Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Anderson's Flandry Series

Swords and Guns

Much fantasy is classed as "Sword and Sorcery." Some action-adventure science fiction (sf) is "Sword and Science." Edgar Rice Burroughs' Martians had guns and technology but unaccountably fought mainly with swords. Maybe the dying planet was running out of ammunition.

Poul Anderson not only wrote both hard sf and space opera but also often combined them. When Dominic Flandry has adventures on an extra-solar planet (at least after his earliest three short stories), Anderson tells us the planet's size, mass, axial tilt, metallic and atmospheric composition, number of satellites, distance from its primary, nature of that primary and the reasons why life had evolved as it did in that environment. However, the first two Flandry stories not only are pulp space opera but even contain "Sword and Science," although Anderson cleverly rationalizes the use of swords.

In "Tiger by the Tail" (January 1951), Flandry, a Terrestrial secret agent, is kidnapped by the Scothani, barbarians who have acquired spaceships. When he has used modern subversive techniques to undermine their interstellar empire, Flandry is challenged to a sword fight by a Scothanian prince in the appropriate setting of a barbarian castle. The prince thinks that a civilised Terrestrial will be unable to fight with a sword. Flandry demonstrates that, because Terra is not only civilized but also decadent, its nobles have preserved the deliberate archaism of scientific fencing.

In "Honourable Enemies" (May 1951), Terrestrial and Merseian diplomatic delegations contend in the court of the Betelgeusean Sartaz (king). Aycharaych of Chereion, a telepath serving Merseia, having just read Flandry's mind, is about to denounce the Terrans’ duplicity to the Sartaz. Although no one is allowed to bear firearms in the Sartaz's palace, duelling swords are part of full dress. Flandry silences Aycharaych by denouncing him as an assassin and attacking him with his rapier. Telepathy gives Aycharaych little advantage because fencing involves conditioned reflex, not conscious thought. Disarming Aycharaych and holding his sword to the Chereionite's throat, Flandry thinks a warning at Aycharaych so that the latter remains silent while Flandry's colleague continues her dishonest exposition to the Sartaz. The earlier story had explained why a Terrestrial can fence but why can a Chereionite? Did Aycharaych learn this skill from Terrestrial minds in case of need?

In "Warriors from Nowhere" (1954) and "The Game of Glory" (1958), fighting, with guns not with swords, occurs on civilized human, not on barbarian humanoid, planets, as if our present, not our past, is now projected into the future. "Warriors from Nowhere" is mere space opera, comprising mainly gun fights, whereas "The Game of Glory" more plausibly presents a colonial society infiltrated by alien subversion. The remaining stories of the original series present longer and more substantial accounts of extra-solar environments.

In "A Message in Secret" (December 1959), human nomadic motor bikers share a planet with its ice-dwelling natives and herd mutated giant rabbits attacked by mutated giant rats. In "The Plague of Masters" (December 1960), Flandry's subversion of a bio-chemically based human tyranny is more believable than his earlier subversion of a barbarian alien kingdom. In "Tiger by the Tail," he had gained and manipulated the affection of a barbarian princess, humanoid but horned, whereas, at the end of "The Plague of Masters," he leaves behind a merely human lover.

Telepathy and Aycharaych

Flandry explains to a colleague and thus to us that a normal telepath detects mental patterns but must learn a different internal "language" for each telepathic race and even for each individual member of a non-telepathic race because minds lacking contact develop individual "languages." Contradicting this, Aycharaych instantly reads and understands at least the surface thoughts of any member of any species, even an inhabitant of a gas giant planet. Flandry speculates that Aycharaych detects an underlying resonance-pattern or basic life energy but this concept is questionable.

Although Anderson presents at least three attempted accounts of how Aycharaych’s telepathy might work, semantics involves arbitrary associations between symbols and meanings so how can Aycharaych detect meanings behind symbols? Admittedly, he reads living minds, not mere written records, but he must still interpret a "language." The character of Aycharaych was introduced in an early story so that Flandry could learn how to lie to a telepath – he allowed himself to be drugged and persuaded of falsehoods - but Aycharaych was such an interesting character in other ways that he returned and became the principle continuing villain of the series, although Flandry’s opposite number among the Merseians does rise through the ranks like Flandry.

If Kirk were in Intelligence and Spock served Kling (the Klingon home planet?), then Star Trek would parallel the Flandry series. Aycharaych the telepath is humanoid with pointed ears but descended from flightless birds. In a brilliant conversation between Flandry and Aycharaych, the latter even speculates about what it would be like if they were on the same side:

“Would you protect me if the accidents of history had flung [the Terran] Empire rather than [the Merseian] Rhoidunate around my sun? Or if you had been born into those humans who serve Merseia? Indeed, then you might have lived more whole of heart.” (1)

Flandry assures Aycharaych, himself and us that he prefers cynicism to Leader-worship.

Throughout known space, ruins of an ancient interstellar civilization evoke both scientific curiousity and religious awe. Aycharaych tries to exploit the latter phenomenon in order to divide humanity by inciting a jihad but also claims that the Chereionites were the Ancients. Later, a Wodenite converted to Jerusalem Catholicism gives the religious aspect a Christian slant by seeking among the ruins for evidence of an extraterrestrial Incarnation.

Reading Order

"Tiger by the Tail," "Honorable Enemies," "The Game of Glory" and "Hunters of the Sky Cave" (June 1959) are a continuous sequence because each of these stories refers to the previous one. "The Plague of Masters" is a direct sequel to "A Message in Secret." "Warriors from Nowhere" fits into neither sequence and retroactively became a prologue to A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows (1974), the first novel about Flandry's later career. Therefore, "Warriors from Nowhere" occurs after the other six stories.

In "Hunters of the Sky Cave," as in "Warriors from Nowhere," Flandry has acquired both an alien servant, the Shalmuan Chives, and a private spaceship whereas, in "A Message in Secret" and its sequel, he still travels alone and buys passage on a spaceship. This may explain why these two stories are placed between "The Game of Glory" and "Hunters of the Sky Cave" in the Chronology of Technic Civilization. (2) I think that it makes sense to read the works as written, first the sequence of four, then the sequence of two, then to think about their chronology.

Like James Blish's Okie and pantropy series, Anderson's Flandry series was written from the centre outwards. Thus, in the completed Flandry Period of the Technic History, the seven original stories are preceded by four novels and one story and succeeded by three novels. These nine volumes (about half the number of volumes in the History of Technic Civilization, although the entire History had never been collected in a complete uniform edition) are preceded and succeeded by other works. Flandry matures from a teenage Ensign to an elderly father, Admiral and Imperial adviser but with physical vigor maintained by calisthenics and antisenescence. The series develops from mere space opera to a serious discussion of the rise and fall of civilizations. Even in the earliest written of the space operas, “Tiger by the Tail," Flandry’s character is more complex than that of the clichéd action-adventure hero. He is not noble and well intentioned but cynical yet doing his job well because someone has to.

