Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Surviving The End Of The Universe

Isaac Asimov's giant Multivac, written in 1956 and set in 2061, seems incredibly primitive in 2017. At the end of Asimov's "The Last Question," the ultimate cosmic AI, located entirely in hyperspace - that needs some explanation -, survives the universe, learns how to reverse entropy and says, "'LET THERE BE LIGHT!'" (See here)

For a more sophisticated sf treatment of this theme, see Poul Anderson's Harvest of Stars Tetralogy:

Free human beings and downloaded human intelligences will use nanotechnology to fill the stellar universe with organic life that is expected to end when the last star does whereas inorganic intelligence will survive the universe either by utilising the energy of disintegrating black holes and particles or by experiencing an infinitiy of events and thoughts in the finite time before a cosmic singularity.
-copied from here. See also here.

Anderson envisages not a second creation but something subtler.

Recent Posts

OK. Dig the range of writers that have been discussed or at least mentioned in blog posts since returning from holiday:

JRR Tolkien
CS Lewis
James Blish
Poul Anderson
SM Stirling
James Elroy Flecker
Neil Gaiman
David Drake
HG Wells
Philip K Dick
Len Deighton
Karen Anderson
Peter Frankopan
ER Burroughs (through a reference to Tarzan)
Olaf Stapledon
Rudyard Kipling
Edgar Allen Poe
Arthur Conan Doyle
Robert Heinlein
Agatha Christie (through a reference to Poirot)
other successors of Heinlein (not specified but we know who they are)
Anon
Mark Twain
L Sprague de Camp
Harry Harrison
Tim Powers
Audrey Niffeneger
Ward Moore
Alan Moore (on another blog)

As usual when I compile such a list, it turns out to be considerably longer than I had expected. It is my privilige to live at a time when, sitting at home, I am able to address a world-wide audience about all these authors.

Creation In Fiction

Fantasy
The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien
The Magician's Nephew by CS Lewis

SF
"The Last Question" by Isaac Asimov
The Triumph Of Time by James Blish
"Flight to Forever" by Poul Anderson
Tau Zero by Poul Anderson

"Creation" can mean either just a cosmic beginning or a creative act.

Having linked here to the Asimov story, maybe I should reread it to comment further? However, some comments are possible already.

Themes covered by both Asimov and Anderson
creation
AI
robots (mobile humanoid AIs)
time travel
FTL
an interstellar empire in a future history
aliens
detective fiction
science writing
anything else?

Which does Asimov do better? I would say only the robots - because he specialized in them.

Ways To Wage War

Attack and kill everyone on the other side unless they kill you first? There are better ways. In Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, the Schotani Empire never launches its planned attack on the Terran Empire because one of its leaders has captured Dominic Flandry during a preliminary intelligence-gathering operation. Flandry, soon becoming not a mere captive but a confidante and adviser, sabotages the enemy empire by fomenting conflicts within it.

In SM Stirling's Dies The Fire, Juniper Mackenzie pulls a comparable stunt against the dictatorial "Protectorate" albeit that Juniper's approach is considerably more benign than Flandry's. By taking prisoners, then offering them a favorable resettlement deal, she incites conflict between those on the other side who want to surrender to her and those who think it more prudent to stay with the Protector.

Juniper's strategy is both intelligent and based on military intelligence. She knows that many people are with the Protector only because they have not yet been offered an alternative. This approach contrasts sharply with the wishful thinking of Anderson's Lord Hauksberg who expects to find a pro-peace party among the Merseians!

Reversing Entropy?

Is Resurrection possible? I do not accept evidence for an historical Resurrection (see here) but is it possible? I think that a scientific formulation of this question would be: Can entropy be reversed? (See here.) Asimov wrote a story about this question.

The scientific answer seems to be that entropy cannot be reversed in the history of this universe but there are further questions. How did this universe begin? Can others begin? At the end of Anderson's The Avatar, representatives of a superior civilization, able to traverse space-time, are at the site of a new monobloc and able to influence the course of future universes. Anderson's War Of The Gods presents a bizarre image of resurrection: a cock is killed and thrown over a wall, then heard to crow, but this is a fantasy, not sf.

CS Lewis presents a vivid image of resurrected life, in which he believed, in several works: the energy of youth, the wisdom of age and a firm grasp on life, which is no longer slipping away. I would welcome this if it were possible.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Between the Pedestals of Night and Morning

We have established that there is an affinity between:

James Elroy Flecker;
Poul Anderson;
SM Stirling;
Neil Gaiman -

- poetry, prose fiction and graphic fiction.

