Monday, 30 December 2019

A Richer Text

Sometimes a narrative is presented as a dialogue. One character tells the story directly to one or more other characters and thus indirectly to the reader. The author must describe both the setting of the dialogue and the scenes of the narrative. The former adds extra richness and might even be richer than the latter. This is particularly true in the case of Poul Anderson's "The Master Key."

The text begins:

"Once upon a time..."
Poul Anderson, "The Master Key" IN Anderson, David Falkayn: Star Trader (Riverdale, NY, 2010), pp. 273-327 AT p. 275.

"...there was a king who set himself above the foreign merchants." (ibid.)

- but then we are told that what he did is no longer of any account. A man called Harry Stenvik and the first person narrator of "The Master Key" hung the king from a minaret, thus enhancing the prestige of the Polesotechnic League, then got drunk, thus adding to the profits made by the local Solar Spice & Liquors Company factor.

This has told us a lot:

the story is set within Anderson's Technic History and specifically within the Polesotechnic League period of that future history;

mention is even made of Nicholas van Rijn's company, SSL.

All that is directly relevant to the current story is that there is an unnamed first person narrator with an old friend called Harry Stenvik. The second paragraph introduces van Rijn who invites Harry and the narrator to dinner at his Winged Cross penthouse which we also see in two other installments of the Technic History: rich background details. We are shown a summer's dusk, Venus, Chicago Integrate as seen from a flying "flitter" and the flowers in van Rijn's rooftop garden. We are told that Harry has:

"...built a house on the cliffs above Hardanger Fjord and raised mastiffs and sons." (p. 276)

Again, the narrator declines to disclose anything about himself - but he has told Harry that he has most recently been somewhere with ammonia in the atmosphere. Like Emil Dalmady before them, they cross:

"...a few light-years of trollcat rug..." (p. 277)

- to where van Rijn wallows and one of Harry's sons, recuperating, remains seated but a man with a holstered, much-used blaster stands to greet them. The narrator bows to the master merchant, van Rijn.

All of these details come before the story to be told has even been approached.

Addendum: At the end of a month, as now, I take a break from this blog and add to others so today, Dec 31, I have published three posts on Poul Anderson's Cosmic Environments.

Spreading Life And Finding A Place In The Universe

Would a sufficiently advanced technology make it an easy matter to seed life on previously lifeless planetary surfaces as in Poul Anderson's Harvest Of Stars Tetralogy?

In Anderson's "Honorable Enemies," the ancestors of the Betelgeuseans had arrived in a lifeless planetary system where they:

quickly generated oxygen-nitrogen atmospheres with genetically engineered, exponentially multiplying microorganisms;

produced soil with automated operations;

released full-sized plants and animal grown from cells to spread through the newly created environments.

Thus, six of the forty-seven Betelgeusean planets bear flourishing ecologies and an interplanetary civilization powerful enough to fend off both Terra and Merseia. Not attempting to build an interstellar empire and ruling only a few other systems necessary for security, the capital planet, Alfzar, is well placed to act as a buffer between Terra, Merseia and the barbarians and to play the great powers off against each other. Thus, Flandry thinks that the Betelgeuseans' political position is preferable to Terra's.

With Betelgeuse as an ally, Merseia would wage war whereas, with Betelgeusean help, Terra would win concessions. That is the difference between the two empires. Clandestine operations are a major industry on Alfzar. What will be the outcome in this story?`


"Honorable Enemies."

Flandry was chosen for the mission to Alfzar:

"...primarily for his experience with nonhumans..." (p. 282)

He has had a lot of experience with nonhumans:

two intelligent species on Starkad;
Merseians on Merseia and Talwin;
natives and visitors on Irumclaw;
two native intelligent species on Talwin;
a Ferran exec on his first command;
a visit to Shalmu;
a multi-species lodging house on Llynathawr;
Scothanians and their various subject species.

Paradoxically, Aline has been chosen:

"...for her talents with her own species..." (ibid.)

- because Alfzarian citizens include human beings, some of them in important positions. Aline has distracting skills.


"Honorable Enemies."

"He struggled to pronounce [Aycharaych] properly, but it came out sounding more Scottish than Chereionite..." (p. 279)

This passage is written from Flandry's pov. It follows that he is familiar with and can recognize a Scottish accent. So such local accents still exist on Terra. Within a passage written from Flandry's pov, it would be inappropriate for the omniscient narrator to address us, the readers, on the assumption that we understand a reference that Flandry does not.

So how much do we know about languages in Technic civilization?:

League Latin
Scottish accent
Serbian on Dennitza
Spanish on Nuevo Mexico?

Van Rijn claims to speak twenty or thirty languages bad, ten or fifteen good, Anglic best, but this number includes extraterrestrial languages like the nonhuman whistling that his chief secretary has just heard him conversing in. We know how van Rijn distorts Anglic but he runs a successful business through it so he does speak it well enough.

On Alfzar

Working for Terran Intelligence sounds quite luxurious and enjoyable:

"Long passages brought him to the suite, as capacious as a small hotel, assigned the Terran delegation. Its common room was empty, like most of the rest. A feast was going on elsewhere. Flandry mixed himself a stiff drink and settled down."
-Poul Anderson, "Honorable Enemies" IN Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (Riverdale, NY, 2010), pp. 277-302 AT p. 278.