Although Flandry first meets Aycharaych in "Honorable Enemies," the later written prequels skillfully introduce the Chereionite to the reader. In The Day Of Their Return (1973), Imperial Commissioner Chunderban Desai meets Aycharaych and reads an Intelligence report on what little is known about Chereion. In A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows, Desai instructs Flandry in a cyclical theory of history that explains Aycharaych’s strategy: the Terran Empire is in a period of civil strife which facilitates conquest by its major opponent. (Although we know that the Empire later falls, we do not see the Roidhunate filling the vacuum. It seems that the imperia wore each other out.)

In the second Flandry novel, A Circus Of Hells (1970), we learn that Aycharaych has taught mental techniques to Merseians in his castle at Raal, which we never see although Flandry later orders the bombardment of Chereion. Despite ordering a planetary bombardment, Flandry is not guilty of genocide because Aycharaych was the last Chereionite though he had somehow fooled Merseia into thinking otherwise. What Flandry’s bombardment does destroy is the computers that preserve the Chereionite heritage but that also enable Aycharaych to spy and subvert on behalf of Merseia whose Rhoidhunate unfortunately includes Chereion.

By keeping the Merseians off Chereion, Aycharaych had preserved his heritage and had prevented the Roidhunate from adapting Chereionite technology for military use. It is hinted that Aycharaych survives the bombardment but, meanwhile, Anderson had mostly stopped extending this series and had turned his attention to other works. The Lancaster sf book seller, Peter Pinto, suggested to Anderson that Aycharaych should return but in an Aycharaych, not a Flandry, novel. That would have made sense.

Would it also have made sense for the Policy Board to appoint Flandry Emperor if Gerhart Molitor died without an heir? A novel called Emperor Flandry could have book-ended the series with Ensign Flandry. It would seem appropriate for Flandry to exercise the absolute power which he had defended.

The Flandry Period

The Flandry Period is more than the Flandry series. Flandry merely cameos in The Game of Empire (1985) and appears neither in “Outpost of Empire” (1967) nor in The Day of Their Return (1973) although he is quoted in the latter which also presents a complicated colonial society. Seven centuries earlier, scientists wanting to study the unusual natives of the planet Dido which is unsuitable for human habitation colonized another planet in the same system, Aeneas, where they established a University that attracts human and non-human students from other systems. Survival in the sparse Aenean environment required cultivation of large land areas with both native and imported plants and animals. Horses and green six-legged stathas were imported as transport animals. During the Troubles, “Landfolk” relationships became semi-feudal and the University incorporated military training into its curriculum. Near the main University campus is a statue of Brian McCormac who cast out nonhuman invaders.

Later immigrants seeking a refuge or a new start are excluded from the tri-cameral legislature by a property qualification for the franchise but form subcultures: tinerans, Riverfolk, Orcans and highlanders. Orcans guard ruins left by space-traveling “Ancients.” “Lucks,” small pets kept in Tinerans’ caravans, are telepathic parasites left by the Ancients. Most Townfolk, belonging to ancient guilds, identify with scientists and squires. However, industrialization in the urban area known as the Web has produced manufacturers, merchants and managers whose interests are closer to those of the Empire which forcibly annexed Aeneas after the Troubles and re-occupied it after Hugh McCormac’s rebellion. Chunderban Desai, High Commissioner of the Virgilian system, consults Thane of the University and Jowett of the Web about McCormac’s Landfolk nephew who will inherit tri-cameral Speakership but meanwhile attacks Imperial troops, then hides among tinerans before traveling with Riverfolk to meet the new Orcan prophet.

I summarize Aenean society in order to convey the richness of detail in Anderson’s fictitious planets.

General Observations

We know that Flandry must be long dead by the time of the Long Night and the Commonalty although we are not told how he dies. SF presents several ways for a character to survive indefinitely. The last Technic History story, “Starfog” (1967), mentions suspended animation. Other works by Anderson develop the ideas of longevity, time dilation and time travel. However, Anderson never suggested that van Rijn, Falkayn or Flandry would outlast their contemporaries by any of these means. We should imagine them, like the characters in the same author’s historical novels, as living and dying in their successive periods of a longer narrative.

Aycharaych to Flandry:

“The consciousness that dreary death will in a few more decades fold this brightly checkered game board whereon you leap and capture – that keeps you ever in haste.” (3)

Although, after the first two stories, Flandry is Sir Dominic, a knight of the Terran Empire, and although one edition of A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows was alternatively entitled Knight Flandry, thus making it uniform with the first novel, Ensign Flandry (1966),and with the collection, Flandry of Terra, I think that the real title character of this novel is Aycharaych, perpetrator of multiple deceptions. Flandry thinks that Aycharaych’s “signature” is: “Dreams and shadows and flitting ghosts-” (4)

For me, the Flandry series comes most alive when, in Knight…, Flandry and his fiancée, Kossara, join a march to the tri-cameral Parliament of Kossara’s home planet, Dennitza. This passage reads like something that really happened and conveys the characters’ apprehension as they approach the conflict in Parliament. Kossara’s death while resisting the attempted coup is devastating and Chive’s flippancy when calling for help in the fight:

“‘I say…you chaps might pitch in a bit, don’t you know.’” (5)

seems inappropriate. Later harrowing moments are Flandry’s discovery that his son serves Merseia and Aycharaych’s appeal to Flandry to help him save Chereion, which would have required Flandry to betray his comrades, including Kossara’s family. A less harrowing but no less moving moment is reached when Kossara’s body lies in the Cathedral where she and Flandry would have been married. Knowing that she believed in the hereafter, he asks her for a sign but does not believe that he receives it.

Anderson conveys the sense of living in troubled times in the pre-Flandry novel, Mirkheim (1977), then in The Rebel Worlds (1969), Knight… and The Game of Empire: unrest, rumors, conspiracies and clashing ideologies. Flandry foils a more clandestine conspiracy in his last novel as central character, A Stone in Heaven (1979).

The basic premises of the Technic History are:

easy faster than light travel;
many comprehensible aliens and many humanly habitable planets in our immediate galactic vicinity, part of one spiral arm.

Anderson did acknowledge that some aliens would be incomprehensible to humanity and that even the most “habitable” planet might be hard to adapt to, for example requiring dietary supplements. He did not even assume that grass grows on every terrestroid planet, although he did expect an equivalent, some form of vegetation that can be cropped to ground level without being destroyed. On Aeneas, the underfoot vegetation curls up and loses its odor at night. However, the Technic History premises are optimistic and Anderson questioned them in later works.

If there is no faster than light travel, then any beings crossing an interstellar distance necessarily take their environment with them and therefore do not need to find a habitable environment, which may not even be there, on arrival. Anderson’s later future histories are set in a very different universe where humanity does not encounter alien intelligence but constructs artificial intelligence.

The Flandry section of the History has four additional premises:

first, however its economy is organized, any individual planet can be attacked from space and therefore needs Imperial protection for which it can be modestly taxed without being exploited;
secondly, however, a badly run Empire does become oppressive, for example when an ambitious, unscrupulous Sector Governor enriches himself by plundering planets, then destroys evidence by bombarding planetary surfaces during the ensuing insurrection;
thirdly, two species with similar biochemistries will contend for similar planets so the Empire also has an external problem;
fourthly, unscrupulous traders selling spaceships and nuclear weapons to barbarians cause further external problems.

