Thursday, 31 August 2017


Poul Anderson retells the story of Odin hanging himself on the World Ash Tree. See here.

SM Stirling's Rudi Mackenzie expounds a doctrine common to Catholicism and Wicca: "'...from sacrifice springs great power...'" (The Given Sacrifice, Chapter Twenty-Two, p. 455), three examples being Christ, Odin and the seasonal God who dies and returns each year so that the people may live.

Rudi refers to the myth of Christ. My interpretation of the history is as follows:

Jesus belonged to a class of first century Palestinian Jewish preacher-healers;

his teaching was the same as the Baptist's, the imminence of God's rule, "kingdom," on Earth and the need to prepare for it;

his prophetic teaching and powerful healing attracted a large following;

this large following made him wonder about his own role in the kingdom;

he asked Peter, "Who do men say that I am?," then "Who do you say that I am?";

Peter was impulsive and always spoke in the most exaggerated terms;

of course, Peter told Jesus that he was the Messiah;

accepting Peter's statement as a divine revelation, Jesus urged caution and secrecy on his immediate followers while he considered how to fulfil his Messiahship;

rejecting a Davidic military role, Jesus instead identified himself with the Suffering Servant of prophetic texts;

believing that his own vicarious suffering would initiate the kingdom, he deliberately provoked the authorities by entering Jerusalem at the head of a procession proclaiming him as the Messiah;

he was executed and died realising that this approach had failed;

it may be argued that spiritual power passed to his disciples, who preached and healed in his name.

Oblique Comments

Characters in fictional futures comment on their pasts, thus enabling their author to comment obliquely on our present, e.g.:

"'Bad for human folk to live as the ancients did, and worse for the land and the other kindreds.'"
-SM Stirling, The Given Sacrifice (New York, 2014), Chapter Twenty-One, p. 434.

Characters in alternative history fiction can comment on what would to them be an alternative history, e.g., what might have happened if Einstein and Planck had not collaborated but had continued to work independently? For Poul Anderson's speculative answer, see here.

One of Alan Moore's "Watchmen" comments that, if the US had not won in Vietnam, then it would have gone mad as a nation...

I can remember similar oblique remarks in works by Heinlein and Asimov but I am sure that blog readers can think of others.

Religious Instruction

Poul Anderson has several Catholic characters (van Rijn, Axor and others) but does not address the issue of child-rearing - I don't think? - whereas SM Stirling tackles it head on:

"'I wouldn't go attend the funeral mass.' she blurted. 'I mean, I wouldn't take Communion at it. I won't, anymore, I should never have been confirmed. I've decided I'm of the Old Religion.'"
-SM Stirling, The Given Sacrifice (New York, 2014), Chapter Nineteen, p. 411.

I think that "decided" is the wrong word. We find that we believe as we do. Some parents tell their children what they, the children, believe, then get upset when the children say that they do not believe it. I think that this is entirely the wrong approach. Can a religion not survive by adult conversions? A Jesuit is said to have boasted that, given the child from the age of seven, he would answer for the beliefs of the man. No, sir! Or rather: No, Father!

I think that all children should receive a common education, adapted to the needs of individuals, and that any who want religious instruction should receive it in Sunday School or equivalent at the weekend. However, if religious groups continue to insist on running their own schools, then it would be both wrong and counterproductive to try to prevent them:

near us, in Lancaster, there is a Muslim girls' boarding school;
near my sister-in-law in Northern Ireland, there is a Free Presbyterian (Paisleyite) school;
near my sisters in Leicester, there is a Krishna Consciousness school.

I welcome diversity - and I prefer Krishna teaching karma yoga on the battlefield of Kurukshetra (see image) to the Evengelical Christ damning unbelievers. (By Vishnu, we are back to battlefields again!)


 SM Stirling, The Given Sacrifice (New York, 2014), Chapter Nineteen.

At last, after reading about wars, we get to read about peace and the Rangers move into Jack London's Beauty Ranch. See image.

In Stirling's Conquistador and Nantucket Trilogy, the colonists of an undeveloped North America must build everything that they need from scratch whereas his Emberversers, like the post-apocalypsts in other sf novels, are able to move into already existing buildings and to mine empty cities.

In Poul Anderson's The Winter Of The World, scavengers must dig down through deep snow in order to reach the frozen and preserved dead cities. Probably by now every alternative scenario has been imagined.


Elwin Ransom corresponds with, then meets, CS Lewis. Then Lewis writes a fictionalised account of Ransom's journey to Mars.

Jack Havig converses with Robert Anderson who converses with Poul Anderson. Then the second Anderson writes a fictionalised account of Havig's time travelling.

