Monday, 25 September 2017

Regions And Gobblies

Poul Anderson, Virgin Planet (London, 1966).

The orspers always look dreadful.

"Judging from the names and the fragments of Christian belief, [the Ship's] complements had been purely North American; regional distinctions had still been considered important in those days."
-Chapter IX, pp. 68-69.

In the days of Solmen, North America is regarded as a mere region!

The only Christian fragment that I can see is the reference to "Father," which could have a more general significance and makes sense in terms of women having to use parthenogenesis.

I asked about "Cobblies." Now we get:

"...Critters and Gobblies."
-Chapter X, p. 74.

Was "Cobblies" (p. 38) a misprint for "Gobblies" (p. 74)?

James Blish once said that I read his works very closely. I think that I am going even further with Anderson. The blogging format helps. It is possible to pause and comment on any word or phrase and, with some writers, it turns out to be worthwhile to do this.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Expect The Unexpected

Although sf is about the unexpected, some of its features become familiar.

Davis Bertram:

exercises in double gravity, like Dominic Flandry;
misses coffee, like Time Patrollers;
must not disrupt the societies that he visits, like the Enterprise, Okies and Time Patrollers;
becomes involved in local wars, like a lot of space and time travelers.

In some ways, we learn what to expect, even though we seek the unexpected. Entirely predictable sf fails. Poul Anderson succeeds.

The Evolution Of Future Histories

Extrasolar colonists and interstellar traders are complementary, not contradictory. Thus, James Blish's Okies could have traded with his Adapted Men. However, the logic of the pantropy series took it into a remote future when Earth had changed enough to be recolonized by Adapted Men whereas the logic of the Okies with their antiagathics had some of them surviving until the end of the universe which, for narrative purposes, came sooner than expected with a cosmic collision. The two series, having acquired incompatible endings, also acquired different although parallel beginnings. References to Oc dollars, the ultraphone and "gods of all stars" in The Seedling Stars suggest a stage in their composition when the two series could have been one.

Poul Anderson's Technic History features a Terran Empire ruled from Archopolis whereas both his "The Star Plunderer" and his "The Chapter Ends" refer to a First Empire ruled from Sol City. However, "The Star Plunderer" became a pivotal story in the Technic History whereas "The Chapter Ends" became the culmination of the Psychotechnic History.

In Robert Heinlein's works, Dahlquist, the Space Patrol, Rhysling, a Stone Family in Luna City and particular versions of Martians and Venerians link five early Scribner Juveniles to The Green Hills Of Earth, Volume II of the Future History, but the Juveniles are incompatible with the Future History as a whole. Thus, Heinlein wrote what I call a Juvenile Future History.

So far, this post has referred to three sf authors each writing two future histories but the real situation is more complicated. Anderson wrote several future histories (see here). Blish gave his Okies the instantaneous Dirac communicator but then had to develop the full implications of this communicator in a third future history. My advice: read them all.

Anderson-Blish Parallels

(i) Both Poul Anderson and James Blish have a shorter future history, a longer future history and other relevant works.

Anderson - shorter: Psychotechnic; longer: Technic.
Blish - shorter: pantropy; longer: Okies.

(ii) For parallels between the culminations of the two shorter future histories, see here.

(iii) In both the Psychotechnic History and the pantropy future history, a spaceship crashes on a planet and the spaceship crew and passengers colonize that planet with one-to-one genetic versions of themselves. Anderson's all women crew must reproduce by parthenogenesis whereas Blish's pantropists contribute germ-cells from which microscopic, aquatic Adapted Men are developed to inhabit fresh water pools.

Anderson's women with the surname Udall become hereditary rulers whereas Blish's la Ventura and Dr Chatvieux become the templates of many generations of leaders called Lavon and thinkers called Shar, respectively.


(Neptune: a gas giant planet and an alternative to either Jupiter or Saturn.)

Alternatively, Aesgil might be a gas giant and I-IV its satellites. That seems more likely.

Right now, this blog is focused on a few installments of a single future history series. However, our wider contexts remain:

the complete works of Poul Anderson;
all future history series;
in fact, all science fiction and imaginative literature;
the history, cosmology and philosophical issues that form the background of Anderson's works.

And here is one of those issues. Recently (here), we referred to the evolution of intelligence. Intelligence emerges when consciousness advances from sensation and perception to abstraction. An intelligent animal not only feels hot, and not only perceives sources of heat, but also applies the concepts of "hot" and "heat." I suggest that this advance from perception to abstraction is a qualitative transformation inside material brains and not an interaction between those brains and any specially created immaterial entities. We are part of "One Universe." In fact, we are its self-consciousness.


Series characters can reminisce either about earlier episodes or about adventures remembered by them but not by us. A Nomad recalls:

"'The flying city on Aesgil IV, and the war between the birds and the centauroids.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Peregrine (New York, 1979), Chapter XIX, p. 164.

Maybe we can read about this flying city in a previous episode? No, all that we find earlier in the Psychotechnic History is the founders of the Nomads remembering that:

"We had ridden centauroids who conversed with us as they went to the aerial city of their winged enemies -"
-Poul Anderson, "Gypsy" IN Anderson, Starship (New York, 1982), pp. 12-34 AT p. 29.

This is a slightly different description:

an "aerial" city might hover rather than fly;
"winged" antagonist might not be birds.

I am grateful for these two differently worded accounts.

Thus, Aesgil IV was visited at least twice, first by the lost Traveler, then later by a Nomad ship, the Peregrine. Aesgil IV must be the fourth planet of a fictional star called "Aesgil."

We are intrigued by this war between centaurs and sky-dwelling fliers. I thought that there might have been a corresponding Greek myth. Certainly centaurs fought. No matter how much Anderson wrote, some of his characters were going to recall adventures that we have not been able to read about. Nevertheless, we thank the Muses and the author himself for the extent of Anderson's works.

In The Country Of The Blind...