His spirits are lifted when he is joined by Aline Chang-Lei, the Lady Marr of Syrtis, tall, slender, raven-haired, oblique-eyed, delicately featured, ivory complexioned, blue-gowned and a top Solar field agent. (Have I left anything out?)

From a balcony of the suite, Flandry:

sees both moons, faint stars and gardens blending into forest;
feels a warm breeze;
smells Alzarian flowers;
hears strangely scaled local musical instruments.

However, he has just lost a fight with Aycharaych whose name he makes sound more Scottish than Chereionite because his vocal organs are differently shaped and not as versatile. (Try saying "Aycharaych" in a Scottish accent: the mundane projected onto the unearthly.)

Aline calls Flandry:

"'Dominic Flandry, the single-handed conqueror of Scothania...'" (p. 280)

For a while, each Captain Flandry installment refers back to its immediate predecessor.

Names In History And Future History

"Tiger By The Tail."

"Cerdic...was not quite the prince's name, but near enough to catch Flandry's fancy; he was a bit of a history buff." (p. 249)

"...Cerdic and his father Penda (another word-play by Flandry) were no ordinary barbarian chiefs..." (ibid.)

Writing about sword-wielding, idol-worshiping, interstellar barbarians, Poul Anderson provides them with historically appropriate but nevertheless sufficiently exotic names. More familiar names like "William" or "Godfrey" would not have fitted as well in this context.

Flandry's knowledge of history is demonstrated when he reflects:

"The historical pattern was time-worn; Terra herself had been through it, over and over, long before her children departed for the stars." (p. 245)

We did not think of ourselves as "Terra," one planet among many, back then. All Terrans do not depart for the stars but much sf gives this wrong impression.

General Nartheof says that Terran fighting units:

"'...are staffed by venial cowards.'" (p. 259)

Does he mean "venal"?

Cerdic says that Terran science has declined into dogma: a damning accusation. How could a civilization moving through the galaxy let this happen?

Schotanian Names

"Tiger By The Tail."

Nornagast (See Nornagest, also here)

Scotha (See Scotia)

Sunday, 29 December 2019

The Later Technic History

The Flandry and post-Flandry periods of Poul Anderson's Technic History add not two but five further periods to the eight pre-Flandry periods that we identified here.

By "the Captain Flandry series," I mean six installments beginning with "Tiger By The Tail" and culminating in "Hunters of the Sky Cave." Dominic Flandry first meets Aycharaych in the second installment and captures him in the sixth although there is then an exchange of prisoners which includes Aycharaych.

By "the Children of the Empire/Molitor Dynasty sequence," I mean the four works immediately following "Captain Flandry":

"Warriors from Nowhere"
A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows
A Stone In Heaven
The Game Of Empire

There are eight "Children" in just four works:

two sons and two grandchildren of Hans Molitor;
one son and one daughter of Dominic Flandry;
one son of Dragoika;
one daughter of Max Abrams. 

The Chives Tetralogy, so to call it, begins in "Hunters of the Sky Cave" and ends in A Stone In Heaven. Since Flandry's Shalmuan servant, Chives, is aged in Stone and not mentioned in Game, we deduce that he has died between volumes.

A new beginning, between the Flandry series and the Long Night, would have been a series featuring Flandry's daughter and Dragoika's son working for Emperor Karl but Anderson preferred to write other kinds of speculative fiction.

Living With Inconsistencies

Poul Anderson: 

"Perfect consistency is possible only to God himself, and a close study of scripture will show that he doesn't always make it." (1)
-copied from here.

Inconsistencies impossible in reality can occur in fiction. In a World War II series by Dennis Wheatley, Gregory Sallust's London apartment is destroyed by a bomb in an earlier volume but remains intact in a later volume. Sallust does not notice because he is in the story so his memory must have changed accordingly. On reflection, such discrepancies could occur in reality provided that our memories and all other evidence were to change as well. (Wheatley had the same interesting conservative politics as Dornford Yates and was an inspiration for Ian Fleming.)

In the eleventh of his twelve James Bond novels, Ian Fleming not only contradicts biographical information as given in the first volume but also ingeniously relegates the previous ten volumes to the status of inaccurate fictions within the fiction, written by a former friend and colleague of Commander Bond.

A prima facie contradiction in Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry series is addressed here.

Yates' Mansel and Chandos: pre-War and between the Wars; individual criminals.
Sallust: World War II; the Gestapo.
Bond: the Cold War and its aftermath; SMERSH, then SPECTRE.
Flandry: the Terran Empire; Merseia.