Like Flandry, I think that, in the circumstances, the Empire should be defended and reformed, not resisted or overthrown. Unlike Flandry, I would want to build a co-operative economy on at least one Imperial planet. If possible, I would also suggest that the head of state be appointed by the Policy Board and not necessarily descended from either Manuel Argos, the Founder, or Hans Molitor, the Usurper. However, powerful vested interests would oppose that idea and further civil war should be avoided. Cairncross and Magnusson learned from Molitor not to accept his dynasty but to declare their own. (Worse, Magnusson, although human, was secretly a Warrior of the God. See below.)

Emerging from the collapse of the previous political and economic institutions, the Commonwealth and the League, the Empire imposed its Pax on a finite volume of space, then stopped expanding, whereas the Merseians, having gained interstellar travel from the League, were still expanding. Thus, Flandry has been born on what seems to be the losing side and even, from a “might makes right” viewpoint, the wrong side. However, since the Merseians are militarists and racial supremacists, other value judgements are applicable. Characters in other Anderson works might remark that defeat is rarely inevitable and that, even if it were, it is better to die fighting on the right side with Father Odin.

Terra and Merseia exchange ambassadors, an entirely Terrestrial custom, but Anderson rationalizes this by telling us that, since the Merseians had had less experience in such matters, the two races agreed, in the Covenant of Alfzar, that the rules of diplomacy developed on Earth would govern Terran-Merseian relationships. As with the swords, Anderson presents a deliberate archaism but also a rationale for it. This is not serious futurology. Anderson is not predicting the future but projecting the past into the future for story purposes. But serious social theory does appear when Desai analyses Terrestrial history for Flandry. Anderson uses “the Terran Empire” for two literary purposes in a single series: space opera and social commentary.

Another obvious archaism is slavery, re-introduced to make criminals and debtors do useful work or provide personal services. Flandry sympathizes with a semi-aristocrat sold to him for debt but (thinks that) he can do nothing about the system. Of course, he treats her well, gets her willing help with an assignment and then frees her.

Although Flandry and his mentor, Max Abrams, defend civilization, it is a civilization that no longer recognizes basic human rights or equality before the law. Nobles and commons are treated differently. However, these injustices could theoretically be corrected without ending the Pax.


The Game Of Empire starts like a Heinlein juvenile with the young heroine, Flandry’s daughter, watching a multi-species crowd on a colonized planet and meeting an intelligent quadruped. A reference to a recent Merseian onslaught tells us which universe we are in and an overheard Navy conversation about “Merseian bastards” makes this universe real. The Merseians, no longer standard villains but familiar adversaries, have come a long way since “Honorable Enemies.”

In the Betelgeusean System, their ambassador was Lord Korvash. In later written works, we learn that Merseian realms are “Vachs” and that their leaders are called “Hands," not Heads. In Knight..., we learn that Korvash, who has recently become Hand of the Vach Rueth, corresponds with a member of the Dennitzan House of the Zmayi, beings of Merseian species living on a human colony planet and loyal to the Emperor, not to the Roidhun. The Dennitzan Houses of the Lords and the Folk are human. Thus, the name “Korvash” recurs but the word “Lord” reverts to a purely human application.

(Added, 13th May, 2012: In the revised text, Korvash loses the "Lord" and gains a standard Merseian description or nickname, "...the Farseeing.")

Merseians are bald, green humanoids like Dan Dare’s Treens but with tails on which they sit. A member of another species visiting a Merseian household must sit on the table. When one Merseian character does use a stool, either Anderson has temporarily forgotten that they sit on their tails or the implication is that they do sometimes use stools but cannot use chairs. (6) We learn that they are monotheists and racists. The God favors the Race. Merseians, incapable of ecumenism towards human or Ythrian monotheists, instead transmit mere propaganda to Terrestrial pacifists and religious organizations. They begin to sound like the American idea of Communists.

In “Honorable Enemies,” Flandry thinks that the Merseian aim is a single galactic empire. We later learn that their aim is Merseian galactic hegemony but, more realistically, to be exercised through several autonomous realms. “Honorable Enemies” tells us that they are mammals but with overt traces of reptilian ancestry whereas Knight… tells us that they are warm-blooded and give live birth but are not mammals. These could be different view-point characters’ biological classifications. Anderson’s standard reply to inconsistency-spotters was:

“Perfect consistency is possible only to God Himself, and a close study of Scripture will show that He doesn’t always make it.” (7)


The collected edition of “Honorable Enemies” also mentions the rival empire of Ythri. The Ythrians first appeared in “Wings of Victory” (1972). I do not know whether, in 1972, Anderson decided to use a name first introduced in 1951 or whether the reference to Ythri was retroactively added to the collected version of “Honorable Enemies”. Either way, what we read is a long and detailed future history.

“The Problem of Pain,” “Lodestar,” “Wingless,” “Rescue on Avalon,” The People of the Wind and The Day Of Their Return, all featuring Ythrians, were published in a single year, 1973. Only the last of these works is set during Flandry’s life time. Knight…, in which winged Diomedeans, introduced in the Nicholas van Rijn novel, The Man Who Counts (1958), hope for an anti-Imperial alliance with winged Ythrians, was serialized in 1974. Thus, this major part of the History, Ythri, springs from a single creative period in Anderson’s career, although the “earliest” and “latest” references to Ythrians are separated by nine centuries of fictitious history, from the Grand Survey of the twenty second century to Flandry’s later career in the thirty first century.

The End

Near the end of A Stone in Heaven, the reader believes that Flandry and Chives will die in space. Flandry remembers…then they are rescued. While he remembers, he assesses his life: he had wrought evil but enjoyed life and saved more lives than he ruined. Is it true that he sold his soul to prolong the doomed Empire? (8) Flandry himself does not put it as strongly as that and neither would I. He does contemplate the erosion of his spirit but not the loss of his soul.

Flandry both defends the Empire and enjoys life within it. He defends the status quo either because he enjoys its decadence or because he enjoys defending it, or both. Therefore, he:

practices deceptions as an Intelligence Officer;
participates in the conquest of the planet Brae;
has many casual affairs and abandons many women;
uses some women not only sexually but also by involving them in his machinations;
does want to marry Kathryn McCormac and, later, Kossara Vymezal but can’t;
eventually settles down with Miriam Abrams whose father had got him into Intelligence back in Ensign Flandry.

“The Game of Glory” begins with a cynical reference to: “A murdered man on a winter planet [Brae]…” (9) (The Empire calls it “murder” when a Braean kills an attacking Imperial.)

At the very end of A Stone in Heaven, Dominic and Miriam: “…walked on into the autumn.” (10)

Before that, Flandry has suffered the consequences of his actions. An early used and abandoned mistress was psychic and cursed him never to have the woman he really wanted. His illegitimate son by an even earlier mistress became a traitor and was responsible for the death of his fiancee, Kossara. Flandry knows that, despite his lecture to Hugh McCormac, he would have joined the McCormac rebellion if its leader’s wife had committed adultery with him. Self-knowledge like that is bound to erode his Imperialist spirit.

