Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Chronological Questions

According to the Chronology of Psychotechnic History (Poul Anderson, Star Ship, New York, 1982, pp. 282-283), the Second Dark Ages begin in 2300, just thirty years after the events of "Brake," and the Stellar Union is founded in 2900 so do the Second Dark Ages last for 600 years or less? Less: something unspecified occurs in 2600, the hyperdrive is invented in 2784 and we are told the stories of two of the interstellar spaceships that are launched before 2900.

Also according to the Chronology, the Third Dark Ages begin in 3200, just 80 years after the events of The Peregrine, and there is a well established Galactic civilization early in the fifth millennium. It follows from this that the Third Dark Ages last for considerably less than 800 years.

However, the text of the concluding story, "The Chapter Ends," set post-4000, implies that an impossible number of events has occurred since The Peregrine. On Earth, there are enormous ruins of "...Sol City, capital of the legendary First [interstellar] Empire..." (p. 272). If there was a First Empire, then there must have been at least a Second, if not more? Sol City had been "...sacked again and again by the barbarian hordes..." (p. 273) so how long did that take? The ruins had been "...dug over by hundreds of generations..." (ibid.). A generation is 20 years so a hundred generations would be 2000 years. Hundreds of generations would mean several thousand years since the Fall of the Empire which had lasted for how long before that?

And the First Empire had slaves whereas the Solar Union in the twenty second century had had mass unemployment but nevertheless had maintained its population in comfort thanks to automation. Thus, "The Chapter Ends," although an interesting story, does not belong at the end of the Psychotechnic History.

Sandra Miesel's interstitial text before "The Chapter Ends" tells us that:

"The Stellar Union flew apart like an overwound spring." (p. 252)

This fits with what Trevelyan had said in The Peregrine:

"'The overworked integrators are years behind in correlating information...'" (The Peregrine, New York, 1979, p. 30)

- but she adds, and this also makes sense, that the Nomads, whom Trevelyan joined:

"...bore various seeds of knowledge through the Third Dark Ages." (op. cit.)

However, these seeds would not have grown into a "First Empire" and indeed the Galactic Civilization post-4000 is not organized imperialistically but does retain psychotechnic science from earlier in the History.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Like you, I'm skeptical that "The Chapter Ends" truly belongs with the Psychotechnic League stories. This particular tales simply does not fit in well with the other Psychotechnic works. I would have argued with either Poul Anderson or Sandra Miesel that "The Chapter Ends" is best understood as an independent, stand alone story.