Gaiman quotes Flecker's "The Bridge of Fire," as being particularly appropriate, at the beginning of his The Sandman: The Wake. I reread this poem for help in meditation, then thought that readers of Anderson's and Stirling's works might also find it resonant.

An Alternative Present

Agenda:

finish reading SM Stirling's Dies The Fire;

start reading Volume II, The Protector's War, which has just arrived.

David Drake writes of The Protector's War:

"Reminds me of Poul Anderson at his best."

At his best? We will find out.

We note that, whereas Dies The Fire, published in 2005, has an opening chapter set in 1998 - Change minus one hour, The Protector's War, published in 2006, has an opening chapter set in 2006 - Change Year Eight. Stirling was writing an alternative present and we are reading twenty first century science fiction after so many decades of regarding the twenty first century as "the future." Remember that The Time Machine was a work of the nineteenth century. We have come a long way from Wells via Anderson to Stirling. Futuristic speculation is gaining a substantial past.

Every Alternative

A work of alternative history fiction can be set entirely within an alternative timeline, like Poul Anderson's "The House of Sorrows," or can involve travel between such timelines, like HG Wells' Men Like Gods or Anderson's "Eutopia" and his Old Phoenix sequence.

As far as I can see, every alternative history narrative by SM Stirling soon or later acknowledges multiple timelines? Although the Emberversers do not know it (yet), the Nantucketers have gone elsewhere/when.

The premise inherently entails the possibility that the alternative histories of Wells, Anderson, Stirling etc coexist in the multiverse and could be referenced in later works by other authors. The DC Comics multiverse even included one Earth where no one had gained any superpowers. The only place to read about superheroes was in comic books although a supervillain from Earth 3 commented that this sounded unlikely.

Why is the Emberverse called that? Volume II should arrive today. We remain very close to Poul Anderson while enjoying a whole new slant on one of the basic sf premises. There have been at least three TV series based on the Germans winning World War II, two of them adapted from novels by Philip K Dick and Len Deighton, and one of the DC universes had superheroes fighting a Nazi world dictatorship. Anderson has a World War II fought against a Caliphate and Stirling has the Draka winning the Final War. Most timelines have problems.

Two (Or Three) Kinds Of Order

If civilization collapsed, then some people would try to restore order for the common good whereas others would seek to enforce order for the sole purpose of empowering themselves over everyone else.

Examples of the first kind are:

Poul and Karen Anderson's Gratillonius, the former King of Ys, responding to the withdrawal of the Roman Empire from Brittania and Gaul;

Mike Havel, "Lord Bear," in SM Stirling's Dies The Fire.

An example of the second kind is the self-styled "Protector" in Dies The Fire.

Why are some people like that? When we have a society in which everyone seeks the common good, then many problems will have been solved and we will have a better chance of solving any that remain.

Both kinds of people exist now. In your workplace or community are potential Lord Bears and Protectors. They are obliged to work together although they sometimes pull against each other. Conflicts and rivalries are not settled with spears or crossbows but they remain conflicts and rivalries that can devastate lives, careers and organizations. In fact, they might reduce us to the level of spears and crossbows.

Apparently, the negation of technology in Dies The Fire has been an act of war against humanity. By whom? And will the culprits be confronted? One character suggested that it was "the Lord," as in the Biblical Flood. I will continue to read the Emberverse series and to reflect on what it tells us about existing society.

A third response to social collapse is that of Roan Tom in Poul Anderson's Technic History. Tom seeks neither the common good nor personal power but mere survival. However, in the process of protecting himself and his wives, Tom forges alliances that do help to restore order.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Oaths And Spells

SM Stirling, Dies The Fire (New York, 2005), pp. 505-506.

On very short acquaintance, two pre-teen girls swear blood-sisterhood and each grants the other a veto on choice of boyfriend or partner! Nothing said that young can possibly be either legally or morally binding later yet the Wiccan mother of one of the girls says:

"'...a ceremony like this is a promise to the Mighty Ones... you've asked them to bind you to a purpose... They are likely to hold you to it...'" (p. 506)

I have to disagree. We did not create the laws of physics. We did not create the moral law that unenlightened actions cause suffering. But we do create any deities that we imagine as custodians of moral laws. At least, I think we do. The gods may be invoked but must be kept in their place. The Buddha, an enlightened human being, is a teacher of gods and men. The Buddhist Milarepa is said to have tamed the Tibetan gods. A mother should not frighten her daughter with threats from "the Mighty Ones."

Secrets Of Stalking

SM Stirling, Dies The Fire (New York), p. 231:

"There was a secret to stalking, and wasn't much different with deer or humans..."

Stirling lists several points of which two interest me.

