Neptune, trident.

"Follow Me"

"A voice seemed to whisper: Take up your cross, and follow Me. He shivered and put the thought out of his mind."
-SM Stirling, Prince Of Outcasts (New York, 2017), Chapter Twenty-One, p. 458.

Since I dislike any reference to crucifixion, I prefer the text:

"...what is that to thee? follow thou me." John 21:22. See here.

In either case, what does "follow me" mean? Life makes demands that Prince John internalizes by remembering a verse from scripture. This sufficiently explains John's thought processes. Therefore, it is unnecessary to postulate a supernatural being literally addressing him. However, the rules differ in the Emberverse where gods, goddesses and the Mother of God have appeared to and conversed with other characters so we must accept the possibility that a divine being really does speak to Prince John through the medium of a Biblical passage.

Posts On Christmas Day In Previous Years On Different Blogs

Poul Anderson Appreciation
Structural Parallels
Untold Stories?
The Future
(all 2015)

Religion And Philosophy
Doctrinal Disagreements About What Exists (here) (2016)

Comics Appreciation
Different Versions (2016)
The God Thor (2012)

James Blish Appreciation
Collecting Blish Series (2012) 

Why Believe What?

Here is an issue that is implicit in a lot of fiction and indeed in life. SM Stirling's Prince John of Montival prays to St Michael and his squire responds:

"'Amen, Sire...'"
-SM Stirling, Prince Of Outcasts (New York, 1917), Chapter Twenty-One, p. 438.

However, both of them know that they have been brought up Catholic only because that mad bastard, Norman Aminger, imposed Catholicism on his post-Change feudal realm because he wanted to play the role of a medieval baron complete with serfs, torture chamber and tame archbishop. When you are asked why you believe x (any proposition), do you reply:

(i) I think that x is true because there is evidence to support it and it seems to mean that x is the most plausible explanation for the available evidence;

(ii) I have reasoned my way to the conclusion x and I can tell you my line of reasoning if you want to hear it;

(iii) I have been told from birth that I believe x and am surrounded by people who claim to believe x although the only reason why they make this claim is that they also have been told from birth that they believe x?

Surely to realize that (iii) is your only reason to believe x is simultaneously to cease to believe x? A Catholic and a Jewish child could have been switched at birth...

Friday, 22 December 2017

The Long Perspective

When synopsising Poul Anderson's works, it is difficult to remember every relevant detail. I missed one point in Ways. Not only time travelers and immortals but also time dilated space travelers witness the rise and fall of civilizations and their religions. In Starfarers, one crew member of an interstellar spaceship is possibly the last practitioner of Judaism, and, when the ship returns to Earth, Seladorianism has existed for longer than Christianity did.

Anderson follows Olaf Stapledon in imagining future religious figures. Stapledon's future history, Last And First Men, features the Daughter of Man and the Divine Child.

Will anyone ever time travel or experience time dilation or an indefinitely prolonged lifespan? Maybe. Maybe not. But we can in imagination. By studying history, futurology and cosmology and reading the science fiction of Stapledon, Anderson etc, we gain the long perspective that is necessary for understanding life in its cosmic context.


SM Stirling's Empress of Japan says that her people follow the Way of the Gods and honor the Way of the Buddha. An admirable arrangement.

In Buddhist mythology, gods rise and fall while the Buddha Dharma endures. In reality, I suggest, religions change while the issues addressed by meditation remain.

Poul and Karen Anderson's last King of Ys lives through a major transition when the Olympians, the Ysan Triad and his own former deity, Mithras, withdraw before the new God of the Piscean Age.

Poul Anderson's time travelers and immortals see gods come and go. The oldest immortal, Hanno, expediently converts to Christianity, then outlives that religion.

Meditational and science fictional perspectives converge:

"Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world:
"A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
"A child's laugh, a phantasm, a dream." (See here.)

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Anderson Transcends Heinlein And Asimov

Future Histories
To continue the line of thought from Influences III, the Psychotechnic History was just the first of many future histories from Poul Anderson.