If Flandry had stayed with the psychic mistress, she would not have cursed him. If he had stayed with his son’s mother, the son would have been less likely to betray him. In either case, he would have been less likely to want an affair with Kathryn and would probably not have met Kossara. But he would still have been able to save the Fleet at Starkad, to foil Merseian Intelligence on Talwin, to defeat McCormac in Sector Alpha Crucis, to sabotage Scothanian imperialism etc.

Many of his missions were beneficial. Despite participating in the brutal annexation of Brae, he also liberated Unan Besar from tyrants and Vixen from invaders and saved the lives of entire Starkadian and Ramnuan populations. His illegitimate daughter later helped to foil the Magnusson insurrection. I question whether Flandry’s bad treatment of women is directly related to his efforts to prop up the Empire.

The Game of Empire, in which the married Flandry cameos, potentially opens a new series about his illegitimate daughter and her companions but only potentially. The next, and last, Technic History novel, The Night Face (1963), is set in a very different period, centuries later. The last story, “Starfog," set millennia later, refers to an ancient conflict which regular readers recognize from The Rebel Worlds, although the “Starfog” characters know only that the losers of a conflict fled across two spiral arms and through a dark nebula into an opaque cluster where they colonized a planet but lost the ability to build spaceships. Thus, the nine volumes of the Flandry series shrink and recede in cosmic history.

    1. Anderson, Poul, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows, London 1978, p. 106.
    2. Miesel, Sandra, "Chronology of Technic Civilization," in Anderson, Poul, The Technic Civilization Saga: The Van Rijn Method, compiled by Hank Davis, New York 2008, pp. 445-450.
    3. Anderson, op. cit., p. 102.
    4. ibid, p. 96.
    5. ibid, p. 186.
    6. ibid, p. 113.
    7. Anderson, Poul, private letter to Paul Shackley, dated 14 March 1992, and Anderson, Poul, “Concerning Future Histories,” Bulletin of the Science Fiction Writers of America, Vol. 14, No. 3, Whole No. 71, Fall 1979, pp. 7-14, at p. 13.
    8. Miesel Sandra, “Afterword: The Price of Buying Time,” in Anderson, Poul, A Stone in Heaven, New York 1979, pp. 237-251 at p. 237.
   9. Anderson, Poul, Agent Of The Terran Empire, London 1977, p. 9.
  10. Anderson, A Stone In Heaven, p. 234.

The Technic History and Potential Histories

The Technic History

Writing about a series necessitates re-reading it. Re-reading reinforces appreciation of future historical interconnectedness. To summarise again:

“The Saturn Game.”
Early exploration.
“Wings of Victory.”
Human-Ythrian first contact on Ythri under Captain Gray during the Grand Survey. (References to the planets Cynthia, Woden and Hermes.)
“The Problem of Pain.”
Early human-Ythrian interaction on a second Grand Survey planet, provisionally named Gray.
“Margin of Profit.”
Nicholas van Rijn, Master Merchant, Polesotechnic League.
“How To Be Ethnic In One Easy Lesson.”
The Wodenite Adzel studies on Earth.
“The Three-Cornered Wheel.”
The Hermetian David Falkayn is an apprentice on the planet Ivanhoe.
“A Sun Invisible.”
Falkayn is a journeyman in van Rijn’s company.
“The Season of Forgiveness.”
Later events on Ivanhoe.
The Man Who Counts.
Van Rijn and the Hermetian ducal heiress are shipwrecked on the planet Diomedes.
Van Rijn; first contact with Babur.
Trader to the Stars (three stories).
Van Rijn.
“The Trouble Twisters.”
Van Rijn’s trader team of Falkayn, Adzel and the Cynthian Chee Lan.
“Day of Burning.”
The trader team helps the Merseians to survive radiation from a nearby supernova.
Satan’s World.
Van Rijn and the trader team.
“A Little Knowledge.”
Later events on two other planets discovered during the Grand Survey.
Secret exploitation of super-metals on Mirkheim by races that cannot afford to buy knowledge or technology from League companies. Falkayn, the discoverer of Mirkheim, has broken his oath of fealty to van Rijn but marries van Rijn’s granddaughter.
A League cartel engineers the Baburite invasion of Mirkheim and Hermes. Conflict in the League. The later lives of the major characters.
Falkayn’s grandson interacts with Ythrians on the jointly colonized planet Avalon, formerly “Gray.”
“Rescue on Avalon.”
Later human-Ythrian interaction on Avalon.
“The Star Plunderer.”
During post-League “Troubles,” Manuel Argos leads a slave revolt and founds the Terran Empire.
“Sargasso of Lost Starships.”
The early Empire.
The People of the Wind.
The Terran War on Avalon: a descendant of Falkayn meets a forerunner and possible ancestor of Flandry; “Gray” is now the name of an Avalonian city.
The Flandry period.
Dominic Flandry, active on many planets, including some introduced earlier, defends the Empire against rebels, barbarians and Merseians.
The Game of Empire.
During Flandry’s old age, his daughter, the son of an old acquaintance and a new Wodenite character foil a Merseian plot. Potentially, a new series begins…
The Long Night period (three stories and one novel, if we include the disputed “Memory”).
The Empire has fallen. In one story, Roan Tom roves the stars. Potentially, a new series begins… Later, humanity evolves.
Descendants of rebels expelled by Falkayn contact a new civilization, the Commonalty. Daven Laure is a Ranger of the Commonalty. Potentially, a new series begins…

(“Memory” is set after the fall of a human interstellar Empire but Anderson denied that this was the Terran Empire of the Technic History.)

The Imperial and post-Imperial periods, like the Polesotechnic period, could be analyzed story by story but I here resort to summarizing the later “History of Technic Civilization” in a few sentences. Nevertheless, the reader of this summary should be able to appreciate the scope of the complete series, despite its obvious pulp sf origins. The Terran Empire, introduced as a colorful backdrop for “space opera,” sf action-adventure fiction, later became the setting for novels reflecting on the process of imperial decline. If van Rijn profited from capitalist expansion but Flandry, later, resisted imperial decline, then what went wrong, or at least what happened, between their periods? The two periods were originally presented in unrelated series until Anderson, writing Flandry, suddenly thought to make him refer back to van Rijn and a new future history was born.


Hermes is a Terrestrial colony so Falkayn is human. Ythrians are winged carnivores with gills adapted as superchargers to lift bodies massive enough for intelligence. Diomedeans also fly but with bat-like, not feathered, wings. Wodenites are large reptilian quadrupeds descended from hexapods whose forelimbs came to be freed for manipulation. Adzel played the dragon in Chinese New Year and Wagnerian opera when he was a student on Earth.

Cynthians, arboreal hunters and traders, sound like intelligent squirrels. The Cynthian Chee Lan, small, female and aggressive, is clearly written to be an antithesis to the Wodenite Adzel who is large, male and placid, even converting to Buddhism. Ivanhoans, Merseians and some other species are humanoid with relatively minor variations. Baburites are hydrogen-breathing giant centipedes. Ymirites, encountered by Flandry, inhabiting Jovian planets and also breathing hydrogen, have many legs and tendrilled heads but cannot be seen clearly through a Jovian atmosphere. Flandry’s main opponent, a Chereionite, is of avian descent but humanoid.

