Thursday, 31 January 2019

Mermen And Martians

Here is a really obscure fannish parallel between Poul Anderson and Neil Gaiman that no one else would have thought of:

Anderson's works include mermen, in The Merman's Children, and several races of Martians;

Gaiman's Morpheus, Lord of Dreams, the title character of The Sandman, coexists with the DC Comics superheroes who include not only the famous Kryptonian, masked avenger and Amazon but also an amphibious Atlantean (also here) and a last surviving Martian who sees Morpheus as an appropriate deity of his planet.

These are very different scenarios with some archetypal parallels.


Education is general or specialized. Because it suited me to do so at the time, I prolonged my time at University and emerged years later with academic qualifications but not as yet any work training or career aim.

In Poul Anderson's Shield, because the US urgently needs many trained minds, an "Institute" picks the orphaned, eight-year-old but highly IQ'ed Peter Koskinen along with thousands of others. Ten years later, Koskinen gets his master's in physics with a minor in symbolics and successfully applies to join the ninth Mars expedition that will stay long enough to communicate with the Martians who exist in this particular timeline.

In Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: Worlds' End, Scroyle's father, in exchange for a grave in the necropolis, Litharge, pledges his son, Scroyle, as a prentice. Thus, Scroyle, aged eight, accompanies his father's body to Litharge on the death-barge. Over the next nine years, Scroyle learns how to dig a hole six feet deep and eight long as well as thirty ways to prevent clients from spoiling in the sun and fifty ways to prepare wood for a casket.

Their specialized educations happen to suit them but would not have suited me.

A Future City

Poul Anderson, Shield (New York, 1970), I, p. 5:

megalopolis; (scroll down)
haze-reddened setting sun;
a "Center" on the horizon;
glittering aircraft;
unitized sub-cities;
company towers;
soaring, gleaming tubeways;

The viewpoint character, Koskinen, looks through the "viewall" (scroll down) in his hundredth-story hotel room. Switched off, the viewall displays randomly flowing pastel colors. Koskinen can listen to Hawaiian turf or Parisian cabaret.

We gather that we are in a city in the future.

My Problem With The Numbers In After Doomsday

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday, CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

OK. I have slept on it and realized where I was going wrong with the numbers here.



I am losing it again, trying to translate between bases 12, 6 and 10, but am now confident that the above answer is correct.

Very relevant here are Fred Hoyle's observations on mathematical abilities. See Luck.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Aliens In The Past

If aliens can interact with Earth in the present or the future, then why not also in the past? But the interactions must have been covert unless they was in an alternative past. Harry Turtledove has aliens openly invading Earth during World War II but, of course, that happens in one of his alternative histories.

"The Interloper" by Poul Anderson
The High Crusade by Poul Anderson
The Saga Of The Exiles by Julian May
The Known Space History by Larry Niven
The Lords of Creation novels by SM Stirling

I know that there are more examples than these but maybe not many. As with other topics, like time travel, Poul Anderson appears more than once on the list.

Coffee And Creativity

Time travelers entering Pliocene Exile receive welcoming hospitality:

"The cold drink tasted of citrus, and the steaming pitcher turned out to contain hot coffee. Agnostic though he was, Bryan sent up a prayer of thanks for the latter."
-Julian May, The Many-Colored Land (London, 2013), Part II, CHAPTER ONE, p. 149.

See "Tea Or Coffee, Sir?"

May's text acknowledges the Connecticut Yankee and Narnia.

After discussing the creative process here, I then reflected on its progression from the abstract to the concrete. In Hegelian terms, abstract being and nothing interact as becoming which results in determinate being which is necessarily one thing and not any other thing. A creator must decide what to create, whether to write an epic, novel or film script etc, then which particular novel etc. Creative energy focuses on and condenses into some concrete form.

Fictional time travelers, e.g., in Wells' The Time Machine or in Poul Anderson's "Flight to Forever," set out to travel into the (abstract) future but must then arrive in a particular future with concrete features that might have been otherwise. The Time Traveler does not enter the future described in The Shape Of Things To Come and Anderson's Martin Saunders does not travel through the History of Technic Civilization. One good reason is that their authors had not created those futures yet! However, the main point is that they must enter some particular future, not "the future" in general. Authors make momentous choices and decisions.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Donnan's Second Moment Of Realization And A Solution?

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday, CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

"So -
"It was like a knife-stab. For an instant his heart-beat ceased. He felt a sense of falling. The pulse resumed, crazily, with a roaring in his ears." (pp. 152-153)

That is a moment of realization. What was like a knife-stab? We will be told.

When I was at school, a teacher devising numbers to the base 15 suggested:

10 becomes T;
11 becomes E;
12 becomes D (for a dozen);
13 becomes B (for a baker's dozen);
14 becomes F;
15 becomes 10.

The conversion table gives us:

Monwaingi (obscure numerals unfamiliar to Ramri)


Donnan says that BA=PM=25 and that ABIJ=MOQMP=2134 - but they don't work out that way for me.

Time Travel Fiction II

Time Travel Fiction contrasts major culminations of time travel fiction with one fan's few fanfics. I could also have mentioned that earlier stage of the creative process, the idea, e.g., the idea of a time machine (Wells) or of a sequel to The Time Machine (some of Wells' successors). Alan Moore said that artistic creation is magic because first there is nothing, then there is an idea, then there is a physical artifact like a book. Of course, there are also the materials of creation, "...His dark materials...," like life, language and earlier literature.

It is very easy to have an idea without a finished product, e.g., see my idea for a sequel to The Time Machine here. I have read half a dozen sequels to The Time Machine but do not recommend any of them. (Christopher Priest's The Space Machine sequelizes The War Of The Worlds more than The Time Machine.) Since Poul Anderson made excellent contributions to several other authors' series, he could probably have written a good Time Machine sequel.

