Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Visions

In Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, Kossara Vymezal invokes the Virgin Mary.

In SM Stirling's Emberverse, Father Ignatius meets the Virgin Mary. See Apparitions.

A meeting with Mary would be out of place in the hard sf scenario of the Technic History.

However, in that History, the Catholic Djana, reconditioned by a Merseian hypnotist, imagines a Merseian Christ.

Having been imagined, that Christ could then be projected as a vision.

Thus, visionary experience, however interpreted, can occur in any timeline.

Self-Preservation

How many kinds of entities struggle to preserve themselves? -

organisms;
governments;
regimes;
ways of life;
ideas;
thought processes;
beliefs;
self-images;
timelines?

"It's as if this warped continuum were defending its existence - reaching through Lorenzo, who begot it, beyond his grave to us."
-Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), Part Six, 1245beta A.D., p. 410.

Minimally, memory is the thought, "I saw/sensed/perceived that before." If a past experience is merely reproduced in imagination but is not also recognized as a past experience of this present subject, "I," then it is indistinguishable from a mere imagining. Thus, present memory, which is necessary for continuity of consciousness, requires the present application of the concept of a temporally enduring subject, "I." However, there is not necessarily any enduring entity corresponding to this concept. On the contrary, each sentient organism begins, changes and ends, like a candle flame that seems to be continuous but that in fact burns different wax at each moment. Nevertheless, the biological motivation to preserve the organism is transferred to the conceptual self.

Mary And Grass

I am rereading certain chapters of A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows to find the truth abouth Kossara Vymezal's mission to Diomedes but I keep finding other passages to blog about, e.g.:

"She ought to kneel for a prayer, but she was too tired; Mary who fled to Eygpt would understand. Kossara sat down on what looked like pale grass and wasn't..." (Chapter IX, p. 467)

Poul Anderson always tells us that the ground-covering plant on terrestroid planets is not grass.

I read in a New Testament commentary that:

the OT verse, "I have called my son out of Eygpt," meant that God had called His collective adopted son, Israel, out of bondage in Eygpt;
however, NT writers interpreted such verses as prophecies about the Messiah;
therefore, the author of Matthew's Gospel invented the story of the Holy Family fleeing into Eygpt so that they could be called back from it.

On p. 468, Mary becomes almost a sky goddess when the blue of the summer sky over the Kazan is compared to the blue of her cloak.

Home

Dominic Flandry plans to stay with Kossara on her home planet, Dennitza, when they are married but decides to return to Earth when she has been killed.

"'In God's name, why?'" asks Bodin Miyatovich. (Chapter XX, p. 604)

Kossara's relatives have accepted Flandry. All of them realize that the future lies with planets like Dennitza, not with Terra. Flandry replies:

"'I have my own people.'" (p. 605)

We see him a decade and a half later still living comfortably in Archopolis and still active on behalf of the Empire. As when James Bond's wife was killed at the end of a novel, Kossara's family and background are never seen again.

Planting Information III

Flandry thinks of Aycharaych:

"I realize why the coordinates of your home are perhaps the best-kept secret in the Roidhunate. I doubt if a thousand beings from offworld know; and in most of them, the numbers have been buried deep in their unconsciousness, to be called forth by a key stimulus which is also secret."
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 339-606 AT Chapter IX, p. 462.

Flandry to Bodin Miyatovich:

"'Bodin, I'm ready to work again. With you. You see, I've found your target.'" (Chapter XVIII, p. 578)

Flandry:

"...in those broken mutterings of my son's I found what I thought I might find, the coordinates of Chereion, Aycharaych's planet." (ibid.)

Because the coordinates of Chereion are going to be pivotal in Chapter XVIII, they have to be mentioned much earlier, in Chapter IX. For similar remarks about two earlier Flandry novels, see here.

Aycharaych to Flandry:

"'The consciousness that dreary death will in a few more decades fold this brightly checkered game board whereon you leap and capture - that keeps you ever in haste.'" (Chapter IX, p. 459)

Kossara to Flandry:

"'We mortals are always in a hurry.'
"He gave her a sharp look. 'Is something wrong?' she asked.
"'N-no. You echoed an idea I've heard before - coincidence, surely.'" (Chapter XIV, p. 525)

With the benefit of hindsight, we read this as another warning that Kossara will die soon.

A moment of realization between Flandry and Aycharaych:

"'You're the only Chereionite I've ever met -' Flandry stopped.
"After a moment he proceeded: 'Are you the only Chereionite anybody has ever met?'" (Chapter IX, p. 461)

Aycharaych points out that some Merseians have visited Chereion but then refuses to answer the question. The big revelation about his aloneness will come at the end of the novel when Dennitzans led by Flandry invade Chereion. The description of this ancient planet recalls Wells' description of the far future Earth in The Time Machine.

Continuing Characters And Retro-Continuity

Dominic Flandry's Shalmuan servant, Chives, his Merseian opposite number, Tachwyr the Dark, and his Chereionite adversary, Aycharaych, each appear in only four instalments of Flandry's series. However, we understand that Flandry and Tachwyr have "encounters" that we do not read about.

Their third encounter that we do know about occurs on Talwin during the Terran civil war and we wish that an entire novel had been set during this conflict. Retroactively, "The Warriors from Nowhere" has been represented as showing the disordered war-torn Empire but this much earlier published story had not been written with that in mind. Princess Megan wound up being Hans Molitor's granddaughter although, in an Afterword to A Stone in Heaven, Sandra Miesel had described her as the granddaughter of an elderly interim Emperor. While a series is still growing, whatever is written about it may have to be revised.

Retrocontinuity enriches series. In the last novel featuring Flandry, Anderson added the Patrician System, the Zacharians, Dakotia and the Aycharaych scheme involving Olaf Magnusson. We understand that all of these elements of the Technic History had already existed although we had not read about them until now.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Diomedean Demands

On Diomedes, the Great Flock of Lannach must abandon its migratory life-style or go under. Rather than modernize, many Lannachska make demands. The following are listed as the less unreasonable:

economic, social, political or spiritual secession;
a return to ancestral ways;
protests against discrimination;
demands for justice;
help, subsidy or special consideration;
no more taxes to the planetary peace authority or the Empire;
seizure of planetary power;
establishment of a sovereign autarchy;
incorporation of Diomedes into the nearby Domain of Ythri.