Heroes and villains fiction is an endless cycle: each hero defeats successive individual villains, then is succeeded by another hero created by another author. For post-Bond fiction that tries to break out of this cycle, see:

Bond, UNCLE and The Prisoner 
007, No 6 and V

Reader Responses To Inconsistencies
(i) Some do not notice.
(ii) Some do not care: "It's only fiction."
(iii) Some care. Of course there can be different versions of a story but when either a single work or a series is presented to us as a coherent narrative, then it should be coherent. Inconsistency is an aesthetic interference condition like a painting showing a salmon leaping upstream when the color of the foliage in the background indicates that it is the season when the salmon should be leaping downstream. The Baker Street Irregulars find explanations for contradictions in the Holmes canon. We should do the same for Anderson, although he has less contradictions.

Before, During And After II

See Before, During And After.

The phrase, "before, during and after," might suggest that only three periods are covered whereas the Chronology of Technic Civilization compiled by Sandra Miesel, not that it is authoritative, informs us that:

the Polesotechnic League was founded in the 23rd century and dissolved in 2550;

what I call the three pre-League stories are set in the 21st, 22nd and 24th centuries, respectively (I see no evidence that the League exists at the time of "The Problem of Pain");

what I call the five post-League stories are set in the 26th, 27th, 28th and 29th centuries, respectively.

(No doubt, the League still exists at the time of  "Wingless" but the story is set elsewhere and does not refer to the League.)

Since the sixteen League stories are all set during the lifetimes of van Rijn and his contemporaries, we can now state that the pre-Flandry volumes of Poul Anderson's Technic History cover a total of eight periods of fictional history, some in more detail than others.

For an alternative take on the Chronology, see here.

Touching A Horn

"Tiger By The Tail."

See Schotanian Nods And Shrugs.

After scouring the story, I have found one more example:

"She halted before him. Tapestries on the wall behind her depicted former triumphs. 'Proud Scotha lies fallen, in wreck and misery,' she said.
"'Be happy for that,' Flandry replied tonelessly.
"A slim hand touched a horn. 'What?'" (p. 273)

Flandry explains. We have already been told that touching a horn expresses surprise.

The tapestries depicting triumphs contrast with, and thus underline, the current wreck and misery - kind of the opposite of a pathetic fallacy.

For previous discussions of this story, see Flandry On Scotha.

Before, During And After

See Before And After.

In the proposed publication order:

the Polesotechnic League Tetralogy is set during the Polesotechnic League period;

the hypothetical collection, Before And After, would be set both before and after the League period;

The People Of The Wind is set after;

The Earth Book Of Stormgate is set before, during and after;

thus, as advertised, the Earth Book "spans, illuminates and completes" the future history of the Polesotechnic League.

Remarkably, this entire future history series, covering the Polesotechnic League and the early Terran Empire and corresponding to Volumes I-III (of VII) in Baen Books' The Technic Civilization Saga, makes no reference to Dominic Flandry although he dominates Volumes IV-VII. He has not been born yet.

Scothanian Nods And Shrugs

"Tiger By The Tail."

 A biped encountered by Dominic Flandry shakes her head in disbelief… (I believe that the significance of head shaking varies even within Europe. In "A Tragedy of Errors," about human miscommunication, Anderson recognises that head shaking can mean yes, no or maybe.)
-copied from here.

(That biped encountered by Flandry is on the planet Talwin.)

"Cerdic gave the curious circular nod of his kind." (p. 250)

"Penda stroked his horns." (p. 258)

"Flandry gave as good an imitation of the Scothanian nod as his cervical vertebrae allowed." (p. 260)

"Nartheof shook his head." (p. 262)

"Torric wove his head about. He was no political sophisticate." (p. 263)

"Flandry raised forefingers to brows. He had developed the gesture as his version of the Scothanian touching of horns, to express surprise." (p. 264)

"He rubbed his horns." (p. 265)

"She tossed her head, her equivalent of a shrug." (p. 267)

I will scour the story to check whether I have missed any of these Scothanian gestures.

(Today was busy with an afternoon party stretching into the evening. One guy will fly back to Singapore tomorrow morning.)

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Elves And Time

"Tiber By The Tail."

Flandry and Queen Gunli are alone together in a garden. See Scheming In The Spring.

"More than ever, she made him think of the elves, in myths that she had never heard." (p. 270)

Anderson makes this scene as similar to an episode in a fantasy as he can. The Scothans might have their equivalent of elves as we know that the Merseians do. See Ruadrath.

"How often had they stolen such brief whiles together?" (ibid.)

Because this is a short story, not a novel, we have not seen any of these "brief whiles," at least not after their first encounter in the castle, but the sentence suggests how much time has passed for Flandry on Scotha.

Friday, 27 December 2019

Industrialization Without Pollution

Some other race, probably the Merseians, initiated the industrialization of Scotha. Industrialization that is inspired from space can be moved into space and thus can avoid pollution of the planetary environment. Therefore, when Flandry arrives on Scotha:

"Rivers and snow-peaks gleamed afar. The skies were thronged by winged life." ("Tiger By The Tail," p. 256)

Rivers are not discolored by chemical wastes. Snow has not melted. The smaller organisms on which the fliers feed are not becoming extinct.

Scotha has avoided one set of problems but embraced others. Flandry, able to see how females and aliens are treated, sows dissent in the royal-imperial court during his first audience with King Penda whose son, the crown prince, Cerdic, values ancient austerities whereas his stepmother - standing beside the throne! - and the alien ambassadors would appreciate some physical warmth so Flandry suggests the installation of radiant heating in addition to the traditional hearth fires which are insufficient to dispel the chill from the vast, dim hall.