However, there are two kinds of "sequels." When I told an academic philosopher that I was reading a sequel to The Time Machine, he asked, "Is it a sequel in a strong sense?" Anderson's "Brave To Be A King" is a direct sequel to his "Time Patrol" whereas the same author's "Flight to Forever," Time Patrol series, The Corridors Of Time and Their Will Be Time are literary successors of Wells' The Time Machine. Such successors might be classed as "conceptual sequels" although I would not argue terminology. In both cases, the later work comes after, is influenced by and even owes its existence to the earlier work.

I find some parallels, not influences, between Anderson's The Dancer From Atlantis and Doctor Who. See here. The latter is another Time Machine successor or conceptual sequel.

Perish by the Sword: A Review by Nygel G. Harrot

The pen is mightier than the sword… Or is it?

Does Poul pull off a murder mystery as well as dear old Agatha or is the sword in the title really just a blunt knife?

Now, I must admit that this is the first Poul Anderson book that I have in fact read. I have not yet traveled the depths of time with him via the Time Patrol series.

 As a follower of good mysteries containing bodies on vicars’ hearth rugs I thought I would try this well known author from the 50s onwards, despite a word from Mr. Paul Shackley  that, for him, this was not one of his favorite Poul books. (The sword stays firmly in the time period that it is set in and does not slip into a different stream or dimension of history, past or future.)

To be honest, I set up my camp with Mr Shackley, although a few tents along.

The mystery was solid.

The writing very good.

The words used created the atmosphere and the feel of the late 1950s (the book itself was written in 1959 and was the winner of the ‘Cock Robin’ mystery award).

But for me the problem was the bit between the lines. The feel of the characters and situation as I took my eyes off the page and turned it. They were lost to me until I hooked onto the words again.

If an Agatha Christie story was a painting, it would be a fine line drawing shaded with water colour pencils containing the odd patch of heavy red. Poul’s, on the other hand, would be a solid ink illustration, logically made up of thick firm black lines. With no shading.

After the sword had been wielded for the last time, after the culprit had been revealed, after the book had been closed, I didn’t have the feel of heart to want to join some of them again for the two follow up books (Murder in Black Letter and Murder Bound).

A solid read. But without the depth of characters that I can connect with.
5 out of 10.

Sir Roger And Carl Donnan

"Sir Roger had established himself on the planet we named New Avalon. Our folk needed a rest, and he needed time to settle many questions of securing that vast kingdom which was already fallen to him."
-Poul Anderson, The High Crusade (New York, 1968), CHAPTER XX, p. 139.

"'I bunk here when I'm on Varg...'"
-Poul Anderson, After Doomsday (Frogmore, St Albans, Herts, 1975), CHAPTER FOURTEEN, p. 139.

"Sir Roger...had a solution to these problems, one hammered out in Europe during those not dissimilar centuries after Rome fell: the feudal system."
-The High Crusade, CHAPTER XVII, p. 123.

"The newly freed planets...are already a great power...their deliberative assembly is presided over by a human."
-After Doomsday, p. 138.

Sir Roger feudalizes. Donnan frees. In both novels, the narrative skips past a long and hard campaign.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Brandobar Revisited

I have reread Poul Anderson's After Doomsday as far its very dramatic:

Annotated English version

However, I find that this climactic chapter has already received extensive treatment. See here. 

Since it is nearly midnight on this part of the Earth's surface, I will sleep on this matter and add new thoughts, if any, tomorrow. 

Good night. Glory to the Emperor. Fair winds forever. High is heaven and holy. 

Time Travel Fiction

In my opinion:

one novel by Audrey Niffenegger;

two novels and enough short stories for one collection by Jack Finney;

three novels, one series and enough short stories for one collection by Poul Anderson -

- comprise three culminations of time travel fiction.

In addition:

one novel by Harry Harrison;
one novel by Tim Powers;
one novel and two short stories by Robert Heinlein -

- perfect one aspect of time travel, i.e., the circular causality paradox.

Some readers appreciate how Poul Anderson writes fiction without being able to do it themselves. We can try - in order to demonstrate to ourselves how difficult it is. My few, brief approaches to fiction lack both depth and details:

Yossi, the Time Traveller
Time Travel Memoirs Fragments
The Very First Draft Of A Science Fiction Story

- and, after that, there are only Fragments


Many authors refer to Sherlock Homes, and Poul Anderson does more than refer, but how often does another writer reproduce Holmes' style of deduction? Anderson perhaps once:

"'...I know just a few obvious facts, such as your being widowed rather than divorced; and you're the daughter of outwayers in Olga Ivanoff Land who, nevertheless, keep in close telecommunication with Christmas Landing; and you're trained in one of the biological professions; and you had several years' hiatus in field work until recently you started again.'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Queen of Air and Darkness" IN Anderson, The Queen Of Air And Darkness and other stories (London, 1977), pp. 9-51 AT p. 12.

Bryan Talbot also at least once:

"He's rich, an aristocrat, and an ex-army officer - either a colonel or a major I should think - a veteran of the African Campaign - the third Boar War and the Siege of Mafeking, to be specific.
"He's a high-ranking freemason, a homosexual and the leader of his local hunt, which would be...hmm...Crawley.
"Should I go on?"
-Bryan Talbot, Grandville: Force Majeure (London, 2017), p. 56.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Monwaingi Societies

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday, CHAPTER TEN.

Monwaingi Societies do not necessarily agree even on a single alphabet or number symbology although all their writing is from left to right and all their mathematics is to the base six.

The Tanthai value the physical sciences and individuality and welcome Terrestrial input. For example, on Katkinu during Ramri's absence, his fellow Tanthai have replaced glowfly globes with fluorescent panels. They are explorers and traders.

The Laothaungi, with their different language, laws, customs and art forms, make a major art out of calligraphy and regard Tanthai characters as hideous.

Laothaung and Thesa are among the most powerful of the Societies, providing admirals and ambassadors.

The Kodau are religious communists.

The Maudwai are primitivistic.

The Bodantha are ultra-pacifistic.

