Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Long Night And Dawn?

I now accept that Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization should be published in seven omnibus volumes but there is still room for disagreement about which works should be in which volume and what the titles should be. I now suggest:

I The Polesotechnic League (9 works)
II Star Traders (9)
III League And Empire (6)
IV Young Flandry (3)
V Flandry And Empire (9)
VI Children Of Empire (3)
VII Long Night and Dawn (4)

The Technic History is two consecutive future histories. A future history covers a period longer than a single life time. Nicholas van Rijn and David Falkayn both appear in Volumes I-III as proposed above but Vol I starts long before their births and Vol III ends long after their deaths so these three volumes alone do constitute a future history. Vol III moves the History from late League to early Empire and Vol IV introduces later Empire. Vols IV-VI all feature Dominic Flandry so do not in themselves constitute a future history. However, Vol VII starts long after Flandry's death and covers three historical periods, thus constituting a miniature future history in its own right.

Children Of Empire would be so called because each of its three novels starts with the grown up son or daughter of a human character introduced in the first Young Flandry novel and its third novel also features the grown up son of a non-human character introduced in the first Young Flandry novel.

Readers of the Flandry series know that he fears a future period called "the Long Night." The proposed title for Vol VII would convey both that this period does come and that it is not the end. In this version, every volume except Vol VII contains either three or a multiple of three works. The richness and dynamism of the series mean that it is possible to keep rethinking how best to present it. The current Baen Books Technic Civilization Saga is a good start.

...Better Than Star Trek

Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization" has its "Star Trek" period: the Grand Survey.

"Our service had one law, which was its proud motto: 'We come as friends.'...After five years the survivors would meet and compare experiences." (1)

Thus, a Prime Directive and a five year mission. Further:

"We always made initial contact with three..." (2)

In this story, the drama is generated by disagreement and conflict between two of the three about whether the winged creatures encountered on a new planet can be intelligent. They are and are welcomed into Technic civilization with later consequences in the History. This story introduces Ythrian biology. The following story, also about planetary exploration but in a later period, introduces Ythrian psychology and theology.

The Grand Survey could have been the basis of an entire series but instead appears just in this one story which provides background for the developing History. The previous story, "The Saturn Game," pre-Grand Survey, is set in the Solar System but nevertheless shows problems encountered by interplanetary explorers and thus is also Star Trek-like without being formulaic.

(1) Anderson, Poul, The Van Rijn Method, compiled by Hank Davis, Riverdale NY, 2009, p. 81.
(2) ibid., p. 82.

Bigger Than Heinlein...

In Robert Heinlein's Future History, the song "The Green Hills of Earth" expresses spacemen's nostalgia for their home planet as they travel further into the Solar System. The reference to terrestrial green is doubly poignant because the song is, fictitiously, written and sung by a man who was blinded by radiation in space: Jetman Rhysling, the Blind Singer of the Spaceways, not exactly a new Homer or Milton but the herald of a new age nevertheless.

In a later future history, a different timeline and another planetary system, Dominic Flandry visits a planet where vegetation is mostly blue but where he nevertheless sees:

"...the unexpected and stingingly Homelike splashes of green." (1)

Rereading this passage reminded me sharply how far we have come from the single short story about Rhysling in the early period of the original Future History to the long series about Flandry in the later period of Poul Anderson's mature future history.

In the Future History, interplanetary economic oppression in "Logic of Empire" was followed by American religious dictatorship in "If This Goes On -." In Anderson's Technic History, interstellar economic oppression in "Lodestar" and Mirkheim was followed by social collapse in "The Star Plunderer," then by interstellar imperialism in several stories and novels. Thus, Anderson continued the Heinleinian tradition but in a longer series and on a vaster spatiotemporal scale.

In Heinlein's History, successful revolution against religious dictatorship was followed by resumption of interplanetary travel in a prosperous post-revolutionary society but the first mature culture did not emerge until after a further crisis involving an interstellar round trip and the prolongation of human life. In the Technic History, the Fall of the Empire was followed by chaos, then by restoration of civilization and, later, a new form of interstellar organization that might have transcended crises and wars.

Thereafter, Heinlein's lengthy novels, whether in or out of his Future History, degenerated into long, turgid conversational passages that are not to be recommended whereas Anderson blazed new trails in long speculative novels presenting new visions of possible futures. Thus, Anderson followed but surpassed Heinlein.

(1) Anderson, Poul, A Circus Of Hells, London, 1978, p. 85.

Monday, 28 May 2012


A ship of the Grand Survey discovers the planet Ythri:

sun G9, half Solar luminosity;
Ythrian gravity 0.75 terrestrial;
thinner, drier but humanly breathable atmosphere;
red, moss-like ground cover;
two small moons;
modest oceans;
woods, lakes, plains, mountains;
winged carnivores lifting bodies heavy enough for intelligence by pumping oxygen with adapted gills, each needing a large territory for hunting or herding meat animals.

There are more data about Ythrians in the post "Who Knows Of Avalon?" (April, 2012).