Heinlein had no fictional Artificial Intelligences - the interstellar spaceships in Starman Jones even lacked computers (not true: there is a conscious computer in Time Enough For Love but I do not count that novel as a volume of the Future History!);

(Addendum: While we were out, I remembered Mike, the conscious computer in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, and expected to find his name in the combox when we got back. Nevertheless, Anderson's post-organic intelligences go far beyond anything that has been imagined for conscious computers.)

Asimov had two kinds of AI, robots and Multivac, with a remote successor of Multivac culminatingly reversing entropy;

in two future histories, Anderson has AIs superseding humanity and planning to survive the end of the universe.

Time Travel
Asimov addressed the circular causality paradox well in one short story and the causality violation paradox badly in one novel;

Heinlein addressed the circular causality paradox well in one novel and two short stories;

Anderson addresses the circular causality paradox well in three novels and both paradoxes well in a unique time travel series that stands with his several future history series and with The Boat Of A Million Years as a fictional history.

Influences III

See Influences II.

"A humanoid robot" and "A predictive science of society" refer to Asimov's two main sf series, later unsatisfactorily unified.

"A future history series" refers to Heinlein's five volume Future History.

"A future revolution," "Experimental longevity" and "A generation ship" refer to Volumes III, IV and V of that Future History.

Thus, I had referred to more than I realized.

In Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History, the robot, the revolution, the longevity and the generation ship each get just one of the nineteen installment whereas psychotechnics is the unifying theme of the series. Although the Psychotechnic Institute is outlawed, the science of psychotechnics is preserved and psychtechnicians are prominent in the later Galactic civilization. Heinlein's Time Chart ends by indicating the emergence of the first mature culture whereas Anderson's concluding installment shows us a mature culture succeeding earlier periods of conflict.

Kings Who Die

"'He knew that the time had come when the King must die that the folk might live, and the land be renewed by the willing sacrifice of his blood. So it was he walked to the Dark Mother consenting, with a smile, savoring every moment the more because it might be the last.'
"'Clotho spins, Lachesis measures, Atropos cuts,' Heuradys said with a sigh. 'We don't choose our fate, only how we meet it.'"
-SM Stirling, Prince Of Outcasts (New York, 2017), Chapter Twenty, pp. 429-430.

I disagree with:

the King must die;
willing sacrifice;
renewal by blood.

But I agree with:

accepting the inevitability of death;
savoring every moment;
choosing how we meet our fate.

Please read or reread the discussion here of Poul Anderson's "Kings Who Die."

This chapter by Stirling describes a sea food meal that I might (or might not) summarize!

Influences II: American

Mark Twain And L. Sprague de Camp
A time traveler trying to change the course of history.

Robert Heinlein (some influences definite, others conjectural)
Magic as technology.
Circular causality.
A future history series.
A future revolution.
Experimental longevity.
A generation ship.

Isaac Asimov (presumably)
A humanoid robot.
A predictive science of society.

The predictive science of society applied within the generation ship.
Time travel within an interstellar spaceship.

Ward Moore ?
Poul Anderson stated in correspondence that he could not remember whether he had read Bring The Jubilee (1953) before or after writing "Time Patrol" (1955).

Thus, the definite influences are few but major.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017


Fortuitously, the three preceding posts have catalogued three major English/British influences on Poul Anderson:

William Shakespeare;
Arthur Conan Doyle;
HG Wells.

Two others are:

Mary Shelley - the first science fiction novel and the Frankenstein theme, which Anderson addressed in Genesis;

Olaf Stapledon - cosmic sf, with Stapledon's time scales influencing Anderson's Tau Zero.

Was CS Lewis also an influence on Anderson as he was on James Blish? Certainly, Anderson addressed Lewisian themes.

Neil Gaiman is not an influence but an interesting parallel.

Thus, at least seven relevant British authors.


Maybe it is time to reread "The Blue Carbuncle" and "The Season of Forgiveness"? The latter adds substance to Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization:

Anderson had already introduced both Nicholas van Rijn and David Falkayn, the latter on the planet Ivanhoe;
in "The Season of Forgiveness," he presents other characters on another continent on the same planet some time later;
next, he continues the intertwined stories of van Rijn and Falkayn.

