Friday, 27 February 2015

A Rich Vocabulary

As often happens when reading Poul Anderson's works, I need a dictionary on pp. 2-3 of SM Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003). Some words are unfamiliar. Others are familiar although their meanings are not always known:

Metford rifles;
the Jat-cultivator caste;
jezailachi snipers (an echo of Conan Doyle - see also here);
Masuds (?);
fakir (I had not known that they were Muslims).

(I have not turned to p. 4 yet.)

In The Footsteps Of Kim

"And truly the Grand Trunk Road is a wonderful spectacle. It runs straight, bearing without crowding India's traffic for fifteen hundred miles - such a river of life as nowhere else exists in the world."
-Rudyard Kipling, Kim (London, 2010), p. 58.

"...the white crushed stone of the military highway that snaked down from the Khyber Pass to Peshawar...Right now the Grand Trunk Road was thronged with the returning men and beasts of the Charasia Field Force, following the path trodden by generations of fighting men..."
-SM Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003), p. 1.

I have not yet read to the end of page 1 of The Peshawar Lancers, nor will I at 1:08 am, but we are already deep in Kipling territory. Poul Anderson reproduces aspects of Kim a thousand years hence on another planet whereas Stirling takes us back to the Grand Trunk Road in an alternative twenty first century. In the Terran Empire of Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, they say, "Glory to the Emperor!" I will learn what it would be appropriate to say in the Angrezi Raj of Stirling's alternative history.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Literate Cultures

Intelligent beings might build and live in a literate and technological society that is not urban, therefore not describable as a civilization. Poul Anderson maybe presents more examples of this than we might realize:

In the Technic History
nomadic Altaians.

In the "Star Time" Diptych

(Another list that grew in the writing.)

Ishtarians are not only townless but even stateless. Rarely violent, they recognize just one criminal act: "...failure to obey the judgment of the jury that tried a lawsuit." (Fire Time, p. 107) Public services provided by the "legions" include arbitrating disputes, maintaining records and lighthouses, policing (slight) and a fire service (rarely needed since most buildings are stone or adobe). Sehala is not a capital city but a convenient rendezvous point because it is a prosperous area where certain activities are concentrated. Buildings are spread about with no streets between them. The Ishtarian physiology has little need of sanitation but anyone who runs an establishment disposes of whatever wastes there are as necessary because otherwise his neighbors would sue him.

Gunnar Heim's Consistency

Rereading Poul Anderson's Fire Time while remembering its prequel, The Star Fox, underlines what might be seen as Gunnar Heim's inconsistency. While the World Federation appeased the belligerent Aleriona, Heim gave a lead by waging a private war - literally private, as a privateer. Thirty years later, when the Federation did wage war against the Naqsa League, Heim denounced this war as imperialistic. A man can certainly change his views over thirty years but Heim hasn't. The two situations are entirely different.

The circumstances of the second interstellar war are worth spelling out:

each Terrestrial city has a large ghetto of the unemployable;
emigrants from some of these ghettoes have worked hard to build a colony in the inhospitable environment of the planet Mundomar;
another part of Mundomar has been colonized by the Naqsa, a species regarded as physically disgusting by many human beings;
declaring that possession of a second continent is necessary for their security, the human colonists occupy that continent and expel Nasqans from it;
the human colonists are backed by a powerful lobby and vested interests on Earth;
the Federation gives military support to the colonists.

Sounds familiar?

The Peshawar Lancers: First Impressions, Continued

(viii) ...Lancers is published by Roc, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc! How complicated and not how things used to be. When I began reading paperbacks in the 1960's, there was a small number of publishers and I could usually identify the publisher by the design of a book's cover.

(ix) The text of the novel begins, as it should, on p. 1 and ends two thirds of the way down p. 458 with no blank pages and very few empty spaces at the ends of chapters between pp. 1 and 458. Good.

(x) There are twenty four numbered but untitled chapters and an Epilogue: no Parts, Books etc.

(xi) The world map (not in the book but copied from the Internet) reminds me of the map of Poul Anderson's "Delenda Est" world, also copied from the Internet. In both, political geography is changed but not physical geography.

(xii) The blurb on the back of ...Lancers refers to the unpredictable role that will be played by " man, Captain Athelstane King, reluctant spy and hero..." The text begins, "Captain Athelstane King..." (p. 1)

And now maybe it is time that I started to read the novel...

The Peshawar Lancers: First Impressions

I have just collected my copy of SM Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers from Waterstones Bookshop, King St, Lancaster. What do we notice about a book before we start to read it?

(i) An evocative cover with a British military theme suggesting a personal or at least sexual relationship and an airship visible through the window.

(ii) ...Lancers is copyright 2002. The twenty first century is no longer the future. (Of course it isn't but this has a particular resonance in science fiction.)

(iii) The dedication is In Memoriam: Poul Anderson 1926-2001. (Contemplate world events and changes in that three quarters of a century.)

(iv) Acknowledgements for inspiration start with Kipling.

(iv) The novel quotes from The Golden Road and Hassan by James Elroy Flecker. (I got interested in Flecker anyway. Then quotations from Flecker were one of the parallels that I found between Poul Anderson and Neil Gaiman. Further, both Anderson and Gaiman quote from The Golden Road.)

(v) The novel concludes with five Appendices of background information and a list of King-Emperors. Victoria I's reign ends earlier than in our timeline. Elizabeth II's dates, 1989-2005, differentiate her from our current Queen.

(vi) The book contains no maps of the altered world but these are to be found on the Internet.

(vii) So far, then, quite fascinating.

Meanwhile, I am still carefully rereading Anderson's Fire Time. That novel remains on the blogging agenda to which ...Lancers has now been added.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The Second Interstellar War III

Rereading Poul Anderson's Fire Time, I have reached Gunnar Heim's caustic comments on the war between the World Federation and the Naqsa League. However, searching the blog reminds me that I discussed this very chapter exactly two years ago! See here and here. So there is not much more to be said, except that - Anderson shows us how conflicts can differ. The Aleriona had wanted to eliminate humanity; Naqsa does not.

It is, of course, the job of military intelligence services to discover the enemy's motives and thus how any given conflict might be ended, not just to issue propaganda along the lines of "My country right or wrong!" Heim grasps the realities and replies to the propaganda:

"(Joy tumultuous in Shanghai Welfare. Gigantic on a wallscreen, the image of a politician pledges solidarity with the gallant Eleutherians. He is himself wealthy, but he needs these votes.)"
-Poul Anderson, Fire Time (St Albans, Herts, 1977), p. 98.