Flandry's aims are to draw attention to discomforts and to incite disagreement about proposed innovations, anything to bring down this house of cards.

"Ineluctably On Its Way"

"Also Poul Anderson." It's "Tiger By The Tail."

Is "Tiger By The Tail" just space opera or does it address any current issues?

"The Imperial magnates would be terrified at the prospect of having their comfortable lives interrupted by heavy demands... None but a few eccentrics would point out that the dismemberment of the Empire had commenced and the Long Night was ineluctably on its way." (p. 255)

Does that sound like now? Instead of "Empire," read: current global industrial economy. However, more than a few eccentrics are pointing it out...

Will we get through our Chaos?

Why The Schotani Plan To Attack The Empire

"Tiger By The Tail."

(i) Plunder - goods can be produced without risk at home but more can be won quickly in battle.

(ii) Territorial aggrandizement - some suitable planets unable to resist could be found in the wilderness but Terra has already found and developed many more.

(iii) The great seek glory.

(iv) Their social inferiors seek self-advancement denied to them at home.

(v) Glory and adventure combine with "...that darker longing for submergence of self..." (p. 254) to generate a racial crusade.

The lamentable longing to submerge self is the obverse of the commendable longing to transcend self, formerly practiced by monks and ascetics but now open to all.

Tricks With Cards And Dice

En route to Scotha:

"They were addicted to gambling. Flandry learned their games, taught them a few of his, and before journey's end had won several suits of good clothes for alteration, plus a well-stuffed purse. He almost, not quite, hated to take his winnings. These overgrown schoolboys had no idea what tricks were possible with cards and dice."
-"Tiger By The Tail," p. 253.

This single paragraph presents in advance the entire theme of this story. Flandry will do with Schotanian politics and naval organization what he has already done with cards and dice.

Do the Scothani gamble their clothes while still wearing them? In any case, they wind up naked before the Terran assault.

A Benefit Of Polytheism

On one continent of the planet Ivanhoe, the Consecrates are fanatical monotheists who are confused by the introduction of the Kabbalah whereas, on another continent, the dwellers in a ruined city of a wrecked empire are polytheists:

"'Though [the empire] lies in wreck, we who live here preserve the memories of our mighty ancestors, and faithfully serve their gods.'"
-"The Season on Forgiveness," p.324.

Monotheists might reject Christ as a false god whereas polytheists can more easily accept him as just another god:

"'...surely our two people can reach an agreement. The Earthlings can help us make terms.'
"'They should have special wisdom, now in the season of their Prince of Peace.'" (p. 334)

An excellent Christmas story, set among polytheists.

Mexican And Alien

"...a memory of home - his parents, his brother and two sisters, Tio Pepe and Tia Carmen, the dear small Mexican town and the laughter as children struck at a pinata-
"'Raielli, Erratan!'
"Halt, Earthling! Juan jarred to a stop."
-"The Season of Forgiveness," pp. 327-328.

 Googling informs me that the Tio and the Tia are an uncle and an aunt, not the names of the two sisters. I had not known what a pinata was.

We learn two words in one Ivanhoan language and have now learned the word for an Earthman in at least three extraterrestrial languages -

on Ivanhoe: Erratan;
on Ikrananka: Ershoka;
on land on Starkad: vaz-Terran.

But most of the linguistic wealth of the Technic History passes us by. How many languages does van Rijn speak? In how many Merseian languages, apart from Eriau, is Olaf Magnusson fluent? I have expressed myself in questions rather than in statements in order to avoid having to search for the answers. However, the question about Magnusson is answered here.

Slight correction: "vaz-Terran" is collective, not singular.

Origin Stories

Yossi gave me Klaus, a bizarre "origin story" for you know who. Superheroes have origin stories. There are a few such stories in Poul Anderson's works.

(i) In Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys, a young man called Sucat is baptized as "Patricius" (God's patrician), and converts Ireland - St Patrick.

(ii) Also in The King Of Ys, the Roman centurion, Gaius Valerius Gratillonius, gradually becomes the legendary King Grallon, or Gradlon, of Ys.

(iii) The King Of Ys also refers to the origin of the Arthurian legend. See Camelot And Armorica.

(iv) In The Boat Of A Million Years, Hanno visited the court of a post-Roman British warlord called Artorius... (Scroll down.) (Were some of Hanno's fellow immortals also the sources of legends? See Starkad II.)

(v) In Anderson's The Golden Slave, Eodan gradually adopts the characteristics of Odin. See Origins II.

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Before And After

This post treads a very familiar path but maybe clears the route a bit more effectively than previously. Before Poul Anderson's Technic History had been collected in chronological order of fictitious events in Baen Books' seven-volume The Technic Civilization Saga, compiled by Hank Davis, what would have been the best way to present the pre-Flandry period of the Technic History in a coherent reading order?