Diomedeans and Ythrians are flyers but otherwise have nothing in common. The latter neither know of Diomedes nor have any interest in adopting a cause. Nevertheless, the Lannachska mystique of Alatanism insists that fellow flyers should be able to sympathize with each other better than bipeds can. Like Aenean Messianism or Ardazirho superstitions about the Sky Cave, this is fertile territory for the master manipulator, Aycharaych...

Seven Bodies Of Work

Let us compare and contrast seven substantial bodies of work by just three authors:

The Future History by Robert Heinlein;
Cities In Flight by James Blish;
The Seedling Stars by James Blish;
After Such Knowledge by James Blish;
the Haertel Scholium by James Blish;
the Time Patrol series by Poul Anderson;
the History of Technic Civilization by Poul Anderson.

Four of these bodies of work are future history series. The remaining three are:

a mixed genre trilogy;
a non-linear future historical sequence;
a time travel series.

History, whether past or future, is a significant common theme.

Each of the bodies of work by Heinlein and Blish can be, and most of them have been, collected in a single, usually omnibus-length, volume. Anderson's Time Patrol series comprises one omnibus collection and one long novel while his Technic History fills seven omnibus collections! One of those seven volumes collects a trilogy of novels which is part of the Dominic Flandry series which is part of the Technic History which is just one of Anderson's several future history series.

Thus, we commend Heinlein and Blish for quality and Anderson for both quality and quantity.

Unreliable Memories

Why did Bodin Miyatovich, Gospodar of Dennitza, send his niece, Kossara Vymezal, to Diomedes? Flandry asks, Kossara remembers and we read flashbacks. However, Kossara's memories have been tampered with so we might not be reading an accurate account of whatever did happen. This will take a while to disentangle.

Miyatovich indignantly opposes the Emperor's decree to disband the Dennitzan militia - and says that another civil war may be necessary, or does he say the latter? Kossara cannot explain her fanatical hatred of the Empire except by referring to what Imperials did on Diomedes to people she cared about and later to her. But Flandry, who defends the Empire, wants to identify the Imperials she refers to so that they can be brought to justice. And, in any case, Kossara can say whatever she likes about the Empire to Flandry in private without suffering any consequences.

So what did happen? It is necessary to reread several bracketed flashbacks but I will reconstruct and summarize the course of events.

A Moment Of Truth?

Dominic Flandry's philosophy:

"...if one is born into an era of decadence, one may as well enjoy it while it lasts." (Chapter I, p. 343)

However, while talking to Emperor Hans, he thinks:

"Was that always my real desire? Not to chase down enemies of the Empire so I could go on having fun in it, but to have fun chasing them down?" (Chapter III, p. 382)

Flandry does not fully know himself.

At one stage, Manse Everard of the Time Patrol realizes:

"...that what he needed was not surcease but the completion of the hunt."
-Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), Part One, p. 8.

However, Everard needs "completion" to get the job done, not to "have fun" at it the way Flandry does.

Hunting In The Kazan

When Kossara and Trohdwyr hunt a dyavo, we learn a little more of Dennitzan geography. The northern rim of the Kazan cuts through the Vysochina hills. There is a view of the "...sungold whiteness..." (Chapter II, p. 365) of the Planina Byelogorski and of smoke from Vulkana Zemlya. Poul Anderson probably created a consistent Dennitzan ecology but showed only parts of it in the text. For the planet Daedalus, see here and here.

Before cooking the meat, Trohdwyr invokes Aferhdi of the Deeps, Blyn of the Winds and Haawan who lairs on the reefs, asking only that they "...trouble us not..." (p. 366) He remains an old-fashioned pagan ychan, unconvertible to Orthochristianity.

Kossara thinks:

"Surely the Pantocrator didn't mind much, and would receive his dear battered soul into Heaven at the last." (ibid.)

Why should the Pantocrator mind respect for His deeps, winds and reefs? Kossara expresses the same benign universalism as Father Tomislav in The Merman's Children. See here.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Chunderban Desai: Crises

Chunderban Desai, in conversation with Dominic Flandry, does not address the Dennitzan crisis but does discuss crises. See here.

Desai claims that there are over fifty examples of a particular historical cycle on Earth alone. The few cases that he cites are:

three in China;
three in Egypt;
the Roman Empire;
India;
Technic civilization.

The stages are:

growth;
wrong decisions;
breakdown;
wars;
an Imperial Pax;
dissolution of the Pax;
its reconstitution;
its disintegration;
a dark age;
a new society from the ruins.

The Technic wrong decision was the transformation of the Polesotechnic League into a set of cartels. Prevention of, or recovery from, breakdown is possible but difficult. Usually, the cyclical theory is rationalized, then ignored, then suppressed. What age are we living in?

Historical Time And Time Travel

My favourite two themes in sf are time travel and future histories. Amazingly, Poul Anderson wrote both the Time Patrol series and the History of Technic Civilization.

A future history is about the passage of time for societies and civilizations whereas time travel is about the fascinating idea that we might first study a historical period, then experience it, as Carl Farness does in "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth."

Later instalments of a future history series build on and add to earlier instalments. For how Methuselah's Children does this in Robert Heinlein's Future History, see here. Poul Anderson's A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows builds on:

the Taurian Sector;
Merseia;
Ythri;
Avalon;
Diomedes;
Nicholas van Rijn;
the Falkayn name;
Persis d'Io;
Chunderban Desai;
the McCormac Rebellion;
Aeneas;
Talwin;
Aycharaych;
Chereion -

- and adds:

Dennitza;
the Molitor dynasty.

Thus, A Knight... is firmly based in a complex history and also significantly advances that history, as do subsequent volumes.

Planting Information II

"[Desai] put a cigarette into a long, elsaborately carved holder of land-whale ivory. (He thought it was in atrocious taste, but it had been given him for a birthday present by a ten-year-old daughter who died soon afterward.)"
-Poul Anderson, The Day Of Their Return IN Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (Riverdale, NY, 2010), pp. 74-240) AT Chapter 3, p. 86.

If I were Desai, then I would cherish that cigarette holder.

"[Desai] puffed on a cigaret in a long ivory holder."
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 339-606 AT Chapter III, pp. 384-385.

When Desai is the viewpoint character, we can be told the history of the holder. When Flandry is the viewpoint character, we cannot. But attentive readers recognize the holder.

The Art Of Planting Information That Will Be Relevant Later

" 'Thank you, your Majesty.' Flandry settled his elegance opposite, flipped out a cigaret case which was a work of art and, at need, a weapon, and established a barrier against the reek around him."
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 20120, pp. 339-606 AT Chapter III, pp. 378-379.

"Two militiamen escorted the prisoner into the office. 'You may go,' Flandry told them.
"They stared unsurely from him, standing slumped against night in a window, to the strong young man they guarded. 'Go,' Flandry repeated. 'Wait outside with my servant. I'll call on the intercom when I want you.'
"They saluted and obeyed. Flandry and Hazeltine regarded each other..." (Chapter XVIII, pp. 565-566)

"Flandry took out his cigaret case." (p. 566)

"[Hazeltine]charged...
"Flandry swayed aside. He passed a hand near the other. Razor-edged, the lid of the cigaret case left a shallow red gash in the right cheek...the knockout potion took hold. Hazeltine stumbled, reeled, flailed his arms, mouthed, and caved in.
"Flandry sought the intercom. 'Come remove the prisoner,' he directed." (p. 567)

Dual purpose gadgets are a gimmick of the screen James Bond and his imitators. After reading pp. 378-379, we should have known, when reading pp. 565-565, that Flandry would be safe if attacked by Hazeltine.

The Dennitzan Crisis: Hans Molitor

See The Dennitzan Crisis: Dominic Hazeltine.

Emperor Hans, briefing Flandry, knows only that:

the Gospodar is resisting his defence organization;
Dennitzans are fomenting rebellion on Diomedes;
only one Dennitzan agent was captured;
there were problems with her hypnoprobing;
it seems that she was acting on secret official orders.

He does not know:

that the Dennitzan agent is the Gospodar's niece;
what became of her after her hypnoprobing;
that she was sold into slavery;
that Hazeltine informed Flandry of this;
that Flandry has bought her.

Flandry, suspecting something strange, keeps quiet and travels to Diomedes, taking Kossara with him.

Heinlein And Anderson

Poul Anderson is a successor of Robert Heinlein so what did Heinlein have going for him?

The five volume Future History;
the generation ship idea in the Future History;
his twelve Scribner Juveniles;
three "first men in the moon stories" - in the Future History, a Scribner Juvenile and a film;
three amazing circular causality paradox stories;
magic as technology in "Magic, Inc.";
the idea of the waldo in "Waldo";
the controversial Stranger In A Strange Land;
the divisive-within-the-sf-community Starship Troopers (filmed);
imaginative aliens;
a vast output.

And what does Anderson have going for him? This whole blog answers that question. Anderson follows Heinlein in:

future histories;
a generation ship story;
juvenile sf;
accounts of space travel;
time travel - both paradoxes and other aspects;
magic as technology;
military sf;
imaginative aliens;
a vaster output -

- surpasses Heinlein in most of these areas and tackles several other genres that Heinlein did not.

Before Heinlein or Anderson, there was HG Wells with The Time Machine and The Shape Of Things To Come. However, Heinlein changed the future history model from a fictitious historical text book to a series of short stories and novels and Anderson followed Heinlein in this respect.

The Dennitzan Crisis: Dominic Hazeltine

Preamble
Duke Alfred of Varrak, the governor of the Taurian Sector of the Terran Empire, tried to detach the sector from the Empire and give it to Merseia but was foiled by Flandry and Chives. (How was kidnapping the Emperor's granddaughter, Princess Megan, meant to contribute to this scheme? I will have to reread "The Warriors from Nowhere.") Since Alfred had had some support among his people, it was necessary to change not only the governorship but also the sector capital.

The human-colonized planet, Dennitza:

is influential;
maintained its own military under the treaty of annexation;
declared for the current Emperor Hans during the civil war -

- so the Gospodar of Dennitza became the new governor of Tauria.

However, Hazeltine points out that:

there are Merseians on Dennitza;
the human-Ythrian colony, Avalon, fought to remain in the Domain of Ythri;
Merseia might offer Dennitza a better deal;
marchmen, which the Dennitzans are, take on the traits of their enemies;
the Dennitzans are resisting Hans' decree to disband their militia;
there is evidence that Dennitzans are instigating a rebellion on Diomedes - although some Diomedeans expect help from Ythri, human agents captured on Diomedes were Dennitzan, not Avalonian.

The Dennitzan Crisis

Having recently returned from a birthday party in Morecambe and decided against attending a Goth disco in Lancaster, I am flaking out and will shortly turn in. However, I am meanwhile planning the next post. I started to reread A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows "in media res" and therefore mentioned violence in Parliament without first having clarified with the Dennitzan crisis was about. This will have to be rectified and will necessitate careful rereading of earlier conversations between Flandry and:

his son;
the Emperor;
Chunderban Desai -

- and maybe some others.

Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization has got to be more intricate and complicated than any other future history series? - although I welcome arguments to the contrary.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Early Days

To us, an interstellar civilization, if there is ever to be one, is still in the future. However, when such a civilization does exist, its later generation will look back to its earlier days. The Enterprise crew in a later Star Trek series talk with vicarious nostalgia about the early days of interstellar exploration...

A Merseian reflects on the species that had preceded his people into space:

"Once upon a time humankind had borne the same universe-spanning ambitions that the Race did now."
-Poul Anderson, The Game Of Empire IN Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 1-453 AT Chapter Six, p. 268.

In James Blish's future history, some beings remember the race that had preceded Earthmen:

"Some of them remembered much more vividly the now-broken tyranny of Vega, and did not know - some of them never had known - even the name of the little planet that had broken that tyranny."
-James Blish, Earthman, Come Home IN Blish, Cities In Flight (London, 1981), pp. 235-465 AT PROLOGUE, p. 241.

One Earthman returning home recalls the early days:

"...like voices from history: 40 Eridani, Procyon, Kruger 60, Sirius, 61 Cygni, Altair, RD-4 4048, Alpha Centauri..." (p. 408)

Carved Tales

SM Stirling, Lord Of Mountains (New York, 2013), Chapter Seventeen, p. 392.