Ishtarian Evolution

I had a rough idea what "theroid" (Fire Time, p. 83) meant but I was wrong about it.

Ishtarian theroids:

are warm-blooded;
give live birth;
suckle their young;
grow alternatives to hair and placentas;
have endless other variations.

"'The fact of hexapodality versus quadrupedality appears to be fairly trivial, a biological accident.'" (ibid.)

Really? We could just as well have been four-legged? What a thought! (Mike Carey wrote a few stories about traditional centaurs in Lucifer because one of the artists had included one in a crowd scene.)

Periodic scorchings by Anu prevented cold-blooded animals so there were no dinosauroids. Theroids got an early start and are older than Terrestrial mammals. An Ishtarian sophont is a symbiote:

the pelt is a plant;
mane and brows are like ivy, making armor for the back and head;
the plants remove animal wastes in exchange for oxygen, are a fast-growing emergency food supply and free Ishtarian genes for other functions;
Ishtarian brains are better integrated than human, with no insanity.


Ishtarian names for plants are neither translatable nor easily pronounceable so the human colonists and scientists coin new terms such as "lia" for the local equivalent of grass because Li Chang-Shi did the first scientific work on that family.

Other plants:

bitterheart, used by the natives for seasoning and a tonic, also has medicinal properties for human beings;

night thief makes Ishtarians ill and kills human beings;

pandarus draws entemoids for pollination by duplicating the sex attractants for both sexes;

also - firebloom, thunderweed, swordleaf, domebud, clingwort, fallowblade, plume, sundrinker.

The photosynthesizing molecule is similar to chlorophyl but yellow, not green, although red pigments are an energy absorber.

Animals are six-limbed, hence centauroid sophonts. Some flyers have two legs and four wings, others have four legs and two wings. Dauri life, including sophonts with flowers instead of visible heads, migrated from the planet Tammuz.

As ever with invented planets, Anderson will have devised an entire ecology only some of which will make it into the text.

Tacitus And Helen

Today, I:

helped with domestic chores;
watched an interview with Peter O'Donnell, the creator of Modesty Blaise;
read two of Pliny's letters in Latin;
read a few pages of Poul Anderson's Fire Time.

"More letters in the collection are addressed to Cornelius Tacitus, the historian who wrote the Annals and Histories, than to any other person."
-A.N. Sherrin-White (Ed.), Fifty Letters Of Pliny (London, 1967), p. 74.

An altered text of Tacitus' Histories launches a case for Manson Everard of the Time Patrol in Anderson's "Star Of The Sea" so it is good to read letters addressed to Tacitus.

In Fire Time, Anderson makes a humorous reference to Classical mythology, which I had completely forgotten despite reading the book twice before:

"...he'd originally rated her at a milli-helen, the amount of beauty needed to launch a single ship."
-Poul Anderson, Fire Time (St Albans, Herts, 1977), p. 77.

Can a value, aesthetic or otherwise, be quantified? For a couple of years, the British government tried to quantify careers guidance work in order to pay the Service by results. The unit of measurement was one printed, signed for, careers action plan per client per interview and "interview" could mean a client, now called a "customer," visiting the Center for a simple factual inquiry.

Some philosophy students studying utilitarian ethics defined the smallest unit of pleasure as the amount of pleasure experienced by someone with absolutely no interest in football on hearing that their local team has won a match! They gave this unit, or quantum, a name which unfortunately I cannot remember. Trying to imagine a smaller pleasure is like trying to turn the gas lower only to see it go out. Anderson's "milli-helen" is a clever name for a small amount of feminine pulchritude.

Monday, 23 February 2015

"After the battle..."

Poul Anderson, Fire Time (St Albans, Herts, 1977), p. 57.

I am sure that, after winning a battle, there are sound strategic and practical reasons to make an hour's march in order to camp at another water hole rather than to stay put and use the one nearby. Surely it is advisable to get safely away from the battlefield before recuperating? Despite this, Arnanak presents a superstitious reason that he himself, as an initiate into the mysteries of the Triad, does not believe in:

if the victors remain overnight, then the carrion eaters will not approach;

but, in that case, the spirits of the dead will be trapped that much longer;

whereas to give them a quick release will be an honorable, therefore lucky, act.

So a spirit is released from a dead body only when the body is consumed, apparently. In fact, leaving their enemies for the carrion eaters, Arnanak's people take their own dead to eat them themselves. To be eaten in this way is such a "...noble...liberation into the afterworld..." that "...they wouldn't greatly mind waiting a day or two in the anguish and bewilderment of flesh..." So the spirits are not only trapped in the dead though still intact flesh but also conscious of their entrapment, therefore anguished and bewildered? An unpleasant notion - although I think that Anderson borrowed it from primitive Terrestrial religion rather than creating it de novo for the Ishtarians. And he so understates the idea in this passage that we could well read past without noticing it.

After the flesh is eaten, the bones are used to conjure oracular dreams, then buried in (or under?) dolmens. I suppose that this expresses a "waste not, want not" philosophy. Not only has the spirit gone to the right place but also every part of the body has been put to some good use before the bones are finally laid to rest.

Fire Time, Chapter III

Poul Anderson, Fire Time (St Albans, Herts, 1977).

I spotted a familiar phrase, "...time travelers..." (p. 49), but it was a false alarm:

" that time travelers who had gone elsewhere were bringing a flood of exotic tales..." (pp. 49-50).

A familiar name appears:

"A scholarly dilettante, Winston P. Saunders, proposed the Babylonian names..." (p. 49)

Saunders is both an early pen-name of Poul Anderson and a writer character in Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains.

A native Ishtarian thinks:

"Get more than a few Terrestrials together, and it was incredible what time they'd dribble away in laborious jabber." (p. 42)

More Swiftian satire. We might also remember Anderson's Ythrians who made a decision about war or peace very quickly by global participative democracy. No one spoke who did not have something new and relevant to say.

" aerodynamically designed heraklite roof..." (p. 41)

I cannot find "heraklite." A fictitious future building material?

"...a few of the seleks therein leaped out from among the leaves, then scurried back down to the proper business of such small entomoids, keeping it free of vermin and dead matter." (p. 44)

"...selek..." is Ishtarian but "entomoid" is English!

The Anubelean System

Anu, a red giant
Bel, Sol-like
Ea, a red dwarf

Planets of Bel
I. Nabu
II. Adad
III. Ishtar, inhabited
IV. Shamash
V. Marduk

Tammuz, formerly inhabited

The Ean Planet
I. a single superjovian

Moons of Bel

(I am about to drive some family members into the country for the afternoon. Thus, there will be no more posting until this evening at the earliest. Thank you for 86 page views so far today.)