Thus, instead of designing new organisms from their molecules up, Anderson usually adapts terrestrial forms. His humanoids may have differently coloured skins, different numbers of fingers, thumbs or eyes and no visible ears or nose but they remain recognizably humanoid. As a hard sf writer, Anderson can defend this procedure:

“On an essentially terrestroid planet, evolution basically parallels our own because it must.” (1)

And psychologically:

“Those we encounter on a regular basis are necessarily those whose bent is akin to ours…” (2)

If there are many races, then many of them will be incomprehensible to us but we will deal with those who are not. Anderson applies this principle in other works.

Three Novels

Any story set in the future is potentially an episode of a future history. A novel written in 2000 but set in 3000 assumes a history connecting the known events of 2000 with the fictitious events of 3000. The author of a single story could add any number of sequels and prequels to it. The Star Trek series moved in this direction, becoming more than a single series set in a single period.
Tau Zero, After Doomsday and World Without Stars by Poul Anderson remained independent works - except that one short story, “Pride,” is set in the same future as Tau Zero, with Stockholm as the world capital. The earlier, shorter version of Tau Zero had not shared this political background with “Pride” but the novel does, thus potentially launching yet another future history.

Each of these three novels takes a basic sf premise and presents a comprehensive conceptual development from that premise. Tau Zero avoids alien contact because it concentrates on the human crew of a relativistic spaceship which accelerates uncontrollably. Through time dilation, the ship and its crew survive into the next universe. The central character hopes that surviving humanity can become the Elder Race of that universe but we are not shown this happening.
The premises of After Doomsday are that:

the galaxy is full of intelligent races;
“superlight” travel is possible.

It follows that:

superlight is discovered somewhere some time, once or more than once;
explorers encounter many races, some of whom are willing and able to acquire superlight from them;
superlight travel spreads like dandelion seeds;
space traveling races deal with those with whom they can converse and ignore or bypass others;
they can deal regularly only with those in their immediate vicinity;
therefore, the galaxy is full of “civilization-clusters,” between which there is no regular contact;
within a cluster, space travellers learn a common language and one such language is used in several nearby clusters;
even within a cluster, every planet is economically self-sufficient so trade is in knowledge and luxury items;
the civilized galaxy is so vast that there cannot be a single Empire or Federation and no one knows the history or current macro-status of the entire galaxy;
militaristic imperialism between nearby worlds is possible and, this being a work by Anderson, it does occur in our cluster – marine warriors on one planet and nomadic conquerors on another maintain their societies by expanding into space, engage in conflict with each other and involve other races in the hostilities.

This scenario could have been the basis of an indefinite number of novels. This one novel has two specific additional premises:

first, human spaceships re-enter the Solar System at different times to find that some other race has destroyed all life on Earth so – who murdered Earth and what can be done about it?
secondly, the American spaceship crew is all male whereas the Europeans are all female so – how can they find each other to continue the human race?

Anderson wrote detective novels and this sf novel clearly has elements of detective fiction. Deducing who murdered Earth involves realizing that whoever did it used equipment which required them to translate from a numeral system based on the power of six to a system based on the power of twelve. A six fingered race tried to frame a twelve fingered race.
The European women aim to get rich in a capitalist cluster so that they will be able to pay for a fleet of ships to search the galaxy. The American men aim to win the local interstellar war, then to devise a ballad about their victory in a multi-cluster language. One of the women hears the ballad sung in a multi-species bar, Yotl’s Nest. By the end of the novel, Terrestrial men and women have met and have changed the balance of power in two civilization-clusters.
World Without Stars has two basic premises:

antithanatics prevent death by illness or old age so that people now die only by accident or violence;
by a series of instantaneous jumps, although with time-consuming intermediate journeys, a spaceship can reach not only other stars but even other galaxies.

It follows that:

population is not a problem;
life-styles and perspectives adjust to the long view (Earthside property left in the care of robots is unchanged centuries later; a spaceman has wives in several ports and may not see any one of them for several decades but each wife also has several space traveling husbands);
some individuals live for millennia, for example three thousand year old Hugh Valland who has lived through the entire period of interstellar and intergalactic travel and who is content, every few years or decades, to revisit a certain grave on Earth.

Again, these premises could have been the basis of an indefinite number of novels. This particular novel has the specific premise that its characters, crash-landing on a planet in a system between galaxies, need to work hard and to organize native labor in order to get back home and are led by Hugh Valland. Getting back off this ancient planet where there are no heavy metals takes them four decades. For Valland, Mary O’Meara waits on Earth.

  1. Anderson, Poul, “Wings of Victory,” Analog Science Fiction, April 1972, reprinted in Anderson, Poul, The Earth Book of Stormgate 1978, New York, pp. 3-22 at p. 14.
  2. Anderson, Poul, The Trouble Twisters, 1966, New York, p. 56.

The Structure Of A Series: Poul Anderson

The Technic History (futuristic sf)

The Technic History series is elaborately constructed and “more than the sum of its parts.” (I did once read a series that was less than some of its parts.)


The Saturn Game” describes interplanetary exploration.
“Wings of Victory” and “The Problem of Pain” introduce Ythrians.
Margin of Profit” and The Man Who Counts introduce Nicholas van Rijn.
How To Be Ethnic In One Easy Lesson” introduces Adzel.
The Three-Cornered Wheel” and “A Sun Invisible” introduce David Falkayn.

Thus, seven short stories and one novel introduce the series.

The Main Period:

Van Rijn features in “Hiding Place” and “Territory” and receives employees’ reports in “Esau” and “The Master Key."
Falkayn, Adzel and Chee Lan work for van Rijn in “The Trouble Twisters,” “Day of Burning,” Satan’s World, “Lodestar” and Mirkheim. “The Season of Forgiveness” and “A Little Knowledge” are two further League stories.

Thus, nine short stories and two novels continue and complete the series.


 Ythrians and Falkayn-led human beings share the planet Avalon in “Wingless” and “Rescue on Avalon.”
The Terran Empire is founded in “The Star Plunderer,” is described further in
Sargasso of Lost Starships,” fails to annex Avalon in The People Of The Wind and is defended by Dominic Flandry in several works.
The post-Imperial Long Night is described in two short stories and one novel.
The later Commonalty is described in one short story.

Thus, after all that time, there is a new beginning. That is quite some mega-series. This summary emphasizes the Polesotechnic, rather than the Imperial, period because my appreciation of the former has increased since re-reading its opening stories in the new Baen edition.

I think that there could be an easier way to collect the complete Technic History:

five stories and one novel about van Rijn could be collected in one volume;
three stories and two novels about Falkayn working for van Rijn could be collected in one volume;
eight other stories set before Avalonian colonization could be collected in one volume to be read before or alongside van Rijn and Falkayn;
one volume of four stories and one novel would cover the Avalon and early Empire period;
three volumes for the later Empire (four novels and one story in the first volume; seven stories of different lengths in the second; three novels in the third);
one volume of three stories and one novel would cover the post-Imperial period.

