Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Reflections On The Dancer From Atlantis

Societies experience seasonal cycles and reflect them in myths, then Poul Anderson presents fictional accounts of earlier phases of those same myths. Thus, in Atlantis, Duncan Reid thinks of the solstice festival as Christmas.

"Now Britomartis the Maiden gave birth to Asterion, who would die and be resurrected in spring, reign with his consort Rhea over summer and harvest, and fade away at last before Grandmother Dictyana."
-Poul Anderson, The Dancer From Atlantis, CHAPTER THIRTEEN, p. 109.

This account combines the familiar with the alien but also recognizably dramatizes each and every year.

In some scenarios, a time traveler knows that a catastrophe will occur. He can try to ensure that he does not cause it but, if he succeeds, then all that happens is that someone or something else causes it. Such scenarios include Anderson's The Dancer From Atlantis and "Wildcat" and Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife. In The Dancer..., the Ariadne displays an intuitive understanding of circular causality or at least of self-fulfilling prophecy:

"'A fumbling attempt at rescue could be the very cause of disaster.'" (CHAPTER TWELVE, pp. 100-101)

"...the time was very short now for him and Erissa..." (CHAPTER FOURTEEN, p. 121)

All time is short but a time traveler might know this more keenly than anyone else. Young Erissa thinks that she and Reid will marry. He knows that they will not and that their time together will be less than a year. That would have been true in any case but he happens to know it in advance.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Hmmm, then what could or should Duncan Reid and Young Erissa if any "...fumbling attempt at rescue could be the very cause of..." of the disaster? All I can think of that might be semi plausible would be to urge the evacuation of Atlantis and to urge the Minos to keep most of the Cretan navy out at sea until after the Thera eruption. The problem, of course, being how to convince the Cretan authorities of the wisdom of doing so.

A good description of the sense of "fate" Duncan Reid apparently felt. That is, everything he did seem to lead ineluctably to a pre-ordained ending.