OK. It is quite simple. The planet Ishtar is:

in orbit around Bel;
also close to Ea;
scorched every thousand years by the close approach of Anu.

Later, he travelled widely and joined the Triadic faith which personifies the three suns, whether literally or allegorically:

the main sun, Bel, is the sometimes terrible life-giver;
remote Ea symbolises the necessities of winter and death;
Anu, whose millennial approaches disrupt the planetary environment, brings chaos but also renewal.
-copied from here.

Life, death, chaos/renewal - Hinduism.

The Ishtarians variously name Anu:

the Red One;
the Stormkindler;
the Burner;
the Demon Sun;
the Invader;
the Marauder;
the Wicked Star;
the Rover;
the Torchbearer;
the Cruel Star;
Abbada, the outlaw god;
or by a series of epithets, none to be used twice in succession in case this draws its attention to the speaker.

The long-lived Ishtarians have learned ways to preserve the essentials of their civilization through Fire Time, the millennial scorching of their planet by Anu.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Fire Time, Chapter II

(I have just been diverted from Poul Anderson by a really good film. See here.)

In Poul Anderson's Fire Time, Chapter II, Conway is going to fight the Naqsans and Dejerine is going to Ishtar where Conway's family are. Thus, Anderson presents an involved set of interactions from the outset. I was wrong in a recent post to state that Fire Time is set twenty years after The Star Fox. Dejerine, thirty Terrestrial years of age, was born in the year of the Aleriona crisis. A generation and a half have elapsed. (I call a generation twenty years rather than twenty five like someone that I corresponded with recently.) Lisa Heim, if still alive, is now forty four years old.

An organization called the Exploratory Consortium has maintained what is described as a scientific-altruistic colony among the Ishtarians for a hundred Terrestrial years. More than half of the human population is floating:

researchers on specific temporary projects;
technicians on time contract;
archaeologists en route to the dead planet, Tammuz -

- but the long term residents now include second- and third-generation human Ishtarians who resent a war that deprives them of needed supplies. Dejerine says that he understands "'...the celestial mechanics of the Anubelian System...'" (p. 26) but we don't yet understand it. Ishtar is the third planet of the star Anubelea B (Bel) and Conway refers to Anu which must be Anubelea A so is Ea Anubelea C? I know that this will all be explained as we read on.

Fire Time, Chapters I and II

Chapter I is narrated from the point of view of an Ishtarian. Like Terrestrial horses, he has "...pasterns." (Poul Anderson, Fire Time, St Albans, Herts, 1977, p. 18) (I google words that are to me unfamiliar.) We gather that there are two other kinds of beings on Ishtar, dauri and humans. There are some indications of the peculiar astronomical relationships in this planetary system but not enough for the reader to understand as yet. In the sky, there are a Red One, a Stormkindler, a Burner, a True Sun and an Invader although I think that some of these are different names for the same heavenly body. There are two moons, Narvu and Kilivu, and the Milky Way is the Ghost Bridge.

Chapter II is narrated from the point of view of a human being, Captain Yuri Dejerine, on Luna. Dejerine plays Gean music. We remember that Gea, orbiting Tau Ceti, was Gunnar Heim's home planet. We are told that "...that planet has as old and wide a variety of traditions as ever did Earth." (p. 20) This must refer to the natives, called "Sindabans," with whom Heim grew up.

Dejerine wears, among more familiar garments, tabi and zori and converses with Ensign Donald Conway from Ishtar. They will both ship out quite shortly so something is happening but that is as far as I have read in Chapter II. It seems worthwhile to reread Fire Time appreciating such details as rich vocabulary and background information. As in real life, the closer we look the more there is to see.

Back To Ishtar

Blogging remains unpredictable:

rereading Past Times led to rereading the Time Patrol;

reading Kim led to rereading parts of The Game Of Empire;

rereading "Marque and Reprisal" led to rereading the remaining Gunnar Heim stories and now their sequel, Fire Time.

Fire Time introduces the unusual planet Ishtar. Searching the Poul Anderson's Cosmic Environments blog reveals that it has a post called "Ishtar." However, this post describes the unusual Ishtarians (see image), not their unusual planetary environment, so that becomes the next item on the agenda, time and other activities permitting, of course.

Onward and upward.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

The Flandry Series

The eighth post was about the Flandry series. Since then, there has been discussion of:

Ensign Flandry
A Circus Of Hells
The Rebel Worlds
"Tiger By The Tail" (and here)
"Honorable Enemies"
"The Game Of Glory"
"Hunters Of The Sky Cave"
"A Message In Secret"
"A Plague Of Masters"
"The Warriors From Nowhere"
A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows
A Stone In Heaven
The Game Of Empire
Aycharaych (also here and here)

- and other aspects of the series.

"Life isn't a fairy tale..."

"Life isn't a fairy tale; the knight who kills the dragon doesn't necessarily get the princess."
-Poul Anderson, The Star Fox (London, 1968), 203.

So reflects Gunnar Heim. But he has at least killed the dragon. In real life, that would not necessarily happen either!

Fiction can be more or less realistic. A novel, whether mainstream or sf, can have any kind of ending: happy, unhappy or ambiguous. However, when the sf is also action-adventure fiction, certain genre conventions become applicable. The hero always defeats the villain even if he does not always wind up with the heroine.

Imagine traveling to a universe where the laws of probability were those of heroic fiction. Thus, if a Villain points a gun at a Hero and begins to squeeze the trigger, then it is a foregone conclusion that the Hero's Trusty Sidekick will creep up behind the Villain and KO him just in the nick of time. Depend on it. Elliot S Maggin suggested that Lois Lane, trapped underground, merely wonders how long it will take Superman to show up. In the Last Action Hero feature film, a Villain, traveling to (what we call) the real world, is amazed to discover that, in this world, the bad guys can win.

That film, like DC Comics and Anderson's Old Phoenix stories, features a multiverse where:

what is fiction in one universe can be real in another;
travel between universes is possible.

In such a scenario, there could be a universe where life is a fairy tale.

The Time Patrol

The first post was about the Time Patrol series. Since then, there has been discussion of:

"Time Patrol"
"Brave To Be A King"
"Gibraltar Falls"
"The Only Game In Town"
"Delenda Est"
"The Sorrow Of Odin The Goth"
"Ivory, And Apes, And Peacocks" (and here)
The Shield Of Time
"Death And The Knight"
"Star Of The Sea"
"The Year Of The Ransom"
the Danellians
Everard's apartment
the Exaltationists
the Neldorians
Wanda Tamberly
temporal paradoxes

- and other aspects of the series.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Men With Guns

"Moonlight glimmered on the guns of the men who stood there waiting for him."
-Poul Anderson, The Star Fox (London, 1968), p. 154.