An Ivanhoan, with his polytheist world view, thinks that the Terrestrials should have special wisdom during the season of their Prince of Peace.

Less posts at present due to Christmas preparations and to visiting Ketlan, son-in-law and technical assistant, who is back in hospital.

Dream, Tempest And Inn

The three story-telling media are narrative, drama and sequential art. Watch performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest by William Shakespeare. Then read:

A Midsummer Tempest by Poul Anderson;
Neil Gaiman's Sandman episodes named after the two plays.

Anderson presents a sequel to the plays whereas Gaiman informs us that the first performance of the Dream was to Auberon's court and shows us how The Tempest came to be written.

After A Midsummer Tempest, read Anderson's "House Rule" and "Losers' Night." You have now read everything that has been written about the Old Phoenix, the inn between the universes. Then read Gaiman's The Sandman: Worlds' End. You have now read everything that has been written about the Inn of the Worlds' End.

This is a strange multi-media literary sequence.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017


A theme of British history is invasion, or sometimes just fear of invasion, of this island from the nearby Continent. A theme of science fiction is alien invasion of Earth. And the British theme generated the sf theme because HG Wells wrote The War Of The Worlds in which Martian invaders of Earth land in England! The two themes remained intertwined:

in CS Lewis' Perelandra, published during World War II, Lewis as character fears that Ransom, who has been to Mars and is still in contact with the presiding intelligence of that planet, has become a bridgehead for alien invasion of Earth;

instead, Lewis as author reverses the alien invasion theme by showing Terrestrial evil polluting Venus;

after the War, fictional alien invasions continued on British television in Quatermass and Doctor Who.

We know that Poul Anderson wrote a Martian invasion novel with almost the same title as Wells' but Anderson also addressed the British invasion theme. In different passages of his "Time Patrol," Saxons and Jutes invade England and Germans bomb London. This story, most notable for its inspiration by and incorporation of one of Dr Watson's untold cases, should also be appreciated for its vivid presentation of these two periods of British history, with the word "British" meanwhile changing its meaning.

Imagination And Intellect

Poul Anderson combines creative imagination with intellectual rigor. From an early age, I wanted to read about imaginary universes, e.g., Norse mythology, and to reason about the real universe, e.g., why does it exist? However, my approach was philosophical, not scientific. Like Socrates, I preferred abstraction to empiricism. Despite this cloistered approach, it is empirical scientists that have changed the world. Pure reason was only one part of The Birth Of Science.

Inspired by myths and science, Anderson wrote:

fantasy, e.g., about Odin and the Nine Worlds;
hard sf, e.g., about time dilation and a cyclical cosmos;
syntheses, e.g. -

in "The Saturn Game," characters in a hard sf setting become lost in a fantasy role play;

"Star of the Sea" follows historical events and mythological developments with sf provided by time travel.

Anderson's vast canon exists within an immense literary framework. On this blog, we have referred, among many others, to Homer, Plato, Shakespeare and Edgar Rice Burroughs - epic, myth, philosophy, drama and pulp fiction.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Practical Materialism

"...the warrior spirit was crucially important, but spirits needed bodies to inhabit and bodies needed food and weapons to fight."
-SM Stirling, Prince Of Outcasts (New York, 2017), Chapter Eighteen, p. 386.

This is the point of materialist philosophy. People have to eat before they can think. How a society organizes economic production and distribution determines its ideas about property, laws, rights, duties, obligations and values. Personal loyalty was paramount in feudalism whereas clearly demarcated property rights have become paramount. A poet or a philosopher needs food, clothes, shelter, an income, pen and paper to work with and freedom from the necessity of physical labor. Ideas did not preexist physical necessities. Plato stood reality on its head when he thought that general ideas were more real than particular objects or that souls contemplating ideas could exist independently of bodies needing food.

Ordinary And Extraordinary

In fantasy and sf, ordinary people regularly find themselves in extraordinary situations. For example, Poul Anderson's Malcolm Lockridge finds that he has time traveled. Yet we are confident that nothing like this will happen to us. So why do we so readily suspend disbelief when reading The Corridors Of Time? Some people don't, dismissing sf as unacceptably implausible.