We already know that the Technic History began with what I call the Polesotechnic League Tetralogy (Trader To The Stars, The Trouble Twisters, Satan's World and Mirkheim) and that its pre-Flandry period culminated in the two Ythrian volumes (The People Of The Wind and The Earth Book Of Stormgate). All that was required, therefore, was a single intermediate volume to be entitled Before And After, collecting one pre-League story, "The Saturn Game," and two post-League stories, "The Star Plunderer" and "Sargasso of Lost Starships." Referring, as they do, to the early Terran Empire, the two post-League stories make perfect prequels to The People Of The Wind.

I had previously thought of The Saturn Game And Other Stories as an additional volume to follow the Earth Book, merely collecting the three remaining stories. However, given the content of these stories, it makes more sense for such a volume to be read between Mirkheim and The People Of The Wind, thus presenting the three stories in a more appropriate reading order in relation to the rest of the series.

Although it is good that The Technic Civilization Saga preserves all of the Earth Book introductions, I still like the idea of the Earth Book both as a discrete volume and as the culmination of the pre-Flandry period of the Technic History.

Shadows Lay Thick

On Ivanhoe:

"A human found it cold. His breath smoked into the dry air. Smells were harsh in his nostrils. The sky above was deep purple, the sun a dull ruddy disc. Shadows lay thick; and nothing, in that wan light, had the same color as it did on Earth."
-Poul Anderson, "The Season of Forgiveness" IN Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (Riverdale, NY, 2009), pp. 317-336 AT p. 323.

Three senses:

cold, dry air;
harsh smells;
deep purple, dull ruddiness, shadows, wan light.

Unearthly colors all the time - A potential nightmare? An inauspicious setting for Christmas? Could it be filmed authentically?

See On T'Kela where shadows also lay thick.

Seven Installments In Common

The Earth Book Of Stormgate collects twelve installments of Poul Anderson's main future history series, the History of Technic Civilization, also known as the Technic History.

The Technic Civilization Saga, Volume I, The Van Rijn Method, collects the first eleven installments of the Technic History.

These two volumes have seven installments in common:

"Wings of Victory" (Ythri)
"The Problem of Pain" (Avalon)
"Margin of Profit" (van Rijn)
"How To Be Ethnic In One Easy Lesson" (Adzel)
"The Season of Forgiveness" (Christmas on Ivanhoe)
The Man Who Counts (van Rijn)
"Esau" (van Rijn)

Ythri, Avalon and Ivanhoe are planets that appear elsewhere in the Technic History. Van Rijn and Adzel are characters that appear elsewhere in the History. Christmas is common to other fictional series and to reality. Will it still be celebrated in the real twenty-fifth century?

My answer: Yes, if humanity survives.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Other Reading About Telepathy

We saw here that a telepath who can read only surface thoughts talks to a prisoner in order to bring associations into his conscious mind.

Thus, we read, in a book received as a present today:

D'jinn, disguised as a slave girl: Gather all who serve Yussuf's ascendancy together tonight for an important meeting.

Sidi Nouman: Is that wise? In the past we've never congregated more than two or three at a time. Those were always Yusuf's orders.

D'jinn: No Matter. I simply needed to ascertain the fullness of the list which appeared in your mind the moment I inquired of them.
I've captured it complete, and so you are of no further use to me, Sidi Nouman, famous abuser of horses.
-Bill Willingham, Fables: Arabian Nights (And Days), (Burbank, CA, 2006), p. 59, panels 5-6.

Mental Powers In The Galaxy

Two paradoxes:

decades-old futuristic anticipations have become dated;

sf writers imagine far future civilizations that, in their time, are ancient so that our present is their remote, either legendary or forgotten, past.

Mental powers are a science fictional theme and the galaxy is a science fictional setting. But what are mental powers? What are we already able to do mentally? Mental abilities include observation, learning, thought, concentration, imagination and self-control:

'AS A MAN OF DISCERNMENT STANDING ON A ROCKY EMINENCE, BEHOLDETH THOSE WHO ARE BELOW AND IN DISTRESS so doth the sage, who by his wakefulness hath put to flight his ignorance, look down upon suffering mankind from the Heights of Wisdom which he hath attained'

- The Buddha  

-copied from here.

Buddha said, "A man who conquers himself is greater than one who conquers a thousand men in battle." 

-copied from here.

He who conquers others is strong; He who conquers himself is mighty.
-copied from here.

However, the word, "power," suggests either a superior ability or control over others. Superior physical abilities would be "super powers," like flight or super-strength, whereas superior mental powers would include telepathy or coercive hypnosis, i.e., mental control over the actions of others.

Asimov's Mule and Second Foundationers exercise coercive hypnosis on a galactic scale - although Seldon's psychohistory was about the mathematics of populations, not about the control of individuals.

James Blish's interstellar explorers encounter telepathy first in the microcosm, then in a Central Empire of the galaxy, (see here and also here) whereas Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry of the Terran Empire learns that the rival Merseian Roidhunate is served by a universal telepath.

The mental power of prescience is exercised on an interstellar scale in Frank Herbert's Dune History.

However, of the four authors cited here, Anderson and Blish are head and shoulders above either Asimov or Herbert.