An armed reception committee! Gunnar Heim has gone to meet some Basque-speaking New European partisans - like World War II revisited - but how does he know that these armed men are not the enemy waiting in ambush? Because, in this case, the enemy are not men but Aleriona.

Human beings have not yet fought members of another rational species, and I hope we never will, but there are times when our own physical differences begin to matter. Fighting the Japanese must have felt different from fighting the Germans - an immediately identifiable enemy even out of uniform.

Some of us traveled by coach to another city to take part in an anti-racist mobilization. The (Nazi) National Front were due to march with police protection so we planned to counter-demonstrate, hopefully in much larger numbers to demoralize our opponents. We had to walk in small groups from a coach disembarkation point to a counter-demonstration assembly point. We did not want to meet any groups of Nazis, especially not larger groups, moving in the same direction but there seemed to be a group of youths standing on every street corner...

I soon learned an important lesson. If even one youth in a group was black, then every member of that group was my friend whereas I had to be provisionally cautious about any group whose every member had the same skin color as myself! An unpleasant but fortunately infrequent experience.

It is unsettling suddenly to find yourself in a racial minority, like in a Manchester drinking club or in the shop on our street, but it soon becomes the norm unless someone makes an issue of it. Two white youths on our street who made a habit of racially taunting an Asian schoolgirl were fortunate that the girl's father was unable to break down their front door. They left the following day. But that was decades ago. Unlike some other cities, we have enjoyed peace since then.

Poul Anderson shows anti-Naqsan sentiment in his Star Fox future and James Blish's Chronology of Cities in Flight lists an anti-Earth pogrom in the Malar Cluster.


(This is another post that begins somewhere else, then returns to Poul Anderson Appreciation.)

Superman began publication as an adult character in 1938 so his spaceship must have come to Earth about 1918, although no one usually associates him with that period. However, in the Smallville TV series, his spaceship arrived in 1989 so why was it not detected as an incoming missile by US radar defense systems? Because this time the small space capsule arrived in a large Kryptonite meteor shower. Did the ship's drive field carry the meteors through hyperspace?

In Poul Anderson's The Star Fox (London, 1968), the space privateers use "...a giant meteorite or small asteroid..." (p. 148) to conceal the descent of a spaceship onto the surface of the planet New Europe. Because of the speed of descent, air impact would destroy the ship:

"Unless she followed exactly behind the meteorite, using its mass for a bumper and heat shield, its flaming tail for a cloak." (p. 149)

Gunnar Heim must steer the ship through its "...narrow slot of partial vacuum..." (ibid), watching the external incandescence and internal instruments, guided by intuition and an unreeling computation of where he out to be at each moment. This sounds like other dangerous space passages in Anderson's works:

Dominic Flandry around a pulsar;
Nicholas van Rijn around an extinct supernova;
the Tau Zero ship around a new monobloc.

Before this, some of Heim's men made an "...epic..." (p. 148) trip around New Europe's moon but it is not stated exactly why. Did they detach the mass that became the meteorite?
(Later: No. The explanation is on pp. 190-191.)

A Habitable Planet?

When the Aleriona invaded the human colony planet, New Europe:

"Never doubting Earth would hurry to their aid, the seaboard folk of Pay d'Espoir fled inland, to the mountains and forests of the Haute Garance. That nearly unmapped wilderness was as rich in game and edible vegetation as North America before the white man." (The Star Fox, p. 145)

How probable is that on another planet? I don't know. But Anderson shows us that life is never as simple as it might appear. That opening phrase, "Never doubting Earth would hurry to their aid...," is crucial. The New Europeans know that they cannot survive indefinitely because their environment, however rich, lacks vitamin C. They have pills but not in an unlimited quantity whereas the Aleriona control the farms with Terrestrial plants and the towns with chemical factories.

Apart from that, the Haute Garance sounds like perfect defensible territory:

high tech;
low population;
wealthy colonists with hunting, fishing and camping equipment and flying vehicles;
fifty thousand scattered, easily camouflaged lodges and cottages;
portable chargers using solar, wind or water energy;
a communications net;
incomprehensible local dialects;
bases for launching raids against occupation forces;
a temperate climate;
perfect except for the lack of vitamin C.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The War In The Phoenix

The eighteen "space battles" that I mentioned in the previous post would perhaps not have been interesting because the Fox II has attacked only unarmed, unescorted transport ships! That is how casualties have been avoided.

The Aleriona escort some of their merchantmen but not many because most of their warships must search through a vast volume of space for "'...that which is named for the swift animal with sharp teeth.'" (The Star Fox, p. 138) Fox II intercepts valuable military and industrial cargoes intended to make occupied New Europe impregnable to Federation attack. Some captains of captured ships know a few words of a human language. Otherwise, sign language with guns suffices.

The Fox II crew is steadily depleted as smaller prize crews chosen by lot take the captured ships to be sold on Earth. Eventually, one such ship, instead of being sold, will carry the message that those who want to sign on again should rendezvous with Fox II at Staurn where it will re-arm. Thus, there could be a dozen more cruises - that could amount to a five year mission - unless the Federation wages war first. However, the nineteenth ship attacked has been hastily armed, although not well enough to resist Fox II, and carries human beings whose presence will change everything.

The Phoenix is a constellation visible from the Terrestrial southern hemisphere. Is it wrong, as suggested, to give the same name to a volume of space in that direction? A colonized region has to be called something and the name of the identifying constellation is as good as any. Another constellation has given its name to a galaxy two million light years away.

The Voyages of The Fox II, Its Four Month Mission...

In Poul Anderson's The Star Fox, Gunnar Heim's privateer spaceship is called not the Star Fox but Fox II after Heim's Navy ship, the Star Fox. Between Parts Two and Three of the novel:

"'Four months of commerce raiding, eighteen Aleriona ships captured, and we haven't had to kill anybody yet.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Star Fox (London, 1968), p. 134.

- and now Heim begins to wind up the war. Thus, we have seen two stages of preparation - Fox II was bought and crewed in the Solar System, then armed on Staurn - for a campaign that has been waged between two Parts of the novel. As in his Technic History, Anderson begins a later story at a later date in order to advance the narrative.