A Monwaingi nation is a jointly maintained set of public technical services, including peace-keeping as just one more technology making a planetary government easy to organize. It comes naturally for the Monwaingi to experiment with social change because their sense of security and meaning comes from rituals, not from traditions.

Monwaingi geneticists will be able to duplicate tobacco.


Poul Anderson, After Doomsday.

Ramri, the avian alien, commends:

US constitutional law (he thinks that there can never "'...have been a nobler concept...'" (CHAPTER NINE, p. 94));


Beethoven's last quartets;

"Justice Holmes" (CHAPTER TEN, p. 102);

the Terrestrial socio-economic system based on physics, not on biology -

- and sings Mozart themes.

He sounds like another avian alien (see Know Yourself - And Your Enemy) or Ferune of Mistwood (not avian but he flies!) (see Quotations).

Is this not somewhat extravagant praise of Terrestrial culture by aliens? It ought to be balanced by a human character with a similar in-depth knowledge of some extraterrestrial culture. In Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, a Klingon repeatedly quotes Shakespeare. Can Kirk quote Klingon classics?


In After Doomsday, Anderson immediately establishes the alienness of an avian-descended extraterrestrial by giving him an exotic name, “Ramri of Monwaing’s Katkinu,” aka “Ramri of Tantha.” Ramri is a personal name. Monwaing is a home planet. Katkinu is a colonized planet. Tantha is a Monwaingi Society. Thus, the first version of Ramri’s name reflects the fact that Monwaingi are space travelers whereas the second version expresses their internal organization. In fact, space travel facilitates Monwaingi organization because Societies preserve their distinctiveness by spreading to other planets although not on the basis of one Society per planet. Individualistic Tanthai and communistic Kodau sharing Katkinu simply ignore each other although, recognizing that conflicts may occur, they also accept a common peace-keeping technology.
-copied from here.

The Tanthai had disliked the callous manipulation of life inherent in Monwaingi biological technology. Some Societies had even begun to talk of adjusting personalities. Then Earth, and especially the US, showed them:

"'...a socio-economic system based on physics rather than biology.'" (CHAPTER TEN, p. 105)

Tanthai find this Terrestrial system less subtle but potentially more powerful and even more humane "'...than the traditional Monwaingi approach.'" (ibid.)

Our economy more humane than theirs? Good grief!

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Kandemir, Vorlak And Japan

Previous comparisons with Japan:

Ythrians And Cormorants
Japan And Avalon
Merseians And Russians (see combox)
Hauksberg And Hayato 
Fanciful Comparisons: Ythrians And Japanese

In (Star) Wars, I compared a Kandemirian to a Japanese. I should also have mentioned another comparison: the Kandemirians squat before legless desks under arching leaves. (Poul Anderson, After Doomsday, CHAPTER SEVEN, p. 74)

Later, Anderson explicitly mentions Japan but in connection with Vorlak:

"'All Monwaingi writing does go from left to right, like English or Erzhuat, and not from right to left like Japanese or Vorlakka.'" (CHAPTER TEN, p. 103)

Erzhuat is a Kandemirian language. Having discussed number systems, the characters now discuss scripts. How many ways are there to write on a page? Left to right or right to left, obviously. Maybe up or down as well?

English language sf writers describing aliens can make them sound Asian, e.g., by calling places of worship "temples." A Japanese sf writer might refer to alien "churches." Really, of course, aliens should sound like nothing on Earth.

(Did I say this before? Once when I went to meditate in the Quiet Room of a Youth Hostel, I was joined by a Japanese man reading his Bible.) (I did. See Acculturation, Art And Horror and Passing The Time In Space.)

6, 8, 10 Or 12

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday.

If intelligent beings with arms have an even number of arms and also have the same number of fingers at the end of each arm, then they have an even number of fingers. (Which fictional aliens have an odd number of arms?) Furthermore, if such beings learn to count on their fingers, then their base number is going be even.

"[Monwaingi] arms, thinner and weaker than human, ended in hands whose three fingers, four-jointed and mutually opposed, were surprisingly dextrous." (CHAPTER ONE, p. 12)

"Biped, about as tall as [Donnan] was, with powerful arms ending in regular five-fingered hands, [the Vorlakka] were placental mammals and bio-chemically very similar to men." (CHAPTER FIVE, p. 55)

"The Monwaingi based their arithmetic on six. But this was a Vorlakka ship, whose ten-fingered builders used a decimal system like Earth's." (CHAPTER SIX, p. 65)

"[Kandemirian] hands were also humanoid, in spite of having six fingers and jet-black nails." (CHAPTER SEVEN, p.74)

On the planet, Zatlokopa:

"Sigrid looked at her watch. By now she was used to the time units, eight-based number system and revolving clock faces employed here." (CHAPTER EIGHT, p. 82)

Revolving clock faces?

"'...Kandemirian numbers are based on twelve...'" (CHAPTER NINE, p. 93)

We are not told what the Zatlokopans look like but we infer that they have two four-fingered hands. Anderson carefully correlates the number of Monwaingi, Vorlakka and Kandemirian fingers with those species' base numbers. This matters later.

Von Krockmeier

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday, CHAPTER NINE.

It is blog policy to follow up every obscure reference in a Poul Anderson text so what does anyone make of this? -

"No hazard was involved to the Kandemirians, no fantasy about the prisoners turning a micro-ultra--filtmeter into a Von Krockmeier hyperspace lever and escaping." (p. 92)

I googled "Von Krockmeier" and found:

Microcosmic God by Theodore Sturgeon, here;
After Doomsday by Poul Anderson, here.

I also googled "filtmeter" and found this, as well as After Doomsday again. We could not do this years ago. Sturgeon's reference to the hyperspace lever turns out to be an un-serious fiction within a fiction.

Anderson-May Parallels

(For an alternative adaptation of Norse mythology, see Thor In The Ultimates.)