Tales carved on oak walls in a Hall of Remembrance:

Sigurd and Fafnir;
Burnt Njal;
Orm the Strong;
Odhinn's quest for wisdom;
Thor wrestling the World Snake.

Drystone Wall

(A drystone wall in Cumbria, near here.)

Neither the Emperor nor the Gospodar (see here) has a magic sword although such artifacts can exist in the multiverse accessed from the Old Phoenix Inn visited by Nicholas van Rijn.

With Rudi Mackenzie's "Sword of Time," as I call it (see here), Mathilda meets not only her ancestors in their periods but also her father in Purgatory where he builds a drystone wall while learning to build for others, not just himself. If there is a hereafter, then that is what it should be for.

The Knight's Move

In Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry series, including A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows, Flandry is a knight of the Terran Empire and his adversary, Aycharaych, treats living beings like chess pieces.

In chess, a knight moves two squares in a straight line, then one square sideways. Futuristic sf moves forwards away from the present but also sideways into fictional futures. Thus, we can temporarily forget about, e.g., the current President of the United States or Prime Minister of Great Britain and instead discuss, e.g., the Terran Emperor or the Dennitzan Gospodar - who must administer not only diverse and perverse humanity but also multiple rational species. The Emperor and the Gospodar give us a holiday from the President and the PM - who will still require our attention - but also enable us to reflect on more universal aspects of politics and statecraft.

Glory to the Emperor.

The Aycharaych Sequence

Aycharaych appears in only four works, only three of them featuring Dominic Flandry.

Flandry:

meets Aycharaych for the first time in "Honorable Enemies";
captures him, although he is immediately released, at the end of "Hunters of the Sky Cave";
finally defeats, or at least neutralizes, him at the very end of A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows.

A Knight... also contains a flashback to an earlier conversation between Flandry and Aycharaych.  

The Day Of Their Return, featuring Aycharaych but not Flandry, is a sequel to the Flandry novel, The Rebel Worlds, and a prequel to the Flandry-Aycharaych encounters.

Thus, we get the impression of a much longer sequence. Flandry, of course, is often in action against opponents other than Aycharaych.

Friday, 18 August 2017

The Bombardment Of Chereion

Can there be beauty in the destruction of beauty? Probably not. Poul Anderson tells us the details:

a spaceship launches a missile at a planet;
the sound of the missile through the atmosphere shatters crags and causes landslides;
in the dawn light, the missile resembles a silver comet;
detecting the city towers that it has been sent to destroy, it plunges towards them;
there are no ground defences;
the tall, wide fireball outshines suns;
the top of the atmosphere is its roof;
it remains visible for several minutes on the curve of the planet;
dust makes night above a crater full of molten stone;
the explosion is audible around the planet;
that is only the first of many strikes, from a fleet of ships, which last for an hour.

No wonder the Merseians found no evidence of conditions on the planet before the bombardment.

A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows, Chapter XX.

Apocrypha

(This issue arose from other reading but is relevant here.)

The Apocrypha are not esoteric documents but books that were included in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Canon, and therefore also in the Catholic Canon but that were later excluded from the Hebrew Canon and therefore also from the Protestant Canon. I think that I have read about a further distinction between passages included in the Septuagint but not in the Catholic Canon but googling did not shed any light on this. Excluded books automatically gain a reputation for  hidden knowledge and/or heresy. In one useage, "apocryphal" means "false."

This concept can be transferred to future history series where there could be at least two kinds of "Apocrypha."

(i) Non-canonical works: a story might share background details with a future history series but in other ways diverge from the fictional history of that series. See Poul Anderson's "Symmetry."

(ii) Some installments are revised for later publication. Thus, the earlier versions could be collected as "Apocrypha." Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization has a few of these.

Ghost Of Aycharaych

Tachwyr the Dark, Hand of the Vach Rueth, who presides over the Roidhun's Grand Council, thinks that the Terran Empire:

"...must be nullified before the Race could be fully free to seek the destiny the God had set. We shall, ghost of Aycharaych, we shall. During those selfsame years of our misery, your scheme was coming to fruition. This is the day when victory begins."
-Poul Anderson, The Game Of Empire IN Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 189-453 AT Chapter Six, p. 268.

Tachwyr seems to think that Aycharaych the Chereionite had fully shared the Roidhunate aim of complete Merseian hegemony in the galaxy! Aycharaych not only deceived the Roidhunate during his lifetime, or at least during his period of active service, but continues to do so a decade and a half later. Yet Dominic Flandry was able to penetrate the deception as soon as he landed on Chereion.

Maybe the Merseians are not as intelligent as they think - and maybe this explains why they will not succeed even against the decadent Empire?

Legacy

Gospodar Bodin Myatovitch and Dominic Flandry prepare to bombard Chereion:

"'...the best guess is, we'll smash enough of the system - whether or not we reach Aycharaych himself -'
"'For his sake, let's hope we do.'
"'Are you that forgiving, Dominic?'"
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Kinght Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 339-606 AT Chapter XX, p. 604.

Would it be better for Aychraych to be dead? Clearly, he is the title character of the novel. It is appropriate that he is last seen among technological "ghosts," the holograms of dead or departed Chereionites.

Aycharaych, using his planet's computers, had fooled the Merseians into thinking that a few million surviving Chereionites served them with staff work and advice while he was the sole field agent. The Merseians had thought that this powerful race must otherwise be left to its own devices. Thus, they themselves were prevented from adapting Chereionite technology for military purposes.

I now think that the Dennitzan bombardment of Chereion was so complete that the Merseians were unable to penetrate Aycharaych's deception even after the event. So little was left of the Chereionite cities that they were unable to discover that those cities had not been inhabited. In The Game Of Empire, Tachwyr the Dark still thinks well of Aycharaych and wishes that the latter had lived long enough to see one of his devious anti-Terran schemes coming to fruition. Tachwyr would hardly feel like this if his people had come to realize that Aycharaych had in fact prevented them from exploiting Chereionite technology to the full.

Heritage

"Under an ogive arch, one stopped, turned, beckoned, and waited."
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 339-606 AT Chapter XX, p. 596.