This is all good stuff but it does mean that we have skipped over the campaign as such. Anderson excels at descriptions of space battles. Potentially, there are eighteen such episodes here. The privateer has kept busy, cruising without an overhaul and attacking approximately one Aleriona ship per week, so that there are no interesting planetary stopovers to report. Nevertheless, I think that something could be made of this untold part of the story, with some information also to be given about what is "meanwhile" happening back on Earth.

Heim, a widower, has a woman friend in the peace movement back on Earth and also wants to check on what has happened to another woman whom he had known on the Aleriona-occupied colony planet of New Europe so the reader looks forward to learning how these two relationships pan out.

Death And A Beginning

Two men have died. Gunnar Heim and his remaining companions might die also.

"His eyes went to the moon, his thoughts to Connie. He had no belief in survival after death, but it was as if she had drawn close to him."
-Poul Anderson, The Star Fox (London, 1968), p. 128.

Exactly: no expectation of a hereafter but we are nearer to our dead when we are near death.


"While his pilot flitted him the short way back to the yacht, he looked out. A flock of Staurni hunters was taking off. Sunlight flared across their weapons. The turmoil in him turned toward eagerness - to be away, to sail his ship again - as he watched those dragon shapes mount into the sky." (p. 132)

Heim is alive and going into action, inspired by sunlight on flying beings. Thus ends Part Two and thus begins Heim's private war.

Epic Journeys

An epic journey: walking long distance in high gravity carrying heavy survival equipment while threatened by a Walking Forest, hot geysers and Slaughter Machines. And so understated - this is just one incident in Part Two of Poul Anderson's The Star Fox.

Other such epic journeys are:

on Jupiter in Three Worlds To Conquer (see here);
from a colonized planet in the Cloud Universe through interstellar space and a dark nebula to an outpost of human civilization in "Starfog;"
to Jotunheim in The Broken Sword;
in search of Jotunheim in the Last Viking trilogy;
to the icebergs and back in The Man Who Counts;
a long time journey in "Flight To Forever;"
a long space journey in Tau Zero;
a cosmic journey in The Avatar.

No doubt there are others that I have forgotten. Yet another recurring feature that could be analyzed in its own right.

The Walking Forest

On Staurn, the Walking Forest attacks Heim's party and they must fight their way through.

Preliminary theories of the forest:

the abundant ultraviolet from Staurn's sun makes plant chemistry unusually energetic;
those trees need a particular mineral so a wood appears whenever faulting exposes a vein;
geology is faster on bigger planets so maybe this form of life can depend on geological accidents;
or maybe bacteria deposit organic material that is exposed fairly often;
the trees could broadcast spores that lie dormant for centuries;
the spores sprout and consume the deposits;
the forest must keep moving because it exhausts the soil where it stands;
sunlight gets the trees moving;
when they exhaust a vein, they die and their reprocessed material wakens the spores that they have left.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Extraterrestrials As Comment

Jonathan Swift satirized Europeans by comparing them with imagined Lilliputians, Brobdingnagians, Laputans, Struldbrugs, yahoos and houynhmns, all of whom inhabited Terrestrial islands. Thus, long before Pierre Boulle's Planet of the Apes, the houyhnhmns were an Island of the Horses.

Science fiction writers can deploy extraterrestrials to the same effect. A classic example is Wellsian Selenites. When violence between human beings results in a death, a grotesque-looking alien imagined by Poul Anderson responds thus:

"A gruesome keening lifted from the Naqsan. 'Gwurru shka ektrush, is this war? We do not thus at home. Rahata, rahata.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Star Fox (London, 1968), p. 101.

If a Naqsan can ask this, then we must ask why we do thus, especially since, in this case, the killer is a "Militant for Peace."

Endre Vadasz, another wandering space minstrel, sings the Paternoster (Our Father, Lord's Prayer) over a grave. Respectful treatment of the dead is yet another theme in Anderson's works.

On Staurn

A Staurnian:

is about three meters long;
has no legs;
sits on the double coil of his one and a half meter long rudder-tipped tail;
has a prow-like keel bone, sharp muzzle, wolfish fangs, small round ears, dark-banded eyes, nostrils under the chin and seven-meter chiropteran wings;
is covered with a gray growth intermediate between hair and feathers;
wears only pouched belts.

A human xenological expedition to Staurn comprises, apart from xenologists, a semanticist, a glossanalyist, a biologist and graduate students. I have found Gloss Analyists but not glossanalyists on the internet and still do not know what the former do.

Gunner Heim says, "'The common man often shows more common sense than the intellectual elite.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Star Fox (London, 1968), p. 79.

Does he? I distrust such generalizations and dichotomies. Common men and intellectuals alike are capable of considerable unexamined prejudices.

The novel has been narrated exclusively from Heim's point of view until p. 86 when, at the beginning of Part Two, Chapter Three, we switch to his friend, Endre's, pov. At the bottom of p. 87, it switches back. Endre whistles:

"'Malbrouk se va-t-en guerre -'
"-And aboard the Quest, Heim looked at a bulkhead clock..." (p. 87)

On p. 88, Jocelyn "...stopped before a full-length optex beside her dresser." (p. 88)

Heim was "...the least self-analytical of men. He shoved his questions aside for later examination and, with them, most of the associated emotions." (p. 89)

Good if you can do it. Heim is an Andersonian man of action who will not be incapacitated by self-involved thoughts. Earlier, contemplating the beauty of a planet, its moons and the stars seen from space, he wondered why people "'...waste time hating and killing...'" (p. 80) Good question.

I took the book to read in a waiting room and made notes which led to this post.

Familiarity And Novelty

Extraordinary. I was disappointed that the second NESFA collection of Poul Anderson's shorter works contained so many stories already familiar from previous collections and even from series that had been collected in full, including the first Gunnar Heim story about which I had already posted several times.

However, I reread "Marque and Reprisal" out of interest and found far more new things to say about it than I would have thought possible. Further, it has made me want to continue rereading and posting about that series so the next item on the agenda is The Star Fox, Part Two, "Arsenal Point," Chapter One. Each of the stories was divided into numbered sections which become full "Chapters" in book format. I originally thought that The Star Fox was a single narrative, not a trilogy.

Onward, spacefarers.


In Poul Anderson's "Marque and Reprisal," the World Federation Capitol is in Mexico City. We are told this only once so we could easily forget it.

The Aleriona representative answers thirteen questions on 3V and flaunts his knowledge that thirteen is regarded as an unlucky number on Earth. He mentions the thirteenth who betrayed or the thirteenth who was killed. He does not mention that the Knights Templar were suppressed on Friday October 13 1307 but we know this from Anderson's "Death and the Knight."