In his Preface to Last And First Men, Olaf Stapledon informs his readers that this is a work of fiction whereas, in his Introduction to the same work, one of the Last Men informs us that the actual writer thinks that he is writing fiction.

Thus, three works of fiction that, for dramatic effect, pretend to be true accounts of:

space travel (Lewis);
time travel (Anderson);
both time and space travel (Stapledon).

My mind is not often blown but this can do it.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Beyond Our Ken

Will aliens be superior, inferior or equal to human beings in intelligence and understanding? Poul Anderson, of course, covers every option. See here. The options include the argument, somewhere in The Day Of Their Return, that there is no evolutionary reason for intelligence to increase beyond the level of any of the (many) rational species in the known space of the Technic History.

But could there be beings whose intelligence is as far beyond ours as ours is beyond that of a dog? Suppose a superior being were to tell us, "I can see the relationship between your cerebral and your mental processes but you cannot, any more than a Flatlander can see solids"? The Neptunian narrator of Olaf Stapledon's two Last Men volumes states that if one of the First Men, us, were to visit the world of the Last Men, then he would be as unaware of most of what was happening around him as a cat in London is of finance. One difference is that a cat cannot even understand that there are limits to its understanding whereas we can.

SM Stirling has a man conversing with Gods Who have to tell him that he cannot understand some of what They have to say. There are obvious limits to how this idea can be used in fiction. We have to be able to understand (most of) any narrative that is presented for our perusal.


In the neo-tribal and neo-feudal societies of SM Stirling's Emberverse, children admire the exploits of their elders and aim to emulate them as pages, squires, knights etc. Is there no nonconformist "awkward squad"?

My response to the Cuban missile crisis was appallingly immature:

(i) like some Emberversers, I was being taught that each of us was an immortal soul which, provided that it passed on in the right state, would be OK throughout eternity so I was not too bothered about maybe dying sooner rather than later;

(ii) I had read action-adventure fiction set in post-apocalyptic scenarios, maybe some of it written by Poul Anderson, so I had already accepted such scenarios as representing one possible future, the other possibility being "spaceships" (no one was going to mention "nuclear winter" for several more decades);

(iii) I was kind of excited that the society that was trying to make me conform to its demands was maybe going to destroy itself before I had even finished school.

As I say, an appalling response but my response at the time, nevertheless.


The Triple Goddess: " this is not a war between good and evil."
Rudi/Artos: "It most certainly is in the world of common day!"
The Triple Goddess: "Yes, it is...That is the shadow it throws there, and those in the cave see it on the wall. And it is true, what they see."

I have re-presented as a dramatic dialogue part of a conversation in SM Stirling, The Given Sacrifice (New York, 2014), Chapter Seventeen, pp. 362-363.

The Goddess refers to Plato's Cave - thus, more philosophy - although I do not think that Plato would describe the "shadows" as true. I still want to know why a disagreement within the tranescosmic Mind becomes a war between good and evil on the human level but I expect more explanation as we proceed.

History, Endings And Beginnings

"If This Goes On...," part of Robert Heinlein's Future History, ends with the completion of a Revolution and the death of a Prophet.

The Given Sacrifice, Part One, "The Harvest King," part of SM Stirling's Emberverse alternative history series, ends with the completion of a war and the death of a Prophet.

The Given Sacrifice, Part Two, "The Spring Queen," begins with point of view of a young girl travelling on a train with her father, the King.

Gallicenae, Volume II of Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys historical fiction tetralogy, begins with the point of view of a young girl travelling on a ship with her father, the King.

Discernible common themes are history, endings and beginnings.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

The Embodiment Of Ideas

See The Sword and Ideas.

Let us conclude this philosophical trilogy of posts by referring to a third author (see image). Alan Moore suggested in conversation that artistic creation is magic. The creative/magical process is:

(i) nothing;
(ii) an idea in the creator's head;
(iii) the expression of that idea through the raw materials which, for a writer, start with his language;
(iv) a tangible, material artifact, e.g., a book, on sale to the public.

The artifact is the material embodiment of the idea or concept which, I think, was generated by a process that began in a material brain. Moore was trying to understand the nature of consciousness so he might by now have formulated a different view of the role of the brain. But, in any case, the idea originates somewhere in the mind and/or brain of a human being and is embodied in the raw materials of the English language, paper, ink etc. So I cannot find any conceptual space for Artos' notion of an embodied concept or tangible thought that is not physical matter.


(I don't like this cover but it is the issue that contained Poul Anderson's "Margin of Profit.")

The previous post moved from a passage in SM Stirling's The Given Sacrifice to a discussion of philosophy. This post continues the discussion of philosophy, then moves to "Margin of Profit."