In Poul Anderson's After Doomsday, one Earthman is able to invent several new practical applications of galactic technology because most intelligent species do not think along identical lines. In Julian May's The Many-Colored Land, one Earthman constructs a time travel device that had:

"'...eluded the best minds of the Galactic Milieu...until now.'"
-Julian May, The Many-Coloured Land (London, 2013), PROLOGUE, CHAPTER THREE, pp. 15-16.

An alien interprets this as confirming:

"'...the unique abilities of the Children of Earth.'" (p. 16)

Both May's Saga of the Exiles and Anderson's "Gibraltar Falls" discuss the transition from the Miocene to the Pliocene, including the inflow of water from the Atlantic into what becomes the Mediterranean.

In May's Galactic Milieu Trilogy, humanity will succeed the Lylmik as leaders of the Milieu. In After Doomsday, humanity will succeed the Monwaingi as leaders in the local civilization-cluster.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Action In Another Civilization-Cluster

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday, CHAPTER EIGHT.

A Poul Anderson novel usually includes some action-adventure fiction whether or not it is necessary to the plot. There are some neat touches in this chapter:

when waldo-robots kidnap Sigrid, she covers her head in perfume so that the keen-nosed sha-Eyska will easily follow the trail;

the robots take her to a room where she meets her enemies, the Forsi, including the waldo operators;

some dialogue informs the reader of what is going on;

Sigrid spends a couple of pages jumping on and under the table, between the robots' legs etc;

when the door announces that someone wants to enter, she shouts the command to open before anyone else can say no;

Alexandra enters armed and shoots the waldo operators;

the Forsi attack Alexandra and her Eyzka companions;

Sigrid controls a waldo to pluck and disable the Forsi.

Not bad. We might have preferred to read more about "...motivational research among outworld cultures..." (p. 85) but, as action scenes go, this one has things going for it.

What The Terrans Have To Sell

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday.

The American men have a revolutionary new application of existing galactic technology. Spaceships travel faster than light by passing between the interference fringes of standing waves in space. The new application inverts the effect by making a stationary object generate fringes artificially. The first practical outcome is a paragrav detector of unprecedented sensitivity, enabling the Terrans to evade enemy craft while penetrating the Kandemirian system. A new theory of space-time-energy relationships will open many other possibilities.

The European women, working as large scale carriers and brokers while introducing innovations like profit sharing, systems analysis and motivational research in other cultures, upset the economic balance of a civilization-cluster with exponentially growing consequences and build a corporate structure that will outlast them but would they be able to do all this so quickly?

What A Contrast

I refer to two works by Poul Anderson: whereas "How To Be Ethnic In One Easy Lesson" is both a juvenile short story and an installment of Anderson's History of Technic Civilization in which aliens come to a thriving Earth to learn, After Doomsday is a one-off adult novel in which the few human survivors of the sterilized Earth go out into the galaxy and teach so we detect a common theme here.

We value "How To Be Ethnic..." for its snapshot of daily life on Earth in the Solar Commonwealth and After Doomsday for its unique background of the multi-species civilization-clusters. We wish that both works had been longer than they are but also find that they can be revisited and re-mined for yet more colorful and imaginative details.

Imagine a Technic History including multiple volumes of short stories presenting daily life in the future, like the first part of Heinlein's Future History, and also a series of novels set in the civilization-clusters scenario of After Doomsday

Multi-Species Narratives

Maybe After Doomsday is Poul Anderson's best multi-species sf novel? His The Broken Sword is a multi-species fantasy novel. See Supernatural Beings and Faerie Alliances. We compare elves and trolls with the alien Gorzuni in Weregild.

In sf films, TV series and graphic fiction, the physical appearance of the extraterrestrials is up-front/in-your-face from beginning to end whereas, in a novel, we read one description or maybe not even that.

Members of one Kandemirian subject race are like giant, glintingly scaled, quadruple-eyed, four-legged, tentacular-armed spiders, appearing in only one sentence. A Kandemirian is a seven-foot, broad-shouldered, thinly waisted, ovoid-headed, pointed eared, twelve-fingered humanoid with various facial dissimilarities to humanity. There are still two eyes above a nose above a mouth with ears at the sides. That is far too terrestroid, in my opinion.

The Forsi are described only as squat, leathery and flat-faced and that is it. We are told only that a graceful Eyzka is as beautiful as a hawk or a salmon had been. But what does he look like? Descriptions become more perfunctory as the alien species proliferate. Two companies filming After Doomsday could make the Eyzka look very different and both would be right.

Another Alien City

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday, CHAPTER EIGHT.

We saw how the Merseian city of Ardaig both resembled and differed from human cities. (See also Great Cities.)

Terran Traders, Inc. leases the shimmering, bronze-roofed spire of aro-Kito, One Who Awaits, in a city on the planet, Zatlokopa. Some of the women live in that building but Sigrid Holmen and Alexandra Vukovic have an apartment in the tower called i-Cula, the Clouded. The corkscrew ramps and twisted buttresses of aro-Kito are "...typical Eyzka architecture." (p. 81)

There are grassy lanes and "...sunset-yellow canals..." (p. 82) between the buildings but no pedestrians or boats, also no ground-cars or fliers. Transportation is by subways, by vine-like elevated tunnel-streets between the towers and by halls and shaftways within buildings.

Above, a winged snake cruises and a spaceship lifts silently on paragravity.

Interstellar War And Wealth

(Because I have stopped receiving email notifications of blog comments, I have to scroll down recent posts to search for any new comments and will miss any such comments on earlier posts so please tell me by email,, if you leave such comments.) (Addendum: However, I am informed of new comments elsewhere on the blog.)

In Poul Anderson's After Doomsday, the American men stay in the local civilization-cluster where they become involved in an interstellar war whereas the European women travel to another cluster where they participate in a competitive economy. Does Anderson merely project human social norms out into the galaxy? Not exactly. A point made in the Polesotechnic League period of Anderson's Technic History was that, of many intelligent species, some will be similar enough to us for us to interact with them whereas others will not.

