Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Factual And Fictional Futures

We remember past experiences and perceive our immediate present but do not know our personal futures. The Greeks imagined Fates and the Norse imagined norns who did foreknow every detail of what was going to happen, including the precise circumstances of everyone's death.

We have a partly norn-like relationship to fictional characters. We expect the hero of a series to survive at least until the concluding episode and the same goes for most of his supporting characters - although writers of series have found ways to play tricks with readers' or viewers' expectations.

There are several Dominic Flandry volumes. Even before reading them, we expect Flandry to survive at least until near the end of the last volume. When reading Poul Anderson's trilogy about Harald Hardrada, we know first that Harald will not die in Volume I or II and secondly that he will die in battle at Stamford Bridge in 1066. But we do not know the details and Anderson is free to invent many of them.

In SM Stirling's A Meeting At Corvallis, young Rudi Mackenzie has been captured by his Clan's enemies. How do I know that Rudi will survive? At the end of this volume, there are ads for two novels in which Rudi Mackenzie has become a King. Unless it is a different Rudi Mackenzie? That is one of the tricks that I mentioned above although I do not expect it here.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Your mentioning of the Scandinavian norns and King Harald Hardrada reminded me of a passage from Anderson's THE LAST VIKING, his three volume historical novel about that king. King Harald's friend Ulf said in the third volume that if anyone could force the norns to change the fate decreed for him it would be Harald Hardrada.