Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Understanding New Worlds

HG Wells' Time Traveller arrives in 802,701 and must deduce that Morlocks eat Eloi.

A Grand Survey team arrives on Ythri and must deduce that the Ythrians are winged but intelligent.

Nicholas van Rijn arrives on various planets and must deduce the motivations of the inhabitants so that he can do business with them.

Other Anderson characters do similar detective work on extrasolar planets. How many?

What is it like to return home from another planet or time? The Time Traveller eats only fruit in 802,701 so he craves meat when he returns to the nineteenth century whereas CS Lewis' Ransom eats only fruit in the unFallen Perelandra so he prefers fruit to bacon and eggs on his return.

And the Time Traveller makes a most powerful statement about the unreality of his experiences. When asked where he got the unfamiliar flowers:

"The Time Traveller put his hand to his head. He spoke like one who was trying to keep hold of an idea that eluded him. 'They were put into my pocket by Weena, when I travelled into Time.' He stared round the room. 'I'm damned if it isn't all going. This room and you and the atmosphere of every day is too much for my memory. Did I ever make a Time Machine, or a model of a Time Machine? Or is it all only a dream? They say life is a dream, a precious poor dream at times - but I can't stand another that won't fit. It's madness. And where did the dream come from? ...I must look at that machine. If there is one!'"
-HG Wells, The Time Machine (London, 1977), Chapter 16, p. 98.

Here he speaks for all of us and echoes Lewis Carroll: "Life, what is it but a dream?" He even comments that life is sometimes a poor dream. He has stepped right outside of the fiction. And he tries to remember the story as we do when we have not read it for a long time.

(Carroll ends Wonderland by imagining the future Alice remembering this same tale of long ago.)

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Anderson's "Territory" is a good example of Old Nick figuring out the basic needs and drives of an alien race in such a way that he could arrive at agreements with them.

And we see mention in THE REBEL WORLDS of the Imperial Intelligence Academy teaching Dominic Flandry HOW to learn strange languages, human and non human, as quickly as possible. Because field agents of the Intelligence Corps often would need to learn languages far more quickly than did civilians, even scholars specializing in the study of non humans.

And don't forget the Suggestion in Lewis Carroll's "Alice" books about us being only parts of the Red King's dream!