However, each of us has already adjusted to regular use of technology that was science fictional earlier in our own lifetimes. A mainstream novelist setting a novel a few years in the past has to check the state of information and computer technology in that year to make sure that he gets it right. As we have adjusted to personal computers, laptops, the internet, mobile phones now with internet access and text messages, Lockridge adjusts to temporal corridors.

The way things happen is never the way they were imagined. Extrasolar planets were undetectable until recently. Now it is known that there are many and that some might bear life but such life has not yet been confirmed. Scientific progress, even if rapid, advances through stages. I still do not expect an extrasolar spaceship to enter Earth orbit in our lifetimes. And, if I were taken along a temporal corridor, then I would not then engage in heroic adventures like Lockridge who escapes from captivity no less than three times. But that is an observation about action-adventure fiction, not specifically about sf.

Composite Imaginary Realms

Imaginative authors present a composite account of imaginary realms. Inconsistencies can be ironed out or incorporated into a multiple reality, e.g.:

Hesiod tells us that the goddess of love sprang from the sea-foam;
Homer tells us that she was a daughter of Zeus;
Plato explains that there is a heavenly love and an earthly love, thus combining two myths and transforming them into philosophy.

Some mysteries are explained whereas others remain mysteries. Modern successors of the Greek epicists include Poul Anderson and Neil Gaiman. Combining Anderson's and Gaiman's accounts of other realms, we learn that:

we do not know which unknown power granted the Taverners their charter to run the Old Phoenix Inn between the universes;

we do know that the Endless (seven anthropomorphic personifications of aspects of consciousness) granted its charter to the necropolis, Litharge;

however, "...there are some powers that no one, not even the Endless, seeks to inquire into too deeply."
-Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: The Wake (New York, 1997), p. 17.

This kind of post appreciates Anderson's imagination and also his place in a tradition from Hesiod to still living authors and beyond.

Political Heroes

Fictional heroes include not only soldiers and swordsmen but also skillful political leaders who sometimes get beneficial measures passed through hostile assemblies, e.g.:

Poul and Karen Anderson's King Grallon of Ys;
the French representative in the World Federation Parliament (see here);
James Blish's Mayor John Amalfi of the Okie city of New York;
SM Stirling's High King of Montival;
Neil Gaiman's version of the comic book teenage President, Prez;
no doubt many others that I have not thought of.

Such fiction addresses an important question: what do people expect from their leaders and how much can the leaders deliver?

"...Few Enough Of Us Around..."

In Poul Anderson's The Boat Of A Million Years, Hanno follows every rumor or clue that might lead him to a fellow immortal. When at last he succeeds, elaborate circumlocutions are necessary before the truth can be divulged. Even then, caution and suspicion keep them apart for nearly another millennium. At last, Hanno convenes a small group.

However, after many centuries of outliving mortals, might two immortals not be able to recognize each other at a glance? In Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: The Wake, Hob Gadling travels as the single passenger on a cargo-carrying tall ship which he discretely owns. Only the captain knows that the passenger is also the owner. When a stowaway is apprehended, the captain would put him off at Aden. However, Gadling has a word and the Indian gentleman's passage is paid. Gadling has instantly recognized a fellow immortal.

"There's few enough of us around. Least we can do is watch out for each other."
-Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: The Wake (New York, 1994), p. 88.

A good philosophy - to be extended to all of humanity, of course, especially to the unfortunate mortals...

Sea Flows; Wind Blows

A passage in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: Worlds' End struck me as evocative and Andersonian - and also familiar, as if I had posted about it before. I had. See Wild Wind And Wild Magic.

In the Bible, the sea represents precosmic chaos. In Poul Anderson's works, the wind sometimes represents the elements that pre-existed and still threaten civilization. See The Wind II. The wind wails in pathetic fallacies and almost becomes a character although I would have to search further to find the posts where I discussed the almost-personified wind. There is a lot about the wind (search result) on the blog.

Later: See the role of the wind in Marital Rape, in Prose Packed With Meaning and in Ys Gleams; Wind Mourns.

The title of this post refers to Portrait Of Jennie.

After Or Between

See A Midsummer Tempest X.