Happy Christmas

(The issue with Poul Anderson's "The Season of Forgiveness.")

Happy Christmas, everyone.

I am mentally drafting an ace post on "Mental Powers In The Galaxy." Back here later today or tomoz.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Howling In Temples

"Tiger By The Tail."

Flandry thinks that the Long Night will involve:

"...famine, plague, more war, more destruction of what centuries have built, until at last the wild folk howl in our temples -" (p. 251)

Does the Terran Empire literally have temples? Poul Anderson makes it sound as much like the Roman Empire as possible. Thus, it does have a literal Emperor at one end of its social spectrum and slaves at the other. In later-written installments, Flandry rationalized slavery as one use to make of convicted criminals.

However, I noticed this passage not for its temples but for its "howling." Yet again, civilization is held up as a bastion against a lot of wild howling!

How Flandry Might Help The Scothani

"Tiger By The Tail."

The Scothani, interstellar barbarians, have captured Dominic Flandry who they think might:

divulge information about the organization and undertakings of Terran Naval Intelligence;

translate documents;

identify potential allies within the Terran Empire;

make liaisons;

eventually earn his freedom and a rich reward.

Not a bad deal for someone less resourceful than Flandry who instead systematically sabotages and destroys the Schotanian Empire from within. Later, individual Schotani, like many members of other species, enlist in the Terran Navy.

Gods In Space

"Tiger By The Tail."

Will spacefaring races take their polytheisms with them into space? This happens in James Blish's Cities In Flight and in some works by Poul Anderson, e.g.:

"'The gods who forged our destiny saw to it that our ancestors did not learn the secrets of power from humans, who might afterward have paid heed to us and tried to stop our growth. It was others who came to our world and started the great change." (p. 245)

The greatest possible change, from pre-industrial to interstellar. A people who already believed in gods would continue to think in that way and therefore to suppose that their gods had directed "the great change."

"(A bugle: the gods defied!)"
-copied from here.


I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Source: Shelley’s Poetry and Prose (1977)
-copied from here.
(First, I copied the poem, then I searched for an appropriate image - and found the poem.)

This is the poem by Shelley mentioned in the previous post. See also Sultan After Sultan.

Such poems are relevant to Poul Anderson's Technic History which shows the twilight of Empire, then a later period when Anglic has become a dead language. 

In Olden Days

"Tiger By The Tail."

"Merchant adventurers had searched widely about in olden days, and not always been scrupulous about what they sold." (p. 243)

That summarizes the Polesotechnic League and, in particular, "A Little Knowledge."

"...strange things could develop...over centuries, unbeknownst to worlds beyond." (ibid.)

Mankind has returned to its old condition of a world bounded by the unknown from which anything can come.

"...sneer of cold command..." (p. 244) is another quotation from Shelley

Ythrian And Merseian II

A brief thought before a preoccupied day -

The previous post did not do full justice to the interactions between three species, although some of these interactions happen after "Tiger By The Tail":

human-Ythrian exploration, then colonization, of Avalon;
human Avalonians joining choths and Ythrians becoming "Walkers": 
human beings living in the Roidhunate and working for Merseia;
Merseians settling on the human planet, Dennitza;
an Ythrian spy thwarting a Merseian agent on a human planet;
Admiral Magnusson and the Zacharians working for Merseia.

Monday, 23 December 2019

Ythrian And Merseian

Dominic Flandry reflects on:

"...the domains of other starfaring civilizations, Ythrian and Merseian and the rest."
-Poul Anderson, "Tiger By The Tail" IN Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (Riverdale, NY, 2010), pp. 241-276 AT p. 243.

The rest are:


- making, with Terra, six interstellar powers in known space.

The phrase, "...Ythrian and Merseian...," encapsulates a great deal of future history.

We have read about:

first contact with Ythri and Merseia during the Grand Survey;
crucial Polesotechnic League aid to Merseia;
war between the Domain of Ythri and the Terran Empire;
Merseian plots to destroy Terra -

- and now we are reading, or rereading, the earliest published work about Dominic Flandry. This massive future history has grown around it.

How To Escape From A Telepath

In "Honorable Enemies," Dominic Flandry learns how to lie to a telepath. In The Day Of Their Return, 20, Ivar Frederiksen escapes from a gun-wielding telepath who will know what he intends to do before he does it. Ivar drops his knife and the manacled Erannath grabs it. Aycharaych cannot monitor both their minds simultaneously. Erannath severs his chained hand, attacks Aycharaych and dies from a blaster bolt but, by knocking Aycharaych aside and making him drop the gun, he has given Ivar a chance.

Erannath's last words in Planha:

"'Eyan haa wharr, Hlirr talya -'" (p. 231)

Knowing that Hlirr was his wife, we can only guess at the meanings of the other words.

Aycharaych, descended from flightless birds, spies and aubverts for Merseia whereas Erannath, a feathered flyer but not a bird, spies for Ythri and Terra. This is the single encounter between a Chereionite and an Ythrian in the Technic History.

Why Aycharaych Talks To Erannath

Classic fictional scenario:

villain captures hero;
villain talks freely;
hero escapes...

