Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Anderson, Bear And Stirling

Alexander the Great living longer and consolidating his empire sounds like a single alternative historical premise, doesn't it? Further, a premise that could lead to earlier social and scientific progress and to a Greek-speaking technological civilization in the twentieth century? See "Eutopia" by Poul Anderson and Eon by Greg Bear.

In Conquistador, SM Stirling turns this Alexandrian premise on its head. Alexander lived to seventy and bequeathed a vast, undivided empire that lasted for a hundred years but then fell apart in civil wars and barbarian invasions. Its twentieth century legacy is city-states, kingdoms and tribes with late medieval technology worshiping Zeus-Alexander and an undiscovered New World ripe for conquest from a timeline very similar to ours.

That is it for this month, folks. Posts will resume some time in July.

Subtle Influence

If even a small group of people were able to travel in secret between their original timeline and an alternative timeline, then their altered perspective would subtly influence some of their contemporaries in the original timeline. John Rolfe wants to build a reservoir and a hydroelectric project in the Berkeley hills of his alternative Earth so he pays an engineer good money to survey and plan for this project on the original Earth where such a project can never be implemented!

The engineer must regard these plans as fantasies. Thus, engineering as fantasy! But it is not fantasy because the plans will be realized on the alternative Earth. And yet it is fantasy because we are reading about it in a science fiction novel. And, within the novel, this game has a debilitating effect. The engineer's daughter tells an investigator:

"'My father was used to doing real work, and seeing what came of it. I'm convinced that the...the futility of it all drove him to early retirement, and to dying before his time.'"
-SM Stirling, Conquistador (New York, 2003), pp. 47-48.

When Tom Christiansen invites Adrienne Rolfe out to dinner, she replies:

"'How about something Oriental?...I always...that is, I really like that.'" (p. 61)

She was about to say that she always has Oriental when she is on FirstSide, because they do not have it on her Earth. Tom notices oddities in her speech and that her family sound very out of date but none of this can possibly arouse suspicions of the truth. However, a smuggled condor genetically unrelated to any known condor is another matter. Tom thinks of and dismisses time travel.

How many alternative Earths are there? A physicist let in on the secret says that they must be infinite. Could Stirling write a novel linking all of his alternative timelines?

The physicist theorizes that the Big Bang was a quantum fluctuation and that there is "'...a standing waveform drawing on zero energy...'" (p. 96), which sounds a bit like the cosmological terminology in Poul Anderson's Starfarers.

Soap Bubbles

(Posting was interrupted by an always enjoyable visit to Preston.)

I am going to disagree with some of SM Stirling's characters although not necessarily with SM Stirling!

"'...are you sure this isn't our California, a long time ago?...And we could all go pop, like a soap bubble, if we change the things that made us.'"
-SM Stirling, Conquistador (New York, 2003), p. 26.

I discuss such issues on the Logic of Time Travel blog.

If X, born in timeline A, travels to timeline B and prevents the birth of X in timeline B, it follows that, in timeline B, X is not born, does not grow up and does not become a time traveler. However, it does not follow that the X who was born in timeline A, traveled to timeline B and prevented the birth of X in timeline B will cease to exist after preventing the birth of X in timeline B. There is no reason why X should cease to exist and there is a reason why he should continue to exist, namely the conservation laws.

Of course, scientific laws are empirical generalizations, not logical necessities. Thus, cessation of existence is logically possible at any time but there is no specific reason for the cessation of X's existence. What happens when a birth is prevented? Does the person who would have been born exist into adulthood and then cease to exist? No, he does not exist in the first place.

Christiansen thinks that time travel is self-contradictory (p.115). It is not but contradictory conclusions are often drawn from it. An effect (a time traveler's arrival) preceding its cause (the time traveler's departure) is not contradictory. However, an effect followed within a single timeline both by departure and by prevention of departure is contradictory. Several consistent scenarios allow for time travel. Poul Anderson's Time Patrol is a borderline case.