In the Wilderness between the Terran Empire and the Merseian Rhoidunate, the system of the star Siekh includes many asteroids but only four planets, including Talwin: 

eccentric orbit, probably disrupted by early passage of another star;
distance from Siekh varying from 0.87 astronomical units to 2.62 a.u.;

three degrees of axial tilt;
planet-wide seasons;
twice-Terran year;
six month summer, six week autumn, fifteen month winter, six week spring;
eighteen hour day;
no moon;
blue vegetation;
ankle-high equivalent of grass;
many scattered islands;
one continent (400 kilometers wide, wedge-shaped, stretching from north pole to equator, divided by an east-west mountain range);
huge icecaps forming, extending 45 degrees, then melting each year;
spring floods;
in summer, snowless mountain peaks, northern swamps, boiling southern lakes and rivers;

Domrath, winter hibernators, feast and copulate all autumn;
Ruadrath estivate as sea animals all summer.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

After the Empire: the Long Night

What would be the most appropriate title for an omnibus volume collecting the last four works in Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilisation? After The Empire would be accurate and, if, as I suggest elsewhere, earlier titles included the word "Empire," then After The Empire would be immediately perceived as a sequel by anyone who glanced at the titles.

The Long Night would be immediately perceived as a sequel by anyone who read the earlier volumes. "The Long Night" really refers only to the period of chaos after the fall of the Empire, therefore does not incorporate the works set in later civilizations. On the other hand, Imperialists might regard anything following their rule as a "Long Night" so that for them the title would be accurate.

Could the proposed titles be combined as After The Empire: The Long Night? Or, better still: Long Night And After? The latter version is more accurate and comprehensive, echoing an earlier proposed title: Late League, Early Empire.

This discussion might seem trivial to anyone not familiar with these works. I hope that some readers of this blog have read Anderson or are encouraged to do so or do look at the earlier articles where the content of the works is assessed in more detail.

An existing collection called The Long Night contains one story from what I call the "Late League, Early Empire" period, one story from the "Flandry and Empire" period and only three of the four works from the "Long Night and After" period.

Flandry's Legacy?

If anyone else has read the articles on this blog in chronological order, then they might have noticed that I have made several attempts to delineate how Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilisation should be presented in a uniform series of omnibus collections. Although the details are debatable, I think that a basic pattern has emerged. Baen Books have got the number of volumes right: seven. There should be (I now think):

one volume of beginnings and introductions;
an entire volume about Nicholas van Rijn or his employees;
an intermediate volume covering the later League, the colonization of Avalon and the early Empire;
the "Young Flandry" trilogy;
one volume about the Empire in general and Dominic Flandry in particular;
the last three novels set during Flandry's life time;
an "After the Empire" volume.

The last three novels during Flandry's life are not a trilogy, perhaps a "triptych." I call these novels "Children of Empire" because each of them begins with a grown up son or daughter of a human character introduced in the first Flandry novel and the third of them also features the grown up son of a non-human character introduced in that first Flandry novel.

Clearly, I think that Flandry himself should be kept out of the concluding volume and I do not think that Flandry's Legacy is an appropriate title for it. Flandry prolonged the Empire but he was not responsible either for the chaos that followed the Empire or for the long recovery after that.

Afterthought: The rationale for seven volumes is as follows. Both the League period and the Flandry period have a beginning, a middle, an end and an aftermath but the League's end and aftermath fit into a single volume.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Longer Term Questions

A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows is a pivotal novel for two main characters in Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization. Flandry of Terra loses his son and his fiancee. Aycharaych of Chereion loses his planet and his heritage. Flandry carries on. We do not know what happens to Aycharaych. Two volumes later there is a hint that he might have survived but that is all.

Was Aycharaych killed in the bombardment of Chereion? He could have escaped but might not have wanted to. If he did escape, he would have had no reason to continue working either for Merseia or against Terra. Might he instead have worked against Merseia? Could that be why, when the Empire falls, its space is not filled by an expanded Rhoidunate?

How could the Ancients/Chereionites have become extinct? If they are not, then where are they and could Aycharaych have joined them (although his anguish in the face of Flandry's questions does strongly suggest that he is indeed the last Chereionite)? (1) Another science fiction writer might have planned and presented a multi-volume series raising, then answering, these questions. Instead, Anderson wrote a long sequence of stories and novels about various characters living and working in many different well conceived planetary environments.

Longer term questions about history and the Ancients form the background for these works but do not become the prime subject matter. Thus, we get an approximation to real history. What is the later course of the career of Flandry's daughter? What will Fr Axor discover when he continues to examine Ancient ruins? Since the League and the Empire fell, will the Commonalty fall also? Such questions could have been answered if Anderson had just written this one series and had not devoted such attention to details in individual works but had instead concentrated on an Asimovian perspective of big galactic events. However, I think we should be very grateful that Anderson followed the course that he did.

(1) Anderson, Poul, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows, London, 1978, p. 215.


Wayland is an atmosphere-bearing, Luna-sized moon of the giant planet Regin which is in orbit five astronomical units from the newly condensed metal-rich blue giant star Mimir. Martian Minerals, Inc. mined Wayland from a robot base run by a consciousness-level computer. Five hundred years later, the base remains. Dominic Flandry investigates.