Philosophy was standing on its head because philosophers, like everyone else, thought that ideas preceded life and action. Materialist philosophers stood philosophy on its feet when they recognized that people had to eat before they could think. How we earn our livings determines how we relate to each other and therefore also determines how we think about society, social values and reality in general. When social labour had produced a (small) surplus and when the priestly elite that administered that surplus had begun to rule the majority whose labour produced the surplus, then it came to be thought that the rulers' ideas, not productive labour, were the driving force of society. This led to more refined forms of idealism, e.g., the belief that the idea of Man, preceding particular men, had existed from eternity in the mind of God or in an ideal realm.

"It is a truism that the structure of a society is basically determined by its technology. Not in an absolute sense - there may be totally different cultures using identical tools - but the tools settle the possibilities: you can't have interstellar trade without spaceships. A race limited to a single planet, possessing a high knowledge of mechanics but with its basic machines of industry and war requiring a large capital investment, will inevitably tend toward collectivism under one name or another. Free enterprise needs elbow room."
-Poul Anderson, "Margin of Profit" IN Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (Riverdale, NY, 2009), pp. 135-173 AT p. 145.

Anderson, or at least his omniscient narrator, agrees that technology basically determines social structure. I have to agree that different cultures can use identical tools. But I think that the nature of the tools limits the range of possible ideas? Anderson refers to "...collectivism under one name or another."

He goes on to list the conditions that make the "exuberent capitalism" (p. 146) of the Polesotechnic League possible:

automation and the mineral wealth of the Solar System make the manufacure of most goods cheap;
small, clean, simple fusion units make energy cheap;
gravitics leads to the hyperdrive, making interstellar exploitation and emigration possible;
interstellar distances and cultural differences prevent political union;
but there is little reason for armed conflict;
the colonies want the luxuries of home;
home wants colonial products;
older civilizations have much to exchange;
imports are cheaper than synthetics or substitutes;
companies compete but must also arbitrate and present a common front to the governments;
governments limited to a few planetary systems cannot control interstellar traders;
they are also bribed and coerced;
the League became a loose supergovernment;

The Sword

Rudi Mackenzie/Artos I contemplates his magic sword:

" far as he could tell it was utterly impervious to any harm. It never needed to be oiled or wiped down...or taken to a sharpening stone...
"...He wasn't altogether sure it was physical matter at all as humankind understood the term, perhaps instead an embodied concept, a thought that could be touched."
-SM Stirling, The Given Sacrifice (New York, 2014), Chapter Twelve, p. 241.

No philosophy graduate can pass by such a passage without making a comment. Philosophers ask: what is the relationship between mind and matter or between being and consciousness? Idealist philosophers answer that the mental is realer than the material but their answer takes different forms -

Theism: God created the world;
subjective idealism: the world is nothing more than the sum total of sense impressions existing within individual minds;
solipsism: subjectivism with only one individual mind;
Platonic-Hegelian objective idealism: eternally real concepts are instantiated/embodied in space-time.

We recognize one colour red in many red things. There are shades of red but we recognize the same redness in all the shades. Does it follow that "red" and every other concept is timelessly real whereas the particular objects instantiating the concepts are less real than the concepts? Does it heck as like? - as one of my former work colleagues, a very down to Earth man, would have replied.

Thus, when Rudi speculates that the Sword might be an embodied concept, he echoes what many philosophers have theorized about all matter.

FSF And Important Issues

Reading fsf is enjoyable and involves discussing the most important issues, e.g., recently on this blog (don't be put off by some of the post titles):

Eating After The Change
Religious Liberties 
Carnivores And The Valar
Focus And Embodiment 
God And The Multiverse
The Lord Of The Dance II
The Fruits Of Labour 
A Strange Place
Being And Seeming
The Machine Stops
Mary And Grass
Know Yourself - And Your Enemy

Addendum (see comment): 


Monday, 28 August 2017

Eating After The Change

"Mackenzies did a lot of hunting too; you had to in the Williamette, as in most places, if only to protect your crops from animals breeding fast in a world where humans were scarce."
-SM Stirling, The Given Sacrifice (New York, 2014), Chapter Fifteen, p. 309.

Far out! Even vegetarians, if there are any left, have to kill animals in order to eat! This is a logical consequence of the Change but I need an sf writer like SM Stirling to deduce and elaborate such consequences for me.

I understand that some Tibetan Buddhists eat yak meat because it is impossible to grow crops in the Himalayas. Prolonging human life is necessary because we need more time to meditate. Hopefully, this will lead to more peaceful lives for human beings and animals in future.