Total: eight volumes with easily demarcated contents.

Of this suggested sequence:

the first volume introduces Ythrians, League, Adzel and Falkayn;
the second introduces van Rijn;
the third introduces Falkayn and Adzel working for van Rijn;
the fourth starts with Falkayn’s grandson and Ythrians on Avalon and ends with the Imperial war on Avalon;
the remaining volumes cover the Empire and after.

The King of Ys (historical fantasy)

(with Karen Anderson)

This series is four novels with the legendary city of Ys flooded at the end of the third novel. The tetralogy shows the simultaneous decline and conversion of the Roman Empire. In the first volume, the future King of Ys hopes that, if he serves Mithras, and another serves Christ, this will not matter if both serve Roma Mater: a sensible attitude unacceptable to the Christian regime.

Because the series is a fantasy, Christian saints work miracles but the gods of Ys, regarded by Christians not as non-existent but as demonic, also show their power until they abandon their city. In the fourth volume, the Dark Ages begin and the seeds of the Middle Ages are sown. Paganism becomes witchcraft. The former King of Ys, feeling abandoned by Mithras, accepts Christianity instead of philosophical paganism.

The series evokes its historical period, the beauty of the towered city of Ys and the diversity of its inhabitants.

The Last Viking (historical fiction)

This is a trilogy about King Harald Hardrada (1046-1066). Because, unlike other Norse-inspired works by Anderson, the trilogy is not a fantasy, Harald’s Arctic expedition finds ice bergs and a whale, not Jotunheim or the World Serpent.

The Time Patrol (historical sf)

The First Volume:

The original Time Patrol series was four short stories collected in one volume, Guardians Of Time, which was first published in Britain in 1961:
Time Patrol” (May 55): Manson Everard’s recruitment, training, first case and promotion to Unattached status which he retains for the rest of the series.
Brave To Be A King” (Aug 59) and “The Only Game In Town” (Jan 60): two further cases for Everard.
Delenda Est” (Dec 55): a culmination, in which history has been changed but Everard and the Patrol change it back.

The order of stories was changed to make “Delenda Est” the culmination. References to “earlier” stories were added to “later” stories to unify the series. Thus, the slightly revised “Delenda Est” refers to the central characters of the previous three stories and “The Only Game In Town” refers to the central character of “Brave To Be A King."

The Fifth Story:

Gibraltar Falls” (1975) was added to later editions of Guardians of Time, now The Guardians of Time, but as Part III, not Part V, in order to preserve the status of “Delenda Est” as a culmination. “Gibraltar Falls” centrally features another Time Patrolman, Tom Nomura, who was recruited at a younger age and a later date than Everard, in 1972. This story gives Everard a sort of “elder statesman” role and reflects on the upheavals separating the 70’s from the 50’s while placing both in a longer historical perspective. Thus, I think that the story would have fitted better as an epilogue or a coda rather than as an arbitrary insertion into the middle of the collection.

The Second Volume:

From now on, all new Time Patrol stories appear first in books, not in magazines. The Guardians of Time remains the complete collection of all Time Patrol stories that were originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

The second collection, but of original and longer stories, was Time Patrolman (1983).

Ivory, and Apes, and Peacocks”: another case for Everard who has traveled to 950 BC, apparently from the 1980’s.

“The Sorrow of Odin the Goth”: a second story featuring a different Time Patrolman and again giving Everard “elder statesman” status. Everard, from 1980, occasionally oversees Carl Farness, who, from his base in the 1930’s, visits 300-372.

(“Gibraltar Falls” could have been collected here rather than in later editions of the first volume.)

Observations So Far:

Carl Farness’ story contains the single visit in the entire series to our future: 2319, too far ahead for us to disprove Anderson’s account simply by living long enough. Anderson while writing the series kept Everard’s present simultaneous with that of the author and the readers. Thus, to anticipate a later volume, The Shield of Time, published in 1990, refers to Gorbachev whom Time Patrolmen would have known of but did not happen to mention back in the 50’s.

Rooms in the Time Patrol Academy in the Oligocene period contain the sort of gadgets “…you would have expected by, say, AD 2000…” including “…screens which could draw on a huge library of recorded sight and sound for entertainment.” (1)

Everard, part of a group recruited from between 1850 and 1975, or from between 1850 and 2000 depending on which edition you read, wonders when a fellow recruit is from:

“…the girl with the iridescent, close-fitting culottes and the green lipstick and the fantastically waved yellow hair…” (2)

Shortly afterwards, there is a reference to “…the girl from 1972…” (3) So is that her?

In Guardians of Time (1961), Everard’s class was recruited from and studied the period 1850-1975. In The Guardians of Time (1981), they were recruited from 1850-2000 but studied 1850-1975. In Time Patrol (2006), they are recruited from and study 1850-2000. Thus, the text of the first story, “Time Patrol” (1955), is edited before our eyes. I thought that I remembered a discrepancy but did not find it until I had compared different editions.

The Third Volume:

The next Time Patrol episode was a juvenile novella, “The Year of the Ransom,” originally published as a single volume in 1988. Everard is present but as only one of the characters. The heroine, Wanda Tamberly, caught up in a time travel conflict in the 1980’s, helps to thwart one of the villains and is recruited to the Patrol. This story continues the convention, begun in “The Sorrow of Odin the Goth,” of a date heading for each new section of narrative. Because the main villain, Merau Varagan, had been apprehended by Everard at the end of “Ivory, and Apes, and Peacocks,” this new story fits between the two previous volumes.

The Fourth Volume:

The fourth volume was The Shield of Time (1990), a long novel written as a unit but comprising three long, consecutive stories. Wanda is a main view point character and starts a relationship with Everard at the end of the novel. For Everard, The Shield of Time begins immediately after the end of “Ivory, and Apes, and Peacocks” and we are now told that the events of “The Year of the Ransom” had occurred immediately before that. Two early Chapters of Shield… are flashbacks linking this novel to those stories.

Varagan belonged to a group of time criminals called “Exaltationists.” “Ivory…” includes a flashback to Everard’s first encounter with Varagan and Shield…begins with Everard’s pursuit of the remaining Exaltationists. Thus, Everard encounters Exaltationists four times but in three stories and eventually, when the series is complete, in two volumes.

Omnibus Volumes:

A volume called The Annals of Time had collected the five stories from The Guardians of Time and the two from Time Patrolman. Now, a volume called The Time Patrol collected the seven stories from The Annals of Time and the one from The Year of the Ransom with an original short novel, “Star of the Sea.” Regular readers who had missed the juvenile story when it was a separate volume had two new stories to read in this new collection.

In “Star of the Sea,” Everard returns as a leading character while retaining his “elder statesman” role towards the female colleague with whom he has an affair but this ends at the end of the story, thus clearing the way for Everard to meet Wanda for the first time later that same year, 1986. During “Star of the Sea,” Everard refers back to the events of “The Sorrow of Odin the Goth.” Thus, “Star of the Sea” has been carefully written to fit between two earlier stories and not to advance the increasingly consecutive narrative beyond the end of The Shield of Time.