I find Anderson's account of Wayland somewhat unsatisfactory. As Flandry and his companion approach:

" was a mystery towards which they descended: where a complex of robots ought to have been at work, or at least passively waiting out the centuries, an inexplicable crisscross of lines drawn over a hundred square kilometers in front of the old buildings, and a traffic of objects like nothing ever seen except in bad dreams." (1)

Unusually for Anderson, he does not tell us what Flandry sees while Flandry is seeing it. Instead, he tells us that Flandry has already seen something disturbing but does not describe it. This could generate suspense, with the reader wondering what is to come. However, Flandry does not encounter anything very frightening. First, his spacecraft is attacked by winged, beaked, clawed, metal fliers. I acknowledge that these sound frightening but in the event they are too weak to damage even Flandry's small vessel and its guns easily destroy them. By sheer weight of numbers, they obscure his vision so that he crash lands in Wayland's half terrestrial gravity but this is an inconvenience rather than a disaster.

Next, he is attacked by about twenty metal "bugs," each thirty centimeters long with ten claw-footed legs, a tail ending in twin spikes and a head with half a dozen moving antennae but he destroys all of these with his blaster. He learns that fliers, bugs and other, e.g., dog-like, robots roam around fighting each other.

Crossing the immense squares near the computer centrum, Flandry's companion, Djana, is attacked by a lance-bearing equine robot which Flandry destroys. They pass near a robot like a tower with merlons which stays in its square, then are attacked by a diagonally moving cylinder with a partially split conical head. Flandry realizes what is happening.  It was not immediately apparent because the computer had not needed to color the squares or the pieces to identify them. However, there had been some hints for the reader: Flandry had applied Looking Glass terms ("rockinghorsefly"; "bread-and-butterfly") to the forms they had encountered.

Avoiding squares where they can be attacked, they reach the centrum where Flandry addresses the conscious computer which had passed the centuries by splitting its attention into at least one part playing combat games and two playing chess-with-combat.

Rather a lot of time has been taken up dodging or fighting robots before Flandry solves the puzzle. Anderson does not, as he might have, incorporate an actual game of chess into the plot. And, although the computer greets Flandry, there is no further dialogue between them. Surely Flandry and thus the reader should have been given the computer's account of its "...long and empty..." time alone on Wayland? (2) 

Flandry agrees with me. When in the centrum:

"What he learned fascinated him so much that he regretted not daring to spend time exploring in depth the history of these past five centuries on Wayland." (3)

Flandry's time is limited because his trip to Wayland is illicit but we could have been told the history. We are told that he learned about the chess game, e.g., that the kings were unarmed because they captured by divine right, and that he held technical discussions with the prime computer but we do not hear the computer's voice in these discussions although it had spoken briefly when first addressed. This is far too cursory. 

Flandry soon has urgent business elsewhere and the Wayland incident fits well into the novel but the incident itself deserved further attention.

(1) Anderson, Poul, A Circus Of Hells, London, 1978, p. 33.
(2) ibid., p. 68. 
(3) ibid., p. 69. 

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


The planet Chereion is in the Merseian Rhoidunate. Landing on it is forbidden by each new Rhoidun. Merseian warcraft protect its system to the death.

Chereion's sun is a red dwarf star, billions of years older than Sol or Zoria, with seven planets. Chereion has polar caps, barren deserts, uncultivated saline plant life, a few shrunken seas and a small scarred moon. Chereionite gravity is half terrestrial. Much atmosphere and hydrosphere have been lost. There is overwhelming age and desolation. Cities are in good repair with fusion power but little energy use and with no visible traffic or ground or satellite defenses. There are lighted towers in the middle of rock and sand wastes.

A Chereionite city is surrounded by low glittering rainbow bushes, then by lifeless desert and eroded mountains. The city, enclosed in an ellipse, comprises, at the perimeter, single-storied, slenderly colonnaded buildings. Beyond these, other buildings lift towards slim towers. There are harmonious colors but few windows and no sounds. Landscape erosion has revealed the city's azure foundations.

Streets are broad and blue. Man-sized floating ovoids with tentacles holding tools and sensors maintain the buildings. In a mosaic plaza, computer-generated holograms of extinct Chereionites walk in apparent contemplation and mind to mind communication, preventing the Merseians from realizing that only one Chereionite survives. Aycharaych, who trained high ranking Merseians in his castle at Raal, preserves recordings not only of his planet's art and literature but also of its spiritual leaders and philosophers. He says that the Chereionites were the Ancients whose ruins are found on many planets. 

Sources: Anderson, Poul, The Day Of Their Return, Doubleday, 1973; A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows, London, 1978; A Circus Of Hells, London, 1978, p. 116.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


The star Zoria is an F8 sun, a third again as luminous as Sol. The terrestroid planet Dennitza is half covered by ocean. Axial tilt and rotation period cause extreme weather and climate. Less than a million years ago, a shower of giant meteoroids caused an ice age. Now, sea levels rise in the Great Spring.