Religious Liberties

In Poul Anderson's Terran Empire, beings of different religions fight an enemy that would enslave all other rational species and that would certainly suppress any "Brotherhood of Beings" or "species equality" teachings.

In SM Stirling's Emberverse, Catholics, Wiccans and Buddhists are allied against an enemy that would suppress any religion but its own. So far, so good.

In a society where Catholics are in a minority, they insist on educating their children in specifically Catholic schools and also that all children of mixed marriages have to be brought up as Catholics. (I would be unable to marry a Catholic for this reason.) If Catholics were to gain a majority in the legislative assembly of a democratic state, would they then legislate specifically Catholic morality? Would they make contraception and divorce illegal?

Full Of Life

The green environment is full of animal life:

a pack of lobos chases red and white mustangs but avoids a bull bison;

two golden eagles take off;

waterfowl rise as a bear moves through the shallows;

two hummingbirds have "...iridescent orange-red throats..." (p. 293);

a group of people agree that this is pretty.

Maybe that last item is the anticlimax?

Three Senses In One Sentence

How to pack three senses not only into a single passage but even into a single sentence?

"The thin air was crisp in the mouth and lungs, like a dry white wine, scented with sap and meadowsweet and an intense green savor."
-SM Stirling, The Given Sacrifice (New York, 2014), Chapter Fifteen, p. 293.

Thus, the air tastes like wine while its scent evokes the taste (savor) of green growth. Here, the color is evoked, not seen, although the passage immediately goes on to present an intensely green meadow starred with blue, crimson and gold with, beyond that, the deeper green of forest fading to blue and rising to white mountain tops. See it.

Carnivores And The Valar

"The Valar recognized that humankind had a right to eat just as the other carnivores did..."
-SM Stirling, The Given Sacrifice (New York, 2014), Chapter Fifteen, p. 280.

Human beings are not carnivores but omnivores and can make moral choices about what to eat.

Three views:

we are accountable to deities for what we eat;
we have evolved without divine oversight and can eat what we want;
we are responsible for the conservation of the environment and sometimes acknowledge this responsibility by personifying aspects of the environment.


King Artos is compared to Lugh here.
Lugh is an aspect of the Wiccan God here.
Lugh is the king of a pre-Christian Irish pantheon here.
Lugh calls a divine council here.
Lugh is the foster-father of Manannan mac Lir and the father of Cu Chulainn. See here.
Lugh is an extragalactic alien in Julian May's Saga of Pliocene Exile. See Mythology here.
The Feast of Lug is explained in "Notes" on p. 468 of Poul and Karen Anderson, The King Of Ys: Dahut (London, 1989).

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Gods On Battlefields In Ys And The Emberverse

A vision of Mithras carrying a blazing sword and a shield with the Cross of Light inspires the Ysans and scatters the Franks.
-copied from here.

When Rudi Mackenzie draws the Sword, it is:

" if he were a God himself, something that commanded sky and sea and the flicker of the lightning and strode laughing through the storm."
-SM Stirling, The Given Sacrifice (New York, 2014), Chapter Thirteen, p. 252.

Rudi sounds like the vision of Mithras. A squire thinks that Rudi is:

"Like some pagan God of war come to life." (Chapter Three, p. 66)

And, somewhere in the text that I can't find right now, I think that he is compared to Lugh Longspear.


"'Some say he's Lugh come again, the Sun Lord's self returned in His joy and wrath and splendor.'" (Chapter Seven, p. 160)

Focus And Embodiment

Rudi Mackenzie is King Artos I of Montival. When his men go into action:

"Rudi closed his eyes for a moment and concentrated. He could feel the men, in a way - they were part of Montival, part of the great living organism that stretched from the single-celled things that dwelt in the crevasses of Earth and fed on its heat to the golden eagles balancing the wind high above. Himself and [the High Queen] not the heads of it exactly...not so much the rulers as a...focus, or an embodiment."
-SM Stirling, The Given Sacrifice (New York, 2014), Chapter Thirteen, p. 250.

That is how monarchy is imagined to function in our world and how it does function in the Emberverse. If kings really were divinely appointed, then our attitude to them would have to change. There might have been no Glorious Revolution in the seventeenth century. In the Bible, God lets His people have a king like other nations only because they demand one. In Narnia, Aslan anoints a London taxi driver as the first King only because another Son of Adam had introduced evil into the newly created world of Narnia. However, in Perelandra, CS Lewis presents a true absurdity: the equivalents of Adam and Eve are a King and a Queen before they have begotten or borne any subjects! Ransom, a commoner, is not their equal.