Three Timelines

(i) In our timeline:

Alexander the Great died in 323 BCE;
John Rolfe married Pocohontas in 1614;
Pocohontas died in 1617;
Rolfe was killed in 1622;
the Rolfe name died out;
however, through their granddaughter, Rolfe and Pocohontas became ancestors of prominent Virginian families;
Poul Anderson, Harry Turtledove, SM Stirling etc wrote sf;
Stirling wrote Conquistador.

(ii) In the FirstSide timeline:

Alexander died in 323 BCE;
John Rolfe married Pocohontas in 1614;
both were killed in 1622;
but Pocohontas had borne two more sons, including John II, thus starting the Virginian Rolfe lineage;
in 1946, John Rolfe VI discovered the Gate;
Anderson, Turtledove etc wrote sf.

(iii) In the Commonwealth of New Virginia timeline:

Alexander died in 280 BCE;
Europeans did not invade North America;
John Rolfe VI arrived through the Gate and founded the Commonwealth.

Fictional Timelines

Poul Anderson, Harry Turtledove and SM Stirling have written works of fiction featuring alternative timelines. Either an entire narrative is set inside an alternative timeline or the characters travel between such timelines. Before considering such complexities, let us instead discuss the already sufficiently complex case of an ordinary single-timeline novel, whether historical, contemporary or futuristic.

Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound Of The Baskervilles is an appropriate example, given the strong Holmesian connections in several of Anderson's works. The Hound... is set in a world where:

Sherlock Holmes was a real, indeed famous, person;
Baskerville Hall was a real place with a legendary hound;
a particular sequence of events occurred in and around the Hall;
Dr Watson wrote a true account of these events - "true" unless and until a sequel reveals that Watson was dishonest or mistaken about any of the details.

In our world:

Sherlock Holmes is a universally recognized fictitious character;
Baskerville Hall does not exist;
the events narrated in the novel did not occur;
Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a fictitious account of these events as narrated by Watson.

The text of The Hound... exists in both worlds. However, in Holmes' world, it is a factual account written by Watson whereas, in our world, it is a fictional account written by Doyle. Not every novel narrated in the first person exists as a text in its fictional world. We must usually assume, if we think about it, that the viewpoint character is recounting his experiences to a friend - and is sometimes revealing secrets that should not be made public in that fictional world.

Thus, every work of fiction is set in a timeline that differs or diverges from the timeline inhabited by its readers. It follows that every work of fiction is set in an alternative timeline even though we do not usually have any reason to think of them in this way.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Spoilers Etc

Sean M Brooks' post, "Sensory Deprivation," has been at the top of this blog for a week and has now started to move down the page but has also been copied to a companion blog here.

I read and analyze a text primarily for personal pleasure but also on the assumption that my audience either has already read it or at least does not mind being told details of an as yet unfamiliar text. Otherwise, of course, SPOILER ALERT!

There is always a surprise. In SM Stirling's Conquistador, characters pass not between our timeline and one alternative timeline but between two alternative timelines. Consequently, my next post, probably not till next month, will address the differences between three timelines, our one and their two. Dig it.

Sensory Deprivation, by Sean M. Brooks

This essay discusses how Poul Anderson used "sensory deprivation" as the means used by some of his characters in WE CLAIM THESE STARS and MURDER IN BLACK LETTER to obtain information.  I also want to examine the question of whether sensory deprivation can be used as a legitimate intelligence method or has to be rejected as torture, and thus unethical to use.

I also wish to stress the need to not assume that the ideas, beliefs, or actions of an author's fictional characters are what that author himself believes or that he approves of all that his characters do.  Sometimes, of course, he does--and at other times does not.

The first quote from the works of Poul Anderson showing how sensory deprivation was used to obtain information is from Chapter X of WE CLAIM THESE STARS, one of the stories he wrote for his Technic Civilization series, in the time of the Terran Empire, more than a thousand years in the future. Captain Sir Dominic Flandry, an officer in Terra's Imperial Naval Intelligence Corps, had, with guerilla assistance, captured Clanmaster Temulak, commander of the alien garrison occupying the human town of Garth, on the planet Vixen.  Temulak was an officer belonging to a race called the Ardazirho which had invaded and seized Vixen, a planet colonized by humans belonging to the Empire.  The Ardazirho captive was unwilling to answer questions, so Flandry took recourse to measures designed to break that resistance, using sensory deprivation.  To quote from Chapter X:
    He nodded to Dr. Reineke.  The physician wheeled forth the equipment he had abstracted from Garth General Hospital at Flandry's request.  A blindfolding hood went over Temulak's eyes, sound deadening wax filled his ears and plugged his nose, a machine supplied him with intravenous nourishment and another removed body wastes, they left him immobile and, except for the soft constant pressure of bonds and bed, sealed into a darkness like death.  No sense impressions could reach him from outside.  It was painless, it did no permanent harm, but the mind is not intended for such isolation.  When there is nothing by which it may orient itself, it rapidly loses all knowledge of time; an hour seems like a day, and later like a week or a year.  Space and material reality vanish.  Hallucinations come, and the will begins to crumble.  Most particularly is this true when the victim is among enemies, tensed to feel the whip or knife which his own ferocious culture would surely use.
Clanmaster Temulak, a moderately high ranking Ardazirho officer, would be CERTAIN to have information which would be extremely useful for the Terrans to know.  The story goes on to say Temulak finally cracked after "Three of Vixen's 22 hour rotation periods went by, and part of a fourth, before the message came that Temulak had broken" (WE CLAIM THESE STARS, Chapter XI).

In 1979, when I first read Poul Anderson's mystery MURDER IN BLACK LETTER (Macmillan: 1960), I was surprised to come across this text on page 133: "They're just now beginning to study the mental effects of eliminating sensory stimuli," said Kintyre.  "The mind goes out of whack amazingly fast.  My friend Levinson, in the physiology department, was telling me about some recent experiments.  Volunteers, intelligent self-controlled people who knew what it's all about and knew they could quit any time they wanted--none of which applies to O'Hearn--didn't last long.  Hallucinations set in."  Plainly, it was in the middle or late 1950's that Anderson first came across the idea of using sensory deprivation as a means of obtaining information from subjects unwilling to truthfully answer questions.

Here we see characters from two of Poul Anderson's novels using sensory deprivation to force prisoners they knew had valuable information to answer questions truthfully.  The issue to be examined is whether what Flandry and Kintyre did was torture and hence unethical or whether it was morally licit.  One reason why torture as such is not used by responsible intelligence officers is because of how unreliable it can be.  To again quote from one of Anderson's novels, about eight years later in the Technic History, in Chapter V of A KNIGHT OF GHOSTS AND SHADOWS, he has Flandry saying: "Let me explain from the ground up.  Interrogation is an unavoidable part of police and military work.  You can do it on several levels of intensity.  First, simple questioning; if possible, questioning different subjects separately and comparing their stories. Next, browbeating of assorted kinds.  Then torture, which can be the crude inflicting of pain or something like prolonged sleep deprivation.  The trouble with these methods is, they aren't too dependable.  The subject may hold out.  He may lie.  If he's had psychosomatic training, he can fool a lie detector; or, if he's clever, he can tell only a misleading part of the truth.  At best, procedures are slow, especially when you have to crosscheck whatever you get against whatever other information you can find."   We see torture, defined as either the crude inflicting of pain or prolonged sleep deprivation, dismissed as slow and unreliable.

For a look at how torture should be regarded ethically, I will quote what the CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (Image Books, 1995), an official and authoritative summarizing of Catholic doctrinal and moral teaching, says about it in Nos. 2297-2298: "2297 ....*Torture* which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary for respect for the person and for human dignity.  Except when performed for strictly therapeutic, medical reasons, directly intended *amputations, mutilations,  *and *sterilizations *performed on innocent persons are against the moral law."  And 2298 says: "In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture.  Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy.  She forbade clerics to shed blood.  In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person.  On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading.  It is necessary to work for their abolition.  We must pray for the victims and their tormentors."

Given all that has been previously written, the question to be answered is whether or not the use of sensory deprivation is or is not torture.  If it is not torture, or not always thus, its use as a means of extracting information from those unwilling to answer questions truthfully is ethically permissible.  Those who would defend the use of sensory deprivation will point out that Temulak was not tortured in the senses given above: pain was not inflicted on him nor was he even deprived of, or prevented from sleeping.  All that happened to him was being made temporarily unable to see, hear, smell, or move.  And this was done only as long as it took for persuading Temulak to cooperate in being interrogated. However, those who would argue against the use of sensory deprivation as a means of obtaining information would say that having one's senses deprived of outside stimuli is torture because prolonged lack of stimulation for the senses becomes unendurable.  I believe both sides would agree that to deliberately prolong sensory deprivation beyond the point of inducing the subject to cooperate in being interrogated does becomes torture, and thus immoral to use.

What conclusions can be reached to resolve this question?  Sensory deprivation, when strictly limited and used solely for persuading persons being interrogated to cooperate in being questioned, can be legitimately used.  Two preconditions are necessary: first, the cause or reason for using sensory deprivation on an unwilling person must be so strong that this unwillingness can be rightfully overruled.  Second, interrogators must also be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the person they are trying to question DOES have information they need to discover (because to use sensory deprivation on a prisoner reasonably likely not to know the information being sought is indisputably torture).  For example, a private will know far less information of military value than a colonel or general.  That was certainly the case with Clanmaster Temulak, the captured enemy officer we see in WE CLAIM THESE STARS.  Recall, Temulak was captured by Flandry and his guerrilla assistants on a planet seized and occupied by enemies, in circumstances where discovery and seizure by those enemies was a very high possibility.  Flandry did not have the TIME or means for lengthy, weeks long interrogation of an unwilling prisoner.

I am, of course, open to being corrected in my view that sensory deprivation can be a legitimate interrogation method by REASONED and logical arguments.  I would also be interested in finding out what professional, law abiding, and ethical interrogators and intelligence officers think of this question.  I have tried to find out how sensory deprivation was used in actual cases.  However, I have found none where this method was described as used with the care ordered by Flandry for the treatment of Temulak.  Merely emotional or ad hominem arguments for or against sensory deprivation are rejected out of hand.

During the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1960's and 1970's, British security forces came to use five "sensory deprivation" methods which eventually caused the Republic of Ireland to sue the United Kingdom in the European Court of Human Rights for alleged torture of terrorists or guerrillas (see European Court of Human Rights, "Ireland v. the United Kingdom," January 18, 1978).  The disputed methods were: wall standing, hooding, subjection to noise, deprivation of sleep, and deprivation of food and drink.  In the final judgment handed down by the European Court in the above mentioned case, it examined the United Nations definition of torture and ruled that these five methods did not meet the intensity of pain and suffering laid down by that definition.  However, the Court ruled these methods amounted to "inhuman and degrading treatment," violating Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (another treaty binding on signatory nations).

Except for the hooding of Temulak, none of this applies to the case we see in WE CLAIM THESE STARS.  The prisoner was not subjected to wall standing, loud noises, depriving of sleep, or depriving of nourishment.  So, I am not satisfied the British case gives us a clear example in actual history of the use of sensory deprivation as seen in WE CLAIM THESE STARS.  Nor have I found any US cases using "sensory deprivation" as seen in those of Poul Anderson's works I have quoted in this article.  Rather, the cases I read of were roughly similar, in some of the methods used, to those seen in the British case.

And, speaking personally, I have wondered what it might be like to experience sensory deprivation.  I have actually thought of being tied down, having my ears plugged, eyes blindfolded, etc., for one hour.  What would it be like to endure sensory deprivation for even so short a time? I know there are persons who have found the limited use of sensory deprivation to be restful or useful.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Conquistador, Chapter One

In fantasy and sf, how many different kinds of characters move among us concealing their true identities or real natures?

aliens (Poul Anderson, "Interloper;" "Details");
immortals (Anderson: The Boat Of A Million Years);
time travelers (Anderson: one series and two novels);
telepaths (Anderson: "Journeys End");
Heinlein's Howards (long-lived though not immortal, with one exception).

SM Stirling's Conquistador introduces another such group, descendants of those who colonized an alternative timeline and who retain the ability to move between the two timelines. We infer that Adrienne Rolfe is the granddaughter of John Rolfe VI and learn that she thinks of us as "FirstSiders."

We meet two sets of sympathetic characters, police investigating mysterious activities and Adrienne's group involved in those activities and trying to cover them up. The scene is set: Fish and Game Warden Tom Christiansen follows clues; we the readers are a few steps ahead of Tom; Adrienne is way ahead of us and knows the whole score. She refers to the Thirty Families, the Commission, the Commonwealth of New Virginia and Gate Security. We must read on to learn more.

Conquistador, Prologue II

SM Stirling, Conquistador (New York, 2004).

After decades of science fiction publishing, past and future exchange places:

Conquistador is copyright 2003;
its Prologue is set in 1946;
Chapter One is set in 2009;
I am reading it in 2015.

When I started to read sf in the 1960's, year dates like 2003 or 2004 could all too readily appear in a text but never in a publishing history! Such years were, and sometimes felt as if they always would be, "the Future." And do not be fooled into thinking that "2009" is in the past. When this novel was published, it was in the near future. Thus, the characters could, for example, refer to a President of the United States who is not the man that we remember as holding office in that year. If the author wants to prevent his text from becoming dated too quickly, then he will avoid any such references so that later readers might not notice that 2009 was then a near future, not a recent past.

The Prologue is headed First Side/New Virginia. We are to learn what "First Side" means. "Virginia" might make some of us think of John Carter. I gather that New Virginia is in Iowa. The viewpoint character, John Rolfe VI, was wounded by a Nambu machine gun and received a Silver Star. His grandfather, John Rolfe III "...lost a leg at Second Manassas, leading a regiment of the Stonewall Brigade..." (p. 2).

John Rolfe VI trained at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and endured Beast Barracks.  He served in Baker Company and used a Garand rifle. As a Democrat, he "...hadn't forgotten whose idea Reconstruction was or who went around waving the Bloody Shirt afterward..." (p.4) He had a "...Tidewater childhood..." (p. 5)

Our Rolfe (VI) finds his equivalent of Alice's rabbit hole or the Narnian wardrobe in his basement when a silver sheet replaces one of the walls. On the other side of the sheet, he sees an unfamiliar landscape which includes:

"A grizzly. Old Eph himself, a big silvertip male..." (p. 7)

Finally, John Rolfe I had waded onto the Virginia shore carrying a rapier. He sounds like an ERBian hero and a worthy ancestor of Johns III and VI.

Conquistador, Prologue, 1946

A man who fought for the US in World War II had a grandfather who fought against the US in the American Civil War. Family and history indeed. I cannot help wanting a time travel story to link these two Wars but already know that this novel goes further, and also sideways, in time.

Do Harry Turtledove and SM Stirling write only alternative history fiction? It is certainly a different direction for science fiction, neither interplanetary nor interstellar but inter-historical. And, of course, it has generated a new kind of interplanetary fiction, retro-Venus and -Mars.

There are two kinds of alternative timeline:

(i) familiar history diverged at a precise moment, the most obvious example being German victory in World War II;

(ii) all the rules are different - myth is history, magic works etc.

Turtledove and Stirling write (i). Anderson wrote four novels based on (ii). Anderson's treatment of (i) is more in the Time Patrol series where divergent histories are discussed, prevented and, less frequently, experienced:

Carthage won the Second Punic War;
medieval theocracy or autocracy prevented the Reformation, political, scientific and industrial revolutions, social progress and democracy.

I now embark on my third Stirlingian alternative history.

The Flandry Period And Other Reading

One glance at the Flandry period of Poul Anderson's Technic History generated discussion of:

Admiralty Center;
Flandry's apartment and roof garden, surrounded by the towers of Archopolis;
his cabin in the High Sierra;
his efforts to delay the Fall of Empire and shorten the subsequent dark age;
the fact that "Earth abides" beneath the works of men;
the Terran Empire;
other important planets and interstellar realms in that period -

- and we have not yet discussed:

the little that we are told of Flandry's origins;
the gaps between the books and after the last book;
other encounters with Aycharaych and A'u;
the future of Flandry's daughter and her traveling companions.

But none of these posts was planned. Blogging is unpredictable. The blogger's mind is free to roam among Anderson's many works - and also among relevant works by other authors. I will shortly begin to read Conquistador by SM Stirling. The text of this novel fills 582 close-packed pages and there are four Appendices in a further fourteen pages. This will take some time to read. Meanwhile, volumes 5 and 6 of the NESFA Press collections of Poul Anderson's Short Works remain to be acquired but look quite expensive right now.

So far, the blog has always circled back to Anderson as the original inspiration but we will have to see how it develops.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Other Planets

Apart from Earth, what other planets are important in Flandry's time?


It is a trip to revisit the Terran Empire period of Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization. The seventeen planets listed represent no less than six different interstellar realms:

the Terran Empire
the Merseian Roidhunate
the Domain of Ythri
the Betelgeusean empire
the Gorrazanian remnant
the Dispersal of Ymir

I am pleased to find that the blogs already contain at least some information on each of the listed planets.

I will close June with this 105th post unless I can draft 5 or preferably 10 more before the end of Tuesday. SM Stirling's Conquistadors has arrived but I am also rereading Swamp Thing.

Addenda (in response to comment):


You Too Can Blog About Poul Anderson

Reread Poul Anderson's novels, series and collections.
Write summaries of descriptive passages.
Notice how the author appeals to at least three senses when describing either natural scenes or human activities.
Look out for regular literary devices, e.g., a character's moment of realization. (There is a human or technical problem. The viewpoint character will solve the problem but does not tell us how until he does it.)
Identify works that address major science fictional concepts: telepathy, teleportation, robots, aliens, artificial intelligence, immortality, interstellar travel either slower or faster than light, matter transmutation, time travel, a science of society, social organization in the future.
Notice how the author systematically addresses many such concepts from every possible angle.
Appreciate the broad range of genres handled by Anderson.
Engage critically with the author's philosophy and his views on society and history.

Later: google for book covers and see comment.

The Terran Empire

Broadening our perspective from Terra to its Empire, we learn that, below the Emperor, there are:

the Policy Board;
the General Staff;
the civil service;
the officer corps;
Solar and extra-Solar aristocracies.

On one of the companion blogs (here), there are several articles about aspects of the Empire, e.g., Sector Governors.

Vice Admiral Kheraskov refers to "'...most informed citizens.'" (Young Flandry, p. 385)

However, I am not sure how citizens can be informed when Flandry tells us that important news is underplayed and trivialized while:

"'...more entertaining events can be manufactured to crowd it out of what passes for the public consciousness.'" (Flandry's Legacy, pp. 184-185)

Here, Flandry is casually contemptuous towards the bulk of the population. The Imperium is not alone in manipulating its own public consciousness. Their mortal enemies, the Merseians, plan:

"'...what to fee the Imperial academies, religions, an news media.'" (op. cit., p. 447)

None of this makes the Empire sound like a good period to live in.

Breakfasts And "Good Morning"

Dominic Flandry tells Chives that "Good morning" is a contradiction in terms. Before breakfast, Flandry swims twelve laps, then exercises. Chives serves coffee royal and a souffle. I have just slouched out of bed for muesli and coffee.

On a weather-controlled fine spring morning, Chives retracts the outer wall so that Flandry sees flowers and an orange tree with a Cynthian song bird in his roof garden. He is surrounded by the towers of Archopolis, blue sky, white clouds, sparkling aircars and the pulse of machines. After eating, he smokes by a fountain in the garden.

From where I am sitting, I can see sky, clouds and trees but no towers, aircars, song bird or fountain and, of course, am not served by Chives. I should have worked for Terrestrial Intelligence.

Natural And Artificial Environments

How much sf is set inside entirely artificial environments? Poul Anderson has spaceships, space habitats, Lunar colonies, colonized asteroids and the urbanized Earth of the Terran Empire. However, even in this vast imperial city, the Pacific Ocean still imparts a sense of ancient forces within the planet biding their time. See here. Also, Dominic Flandry has a mountain retreat in the High Sierra. See here.

Some of Anderson's characters may be guilty of hubris, thinking that man can conquer and completely control nature, but Anderson himself does not forget the natural order of which mankind is one small part. In his heroic fantasies, nature is personified as gods. In his sf, nature is still there whether or not the human characters recognize it.

This line of thought began because I wanted to explore the "corridors of power" of Admiralty Center. Delving into the "corridors" led to considering the planetary city as a whole which in turn led to considering the planet without which the city would not be able to exist. As another Lancaster sf fan once said, "It's endless, i'n't it?"

Good Night

Two last points for today:

SM Stirling's Conquistador has been ordered (see here);

I wondered how much we knew of Earth/Terra in Flandry's time apart from Admiralty Center - it seems quite a lot (see here).

When I have some time, I will reread what we have been told about Archopolis and the urbanized Earth to find out whether there is anything more to be said.

For images, google "futuristic cities" and you will find pictures that can be used to illustrate sf settings like Trantor or Archopolis.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Corridors Of Power II

In the following volume of Baen Books' The Technic Civilization Saga, Dominic Flandry rides a grav repulsor from his hovering space yacht to the fortieth flange of the Intelligence tower. It seems that Vice Admiral Fenross' office is on this level. Later, Flandry looks through the clear wall of his own office at the "...slim faerie spires..." (Sir Dominic Flandry, p. 189) of Admiralty Center and reflects on the millions of specialists who live and work there, making the Center a city.

Flandry expects barbarians to howl among smashed buildings, burning books and dead men when the Empire falls (p. 190). In the previous volume, he had anticipated:

"...when the Empire goes under and the howling peoples camp in its ruins." (Young Flandry, p. 381)

Why howl? A mere barbarian assault might have this effect. However, when the Empire does go under, I would expect a lot of people on Earth to set about building something better out of the ruins.

Coincidentally, I read these lines today:

-Rick Veitch, Swamp Thing: Regenesis (New York, 2004), p. 46, panel 4.

Flandry thinking about Fenross: How the devil did this feud get started? Is it only that I took that girl...what was her name, anyway? Marjorie? Margaret?...was it only that I once took her from him when we were cadets together? (Sir Dominic Flandry, p. 167)

However, this is all that Constantine and Flandry have in common.

Corridors Of Power

When Josef Faber reports to Krasna at Service HQ on Randolph, Krasna offers Faber:

"'Smoke? Drink? Rax?'"
-James Blish, The Quincunx Of Time (New York, 1983), p. 20.