Terrestrial human beings colonized Dennitza about 2450. About 200 years later, Merseian immigrants arrived and in 3047 comprise 10% of the population. Their self-designation is "ychani," seekers. The human Dennitzan term, possibly contemptuous in origin, is "zmayi." Displaced by political conflicts at home, ychani provided labor for new Dennitzan industries. Able to endure cold better than humans, they mainly live on the Obala, the east coast of Rodna, the main continent in the northern hemisphere, where they specialize in fishing and pelagiculture. The legendary ychan hero Gwyth dared the storms and sea beasts of the Black Ocean.

In Dubina Dolyina province, Danilo Vymezal is both the voivode (hereditary aristocrat) and the nachalnik (governor chosen both by the Gospodar {planetary head of state} and by the popular assembly).
Cultural influences: Vymezal's bugle call is an immemorial Merseian war song; his wife sings an Eriau lullaby to their daughter, Kossara: Dwynafor, dwynafor, odhal tiv.

Religions: human Dennitzans, Orthochristians worshiping in St Clement's Cathedral, later canonize Kossara Vymezal, who has a large tomb on Founders' Hill. Some ychani of the Black Ocean remain pagans referring not to "the God" of Merseian religion but to Afherdi of the Deeps, Blyn of the Winds and Haawan who lairs on the reefs.  

Yovan Matavuly led the human pioneers who, like other emigrant groups at the time, wanted to preserve traditions, customs, language, race etc. They speak Serbic and Imperial Anglic while the ychani/zmayi speak archaic mutated Eriau. 

Dennitza, still in its ice age, has limited habitable areas. Mahovina turf and woodland duff are soft and springy. Evergreen equivalents are low and gnarled with blue-black plumes. Firebush burns spontaneously to ripen and scatter its seeds. There are no ornithoids but orliks are winged theroids. Flocks of yegyupka fly south; guslars trill; a horned bull leads a herd of yelen; riba caught from the Lyubisha River can be fried to eat. 

The original colonists, having to survive without sophisticated technology, developed a baronial clan system which persisted under industrialization. The Shkola, university and research center, preserved learning almost from the beginning of the colony. Lake Stoyan and the capital Zorkagrad are in the center of the Kazan, an astrobleme containing woods, farms and rivers, on Rodna. In Zorkagrad, the fountain before the Capitol in Constitution Square contains bronze statues of the hero Toman Obilich in combat with wild Vladimir. On a rock hill beyond the Square are the battlements of the Zamok or Castle, the executive center.

The Gospodar, elected out of the Miyatovich family by the plemichi, clan heads and barons, has supreme executive authority subject to Grand Court rulings on constitutionality. Court verdicts are reversible by the Skuptshtina, a Parliament with chambers for plemichi, commons and zmayi, although more than once in history a demonstration of zmayi has marched into the House of the Zmayi and been heard. One demonstration in 3047 carries the white star on blue standard of Yovan Matavuly and the red axe on gold of Gwyth. A militia, the Noradna Voyska, has been basic to Dennitzan society since the Troubles.

The nachalniki, i.e., heads of okruzhi (baronies or prefectures), are hereditary or elected by resident clans or appointed by the Gospodar depending on ancient usage. Towns and rural districts have elected councils. Ychani have preserved the Merseian organizational form, Vachs. For example, Ywod is Hand of the Vach Anochrin as well as steadcaptain of the fishing village of Nanteiwon on the Obala. Kyrwhedin is Hand of the Vach Mannoch, a member of the House of the Zmayi and moot-lord of the Obala steadcaptains. In this third capacity, he presides when the steadcaptains meet around a table made from timbers of Gwyth's ship in Council Hall at Novi Aferoch at the Elena River mouth.

Gospodar Bodin Miyatovich, having supported the Imperial usurper Hans Molitor, was rewarded with governorship of the Taurian Sector which faces the Merseian Rhoidunate. Ychani, not wanting Merseian rule, are loyal to Gospodar and Emperor. The Dennitzan poet Andrei Simich celebrated the deeds of the Founder and other ancestors but, in the absence of Simich, we must make do with a prose account of Bodin's raid into Merseian space.

Source: Anderson, Poul, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows, London, 1978.

(For convenience, dates are as given in Sandra Miesel's Chronology of Technic Civilization but see here.)

Sunday, 20 May 2012

A Note on Anderson's Use of the Bible by Sean M Brooks

    I asked Poul Anderson in one of my letters to him whether he had been raised as a Lutheran (because of his Scandinavian ancestry suggesting that to me).  He replied that whatever religious background he had was Episcopalian.  However, Anderson called himself an agnostic.

    Despite his doubt about the existence of God, Anderson always treated honest believers with respect in his works.  In addition several of his books and stories were very Catholic.  Examples being THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS and THE HIGH CRUSADE.

    To judge from the many times he quoted or alluded to Biblical texts, Anderson was a serious reader of the Bible.  He seems to have mostly used the King James Version.  I'll quote here part of the first paragraph of  Anderson's short story "The Problem of Pain" because I think it indicates how he regarded the Bible: "But I do take an interest in religion, as part of being an amateur psychologist, and--for the grandeur of its language if nothing else--a Bible is among the reels that accompany me wherever I go."