When Rudi reflects that he and his Queen are not the heads of Montival, this recalls Djana's reflection on Merseian social organisation:

"...Djana felt it betokened much that the chief of a Vach - not quite a clan - was called not its Head but its Hand."
-Poul Anderson, A Circus Of Hells IN Anderson, Young Flandry (Riverdale, NY, 2010), pp. 193-365 AT p. 296.

Powers Of The Void

SM Stirling, The Given Sacrifice (New York, 2014), Chapters Eleven and Twelve.

Montivalan Special Forces penetrate a besieged city through a secret tunnel. I have been reading this kind of fiction for over six decades and hope to continue reading it for another - four? But it is no longer sufficient merely to read. Now we can blog and not just about fight scenes. A narrative that was just one battle after another would not hold my attention indefinitely. In fact, some of the characters are becoming impatient to finish this war once and for all. I want to know more about these "Powers of the Void" (back cover blurb) that possess some of the enemy leaders. What is the metaphysical basis of this conflict? Continue reading...

Poul Anderson's Big Four

I suggested here that Poul Anderson's big four series characters were:

Nicholas van Rijn;
David Falkayn;
Dominic Flandry;
Manson Everard.

This list gives us:

two timelines;
two periods in one of the timelines;
two characters in one of the periods -

- although Everard also visits many historical periods and a few alternative timelines.

In his Introduction to The Night Face, Anderson cites Nicholas van Rijn, David Falkayn, Christopher Holm and Dominic Flandry as characters in his Technic History. Arinnian of Stormgate Choth, whose human name is Christopher Holm, just about makes it into series character status because he is a major player in The People Of The Wind and is cited as the author or co-author of a couple of stories in The Earth Book Of Stormgate.

Other major characters are Anson Guthrie, Gratillonius, Harald Hardrada and two Matucheks.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

What Is Possible?

It is theoretically possible that there are divergent timelines and parallel universes but not that there are inter-universal "Gates" located at exactly the same longitudes and latitudes on the surfaces of parallel Earths. Sf authors, usually preferring to make life easy for their characters, imagine not only "Gates" but also other unlikely means of transportation: teleportation, time travel and FTL. (Which Poul Anderson short story has teleportation? - search the blog.)

A story can be set on an alternative Earth without any "Gates" or other means of inter-universal travel. Anderson does this - and also, in other works, does imagine inter-universal travel. An interstellar story can be based on either FTL or STL travel. Anderson, of course, does both. What else could a writer of fiction do? Well, they do all sorts of things but a comprehensive writer like Anderson had to address every possibility.

God And The Multiverse

In Poul Anderson's Operation... volumes, there is both a God and a multiverse. God is more actively present in some universes than in others. For example, the Resurrection of Christ might be historical in one universe but mythical in others. Does one God have at least indirect jurisdiction over all universes or only over some? Opinions are bound to differ. Nicholas van Rijn inhabits the hard sf scenario of the Technic History but is a Catholic and visits the inn between the universes.

In SM Stirling's Emberverse series, a deity emerges from a succession of universes and initiates a divergent timeline. Are all of Stirling's multiverses a single multiverse and does his emergent deity preside over all universes or only over some? This question should be answered only if the answer generates an interesting story.

Most of today was taken up with a big family BBQ at Ketlan's place so there has been little time for blog posts.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Reforming Villains

I like it when fictional villains reform, which they do not do very often, especially not when they are needed as recurring villains. Poul Anderson's Merau Varagan is unrepentant in defeat. Anderson's Aycharaych turns out to have a worthy motivation but remains unapologetic about his merciless means.

SM Stirling creates many vile villains but does show his readers the Armingers at least reforming although Norman's moral reform does not begin until he is in the hereafter. Better late than never.

Who else in fiction?

GK Chesterton's Flambeau;
Lionel (not Lex) Luthor in the Smallville TV series.

Not many.

The Lord Of The Dance II

A pagan  version of "The Lord of the Dance" comes up again in SM Stirling, The Given Sacrifice (New York, 2014), Chapter Seven, p. 152.

I call the Christian hymn unconventional because:

it is spoken/sung in the first person;
the image of God dancing is unBiblical;
its theology of the Resurrection seems unorthodox -

"...I am the Dance,
"And I still go on" -

- suggests identification with an impersonal process.

But it would fit right in with the strange theology of the Emberverse.

A Strange Place

"He didn't know anyone at home who didn't go to church at least occasionally... The world had been a strange place before the Change."
-SM Stirling, The Given Sacrifice (New York, 2014), Chapter Seven, p. 148.

The strange is merely the unfamiliar. "And therefore, as a stranger, give it welcome. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio..."