Rereading Neil Gaiman's Worlds' End, I again compare Gaiman's Inn at the End of All Worlds with Anderson's inn between the worlds. For some comparisons, see the above link. (Douglas Adams has a Restaurant at the End of the Universe but that is a different kind of place.)

Anderson's Taverners have a charter once granted by some power unknown whereas Gaiman's Indian landlady came to her inn from another journey that still awaits her when she tires of working in the inn. She allows one guest, Charlene Mooney, to stay and work there with the result that, when Charlene's traveling companion returns home, he finds that there is no record of there ever having been a Charlene Mooney. He has returned to a world like the one he left. Maybe Charlene will eventually replace the current landlady.

When the current landlady raises her right arm, the shadow of a left arm appears on the wall behind her. She is, appropriately, the four-armed Kali, Goddess of Destruction. There is devotion to Hindu deities in SM Stirling's Angrezi Raj. See Religious Diversity II and Krishna.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

The Feelings Of A Time Patrol Operative And A Japanese Empress

"'An operative who had no emotions about the human beings encountered on a mission would be...defective. Worthless, or downright dangerous.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), Part One, p. 5.

"...ninjo, feelings and compassion...that must have its place too, or you become an empty suit of armor that walks and kills, and then a blight upon the world."
-SM Stirling, Prince Of Outcasts (New York, 2017), Chapter Eighteen, p. 378.

History, Holmes And The Hound

This evening, as an alternative to reading or blogging, I watched television for a while and, of course, found something relevant. Tony Robinson of the Time Team which we mentioned here walks through historical Britain (see here) and, in an episode shown this evening, visited Cromer where Sheila and I on holiday two years ago learned something that was directly relevant to Sherlock Holmes and thus indirectly relevant to Poul Anderson's Time Patrol. See here.

Since Holmes exists in the Time Patrol timeline, so must the Hound of the Baskervilles. However, contrary perhaps to some popular misconceptions, this "Hound" is not supernatural. Doyle believed in Spiritualism but kept Holmes scientific and secularist. The Hound Of The Baskervilles is said to be the most often filmed novel and one film version introduces a seance in Baskerville Hall - kind of appropriate in one way though not in another. In any case, the Time Patrol series remains historical sf, not fantasy, and is not tainted with supernaturalism by its inclusion of the Great Detective who debunked the Hound.

The ERBian Dimension II

I do not think that Poul Anderson refers anywhere to ERB? We have listed Old Phoenix guests in:

Guests In The Old Phoenix
Guests In The Old Phoenix II
Guests In The Old Phoenix III
Open To Everything
A Lensman In The Old Phoenix
A Large Gathering In The Old Phoenix
Anonymous Historical Characters
Anonymous Historical Characters II
Anonymous Historical Characters III
Anonymous Historical Characters IV 
The Old Phoenix

- and they did not include Greystoke or Carter etc.

SM Stirling wrote an ERBian pastiche - see A Paxton and the link from it - and this is the sort of thing that Anderson would have done. I have argued that an Andersonian rationale of ERB's absurdities would have been a good idea. See here.

The ERBian Dimension

When we discuss the works of Poul Anderson and of related authors, new portals continually open onto vast vistas of unexplored territory - or onto texts read once decades ago which therefore seem new now.

A passage in Poul Anderson's "House Rule" (see here) reminded me of ERB's The Moon Men, Chapter I, because the latter contains a first person account of an Arctic adventure initially involving Eskimos. However, ERB's narrator had not had a forced landing.

The Moon Men was published in 1925;
Chapter I is set in 1969;
its opening paragraph refers to the "...close of the Great War..." (p. 7) in 1967;
Chapter II begins:

"I was born in the Teivos of Chicago on January 1st, 2100..."
-Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Moon Men (New York, Ace Books, undated), p. 18.

Thus, ERB, like several more recent authors, wrote a future history series:

Heinlein's Future History Volumes I and II cover the period from 1951 to 2000 whereas Volume III is Revolt In 2100;

in James Blish's Chronology of Cities In Flight, 2105 was an agreed arbitrary date for the Fall of the West;

in the Chronology of Anderson's Psychotechnic History, the Solar Union is founded in 2105.

Future histories unfailingly fascinate.


