Saturday, 17 June 2017

Historical Novels in A Future History

How many sf novels featuring Nicholas van Rijn are there in Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization? Three:

The Man Who Counts/War Of The Wing Men;
Satan's World;
Mirkheim.

How many historical novels featuring van Rijn are there in Technic Civilization? Hloch tells us that there are several. The Man Who Counts is on both lists. Hloch includes this text in The Earth Book Of Stormgate because:

van Rijn is more central in it than in any of the others;
it recounts events that had consequences for Falkayn's home planet;
winged Diomedeans are of interest to winged Ythrians.

Of the three novels listed, this one is about van Rijn whereas the others are about van Rijn and his trader team.

Think of events that you have been involved in, then imagine that they are to be filmed. The actors would not look like the original people. The dialogue would be fictional. The sequence of events would be simplified. The film would probably not be shot in the original locations. CS Lewis' family made all these obervations about Shadowlands but added that it was true, i.e., authentic. I am sure that, in this sense, Poul Anderson has written true accounts of Nicholas van Rijn even if we imagine that the real events differed in many details.

3 comments:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

THE MAN WHO COUNTS focuses on three humans stranded among alien Diomedeans, it focuses on which of those three humans was "the man who counts." We gradually realize it was the fat, slovenly, uncouth, etc., Nicholas van Rijn who was the real leader among those stranded humans. We discover what were the QUALITIES Old Nick had that made him "the man who counts."

But I'm not sure I entirely agree with Hloch here. In terms of the Technic Civilization series, I tend to think of novels like THE MAN WHO COUNTS as being "true" accounts of "actual events" in that "history." For, would a merely "fictional" account of the words and deeds of Nicholas van Rijn include so many unflattering details about him?

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
Maybe the author wrote in a milieu where it was conventional to invent and insert unflattering details in order to counteract an earlier tendency towards hero-worship or hagiography?
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Or, some critics, like Hloch, thought THE MAN WHO COUNTS was a historical novels about Old Nick. A novel with a good deal of fact in it. Facts which corrected any tendency to hagiography. Yes, I can see that as one possibility.

But I still think it's better to think of THE MAN WHO COUNTS as a "true" account of "real events" in Anderson's fictional Technic timeline.

Sean