An sf fan reading the build-up to Dominic Flandry's climactic confrontation with Aycharaych does not pause to wonder what "ogive" means. In fact, I have only just paused on that word now after how many rereadings?

The hologram of a Chereionite speaks as if the few remaining members of that ancient race have stayed to help others but, of course, that contradicts what Aycharaych has been doing. When Flandry has seem past the holograms and speaks to Aycharaych himself, albeit that the latter also appears as a hologram and therefore cannot be attacked physically, the last surviving Chereionite claims that he can meet whenever he wants his planet's equivalents of:

Gautama Buddha;
Kung Fu-Tse;
Rabbi Hillel;
Jesus the Christ;
Rumi;
Socrates;
Newton;
Hokusai;
Jefferson;
Gauss;
Beethoven;
Einstein;
Ulfgeir;
Manuel the Great;
Manuel the Wise.

(We have met Manuel the Great in an earlier story.)

This makes me wish that there had been some way to preserve Chereion - although not on Aycharaych's terms. Flandry would have had to betray the Dennitzans.

Two Concluding Prayers

Poul Anderson's "Star of the Sea" recounts a potential turning point in European history and a personal turning point for Manson Everard of the Time Patrol whereas Anderson's A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows recounts a political turning point in Technic History and a personal turning point for Dominic Flandry of the Terran Empire. Both works end with a heart-felt prayer.

For "Star of the Sea," see A Prayer and Devotion. In fact, here is the entire prayer, which I do not seem to have quoted in full before:

"Mary, mother of God, mother of sorrows, mother of salvation, be with us now and at the hour of our death.
"Westward we sail, but night overtakes us. Watch over us through the dark and bring us on into day. Grant that this our ship bear the most precious of cargoes, your blessing.
"Pure as yourself, your evenstar shines above the sunset. Guide us by your light. Lay your gentleness on the seas, breathe us forward in our faring and home again to our loves, carry us at last by your prayers into Heaven.
"Ave Stella Maris!"
-Poul Anderson, "Star of the Sea" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), pp. 467-640 AT IV, pp. 639-640.

We enter imaginatively into such a prayer in a work of fiction even if we cannot also do so while kneeling in a church. And the same is true of the Prayer of Bodin's Return - see here.

Kossara Vymezal In St Clement's Cathedral

(St Clement Macedonian Cathedral.)

The four man honor guard stands in the uniform of the Narodna Voyska, heads lowered, rifles reversed;

candles burn in tall holders with lilies, roses and viyrnatz everywhere between;

Flandry smells flowers and incense as he walks across the stone floor;

a priest chants archaic words behind the iconostasis;

the air is cool and dim;

evening light slants between columns;

the domed ceiling shows Christ Lord of All and the Apostles on gold and blue;

Flandry inwardly addresses Kossara but hears only the priest's voice;

searching his languages for the best farewell, he says, "Sayonara. Since it must be so.'" (A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows, Chapter XVIII, p. 577);

he bows and departs -

- but his next step is military action.

Defections

Poul Anderson shows us the Merseians as implacable enemies of mankind, then shows us why some human beings might defect to their cause:

Erik Magnusson (see here);
the Zacharians;
Dominic Hazeltine -

"'Yes, then, yes, I've been working for Merseia. Not bought, nothing like that, I thought the future was theirs, not this walking corpse of an Empire - Merciful angels, can't you see their way's the hope of mankind too? -'"
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 339-606 AT Chapter XVIII, p. 568.

And a non-human motivation for supporting Merseia is provided by Aycharaych.

In The Dennizan Parliament

Four hundred armed zmayi, claiming to represent the whole Obala, enter the Shkoptsina chamber where the parliament is in joint session. The Chief Justice, presiding in the absence of the arrested Gospodar, has been informed of their approach.

"On gilt mural panels were painted the saints and heroes of Dennitza."
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 339-606 AT Chapter XVII, p. 559.

Lords wear rainbow robes, Folk tunics or gowns, Zmayi leather and metal. A majority of Zmayi vote to hear the demonstrators' leaders who can be trusted to be good mannered and to speak briefly. Surely impossible in a human gathering.

The Chief Justice greets the demonstrators in Serbic, "Zdravo," and Eriau, "Hydhref." (ibid.) Flandry, concealed among the demonstrators, realizes that the only member of Parliament whom he knows is the ychan/zmay/Merseian, Kyrwedhin. History plays strange tricks on its main protagonists. Since the session is televized, Ywodh addresses his audience, "'Worthies and world...'" (p. 560) When Kossara emerges from between the demonstrators, human beings moan and zmayi rumble. We must continually remember that two rational species are represented here.

Then, at last, the shooting starts, not from the demonstrators, and Kossara takes her first step towards canonization - martyrdom.

In Zorkagrad Old Town

Poul Anderson describes this scene only once but nevertheless generates a sense of solidity and history:

many-balconied mansions;
a plateau of Royal Hill;
the broad, slate-flagged Constitution Square with benches, flowers and trees;
in the centre of the Square, a large fountain with a granite catchbasin and bronze statues of Toman Obilich and Vladimir in combat;
a view down to Lake Stoyan stretching beyond the horizon;
the sprawling, porticoed marble mass of the Capitol, an argent star on its gilt dome;
the battlements and banners of the Zamok/Castle above sheer rock;
antiquated dignified buildings of grey stone;
flapping capes and gleaming rifles of a militia squad on the Capitol verandah;
aircraft circling overhead.

A climax approaches.

Next week looks like being busier with less time for blogging. SM Stirling's The Given Sacrifice has been ordered.

After Armageddon

The title character of Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (London, 2008) wears:

"...a T-shirt with the slogan: ARMAGEDDON WAS YESTERDAY - TODAY WE HAVE A SERIOUS PROBLEM." (Part 3, Chapter 18, p. 295)

If "Armageddon" means the destruction of all life on Earth, then this slogan summarizes After Doomsday by Poul Anderson. An American interstellar spaceship with an all male crew returns to the Solar System after aliens have sterilized Earth. Now the Americans must find the all female European ship and must also solve the mystery of who killed Earth...