    I collected the following list of Biblical references from many of Mr. Anderson's works.  I am quite sure the list is incomplete and I hope to add more as I find them.

IS THERE LIFE ON OTHER WORLDS?, pg. 7, Genesis 2.16
THE INFINITE VOYAGE, pg. 1, alluding to Ezekiel, chapter 1.
ROGUE SWORD, pg. 146, Matthew 18.6
THE HIGH CRUSADE, Chapter IX, alluding to Mark 2.27 and Matthew 28.16-20
AFTER DOOMSDAY, Chapter 1, epigraph, Ecclesiastes 9.12
OPERATION CHAOS, pg. 120, 1 John 4.8; pg. 140, John 21.20-23
"A Man to My Wounding," epigraph, Genesis 4.23
"The Bitter Bread," Psalm 8.4-5
DIALOGUE WITH DARKNESS, "A Chapter of Revelation, pg. 41, 1 Corinthians 15.14
DIALOGUE WITH DARKNESS, "Sister Planet," pg. 81, Ezekiel 7.3-4
THE PEOPLE OF THE WIND, Chapter VIII, pg. 70, Proverbs 20.2
A CIRCUS OF HELLS, pg. 103, possible allusion to Revelation 10.3
THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN, epigraph, Chapter 1, Job 4.12-16
THE GAME OF EMPIRE, Chapter 10, 1 Corinthians 13.13
THE MERMAN'S CHILDREN, pg. 313, John 3.16
THE BOAT OF A MILLION YEARS, pg. 466, Psalm 8.4-5
GALLICENAE, VIII, Section 1; Amos 8.1, 1 Corinthians 2.5, Matthew 18.8
DAHUT, IV, Section 1; Matthew 5.3
THE DOG AND THE WOLF, VIII, Section 1; Hebrews 13.2
A MIDSUMMER TEMPEST, pg. 1, Joshua 22.22

    The next step is to quote a few examples of precisely how Poul Anderson used some of the Biblical texts I listed.  The text copied below came from "A Chapter of Revelation."  The story is Mr. Anderson's speculation on what might have happened after God miraculously stopped the rotation of the Earth for literally one day.

    "First Corinthians," Dick said.  "By now I have the passage memorized.  He
[St. Paul] realized that the Resurrection is the central fact of Christianity.  If
you can believe that a corpse rose from its tomb, walked and talked, ate and
drank and lived for forty days, why, then you can swallow anything, ancient
prophecies, virgin birth, wedding at Cana, instant cures of leprosy--these are
mere detail.  The Resurrection is what matters.  ' And if Christ be not raised,
your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.'  Paul went to considerable trouble
to find eyewitnesses, he names them and lists the reasons for trusting them."

    It's interesting to note how Anderson's use of 1 Corinthians 15.14  parallels what Pope Benedict XVI said about Christ's resurrection in his book JESUS OF NAZARETH.  That is, the Resurrection of Christ is the supreme fact and proof of the truth of Christianity.  One of the points the pope stressed was on how DIFFERENT Our Lord's Resurrection was compared to a simple resuscitation of a dead man like Lazarus by Christ.

    My next quote came from Chapter 10 of THE GAME OF EMPIRE, where one of the non human characters quoted 1 Corinthians 13.13.  This novel is part of the Terran Empire phase of Anderson's Technic Civilization series.  From time to time in these stories he shows how Christianity continued to exist and to help shape human history.  And not only humans.  Mention is also made of many non humans becoming Christians.  A prominent character in THE GAME OF EMPIRE is Francis Xavier Axor, a draco-centauroid from the planet Woden.  F.X. Axor not only converted to Christianity, he became a priest of the Galilean Order.

    Fr. Axor's quoting of 1 Corinthians 13.13 is an interesting example of Anderson showing an alien reciting Scripture to hearten himself in a moment of discouragement.  "Well, we may hope."  A bit of cheer lifted in Axor's tones.  " ' And now abideth faith, hope, and charity. these three; but the greatest of these is charity,' " he quoted.  "Yet hope is no mean member of the triad."

    I could quote further, but I believe these are enough to justify my conclusions.  It's plain Anderson read--and quoted--the Bible with respect.  And that he used the Bible in his works with imagination.  It's hard to think of any other science fiction writers who used the Bible as Anderson has done.  To avoid any false impressions, I should add that Anderson did not quote Scripture in all of his works.

Memorable Conversations

It can be satisfying to reread a single chapter of a novel as if it were an independent short story. For this purpose, I usually prefer rich conversational passages as against action sequences although the space battles in Poul Anderson's The People of the Wind and Ensign Flandry are good also. In conversation, characters reveal themselves and reflect on their situations, thus often outlining the plot of a novel.


In Chapter 3 of The Day Of Their Return, Chunderban Desai:

recalls a conversation with Uldwyr of Merseia;
experiences a conversation with Aycharaych of Chereion;
replays a holographic recording of his conversation with Peter Jowett.