In Poul Anderson's works, a "nexus" can be within a timeline or between universes. At a nexus within a timeline, it is very easy for a time traveler or a quantum fluctuation in space-time-energy to change the entire future. Therefore, the Time Patrol polices these nexuses. At a nexus between universes, inter-cosmic travelers can meet and might gain knowledge that would change the entire futures of their timelines. Therefore, Taverner polices the conversations in his Inn of the Old Phoenix which occupies one such nexus. Thus, there is a conceptual continuity between the mutable timeline of the Time Patrol and the multiple timelines of the Old Phoenix.

There are limits both on how long guests can stay in the Old Phoenix and on how often they can visit it. The narrator of "House Rule" suspects that:

"...the hostel exists on several different space-time levels of its own." (p. 65)

- but I do not know what this means or why it should affect guests' visits.

Anderson's Time Patrol guards a past;
James Blish's Service guards a future;
Taverner guards many pasts and futures.

Thus, one man has a bigger job than two organizations.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Notes On "House Rule"

Poul Anderson, "House Rule" IN Anderson, The Armies Of Elfland (New York, 1992), pp. 64-76.

In this edition, Anderson, introducing the story, tells us that:

"That inn beyond every world, the Old Phoenix, first appeared in my Shakespearean fantasy novel, A Midsummer Tempest." (. 64)

He adds:

"I have returned to it a couple of times and hope to do so again." (ibid.)

A Midsummer Tempest is copyright 1974;
"House Rule" is copyright 1976;
"Losers' Night" is copyright 1991.

These are the only Old Phoenix stories that I know of, which implies that Anderson had not returned to the Old Phoenix before writing "House Rule." (?)

He had hoped to return to it again! The Old Phoenix deserves at least a single volume entirely to itself.

The narrator of "House Rule" had been on "...a flight which had been forced down above the Arctic Circle..." (p. 69), where some Eskimos had been helpful. This does not sound like Poul Anderson but does it sound like an adventure of ERB in the introductory passage of his second Moon book? (I am not going to look that up right now.)

On this occasion in the Old Phoenix:

"The talk was mainly Leonardo's. Given a couple of goblets of wine to relax him, his mind soared and ranged like an eagle in a high wind." (p. 66)

A striking simile. I want to comment on some other aspects of the story but find that I have already done so. See Open To Everything.

Addendum: OK. The Armies Of Elfland is copyright 1992. Thus, when Anderson wrote that he had returned to the Old Phoenix a couple of times, he was referring to "House Rule" and "Losers' Night."

Multiple Andersons

Might the first person narrator of Poul Anderson's two Old Phoenix short stories be identifiable with the author? If so, then he has to be a different Poul Anderson from the one who is related to Robert Anderson in There Will Be Time. Although the single immutable timeline of that novel might be part of a multiverse, it does not interact either with the multiple timelines of the Old Phoenix or with the mutable timeline of the Time Patrol.

Also, if there was a Poul Anderson in the twentieth century of the Time Patrol timeline, then that Anderson cannot have written the Time Patrol series and therefore must have written something else in its place. So how many Poul Andersons are there? Every novel set during its author's lifetime assumes a timeline in which, if the author does exist, he does not write that novel and therefore is a slightly different version of himself.

I am just about to reread "House Rule" because I suspect that it does contain information that differentiates its narrator from its author.

Ways Of Knowing: Tomorrow Is Yesterday

(I referred here to an object passing through the Solar System. Here is a later report.)

How might we learn about multi-dimensional space-time? Our inter-dimensional guides this evening are:

HG Wells;
Robert Heinlein;
James Blish;
CS Lewis;
Poul Anderson;
Neil Gaiman;
SM Stirling.

Wells, Men Like Gods
An experiment in the Utopian timeline transports several Earthlings to Utopia.

Heinlein, "Elsewhen" and Waldo
Thought alone gives access to other universes.

Blish, The Quincunx Of Time and Midsummer Century
After receiving a message about time-projection from 25,000 AD, Thor Wald invents a metalanguage which shows that science cannot choose between future paradigms because it is one of those paradigms.
John Martels falls into a radio telescope of a radically new design with an inconceivable reach, thus prompting the message intercepted by Wald.