When Margaret Thatcher was the first woman Prime Minister of Great Britain, Ted Heath appeared on TV. An adult told a child, "That man was one of the Prime Ministers before Mrs Thatcher." The child replied, "Oh, were men allowed to do it, then?"

That gives me hope. Bringing up one generation differently will change the world.

The Fruits Of Labour

(Hercules by Lysippos.)

"...the revenues to finance [Sandra's art-collecting] came out of the incomes of peasants and craft-folk and traders, eventually.
"When you were in a position to spend the fruits of other people's sweat, not to mention their blood, prudent thrift became a cardinal virtue."
-SM Stirling, The Given Sacrifice (New York, 2014), Chapter Five, pp. 101-102.

My sentiment, exactly. This issue has arisen before. See here.

Poul Anderson's Terran Empire raises the whole issue to a qualitatively different level. See Interstellar Wealth. Quantity affects quality. Taxes from the populations of a hundred thousand planets can be so small for each Imperial subject that no one notices it yet so vast in total that the wealth is incalculable. There need be no peasants. In fact, an entire planet would be able to run its own affairs on entirely communistic lines as long as it continued to hand over the minute surplus required by Imperial tax collectors.

Further, since a planetary economy can be as self-sufficient as its ecology, civilization is able to survive the breakdown of interstellar relations. We are told that, after the Fall of the Empire, the planet Atheia retains or regains most of what had been lost on Earth. Humanity no longer has its eggs in a single basket: a consumation devoutly to be wished.

Being And Seeming

See earlier discussion of perception in Requiem For A Universe.

Being becomes conscious of itself/appears to itself. Beings do not perceive appearances and infer reality - we perceive reality/it appears to us. But it is perceived differently by/appears differently to different perceivers.

We distinguish between being and seeming:

"Ruling is as much about seeming as being. If there's a difference..."
-SM Stirling, The Given Sacrifice (New York, 2014), Chapter Five, p. 99.

Maybe there is not always a difference but usually there is. A while back, British farms were threatened with Foot and Mouth Disease. Farmers had to avoid physical contact with their customers. While addressing our meditation group, a monk from a Buddhist monastery that bought dairy products from a local farm began to say, "We must not seem insensitive to their situation," but then corrected herself and said, "We must not be insensitive to their situation." An important difference.

Patrons Of Rulers

"...a triptych of the Madonna and Child flanked by Saints Edgar and Olaf, the patrons of rulers."
-SM Stirling, The Given Sacrifice (New York, 2014), Chapter Five, p. 95.

Thus, a character in a historical novel by Poul Anderson (see here) is referenced in an alternative history novel by SM Stirling. I did not know that either Olaf or Edgar was regarded as a patron of rulers and, indeed, since The Given Sacrifice is not only fiction but also alternative history fiction, I ought to check whether they are also patrons of rulers on Earth Real.

The Machine Stops

"'I sure as shit had no earthly idea what to do when the Change hit and the machines stopped...'"
SM Stirling, The Given Sacrifice (New York, 2014), Chapter Three, p. 56.

"Nobody had lived here even before the Change, and few had even passed through since the machines stopped." (Chapter Four, p. 77)

"The Machine Stops" is a title (see image and here) that evokes and addresses the issue of modern dependence on technology. As titles go, it is as succinct and basic as The Time Machine or "The Mightiest Machine."

SM Stirling writes "...the machines stopped..." at least twice. Auric Goldfinger told James Bond, "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time, it's enemy action." If Stirling writes this phrase a third time, does this establish a link between his use of this phrase and Forster's title?

Thursday, 24 August 2017

An Alternative Future History

Poul Anderson wrote future histories and alternative histories whereas SM Stirling combines them. Stirling's Island In The Sea Of Time is Volume I of his Nantucket Trilogy which precedes his Emberverse series. Island... was published in the US and Canada on February 1, 1998 and in the UK on March 1, 1998. The history-changing event that is called "the Event" by Nantucketers but "the Change" by Emberversers happens on March 17, 1998. Thus, if the original date of publication is "the present," then the Event/Change occurs in the very near future.

However, Volume I of the Emberverse series, Dies The Fire, was published in 2004. Thus, the Change and its consequences have now become an alternative history. Further, Volume X, The Given Sacrifice, covers the period from Change Year 26/2024 AD to Change Year 46/2044 AD and will show us the grown grandchildren of the hero of Dies The Fire. Thus, this alternative history is also becoming a future history. However, it is a future not of high tech and space travel but of swords and magic. It is future but remains alternative, a new blend, like reading Merlin's Prophecies in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History Of The Kings Of Britain.