Uldwyr is one of several well realised Merseian characters. Like several of his species, with the exception of Tachwyr the Dark, he appears only once. Desai and Uldwyr are fluent in each other's principal languages but it is easiest for Desai to speak Anglic and Uldwyr to speak Eriau. By referring to the planets Starkad, Talwin and Jihannath, Uldwyr alludes to the previous three novels in the History.

If we have read the series in its internal chronological order, then we know before Desai that Aycharaych works for Merseia. When Desai views his conversation with Jowett, we can feel that the point of view has shifted to that of the Desai engaged in the conversation although Anderson reminds us that the real time Desai is watching the recorded conversation by writing "...the image of Jowett said..." (1)

Desai asks for Jowett's help, then:

"- He snapped of the playback." (2)

- returning us abruptly to Desai's present. The Desai point of view chapters in this novel are the ones that I reread most often.


In Chapter Three of A Knight of Ghosts And Shadows, Dominic Flandry converses with the Duke of Mars, then with Emperor Hans and later with Chunderban Desai. These four men personify aspects of the Empire: 

the Duke is a decadent holder of public office, with extrasolar colonists of Mars as his subjects;
Hans is the pragmatic usurper holding the Empire together;
Flandry is a gifted professional Intelligence officer;
Desai is the competent professional diplomat and theoretician of the fall of empires, a much more plausible character than Isaac Asimov's Hari Seldon.

In Chapter Nine, Flandry has definitive exchanges with his opponents, Tachwyr and Aycharaych.

Van Rijn

Earlier in the History, the entirety of the story "The Master Key" was a conversation. Two characters described combat that they had been involved in but there was no flashback narrative. The reader could see that the characters were seated comfortably while recounting their ordeal. The conversational style of fiction has a lot to recommend it.

(1) Anderson, Poul, The Day Of Their Return, London, 1978, p. 34.
(2) ibid., p. 35.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Winged Cross

The Winged Cross, a tower in Chicago Integrate, is connected to other towers by skyways. Aircars fly between them and cabs or flitters land on the roof where there is a garden and a penthouse belonging to Nicholas van Rijn. Several characters visit him there as also in his palatial Djakarta office and in his mansion on Kilimanjaro.

Interesting background details, for example about a character's residence(s), accumulate over the course of a series, possibly the most famous being certain rooms in Baker St. In Poul Anderson's works, another striking example is the New York apartment of Manson Everard of the Time Patrol.

Later in the future history featuring van Rijn, we learn that van Rijn's protege, David Falkayn, had lived with his family in a house on First Island in the Hesperian Sea on the colony planet Avalon but, because Anderson could not possibly write all the details of such a long fictitious history, we learn about this residence only long after Falkayn's death. An interesting exercise for the reader is to reread the van Rijn stories to uncover whatever details are revealed about the Winged Cross.

Addendum, 20 May 2012: Colorful details about the penthouse on the Winged Cross: several sources reveal that it has a live butler, an expanse of trollcat rug and a wall that can be rendered transparent giving a good view of the spires and towers of Chicago Integrate. Van Rijn reclines in a lounger drinking beer and does not stand to greet guests. His height as well as his width would overwhelm them.

The Van Rijn Show

In Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, the Nicholas van Rijn series is followed by a trader team series. However, the latter is almost entirely subsumed in a continuing van Rijn series. The first trader team story, "The Trouble Twisters," contains a flashback in which van Rijn explains his trade pioneer crew idea to the team leader, David Falkayn. The second trader team story, "Day of Burning," unusually contains no van Rijn. However, the remaining three works about the team are equally about van Rijn.

Also set in this period according to Sandra Miesel's Chronology of Technic Civilization, is one last van Rijn story, "The Master Key." Van Rijn stories divide into those in which van Rijn is out in space and those in which he receives an employee's report back on Earth - and one in which both happen. Here, he is on Earth and the narration is complicated. Two earlier Technic History stories had featured first person narrators who were not the main protagonists. In "The Master Key," there are:

the narrator;
the narrator's friend;
the friend's son;
the son's ensign;
the son's and ensign's employer, van Rijn.

The son and the ensign recount their experience on a problem planet, Cain, to the other three who discuss the problem until van Rijn solves it. He discusses Cainite psychology and pronounces on human nature, a fitting conclusion both to this story and to the van Rijn series.

The narrator refers to three other planets previously "conquered" by van Rijn, thus alluding to three of the five previous installments of the van Rijn series. Van Rijn himself refers to the planet Tametha which will become problematic in the later trader team/van Rijn story, "Lodestar." Thus, the stories function as a "future history," cross-referring and providing background for each other.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Reading A Series In Chronological Order

Baen Books' The Technic Civilization Saga presents Poul Anderson's major future history, the History of Technic Civilization, in chronological order of fictitious events. The History is two long consecutive series. The pre-Flandry period of the History comprises the entire contents of Trader to the Stars, The Trouble Twisters, Satan's World, Mirkheim, The Earth Book of Stormgate and The People of the Wind plus three other stories (also War of the Wing Men but this was already incorporated into the Earth Book under its preferred title, "The Man Who Counts").

