Wednesday, 14 June 2017

One Of The Differences Between Fiction And Reality

In the real world, every question about a matter of fact has an answer whether or not we know the answer yet. A guy I worked with had migrated to Australia shortly after the War and had never learnt whether his best friend during the War had survived the War. However, years later, he returned to Britain and found his friend's name on a village war memorial... All that time, the question, "Did my friend survive the War?" had an answer, which was "No." It was just that the answer was not known yet.

The situation is different if a novel ends with an unanswered question. Did Aycharaych survive the bombardment of Chereion? We can think that he probably did not but that is as far as it goes. Poul Anderson could have gone on to write a "Return of Aycharaych" and he even hinted at that two novels later but there is no definitive answer to the question.

How did van Rijn, Falkayn or Flandry die? What will become of the later civilization that we are shown in the Technic History? What is Jeeves' first name? (Apparently that question was answered in a later novel.) What does M stand for? (We were eventually told that.) In the real world, even if we do not know a man's first name, he does have a first name whereas someone knowledgeable about English literature, when asked, "What is Jeeves' first name?," replied, "He doesn't have one!"

I have reflected on this aspect of fiction before. The issue has come up again because of an ingenious ending to a James Bond story. Bond knows that the obnoxious millionaire, Krest, was murdered either by Mrs Krest or by Bond's friend but he cannot deduce which of them did it... So which of them did it?

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I agree, it would have been very interesting if PA had written a "return of Aycharaych" story. Since the bombardment of Chereion would have cancelled his motive for working for Merseia, any kind of Aycharaych story is possible, even to have him serving the EMPIRE!