In the country of the blind, the one-eyed (or two-eyed) man is king? No, he is not. According to HG Wells, the blind population thinks that this single man is deluded and offers to cure him be removing the deformities from his face. He is lucky to escape with his sight. Appropriately, since we have just discussed birds, the blind know of "angels" that can be heard but not felt - birds.

On the "Virgin Planet," a single man is king? No, he is not. According to Poul Anderson, the women think that Davis Bertram cannot be a mythical "Man" returning in power because they capture him easily. He can only be a dangerous "Monster" (alien), and must not be allowed to re-enter his spaceship in case he turns its technology against them. His capture by one community means war with others and our old friend, the Pathetic Fallacy, returns in force:

"The main door of the Big House crashed open. Torchlight flared, spilling on the cobbles. Minos became suddenly wan. Iron clanked, and the Greendale Macklin strode forth, tall and angry, her women bristling about her...
"'This means war!'"
-Poul Anderson, Virgin Planet (London, 1966), Chapter VI, p. 45.

Does Minos suddenly become wan in reality or only in the women's perceptions?

Native Intelligence On Atlantis?

In Poul Anderson's Virgin Planet, there are many species of large birds on the planet Atlantis so must one such species become intelligent? Not necessarily. See:

Avian Aliens
Scientific Speculation And An Artistic Convention

Intelligence is not inevitable. Many species survive without it. There may be planets where no species is naturally selected for intelligence. Alternatively, some active, alert, adaptable animal able to change its behavior in response to environmental alterations might nevertheless be overcome by circumstances and fail to survive before it has become a talking tool-user.


Poul Anderson, Virgin Planet (London, 1966), Chapter VI.

"The lower castes had charms against being psyched by the Critters and the Cobblies and other unseen mountain dwellers." (p. 38)

What are Cobblies? I cannot find this word in a dictionary and have encountered it in only one other work of fiction, City by Clifford Simak. Googling reveals that "cobblies" are also referenced in Existence by David Brin. In City, cobblies are undescribed but frightening intruders from other dimensions, like unsettling sounds heard in an old house. I found a link here to the on-line text of City although past experience indicates that such links do not work for all blog readers.

I now google or otherwise investigate every unfamiliar word or phrase in Poul Anderson's texts. The effort is usually worthwhile.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Montalbano's Moment Of Realization

Two strands of reading converge:

I said here that I was reading Montalbano as well as Poul Anderson;

I frequently post about moments of realization in Anderson's works -

- typically, our hero is speaking, stops in mid-sentence, goes rigid, has just realized the solution to a practical problem but will not reveal the solution to the reader until he has solved the problem at the end of the story.

Now Montalbano goes through precisely the same routine:

"Their night-time search of Borsellino's house and office had been for naught and...
"He froze.
"He had the distinct impression that the entire digestive apparatus in his belly had come to a sudden stop.
"He poured himself half a glass of whisky and downed it in a single gulp. Sweat began pouring out of him. How could he have forgotten so completely about it?"
Andrea Camilleri, A Voice In The Night (London, 2016), TEN, p. 143.

How indeed?

The reference to the detective's digestive apparatus is significant because Salvo Montalbano, like SM Stirling's characters, enjoys good food although I am not about to start adding his Italian menus to our food thread.

Man Or Monster?

The women isolated on the planet called "Atlantis" know of male human beings and also of intelligent non-human beings, referring to them as "Men" and "Monsters," respectively. Now they have captured a Man who must prove to them that he is not a Monster. Is this possible?

(No one would get me to ride on an orsper or, indeed, to go anywhere near one.)

Virgin Planet, Chapter II

Poul Anderson, Virgin Planet (London, 1966), Chapter II, pp. 15-19.

This chapter is rich in future historical background details:

Davis Bertram (surname first, given name second, see here);
the Coordination Service;
a facetious reference to "the Cosmic All" (there is a Cosmic religion);
the planet Nerthus, a thousand light years from Sol, on the edge of the known, recently colonized;
local Cordy headquarters in Stellamont on Nerthus;
city spires and plains beyond;
an "infomaster" (p. 16) instead of an infotrieve;
the (Stellar) Union dominated by Earth;
a dangerous "vortex" near Delta Wolf's Head;
cities, outgrown on Earth, have returned on the frontier;
colonists had disliked Terrestrial civilization (see here);
the local Cordy chief must approve stellagraphic voyages;
there are rules about how to handle primitives.

Thus, Davis Bertram flies towards the "Virgin Planet."

Barbara Whitley

Poul Anderson, Virgin Planet (London, 1966), Chapter I, p. 9.

That cover blurb summarizes the plot. However, we are rereading the opening sentence (see here) to find out how much information it imparts to a first time reader.

"Corporal": a familiar military rank.
"Maiden": a virgin or young woman but why include it with her ranks, titles etc?
"Barbara Whitley": a familiar kind of name.
"...of Freetoon": Free Town?
"...hereditary huntress": a hunting society in which such roles are hereditary?
"wing leader of the crossbow cavalry": explanatory enough.
"novice in the Mysteries": archaic Mystery religion?
"her orsper": something that she is riding.

We will be told that an "orsper" is a "horse-bird," a large domesticated flightless bird. Near the bottom of the page, Barbara is described as an "...arbalester.."

The blurb says that the planet is ruled by women. In fact, it is inhabited only by women. We have yet to be told why.

Concluding The Peregrine

Coordinator Trevelyan tells the Nomad Nicki:

"'When I told you once there was no reason for interstellar empire, I ignored one possibility because I didn't think it existed any more. Empires are a defense. If someone attacked for ideological reasons, the planets assaulted would need a tight organization to fight back.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Peregrine (New York, 1979), Chapter XVIII, p. 159.

In Anderson's second future history, the Terran Empire is a defense not against aggressive ideologues but against barbarians with spaceships and atomic weapons.

