Thursday, 23 March 2017

Boring!

SM Stirling, A Meeting At Corvallis (New York, 2007), Chapter One, p. 12.

After the Change, these school subjects are boring:

Presidents;
rockets;
atoms;
"'...all that hooey.'"

These subjects are more like real life:

King Arthur;
Robin Hood;
Niall of the Nine Hostages;
Thor's trip to Jotunheim;
A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Connections with Poul Anderson's works:

Niall of the Nine Hostages destroyed Ys;
the former King of Ys formed a defensive alliance with British leaders of the generation before Arthur;
an immortal met the original of Arthur;
Anderson's fantasies feature Thor and a trip to Jotunheim although not Thor's trip to Jotunheim;
A Midsummer Tempest is a sequel to A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest.

And why did Shakespeare not write a Robin Hood play, having mentioned Robin in As You like It?

Fiction And Reality II

Yesterday was a day of fiction-reality interaction on the blog:

Lancaster, with its rich and varied history and Asian and European immigrants, feels like a precursor of Poul Anderson's Terran Empire - but that is because fiction reflects reality, in this case with international and interracial relationships projected onto an interstellar and inter-species scale;

we enjoy sitting at home safely reading about the exploits of Dominic Flandry while the media reports wars waged by Parliaments and, yesterday, an attack on the British Parliament.

When we read science fiction in the twentieth century, 2017 was part of the future but now, in 2017, it is the present from which humanity might advance to a high tech future like Anderson's Technic History or regress to a post-technological future like SM Stirling's Emberverse. (Stirling's fictional premise is that technology simply stops working but we can imagine several other ways to lose technology either through natural events or through our own actions.)

Today, plans are changing but I might be out in the good weather and not blogging as much.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Fiction And Reality

Dominic Flandry and his fiancee, Kossara Vymezal, march with Merseians to the Dennitzan Parliament. When Kossara begins to address the Parliament, the building is attacked and she is murdered/martyred. The account of her death is fictional but harrowing so it is not inappropriate to compare it to the kind of real events that are reflected in fiction.

On Saturday, 30,000 people marched through London to Parliament Square where we were addressed by several Members of Parliament. Afterwards, some of us crossed Westminster Bridge to our parked coach. We saw armed police at an entrance to Parliament. Today we hear news reports of an attack on Parliament in which several people, including one policeman, were killed. Fortunately, this real attack was not on the scale of the fictional one.

We did not expect to blog about either slavery or terrorism but cannot always choose our agenda.

Futures

Although I concluded the previous post by imagining that the international interactions of Terrestrial history might be followed by something like the interstellar interactions of Poul Anderson's Technic History, I really think that the future history of Anderson's Genesis is much more plausible: post-human intelligences spreading at sub-light speeds through a mostly lifeless galaxy - or maybe through a galaxy where, although organic life is common, everything else - multi-cellularity, consciousness, intelligence, civilization and technology - is rare. All that life requires is energized complex molecules changing randomly until one of them becomes self-replicating. Everything else requires a great deal more.

However, here is a paradox. If a writer of fiction imagines space travellers crossing an immense distance, like to the galactic centre or to another galaxy, but confines his account of those remote regions to what is known about them at the time of writing, then he is definitely wrong. Merely by travelling that far, explorers will learn considerably more than is known at present. As yet, not a single living molecule has been detected off Earth - but extrasolar planets are being detected all the time whereas none were known to exist when I read about the universe in the 1960s. More will be learned but none of it will be anything like what has been imagined.

Lancaster Life And The Blog

The previous post was occasioned by the fact that I had just attended a history class on Lancaster and the slave trade in the Friendship Centre at the Baptist Church near the Town Hall. Lancaster was the fourth biggest English slave port after Liverpool, London and Bristol.

The Baptist Church is almost opposite a Polish language Catholic Church where Sheila taught English to Polish immigrants. We are always involved in international interactions and now look forward to interplanetary and interstellar interactions. Although it will not really happen like this, we meanwhile imagine Adzel converting to Mahayana Buddhism, Axor converting to Jerusalem Catholicism, human Avaonians joining Ythrian choths, Dennitzan children hearing Eriau lullabies etc.

Slaves And Immortals

Recurrent themes on the blog include:

immortality;
slavery in the Roman Empire, the Terran Empire, the Confederate States and the Draka Domination;
parallels with Neil Gaiman;
quotations from James Elroy Flecker.

One work, The Sandman: The Wake, unites these themes:

it is written by Gaiman;
it begins by quoting Flecker and draws imagery from this poem;
in its Epilogue, a black American woman does not understand why her British boyfriend continually apologizes to her for the slave trade - she does not know that he is an immortal and was a slaver.

Immortals interact with Southern States slavery in Poul Anderson's The Boat Of A Million Years. Boat is historical and speculative sf prose whereas Sandman is graphic fantasy. The Egyptian sun god is real in Sandman. Anderson's few immortals are mutants whereas Gaiman's single immortal has made a one-sided deal with Death just as Death's younger brother, Dream, has made a fairer deal with another Englishman, William Shakespeare, who wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest for Dream. Anderson wrote A Midsummer Tempest.