The species who compete either economically or militarily are surrounded by probably larger numbers of beings who conduct their affairs in entirely different ways. Explorers will either ignore or occasionally study such races and their cultures.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Reader Suspense And Donnan's Moment Of Realization

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday.

"'I'll buck for sticking around myself,' Donnan agreed, 'though I got a kind of different reason. You see - Hullo, there's the end of our stroll.'"

"Sticking around" means staying within the local civilization-cluster, which covers a lot of sky, but we are not told his reason for a while. He wants to "'...produce a sensation...'" so that:

"'...eventually the other human ships will hear the yarn and understand.'"

"Despite his wide experience, Ramri could still get number systems confused."
-CHAPTER SIX, p. 65.

Because of their different numbers of fingers, different races have number systems with different bases like six, ten or twelve. This will be part of the clue as to who murdered Earth. In fact, here is the earlier part of the clue, a conversion table found inside a missile patrolling Earth:


Two sets of alien symbols have been represented by Roman letters. Recognizable Kandemirian numerals have been represented by A through L whereas a different set of symbols has been rendered by M through R. If the M-R symbols are numbers to base 6, then they might give us:

MR=6 (rendered as the equivalent of "10" to base 6)

The six-fingered Monwaingi count in sixes whereas the ten-fingered Vorlakka "...used a decimal system like Earth's." (p. 65) So what is the base number of Kandemirian mathematics?

"That's why I've gone so gutless, [Donnan] thought. Now there's nothing in space or time except my own piddling self.
"The hell there isn't!
"The knowledge burst within him. He sat straight with an oath."

What knowledge? This is yet another Andersonian moment of realization, initiating yet more reader suspense as we wait to learn what has burst within Donnan.

(Star) Wars

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday, CHAPTER SEVEN.

Carl Donnan's humanoid Kandemirian captor says, "'Ah, so.'" (p. 76) - and thus sounds Japanese. This plus an American at war far from home recalls World War II, as in High Treason. For impacts of World War II on Anderson's fiction, see World War II. For similarities to occupied Europe, see An Occupied Planet and Flandry On Vixen.

With their long history of armed conflicts on Earth, the Terrestrials have something to contribute to their local civilization-cluster with its long drawn out struggle between two imperial powers, Kandemir and Vorlak. However, interstellar wars are rare.

Within a cluster:

"There was trading... There was tourism. There was a degree of interchange in science, art, religion, fashion. Sometimes there was war." (CHAPTER THREE, p. 34)


"The civilization-clusters were never hostile to each other. There was nothing to be hostile about. Conflicts occurred among neighbours, not among strangers who saw each other once a year, a decade, or a century." (ibid.)

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Kandemir: A Merseian-Terran Synthesis In Another Timeline

Kandemir Is Like Merseia...
"Decentralized and flexible, nomadic overlordship was well suited to the needs of interstellar government; the empire worked. For glory, wealth and protection - most especially to gain the elbow room which Kandemirian civilization required in ever greater quantities, for space traffic as well as for the gigantic planetary estates of its chieftains - the empire must expand. Ferzhakan dreamed of ultimate hegemony over this entire spiral arm."
-After Doomsday, CHAPTER SIX, p. 64.

"Combat is a means to an end - the hegemony of our race. And that in turn is but a means to the highest end of all - absolute freedom for our race, to make of the galaxy what they will."
-Poul Anderson, Ensign Flandry IN Anderson, Young Flandry (Riverdale, NY, 2010), pp. 1-192 AT CHAPTER THREE, p. 27.

(Our end should be absolute individual and collective freedom for beings of every race.)

"'What they have in mind for their far future is a set of autonomous Merseian-ruled regions. The race, not the nation, counts with them."
-op. cit., CHAPTER NINE, p. 83.

...And Like Greater Terra
"...our proconsuls are not meddlesome. They respect ancient usage. The subject peoples gain protection and share in the prosperity of an ever-widening free trade sphere. We do not drain their wealth. If anything, they live better than the average Kandemirian."
-After Doomsday, CHAPTER SEVEN, p. 78.

"If I Forget..."

We found two Biblical quotations among the chapter headings of Poul Anderson's After Doomsday. There is at least one more in the text. Carl Donnan thinks:

"If I forget thee, O Jerusalem!"

But he thinks it of the whole Earth! He has just been remembering invaders:

"Romans in Greece, Saxons in Britain, English in Ireland and India, Spaniards in Mexico -" (ibid.)

Before that, having just been captured by the Kandemirians, he remembered almost nostalgically the two previous times he had been a prisoner:

"At their worst, those jails had stood on a green and peopled Earth." (p. 73)

If I forget...

The Bridge Cracks; The Deck Splits

"Flandry saw the bridge crack open. A shard of steel went through Rovian as a circular saw cuts a tree in twain.
"Blood sheeted..."
-Poul Anderson, The Rebel Worlds IN Anderson, Young Flandry (Riverdale, NY, 2010), pp. 367-520 AT p. 439)

"Then the deck rolled beneath him. He saw it split open. A broken girder drove upwards and sheared the head off Ramri's chess partner.
"Blood geysered."
-Poul Anderson, After Doomsday (Panther Books, 1975), CHAPTER SIX, p. 70.

The parallels between these passages are striking. Spaceship crews are not immune to physical danger during space battles.

The author decides which characters are to die randomly unless he chooses them by a random process, e.g., by spinning a coin. However, Anderson wants Ramri to be still alive later in After Doomsday so, in this case, it is Ramri's companion, unknown to the reader, whose head is sheared off.

The radar man is called Wells. (p. 68)

Interstellar Relations In The Local Civilization-Cluster

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday, CHAPTER SIX.

"The hot F6 dwarf that was Kandemir's sun lay about 175 light-years from Vorlak, northwards and clockwise." (p. 63)

We have had compass points in the galaxy before, e.g., see Galactic North And South.