CS Lewis, Perelandra and "The Dark Tower"
In Oxford, Lewis reads an early seventeenth century Latin text about the celestial frame of spatial references.
In Cambridge, Lewis and his colleagues observe an alternative Earth through a chronoscope which also becomes the mechanism for an inter-Earth mind transference.

Poul Anderson, A Midsummer Tempest
Valeria Matuchek's theorems let her reach the continuum that she wants "'...or a reasonable facsimile of it.'" (Chapter xii, pp. 95-96) whereas Holger Danske has traveled at random, using a "'...superstition-riddled medieval grimoire...,'" (p. 96) so Valeria refers Holger to Sokolnikofff's Introduction to Paratemporal Mathematics and to the Handbook of Alchemy and Metaphysics.

Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: The Wake
A reality storm strands travelers in the Inn of the Worlds' End. When they leave, they will return to the worlds from which they came or very similar ones.

SM Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers
A clairvoyant simultaneously experiences multiple alternative presents.

I like the contrasts between:

the radio telescope and the chronoscope;
Wald's Machine language message from 25,000 AD, Lewis' Latin manuscript from the seventeenth century and Valeria's reference books;
Valeria reaching the continuum she wants or a facsimile of it and the Inn guests returning to their worlds or similar ones;
Wald theorizing about multidimensionality and Stirling's Yasmini directly experiencing alternative realities.

The Anthropomorphic Universe

Anthropomorphising human beings have successively imagined:

(i) spirits and gods in the terrestrial environment;
(ii) Selenites, Martians, Venerians, Jovians etc - within the Solar System;
(iii) extrasolar intelligences.

Brian Aldiss suggested somewhere that (iii) are as anthropomorphic and nonexistent as (i) and (ii).

Fantasy writers, Poul Anderson and Neil Gaiman, have imagined supernatural beings withdrawing from Earth, thus explaining their current absence. If they withdrew, then they might return.

In Anderson's Operation Otherworld, magic/"goetic" beings re-Awaken and the Adversary directly addresses Steve Matuchek.

Elwin Ransom tells CS Lewis:

"'When the Bible uses that very expression about fighting with principalities and powers and depraved hypersomatic beings at great heights (our translation is very misleading at that point, by the way) it meant that quite ordinary people were to do the fighting.'"
-CS Lewis, Perelandra IN Lewis, The Cosmic Trilogy (London, 1990), pp. 145-349 AT p. 163.

And the Powers are also reactivated in SM Stirling's Emberverse:

"And there was war in Heaven, John thought with a shiver. It's the same one here, against Principalities and Powers."
-SM Stirling, Prince Of Outcasts (New York, 2017), Chapter Seventeen, p. 336.

But that is fantasy. If we do not expect (i) to return, then do we expect (iii) to arrive, maybe speaking English because radio messages from Earth are detectable throughout an expanding volume of space? I do not expect First Contact in our lifetimes, although I could be proved wrong tomorrow. But, as a generalization from past experience, the future is always very different from whatever has been imagined or predicted.

Even if an alien does speak English, s/he will not share any of our history or even our evolution. We cannot imagine on what basis s/he will communicate with us.

Friday, 15 December 2017


During childhood, I enjoyed fights in films and on TV. Westerns, a prevalent genre, guaranteed fights. A Western film alternated between incomprehensible conversations and exciting fights. The comic strip adaptation of a Lone Ranger episode disappointed because it showed two men fighting in one panel but did not reproduce their choreographed fisticuffs.

ERB wrote four Western novels (for one of these, see here);

James Blish wrote pulp Westerns during his writing apprenticeship (see Some Early Blish);

despite his prolificity, Poul Anderson did not write any Westerns although he and Gordon R. Dickson parodied this genre in one Hoka story;

both Anderson and SM Stirling present action-adventure fiction with well-described fight scenes but fortunately that is not all that they have written;

on this blog, I have summarized accounts of fights and battles but we have also discussed every major issue including what people fight about;

these remarks are occasioned by the climactic fight between Lisbeth Salander and her half-brother near the end of Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest.