The French representative in the World Parliament makes a thirteen point speech. Can I summarize it?

1. The Peace Control Authority, vested with sole military power, must prevent aggressive acts and the individuals responsible must be tried by the World Court.

2. Earth is a sovereign state because it has authorized the space naval branch of the PCA to act outside the Solar System and has negotiated agreements with alien races.

3. Alerion has committed territorial aggression by attacking and occupying the humanly colonized planet, New Europe.

4. If Alerion is not a sovereign state, then the PCA must act against Aleriona banditry.

5. If Alerion is a state, then either (a) it is obliged to refrain from territorial aggression or (b) it is not so obliged because it is not a member of the Federation.

6. If (a), then Alerion is subject to military sanctions by the PCA. If (b), then the PCA must protect the interests both of individual human beings and of Federation member states.

7. In either case, there is now an automatic state of war between Alerion and the Federation.

8. Member states are obliged to assist the PCA.

9. There is a duty to provide armed assistance to the New European colonists although no member state may make or own nuclear weapons.

10. Individuals may acquire such weapons outside the Solar System.

11. A member state may authorize a private military expedition. The banning in 1856 of letters of marque and reprisal is binding on signatories to that treaty but these do not include the Federation, which is a sovereign state (point 2), or some of its members, like the USA.

12. The Federation can issue letters of marque and reprisal.

13. In accordance with 7, 8 and 9, France can and should issue letters of marque and reprisal in the name of the Federation and has done so.

Points 4, 7 and 13 are greeted with uproar.

At some stage, we must cease to argue about what needs to be done and begin to do it. Anderson illustrates this point dramatically. The privateer is almost out of the Solar System by the time that Parliament is informed about it.

Is the argument valid? I would say that France has a duty to argue in Parliament that the Federation should either deploy the PCA or issue a letter of marque, not that France has a duty to issue a letter in the name of the Federation, knowing that most (all but one?) member states disagree with this or at least have not yet voted on it!

However, the argument is an excellent device for doing what must be done in the circumstances. It is all too easy to read through the argument quickly, then to move right on to the action-adventure passages. Every part of Anderson's text deserves to be studied (there is no other word for it) with equal care and attention.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Double Climax

(This cover: words fail me.)

Poul Anderson's "Marque and Reprisal" climaxes with two different kinds of drama: a Parliamentary debate and an escape from the Solar System. It also links the two dramas. The debate must be delayed because the French representative in the World Parliament will announce that his country has issued letters of marque and reprisal and meanwhile the privateer ship is hastening to leave the System before the Federation realizes what is happening and tries to stop it.

Mach faster than light travel is not hyperspatial but nevertheless has the usual hyperspace requirement that the ship be far enough out of a gravity well before the drive is activated. As in some other such works, our heroes have an exceptionally well tuned drive, enabling them to escape while the pursuing Federation vessel dare not follow. The ship begins its voyage while the legalities are still being argued back in Parliament.

En route to the orbiting ship, Heim flies up through storm clouds into a blue sky. I once had a meditation session that felt exactly like that: from unhappiness to instant, unforced and genuine elation. I knew then that there was a place above the clouds, that I was in it, that I would soon be back down beneath the clouds and that that did not matter.

No Stone Unturned

Gunnar Heim, founder and head honcho of Heimdal Motors, is a no stone unturned kind of guy and it pays. Early during the Aleriona Crisis, he wangles a private interview with the Aleriona war leader. The conversation seems to go nowhere. However, it means that they have at least started to communicate and now know each other slightly.

This proves to be useful later when Heim kidnaps that very same Aleriona in order to persuade him to lean on the peace militants who have kidnapped Heim's own daughter! The Aleriona, Cynbe, is a no holds barred kind of guy. When he has been shown that it is in his interests to cooperate with Heim, he coerces the peace movement leader by threatening war! It is sickening to see the pacifist leader deferring to the manipulative alien when he has nothing but contempt for his fellow human being.

I often oppose war as a solution to inter- or intra-national problems but Anderson makes the point that it can be necessary.

"'It's so awful,' Lisa said. 'That there has to be war.'
"'There doesn't, pony,' Heim answered. 'In fact, that's what we're trying to prevent.'
"She regarded him in bewilderment." (NESFA collections, Volume 2, p. 426)

Prevention is by showing Alerion that Earth is strong, not weak, and, here again, Heim displays his talent for leaving no stone unturned. No national government can act independently of the Federation, where the peace party prevails. National military action is neither legal nor even possible because the Peace Control Authority monopolizes heavy weapons. However, no government can prevent a private individual from privateering. It can even be argued that, in some circumstances, this is legal! Preposterous argument? Sure, that is what lawyers are hired for.

Finally, from his time in the Deepspace Fleet, Heim knows where to buy nuclear weapons outside the Federation. I definitely disapprove of instruments of genocide but these nukes are to be used only against hostile spacecraft, not against planetary populations.

The Star Fox: Miscellania

A stylized Aleriona?

Heim sees his own reflection in " optex..." (NESFA collection 2, p. 417). What's one of them?

He lands his space boat at the Mojave Port. Isn't that where Branson is trying to get into space?

An Aleriona speaks:

"'...little enclaves are significanceless; and Alerion has ways to integrate them into civilization; ways slow, as you look upon time, ways subtle, ways quite, quite certain.'" (p. 401)


Gunnar Heim speaks:

"' really is big enough for everybody, as long as they respect each other's right to exist.'" (p. 427)

Much better. Alerion is an old, inflexible civilization. If it cannot coexist with a dynamic society, then it should not continue to exist.


The USS Enterprise has a Scottish Engineer and a Vulcan Science Officer. The Star Fox II will have a Naqsan Chief Engineer because Gunnar Heim recruits Uthg-a-K'thaq, a distressed spaceman stranded in New York Welfare.

A Naqsan is like a tall, naked, chemosensor-tendrilled, three eyed, green, yellow spotted, two armed, swamp-smelling dolphin standing upright on two short legs, that is also a successful space merchant. (Human beings tend to dislike them.) Unfortunately, human beings and Naqsans will go to war in the sequel.

Aleriona and Naqsans play the same sorts of roles in Star...Time as Merseians and Ythrians do in the Technic History and, just as the Technic History features the quadrupedal Wodenites and Donarrians, Fire Time introduces an interesting race of quadrupeds. (See here.)