Merely rereading all these works in chronological order in uniform editions greatly enhances appreciation both of their contents and of their interconnections. It is like reading a new series. I am beginning to see the sense of the way the volumes are divided up but still dislike some of the volume titles. I now suggest that the pre-Flandry series could be collected as:

Beginnings, 9 stories including those introducing Nicholas van Rijn and David Falkayn;
Star Traders, 9 works covering the careers both of van Rijn and of his trader team led by Falkayn;
Late League, Early Empire, 6 works from the brief revival of the team to the pre-Flandry Terran Empire's war on Falkayn's colony, Avalon.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Three Saints And A God

Reading Poul Anderson necessitates the use of a dictionary. Recently, I thought to google the title "Thalassocrat" applied to a ruler on a subjovian planet in "Esau." This is not an alien word because it ends in "-ocrat." (1)

I also suddenly wondered about St Dismas who is continually invoked by Anderson's merchant character, Nicholas van Rijn. Was Dismas, like the Jerusalem Catholic Church and the Galilean Order, a religious fiction by Anderson or was there "really" such a saint? Yes, there was. "Dismas" is a name given to the "good thief" crucified beside Jesus but pardoned by him in Luke's Gospel, thus appropriate for van Rijn.

In "Margin of Profit," van Rijn as usual invokes Dismas whereas his companion prefers:

"...St Nicholas, patron of travelers...In spite of his being your namesake." (2)

(Although, is the patron saint of travelers not St Christopher?)

Thirdly, van Rijn, catching an attacking ship on an energy beam, exclaims:

"Ha, like a fish we play him! Good St Peter the Fisherman, help us not let him get away!" (3)

Finally, having calculatingly used his ship, the Mercury, to capture the pirate, van Rijn reveals that Mercury was the Roman god of commerce, gambling and thieves. Thus, the good thief and the god of thieves meet in a van Rijn story.

(1) Anderson, Poul, The Van Rijn Method, compiled by Hank Davis, Riverdale, NY, 2009, p. 526.
(2) ibid., p. 159.
(3) ibid., p. 166.

Latter Days?

In Sandra Miesel's Chronology of Technic Civilization, "Esau" (1970), featuring Nicholas van Rijn, is placed just before "Hiding Place" (1961), also featuring van Rijn. In "Hiding Place," van Rijn is out in space whereas in "Esau" he is back on Earth receiving an employee's report so I would have guessed that "Esau" was set later in van Rijn's career.

When "Hiding Place" was collected in Trader to the Stars in 1966, a newly written fictitious Introduction commented:

" 'The world's great age begins anew...' " (1)


"We do not know where we are going. Nor do most of us care. For us it is enough that we are on our way." (2)

Thus, this story heralds a new age.

When "Esau" was collected in The Earth Book of Stormgate in 1978, a newly written fictitious Introduction commented that the philosophy and practice of the Polesotechnic League

"...already...were becoming somewhat archaic, if not obsolete." (3)

Thus, this story occurs later in the History?

(1) Anderson, Poul, The Van Rijn Method, compiled by Hank Davis, Riverdale, NY, 2009, p. 555.
(2) ibid., p. 556.
(3) ibid., p. 517.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Baen and Beyond

The Technic Civilization Saga published by Baen is a well presented series. I do not always agree with the way the volumes are divided up but I suppose they have to be of comparable length? Rise of the Terran Empire and Young Flandry are appropriate titles for omnibus volumes. Influenced by the Baen editions, I now propose the following way to present the series:

The History of Technic Civilization

The Earth Book of Stormgate: Expanded Edition
I Beginnings and Nicholas van Rijn
II Trader Team and Latter Days

The Terran Empire
III Rise of the Terran Empire
IV Young Flandry
V Flandry and Empire
VI Children of Empire

VII After the Empire

Rise of the Terran Empire must describe the pre-Flandry Empire in conflict with Avalonians including members of the Stormgate choth so this is an intermediate volume, both a sequel to the Earth Book and a prequel to Young Flandry. Similarly, After the Empire is both a sequel to the Terran Empire and, potentially, a prequel to subsequent history. If Anderson can write in Valhalla...

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Finding an Unexpected Connection by Sean M. Brooks

I recently reread (June, 2011) Poul Anderson's historical novel ROGUE SWORD. The book is set in the waning days of the Eastern Roman Empire of the early 1300's. The Catalan Grand Company of mercenaries was then ravaging the dying Empire. Because the Eastern Emperor Andronicus II had treacherously murdered the Grand Company's leader.

A secondary but important character in ROGUE SWORD is Brother Hugh de Tourneville, a knight of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem/Rhodes/Malta. Brother Hugh's name seemed familiar, and I found his surname in THE HIGH CRUSADE.

A few quotes are indicated. The protagonist is Lucas Greco, who is waiting at the beginning of Chapter I to meet a new friend: "He stood in the Augustaion, waiting for Brother Hugh de Tourneville to meet him as they had agreed." Later in the same chapter I read: "this gentle, drawling second son of a Lincolnshire baron..."