"Don't stare. People can feel that."

Can they? There is probably some research on this. I can remember three occasions when I had a "sixth sense" warning of a potential threat or danger.

The second point is that a particular combination of concentration and alertness:

"...wasn't really something that you learned; you learned to stop not doing it."

This sounds like zazen. Maybe we can stalk deer, human beings and thoughts?

Merseians and kzinti are two carnivore races that take their hunting into space.

Flexibility

"...Havel thought how much of a survival advantage it was to be mentally flexible in this Changed world."
-SM Stirling, Dies The Fire (New York, 2005), p. 406.

Flexibility is always an advantage. Poul Anderson argued (see here) that natural selection moves in two directions:

highly specialized organisms that become extinct when their environment changes;

sensitive and alert organisms able to learn and to adapt their behavior to changed conditions.

The latter can become cooperative, linguistic and intelligent. Therefore, Anderson argues that intelligence is common throughout the universe. Meanwhile, we must become and remain mentally flexible. Ditch dogmatism. Theory is grey; life is green.

Living In Myths

Poul Anderson's "Star of the Sea" is about the growth of myths as meaningful stories, not as mere falsehoods. I think that somewhere in this story Everard remembers Stalin asking derisively how many divisions the Pope commands, not realizing that people live by myths.

"We need myths, [Juniper] thought. We live by them. But can we live in them?"
-SM Stirling, Dies The Fire (New York, 2005), p. 508.

Populations for generations have lived inside myths, never questioning their received doctrines about supernatural beings and a hereafter. I am glad to live in a period when we can compare traditions and question inherited indoctrinations.

Wicca

Wicca in SM Stirling's Dies The Fire (New York, 2005) could be discussed on the Religion and Philosophy blog on the ground that Wicca is a religion or on the Science Fiction blog on the ground that Stirling is an sf author other than Poul Anderson. However, works by Stirling have been discussed on Poul Anderson Appreciation on the ground that Stirling is a worthy colleague and successor of Anderson. There is thematic continuity.

A convert to Wicca says on p. 340, that she was a Buddhist and already believed in:

karma-dharma;
reincarnation;
multiple spiritual guides -

- and that the difference is more terminological than theological.

Karma is action and its consequences;
dharma is law or teaching;
the Buddhist term and concept is "rebirth" rather than "reincarnation" but personally I accept neither;
I regard gods and Bodhisattvas as personifications and projections, not as literal guides;
I can participate fully in Buddhist or Wiccan ceremonies but not in Christian liturgy because Christians make an issue of belief.

And what does anyone else think?

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Myth And History

During a ritual, the priestess experiences oneness with the Goddess. (SM Stirling, Dies The Fire, New York, 2005, p. 349)

This kind of experience can occur in two kinds of narratives:

a fantasy assuming the literal existence of gods and goddesses;
a narrative set in our world, where such experiences are attested.

Some of the language used here could also be used by a monotheist:

"...an awareness vast beyond all understanding."

We understand what was meant by the observation that the novel's two themes are myth and technology. See here.

Which god was to be regarded as supreme was an issue of power politics in the ancient world: "In hoc signo vinces." (See here)

Sheila is reading The Silk Roads. Its opening pages refer to:

Herodotus;
Babylon;
Pasargadae;
Bactria;
Alexander;
cities named after Alexander;
the Seleucids;
the Hindu Kush;
the Roman Empire;
Constantine;
Constantinople.

Readers of this blog will know how all these names feature in works by Poul Anderson.

3147 miles

Previous outings and holidays within England have generated relevant blog posts, e.g.:

Greystoke Castle and Hadrian's Wall (see here);
York;
Portmeirion, which I compared with Ys;
Caernarfon;
Lichfield;
King's Lynn;
Norwich;
Heysham;
Morecambe.

This week, we visited Land's End which is 3147 miles from New York. That city exists in many works of fiction and drama. For me, it is significant as James Blish's flying city and as the setting both of Manse Everard's apartment and also of the Farness' apartment overlooking Central Park in the 1930s. How is Land's End relevant? It is the westernmost point of England and has a signpost pointing across the Atlantic at New York. We visit Land's End and think of New York - and I wonder what Manse Everard is doing in 2017.

Myth And Technology

"Stirling shows that while our technology influences the means by which we live, it is the myths we believe in that determine how we live. The novel's dual themes - myth and technology - should appeal to both fantasy and hard SF readers as well as to technothriller fans."
-Publishers Weekly quoted on p. i of SM Stirling, Dies The Fire (New York, 2005).