There are two kinds of fictional immortals: those who must move and change their identity every few decades to conceal their immortality (vampires are a sub-set) and those who can live openly in the future. Needless to say, the works of Robert Heinlein and Poul Anderson include both kinds.

Four Reasons To Fight With Swords

Many fictional characters fight with swords because their stories are set in the past.

John Carter fights with a sword because ERB wanted to write "sword and science" sf whether or not this made sense.

Dominic Flandry is able to fight with a sword because the Terran nobility is decadent and therefore practises archaisms.

SM Stirling's Emberversers fight with swords because the premise of their series is that technology and gunpowder have stopped working.

Have I missed anyone? (Addendum: Yes, but I will let readers find it.)

The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson
Rogue Sword by Poul Anderson
"Swordsman of Lost Terra" by Poul Anderson (here)
Swords Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Sword Of The Lady by SM Stirling

Memory

Memory is conscious or unconscious. Apparently, every experience is recorded unconsciously. A finite brain cannot accumulate unconscious memories indefinitely. Would memory overload drive an immortal brain mad or would the brain merely stop recording? In Poul Anderson's World Without Stars, the memories of immortals are artificially edited whereas, in Anderson's The Boat Of A Million Years, the handful of immortals learn within themselves how to cope with memory overload. Should we have been shown at least one who did not cope?

If an immortal being were to remain identical with his earlier self, then surely he would have to consciously remember earlier experiences some of the time? However, he would be able to remember any particular experience less and less often as he grew older. Thus, he would effectively become a different person, as if one had died and another had been born, but that is how life works in any case.

The Wild Hunt

"...some danced with spears flashing dully in the gray light, enacting the Wild Hunt."
-SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Epilogue, p. 588.

See:

The Wild Hunt
The Wild Hunt
The Wild Hunt II

- and searching the blog for "The Wild Hunt" brings up some other references. However, I will now join not the Wild Hunt but the Lord Morpheus.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Epona

I encountered the name, "Epona," in SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Twenty, p. 563 and searched for it on this blog. See here.

In The Protector's War, Rudi, a future king, addresses an unruly horse as "Epona" in a voice like the wind, a harp or a trumpet, reveals his own Craft name and speaks as if they already know each other. Then he rides Epona safely. This is seen by some as an intervention by the Goddess. It happens at the horse fair, which is sacred to Epona.

Fictions

Arthur Conan Doyle and his readers are real whereas Sherlock Holmes is fictional. Usually, fictional characters are also fictional to each other. Thus, Holmes refers to Dupin, Poirot might refer to Holmes etc. I did read a detective fiction anthology where several of the characters referred to each other almost in rota. There would be a conceptual problem if two contemporaneous characters each referred to the other in this vein. The novelistic Montalbano does refer disparagingly to the fact that he is dramatized on TV. There are three ways in which fictional characters might be real to each other and Poul Anderson presents two of them.

(i) A one-off reference. Close readers of Anderson's Time Patrol series realize that the timeline guarded by the Patrol is not ours because, in it, Holmes is real - although his name is not used except in contexts where he could be fictional. (If this is confusing, read it and see.)

(ii) A shared universe:

the Wold Newton universe;
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen;
various comic book universes, now being adapted to screen.

(iii) A multiverse where what is fictional in one universe is real in another and vice versa:

Last Action Hero (and here);
the DC Comics multiverse;
Anderson's Old Phoenix multiverse.

Holmes shows up in the Old Phoenix along with Huck Finn and others.

This leads to another issue. There are kinds of multiverses. Parallel universes might have:

different histories;
different laws of nature;
inhabitants who are real in one but fictional in another.

SM Stirling's multiverse(s?) are of only the first kind. In the Emberverse, some laws of nature begin to work differently on Earth after a certain date but (we think that) this is because a higher technology has tampered with them so this is another alternative history but not a different kind of universe.

Three Miscellaneous Points

(i) Nat Falkayn growing up among Ythrians on Avalon is another example of a juvenile character living inside an adventure story. See here. He must be the forerunner of the many human Avalonians who later join choths.

(ii) An Englishman is correct about English grammar:

"...I hadn't quite decided whom to ask." (Chapter Twenty, p. 549)

(iii) The 622-page A Meeting At Corvallis (Emberverse, Vol III) has arrived so discussion of this series will continue. Meanwhile, there will continue to be unpredictable revisits of Poul Anderson's works. We have a universe to win.

"Hunting Through Hills..."

Many horrible things happen in fiction but sometimes the characters get to do exactly what they want. Diana Crowfeather runs away from home because:

"...Tigeries were hunting through hills where wind soughed in waves across forests, and surf burst under three moons upon virgin islands."
-Poul Anderson, The Game Of Empire, Chapter One, IN Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), pp. 195-215 AT p. 214.

And, in another timeline:

"'What the Dunedain need is a base...We could claim this whole area...'"
-SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Twenty, p. 548.

They will hunt and trade instead of farming. Yes!

Time Patrol Blurb II

See here.

If there is an observer, like maybe a "god of time," for whom:

our temporal dimension is his fourth spatial dimension;
the relationship between successive timelines is his temporal dimension -

- then, from his perspective though not from ours, our timeline has vanished.

The blurb concludes by stating that the past must not be altered in case this leads to a worse future. But, even if it led to a better future, the Danellians would still guard the timeline that leads to them. However, it transpires that ultimately the Patrol prevents a worse, chaotic, timeline in which life would be impossible.