On Kandemir, nomads became spacefarers whereas, on Vorlak, seafarers became spacefarers. Some planetary ways of life adapt more easily than others to space travel.

When T'sjudan explorers had found Kandemir, many Kandemirians went to space not only as students or workers but also as mercenaries for imperial powers like T'sjuda or Xo. Then Kandemir built its own empire, defeating T''sjuda. Ferzhakan, grandson of Ashchiza the Great, hopes to conquer the spiral arm.

An opposing coalition dominated by the Vorlakka Dragar stopped the nomad fleet at the Battle of Gresh but this was followed by a long war of attrition with Monwaing, officially neutral, encouraging Vorlak.

What difference will Terrestrial mercenaries working for Vorlak make?

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Other Explorers

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday, CHAPTERs FOUR and FIVE.

How far do the civilization-clusters extend? If a spaceship can cross the galaxy in months, how far can it travel in two or three years? The all-male European expedition planned to spend three years in the Magellanic Clouds, the two satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. Do the Europeans know that there are civilization-clusters there or just intend to find out?

The Dragar Council and the Soviet Union negotiated a secret treaty, concluded by officials traveling on the Russian ship which then proceeded into far space. The USSR produced weapons delivered to Vorlakkar ships at a rendezvous on Venus. Russian personnel were to serve as auxiliaries in the war against Kandemir.

"'-common cause of the peace-loving peoples against imperialist aggressors...unity in the great patriotic struggle-'" (p. 57)

One phrase is right. The Kandemirians are imperialist aggressors. Meanwhile, the USSR, that "...peace-loving people...," would be getting a military lead on other Terrestrial countries.

Donnan wants to use the war to build a reputation:

"'...a foot-loose crew of bipeds who got their planet kicked out from under them and are raising the roof about it in this specific cluster.'" (p. 61)

Imagine a large multi-species bar ("'Yotl's Nest," p. 140) packed with exotic beings, sitting, squatting, perching, hovering... One being at the back glimpses movement near the entrance and tells his drinking companion, "Two Terrestrials just came in..."

Uru And Feudalism

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday, CHAPTER FIVE.

What connects the planets within a civilization-cluster? Usually, not:

a unified government;
any common culture, ideas or beliefs;
trade in necessities.

However, there is trade in:

technologies, starting with the superlight drive;

And what is necessary for trade? Communication. Each cluster has a lingua franca, learned by spacefarers as part of their training.


is a modification of the language spoken by the earliest interstellar visitors to this region;

is flexible and "...grammatically streamlined..."; (p. 54)

has standardized units for measurement;

can be pronounced or at least written intelligibly by any oxygen breather;

has been adopted by several clusters originally civilized by the same interstellar travelers;

is the language spoken between Donnan and the Dragar.

When the Dragar president, after a few minutes pondering, assents to a suggestion by the Overmaster's representative, we are told that:

"One refreshing aspect of feudalism was, to Donnan, the ease with which such decisions could be made." (p. 56)

Feudalism gets a good press in Anderson's:

The King Of Ys (with Karen Anderson);
History of Technic Civilization;
The High Crusade.

Greg Bear wrote:

"...give me no spaceships in feudal settings...unless, of course, you are Poul Anderson...."
-see Why Empires?

Uru cannot be more grammatically streamlined than Esperanto:

nouns end in "-o," adding "-j" for the plural and "-n" for the accusative, the only exception being that feminine names end in "-a";

adjectives end in "-a" with the same plural and accusative endings as nouns;

the verbal infinitive ends in "-i," past tense in "-is," present in "-as," future in "-os";

adverbs end in "-e."

many meanings are contained not in separate words but in affixes, e.g.:

viro, man, and virino, woman;
patro, father, and patrino, mother;
lordo, lord, and lordino, lady;
dextra, right, and maldextra, left.

Word parts can be combined creatively, thus:

Si respondis, "Jes." (She replied, "Yes.")
Si respondis jese. (She replied "yesly"/affirmatively.)
Si jesis. (She "yessed.") 

Alien Halls

David Falkayn in the audience chamber of Castle Afon on Merseia:

a high gaunt hall;
strange proportions;
windows arched above and below;
stone walls;
woven tapestries;
battle banners hanging from rafters;
hearth fire large enough to roast an elephant;
demon-masked, armored troopers with curved swords, barbed pikes and guns;
winter-chill air;
gravity slightly higher than Terrestrial;
ice-blue sky glimpsed outside;
Morruchan Long-Ax, the Hand of the Vach Dathyr, on a dais.

Centuries later, Max Abrams in the same audience chamber:

strange proportions;
windows arched above and below;
faded tapestries;
rustling banners;
unhuman symbology;
suits of armor with mask helmets grinning like demons;
Old Wilwidh, the wellspring of Merseia;
Brechdan Ironrede, the Hand of the Vach Invory and Protector of the Roidhun's Grand Council, black-robed, holding a spear, beneath a carved black wooden dragon.

In a different timeline, Carl Donnan in the hall of the Dragar on Vorlak:

a single long room;
massive dark timbers;
carved screens;
gaping sea monsters' heads carved on beam-ends;
fluorescent globes;
extraplanetary booty of polished cups, shields, crowns and guns;
bronze plaques of Dragar emblems;
flames roaring up a chimney;
at the far end, the shadowed statue of the Overmaster;
battle banners hanging from dim rafters;
open doors;
noise of surf;
shrill birds;
a saurian's roar;
cold unfamiliar smells;
Dragar enthroned, holding golden goblets, down the length of the hall;
wooden serpents trellised on the throne of Hlott Luurs, the Draga of Tolbek and president of the Dragar Council;
beside Hlott, Ger Nenna, an imperial scholar-bureaucrat representing the Overmaster.

Monday, 21 January 2019

An Infinitely Cold Cataract

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday, CHAPTER FOUR.