Trevelyan also says:

"'Cross-purposes are breeding which are some day going to clash - they've already done so in several cases, and it's meant annihilation.'"
-op. cit., Chapter XII, p. 105.

It would have been good to see some examples of this.

Sandra Miesel quoted "'...less a planet and a population than a dream.'" See here.

I found this phrase in The Peregrine, then lost it. Can anyone give us a chapter and page reference?

Friday, 22 September 2017

Opening Sentences

"Corporal Maiden Barbara Whitley of Freetoon, hereditary huntress, wing leader of the crossbow cavalry, and novice in the Mysteries, halted her orsper and peered through a screen of brush."
-Poul Anderson, "Virgin Planet" IN Anderson, Starship (New York, 1982), pp. 83-181 AT p. 83;
-Poul Anderson, Virgin Planet (London, 1966), Chapter I, p. 9.

"Lord Brannoch dhu Crombar, Tertiary Admiral of the Fleet, High Noble of Thor, ambassador of the League of Alpha Centauri to the Solar Technate, did not look like a dignitary of any civilized power."
-Poul Anderson, The Long Way Home (Frogmore, St Albans, Herts, 1975), Chapter Two, p.17.

"Grand Admiral Syranax hyr Urnan, hereditary Commander-in-chief of the Fleet of Drak'ho, Fisher of the Western Seas, Leader in Sacrifice, and Oracle of the Lodestar, spread his wings and brought them together again in an astonished thunderclap."
-Poul Anderson, The Man Who Counts IN Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (Riverdale, NY, 2009), pp. 337-515 AT I, p. 339;
-Poul Anderson, War Of The Wing Men (New York, 1958), I, p. 5.

"His Imperial Majesty, High Emperor Hans Friedrich Molitor, of his dynasty the first, Supreme Guardian of the Pax, Grand Director of the Stellar Council, Commander-in-chief, Final Arbiter, acknowledged supreme on more worlds and honorary head of more organizations than any man could remember, sat by himself in a room at the top of a tower."
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 339-606 AT pp. 377-378.

See also Grandiose Titles.

We discern a pattern here.

Barbara is in the Psychotechnic History;
Brannoch is in a one-off novel;
Syranax and Hans are in the Technic History.

Barbara is a novice in the Mysteries and Syranax is a sacrifice-leading Oracle whereas Brannoch and Hans have no religious functions. I was going to analyze Barbara's various ranks and titles but I think that I will leave it there for tonight!

Leaf And Stars

"Trevelyan threw off the safety webbing, and ran across the deck, two steps to the shaft and then down the beam like a dead leaf falling in England's October."
-Poul Anderson, The Peregrine (New York, 1979), Chapter XX, pp. 183-184.

This sf action scene ends with such a striking simile that it made me seek out an image of an English autumn. Trevelyan descending the gravity shaft in a space boat in the Great Cross is compared to one of these leafs.

The October Country is an evocative title by Ray Bradbury.

The Peregrine ends:

"The sky darkened around them and the stars came forth." (op. cit., p. 184)

With just a slight rephrasing, this sentence could have ended with the word "stars," like the last chapter (not the Coda) of James Blish's They Shall Have Stars (Cities In Flight, Volume I) and all three Volumes of Dante's Comedy. Stars are important even if we cannot travel to them. Imagine if all that we saw in the sky was the sun, moon and planets.

As the sky darkens and the stars appear, we are either at or very near the end of the Psychotechnic History, depending on whether we include "The Chapter Ends" in that History. I am inclined to include it.

My next projects for the blog are to reread Virgin Planet and The Snows Of Ganymede but they will have to compete with a Montalbano novel. The opening sentence of The Snows... is apposite after a reference to Dante:

"Three dead men walked across the face of hell."
-Poul Anderson, The Snows Of Ganymede (New York, 1958), Chapter 1, p. 5.

However, this is hard sf: "...dead..." and "...hell..." are metaphors. Rereading of the future history continues.

Conscious Instruments

Contending powers use conscious beings as instruments:

SMERSH sends Tatiana Romanova to entice James Bond;
the Alori send Ilaloa to entice Peregrine Thorkild Sean.

(We would say "Sean Thorkild of the Peregrine.")

Both change sides, which was always a risk for their controllers. Tatiana is one of the Bond heroines who disappears from sight as soon as her particular episode is completed whereas we do know what becomes of Ilaloa, caught in an unresolvable conflict. She helps the Nomads to escape from an Alorian planet, then jumps from the ascending space boat.

It is a remarkable achievement to create a fictional series with characters and settings recognized and valued by readers. I say this because I have just bought a new Inspector Montalbano novel with the routine opening of Salvo waking in his apartment. But, of course, the first two detective series were Dupin and Holmes. Poul Anderson, with his many fictional series, was a major successor of Conan Doyle.

As It Is

"'The world is as it is,' he said. 'We've got to live with that - not with the world as we think it should be.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Peregrine (New York, 1979), Chapter XVIII, p. 162.

This is only half the truth, like "The bottle is half empty." Human beings have changed this world, Earth, with hands and brains and can change more than Earth. But we can't change everything. One of the things that has to be accepted is that people do change things, changing themselves in the process. Another is that there are basic laws that we can learn but not alter.

In Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, and probably elsewhere, there is a prayer for courage to change what can be changed, patience to accept what cannot be changed and wisdom to tell the difference. Another good aphorism is "Pessimism of the intellect; optimism of the will." Whatever our condition, there is always something that can be done.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Cosmic Conflicts

Cosmic conflicts in Poul Anderson's works:

Chaos versus Law (see here);
control versus freedom;
Freeholders versus the Terran Empire (see here);
Avalon versus the Terran Empire;
Alori versus the Stellar Union;
Wardens versus Rangers (see here);
AI versus humanity (see here).

Other examples?
Is it always the same conflict?
Is the dividing line always drawn in the same place?
Are the heroes always on the same side?

In Anderson's conflicts, basic philosophical issues are always at stake.


Pan, a Greek myth, referenced in English literature, is carried forward into Poul Anderson's first two future history series.

In the Psychotechnic History, on a paradisal planet in the Great Cross:

"Ilaloa danced before her companions, laughing aloud, wild with the sudden joy of release. Like a wood nymph, thought Trevelyan - and any moment Pan might come piping from the brush."
-Poul Anderson, The Peregrine (New York, 1979), Chapter XV, pp. 133-134.

Is Pan present? Yes. In the mind of Trevelyan, where all gods are. The One imagines that It is us and we imagine the gods so They are in us and we are in It.

In the Technic History, Flandry summarizes and Aycharaych quotes an English poem about Pan. See here. Aycharaych claims the role of Pan - to make beauty through suffering.


A conversation in Poul Anderson, The Peregrine (New York, 1979), Chapter XIV, pp. 127-128, reminds us of two earlier installments of Anderson's Psychotechnic History but in different ways.

First, Trevelyan reflects on:

"The ancient war...the immemorial struggle of intelligence to master itself." (p. 127)

This recalls "the old and protean enemy."

Secondly, Trevelyan says that, when he needs an assistant, it is another Coordinator, usually "' otherling.'" (p. 128) This is the basis of "The Pirate," written later but set earlier. See here.

For another story written later, set earlier and based on a conversation in a spaceship, see here.

Poul Anderson's Reasons For Abandoning The Psychotechnic History

Poul Anderson, Author's Note IN Anderson, The Psychotechnic League (New York, 1981), pp. 283-285.

The real world had diverged:

World War III has not happened yet;
important scientific discoveries and technological advances have happened;
people, institutions and Anderson's view of them had changed.

So why republish the series?

It still entertains, like the works of Rider Haggard and ERB;
it may evoke pleasant memories for older readers;
it will be new to younger readers;
it may be helpful to scholars of sf.

It does and is.

"Any Hyperdrive Ship"

The Nomads view an alien spaceship:

"It had the elongated shape necessary to any hyperdrive ship, where field generators must be mounted fore and aft. But it was no vessel of man's building. The cylinder was beveled into flat planes; the stern bulged, and the nose held a spear-shaped mast of some kind. Its metal was a coppery alloy, flaming ruddy in the harsh sunlight, and they could see that the hull was patched and pitted - old."
-Poul Anderson, The Peregrine (New York, 1979), Chapter XIV, p. 123.

Sf fans have been reading about hyperdrive spacecraft all our lives but did we know that any hyperdrive ship must be elongated with field generators at each end? No but Poul Anderson makes us believe this. We view the alien craft through the eyes of a Nomad crew and one Cordy.

I have already discussed hyperspace in the Psychotechnic History and another (humorous) kind of elongated spaceship here.

Extraterrestrial Life

(The woman on this cover is extraterrestrial.)

Erulani soldiers:

deep amber-yellow skin;
flat Mongoloid faces;
four-fingered hands;
large, pointed ears;
a single straight black eyebrow;
oblique felinoid eyes;
slit-purpled, smoky-red, unwinking irises;
long blue tunics;
legginged breeches;
beryllium-copper chain mail;
spiked helmets;
curved swords worn on the right.
(The Peregrine, Chapter IX, p. 76)

We are told that:

"The eyes were the least human feature..." (ibid.)

But the assumption is made that there are eyes, that there are two of them etc. All of this is very anthropomorphic.

"' vegetables from an E-planet would help morale until we get our own tanks producing again.'" (Chapter XIII, p. 119)

The universe would be a very hospitable place if it were such an easy matter for an FTL spaceship to find Earth-type planets growing edible green vegetables. Later Anderson future histories make the opposite assumption: STL explorers find very little life.

Witchcraft And Pathetic Fallacy

When the Nomad spaceship, the Peregrine, hits a trepidation vortex and is in danger of being torn apart, there is internal weather and ball lightning in the ship's park where Abbey Roberto tries to kill Ilaloa, blaming her for the danger and calling her a witch. He is right. Or, at least, Ilaloa's people have been responsible for the course taken by the Peregrine.

Sean, seeing red, defends Ilaloa:

"Sean stabbed [Roberto].
"The lightning ball exploded, thunder and fury and a rain of fire. Its glare was livid over the trembling, staggering walls."
-The Peregrine, Chapter XIII, p. 113.

The thunder, fury and livid glare of the lightning exactly correspond to Roberto's livid fury and Sean's answering anger. Poul Anderson follows Sean's stabbing of Roberto with exploding ball lightning as naturally as he follows it with a full stop to complete the sentence.

A Trepidation Vortex

Having just reread to the point in Poul Anderson's Star Ways/The Peregrine where the Nomad spaceship, the Peregrine, is hit by a "trepidation vortex," I search the blog for data about such vortices and find a wealth of information. See Trepidation Vortices. Also relevant are Star Ship, Lost Starships and The First Nomads.

Poul Anderson was right to move on to other future histories. However, the Psychotechnic History with its nineteen (or twenty) installments, including three novels, remains a substantial future history series and a major part of its author's complete works.

Star Ways

Poul Anderson's novel, The Peregrine, published over twenty years before Star Wars, was originally called Star Ways, an appropriate and  resonant title. Something else in this novel sounds familiar:

a spaceship captain sits on his bridge, waiting for his communications officer to contact the planet around which they are in orbit;

an exotically garbed figure speaks from the screen;

invited to the surface, the captain leaves his First Mate in command and descends with a few other officers.

Everything that was done in Star Trek had already been done better in "spaceship stories" by Poul Anderson, James Blish and other authors of prose sf.

The Peregrine is the name of this particular Nomad ship. Thus, this title is the equivalent of calling a Star Trek episode The Enterprise. Somewhere else on the blog, I have already compared the main theme of The Peregrine to a particular Star Trek episode and another comparison of this novel with that TV series is here.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017


When Sean suggests that Ilaloa's people, the Lorinyans, may be telepaths, his captain reflects that:

"Neurosensitivity in any degree was not a gift to be despised."
-Poul Anderson, The Peregrine (New York, 1979), Chapter V, p. 35.