Time Patrol Blurb

"The discovery of time travel means that everything we know, anything we know, might not only vanish, but never even have existed."
Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), back cover (not written by Anderson).

There are different models of time travel but, on the Time Patrol model, this can happen:

I am born in 1949 in our familiar timeline;
in 2017, I acquire a time machine;
I travel into the early nineteenth century to prevent the birth of Hitler - no easy task but, on this model, it is theoretically possible;
I succeed.

Whatever their ontological status, we can now differentiate between two timelines:

the original, in which "everything we know" exists;
the altered timeline, in which everything we know has never existed.

There is no third timeline in which everything we know did exist but has now vanished. There is another issue but let me get some breakfast first.

Guardians Of Time And Time Patrol

When I first read Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series in the early 1960s, it was four stories in one collection, Guardians Of Time, and the collective villain was the Neldorians.  

Time Patrol (New York, 2006):

collects ten stories, including the original four;

includes, among its six newer stories, two that are over 100 pages long,  therefore counting as novels by my rule of thumb;

is the first of two Time Patrol volumes;

informs us on its back cover blurb that the collective villain is the Exaltationists - who, unlike the Neldorians, are continuing villains.

The second volume, The Shield Of Time, concludes the story of the Exaltationists but also reveals that there is a greater threat beyond them and that that greater threat is the real reason for the Patrol. Guardians Of Time and the Neldorians have been incorporated into the longer series but have also been left a long way behind - like the Torah incorporated into the Bible but also left way behind by the time the reader reaches the Apocalpyse.

We might discuss the Time Patrol blurb but not tonight.

Harvest Supper

SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Nineteen, p.528.

Another harvest supper (see here):

hot biscuits
warm round loaves marked with the Wheel of the Year
butter
cheese
green salad
glazed hams
cold roast beef
fried chicken
apple-cured bacon
wild mushrooms
steamed vegetables
baked beans
pork
steaming new potatoes
baby beets
strong homemade mustard
creamy horseradish
peaches, berries and cherries with cream
honey
cold water
milk
home brew
cider
wine
herbal tea

Monday, 20 March 2017

Children Of League And Empire

Nat Falkayn is David Falkayn's grandson and Nicholas van Rijn's great-great-grandson.
Nat's father is Nicholas Falkayn.
Since David's mother, Athena, appears in Mirkheim, we know four successive generations of Falkayns.
Tabitha Falkayn is their later descendant.

The four works set during the Molitor dynasty feature:

two sons and one granddaughter of Hans Molitor;
a son of Dominic Flandry and Persis D'Io;
a daughter of Flandry;
a daughter of Max Abrams;
a son of Dragoika -

- and also mention a grandson of Molitor, Crown Prince Karl.

I think that it makes sense for these four works to be collected under the title of Children Of The Terran Empire. Poul Anderson's Technic History is not presented as a family saga and indeed its main focus is not family histories but historical processes. See here and here. Nevertheless, certain families make major contributions to more than one volume.

Grim Goddess

Poul Anderson shows ancient Paganism in its period and also presents fantasies in which the Gods are real. He makes at least one disparaging comment on modern neopaganism. After we have been told that the slaves who wash the idol of a goddess are then drowned:

"'A pretty grim sort,' Everard said. The neopagans of his home milieu did not include her in their fairy tales of a prehistoric matriarchy when everybody was nice."
-Poul Anderson, "Star of the Sea" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), pp. 467-640 AT p. 565.

Sir Nigel Loring reflects:

"He'd known Witches before...two dozen had hidden out in the New Forest..."
-SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Eighteen, p. 507.

I think that Stirling is ironically referencing Gerald Gardner's claimed initiation:

According to Gardner's later account, one night in September 1939 they took him to a large house owned by "Old Dorothy" Clutterbuck, a wealthy local woman, where he was made to strip naked and taken through an initiation ceremony. Halfway through the ceremony, he heard the word "Wica", and he recognised it as an Old English word for "witch". He was already acquainted with Margaret Murray's theory of the Witch-cult, and that "I then knew then that which I had thought burnt out hundreds of years ago still survived."[96] This group, he claimed, were the New Forest coven, and he believed them to be one of the few surviving covens of the ancient, pre-Christian Witch-Cult religion. Subsequent research by the likes of Hutton and Heselton has shown that in fact the New Forest coven was probably only formed in the mid-1930s, based upon such sources as folk magic and the theories of Margaret Murray.[97
-copied from here.

(I met Philip Heselton when he visited Lancaster to address the Briganti Moot.)

What Will People Wear In The Future?

Nicholas van Rijn lounges in a sarong.

Ythrians are unclothed because feathered. Some human choth members, emulating Ythrians, wear only body paint.

Dominic Flandry dresses as colorfully and flamboyantly as possible but not in anything unexpected like a kilt or toga.

Robert Heinlein, aware that social norms differ historically, has shorts on men in Double Star and kilts in parts of the Future History.

In SM Stirling's The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Eighteen, a hostage wears:

"...a plain gray guest-weave rather than the Mackenzie tartan..." (pp. 514-515)

I was told that a book describing clan tartans has been taken as normative. See here. Apparently, one of the Kings had a tartan designed for him but anyone can wear it. Scottish people of Italian descent have a tartan. See here.