Three crew members from the all-women European spaceship, the Europa, go EVA:

"Space gloomed and glittered around them. The sun was a fire too fierce to look at, the Milky Way an infinitely cold cataract, stars and stars filled the sky -" (p. 44) 

Sigrid Holmen, Swedish, reflecting on the silence of space and the noise of her own breath, refers to Fenja and Menja, a myth with which I was unfamiliar. However, the Wiki article refers to familiar figures: Hrolf Kraki, Yrsa, Frodi and Halfdan.

That is quite a lot of cross-reference.

For Nothing?

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday, CHAPTER FOUR.

"What [sic] Earth was an ember, when hills and forests were vanished, when every trace of her folk from the time they entered the land to hunt elk as the glaciers melted to the hour when Father and Mother bade her goodbye in their old red-roofed house...when everything was gone? One senseless kick of some cosmic boot, and the whole long story came to an end and had all been for nothing." (p. 41)

This passage places Anderson's perspective on history and even on prehistory in the hard sf context of a futuristic sf novel.

Secondly, we must disagree with the concluding phrase. A history has value only if it never ends? But everything ends. The history had value while it was happening and is of value as long as it is remembered. After that, of course, there is no one to remember it but equally there is no one to  judge that it was all for nothing.

We now judge that life has been worthwhile until now. We might die instantaneously a moment hence but life has been good overall while it was happening. Anyone who thinks not is free to commit suicide but I advise them to wait to see what happens next. Sf writers speculate about what will happen next but we experience it in each new moment.

Coping With Crises

In Companion Volumes, I argued that Poul Anderson's After Doomsday, World Without Stars and Tau Zero form not a trilogy but a "triad" of novels. Another common feature is that, in each of these three novels, one character, not the ship's captain, is able to give a decisive lead when it is clearly needed.

In After Doomsday, Captain Strachey is shot dead trying to stop a fight between two of his men. Carl Donnan, the mechanical engineer, opines that:

Strathey should have provided something new to do immediately as soon as it was realized that Earth was dead;

with Strathey dead, Lieutenant Howard, the second mate, should not stand quacking but, instead, should organize the self-controlled men into an anti-riot squad, restore order, then tell, not ask, the men what to do next.

When Donnan has spoken, he finds that the more self-controlled men are looking at him. After a pause, he says, "'Okay, let's get started.'" (CHAPTER THREE, p. 39)

Out Among The Civilization-Clusters

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday, CHAPTER THREE.

In this one galaxy, there are a million civilization-clusters with no pattern between them and very little pattern within any given cluster. The U.S.S. Benjamin Franklin's three year mission is to begin to get an idea of the layout and characteristics of the galaxy beyond what has already been learned from the Monwaing complex. The ship visits a dozen planets in four clusters. Donnan's assignment is to study outplanet mechanical techniques.

This three year mission resembles the Grand Survey in Anderson's Technic History or the five year mission of the U.S.S. Enterprise in Star Trek: The Original Series. Some future history series, like James Blish's Cities In Flight, skip past this necessary early stage of interstellar exploration.

"Higgledy-piddledy, helter-skelter, civilization spread out among the stars." (p. 34)

We remember how the Polesotechnic League sprawled from Canopus to Deneb but these civilization-clusters sprawl much further and endure for much longer.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Cultural Divergences

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday, CHAPTER THREE.

A premise for an endless series: an immortal explorer travels between civilization-clusters, trying to trace the origin or origins of the superlight drive.

"Occasionally there was contact with one of the other loose astro-politico-economic clumps. There was no economic force to maintain it, and, culturally, these clusters diverged too much." (pp. 33-34)

An author would have to show the cultural divergences. And:

"...there was no question of a single culture for the whole cluster, or any sort of overall government." (pp. 34-35)

We are also told never to forget that even each planet is a whole world, another common Anderson theme. Who tells us never to forget? Does the omniscient narrator come on-stage to address the reader? No, this passage is a reflection by Donnan who thus reminds himself never to forget.

Dandelion Seeds And Civilizations II

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday, CHAPTER THREE.

"A spaceship could cross the galaxy in months; but a news item, if sensational enough to make the journey at all, might take a hundred years." (p. 34)

FTL in After Doomsday is many times faster than in Anderson's Technic History or in most sf.

Reasons why an armada occasionally starts a new civilization cluster:

traders seek profit;
explorers seek knowledge;
refugees seek a home;
less humanly comprehensible motivations.

Interactions within a cluster:

trade, although not for necessities;
"...interchange in science, art, religion, fashion..." (ibid.);
occasional wars.

Between the million clusters: almost nothing.

"No wonder the speculative writers had misunderstood their own assumptions. The universe was too big for them -" (p. 35)

Dandelion Seeds And Civilizations

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday, CHAPTER THREE.

I am continuing a quotation begun here:

"...learned space technology in turn from them.
"Thus the knowledge radiated, through millennia, but not like a wave of light from a single candle. Rather it spread like dandelion seeds, blown at random, each seed which takes root begetting a cluster of offspring. A newly civilized planet (by that time, 'civilization' was equated in the minds of space-farers with the ability to travel through space) would occupy itself with its nearer neighbours." (p. 33)

My points with this quotation are, first, the evocative image of "...dandelion seeds, blown at random..." and secondly an echo of a Larry Niven story with, I think, space travelers who define intelligence as the ability to traverse interstellar space. To boost a light-powered spaceship, they might make a star go nova but do not feel guilt if, by doing this, they exterminate a race without interstellar capacity? To confirm the details of this story, I would have to go into a room where someone is now asleep so I am not going to do it right now.

Finding Familiar Phrases

Poul Anderson, After Doomsday, CHAPTER THREE.

Tau Ceti II, like some other planets known to us, has "...hurtling moons..." (p. 28) (Scroll down.)

My blog search for "hurtling moons" found Rustum and Gorzun but not Barsoom. An Aenean moon also moves visibly. See here.