Section 6 of Poul Anderson's "Marque and Reprisal" is six news items from WORLDWEEK:

31 October. Gunnar Heim has bought a starship from British Minerals and plans to search for new planets to colonize.

7 November. Senator Twyman issues a statement about negotiations with the Aleriona.

14 November. Peace militants attack and seriously injure Admiral Piet van Rinnekom.

21 November. Cynbe ru Taren of the Aleriona delegation answers questions on 3V.

28 November. The Aleriona Craze sweeps through upper-class teenagers and some in Welfare.

5 December. Gunnar's daughter, Lisa, disappears.

The sequel, Fire Time, set a generation later, has a 3V interview with Gunnar Heim. These are all good future historical touches, making us feel part of Federation society. The Technic History would have benefited from a few such news reports and 3V interviews. One character does mention that he has seen van Rijn on their equivalent of television.

A Series

The being with its face on its body (see here) is a Naqsan, not an Aleriona. (Several of these The Star Fox covers are downright weird.)

As I keep saying, a frequent scene in Anderson's works is a character with a problem suddenly realizing the solution but not yet articulating it. By contrast, Gunnar Heim suddenly realizes and immediately articulates:

"'I'd like to go out myself!' he shouted.
"'This would be piracy,' Coquelin sighed.
"'No...wait, wait, wait.' The thought flamed into being. Heim sprang to his feet. 'Privateers. Once upon a time there were privately owned warships.'"
-Poul Anderson, "Marque and Reprisal" IN Anderson, The Collected Short Works Of Poul Anderson (Framingham, MA, 2009), pp. 385-435 AT p. 405.

A space privateer is a perfect premise for an sf series. This story did become a series although nowhere near as long as it could have been. Anderson tells us how Heim's privateering began and how it ended but merely summarizes what happened between so there is potential for other authors to fill in this gap.

Monday, 16 February 2015


I cannot visualize but I can at least understand verbal descriptions of some fictional aliens, like Merseians or Puppeteers. Niven's and Pournelle's Moties are more difficult because they are asymmetrical. Ythrians are quite difficult and I cannot form a clear idea of Poul Anderson's Aleriona:

long legs;
forward-leaning body;
150 centimeters tall;
deep chest;
spare waist;
mobile counterbalancing tail;
sleek, silver, sparkling fur;
digitigrade feet;
three long toes;
gracious, gesturing arms;
slim neck;
furless head;
marble-hued face;
enormous eyes with long lashes and nictitating membranes;
arching brows;
small nose;
vividly red lips;
wide cheekbones;
narrow chin;
muliebrile features;
pointed ears;
a long golden mane extending down the back and half way down the tail.

Does that give you a coherent picture? Inhuman perfection, as we are told, or just an odd jumble of disparate features?

Literary Lineages Etc

Are Rudyard Kipling, Poul Anderson and SM Stirling a kind of literary lineage? Having recently compared Anderson's The Game Of Empire to Kipling's Kim, I will shortly read Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers, to be discussed either on this blog or on the Science Fiction blog as appropriate. Of course, Stirling could be influenced by Kipling directly as well as, or instead of, via Anderson.

Returning to the present, it was unpredictable either that the second NESFA collection would include "Marque and Reprisal" or that this unexpected inclusion would generate further discussion of Gunnar Heim. Thus, the blog cannot possibly have any planned direction.

Continuing the summary from the previous post, the Aleriona artificial environment includes both a fountain and a bosket. Anderson cannot have expected his readers to understand every word that he used but did trust them to appreciate a vocabulary richer than usual in popular fiction. Over the course of nearly three years of blogging, I have learned to look out for:

words for which I need a dictionary;
uses of Latin;
moments when a character realizes without yet stating the solution to a problem;
equivalents of grass on extrasolar planets;
different means of faster than light travel;
the almost systematic application of alternative approaches to major themes like immortality, time travel, artificial intelligence and interstellar civilization.

In section 4 of "Marque and Reprisal," Gunnar Heim interviews another politician, the French minister for extraterrestrial affairs and chief representative in the World Parliament. That completes preliminary discussions. Heim will soon take action. Returning to a conversation listed in the previous post, I think that he is way too hard on his daughter.

The 3000th Post

This is the 3000th post on this blog.

The first third of Poul Anderson's The Star Fox was originally published as a discrete story called "Marque and Reprisal" so it is interesting to re-encounter it in that earlier format in the second NESFA collection of Anderson's shorter works. Gunnar Heim is restored to the status of a series character rather than the hero of a single novel.

In section 1, he interviews the man who has evidence of a governmental conspiracy of silence;

in section 2, he converses with his teenage daughter and with a politician who refuses to help him;

in section 3, he interviews one of the enemy alien Aleriona who cantillates.

Heim and Cynbe must use English although Heim knows a few words of the High Speech. While on Earth, the Aleriona need an artificial environment with a thin, dry atmosphere beneath simulated red dwarf star sunlight, surrounded by leaves, vines and writhing flowers. Its location must be kept secret because of the strength of feeling on Earth.

Readers familiar with Anderson's Technic History recognize that here is a different interstellar scenario full of rich details clearly differentiating the Aleriona from the Ythrians or Merseians.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Gunnar Heim

See here.

Gunnar Heim, an exemplary Poul Anderson hero:

was born to Norwegian parents on the extrasolar colony planet, Gea, Tau Ceti II;
grew up with alien Sindabans;
served in the Deepspace Fleet of the Earth Space Navy;
helped to put down the Hindu-German trouble on Lilith;
spent four months recuperating on New Europe;
fought the Aleriona off Achernar;
learned about the Aleriona two-phase control system from a captured ship;
left the Navy, became naturalized as an American and founded the Heimdal nuclear motor company;
lives in a suite on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco and employs domestic servants but drinks in the ghettos of the unemployable;
contributes to the Libertarian Party whose senior senator from California is majority leader of US representatives in the World Federation Parliament;
keeps contact with his Greenland Academy classmates, some now admirals;
is a widowed single parent;
heeds governmentally discounted evidence that human colonists are still alive on New Europe resisting Aleriona occupation;
decides to do something about it.

What a man!

NESFA Collection 2 Contents

"My Object All Sublime" is a time travel story by Poul Anderson that is new to me but says nothing new about time travel and has an unpleasant surprise ending that I disliked. However, Anderson's range is so wide that I cannot expect to like everything he wrote.

The second NESFA collection contains thirty five items:

Editor's Introduction by Rick Katze;
"Poul Anderson" by Mike Resnick;
10 verses, some extracted from novels;
4 serious articles;
1 humorous article;
2 Rustum timeline stories;
2 Flying Mountains stories;
2 Psychotechnic History stories;
1 Time Patrol story;
1 Technic History story;
1 "Operation..." story;
1 Gunnar Heim story;
1 story belonging to one of Anderson's very short (2-story) series;
 5 stories that I have read in other collections;
2 stories that I have not read before.