Role Play

"The Saturn Game" by Poul Anderson is a hard sf short story about characters role playing a fantasy scenario while exploring the outer Solar System. Thus, one kind of synthesis between fantasy and sf. The fantasy narrative is a "play within the play." However, what becomes of an astronaut when his fantasy character has to die?

The Protector's War by SM Stirling is an alternative history novel in which some characters ground their activities in Tolkienesque fantasy complete with conversations and terminology in Elvish. Such role play is facilitated by a return to a society in which combat is with swords and spears, not guns or explosives.

Given technology for personal flight, would it be possible to base a life-style around Anderson's Ythrians or other aspects of his Technic History? It would be necessary to build the languages from scratch since we learn only a few syllables of Planha and Eriau and nothing of Anglic.

Founding Dynasties

We have compared:

Nicholas van Rijn, entrepreneur;
Hugh Valland, natural leader;
Sir Nigel Loring, baronet and SAS colonel.

They are distinct characters, not generic fictional heroes. Here is another question: what kind of man founds a dynasty? Manuel Argos, pragmatist, founds the Terran Empire. Both Roan Tom and Gratillonius could start a dynasty. Tom merely makes alliances in order to survive whereas Gratillonius is concerned about the well being of society.

Sir Nigel Loring assesses Lord Bear:

a good friend and a dangerous enemy;
capable of making a sudden deadly blow without warning;
able to run a company and to do much more if needed;
wit, if not genius;
"...willpower to spare..." (The Protector's War, Chapter Eighteen, p. 506)

Sir Nigel suspects that most dynasties are founded by men like Lord Bear.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Empires

Science fiction, including Poul Anderson's sf, covers interstellar empires. This can lead to reflection on the reasons for imperialism whether planetary or interstellar. See here for an alien empire and many other posts for the Terran Empire of the Technic History.

SM Stirling's Sir Nigel Loring summarizes the British Empire pithily:

presence of mind;
profit;
preaching;
philanthropy;
plundering;
pinching land.

He adds:

"'...keeping the bloody Frogs out.'"
-SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Eighteen, p. 497.

("Frogs" are the French.) Sir Nigel might perhaps have summarized this anti-French policy as "prevention" or "pre-emption."

Stirling reminds or informs us that horses injured in battles scream and that the historical castles of Britain and Europe would become useful again if history took a different course. Poul Anderson imagines orbital forts like Hell Rock.

M And DVDs

The Roman language, Latin, became the Romance languages of Europe although I have just been told that English, which incorporates a lot of Latin, is Germanic. In Poul Anderson's Technic History, English will become Anglic which will be long dead by the end of the History.

We experience linguistic changes. The Latin accusative ending is -m. Thus, "slave" is servus in the nominative case but servum in the accusative. The accusative -m survives in English in the words "him," "them" and "whom." However, we are ceasing to say "whom."

"'They lost who?'"
-SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Seventeen, p. 486.

This does not even sound incorrect as "They lost she" would. And when we hear:

"Don't tell I, tell 'ee" (see here)

-we understand it and attribute it to a regional dialect.  

The man who asks "They lost who?" wonders whether DVDs really would have replaced videotapes in an unChanged world, which is a good indicator or reminder of the state of technology at the time of the Change.

Important Planets

Every inhabited planet is important to its inhabitants. In an interstellar civilization, planets interact. Poul Anderson's Ensign Flandry shows us Terra, Starkad and Merseia. Terra and Merseia are rival imperial powers. Starkad will shortly be destroyed but some Starkadian Tigeries and Sea Dwellers will be evacuated to the Patrician System where one Tigery will serve Terra as an Intelligence agent and will help to defeat a pro-Merseian rebellion.

A Circus Of Hells shows us Irumclaw, Wayland and Talwin. Irumclaw is important for the defense of a Terran border against Merseia, Wayland will provide the wealth necessary to maintain Irumclaw and Talwin becomes a joint Terran-Merseian scientific base where secret negotiations can be held.

The Rebel World shows us Terra, Shalmu, Llynathawr, Aeneas and Dido and mentions Ifri:

Dominic Flandry's servant, Chives, is Shalmuan;
Catawrayannis on Llynathawr is the capital city of Sector Alpha Crucis of the Terran Empire;
Aeneas is the base of the McCormac Rebellion;
study of the tripartite Didonians is the reason why there was a scientific base, that became a colony, on Aeneas;
Ifri is Navy sector headquarters.

The Day Of Their Return, set entirely on Aeneas, introduces Aycharaych from Chereion, a planet that was an interstellar power and is now the spearhead of Merseian Intelligence.

So it seems to be impossible to find an unimportant planet.

Hash Browns And Conversations

SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Seventeen.

Mike Havel eats "...another fried egg...," then "...load[s] more hash browns on his plate." (p. 471)

A man after my own heart! So how many of each does he eat? Yesterday, we had a very short stop on our way to London so I bought a take-out breakfast including two fried eggs and two hash browns. Sometimes we have breakfast at a place where I load my plate with them.