Archetypal example:

Donovan Grant, chief executioner for SMERSH, has James Bond at gunpoint on the Orient Express and will shoot him in the heart when the train enters a tunnel;

Grant tells Bond where and when he, Grant, is scheduled to meet Rosa Klebb, Head of Operations for SMERSH;

during their conversation, Bond lights a cigarette and slips his cigarette case over his heart...

In Poul Anderson's The Day Of Their Return:

Aycharaych confines Erannath underground;
he talks freely;
Erannath relays information to Ivar Frederiksen who comes to rescue him...

Anderson gives Aycharaych two plausible motives for talking to Erannath:

he is lonely;
by talking, he brings associations into Erannath's conscious mind where he can read them.

Sf has a wider range of possible explanations.

Thin Fringe Of Spiral Arm

The Day Of Their Return.

Ivar writes to Tatiana:

"'We're way out on thin fringe of spiral arm, you remember.'" (18, p. 212)

How could we forget? Here, Ivar contrasts human space with the galactic center where the Elders supposedly originated. Again he uses phraseology that is familiar to us both from several other characters in Poul Anderson's Technic History and also from that History's occasional omniscient narrator. See here.

Only in the concluding forty-third installment of the Technic History have human beings and their diverse civilizations spread through several spiral arms of the galaxy. Even later, apparently, a single civilization operates on a "Galactic" scale and looks back on more than one interstellar Empire.

Elders And Others

The Day Of Their Return, 18.

The Elders, as described by Caruith to Jaan, have features in common with the Others in Poul Anderson's The Avatar. Both races evolved early, help emergent intelligences and can record and merge personalities.

Caruith's version of the Elders is a fiction with the fiction, composed by Aycharaych to mislead Jaan into instigating a jihad. Deliberately built-in contradictions will generate heresies and schisms:

cosmic life guided by the Elders will attempt to create and become God although Christian Aeneans are bound to regard such a goal as blasphemous;

a rival group of Elders, coincidentally called "Others," seeks not to overcome but to accept entropy so some Aenean cultists can be expected to support these "Others" against Caruith's Elders.

Aycharaych's responsibility as the last surviving Chereionite should be to encourage understanding and harmony, not to foment delusion and conflict.

Further Evolution?

Because many Aeneans hope for help from a more evolved race, Ivar Frederiksen reflects that intelligence ceases to progress when technology has become integral to survival. There is no longer any survival pressure for it. If anything, all the intelligent beings in the known galaxy already have more intelligence than is good for them.

I agree that intelligence ceases to progress but the next stages of "evolution" should be social and spiritual, not biological or cerebral. I would hope to meet civilizations that have transcended social conflicts and whose entire populations are spiritually enlightened. But I would not start to believe that such civilizations must exist just because I hope that they do. The universe was not created for our convenience.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

A Fact, An Inference And A Biblical Phrase

The Day Of Their Return.

"'It is a fact, verifiable by standard stratigraphic and radioisotropic dating methods, a fact that a mighty civilization kept an outpost on Aeneas, six thousand thousand years ago. It is a reasonable inference that those beings did not perish, but rather went elsewhere, putting childish things away as they reached a new stage of evolution." (16, p. 200)

The second proposition is not a reasonable inference but just one of several hypotheses. It incorporates Biblical language.

"Outpost of Empire" and The Day Of Their Return, two Technic History installments set between the Young Flandry Trilogy and the Captain Flandry series, could be collected in a single volume as Outposts Of The Terran Empire. Aeneas, currently an outpost of the Terran Empire, was formerly an outpost of the Chereionite Empire. Thus, the proposed title becomes doubly significant.

Both current outposts resist the Terran Empire, Freehold successfully, Aeneas unsuccessfully.

Crowd And Torrent

The Day Of Their Return.

"Through a crowd of stars and a torrent of galaxy, Creusa sped past Lavinia." (13, p. 173)

This one sentence combines three recurrent images:

a hurtling moon;

a ------ of stars (see here);

a description of the Milky Way, although, in this case, it is just called the "galaxy" - however, the word, "torrent," has been used before.

I am still rereading The Day Of Their Return. It might last until the end of the month/year. Fortunately, we are not going anywhere. I do not know whether it is possible to become indefinitely immersed in Poul Anderson's Technic History but I will find out.

The Day Of Their Return And The Triumph Of Time

Poul Anderson's The Day Of Their Return, about future millenarianism, is a sequel to Anderson's Young Flandry Trilogy and part of his Technic History whereas James Blish's The Triumph Of Time, about a real cosmic ending, is a sequel to Blish's Okie series and Volume IV of his Cities In Flight Tetralogy, the last Okie city having flown in Volume III.

Why should human beings inhabiting colonized extra-solar planets become fanatical and even Fundamentalist? The narrator of Anderson's "The Problem of Pain"explains the Aenean Peter Berg's faith by stating that he was raised in the outback of a faroff colonial planet. Ivar Frederiksen refers to Bible and blaster backwoodsmen on Aeneas. The Aenean Jaan the Shoemaker very nearly inspires a jihad.