Next I found this in Chapter I of THE HIGH CRUSADE (Brother Parvus narrating): "I was born some forty years before my story begins, a younger son of Wat Brown. He was blacksmith in the little town of Ansby, which lay in northeastern Lincolnshire. The lands were enfeoffed to the Baron de Tourneville..." (Baron Roger).
I was surprised ROGUE SWORD and THE HIGH CRUSADE had a connection of any kind. For one thing, THE HIGH CRUSADE, while a serious book, is often rollicking. ROGUE SWORD, by contrast, is a fierce, grim, and bloody book.

It was the year 1306 when Lucas Greco first met Brother Hugh de Tourneville. THE HIGH CRUSADE begins in 1345. My guess is Brother Hugh was the younger brother of Baron Roger's grandfather Nevil de Tourneville (mentioned in Chapter IX of CRUSADE). The Tourneville family was also said to be descended from a bastard son of William the Conqueror.

THE HIGH CRUSADE was first published as a magazine serialization in 1959 and published as a book in 1960. ROGUE SWORD was published in 1960 and reprinted by Zebra Books in 1980.

I also thought of how, in Chapter XV of ROGUE SWORD (and various other pages) Poul Anderson seem to have accepted the hostile view of the Knights Templar spread by their enemies. However, the last Time Patrol story Anderson wrote: "Death and the Knight," gives a less starkly negative view of the Templars.

Friday, 4 May 2012

The Technic History in 10 Volumes

I now think that the series could be collected as follows:

The Polesotechnic LeagueBeginnings (7 stories)
Star Trader (van Rijn)
Trader Team (Falkayn's crew), ending with "Lodestar"
Latter Days (the remaining 5 works)

Empire and AfterBeginnings (3 pre-Flandry works)
Young Flandry
Outposts of Empire
Flandry and Empire
Children of Empire
After the Empire

The League volumes would be an extended Earth Book of Stormgate. The Polesotechnic League: Beginnings would have to begin with the prequel/prologue story "The Saturn Game" but would then contain the first four Earth Book stories and the two that introduce Falkayn before van Rijn had appointed him to lead a team. Latter Days would end with the last two Earth Book stories, the first about Falkayn's grandson, the second set even later but both, according to the Chronology, occurring before the dissolution of the League.

Latter Days would be a pivotal volume containing:

two further League stories;
the novel in which van Rijn reassembles the team to address a crisis that turns out to be the beginning of the end of the League;
two stories set later on Falkayn's colony planet, Avalon.

The strongest link between the League and Empire periods is that the Avalonian novel, The People of the Wind, here to be collected in Empire: Beginnings, provides the background for the Earth Book. The stories and novels in the History are like beads on a string. Moving them together or apart illuminates their contents and interconnections.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Trader Team

I still cannot re-read Anderson's Technic History without rethinking its subdivisions. It seemed obvious that the Trader Team sub-series comprised:

"The Trouble Twisters"
"Day of Burning"
Satan's World

However, I now regard Mirkheim not as part of but as a sequel to the series as I will explain below. The Trader Team has three periods. The first starts with "The Trouble Twisters" and ends with Satan's World. Only one work, "Lodestar," is set in the second period and no works are set in the third period which we are told lasts for five years. After the third period, the team disperses and is temporarily reassembled for a different purpose only once three years later in Mirkheim.

In "The Trouble Twisters," Nicholas van Rijn explains his "trade pioneer crew" idea to his protege David Falkayn and Falkayn leads one such crew on its first mission. The reader might expect the remaining installments of the series to recount further missions of this crew but instead we do not see them on such a mission ever again. They are engaged in different kinds of activities in the next two works: a rescue mission in "Day of Burning" and a different kind of investigation in Satan's World. In "Day of Burning," Falkayn states that he has seen planets devastated by nuclear strikes although visits to such planets would not be a usual activity for a pioneer crew.

In Satan's World, their entire civilization is threatened. The team has to be split up and might not survive. Thus, this volume is a potential ending to the series. It ends with the team members rich for life but setting out again as a pioneer crew not because they have to but because they want to. That is why I say it ends their first period.

In "Lodestar," the crew takes a few days off on a pleasant planet, then Falkayn seeks out and finds a source of wealth which he gives to the poorer races, not to the wealthy van Rijn: an end of innocence for the team. The story features van Rijn's granddaughter, Coya. In the third period, which we do not see, Coya has married Falkayn and joined the team. This period ends when the Falkayns start a family and stop pioneering and the team disperses.

In Mirkheim, van Rijn reassembles the original team not to resume pioneering but to address an emergency which is the beginning of the end of the League period. Thus, Mirkheim is a sequel. I now think that omnibus collections of the League period of the Technic History should be:


Volume I would comprise seven stories introducing, apart from the League, the Jerusalem Catholic Church, Ythrians, Avalon, Adzel, van Rijn and Falkayn. Volume II is van Rijn. III is the team. IV would be Mirkheim preceded by two other stories set during the League period.