This chapter is part of an extended section of the novel when the good guys discuss recent activities, interrupted by frequent lengthy flashbacks to those activities. Sir Nigel describes his meeting with the dictatorial "Protector," then a flash back passage recounts the meeting from Sir Nigel's pov. However we leave that pov before returning to the good guys' conversation because another short passage recounts a conversation between the Protector and his wife when they are alone. Whose pov is this? Most of it could be an externally observed dialogue. We might initially assume that it is the Protector's pov because the passage begins with him grinning when he is alone with his wife. So, if it is anyone's, it is going to be his pov unless we are informed otherwise. When we are told that he grits his teeth, it is even more likely to be his pov although the teething gritting is externally observable because her smile widens when the gritting happens. Finally, we are told what he is inwardly thinking so it is definitely his pov.

Pov is important. Poul Anderson and SM Stirling always get it right. The Protector and his wife are by-now-familiar Stirling villains. To them, other people exist only as means to their ends. Ideally, they would be prevented from exercising any power over anyone else. In practice, they are going to have to be killed - the sooner the better.

Return From London

After visiting London yersterday, I searched the blog for London and found a post that I had written after returning from a trip to London. See here. The city is like a museum.

London is mainly important in Poul Anderson's works as the location of Time Patrol headquarters for the current milieu just as New York is important because it is where Time Patrolman Manse Everard resides. We would like to see:

what is left of London when Earth and its Empire are ruled from Archopolis;
what becomes of London after SM Stirling's Change.

In the case of the Change, we are told that every large city, together with a wide area around it, has become a dead zone. No doubt. It would be interesting to read an account of nature reclaiming historic buildings. Also, small groups would be able to survive by scavenging among the buildings, then gardening and farming in the wildernesses that had previously been Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace Gardens, Kew Gardens etc. There must be a history not only of a city but also of what happens when the city is no more.

A Local Incident

Sometimes we post about Lancaster life, especially if it can be shown to be relevant to Poul Anderson Appreciation. On the blog, we have discussed:

Indian food, including samosas;
market economics;
entrepreneurs like van Rijn selling spices and condiments;
pluralist societies like the Terran Empire, Avalon and Birmingham;
law and order.

There is a twice weekly open air market in Market Square, Lancaster. See image. Sanah sells Indian food. A week ago, when I had bought a bag of samosas, a white youth smelling of drink grabbed the cash box from one of the stalls and ran into the network of pedestrian alleys between the Square and the former Market Hall. Sanah's family and I gave chase. Shopkeepers came out to say, "He went that way!" The youth was trapped in a cul-de-sac and made to return the box and some coins although the family insisted that bank notes were still unaccounted for, which he denied. A Castlegate Security man and I detained the youth until the police arrived to arrest him. I have yet to learn whether the bank notes were recovered or whether I will be required to give evidence in court. And the moral of the story is: "We don't need it!" (I mean we don't need the hassle. Sanah does need the cash back.)

What Is Truth?

Searching the blog for a recent post entitled "What Is Truth?," I found that at least two posts have had that title:

What Is Truth?
What Is Truth?

I sought out this post because, while looking for a passage in a Dominic Flandry novel, I found:

"'In a well-known phrase from an earlier empire, what is truth?'"
-Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), p. 92.

This is significant because it is yet another understated use of the Bible in one of Poul Anderson's works. See here. Furthermore, Anderson's Terran Empire is so much more powerful than the Roman Empire that his fictional future history seems to invite comparison with Biblical past history, especially when Dominic Flandry quotes Pontius Pilate. This impression is strengthened when we later learn that a pilgrim within the Terran Empire seeks evidence of a second Divine Incarnation. Within Anderson's Technic History, the two Books of Stormgate recount the history of a people, the Ythrians, and of their exodus to another planet,  Avalon, named from Arthurian myth. One Ythrian sees the shadow of God the Hunter across the Terrestrial way of life - and, when that way of life has gone, humanity is left with an Empire defended by Flandry who asks, "What is truth?"

Reality Strikes Back?

"'You dare too much, you vaz-Terran. One night the hidden powers will set free their anger on you.'"
-Poul Anderon, Young Flandry (New York, 2010), p. 177.

"...the Pacific Ocean. Sheening and billowing under a full Luna, those waters gave a sense of ancient forces still within this planet that man had so oedipally made his own, still biding their time."
-Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), p. 50.

6The LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. 7"Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another's speech." 8So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.…
-copied from here.

"'Qui Verbum Dei contempserunt, eis auferetur etiam verbum hominis.' They that have despised the word of God, from them shall the word of man also be taken away."
-CS Lewis, The Cosmic Trilogy (London, 1990), p. 718.

And one of SM Stirling's characters compares the Change to the Curse of Babel.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Comparisons With Superheroes

Alien Animals
Words And Texts
 Hugh Valland And Superman
Watchmen
Green Lantern
Hawkman
Superman
Batman
A Mad Time Patrol Story

I hope that page viewers reread these earlier posts while I am out of town all day!

Addendum: Nineteen or so hours later, I am back from London and adding more links:

Aquamen
The Martian Manhunter 

Friday, 17 March 2017

Hugh Valland And Superman

Sometimes one work of fiction makes us think of another even if we then have to think about what the connection might be. So why did rereading Poul Anderson's World Without Stars make me think of Elliot S! Maggin's Superman 400? The latter is introduced by sf writer, Ray Bradbury, but that is not the connection.