Although Blish's Okies liberated human peasants on a planet in the Greater Magellanic Cloud, the Cloud planets retained what are described as back-cluster superstitions. Thus, Jorn the Apostle was able to found the Warriors of God and to lead a jihad.

Jaan and Jorn might found a cross-cosmic league of interstellar prophets.

A Special Place

The Day Of Their Return.

Sometimes people think that their own country is somehow special. One Aenean says:

"'Aeneas is special.'" (10, p. 153)

Another says:

"'...maybe we are God's chosen instruments to give [Empire] cleansing shock.'" (ibid.)

Years ago, in Britain, a Christian Nationalist Party proclaimed, "Behold a sign. Our mission is to lead the nations in peace." The sign was the cross in the Union Flag.

CS Lewis replies to the fallacy of national specialness. When Dimble speaks with sickening sentimentality of English "'...awkward grace...'" and "'...humble, humorous incompleteness...'," Ransom reminds him that:

"'There's no special privilege for England - no nonsense about a chosen nation.'"
-CS Lewis, That Hideous Strength IN Lewis, The Cosmic Trilogy (London, 1990), pp. 349-753 AT CHAPTER 17, p. 740.

England is the conflict between Logres and Britain. France is haunted by Reason, China by Heaven, Aeneas by its myth of the Ancients.

Change On Avalon?

The Day Of Their Return.

Ivar: "'Your race doesn't have our idea of government.'"
Erannath: "'It's irrelevant to us. My fellow Avalonians who are of human stock have come to think likewise.'" (16, p. 196)

So, by this time, have all human Avalonians abandoned the Parliament of Man and joined choths to participate in Kruaths?

Erannanth asks:

"'What is freedom, except having one's particular cage reach further than one cares to fly?'" (ibid.)

This image of a cage whose sides are below our horizon, so to put it, appears somewhere else in Anderson's works. Where? It seems to have two possible interpretations. Elsewhere, it definitely means that we remain unfree even in an enlarged cage whereas here Erannath says:

"'You see no narrowing of your freedom in whatever the requirements may be for a politically independent Alpha Crucis region, any more than you see a narrowing of it in laws against murder or robbery. These imperatives accord with your desires. But others may feel otherwise.'" (ibid.)

This remains ambiguous. Freedom is not narrowed by laws against murder although it would be better to live in a society where no one ever had a motive for murder. Laws against robbery imply a property-owning society. Such societies have not always existed, need not always exist and certainly place restrictions on freedom. The earliest form of property comprised herds and slaves. Now, most of us are free to sell our labor power (ability to work) but are not guaranteed to find an employer. There is the capacity to produce enough food to feed everyone yet some people continue to starve.

That was the second time on this page of The Day Of Their Return that Erannath asked "What is freedom....?" The first time, he answered:

"'What is freedom? To do as you, an individual, choose? Then how can you be certain that a fragment of the Empire will not make still greater demands on you? I should think it would have to.'" (ibid.)

Freedom as "unmolested elbow room" was what the founders of Avalon wanted. Also, freedom in that sense is possible inside a sufficiently enlarged cage.

Scripture Embedded In The Text; A Shakespearean Comment

The Day Of Their Return.

"Jaan wrestled; but the mind which shared his brain was too powerful, too plausible. It is right that one man die for the people." (15, p. 186)

You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." (Jn. 11:50)

The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
-copied from here.

Jaan is "...a young an immaculate white robe..." (p. 187)

And you are lucky to get that much from me at this time!

Saturday, 21 December 2019

The Sunless River

Gods on their bridge above
Whispering lies and love
Shall mock your passage down the sunless river
Which, rolling all it streams,
shall take you, king of dreams,
Unthroned and unapproachable for ever
To where the kings who dreamed of old
Whiten in habitations monumental cold.
-copied from here.

We have connected the works of Poul Anderson, SM Stirling, James Elroy Flecker and Neil Gaiman several times, e.g., here. (See also here.) Maybe Flecker's "sunless river" can serve as the last of our reflections on significant rivers for the time being?

"Rivers" would have been a lengthy post if published as a unit but I have been gadding about with social interactions as The Boat Of A Million Years approaches the milestone or way station of yet another year end.

The River Of Time

    riverrun, past Eve and Adam's
-copied from here.

Thus begins and ends James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. There is a Church of Adam and Eve by the River Liffey in Dublin.

Time is compared to a river in Poul Anderson's Time Patrol and also as a river whose course can somehow be diverted.

Back here later.

On The River: The Big One II

The Day Of Their Return.

As the Jade Gate swerves around an obstacle in the rapids between the Cimmerian Mountains, Jao explains:

"'Nothing here is ever twice the same.'" (14, p. 177)

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”
-copied from here.

The Riverfolk risk wreck to reach their rendezvous ritual place because:

"'The danger is part of the ritual, Rolf. We are never so one with the world as when - Ai-ah!'" (p. 178)

Jao is interrupted by the approach of another kind of danger, Terran marines.

There is plenty more to post about the River. I had thought that Heraclitus' river was on the James Blish Appreciation blog but can't find it there right now.

Addendum: The quote from Blish about Heraclitus is on this blog here.