Interstellar explorers instruct newly contacted industrialized and outward-looking races:

"From these newly awakened worlds, then, a second generation of explorers went forth. They had to go further than the first; planets of interest to them lay far, far away, lost in a wilderness of suns whose worlds were barren, or savage, or too foreign for intercourse. But eventually someone, at an enormous distance from their home, learned space technology in turn from them." (p. 33)

Regular readers might recognize that it was the recurrent phrase, "wilderness of suns," that drew my attention to this passage. However, the passage was worth quoting at greater length and will generate another post.

The Alien As Threat II

"(Ramri now had two marines as a permanent guard. They had already had to discourage a few men who said no filthy alien was fit to live. But they were his jailers as well; everyone understood that, even if no one came right out and said so.)"
-Poul Anderson, After Doomsday, CHAPTER THREE, p. 28. (Full reference here.)

See The Alien As Threat.

Would anyone think that, because some aliens murdered Earth, no alien was fit to live? Yes, many people would. Our race has to mature before it meets any others.

The title of this post refers only to aliens as perceived threats. In this case, the problem is psychological (in us), not physical (in them).

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Tau Ceti II

Tau Ceti II is the second planet of the nineteenth star in the constellation, Cetus. "Tau" is the nineteenth letter in the Greek alphabet and "II," obviously, is the Roman numeral, two.

See Tau Ceti in fiction and on this blog. (Scroll down.) "Tau Ceti II" as a post title means either that the post is about the planet or that it is the second post about the star.

In Poul Anderson's After Doomsday, the sub-arctic region of Tau Ceti II is described as follows:

rusty dunes;
a few thorn-plants;
a glaring red sun;
hot dry air full of carbon dioxide.

As a habitable planet of a nearby star, Tau Cet II makes sense as a place for the U.S.S. Benjamin Franklin to go to after Earth has been destroyed but it plays no role in the rest of the novel. I was surprised to learn how many works of sf feature planets of this star.

After Doomsday: Some Details

I first read Robert Heinlein's Orphans Of The Sky, Poul Anderson's Guardians Of Time and After Doomsday and probably other works of sf in the yellow-jacketed Gollancz editions borrowed from the Public Library in Penrith, (scroll down) Cumberland, now Cumbria.

Continuing to reread After Doomsday:

for what Ramri looks like, see Avian Aliens;
Goldspring, whose role in the U.S.S. Benjamin Franklin had not been specified on his first appearance, turns out to be the detector officer;
the ship is protected by the standard sf prop of force screens;
the fact that the missiles that attack the ship are poorly programmed for their task is an important clue that whoever destroyed Earth is trying to frame someone else for the crime;
not only the population of Earth but also all other human beings in the Solar System, e.g., on the Moon, have been killed;
the novel is set forty-five to fifty years after the detonation of the first atomic bomb;
the Monwaingi discovered Earth twenty years ago, thus in the 1970s.

In The Benjamin Franklin II

(Five posts so far today but only three on this blog. Page viewers are welcome to scan other blogs.)

See In The Benjamin Franklin.

Two more crew members:

Torpedo man Yule;
Linguist Murdoch.

Our first introduction to this novel's FTL drive (see also here):

"There was little sense of motion. The paragravitic drive maintained identical psuedo-weight inboard, whether the ship was in free fall of [sic] under ten gravities' acceleration...or riding the standing waves of space at superlight speeds, for that matter." (p. 11)

If the drive maintains weight, then why are "...weight maintainers..." (p. 11) needed?

In The Benjamin Franklin

See Silence And Sounds.

More sounds inside the spaceship, the U.S.S. Benjamin Franklin:

the humming and whispering of air renewers, ventilators, thermostats, electric generators, weight maintainers, instruments and nuclear converter;

three hundred all-male crew, buzzing " an upset beehive..." (p. 10)

Captain Strathey
Executive Officer Bowman
Astronomer Kunz
Planetographer Easterling
Engineer Donnan
civilian scientist, Wright
unspecified Goldspring
passenger, Ramri of Monwaing's Katkinu

Would you like to be the only member of your species among three hundred beings whose home planet has just been destroyed? Even one of the three hundred might suspect and strike out at the only available alien target. At least, we know that that is true of the psychology of our race.

Silence And Sounds

"The universe is mostly silence."
-Poul Anderson, After Doomsday (Panther Books, Frogmore, St Albans, Herts, 1975), CHAPTER ONE, p. 7.

Although there is the cosmic hiss. Meanwhile, Anderson lists the noises of murdered Earth:

the rumble and bellow of crust shaking, mountains opening and volcanoes erupting;

the seethe and hiss of boiled oceans now cooling;

the shriek and skirl of winds scouring recently molten continents, now bare black stone;

cracking, booming lightning.

The description continues:

acid rain;
sulphurous clouds;
upthrust crags;
cities engulfed;
ships sunk;
trees, grass, deer, whales and human beings dissolved in lava.

This beginning is an ending.

Eating And Ending

(Genghis Khan, the Ancestor.)

Two authors whom we compare with Poul Anderson we now briefly compare with each other, with a guest appearance by CS Lewis.

"I just saw the Ancestor's emissaries devour a man's soul."
-SM Stirling, The Sky-Blue Wolves (New York, 2018), CHAPTER TWENTY, p. 332.

"'The thing that called itself Screwtape let slip to Lewis that demons do eat souls.'"
-James Blish, The Day After Judgement IN Blish, After Such Knowledge (London, 1991), pp. 427-522 AT p. 432.

At the end of The Sky-Blue Wolves, Orlaith says that the ending is a beginning whereas Reiko replies that both are illusions and that there is only life, unchanged by the Change.

"'Every end,' Wagoner wrote on the wall of his cell on the last day, 'is a new beginning.'"
-James Blish, They Shall Have Stars IN Blish, Cities In Flight (London, 1981), pp. 7-129 AT CODA, p. 129.

"Creation began."
-James Blish, The Triumph Of Time IN Cities In Flight, pp. 467-596 AT CHAPTER EIGHT, p. 596.

For a Lewis-Stirling comparison, see Visions Of Heaven.