In Maggin's story, Superman:

ages but does not die;
outlives everyone he knew and loved on Earth;
survives into a period of interplanetary, then interstellar, travel;
befriends and travels through space with the reformed Lex Luthor until Lex also dies;
eventually disappears from human ken;
becomes a legend, then a myth;
is commemorated at the Miracle Monday festival when each family sets an extra place at their table for Superman in case he returns -

- and one Miracle Monday meal is attended by Superman time traveling from the twentieth century.

Readers of World Without Stars will recognize some parallels. Hugh Valland:

outlives his fiancee, who dies on Earth;
lives for thousands of years;
travels through space and even between galaxies;
writes songs that are remembered;
will probably become a myth -

- and we do not know his ultimate fate.

Vocabulary Break

SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Sixteen, pp. 437-438.

"...horse heads with spiked steel chamfrons on their faces and steel peytrals on their chests. The two behind were in knight's hauberks..." (pp. 437-438)

"...chop-shop Jesuses and shock-rock album cover art..." (p. 438)

"...knights with their own blazons..." (p. 438)

As with some passages by Poul Anderson, e.g., here, here, here, here, here and here, that is quite a lot of vocab. Here and here is some more by Stirling.

Public Figures And Global Disasters

(Tomorrow, I will travel to London and back to campaign against racism so probably won't blog.)

This post has two themes:

public figures in fiction;
fictional global disasters.

(I did not copy an image of a public figure because I might have been taken to mean that that public figure was a global disaster.)

First, does any current US President or other comparable public figure appear under his own name in any of Poul Anderson's works? I do not know of any but I have not read every short story. The Protector's War (New York, 2006) by SM Stirling (colleague and worthy successor of Anderson) refers to:

the Queen and Prince Charles/Charles III;
Saint Diana;
Prince William;
Tony Blair.

Today, I heard part of a radio drama in which an epidemic wiped out all but 0.3% of the world population. Because the British government was no longer able to function on a national level and because the Queen was too ill to perform state functions, the (fictional) Prime Minister asked Prince Charles to dissolve Parliament. Do public figures like the Prince of Wales know when they feature in works of fiction? Will the Prince be informed that I have referred to him here? (I doubt it.)

Global disaster scenarios are a perennial feature of sf but are they more relevant now? In a fictional scenario, the author can guess how a public figure would respond to a disaster. Thus, Stirling's Charles III copes but then accepts bad advice. His story, and that of the real Prince Charles, continue...

Goibniu

"'Goibniu, Lord of Iron!'"
-SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Sixteen, p. 428.

I had never heard of Goibniu but he is easily googled and seems to be a kindred spirit to Vulcan and Wayland. We recognize "Vulcan" as the name of a planet in Star Trek and "Wayland" as the name of a planet in Poul Anderson's Technic History.

Blacksmith gods were important when blacksmiths were important and that technological level returns in SM Stirling's Change/Emberverse series. "Smith" is the commonest surname in England and "John Smith" is the commonest name.

...And An SM Stirling Hero

Now let's compare and contrast van Rijn and Valland here with SM Stirling's Sir Nigel Loring. Sir Nigel is both a baronet and an SAS officer. Thus, he combines inherited social status with considerable physical and mental abilities. He is mostly conservative. Conservatism is a virtue after the Change whether or not it was before! (Controversial: let's not go there this time.)

The post-Changes villains are not those who aim to preserve the status quo but those who seek to impose (their idea of) an older social order with themselves as the new aristocracy. This would happen and has to be dealt with. It will be a very long time before society can return to a "level playing field" with equality of opportunity. What will the further future be like? Stirling does show us the further future of the Draka timeline - a genetically unlevel playing field. The Change universe should do better than the Draka Final Society but will we be shown its further future? In any case, many volumes stretch ahead...

An Ideal Multiverse

It has been a privilege to reread and post about Poul Anderson's World Without Stars. However, those premises require much more than just a single short novel. An ideal Poul Anderson multiverse would contain not only an indefinitely extended Time Patrol series and Technic History but also several long series spinning off from (at least) World Without Stars, After Doomsday and the Old Phoenix and the pre-history of Ys.

But, in order to write all that, Poul Anderson would require the antithanatic. And, with an indefinitely extended lifespan, a man like Anderson would probably, after several centuries, turn his attention away from writing to other pursuits including, if meanwhile an equivalent of the hyperdrive or space jump had been developed, exploration of the real universe.

Borders

Poul and Karen Anderson's Gratillonius was stationed at Hadrian's Wall before he became the last King of Ys. SM Stirling's post-Change characters refer to the disputed territory between England and Scotland where, for a while, no one's law was enforced. I grew up in Border country and now live just south of it. When I revisited the English Lake District, the guy in a gift shop had a Scottish accent but, when I commented, "You're not local!," he replied, "All this belonged to Scotland years ago!" Good answer.

Manse Everard of the Time Patrol, talking to Mongols invading North America, claims to:

"'...belong to the border guardians.'" (Time Patrol, p. 138)

It is good to know that our humble border has a temporal equivalent. Now that Britain is leaving the EU, the Scottish First Minister is requesting a second Independence referendum. The chaos continues.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Niyork

Poul Anderson's works present versions of:

York;
New York;
Niyork.

