Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Snows Of Ganymede II

In Poul Anderson's The Snows Of Ganymede (New York, 1958), we soon learn why Yamagata, who is introduced on the first page of the text, page 5, had not been listed in the Cast of Characters on p. 2. On p. 7, he commits suicide so that Davenant and Kruse can share his air. Before removing his helmet on Ganymede in about 2220, he remarks:

"'They'll stick my name in Hero's Hall or some such foolishness...'" (p.7)

In his world, that is a more lasting testimonial than a mention on page 2 of an Ace Double published in 1958.

I already knew of the Order of Planetary Engineers from reading other works in this series, mainly "Brake," set c. 2270, but Ganymede gives us the full lowdown on this outfit, which is like the Order of Communicators in "The Communicators." Imagine something like the idea of a medieval religious order but applied to scientific practice instead of to spiritual practice. The apolitical, supranational Order serves mankind. What its members forgo in high salaries, they gain in training, prestige, comradeship and sense of mission. Their Archimedes Academy is a Lunar fortress, nicknamed "the Abbey." (p. 9)

Pages14-16 present just under two pages worth of solid Andersonian future historical writing from "...the lunatic years of the latter twentieth century..." (p. 14) to 2100 AD, as recounted in de la Garde's Short History of Interplanetary Colonization (p. 16). After World War III, both the White American Church and the Pilgrims reacted against "...the spreading of scientific method in human relations..." (p. 14) (The appliance of science to society was championed by HG Wells but opposed by CS Lewis. See articles on my Science Fiction blog. Thus, Anderson contributes to an important battle of ideas.) (2100 AD was a significant year in Robert Heinlein's Future History on which this first of Anderson's several future histories was directly based.)

The Pilgrims tried to reestablish an imagined norm and made an exodus to Mars whereas the White Americans tried to anticipate an imaginary millennium and made an exodus to Ganymede. In Anderson's Planet Of No Return, Dissenters made an exodus to Mars but to escape from a New Christian theocracy, not from scientific society, so these two fictitious histories are parallel but not identical.

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