"Neurosensitivity," sensitivity to neural radiation, sounds right as a scientific term for "telepathy."

When Trevelyan meets Ilaloa, he reflects that she is:

"...the Lorinyan girl whom Nicki had mentioned." (Chapter VIII, p. 63)

However, Nicki had not mentioned any Lorinyan girl when she met Trevelyan at the end of Chapter VII. Maybe this had been in one of the passages that were cut out before the original publication of the novel?

Ilaloa tells Trevelyan that she can "flow" or "tell" the thoughts of animals but not of human beings and he replies that this is because, although she can sense emissions, each human being has a characteristic pattern. Ilaloa agrees. The peculiar talent of Aycharaych in the Technic History is precisely that he can read those individual patterns.

However, Ilaloa had known without being told that the Peregrine was going to the Great Cross. Thus, she has been able to glean some information. The Nomads and Trevelyan are investigating the possibility of a hostile, secretive civilization in the Great Cross. They need to be alert and suspicious.

Cliches And Conventions

There are three sf cliches or conventions in this passage:

"The Peregrine slid from Nerthus and its star until she was in a sufficiently weak gravitational field, then the alarm bells warned crewmen to their posts. The indescribable twisting sensation of hyperdrive fields building up went through human bodies and faded, and the steady thrum of energy pulses filled the ship. Her psuedo-velocity grew rapidly toward maximum, and Carsten's Star dwindled in the rear-view screens and was lost among the constellations."
-Poul Anderson. The Peregrine (New York, 1979), Chapter VIII, p. 57.

(i) Often in sf, a ship has to get out of a deep gravity well before it can go FTL. See Two Novels. I think that Larry Niven questioned the basis of this idea later in the Known Space future history.

(ii) Sometimes, hyperdrive causes bodily sensations. Why would this happen?

(iii) If the Peregrine really is leaving Carsten's Star much faster than light, then why is its speed described as a mere "psuedo-velocity"? Because the convention is that the ship does not contradict Einstein by traversing ordinary relativistic space at a super-liminal speed. It has to be in some other mode/state/kind of space etc. Poul Anderson devises half a dozen ingenious rationales for FTL instead of always falling back on the unexplained cliche of "hyperspace."


What do you identify yourself as? American? British? Something else? Personally, I do not call myself British. I just say that I was born and live in the North West of England and have a British passport although my parentage could equally have entitled me to an Irish one.

Now imagine that some human beings have been living elsewhere in the galaxy for a very long time and that, when you travel there, you are identified as - a Solman! (Or Solwoman.) That is what happens in Poul Anderson's The Peregrine.

Peregrine Thorkild Sean is responsible for bringing both an Alorian and a Cordy onto the Peregrine. Is it just coincidence that both the Cordy Trevelyan and the Peregrine are investigating a possible threat to humanity and that the Peregrine is the Nomad ship that Trevelyan deliberately gets himself shanghaied onto? I am not going to find the answer at this time of night.

My night time prayer or invocation, if anyone wants to share it, is:

"From delusion, lead us to truth;
"From darkness, lead us to light." (three times)

I adapted it from an Upanishad. In the morning, I say:

"We meditate on the lovely light of the god, Savitri; may it stimulate our thoughts."

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Alternative Animals

I hope soon to have access to The Complete Psychotechnic League (see here) and thus to read for the very first time the account of the colonization of Nerthus where it was not initially recognized that there were intelligent inhabitants. In The Peregrine, we read that the native Nerthusians are:


Maybe they stood still with closed eyes and were mistaken for trees?

They resemble ERB's green Martians with a touch of Bradbury's "Dark They Were And Golden-Eyed." They also use six-legged "ponies" (Chapter VI, p. 41) which, especially if they are also green, resemble ERB's thoats and Anderson's stathas.

Maybe animal species proliferate between timelines?

Connections Between The Psychotechnic History And "The Chapter Ends"

(i) The Stellar Union frontier is at Sagittarius whereas Galactic Civilization, having moved away from the galactic periphery, is beyond Sagittarius.

(ii) Stellar Union colonists scatter across a planet and dwell far apart but are not isolated because of their telescreens and gravity fliers. This is how Jorun lives on Fulkhis in the Galactic Civilization (see here) except that he no longer needs a device for flying.

(iii) Both the Stellar Union and Galactic Civilization use computers called "integrators."

(iv) The Planetary Engineers had preserved some psychotechnic training, some Stellar Union Coordinators joined the Nomads who transmitted knowledge into the Galactic period and there are psychotechnicians in Galactic Civilization.

Synthesis And Wholeness

It is impossible to read or even to reread a text by Poul Anderson without finding a wealth of apparently new material on which to comment.

Trevelyan Micah refers to:

"...the synthesizing world-view of modern philosophy..."
-Poul Anderson, The Peregrine (New York, 1979), Chapter IV, p. 26.

If Stellar Union philosophy is "synthesizing," then it is not merely analytical although here it is characterized as such and is even contrasted with the Alorian wholeness-principle. I suggested here that Terrestrial Hegelian philosophy encompasses "wholeness."

Trevelyan's "...body [is] compact and balanced with the training of modern education." (p. 27)

Thus, Stellar Union education is holistic, not merely intellectual.

Two Background Details

Poul Anderson, Virgin Planet (London, 1966), Author's Note, pp. 150-156.

"...the philosophical pantheism of Cosmos..." (p. 151)

"...phase velocity..." (p. 150) explains FTL travel as, in James Blish's "Beep"/The Quincunx Of Time, it explains FTL communication.

"...discontinuous psi functions..." (ibid.) are also involved in FTL and we are told elsewhere that "...infinitely discontinuous functions..." (Time Patrol, p. 9) are involved both in instantaneous transportation and in travel to the past.

James Blish and the Time Patrol are frequent sources of comparisons when discussing Poul Anderson's future histories.

The Peregrine/Star Ways Revisited

"The planet grows as the ships strain closer; it becomes a sapphire shield banded with clouds, blurred with rain and mountain mists."
-Poul Anderson, The Peregrine (New York, 1979), Chapter I, p. 1.

This description of Rendezvous reminds us of a description of Earth quoted here.

"'In the name of Cosmos, rendezvous,' he began formally." (Chapter II, p. 7)

Again, "Cosmos." See here and here. I do not think that we are told any details of the Cosmic religion but this is something to look out for while rereading Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History.

The Peregrine

Having just reread the Psychotechnic History short story, "The Pirate," about the Stellar Union Coordinator, Trevelyan Micah, I will now reread the Psychotechnic History novel, The Peregrine, about Trevelyan. However, I have already posted a great deal about this novel (see here) and will avoid repetition so it remains to be learned how much more there is to be said - and it will not be said tonight.

If we reject "The Chapter Ends" as a (concluding) episode of Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History, then The Peregrine is the conclusion and, in that case, Anderson's texts tell us nothing about any "Third Dark Ages."

Another Realization And More Gravanol

Poul Anderson, "Brake" IN Anderson, Cold Victory (New York, 1982), pp. 225-283.

Captain Banning swears "'Per Jovem,'" (p. 263), then stiffens, then repeats, in English, "'By Jupiter... Well, by Jupiter!'" (ibid.)

The stiffening is a definite warning that here is yet another Anderson moment of realization. Sure enough, sufficiently lightened, Banning's large and spherical but damaged spaceship will be able to float in the Jovian atmosphere until rescue ships arrive.

In Jovian gravity:

"...gravanol injections would prevent physiological damage." (p. 281)

Thus, gravanol exists in the first two of Anderson's future histories.

Banning's crew consults a radaltimeter. (p. 282) Their floating spaceship is compared to " old drop in a densitometer..." (. 283) Bloggers would be lost without Wikipedia.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Some Phrases And References In "The Pirate"

To continue a theme from the previous post, the original publication dates for the three works mentioned were:

"The Pirate" (1968);
The Peregrine (1956);
"The Chapter Ends" (1953).

Thus, the order of composition and publication was the reverse of the order of fictional events.

There can be a delay between writing and publication: more than three years in the case of Star Ways/The Peregrine, according to Poul Anderson's Introduction. Once, I told a British sf writer, Bob Shaw, "I've read your new novel. I wasn't as sold on it as on the others." He replied, "Neither was I." He then explained that his publisher, Gollancz, expected a new novel from him every year. This year, he did not have a new one so he gave them a manuscript that he had held back for a few years. To at least one reader, this text obviously belonged to an earlier stage of its author's career. This also happens when we read a series that was not written in the chronological order of fictitious events.

In "The Pirate," Trevelyan thinks:

"...Cosmos knew..."
-Poul Anderson, "The Pirate" IN Anderson, Starship (New York, 1982), pp. 211-251 AT p. 240.

The Chronology tells us that the Cosmic religion began in 2130 but how much do we know about it?

The two spaceships in the story are called the Campesino and the Genji. (p. 219)

"The planet filled half the sky with clouds, seas, sunrises and sunsets..." (p. 233)

On a planetary surface, sunrise and sunset are times of day whereas, from space, they are places.

A mother protecting her child:

"...was driven by the instinct of Niobe." (p. 238)

In the Technic History, the planet Merseia is shielded from supernova radiation whereas, in the Psychotechnic History, an entire planetary population has been killed. When Trevelyan finds an ossuary, he realizes that this is a building in which many of the dwellers, already dying from radiation sickness, had preferred to be killed by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Trevelyan thinks:

"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; I will not bless the name of the Lord." (p. 239) See here.

Murdoch threatens Trevelyan with "'...a cyclic blast..." (p. 239)

At the Time Patrol Academy, Manse Everard learns:

"...the tricks and the weapons of fifty thousand years, all the way from a Bronze Age rapier to a cyclic blast which could eliminate half a continent." (Time Patrol, p. 12)

"'...the planet is such an archaeological and biological Golconda..." (p. 243)

The supernova was of Type II. (p. 224)

When Smokesmith comments that sentient beings are unlikely to be alive on the irradiated planet, Trevelyan says:

"'True.But if dead -'
"Trevelyan stopped." (p. 231)

Then, after looking long at the planet:

"'We're going in...'" (ibid.)

The unfinished sentence and the sudden stop alert the reader to an Andersonian moment of realization. Trevelyan has just realized what might be happening on the planet.

Trevelyan, a Stellar Union Coordinator, reflects:

"We are scattered so thinly, we who guard the great Pact." (p. 230)

How often does Manse Everard say that about the Time Patrol?

And who is the narrator of "The Pirate" who (kind of) preaches at the very end of the story?

Writing A Future History

An sf author may continue to add new instalments to a future history series throughout his career. Further, the order of writing and publication need not correspond to the chronological order of fictional events although we prefer to read the series in the latter order. Thus, we pass back and forth between earlier and later phases of the author's development as a writer. Thus, further, the series is not written in a uniform or homogeneous style and therefore reads more like a real history. We learn to distinguish between earlier and later fictional events and also between earlier and later accounts of such events.

In Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History, the later written "The Pirate" is followed by the earlier written The Peregrine and "The Chapter Ends" and these three works complete the History. We read about:

a Stellar Union Coordinator;
that Coordinator joining the interstellar Nomads;
a post-Nomads Galactic civilization.

Important events occur first within a single lifetime, then many thousands of years later. Thus, a future history is constructed. "The Pirate" adds an imaginative non-humanoid alien, the information that the hyperdrive is also called the tachyon mode and this History's equivalent of the hypnoprobe, called electronic brainphasing.