Niyork is New York three thousand years hence with ivy and lichen growing on its mostly empty towers.

After flying from Niyork to a small forest village in Maine, Captain Argens reflects:

"This was Manhome. No matter how far we range, the salt and the rhythm of her tides will always be in our blood."
-Poul Anderson, World Without Stars (New York, 1966), Chapter XVII, p. 124.

Argens and his unaging contemporaries range much farther than is usual even in science fiction. Fast forward New York to Niyork, then accompany Argens beyond the galaxy through centuries of life.

We know that Argens will die but will Valland keep travelling:

"'As long as the stars wheel the years down the heavens...'"? (p. 125)

And, in all that time, will someone find a way to resurrect Mary O'Meara?

There is no limit to what science fiction writers - or sometimes their readers - can imagine.

Waking And Waiting

"It's amazing when you think of it," said Adell. His broad face had lines of weariness in it, and he stirred his drink slowly with a glass rod, watching the cubes of ice slur clumsily about. "All the energy we can possibly ever use for free.
-copied from here.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
          But to be young was very heaven!
-copied from here. 

"'It was an air. For a bit, while the human race waited, it felt kind of like wakin' after a fever had broken.'"
-Poul Anderson, World Without Stars (New York, 1966), Chapter XV, p. 110.

These quotations are from:

a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov;
a poem by William Wordsworth;
a science fiction novel by Poul Anderson.

They are about:

unlimited solar energy;
the French Revolution;
the imminent production of the antithanatic.

In each case, a major change for the better is imminent and there is a short period of joyous anticipation. Sometimes we as individuals experience such a period. Less often, an entire society experiences it. Slavery was ended. Apartheid was ended. Starvation will be ended.

Poul Anderson's Heroes

Nicholas van Rijn leads aliens to war with adapted Terrestrial rhetoric (see here) whereas Hugh Valland instead uses music. His omnisonor can reproduce bagpipe sounds. To the Pack, this is "...strong magic..." (Chapter XII, p. 89)

Van Rijn is an entrepreneur whereas Valland is a competent crew member and natural leader who seeks paid work but otherwise preserves his personal freedom so that he is able to return home between expeditions.

These are just two of Anderson's many heroes. We might write similar paragraphs summarizing Falkayn, Flandry, Everard, Guthrie, Havig etc - but not right now.

The Life Of Hugh Valland

Hugh Valland was born on Earth in the early twenty first century.
The antithanatic was developed in his lifetime.
He shipped on the first starship.
He composes and sings songs.
He has soldiered now and then.
He joins exploratory spaceship crews as a gunner.
He never accepts a captaincy because he wants to be free to return to Earth every few years or decades.
He is nearly three thousand years old.
For four decades, he wages war on an intergalactic planet until he and his companions are able to build a spaceboat, contact a technological civilization on another planet in the same system and return home.

We want to know:

how long Valland lives;
what other galaxies he visits;
more about this amazing intergalactic civilization;
how many human beings live in "...timeless oneness..." (p. 8) with a planetary surface and how many rove like Valland.

Argens Escapes

(Dutch cover.)

Poul Anderson can seamlessly combine speculative fiction, cosmological science fiction and action-and-adventure fiction into a single narrative. I have several times remarked how often an Anderson hero, captured by his enemies, knocks out his guard, grabs the guard's sword or gun and runs. See:

An Escape
An Occupied Planet
Escape!
Escape!
Circularity In The Corridors Of Time

It happens in World Without Stars. When Argens stumbles and his guard nudges, he is enraged enough to grab the guard's knife, slash and run. The guard pursues but collapses from the knife wound. Others pursue but are killed by the watching Pack - Argens' potential allies. A neat escape, one of many.

Dark Matter, Dark Energy And Intrinsic Unity

Dark matter is detected gravitationally.

Dark energy theoretically explains the accelerating cosmic expansion.

In Poul Anderson's World Without Stars (New York, 1966), Chapter V, p. 28, an intrinsic unity of space explains the cohesion of the universe because gravity, propagating merely at light speed, is too weak. Artificial alteration of the n-dimensional coordinates of the mass present at a location changes the location of the mass because these coordinates describe an alterable configuration of the matter-energy field. (Anderson excels at alternative rationales of FTL.)

In Alan Moore's Watchmen, a scientist is accidentally locked in a chamber where the theoretical "intrinsic field" is to be experimentally removed from an inert mass. His body is destroyed but his consciousness forms a new body from the intrinsic field and he becomes the omnipotent American superhero, Doctor Manhattan, who wins the Vietnam War and is the cornerstone of US defense strategy during the Cold War.

Opening Pages

An author plans and plots a novel, then writes page one of the text. We read page one of the published work, then read the rest of the novel. Thus, our starting point is not the author's. After reading page one, we gradually learn the details of a plot that he had planned before writing page one.

Robert Heinlein's Double Star (New York, 1957) begins:

"If a man walks in dressed like a hick and acting as if he owned the place, he's a spaceman." (p. 5)

On the opening page of Poul Anderson's World Without Stars (New York, 1966), Chapter II, we read:

"...starports are necessary." (p. 7)

(Chapter I is a short introduction from an alien viewpoint.)