Technology does more than influence. Stirling shows that it is the means by which most of us stay alive. Human beings change their environment with hands and brain and change themselves and their myths in the process. Technology is an artificial extension of hands and brain:

"...the steel an extension of his big battered-looking hands." (p. 35)

It would be hard to find more powerful themes than myth and technology. Olaf Stapledon called his future history an essay in myth. Poul Anderson retold myths and repackaged the myth of a cosmic cycle as hard sf.

Fantasy and sf are very different genres although there are reasons why they are classed together and borderline cases are possible. Poul Anderson wrote both genres. In his hard sf stories, "The Saturn Game" and "The Queen of Air and Darkness," characters enact fantasies in different ways.

A work of fiction about a "demon" is:

fantasy if the demon is conventionally supernatural;
sf if he is rationalized as a powerful alien or dimensional entity;
psychological fiction if he is an illusion or projection;
ambiguous if his status remains unclear.

By Jove, those demons are versatile chaps! In our version of reality, is there any empirical difference between a man who, it is claimed, is literally possessed by a demon and one who suffers from the delusion that he is possessed?

Stirling shows that, with the loss of technology, society would return from historical to mythical time and that, in such a milieu, The Lord Of The Rings could influence how battles were recorded.

Echoes Of Kipling

The beginning and end of Poul Anderson's The Game Of Empire echo Kipling as does the title of SM Stirling's Dies The Fire.

Science Fiction Weekly commented that Stirling described details "...with the skill of a Poul Anderson..." This is correct and we know what he means although, years ago, a well-read house visitor, finding a copy of an sf review magazine lying around, asked me if it was a joke! It was full of authors and titles that he had never heard of.

Library Journal described Dies The Fire as set in a near future. However, it was published in 2005 whereas its opening chapter is dated 1998 so I would call it a recently divergent alternative history.

More on this later.

Understanding Science

Readers who lack a scientific education gain some understanding of science from hard sf and from science writing like Poul Anderson's "Science and Creation" in the NESFA collections, vol 2.

Most solar energy dissipates in space but a very small proportion of it increases order on Earth. However, Terrestrial negative entropy is local and temporary and is sustained only by the constant increase of cosmic entropy. When a river powers a mill, the water continues to flow down to the sea. All energy dissipates even if a small proportion of it does useful work en route. Life and consciousness are not a cosmic purpose but an accidental by-product that swims against the stream for a while.

How did energy become concentrated?
Can this happen again?
Did the idea of a cyclical universe, when it was entertained, contradict the second law of thermodynamics?

Intersecting Histories II

See here.

Aeneas, Ythri And Vixen
In the 24th century, an Aenean Christian comes into conflict with the Ythrian New Faith on Avalon.
In the 25th century, Adzel meets Henry Kittredge from Vixen.
In the 29th century, Ythrian choths on Avalon accept human members and High Sky Choth mostly keeps to the Old Faith.
In the 31st century, Dominic Flandry meets Catherine Kittredge from Vixen and exiles Aenean rebels. Helen Kittredge from Vixen dies in combat.
In the 72nd century, a New Vixenite meets the Kirkasanter descendants of the Aenean exiles.

Thus:
human-Ythrian interaction develops;
the long history of human beings on Vixen, then on New Vixen, and the equally long history of human beings on Aeneas, then on Kirkasant, eventually converge.

Earth And Merseia
In the 25th century, the Polesotechnic League shields Merseia from supernova radiation.
In the 29th century, the Roidhunate of Merseia is a distant but growing threat.
In the 31st century, the Roidhunate has become the main adversary of the Terran Empire although Merseian settlers on the human colony planet of Dennitza are loyal to the Emperor, not to the Roidhun. Olaf Magnusson, raised to be pro-Merseian, tries to become Emperor.
In the mid-4th millennium, the Empire falls and we infer that the Roidhunate does also.

Thus:
not only human beings and Ythrians but also human beings and Merseians can share a planet;
we want to read a lot more of this history.

Intersecting Histories

Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization is remarkable not only for its many successive periods but also for its many intersecting narrative strands. Earlier episodes contribute background details that enrich later episodes and thus also the unfolding history. No single summary can possibly do justice to this aspect of the series. However, I will present some partial summaries in order to convey the richness and complexity of the Technic History. For convenience, I refer to dates as given in Sandra Miesel's Chronology but, for a discussion of the details of the Chronology, see here.

Terrestrial Religions And Wodenites
In the 21st century, there is a Jerusalem Catholic Church on Earth.
In the 25th century, Nicholas van Rijn, Catholic, employs Adzel, a Wodenite convert to Buddhism.
In the 29th century, a Terran Admiral from Nuevo Mexico is Catholic and a Lieutenant from Earth is Jerusalem Catholic.
In the 31st century, there are Jerusalem Catholics on Daedalus and a Galilean Order mission to Woden converts Axor who is ordained.
Thus, Jerusalem Catholicism, introduced in the 21st century, and Wodenites, introduced in the 25th century, although mentioned earlier, interact in the 31st century.

To be continued.

From Poe To Anderson

Nineteenth century periodicals published short stories, which could be republished in collections, and serials, which could be republished as novels. An innovation in periodical publication was the series, which grew in two stages. First, Edgar Allen Poe wrote three short stories, published in different journals, about the detective Dupin although the word "detective" did not exist yet. Secondly, Arthur Conan Doyle conceived of "a new kind of serial," for periodical publication. Each episode would be a complete story but the episodes would be linked by continuing characters and settings as in a serial. Thus, the reader would appreciate continuity and familiarity but would be less disappointed on missing an episode. Sherlock Holmes was the first series character in this full sense.

Holmes' many successors include Poul Anderson's:

Trygve Yamamura, a (very different) detective;
Nicholas van Rijn of the Polesotechnic League;
Dominic Flandry of the Terran Empire;
Manse Everard of the Time Patrol.

All four are central characters of a series and apply Holmesian detective skills. Everard begins his Time Patrol career by investigating an untold Holmes case and meets Holmes. Full circle.

Robert Heinlein invented the future history series which covers several generations of a fictional history and therefore has no central character. Poul Anderson modeled his Psychotechnic History on Heinlein's Future History, then linked his van Rijn and Flandry series and several other works into the History of Technic Civilization. Thus:

short stories in periodicals and collections;
longer stories, serialized;
serials republished as novels;
series of short stories and novels;
future history series;
a longer future history series incorporating two character-based series and several novels.

Imagine reading:

the Dupin stories;
the Holmes series;
precursors of the Time Patrol (see here);
the Time Patrol series;
other Holmes successors, like Poirot;
the Yamamura trilogy;
the pre-series, single novel, future histories of Wells and Stapledon;
the Future History;
the Psychotechnic History;
the Technic History;
Anderson's six other future histories;
other successors of Heinlein.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Time Travel Aspects And Contributions

Time travel can be in either direction and can involve either circular causality or causality violation. These two directions of travel and two causality paradoxes are four aspects of time travel and have distinct literary sources -

pastward travel: Anon and Twain;
futureward travel: Wells;
circular causality: Wells and Heinlein;
causality violation: de Camp.

Uniquely, Poul Anderson addressed all four aspects in different works and also made five original contributions to the concept of time travel:

(i) corridors constructed in space, then rotated onto the temporal axis, so that it becomes possible to time travel by walking along a corridor;

(ii) mutants able to time travel by an act of will;

(iii) the Time Patrol with its milieu headquarters and branch offices in different periods linked by message shuttles and by Patrol members traveling on timecycles, its Specialists exploring undocumented periods and its Unattached agents acting at any point in history to prevent causality violations;

(iv) historical alterations caused not only by time travelers but also by random fluctuations in space-time-energy;

(v) a personal causal nexus, i.e., an individual whose world-line intersects with so many others that a small change in his life cause big changes in history.

In Anderson's Time Patrol series, mankind, instead of devolving into Morlocks or Eloi, evolves into the Danellians who found the Patrol whose members travel into the past in order to prevent causality violations sometimes by completing causal circles but, on one occasion, by responding to space-time fluctuations and neutralizing a personal causal nexus. This series incorporates the four aspects of time travel and also Anderson's contributions (iii)-(v). The Patrolmen use neither (i) time corridors nor (ii) a mutant ability but timecycles which resemble modernized, mass-produced, streamlined Time Machines. Thus, this series, while not fully comprehensive, is as comprehensive a synthesis of time travel fiction as we will probably get.

Pastward Travel
"Missing One's Coach" Anon
A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain
"The Little Monster" by Poul Anderson
"The Man Who Came Early" by Poul Anderson

In each of these works, a man is transported to an earlier period with different consequences. The earliest literary time traveler merely visits the past, possibly just in a dream. The Yankee prospers. One Anderson character survives. The other does not.

Futureward Travel
The Time Machine by HG Wells
"Time Heals" by Poul Anderson
"Welcome" by Poul Anderson
"Flight to Forever" by Poul Anderson

In each of these works, a technological time traveler visits future periods, again with different results. Whereas Wells' Time Traveler sees the end of life on Earth and returns to the nineteenth century, one of Anderson's time travelers sees the end of the universe, then continues around the circle of time back to the twentieth century.

Circular Causality
"The Chronic Argonauts" by HG Wells
two stories and one novel by Robert Heinlein
The Technicolor Time Machine by Harry Harrison
three novels by Anderson
The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffeneger

Heinlein's time travelers experience the circular causality paradox in future periods and one of them emulates the Yankee by applying modern knowledge in a simpler period. Harrison's and Power's time travelers experience this paradox in historical periods whereas Niffeneger's characters experience it in their own lifetimes. Anderson's characters travel through past and future. Indeed, two future civilizations, using time corridors, wage war throughout history.

Causality Violation
Lest Darkness Fall by L Sprague de Camp
Bring The Jubilee by Ward Moore

De Camp's involuntary time traveler deliberately prevents the Dark Ages whereas Moore's time traveling historian accidentally alters the course and outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Culmination
The Time Patrol series by Poul Anderson -

- a series of stories and novels about an organization of time travelers experiencing both causality paradoxes in various historical and prehistorical periods.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Hello

Hello, everyone. Thank you for continued page views and combox discussion. It has been a nightmare. I have not been able to post and am able to do so now only because of Ketlan's technical skills. Early tomorrow morning, I will depart on a coach holiday, not taking the new lap top with me. Sheila and I will return from Cornwall late on Friday.

Posts for publication have been drafted and SM Stirling's Dies The Fire is being read. It features a Steve Matuchek (!), another good villain, more good people with survival skills, informed treatment of Wicca and self-confessed "food porn"! This blog and others will continue although maybe at a more leisurely pace.

Long live the Emperor! - although not the Protector/would-be Emperor in Dies The Fire. It is good that society survives and better if guys like him don't get control of it.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Time, Anderson And Stirling

Sometimes sf writers make evocative use of the concept of altered timelines. Poul Anderson does this in his Time Patrol series. See here and here.
-copied from here.

The two links in the above quotation show:

passages from Anderson's The Shield Of Time;
his creatively imagined interactions between alternative timelines;
parallels with an alternative history novel by SM Stirling.

Alternative history by SM Stirling will be, and a rereading of The Shield Of Time will probably be, early themes on this blog.

A Recurrent Theme

Although we have a Logic of Time Travel blog, time travel crosses the blogs. We have recently posted about:

the Time Patrol;
There Will Be Time;
time travel in Smallville;
time travel in Jerusalem (and here);
the Nantucket trilogy;
ghosts and time travelers here.

Those posts are spread across five blogs. But time travelers get everywhere - and when.

Monday, 6 February 2017

An Old Inn

A writer either of historical fiction or of science fiction involving time travel to the past can potentially find background material in any new information about a historical period.

Today, walking along Lancaster Canal, we visited the Hest Bank Inn which:

has existed since the sixteenth century;
originally brewed mead;
was captured by both sides in the English Civil War;
became a den for highwaymen;
displayed a light to guide travelers across the treacherous sands of Morecambe Bay;
nowadays serves Lancashire cheese and onion pie.

We may safely conjecture that Time Patrol agents on a mission to counteract extratemporal interference in the Civil War would stay overnight in such an inn and might even revisit it when they had returned to their own periods.

Also, Patrol agents operating in England would almost certainly recruit a certain private inquiry agent in his retirement to enlist his help in a case involving Jonathan Wild, the Moriarty of an earlier century.

The Fiction/Science Fiction Interface

"'They'll find the molecular basis of heredity, approximately ten years from now.'
"'What?' I sat bolt upright. 'This you've got to tell me more about!'"
-Poul Anderson, There Will Be Time (New York, 1973), V, p. 47.

In this dialogue, the first speaker, Jack Havig, knows what will happen ten years hence because he is a time traveler. That is science fiction. The molecular basis of heredity will be discovered. Is that science fiction? No, because the book was published in 1973. But exactly that same sentence:

"They'll find the molecular basis of heredity..."

- would have been sf if published fifty years earlier.

A contemporary novel by the same author could have featured a minor character called Jack Havig. The reader would have learned that that character was a time traveler by reading There Will Be Time. Also, ambiguity is possible: Jack tells fascinating stories about the future Maurai Federation that he claims to have visited. Is he really a time traveler or just a good story-teller?

I think that imaginative writers can probably do more creative work at this interface between genres. A historical novel, a contemporary novel and a futuristic novel could be linked by the reader's knowledge that one of the characters is an immortal or a time traveler.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Iambic Pentameter

Copied from here. (Rereading the Comics Appreciation blog, I realized that this post should be copied to here because of its concluding reference to Poul Anderson.)

Marlowe: I'll stick with boys...my horned "actresses."
Shakespeare: More wine! More ale! And buss me quick, my sweet!
Sweet Kit. The play I gave you. Did you read...?
Marlowe: I must confess I have. I thought it, well...
You act well, Will, but...listen, let me read...
"Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night!
"Comets importing change of times and states,
"Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky,
"And with them scourge the bad, revolting stars."
At least it scans. But "bad revolting stars"?
Shakespeare: It's my first play.
Marlowe:                                And it should be your last.
Shakespeare: God's wounds! If only I could write like you!
In Faustus, where you wrote...
"To God! He loves thee not! 
"The God thou servest is thine own appetite, 
"Wherein is fixed the love of Beelzebub.
"To him I'll build an altar and a church,
"And offer lukewarm blood of new-born babes."
It chills my blood!
Marlowe:             And so it should, good Will!
Shakespeare: I would give anything to have your gifts.
Or more than anything to give men dreams,
That would live on long after I am dead.
I'd bargain, like your Faustus, for that boon.
Dream: Are you Will Shaxberd?
Shakespeare:                            Aye, sir. Have we met?
Dream: We have. But men forget, in waking hours.
I heard your talk, Will. Would you write great plays?
Create new dreams to spur the minds of men?
Is that your will?
Shakespeare:   It is.
Dream:                    Then let us talk.

Neil Gaiman says on p. 56 of Hy Bender's The Sandman Companion (London, 1999) that he wrote this dialogue (The Sandman: The Doll's House, New York, 1995, pp. 125-127) in iambic pentameter so I have tried to transcribe it accordingly but am not sure whether I have laid out the first three lines of the quotation from Faustus correctly.

This is another parallel with Poul Anderson. Anderson's Shakespearean novel, A Midsummer Tempest, is presented as prose although much of its text is blank verse, some is rhyming verse, one passage is a Shakespearean sonnet and several chapters end in rhyming couplets (and here).                

Genre Fiction

Poul Anderson wrote:

science fiction, including space opera and speculative fiction;
fantasy, including heroic fantasy and historical fantasy;
historical fiction;
detective fiction -

- four genres with several sub-genres. Did Anderson write any mainstream fiction, if not in novels, then in short stories?

Story-telling is ancient and pre-literary but how and when did genre fiction arise? Alan Moore's Jerusalem presents an account. In the interests of multi-blogging, I will shortly summarize that account on the Personal and Literary Reflections blog, then link this post to that summary.

Later: link.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Where Were We?

The blog is primarily about Poul Anderson.
This has involved comparing Anderson with many other writers.
Some posts have focused on SM Stirling as a colleague and worthy successor of Anderson.
Before Christmas, I began to read Dies The Fire. See also here.
At Christmas, I received Alan Moore's voluminous Jerusalem, which I am still reading and posting about here.
I have tried to link everything.
Multiple blogging is like juggling.
Normal service will be resumed.

Words And World

Language is like either clear or stained glass. We look either through or at it. Someone writing about Isaac Asimov said that Asimov's prose is totally like clear glass. The reader attends only to the content. In Poul Anderson's works, we appreciate the content, imaginative narratives with rich characterization imparting much scientific and historical information, but also Anderson's uses of language, in particular his vivid descriptions and the prevalent but understated pathetic fallacy. Read everything twice, the second time pausing to savor the descriptions of stars seen from space, of seasonal changes or of alien landscapes.

The process of writing focuses the writer's, if not also the reader's, attention on choices of words. In a recent post, having typed the phrase, "timeless treasure," and the adjective, "topical...," I cast about for a second alliterative noun. I like the phrase, "Where were we?," because each word is a diminution of its predecessor. And that should be the title of the next post.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Time And Motion

Is time a fourth dimension that might be traversed by immaterial consciousnesses and/or by material "time machines"?

We discussed relevant fiction by Wells, Blish and Anderson under the sub-heading "Means of Time Travel" in "Time Travel and Poul Anderson," here. More recently, we have discussed relevant fiction by Alan Moore in:

Walking Back
The Road Ahead
"Upstairs"
Conceptual Issues
Two Accounts
Wells, Blish And Moore
Moving Through Time? 
Upstairs

- and in other recent posts.

Certain ways of thinking about time seem to be embedded in consciousness even though they do not stand up to closer analysis. I hope that readers of Poul Anderson Appreciation will also read some of the relevant posts on the Personal and Literary Reflections blog.

Temporal Perambulators

We referred here to Lancaster quay so I thought that it was time for a picture. Lancaster Priory Church can be seen in the background. A fantasy or sf reader can imagine walking along the quay into Lancaster's maritime past which is remembered in a museum on the quay.