Four More Mysterious Places

(i) Poul Anderson's "Time Heals" refers to Venusberg.

(ii) An Arthurian country similar to Ys is Lyonesse.

(iii) The primary Arthurian location is Camelot:

"'It was in Britain after the Romans were gone, at the court of a warlord. They called him Riothamus, their High King, but mainly he had some cataphracts. With them he staved off the English invaders. His name was Artorius.'
"Richelieu sat motionless.
"'Oh, I was no knight of his, merely a trader who came by on his rounds,' Lacy stated. 'Nor did I meet any Lancelot or Gawain or Galahad, nor see any glittering camelot. Little of Rome lingered there. In fact, it's only my guess that this was the seed corn of the Arthur legend.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Boat Of A Million Years (London, 1991), XI, pp. 229-230.

Maybe "camelot" should have read "Camelot"?

(iv) Another Arthurian location is Avalon which CS Lewis places on Venus. See Grallon And Arthur. In Anderson's The People of The Wind, two planets in the Lauran System are called "Avalon" and "Camelot." See here.

Mysterious Places

The Old Phoenix
The Inn of the Worlds' End

After Mysterious Characters, maybe we have begun to find a list of mysterious places? Such places are mysterious because their precise nature and even their location is conjectural. All five of the places listed above can be found by searching this blog and another transtemporal inn is mentioned here.

Evocative Ship Names

In SM Stirling's Prince Of Outcasts:

(i) the South Sea Adventure, explicitly evocative;

(ii) the Tarshish Queen, named after a mysterious Biblical realm (see Wiki) which has been identified with Tartessos and Carthage and associated with Hiram of Tyre (and the attached map places it close to Gibraltar, which also plays a role in Stieg Larsson's Trilogy);

(iii) the Silver Surfer, named after a Marvel superhero.

God Quote

Gods and God figure prominently in works of fiction by Poul Anderson and SM Stirling. Supernatural beings exist in works of fantasy and are believed to exist by some of the characters in works of science fiction.

Richard Dawkins, an atheist polemicist, was recently mentioned in the combox here so let's have a Dawkins quote on "God," although I do not find the T shirt image fully legible:

"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it, a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak, vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, a misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, infanticidal...filicidal, pestilential...-maniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolant bully."

Anderson's Father Axor and Stirling's Father Ignatius do not worship such a deity but I suggest that this is because they are better than their own earliest scriptures.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Extra-Solar Visitors And The Ends Of Worlds

An object that might be artificial is currently passing through the Solar System. See here. Poul Anderson's novel about an extra-solar craft entering the Solar System is The Byworlder, which maybe I should reread. I remember that a non-humanoid alien is in orbit while various things are happening on Earth. That is all. Rereading an Anderson novel from sufficiently long ago always generates new blog posts.

"Da capo" means "from the beginning";
a late chapter in Olaf Stapledon's Last And First Men is called "Da Capo":
the last "story-to-be-told" in Robert Heinlein's Future History was called "Da Capo";
Heinlein's Time Enough For Love also ends with "Da Capo" although I do not accept this volume as a valid continuation of the Future History;
the concluding volume of James Blish's Cities In Flight future history is The Triumph Of Time;
the last story in Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History is called "The Chapter Ends."

There is a conceptual continuity between future histories.

Lies, Fictions, Yarns And More

See Lies, Fictions And Yarns.

Sean pointed out another kind of untrue statement, an error. Thus:

Untrue Statements
"yarns" (?)

But there is also a kind of statement that is intermediate between true and untrue. A scientific theory:

is the best current approximation to the truth;
explains some phenomena;
but is provisional - always subject to revision.

Some sf shows the scientific process:

in James Blish's They Shall Have Stars/Year 2018!, new discoveries are made despite personal conflicts between some scientists;

in Blish's The Quincunx Of Time, messages from the future assume different scientific paradigms;

in Poul Anderson's Starfarers, interstellar explorers encounter quantum intelligences that receive tachyonic messages from their future.

If a novel about a long interstellar expedition is based entirely on current knowledge and theories about remote stellar regions, then it is bound to be inaccurate because such an expedition would gain new knowledge and revise current theories.