Years ago, both of these opening passages would have got my attention because both established that here was a society with regular space travel. But what kind of society and what kind of space travel? They are completely different. Still on p. 5, Heinlein's first person narrator spends his "...last half-Imperial...," buying a drink for the spaceman. So the unit of currency is not the dollar or the pound sterling but the Imperial. Indeed, we will learn that there is an Emperor, also that the space travel is merely interplanetary.

Anderson's p. 7 tells us that:

there are extrasolar colonies;
there are "multisense tapes";
the original colonists of a planet are still alive centuries later;
theoretically, every point in space is as close as any other;
travel is possible not only between the inner and outer parts of a spiral arm but even to "...really remote galaxies."

This is a very different civilization and a completely different order of magnitude of space travel.

The Rain Returns

Poul Anderson, World Without Stars (New York, 1966), Chapter XII.

See Rain And Silence.

Argens, a prisoner, concealed below deck, hears the Niao, slaves of the Ai Chun, go ashore and capture his men. Then:

"I heard the Ai Chun wallow past my prison, bound ashore. I sat in darkness and heard the rain begin." (p. 83)

When he is taken ashore, it is:

"...through a lashing blindness of rain and wind..." (ibid.)

Light from the red dwarf sun makes the rain look like blood and Argens is unable to see the spaceship. Only his captors are visible.

Oppressive symbolism in almost every word.

Educated Deduction

(Page viewers might notice an anomaly about this image.)

Every newly discovered rational species must be unique. On the other hand, immortal space travelers encountering many such species might learn to generalize. Yo Rorn knows that:

"'...given a generally human-type instinct pattern, a technological-geographical situation like this one makes for individualism.'"
-Poul Anderson, World Without Stars (New York, 1966), Chapter X, p. 65.

Argens agrees because:

"Tyranny gets unstable when a cheap boat can pace a warship and there's a wilderness for dissatisfied people to vanish into.'" (ibid.)

Yet the few Niao in a fishing boat that accidentally found the shipwrecked Earthmen did not take responsibility for dealing with them. Instead, they immediately reported back to a higher authority. Therefore:

"...the Niao must like being subservient." (ibid.)

It takes time before a delegation arrives. Therefore, the delegation had to be organized and authorized from a distance. This could have been done quickly with telepathy, which the Niao have. Therefore, the masters must have taken time to discuss and prepare. Also, they had preserved an alien language for a long time and transmitted it across a long distance. Yorn deduces that:

"'...we're on the marches of a very big and very old empire.'" (p. 66)

Yet all that he has seen so far is a delegation in a single galley.

Reading More Closely

(Another cover illustration showing the crashed spaceship. What language is it?)

The closer we look into Poul Anderson's texts, the more there is to be found in them. Last night, I wanted to publish one more post before turning in. Also, I wanted to stay with World Without Stars, not yet having reread it in its entirety. Certain that I had not exhausted the novel's potential, I reread Chapter IX. Immediately, I noticed four references to rain, which:

hid the galaxy;
loudened;
gurgled;
stopped.

Each reference to rain underlined a dramatic turning point. Although I have highlighted Anderson's use of pathetic fallacy several times here, I had not noticed this instance of it on any previous rereading of World Without Stars. What else remains unnoticed? Another point of interest also mentioned before is Anderson's rich vocabulary. Looking again at Chapter IX, I notice as if for the first time the word, "lyophilized." (p. 62)

Rain And Silence

Poul Anderson, World Without Stars (New York, 1966), Chapter IX.

"...I was the sentry when the Shkil arrived. The galaxy was hidden in a slow, hot rain..." (p. 58)

The galaxy is God to Ya-Kela's people. Their enemies arrive when the galaxy is hidden.

When there is tension between the narrator, Captain Argens, and the Shkil spokesman:

"We faced each other, he and I, while the rain came down louder." (p. 61)

When one of Argen's men suggests that the Shkil might mean well despite their manners:

"'Sure,' I said. 'They may.' The rain gurgled as it fell onto soaked earth." (p. 62)

When Argens, in radio contact with Valland who is with Ya-Kela, becomes concerned for Valland's safety:

"'Hugh!' I cried. 'Hugh, are you there?'
"The rain had stopped, and silence grew thick in the hut." (p. 63)

This is our old friend, the Pathetic Fallacy. Rain suggests an approaching threat - and silence suggests that whatever had been threatened has arrived. Anderson's use of this literary device, as imperceptible as his use of English grammar, affects his readers whether or not they are aware of it.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Inter-Species Communication

Poul Anderson, World Without Stars (New York, 1966), Chapter IX, p. 59.

The Meteor entered an extragalactic planetary system in order to visit a race of hydrogen-breathers but instead crashlanded on another, terrestroid, planet. Captain Argens, with some knowledge of the hydrogen-breathers' language, meets a native who also has some knowledge of that language which comprises gestures as well as sounds.

However:

neither has a large vocabulary;
their common vocabulary is even less;
they know dialects from different periods;
the language of a race different from either of theirs is now filtered through different body types, cultural patterns and even instincts.

This makes communication difficult. I venture that it would make it impossible. The British sf writer, Bob Shaw, once criticized American authors for making aliens speak like Harvard professors, adding that he never presented inter-species conversations in any of his own works.