Not enough! I will probably reread some of the familiar items but I really think that this collection could have given us thirty previously uncollected stories.

The Corkscrew Of Space

This story was published in this magazine although, for once, a story by Poul Anderson is not announced on the cover. I said in the previous post that I would post again about "The Corkscrew of Space" but cannot find a lot to say.

We notice that the colonized Mars has a breathable atmosphere which it should not have in an sf story published in 1956, then there is an explanation. The story is an Andersonian dramatization of physics, economics, sociology and politics. The high cost of space travel causes economic austerity in the Martian colony. Some people make a virtue of a necessity. Thus, austerity generates puritanism and intolerant, prohibitionist politics. A technological revolution in space travel will solve all these problems.

Thus, the story makes the same point as Robert Heinlein's "We Also Walk Dogs" and one passage in Anderson's Tau Zero:

there is a technical problem;
there is a scientist with the ability to solve such a problem;
therefore, motivate him to solve it.

In this case, austere Mars serves only expensive, unpalatable, synthetic beer whereas a  French scientist researching on Mars and able to solve the warp space equations is a connoisseur of his native wines...

The Martian Atmosphere

A fictional Mars has a breathable atmosphere if:

(i) the story was written so long ago that such an atmosphere was still considered possible (Edgar Rice Burroughs);

(ii) the story was written in an intermediate period when scientific knowledge had advanced but the literary convention of breathable atmospheres on Solar planets persisted (some short stories in The Early Asimov);

(iii) the author was unconcerned about scientific accuracy (Ray Bradbury, CS Lewis);

(iv) the story is set in a remote past before Mars lost its atmosphere (Michael Moorcock);

(v) the story is set in a future when colonists from Earth have made a breathable atmosphere (Kim Stanley Robinson, also Poul Anderson in "The Corkscrew of Space," which I am currently reading).

(This is another of those lists that grew in the writing.)

(ii) and (iii) overlap. Lewis commented that, when he wrote Out Of The Silent Planet, he probably knew that the Martian "canals" were not real but included them as part of the mythology.

This post is occasioned by reading the Anderson story which will have to be discussed in a subsequent post and, since today is my granddaughter's twenty first birthday, that next post might be delayed for a while.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Portrait Of Jennie

(Please read this post and link it elsewhere. It's a beaut.)

In "On Imaginary Science, " Poul Anderson explained how a careful rereading of Olaf Stapledon's future history and cosmic history helped him to handle the temporal transitions in Tau Zero but he also explained something else, also connected to time.

I read Anderson's Guardians Of Time when it was first published in hardback in Britain (1960?). I had thought that "changing the past was impossible" but a Time Patrol trainer convinced me that it was possible. Later, of course, I realized that these are alternative fictional premises but that the latter is much harder to do right.

I never understood this - at the Time Patrol Academy:

"There were a couple of romances. No Portrait of Jennie stuff..."
-Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), p. 14.

A decade and a half later, married and living in Lancaster, I watched a feature film on TV. I think that I had missed the beginning of the film and do not remember inquiring as to its title. The film can be described as "haunting" and as "not quite time travel." A man keeps meeting a girl who is impossibly older each time they meet. She says something like, "I am growing up for you." I have always remembered that at one point he says something like "Wind blows, sea flows, God knows," to which she replies, "I'm sure He does." I thought that "Grass grows" could have been included in the rhyme. The film ended with some sort of climax at sea. I do not remember the details. I thought that an older woman character was suddenly going to manifest as an older version of the girl but she didn't although something was realized in a scene involving her.

In the1990's, when I read that Richard Matheson's Bid Time Return had been filmed as Somewhere In Time, I thought that maybe this was the film but I read the book and it was an entirely different story - although Matheson's novel is an excellent romantic time travel story like Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife.

Anderson, listing a few of what he calls routine fictional uses of time travel, writes:

"Perhaps the most famous, because beautiful and haunting, is Robert Nathan's Portrait of Jennie which brings in time travel by sheer fiat."
-Poul Anderson, "On Imaginary Science" IN Anderson, The Collected Short Works Of Poul Anderson, Volume 2: The Queen Of Air And Darkness (Framingham, MA, 2009), pp. 105-113 AT pp. 107-108.

(But is it quite time travel?)

This evening, I read "On Imaginary Science," googled "Robert Nathan Portrait of Jennie" and found that this was the film whose title I had never known.


For recent discussions of theology, see:

Axor's Quest
The Ransom Trilogy And The Technic History I, II
Sinful Species
God And Alien...

Three academic disciplines:

(i) Philosophy of Religion, my specialism, studied in a University Philosophy Department like Philosophy of Science, of Politics or of anything else.

(ii) Religious Studies, the study of all religious phenomena from every point of view. ("We teach the two sacred languages: Sanskrit and German.")

(iii) Theology, traditionally the study of Biblical texts for students committed to the Christian faith and preparing for a denominational ministry.

Needless to say, when I say (i) or (ii), people think that I mean (iii). A Professor of Theology that I know (see here), a religious sceptic, has argued that Jesus was a Law-observant Jew and that Mark was written very early and has also written on political uses of Biblical quotations. I did not pursue an academic career but that was obviously the right course for some people.

NESFA Collections Vol 2

The many items collected in this volume include:

short poems;
stories that I immediately recognized as already read;
stories that I had already read although I had forgotten their titles;
stories that I have read under different titles -

- so it is difficult to find new prose fiction to read! I think that there are two such stories.

An article on the science in science fiction and another on history and science fiction did not disclose anything new whereas "Science and Creation" usefully classifies evolution as not a theory but one of the principles, like thermodynamics and relativity, by which theories are tested.

I will read the two new stories - if they are new - and the article, "On Imaginary Science," and might reread some of the familiar items.

NESFA Collections, Volume 2

I have just received this book (see image), published by NESFA Press, through the post. The long table of contents includes several familiar titles but also many unfamiliar. I am starting with a 1983 Analog article on "Science and Creation."

"Theory" is contrasted with "fact" but also with "practice." Theory guides practice; practice tests theory. If we describe evolution as a "theory," then scientific creationists reply that, in that case, it is "only a theory," not a proved "fact," to which I have heard evolutionists more recently respond that, in that case, evolution is a fact.

As long as we are clear about what we mean, it is less important which words we use. The words change their meanings in any case. Anderson summarizes the scientific paradigm, using the following words:

mathematical descriptions;
basic principles -

- and argues that evolution has advanced from theory to principle.