Planning And Writing The Technic History

At one stage while writing his main future history series, the History of Technic Civilization, Poul Anderson reread the entire series so far and compiled roughly alphabetical lists of:

etc -

 - with a reference for each entry.

He updated these lists when adding new stories and also kept planning notes covering:

life forms;
character biographies;

"I wrote out the entire historical scheme explicitly, with a time chart, star maps, and related aids. (How to represent a three-dimensional galactic region on a flat sheet of paper is left as an exercise for the student.)
"Cross references multiplied, with one story often suggesting another."
-Poul Anderson, "Concerning Future Histories," SFWA Bulletin, Fall, 1979 (see image).

John W. Campbell published Robert Heinlein's Time Chart. We want someone to publish Anderson's "entire historical scheme."

3D Map

Somewhere, there has got to be a 3D map of galactic space, showing:

the Terran Empire;
the Merseian Roidhunate;
the Wilderness;
the Betelgeusean System;
the Domain of Ythri;
the Dispersal of Ymir;
the Gorrazani remnant;
the former Chereionite empire;
the barbarian realms.

Some of these realms overlap whereas others clash. The Dispersal even owns Jupiter in the same system as Terra.

A later map would show:

human civilizations in three or more spiral arms;
the Cloud Universe with its one colonized planet and many mining beacons. 

Imperial Galactography And More Dennitzan Geography

In Poul Anderson's A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows, the planet Esperance is said to be close to the Domain of Ythri. Of course this planet is close to that Domain. The Terran attack on Ythri and its colonies was launched from Esperance in The People Of The Wind. From Diomedes to Dennitza is a month by hyperdrive even in Dominic Flandry's super-fast Hooligan. Again, this has to be the case because the Zorian System is on a march of the Wilderness between the Empire and the Roidhunate so that it has got to be very far away from most other places in the Empire.

Ythri and Esperance contribute passively (not actively) to the plot of A Knight... Their mere location makes them important.

"On the tundra far north of the Kazan, Bodin Miyatovich kept a hunting lodge." (A Knight..., Chapter XII, p. 506)

Bodin and his guests:

hunt gromatz, yegyupka or ice troll on horseback with hounds;
sail on wild waters;
ski on glaziers;
sit comfortably by a great hearth fire during blizzards.

The lodge, built of granite blocks, is surrounded by:

red-purple mahovina;
clumps of firebush;
windblown plume;
blinking pools.

Visible from a slate terrace that juts from the lodge is the two kilometre high shimmering ice cliff worldwall from which a river of melt water brawls nearby while a sheerwing flock cries remotely overhead.

Are there really such terrestroid planets out there? So many extrasolar planets are being discovered that maybe the answer is yes.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Between Fictional Realms

This blog navigates between fictional universes and timelines. Such fictional realms are not equidistant but cluster together. Thus, characters cross over between SM Stirling's Nantucket and Emberverse timelines. The presence of Nicholas van Rijn in the inter-universal inn, the Old Phoenix, establishes that Poul Anderson's Technic History timeline is, however tenuously or tangentially, connected to a multiverse that is featured in four other novels.

Fictional universes have stronger or weaker gravitational fields. For example, I dipped into Anderson's A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows merely to confirm or disconfirm whether Dominic Flandry may accurately be described as a gourmet but wound up rereading and posting about the entire novel.

Having possbly escaped from the Flandry period of the Terran Empire, I have started to read SM Stirling's The Given Sacrifice and found reason to speculate about interaction between the Changed Earth and the text of Anderson's "Delenda Est." See here. I hope tomorrow to make further progress with this tenth (?) volume of the Emberverse series.

Hinduraj And Narnia

"Australasia, Indonesia, Borneo, Burma, eastern India, and a good deal of the Pacific belonged to Hinduraj."
-Poul Anderson, "Delenda Est" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), pp. 173-228 AT 2, pp. 184-185.

"...the bloody rise of Mahendr Shud-dhikartaa hai - Mahendra the Purifier - carving out a new empire called Hinduraj on the Bay of Bengal..."
-SM Stirling, The Given Sacrifice (New York, 2014), Chapter One, p. 8.

Since "Delenda Est" was originally published in 1955 and since Stirling's Change occurred in 1998, is it possible that Mahendra named his Hinduraj  of Change Year 26/2024 AD after Anderson's fictional Hinduraj?

" a very important story because it shows how all the comings and goings between our world and Narnia first began."
-CS Lewis, The Magician's Nephew (London, 1998), Chapter 1, p. 9.

Why do I refer to Narnia immediately after Hinduraj? Well, all three of these countries, Narnia, Hinduraj (Anderson) and Hinduraj (Stirling) exist in other worlds - different kinds of other worlds. The Magician's Nephew is a prequel that begins by proclaiming that it is a prequel. More generally, its reference to "comings and goings" between worlds could equally apply to works by Poul Anderson, SM Stirling and Neil Gaiman. We take for granted the fantastic idea of travel between worlds thanks to the creative imaginations of these and other fantasy authors.

Undercover On Diomedes

Four groups operate undercover on Diomedes.

(i) Human agents of Merseia, posing as agents of Ythri, foment revolution among dissatisfied and disaffected natives.

(ii) Merseian agents who have infiltrated Imperial Intelligence arrive on Diomedes, where they occupy a wing of the Residency, ostensibly to investigate the Ythrian agitation. These Merseian agents include Aycharaych.

(iii) Other human agents of Merseia, posing as agents of Esperance investigating the alleged Ythrian agitation, claim to discover that the human agitators come not from the Domain of Ythri but from Dennitza.

(iv) The Gospodar of Dennitza sends his niece, Kossara Vymezal, accompanied by one zmay, Trohdwyr, ostensibly on a xenological study but covertly to investigate the accusation against Dennitza.

Thus, the only Dennitzans operating undercover on Diomedes are Kossara and Trohdwyr and they are there to investigate the allegation that Dennitzans are operating undercover on Diomedes! However:

a Diomedean leads the two Dennitzans to group (iii);
group (ii) attacks, killing Trohdwyr;
Aycharaych manipulates Kossara's memories, making her believe that -

she hates the Terran Empire;
she did go to Diomedes with other human Dennitzans to incite rebellion;
the Imperials killed not only Trohdwyr but also several human Dennitzans.

By going to Diomedes, Kossara compounded the lie that Dennitzans had gone to Diomedes for subversive purposes. In fact, she herself was made to believe the lie. Only Aycharaych could have perpetrated such a level of deception. Dennitzans did have problems with the Empire but not on the scale that Kossara was made to imagine.

Know Yourself - And Your Enemy

Is a single novel literally inexhaustible? Poul Anderson's A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows seems to be. Certainly, when I have exhausted all that I can find to say about it this time, I will not have exhausted all that there is to be said about it. Of course, the novel expresses not only its author's conscious artifice while he is writing it but, beyond that, his total knowledge and creativity.

Aycharaych knows the Chereionite heritage that he preserves. See here. But does he also display an impossibly detailed knowledge of Earth? He mentions:

Bach and the St. Matthew Passion;
Rembrandt and his few daubs of paint;
Tu Fu's poetry of dead leaves, snow, departing cranes and an old, shabby, caged parrot;
"negotium perambulans in tenebris";
"Yet half a beast is the great god Pan..." (Chapter IX, pp. 460-464)

Also, earlier in Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra:

Johann Strauss' waltzes;
Richard Strauss' Death and Transfiguration;
Xingu (?). ("Hunters of the Sky Cave," II, p. 160) 

However, Aycharaych has studied his enemy, has secretly visited Earth to walk in forests, inspect paintings and visit graves (p. 161) and is a universal telepath.

"The Empire had never had a more dangerous single enemy." (p. 463)


Aycharaych appreciates Flandry's total personality, admires his exploits and has interacted with him so often that a bond, undenied by Flandry, has formed between them.

Aycharaych says:

"'My too play a satanic role. How many lives have you twisted or chopped short? How many will you?'"
-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. 464.


On Chereion, Aycharaych appeals to Flandry, even addressing him by his first name:

"'Dominic, stay. We'll think how to keep your ships off and save Chereion...'" (Chapter XX, p. 600)

When Flandry objects that this would require him to betray his companions, Aycharaych offers him perhaps the ultimate temptation:

"'Yes. What are a few more lives to you? What is Terra? In ten thousand years, who will remember the empires? They can remember you, who saved Chereion for them.'" (ibid.)

He has already pointed out that he serves an abiding heritage whereas Flandry serves a dying civilization and asked, "'Who has the better right?'" (ibid.)

Flandry could have replied that he would not betray his murdered fiancee's kin but, instead, he generalizes:

"'There've been too many betrayals in too many causes.'" (ibid.)

How many of those betrayals have been by Flandry himself?

(Tonight, we watched the first instalment of a new Montalbano series.)

Tuesday, 22 August 2017


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.


How many kinds of entities struggle to preserve themselves? -

ways of life;
thought processes;

"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 and, indeed, 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.


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)


" 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.

Completely unreasonable is the idea of the incorporation of Diomedes into the nearby Domain of Ythri. Diomedeans and Ythrians are fliers 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 fliers should be able to sympathise 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.