Something Banning Says

Too Many Fight Scenes
More Fight Scenes En Route To Jupiter
Continuing "Brake"
The Politics Behind All The Fighting
Back To The Fighting
The End Of The Fighting

These six posts are my attempt to make sense of an interminable fight sequence in Poul Anderson's "Brake." In spite of this summary, I still do not understand why Banning says on p. 252 that Gomez might try to break out Vladimirovitch. Surely the latter is one of the men with Banning? 


Space travel, and therefore also sf about space travel, divides into:

STL = slower than light;
FTL = faster than light.

(I think that Ursula Le Guin has NAFAL = nearly as fast as light, which would be useful.)

Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization has one STL story, added later, and 42 FTL installments whereas his earlier Psychotechnic History has eleven STL and nine FTL.

In the incomplete TOR collection of the Psychotechnic History, STL corresponds to Volumes I-II and FTL is Vol III.

The STL period is from the aftermath of World War III to the beginning of the slide into the Second Dark Ages whereas the FTL period is from the founding of the Nomads to the evacuation of Earth in the Galactic period.


Galactic Civilization

For thousands of years, human beings have known how to control the great basic cosmic forces with a small amount of energy;
by artificial mutation, they have grown a part of the brain that can generate such controlling forces, enabling them to fly between stars;
human beings and their allies have migrated to the great clusters of the Galactic center, leaving the periphery to the inhabitants of gas giants;
the periphery includes the Sirius Sector which includes the Solar System;
that Sector has in any case been isolated and backward since the First Empire fell fifty thousand years previously;
that Empire, anachronistically, had slaves and was sacked by barbarians;
some planetary skies have been made luminous;
few planets still have cities;
individuals each controlling cosmic energies can live far apart;
Jorun's planet, Fulkhis, has hills, tundras, moors, great seas and dark nights;
he cannot see any other dwellings from his own;
other planets include the oceanic Loa with its many islands and Yunith which does retain soaring cities;
human beings have been artificially adapted to many planets and some would no longer be comfortable on Earth, which is evacuated.

Later Than We Think

Sandra Miesel's Foreword to Poul Anderson's Cold Victory (Psychotechnic History Vol II) is written from the standpoint of a society that takes psychodynamics and hyperlight physics for granted. This makes us think that the Psychotechnic Institute will succeed and that Miesel's narrator lives perhaps in a period like that of the Stellar Union. Instead, the Institute will be outlawed in Vol II and Miesel's narrator turns out to live thousands of years later in the Galactic Civilization when human beings have changed fundamentally.

For ways to fit "The Chapter Ends" into the Psychotechnic History, see:

Chronological Questions II
The Galactic Synthesis Of Human Psychodynamics With Interstellar Coordination (here)

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Earth Seen From Space

Poul Anderson, "The Chapter Ends" IN Anderson, Starship (New York, 1982), pp. 253-281 AT pp. 256-257.

Jorun sees Earth from space:

"It was blue as it turned before his eyes, a burnished turquoise shield blazoned with the living green and brown of its lands, and the poles were crowned with a glimmering haze of aurora. The belts that streaked its face and blurred the continents were cloud, wind and water and the gray rush of rain, like a benediction from heaven." (pp. 256-257)

Can Jorun see Earth turning? I count four colors: blue/turquoise; green; brown; gray - plus the colors of the aurora. Jorun sees not only the planet but also its weather and other atmospheric phenomena.

"Beyond the planet hung its moon, a scarred golden crescent, and he had wondered how many generations of men had looked up to it, or watched its light like a broken bridge across moving waters." (p. 257)

Has the Moon been compared to a bridge before? After this brief visit by Jorun and his colleagues, mankind will leave the Solar System and the galactic periphery forever. Thus, this is very nearly a last farewell. It reminds us of a similar farewell in Anderson's "Flight to Forever." When the Moon has fallen to Earth and Earth now turns one face to the sun, a time traveler thinks:

"So good-by, Sol... Good-by, and thank you for many million years of warmth and light. Sleep well, old friend."
-Poul Anderson, "Flight to Forever" IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 207-288 AT p. 284.

"Against the enormous cold of the sky - utter black out to the distant coils of the nebulae, thronging with a million frosty points of diamond-hard blaze that were the stars - Earth had stood as a sign of haven." (p. 257)

We have to remember that Jorun has just flown across thirty thousand light years without a spaceship. Imagine swimming (somehow) across the Atlantic and seeing land. Of course the original home planet of mankind looks like a haven.

"To Jorun, who came from Galactic center and its uncountable host of suns, heaven was bare, this was the outer fringe where the stars thinned away toward hideous immensity." (ibid.)

Of course, apparently empty space is really full of unperceived electromagnetic and gravitational energy. CS Lewis' Ransom Trilogy replaces the conventional idea of cold, empty space with the semi-theological concept of "Deep Heaven," full of life-giving energy, whereas the scientific reality is that cosmic radiation is omnipresent but lethal:

Ransom en route to Mars experiences space as filled with a life-giving radiance whereas Haertel on the same journey knows that cosmic radiation is lethal.
-copied from here

"He had shivered a little, drawn the envelope of air and warmth closer about him, with a convulsive movement. The silence drummed in his head." (ibid.)

Two more sensations: shivering and silence.

"Then he streaked for the north-pole rendezvous of his group." (ibid.)

We commented on Jorun's self-propelled flight here.

Super Powers

Superheroes is a hybrid genre, combining elements of sf, fantasy and action-adventure.
-copied from here

However, superheroes began in sf because Superman was the first superhero and his origin was extraterrestrial, not magical or supernatural. 

I mention this because there is a scene straight of Superman in Poul Anderson's "The Chapter Ends." The psychotechnician Jorun:

has flown thirty thousand light years through space in ten days by controlling cosmic forces with his own brain;
holds an envelope of air and heat around him while hanging in space, looking at Earth;
then streaks down to the North Pole.

Does he "streak" horizontally, like Superman?

