Wednesday, 16 October 2013

"This Was Earth"

Poul Anderson's frequent descriptions of nature deserve close rereading. In "Un-Man", the passage beginning:

"So this was Earth." (The Psychotechnic League, New York, 1981, p. 109)

- is too long - nearly a page - to be quoted in full. It is narrated from the point of view of a man who has spent years as a colonist on Mars and is tired by Earth gravity. Sitting on a log, he sees cliffs, canyon, river, mountain, sun-lit snow, bushes, pine, beech and ash, much more color than on Mars.

He hears trees, mosquitoes, birds and a squirrel and smells pine, mould, wildflowers and river mist.

"He had almost forgotten he owned a sense of smell, in the tanked sterility of Mars." (ibid.)

Despite all this:

"...he was lonely for the grim bare magnificence of the deserts..." (p. 110)

- and wonders whether he will readjust to Terrestrial society! (One of Heinlein's Future History stories has a young couple saying, "It's great to be back, " in the Lunar colony after spending some time on Earth.)

Anderson advocated space travel and extra-planetary colonization. Much as I enjoy reading his fictional accounts, I cannot imagine myself preferring a Martian desert to the Terrestrial sights, sounds and smells that he describes here.

No comments: