Monday, 16 January 2017

How Spacemen Walk

We have been comparing future histories. Shortly, I will compare passages in Poul Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984) and Robert Heinlein's Double Star (New York, 1957). The latter work is neither a future history nor a volume of one. However, every futuristic sf novel is potentially a volume of a future history. First, the text implies a history connecting its publication date to the date of its fictional events. Secondly, prequels, sequels and side-bars are always possible.


Tales is a one-volume future history;
The Earth Book Of Stormgate is one volume of Anderson's History of Technic Civilization;
Double Star is a volume of a future history that has not been written.

Double Star has an interplanetary Holy Roman Empire whereas the Technic History has an interstellar Terran Empire;
the Holy Roman Empire has a Parliament whereas the Terran Empire is ruled by Imperial decree;
Double Star has native Martians whereas the Technic History has extra-solar colonists of Mars.

In Tales, Mike Blades hangs upside down from an asteroid, held by grip-soled boots. Then he:

"...stepped off toward the nearest entry lock with that flowing spaceman's pace which always keeps one foot on the ground." (p. 48)

In Double Star, an actor demonstrates first a ground hog's walk, then a spaceman's walk. In the latter:

"...feet sliding softly along the floor as if it were deck plates, weight carried forward and balanced from the hips, hands a trifle forward and clear of the body, ready to grasp." (p. 6)

Addendum: For a correction, see Comments.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    It's been a long time since I last read Heinlein's DOUBLE STAR, but it impressed me as being definitely one of his better adult SF books. As was most of his stuff written before STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND.

    Is the empire in DOUBLE STAR really called the "Holy Roman Empire"? If so, I'm astonished!

    I do recall the empire in DOUBLE STAR is a constitutional monarchy with with a PM holding most of the real power.

    I wish we knew more about the political systems of Anderson's Terran Empire. Yes, the formal powers of the Emperor was well nigh absolute in theory, but still hedged about with subtle but real restraints. And one of those restraints being how the many worlds of the Empire was mostly autonomous in their internal affairs. Plus, we see mention of how many human planets had legislatures and parliaments of their own (see Aeneas and Dennitza, for example).


    1. Sean and Paul:
      In *Double Star*, one of the Emperor's titles is "Knight Commander of the Holy Roman Empire," but I'm not sure that means that his interplanetary empire is considered the "Holy Roman Empire" — if it were, I would expect that to be the either the very first title or the culmination. Instead, that's tucked in the middle, and we finish up with "Emperor of the Planets and the Spaces Between."

      For that matter, note that he's NOT called "Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire."

      Incidentally, there's a lovely touch in the ceremonial in *Double Star*:
      "I did not kneel; nobles must kneel but commoners share sovereignty with the Sovereign."

    2. Kaor, DAVID!

      Then I was right to be unsure about what the empire in DOUBLE STAR was called: it was called the "Empire of the Planets and the Spaces Between."

      The bit about the Emperor also being "Knight Commander of the Holy Roman Empire" might be something associated with the House of Orange, from the time they held ancestral fiefs in that former empire.

      And I like what you said about some of the ceremonial used in the Empire of the Planets! I have no objection per se to APPROPRIATE "pomp and ceremony" when done in good taste. And the bit you mentioned also makes a telling point about the political philosophy of DOUBLE STAR. One of my articles, "Andersonian Themes and Tropes," also discussed ceremonial.


    3. Sean:
      I would think that, for all but the ceremonial occasions, it was simply "The Empire" — because there is no other in the Solar System.

      Willem's titles also included "Duke of Nassau" and "Grand Duke of Luxembourg," so I'm almost sure you're correct about the "Knight Commander" part.

    4. Kaor, DAVID!

      I agree, and a real world example would be how the United States of America is often simply called "America" for short.

      I would need to check, but I'm sure the old duchy of Nassau was one of the member states of the Holy Roman Empire. And I know the still existing Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and Principality of Lichtenstein are surviving fragments of that empire.


    5. Kaor, DAVID!

      I did check, and I was in error. The Duchy of Nassau was not a member state of the Holy Roman Empire. Rather, under pressure from Napoleon (who seemed to have had an active DISLIKE for small states), the former counties of Nassau were merged in 1806 to create the Duchy of Nassau. This state survived till it was seized and annexed by Prussia after the Austro/Prussian War.