The two stories in Time Patrolman should now be read in reverse order with two later written stories between them. These four stories form two pairs. “The Sorrow of Odin the Goth” and “Star of the Sea” both deal with Northern European mythology and could be collected under the title, The Gods of Time. “Year of the Ransom” and “Ivory, and Apes, and Peacocks” both deal with Exaltationists and could be collected as The Thieves of Time.

The Last Story:

One further Time Patrol story, “Death and the Knight” (1995), was written for an original anthology on the Knights Templar and included in a later edition of The Time Patrol, now entitled simply Time Patrol. Until then, “Time Patrol” had been a short story, The Time Patrol had been an omnibus collection and the Time Patrol series had been that collection plus one long novel. Now, Time Patrol is the omnibus collection.

“Death and the Knight” interrupts the holiday that Everard and Wanda had started in early January 1990 at the end of The Shield of Time.Thus, despite its 1995 publication date, this last story does not advance Everard’s career beyond March 1990. He was born in 1924, entered the Patrol at age thirty and has had an apartment in New York since at least 1954 but, in 1990, is a lot older than sixty six because he has time traveled a lot. Patrol medical treatment prevents aging but Everard would soon have had to move to a different time and place in order not to appear unnaturally young to his New York contemporaries, from whom the fact of time travel must be concealed. Everard’s relocation would have been a major turning point in the series.

General Observations:

Time Patrolmen live for centuries unless they die by accident or violence. For the period 1850-1975 (or 2000), the Patrol has head offices in London, Moscow and Peiping in 1890-1910, with smaller offices in other decades. Thus, service in all three head offices for the entirety of their existences could be just one part of a Patroller’s career. At the Academy, Everard’s class numbers about fifty. His training is completed in three months by hypnotic conditioning. The Academy exists for half a million years before being carefully demolished so that no trace of it will remain. Does this mean that the Academy can have had one hundred million graduates with indefinite life spans? They guard a million years of history and claim to be chronically understaffed.

Living past 2000 would automatically take Everard out of the Patrol “milieu” administered from 1890-1910. Perhaps, to maintain his base in this milieu, he would, like Farness, have moved to an earlier decade of the twentieth century? With some Patrol disguise and a change of name, he might even have been the previous occupant of his own apartment.

As an Unattached agent, Everard is confined neither to his birth milieu nor to a Specialist period but it is obviously convenient for him to be based in familiar surroundings. From his base in 1954-1990, he operates in the past three millennia. The background of the series implies that other Unattacheds work in periods of similar lengths throughout a million years and that there are future periods when time travel is not a secret so that the existence of the Patrol need not be concealed. Citizens of such periods might apply for membership instead of being recruited by tests which are not explained until they pass them. However, Anderson used the Time Patrol premise to realize historical periods, not to speculate further about the future, which he does in other works.

The Correct Reading Order:

Since “Death and the Knight” occurs immediately after The Shield of Time, it should be collected as an epilogue to Shield…, not at the end of Time Patrol. If “Death and the Knight” were removed, then the last story in Time Patrol as it stands would be “The Year of the Ransom.” This story was placed at the end of The Time Patrol in the mistaken belief that, since it introduces Wanda, who features in Shield...,it was a direct prequel to Shield...

In fact, as we have seen, “Ivory, and Apes, and Peacocks” occurs between “The Year of the Ransom” and Shield... Time Patrol simply reproduces the order of the stories in Guardians…and Time Patrolman instead of revising that order in accordance with the contents of the stories. “Ivory, and Apes, and Peacocks” should be moved from before “The Sorrow of Odin the Goth” to the end of volume. Also, I think, as argued earlier, that “Gibraltar Falls” should be placed after “Delenda Est,” in which Everard’s home base date is 1960.

It would then finally be possible for a new reader to read the entire series in the right order, as experienced by Everard. That is the order in which the stories were written unless the stories themselves indicate otherwise. There are two factors here. First, the original quartet was revised and its order changed for book publication. Secondly, after Time Patrolman, Anderson consciously fitted new stories into a sequence relating them to earlier stories but not necessarily in a growing linear order. Thus, The Year Of The Ransom, published after Time Patrolman, is set before the first story in Time Patrolman but after the second and “Star of the Sea,” published later again, is set between the second story in Time Patrolman and The Year Of The Ransom.

For Everard, from the beginning of “Star of the Sea” to the end of “Death and the Knight” is almost an uninterrupted sequence of events. Between earlier stories, the gaps were longer and Everard dealt with cases some of which are referred to though not described.

The complete collection of Time Patrol stories has grown from four to five to seven to nine to ten stories and has changed its title from Guardians Of Time to The Guardians of Time to The Annals of Time to The Time Patrol to Time Patrol. The entire series is now complete in two long volumes. I suggest that these volumes should be read after five others:

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain;
The Time Machine by HG Wells;
Lest Darkness Fall by L Sprague de Camp;
Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore;
Past Times by Poul Anderson.

Past Times should be revised to exclude non-time travel items and to include “The Man Who Came Early,” a short story that follows from and indirectly comments on Twain and de Camp.

These five volumes present a conceptual sequence of speculations on travel to historical periods and, to a lesser extent, on technological time travel. An initial discussion of the problems of traveling to historical periods does occur, briefly, in The Time Machine.

Anderson’s future humanity evolves into Danellians instead of devolving into Morlocks and Eloi. Anderson’s high tech mass-produced timecycles are conceptual successors to the Time Traveler’s elaborate nineteenth century contraption.

I exclude from this list Anderson’s three other time travel novels because, although these works are also historical, they are contributions to the ornamental garden of the circular causality paradox. As such, they belong to a secondary time travel tradition from “The Chronic Argonauts” by HG Wells to The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffeneger. In such works, causality violation is impossible whereas Time Patrollers do close causal circles but precisely in order to prevent causality violations which otherwise would and sometimes do occur. Thus, the Time Patrol series synthesizes fictional treatment of both causality paradoxes.

Development of Ideas:

“Delenda Est” was a culmination because it dramatized, instead of merely discussing, causality violation and because, to do this, it introduced a collective villain, the Neldorians, who, like Moriarty, had almost the status of a continuing villain despite appearing in only one story. The Patrol had had trouble with them “before.” The concluding section of Shield…is a similar culmination because it also presents a, much more elaborate, causality violation together with deeper reflection on the earlier case. However, the second temporal change is effected not by a time traveling villain but by a space-time-energy fluctuation: a new concept in time travel fiction. The fluctuation is embodied in a medieval knight who becomes a personal causal nexus, thus as dangerous an opponent as a Neldorian or an Exaltationist, though without realizing it. He thinks that a Patroller trying to dissuade him from a particular course of action by appearing as an angel is a demon or magician and fights to the death.

