Thursday, 12 January 2017

Service In Space And The Anderson Challenge

Let us analyze two recent posts. Here, I published a link to a photo of myself impersonating a fictional butler: not relevant to Poul Anderson but possibly of interest. Sean M Brooks commented, quoting from Poul Anderson's Tales Of the Flying Mountains. This inspired me here to post about Flying Mountains and another of Anderson's works. Sean commented, quoting from an article by Anderson on space exploration. Thus, we have gone from domestic service to the space program and, in both cases, something interesting has been written by Anderson.

The Anderson challenge: one person suggests a topic; another finds a relevant quotation from Anderson's works. It will be found that entertaining fiction by Poul Anderson contains significant statements on most (or all?) important issues. Our roles are to enjoy and think - not just enjoy. Here are three issues of just three letters each: God, sex and war!

Addendum: And, of course, Zen!


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I have to get ready for work but I will comment when I have more time.


  2. Kaor, Paul!

    For a self avowed agnostic Poul Anderson wrote surprisingly often about God and religion--and took such questions seriously, treating honest believers with respect. One example I thought of was the very last paragraph of OPERATION CHAOS, Steven Matuchek speaking, as he reflected on the adventures narrated by him in that book: "Looking back, I often can't believe it happened; that this was done by a red-haired witch, a bobtailed werewolf, and a snooty black tom cat. Then I remember it's the Adversary who is humorless. I'm sure God likes to laugh."

    The idea that God likes to laugh, and has a sense of humor will, I'm sure, strike some as being odd. However, I can argue such notions can be Scripturally justified using the Book of Jonah. That midrash shows us God having a sense of in both His treatment of Jonah and the way humor was used to make serious points.

    As for sex Poul Anderson was always careful to avoid either prudishness or pornographic excess. That is, many of the characters in his works had sexual intercourse, but Anderson never thought it necessary or desirable to give detailed accounts.

    Also, readers will notice how strongly Anderson detested crimes like rape or child abuse. In volume 2 of THE KING OF YS (co-authored with Karen Anderson), GALLICENAE, Sections 2 and 3 of Chapter X, we see how the "Sign" came upon Semuramat, daughter of Queen Bodilis (by King Hoel). The then King of Ys, Gratillonius, was outraged because the gods of Ys had done this to humble him and force him to either violate his Mithraic faith by lying with both mother and daughter or compel him to basically separate from Bodilis. Also, Gratillonius was angry at the "gods" because Semuramat/Tambilis was so young, barely 13, that sex with her would be abuse of a child.

    In Section 4 of the same chapter of GALLICENAI, unable to avoid the "marriage" and its consummation with Tambilis (due to the power of Taranis overwhelming him), we see Gratillonius having intercourse with her as carefully and gently as possible: "He led her to the bed, drew blankets aside, guided her down, joined her, pulled the covers over them both. She shivered in his clasp. He stood on the wall against the Bull, while he murmured and stroked and kissed. Finally, of course, he must take her. He WAS gentle. That much victory did he win over the Gods."

    And issues relating to war and peace can be found in many of the works of Poul Anderson. The longest and most detailed discussion he made of war being found in his book THERMONUCLEAR WARFARE. But the preface Anderson wrote for SEVEN CONQUESTS gives a good overview of his thought on these matters.

    Our subject is human conflict leading to
    institutionalized violence. The key word is
    "institutionalized." Societies have generally
    found ways to keep murder, battery, rape, and
    riot within some bounds. When they fail to do
    so, throughout history it has been a symptom
    of their breakdown; they are soon replaced by
    new systems or whole new cultures virile enough
    to guarantee the ordinary peaceful person a
    measure of security in his daily life. But no
    government thus far has established a similar
    protection against war: for this is a proceeding
    of society itself.
    The prayers, prophecies, denunciations, pleas,
    studies, conferences, and political restructurings
    of several thousand years have not done away with
    war. Our generation is unlikely to get further with
    its noisy peace parades and its mealy mouthed obser-
    vation of United Nations Day. The violence of the
    state remains legitimatized, and often glorified,
    because it serves the ends of the state. And these
    ends are not always evil; ask anyone whom Allied
    forces liberated from Nazi concentration camps. Such
    considerations demonstrate the fallacy of pacifism.

    I could go on, but this is more than enough to show how seriously PA took questions of war and peace.


    1. Sean,
      Everard's preparedness to have sex with two very different women is crucial to the plot of "Ivory, And Apes, And Peacocks."

    2. Kaor, Paul!

      Yes, but Sarai and Bronwen were both adult women. Everard having sex with them simply did not have the same power and drama as we see with Gratillonius and Tambilis (with him trying to oppose the cruel demands of the Ysan gods).