Jorun is nearly a thousand years old and can will negative emotions out of his trained nervous system. That alone might be enough to qualify him as a "superman." 

These powers do not require a change of form, as discussed here. See also Getting Superman Right here.

The Human Form II

See The Human Form.

There has indeed been artificial adaptation of human beings to diverse planetary environments in the far future of "The Chapter Ends":

" had changed; over the thousands of years, natural and controlled adaptation had fitted him to the worlds he had colonized, and most of his many races could not now feel at home [on Earth]."
-Poul Anderson, "The Chapter Ends" IN Anderson, Starship (New York, 1982), pp. 253-281 AT p. 258.

In The Seedling Stars by James Blish, "Adapted Men" colonize thousands of extrasolar planets, thus enormously increasing the possibility that human beings will become masters of the galaxy. At the same time, a basic continuity of form is maintained because total bodily transformation would mean total mental transformation. A man given the form of a cockroach would think like a cockroach. He would be "Adapted" but not a "Man." Jovoid planets are left to other races, reminding us of the Hulduvians in "The Chapter Ends" and the Ymirites in Anderson's Technic History.

In "Watershed," the culminating story of Blish's pantropy future history, a spaceship from a civilized part of the galaxy visits the ancient Earth which has changed so much that it is no longer habitable by the original human form. In "The Chapter Ends," presented as the culmination of Anderson's Psychotechnic History, Galactic psychotechnicians evacuate the peasant population from Earth so that the Hulduvians will have unlimited access to the cosmic forces at the galactic periphery. Thus, there are some parallels between these two stories.

There are problems with regarding "The Chapter Ends" as an instalment of the Psychotechnic History. See Chronological Questions and Fifty Thousand Years. However, I like the idea that the Nomads provided continuity, including some knowledge of psychotechnics, through the Third Dark Ages which could have included interstellar empires.

The Human Form

The psychotechnician Jorun says that his ancestors had lived on the planet Fulkhis for ages and had changed to meet its conditions, further that not a single atom in his own body had originated on Earth before he landed on it. The Terrestrial peasant Kormt replies that it is the form, not the atoms, that matter and that Jorun's form came from Earth. (In fact, Aristotle thought that the soul was the form of the body. See here.)

However, surely changing to meet conditions on Fulkhis involves changing the human form? This will happen even if people are not artificially adapted to other planetary environments as happens in works by Olaf Stapledon and James Blish.

"'...what price the old arguments about sovereignty of form?'"
-James Blish, The Seedling Stars (London, 1972), Book Four, "Watershed," p. 185.

"' was also a very old idea on the Earth that basic humanity inheres in the mind, not in the form.'"
-op. cit., p. 191.

Recently, we have quoted Blish's Cities In Flight here, a story in his "Haertel Scholium" here and now his The Seedling Stars in the current post. These are Blish's three bodies of future historical writing.

Sensing And Dreaming

OK. Poul Anderson describes a town on the quiet, backward planet Earth in a remote future. (pp. 254-255 - see here.) We look out for at least three senses and anything else of interest:

houses are low, white, half-timbered;
roofs are thatched or red tiled;
smoke rises from their chimneys;
narrow, cobbled streets twist crazily;
carved galleries overhang them;
beyond the houses are trees and the ruined walls of Sol City;
fields and orchards slope towards the distant, glittering sea;
there are farm buildings, cattle, winding gravel roads and ancient marble and granite walls;
all of this is described as "...dreaming under the sun." (p. 255)

wooden clogs;
shouting, playing children.

pungent air;
leaf mold;
plowed earth baking in the warmth;
summery trees and gardens;
distant salt, kelp and fish;
the distinctive odor of this planet, richer than any other.

Did an interstellar civilization have the anachronism of a walled city?
Does a landscape "dream"? See here.

Earth Is In Our Blood

In "The Chapter Ends" by Poul Anderson, Earth is being evacuated but a peasant refuses to leave, claiming that Earth is:

"' [man's] blood and bones and soul; he will carry Earth with him forever.'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Chapter Ends" IN Anderson, Starship (New York, 1982), pp. 253-281 AT p. 254.

In "Nor Iron Bars" by James Blish, the planetary explorer, Daryon Hammersmith, explains that:

the Sun is a variable star;
one of its subordinate cycles lasts 212 days and is reflected in the human pulse rate.

Second officer Oestreicher deduces:

"'...this means that we can never be lost! Not so long as the Sun is detectable at all, whether we can identify it or not! We're carrying the only beacon we need right in our blood!'"
-James Blish, "Nor Iron Bars" IN Blish, Galactic Cluster (London, 1963), pp. 61-92 AT 4, p. 90.

So Anderson's peasant is right about that but not about the need to stay on Earth forever.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

"Less A Planet And A Population Than A Dream"

How will Earth seem to hypothetical future generations living hundreds or thousands of light years away in space?

"...Earth's farflung children had all but forgotten her. The cradle-world had become 'less a planet and a population than a dream.'"
-Sandra Miesel, interstitial passage IN Poul Anderson, Starship (New York, 1982), p. 252.

"They still named [Old Earth] Home, but she lay in the spiral arm behind this one, and Laure had never seen her. He had never met anyone who had. None of his ancestors had, for longer than their family chronicles ran. Home was a half-remembered myth; reality was here, these stars on the fringes of this civilization."
-Poul Anderson, "Starfog" IN Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 709-794 AT p. 713.

"There were many corners of the galaxy which knew Earth only as a legend, a green myth floating unknown thousands of parsecs away in space, known and ineluctable thousands of years away in history.
"-Acreff-Monales: The Milky Way: Five Cultural Portraits."
-James Blish, Earthman, Come Home, PROLOGUE, IN Blish, Cities In Flight (London, 1981), pp. 237-241 AT p. 241.

"'Earth isn't a place. It's an idea.'"
Blish, op. cit., CHAPTER NINE, pp. 447-465 AT p. 465.