If "Armageddon" means the final supernatural conflict between Heaven and Hell, then the slogan summarizes The Day After Judgment by James Blish. In the previous volume, many demons were released from Hell, an exorcism of a major demon failed and that demon claimed victory in Armageddon. What happens now?

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is Volume I of Larsson's Millennium Trilogy.
The Day After Judgment is the sequel to Black Easter and the two works comprise Volume II of Blish's After Such Knowledge Trilogy.
After Doomsday is an independent sf novel.

Eight volumes to read or reread, if anyone is interested.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

When Chives Sounds Like Jeeves

Chives reports to Flandry:

"'...I gathered impressions of their individual feelings as respects the present imbroglio.'"
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 339-606, AT Chapter XVII, pp. 555-556.

"Imbroglio" is certainly Jeeves language. But when Chives says:

"'I say...you chaps might pitch in a bit, don't you know.'" (p. 562) -

- he sounds more like Bertie Wooster. This frivolous speech struck me as inappropriate immediately after Kossara had been shot. In this fight, we learn that a Shalmuan's tail can be used to strangle. (The other day, on Lancaster canal, I watched a swan twisting its neck around to clean its feathers and was struck by how the neck resembled an arm. On Larry Niven's Pierrson's Puppeteers, two limbs are both arms and necks.)

Chives continues:

"'They sheltered me only after I had convinced them I was a revolutionary from my own society...'" (p. 556)

When Wooster's friend, Bingo Little, becomes engaged to a revolutionary, Jeeves rescues Bingo from such an ill-advised liaison by attending a rally, posing as a revolutionary and denouncing Bingo as an aristocratic spy!

In Zorkagrad

Streets are lined with mostly Terran trees - oak, elm, beech, maple.

A demonstration of Mersians/ychani/zmayi marches in battle formation, armed with knives, tridents, harpoons and guns. Formidable, indeed. Quiet and unexcited, unlike human demonstrators, they carry two banners:

the white star on blue of Yovan Matavuly, the human founder of the Dennitzan colony;

the red ax on gold of Gwyth, the ychan hero who dared the storms and sea beasts of the Black Ocean.

Merseians walk digitigrade. They pass:

private homes and condominiums unprotected by forcefields and vacated during the emergency;
militia squads patrolling to prevent looting;
older, higher, close-packed buildings on narrow uphill streets;
red tile roofs;
stucco walls;
tenements;
offices;
midget factories;
restaurants;
taverns;
amusements;
a bulbous-domed parish church;
a few big stores;
scores of tiny eccentric shops;
detouring groundcars.

A fighter craft passes low. Merseian marchers, unlike their human equivalents, are able to convey information accurately. The word is that the streets are quiet because direct action by Dennitzan citizens has rounded up Terrans and other Imperials into certain buildings in response to the arrest of the Gospodar. The Zamok/Castle/executive centre has denounced the action as illegal and deployed police but has not yet responded with force.

In several novels, including A Knight..., Anderson conveys the sense of "troubled times" extremely effectively.

Meeting In Person

(A sculpture of a religious founder at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.)

Flandry: "God damn it, why does your parliament have to meet in person? You've got holocom systems. Your politicians could send and receive images...and we could've rigged untraceable methods to call them and give them the facts last night.'"
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 339-606 AT Chapter XVII, p. 550.

(Flandry and Kossara risk assassination by attending the Parliament.)

Kossara: "'Hush, darling...You know why. Electronics will do for ornamental relics. The Shkoptsina is alive, it debates and decides real things, the members need intimacies, subtlties, surprises.'" (pp. 550-551)

Recently, an American scientist spoke on climate change in a building at SOAS (see image). He was asked why he had flown to London instead of Skyping. He replied that, if a conference wants him merely to address an audience, then he Skypes but, if there is the possibility of networking and bridge-building, then he flies because it is a long way to walk.

On Avalon And Dennitza

Avalon is an extrasolar planet jointly colonized by human beings and Ythrians. We should not say "Terrans and Ythrians" because the Founder, David Falkayn, was Hermetian and his fellow colonists included children of an Altaian. Dennitza is an extrasolar planet colonized by Serbian Terrans who later welcomed Merseian immigrants.

On Avalon, there is a Parliament of Man and a High Khruath of all the choths. Many human beings join choths and live under Ythrian law and custom. Some Ythrians adopt the human lifestyle of atomic individuals in a global community and, I imagine, are represented in Parliament. A Khruath, i.e., a periodic meeting of all free adults in a given territory, has judicial and limited legislative but no administrative authority. The planetary High Khruath meets every six years or on extraordinary occasions.

On Dennitza, there is a tricameral Parliament, the Shkoptsina, with Houses of the Lords, the Folk and the Zmayi (Merseians) although Mersians also retain their traditional Vachs. A Vach is not ruled by a Head but served by a Hand.

"'The Shkoptsina's no controlled inner-Empire congress. It's about five hundred proud individuals, speaking for as many different proud sections of land or walks of life. It's often turbulent - fights have happened, yes, a few killings - and tomorrow it'll be wild.'"
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominc Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 339-606 AT Chapter XVI, pp. 548-549.

"'Ychani" is the Eriau name for Dennitzan Merseians:

"'Ychani have always been the Peculiar People of Dennitza. The House of the Zmayi has never entirely spoken for them; it's a human invention.'" (p. 550)

Occasionally, hundreds of Merseians have marched into the Chamber and demanded that their leaders be heard. More like a Khruath?

The Obala IV

See The Obala III.

"Clouds and a loud raw wind had blown in across the ocean."
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), Chapter XVI, pp. 339-606 AT p. 539.

Obalans see clouds move over ocean and hear and feel wind.

"Morning along the Obala, the east coast of Rodna, was winterlike, sky the color of lead, sea the colors of iron and gunmetal. But neither sky nor sea was quiet. Beneath the overcast a thin smoky wrack went flying; surf cannonaded and exploded on reefs and beaches." (pp. 539-540)

There is also a fourth sense:

"The air smelled of salt and distance." (p. 540)

Salt, yes. Distance? The air smelled as if it had blown a long way?

Indoors, there are again four senses:

"Inside the home of Ywodh were warmth, sun-imitating fluorescents, musky odor of bodies, growls to drown out the piping at the windows." (ibid.)