Poul Anderson coined the evocative phrase, peregrinator temporis, time traveler. Alan Moore goes further and refers to "...the temporal pedestrians..." (Jerusalem, London, 2016, p. 982)

Moore's ambulatory time travelers find whales that have grown legs and adapted back to land. This reminds us of "land-whales" mentioned by Anderson! (I can find obscure cross-connections anywhere if I am determined enough.)

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Future Ice Ages

It is not easy to keep up blogging when British television shows programs on a timeless treasure like Julian of Norwich and a topical trouble like The Nazis: A Warning From History. (It was when contemplating the Eternal in Norwich Cathedral that I thought of trying to combine three different works on time travel. See here.)

Perhaps there is only time tonight to list three fictional future Ice Ages:

The Winter Of The World by Poul Anderson;
Winterworld by Chuck Dixon;
"...the temporary arctic chill caused by the failure of the Gulf Stream..." on p. 979 of Jerusalem (London, 2016) by Alan Moore.

Now it is time to watch some more Smallville before turning in.

Time And Length

In Poul Anderson's The Corridors Of Time, corridors constructed in normal space are rotated onto the temporal axis. Thus, anyone who walks or drives along such a corridor can exit in an earlier or later century.

In Alan Moore's Jerusalem, one feature of the hereafter is a long corridor parallel to the world lines of the mortal world. Thus, ghosts can walk into what the living regard as the remote past or future.

That is a textual and conceptual parallel. Moore's novel incorporates historical, contemporary and futuristic fiction and fantasy. He is comparable to Anderson in imagination and opposite in politics. We are enriched by reading both.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Blog Overload

Rereading works by Poul Anderson;
reading a book by Alan Moore, a book about Alan Moore and a book by SM Stirling;
watching dvds;
philosophizing;
socializing with those who mentally inhabit elaborate fictions;
life.

I will get back to you when I have sorted out what I am doing next.

(Is that title Spanish?)

Thursday, 2 Feb: I have been getting involved with some fantastic sf ideas on a couple of other blogs.

Also, world news is fantastic right now. What would Poul Anderson have said? I don't know but something informed and intelligent.

"The Faun": Continued

See here.

A boy, stepping out from among the pines, dressed and equipped for the outdoors life, is accompanied by a six-legged animal, its fur the same bluish green as the leaves on the native plants. They peer, listen and smell: three senses.

The boy, Tom, opens his entire nervous system to the forest. He combines the sensitivity of the Sensitive Man in Anderson's Psychotechnic History with the ecological oneness of the Freeholders in Anderson's Technic History. He has been trained for this purpose so that the colonists will not repeat the environmental mistakes and disasters of their ancestors on Earth.

Just a five page story originally published in Boys' Life but a whole new approach to extra-solar colonization.

"The Faun": Opening Paragraph

Comparing future histories has led us back to (what I call) Poul Anderson's Directorate History, which is just four stories.

"The Faun" was published in Boy's Life and thus is one of Anderson's juvenile works (see also here). The title and the opening sentence:

"A wyvern flew up in a thunder of splendid wings."
-Poul Anderson, "The Faun" IN Anderson, The Queen Of Air And Darkness and other stories (London, 1977), pp. 86-90 AT p. 86 -

- suggest a fantasy but the following sentences clarify that the story is set on a colonized extra-solar planet.

"A python tree coiled its branches." (ibid.)

A tree so called because its branches move.

"A chiming rang among the tiny red blossoms that covered the ground." (ibid.)

As often before, Anderson tells us what a terrestroid planet has instead of grass.

"Alien in the forest, a grove of pines stirred only to a breeze." (ibid.)

So this planet has been colonized by human beings who have brought some of their own ecology with them. And that concludes the opening paragraph.

Discussing SF

Copied from here.

Is it frivolous to post about science fiction given the present state of the world?

No. It is possible to appreciate fiction while addressing the state of the world which unfortunately will probably be bad for a long time yet.

Is sf escapist?

Some is. However, some other works of sf address serious issues, e.g., see:

Serious Issues
Issues In Mirkheim;
War, Wells And Anderson;
Cold War SF
Thermonuclear Warfare And James Blish
Fiction And Non-Fiction
Church And State
"The Old And Protean Enemy"
Future Politics
The Wardens' And Rangers' Time War II
The Sensitive Man 
What We Expect
Remember Wells
Mankind
Synthesis And Sensitivity
More Background Details
Some References In "The Sensitive Man"
A Note On Draka And Psychotechnic Politics
Comments On A Debate About The Future
The History Of The Science Of Society
A Debate About The Future
Flandry's Theoretical Understanding