The idea of a continuing collective villain was developed further but separately and with Exaltationists instead of Neldorians. The campaign against the Exaltationists is a series within the series beginning with the flashback in “Ivory…,” then “The Year of the Ransom," then the main story in “Ivory…” and, finally, the first part of Shield…When “Ivory…” concluded with the observation that the escaped Exaltationists would be hunted, I suspect that Anderson meant to convey only that the task of the Patrol would continue, not that this observation would lead straight into a sequel, but then he did come to write a sequel and the Exaltationists provided perfect material for it. When imagining a female clone mate for Varagan, Anderson gave her the name of a spear carrying character in “The Year of the Ransom,” thus giving an earlier detail greater significance.

When the Patrol lays a trap for the Exaltationists, it does so by publishing, in a period that it was known some Exaltationists had visited, fake evidence for the pivotal significance of an ancient battle. If the Exaltationists took the bait, then they would try to affect the outcome of that battle and thus would enter a period when waiting Patrollers might be able to apprehend them. Thus, the Time Patrol, knowing what had occurred in earlier episodes, can use that knowledge to mislead its opponents at an earlier time. Anderson’s presentation of time travel becomes more elaborate. Although Everard and Wanda begin a relationship and a holiday in early January 1990, they had, earlier on their world lines, met and conversed in February 1990 and possibly in later months of that year. But, whatever the month, 1990 remains the last year in which we know anything about Everard. Unfortunately, this is simply because Anderson did not live long enough to write a concluding volume for the series.

Everard’s apartment becomes a familiar setting during the series. It acquires Bronze Age spears and helmet on the wall, then a tenth century polar bear rug on the floor, then loses the rug. (Twentieth century visitors reproached him for it and it became scruffy.) The apartment is visited by other characters, including Guion who guards the history of the Patrol as the Patrol guards the history of mankind.

Other settings that recur as the series continues are the Academy and the Pleistocene lodge. Shield…belatedly informs us in its final section that the Patrol emblem, an hourglass in a shield, is cast in brass on a lodge wall. The emblem is mentioned here because it will be used as a signal later in the story. Any visual adaptation of the series should display the emblem from the earliest scenes in the Academy. A faithful TV or graphic adaptation of the series could be extended almost indefinitely: “The Sorrow of Odin the Goth” alone follows four generations of one Gothic family. One setting that is not revisited is the office of Gordon, the agent who recruits Everard, because, when Everard becomes Unattached, he ceases to be accountable to the local office.

When the last Academy graduate retires, then the history of the Patrol is complete but that last graduate must not relate the organization’s history to his earlier colleagues. They must perform their tasks without knowing the outcomes in order to avoid the paradox of circular causality. (Causal circles may be completed in order to prevent causality violations but, otherwise, both paradoxes must be avoided.) The Danellians, living later, must know the full history but there is a perennial quantum uncertainty. Whenever a time traveler returns from visiting his past, it is always possible that he will arrive in an altered version of his present, will have to travel past-wards again to try to re-adjust the timeline and might fail. This can happen even when the timeline in which he initially set out to travel into the past had contained a record of his successful return to his unaltered present.

It seems to me that the Danellians can avoid this danger simply by ceasing to time travel. It makes sense to say that someone who visits his past may return to the wrong present but it makes no sense to say that the Danellian Era may exist until a particular moment but may then, at that moment, cease having existed until that moment. Of course, maybe the Danellians have good reason to continue time traveling. Another possible hazard for time travellers is unintended self-duplication. When Everard persuades Carl that he must return to the Gothic period in order to play the role of Odin betraying his followers, this is because, in their timeline, that betrayal has already occurred.

Thus, if Carl refuses to return, the first problem will be the arrival in the twentieth century of that Carl who did appear in the Gothic period and enact the betrayal. Carl’s current intransigence would have prevented his departure from the present but not his arrival in the past because that had happened earlier. I quote the rules of time travel taught in the Academy.

Everard tells Carl that an incipient causal loop can set up a resonance which can produce catastrophically multiplying historical changes. He does not tell us what a resonance is but could it mean this? - Carl’s refusal to conduct the mission of betrayal duplicates Carl; then, if either Carl travels further into the past than the Gothic period, there is the danger that, when he returns to the twentieth century, it will be to the twentieth century of a timeline in which Odin’s descendants were not betrayed, did defeat their enemy and did bring it about that an entirely different story was recorded in the Volsungasaga, thus preventing the history in which a Carl Farness sets out to track down the origin of the story of Odin’s betrayal.

Earlier, Carl had decided against jumping back through time to change a minor incident. It was just as well that he decided this because to make the change would have been to duplicate himself. The careful reader can find other cases where time traveler duplication could or even should have occurred.

Everard rescues the missing Keith Denison from ancient Iran and brings him home even though Records in 1890-1910, when asked, had said that he had never come home. Did Records lie, knowing that this would make Everard look for Keith and bring him home?

Guion, mentioned earlier, must seek for evidence that a causality violation may be imminent even when there is no evidence for it…There is some evidence of minor fluctuations not caused by time travelers. Even Temporal, the Patrol language with tenses for time travel, cannot express this attempt to anticipate causality violations. Guion seeks clues to “…the hypermatrix of the continuum…” but acknowledges that this is a misleading term. (3) He speaks of the coherence of chaos and interviews Patrollers whose world lines interact with many others. He uses their languages because they would not be able to express their experience fully in Temporal.

The personal causal nexus mentioned earlier seems to be the sort of thing that Guion was looking for but what else might happen? A renegade Danellian freeing the Nine, the Neldorians, the Exaltationists and other time criminals from the exile planet and dispatching them on multiple missions to disrupt evolution or even the formation of the universe? (Anderson’s imagination was more restrained and subtle than this. When asked to write about the Knights Templar, he did not make them anything dramatic like agents of the Patrol but did write a causal circle into their known history.)

Guion is introduced only as a unifying element in the long novel, The Shield of Time. He appears between the main sections speaking to Everard, to Wanda and again to Everard but is not present when Everard battles Exaltationists, when Wanda intervenes in prehistory or when Everard and Wanda together tackle the personal causal nexus. Thus, Anderson need not have revived Guion in any subsequent novel but, hopefully, would have revealed more about the Danellians. Guion refers to the Middle Command of the Patrol. He does not explain this phrase but obviously means that the Middle Command is human.

Like good historical fiction, each Time Patrol story evokes the spirit and atmosphere of the period in which it is set. The series contains many quotable passages that could be collected and published in an appropriately illustrated volume, e.g., from Guion:

“…think of the countless world lines intermeshed throughout the continuum as a spiderweb…There are occasions when we know only that the web is troubled, not where or when the source of the disturbance lies; for that source perhaps does not exist in our yet, in our reality. We can only try to trace it back up the threads-“ (4)

The Four Series

To list the series in a slightly different order, they comprise:

historical fantasy;
historical fiction;
historical science fiction;
futuristic science fiction, specifically a “future history”.

The future history describes fictitious historical events. The remaining three series set fictitious events in historical periods. “Historical science fiction” is a less familiar category but the Time Patrol does fit this category since it is equally historical fiction and science fiction.

    Anderson, Poul. Time Patrol, 2006, Riverdale, NY, p. 8.
    ibid, p. 6.
    Anderson, Poul. The Shield of Time, 1991, New York, p. 8.
    ibid, p. 135.