We learn that Obalan fishers sometimes net "'...flailfish.'" (p. 541)

Ywodh is Hand of the Vach Anochrin on the Obala;
Kyrwedhin is Hand of the Vach Mannoch on the Obala and a member of the House of the Zmayi;
Korvash is Hand of the Vach Rueth on Merseia;
Lazar Ristich is voivode of Kom Kutchi and a member of the House of the Lords;
Bodin Miyatovich is Gospodar of Dennitza.

A wealth of details, both geographical and political.

A Theological Issue

I think that Christian premises entail universalist conclusions. If an omnipotent creator creates from nothing my character and environment, then He creates all the interactions between that character and that environment and these interactions include my actions. Thus, He can predetermine my actions so that those actions eventually lead to my acceptance of salvation. This is not to argue that God's foreknowledge (more accurately, His transtemporal knowledge) predetermines my actions. It is to argue that His creation of my character and environment determines my actions. A child can have free will in relation to his parents if they let him do what he wants but he cannot have free will in relation to his omnipotent creator Who causes him to want what he wants and Who could have caused him to want, and therefore to do, something else. 
-copied from here.

The above paragraph is part of my philosophical response to a theological issue that arises periodically when discussing works of fantasy that assume the existence of the Biblical creator and related supernatural entities.

The Obala III

Rereading Poul Anderson's A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows, I want to post about the Obala but find already on the blog:

Dennitza;
The Obala;
The Obala II;
Khyrwedhin;
The Kazan.

Dennitza is a human-colonized extrasolar planet with a Merseian minority;
Dennitzan Merseians mainly inhabit the Obala, the east coast of the Rodna continent;
Khywedhin is moot-lord of the steadcaptains of the Obala;
the Elena River flows from the Kazan to the Obala.

I will carefully reread A Knight..., Chapter XVI, in search of any information not already summarized in the above posts.

The Sword Of Time

Has anyone used the phrase, "The Sword of Time," as a title? It seems obvious to connect the much-used words, "Sword" and "Time." This name would be appropriate for Rudi Mackenzie's Sword which, when stuck into a stone near Lost Lake in SM Stirling's Lord Of Mountains, cuts through Time, enabling the High King to meet some of his ancestors and his unborn daughter.

"...of Time" is a significant phrase in book titles, e.g.:

“Once more, he had hit the bottom of the telescope of time…” 28

This evocative phrase, “…the telescope of time…," could have become a title like Blish’s The Triumph Of Time and The Quincunx Of Time. Remembering an experience from decades ago can resemble observing a spatially remote event through the wrong end of a telescope. Lewis applied precisely this image to time:

“ ‘Time is the very lens through which ye see – small and clear, as a man sees through the wrong end of a telescope - …Freedom…,’ ” 29
free will and eternal choice. Lewis looks through the telescope of “Time” and enters an imaginatively described Christian Eternity. Martels falls through his “telescope of time” and enters an intellectually systematied mystical immortality.
-copied from here.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Log Cabin

Flandry and Kossara hide out in her father's log cabin in the Northrim:

icy clearness;
frost on windows;
autumn colors on wooded hills;
clangorous flocks of southbound yegyupka;
the sweet cry of a savage vilya;
air made pungent by firebush spontaneously combusting to ripen and disperse its seeds;
walnuts by a waterfall;
after dinner, brandly-laced coffee on a rug by the fire;
colored flames lighting the room;
leaping shadows;
conversations about their shared future...

This will be their happiest time together.

("...vilya..." recalls "vilja.")

Sun Hair And A Promise

In 13, 210 B.C.:

"So had Sun Hair promised them... 'A new world.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), Part Four, p. 250.

In "...the beginning...Not long after the Ice withdrew...":

"'This land lies empty for you...'
"'...you are always welcome on our runs, Sun Hair.'"
-SM Stirling, Lord Of Mountains (New York, 2013), Chapter Sixteen, p. 342.

I have not yet unravelled the temporal complexities in these chapters of Lord Of Mountains but I did spot "Sun Hair" (not the same person) in two timelines.

In The Kazan

Apparently, "Kazan" means "Cauldron."
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 339-606 AT p. 499.

The Kazan is a large astrobleme on the continent of Rodna on the planet, Dennitza. Lake Stoyna and the Dennitzan capital, Zorkagrad, are at the centre of the Kazan which is filled with woods, farms and rivers. The Dubina Dolyina province takes its name from a gorge cut through the Kazan ringwall by the Lubisha River.

Danilo Vymezal is voivode of Dubina Dolyina. The Vymezal estate is on high ground, overlooking farm, forest and river. There is an outer gate, then a driveway through gardens and parks. The tile-roofed, half-timbered, brick manor has a rear court surrounded by servants' cottages, garages, sheds, stables, mews, workshops, bakery, brewery, armory, recreation hall, school and chapel. Dennitzans have lived thus for centuries but now are under threat.

The voivode receives Flandry in the darkly wainscoted, heavily furnished, third storey Gray Chamber, decorated with rugs and drapes, which has a doubly thick door for confidentiality.

Time Gone Awry

Wanda Tamberly says:

"'What they showed me, though, the records -'
"He nodded. 'Consequences of time gone awry. Bad.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), Part Four, 1990, p. 253.

The Time Patrol has records of events that did not happen in the current timeline. Which such alternative records do we know of?

(i) In the current timeline, Charles Whitcomb resigned from the Patrol after his first case, to live with his wife Mary in Victorian London, yet the Patrol has records of Whitcomb remaining a bachelor and eventually being killed on active duty. Whatever cases he would have worked on in that alternative career must have been worked on by other agents in the current timeline.

(ii) There was a timeline in which Patrolman Keith Denison played the role of Cyrus the Great for sixteen years.

(iii) There was a timeline in which Carthage won the Second Punic War.

(iv) At this stage of Wanda's career, the Patrol would not have been able to inform her of either the alpha or the beta timeline with their alternative versions of medieval history. The alpha timeline resulted from a quantum fluctuation and the beta timeline resulted from the Patrol's first attempt to prevent the alpha timeline. Patrol members had not yet experienced either of these divergent timelines.

(v) Maybe the Patrol has records of timelines generated by the Nine, the discoverers of time travel, or by other time criminals "before" the Danellians appeared and set up the Patrol to police the time lanes?

Symmetrical Questions

There is a symmetry to two questions asked in Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series:

Should Hilter's birth be prevented?
Should the death in the War of a Time Patrolman's fiancee be prevented?

To a time traveller, these are essentially the same question although they involve preventing a birth and a death, respectively. Is it ever right to change the past - assuming that it can be changed? A changeable past is one premise of the Time Patrol series.

The first time Charles Whitcomb raises the second question, he formulates it in terms of killing Hitler:

"'I'm not allowed to go back and shoot that ruddy bastard Hitler in his cradle. I'm supposed to let him grow up as he did, and start the war, and kill my girl.'"
-Poul Anderson, "Time Patrol" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, Ny, 2006), pp. 1-53 AT 2, p. 16.

However, when Whitcomb does try to save Mary, he attempts only to prevent her from visiting a neighbour's house that is to be bombed. There are two issues here:

on the one hand, the Patrol forbids any time traveller to change the course of history, e.g., by killing Hitler in infancy;

on the other hand, it would not change history if one Mary Nelson had lived in London from 1850 to 1900 whereas another Mary Nelson went missing and was thought to have been killed by a bomb near a neighbour's house in 1944.

Nevertheless, the second situation can exist only if, behind the scenes, Whitcomb and Everard have rescued Mary from 1944 and transported her to 1850 and the Patrol forbids any such meddling because of the wider effects that it could have. However, there may be exceptions in such individual cases whereas there cannot possibly be an exception to the prohibition of killing Hitler. Because of variable reality, the Patrol can have records of events that did not happen and can also encounter events that have not been recorded. In this case, the Patrol has two contradictory records:

Charles and Mary Whitcomb lived in Victorian London;
Mary died in 1944 and Charles, remaining a bachelor, was killed on active duty with the Patrol.

These two sets of events could have been left in existence. There would have been two versions of Charles and Mary in a single timeline. However, a Danellian explains that:

"...as even the smallest paradox is a dangerous weakness in the space-time fabric, it had to be rectified by eliminating one or the other fact from ever having existed." (6, p. 52)

Because of Everard's intervention:

Charles and Mary Whitcomb lived in Victorian London;
Mary is presumed killed by a bomb near the home of the Enderby family who, however, were at Mary's house at the time and were not killed (this is a change);
Charles Whitcomb disappeared in 1947, presumed drowned (another change).

The Danellians find these small changes preferable to the original discrepancy.

Here is a related question. When Carl Farness' Gothic leman has died in childbirth because of an aneurysm of the cerebral artery, Carl asks:

"'Suppose we went downtime of her pregnancy...We could bring her here [to 2319], fix that artery, blank her memories of the whole trip, and return her to - live out a healthy life.'"
-"The Sorrow of Odin the Goth" IN Time Patrol, pp. 333-465 AT p. 376.

He is reminded that the Patrol does not change but preserves the past. But there are other complications. By preventing Jorith's death, Carl would have prevented himself from going to 2319 for help... Either there would now be two Carls, one who had helped to fix Jorith's artery and another who had not needed to do so - unless the Carl who attended to birth now no longer existed because the timeline had been changed by the fixing of the artery -, or, if Carl was prevented from setting off to 2319 to get help, then he would also be prevented from arriving in 2319 to get help. This gets too complicated.

Continuing Consequences Of World War II In Life And Fiction

(i) Every British town and village has a War Memorial. A man who returned to England after decades in Australia learnt that his best friend during the War had not survived the War by seeing his name listed on such a memorial.

(ii) When a missing girl is being sought:

"Patrols were sent out to make a second sweep of the particularly rugged terrain, as well as an area known as 'the fortress' - a now-abandoned bunker system that was built during the Second World War."
-Stieg Larsson, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (London, 2008), Chapter 8, p. 136.

(iii) Visitors to Ostend can look around inside the former German defences.

(iv) An instructor at the Time Patrol Academy tells cadets how easy it would be to prevent the birth of Adolf Hitler...

(v) Over a thousand years later, Dominic Flandry cites the example of countries changing sides after World War II. See Changing Sides.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

"Some Have Greatness Thrust Upon Them" II

Here are those quotes. (See here.)

"'Things have a way of recurring. People do.
"'Therefore it is wise to study those who have been part of great events. They may again, whether or not our extant records show anything of it.'
"'But I was just borne along,' [Wanda] stammered. 'Manse - Agent Everard, he was the one who counted.'
"'I want to make sure of that,' Guion said."
-Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), Part Three, p. 136.

"...whether or not our extant records show anything of it..." Guion has access to the records of Wanda's life from birth to death. Nevertheless, in a variable timeline, he must prepare for the possibility that she will be involved in great events unmentioned in those records.

(In Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, Destiny knows what was, is and will be, yet Delirium claims to know things that even he does not know.)

Shortly afterwards, Wanda thinks:

"She wasn't important, she decided. Impossible. This wasn't humility - she expected to do a topflight job in her coming line of work - but common sense." (ibid.)

Wanda is not important but certain events are.

Guion tells Everard:

"'Sometimes, however, individuals have a significance far beyond their ostensible worth. Not that you or I count for nothing in ourselves. But as an illustration of the general principle, take, oh, Alfred Dreyfus. He was a competent and conscientious officer, an asset to France. But it was because of what happened to him that great events came about.'" (Part Five, p. 260)

Elwin Ransom tells CS Lewis:

"'Don't imagine I've been selected to go to Perelandra because I'm anyone in particular. One never can see, or not till long afterwards, why any one was selected for any job. And when one does, it is usually some reason that leaves no room for vanity. Certainly, it is never for what the man himself would have regarded as his chief qualifications. I rather fancy I am being sent because those two blackguards who kidnapped me and took me to Malacandra did something which they never intended; namely, gave a human being a chance to learn that language.'"
-CS Lewis, Perelandra IN Lewis, The Cosmic Trilogy (London, 1990), pp. 145-348 AT Chapter 2, pp. 163-164.

So I bow to the combined wisdom of Poul Anderson, Neil Gaiman and CS Lewis, also of Guion, Delerium and Ransom.

There are two issues here but they interconnect:

Are events more important than persons?
Is there something other than known events?