When Lieutenant Commander Dominic Flandry reports to Vice Admiral Sir Ilya Kheraskov at Intelligence headquarters on Earth, Kheraskov offers Flandry a cigar, then:

"'Coffee...Or tea or jaine.'"
-Poul Anderson, Young Flandry (New York, 2010), p. 383.

They will have different drugs and beverages in future.

I am having trouble with the word, "...trikon..." on p. 386 of Young Flandry.

I am rereading this account of Flandry's visit to Intelligence headquarters at Admiralty Center because I am fascinated by the phrase "...labyrinthine corridors of power..." in the blurb on the back of Young Flandry and want to learn more about these corridors. The phrase suggests, at least to me, underground corridors which would make sense for defense against the threat of nuclear bombardment. Admiralty Center occupies and lifts above the Rocky Mountains so some of the Center must tunnel into the mountains? Indeed:

"...traffic pulsed among the towers, up and down within them, deep into the tunnels and chambers beneath their foundations." (p. 380)

However, a robot air taxi deposits Flandry "...on the fiftieth-level parking flange." (ibid.) From there, he walks down several bustling halls to a lift shaft and ascends by negagrav field to the hushed, high rank, ninety-seventh level which holds Kheraskov's opulent suite of offices.

No doubt everyone will descend to chambers beneath the foundations if there is an attack.

Poul Anderson And SM Stirling

I am informed that a character in Conquistador by SM Stirling is a Poul Anderson fan. Further, this novel shares a premise with a Poul Anderson short story. These are adequate reasons to discuss the novel on this blog but first I must buy and read a copy.

There have been two previous Anderson-Stirling connections.

(i) Both The Game Of Empire by Anderson and The Peshawar Lancers by Stirling refer to Kipling. This got me to read Kim for the first time.

(ii) Sf writers including Anderson cameo in the Prologue to Stirling's In The Courts Of The Crimson Kings. This prompted me to reflect on fictional versions of Mars in general and on Anderson's several versions in particular.

Comparisons with Wells, Stapledon and Heinlein are productive and Stirling is now definitely on this list.

Meaning In Mystery And Death As Completion

While exploiting other races’ religions, Aycharaych himself sees meaning in mystery and death as a completion. He pities God, the immortal and omniscient. (The Chereionites, who were also the Ancients, were not necessarily theistic. Aycharaych, the last Chereionite, might speak figuratively either because he works for Merseia or because, in the Sky Cave, he addresses the Terrestrial, Flandry. As a telepath, he knows how to influence his opponents.)

This italicized passage has been copied from an article on CS Lewis and James Blish. See here. One section of the article, called "Ten American Future Historians and Four Related Authors," summarizes coverage of religion in several future histories, including Anderson's. 

Why does Aycharaych pity God? If God is omniscient, then He lacks mystery. But, if meaning is in mystery, then God has no meaning. And, if God is immortal and death is completion, then God is incomplete. I think that Aycharaych's conclusions follow from his premises although I do not accept the premises.

From Mars To The Terran Empire

I cannot predict where the blog will take us. We were on Mars for a long time but suddenly we are back in the History of Technic Civilization. How did that happen?

Tiring for a while of what seemed to have become an endless series of visions of Mars, I instead contemplated Poul Anderson's works as a whole, here, then focused on another part of those works, the part that describes the corridors of power controlling the massive defense apparatus of the Terran Empire.

My attention is now hovering above Dominic Flandry's timeline although I am unsure how much I will find to post about that has not already been posted about. In any case, I will now close for today or rather for yesterday since it is nearly 1.00 AM.

Glory to the Emperor!

Shortening The Dark Age

According to the blurb on the back of Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), Dominic Flandry:

"...sees the rot in the Terran Empire on every hand and knows that the Long Night will inevitably fall upon the galaxy. His consolation is that measures he has taken while fighting to postpone the final collapse may shorten the coming galactic dark age and hasten the rise of a new interstellar civilization."

Sounds familiar? Replace Flandry with Seldon and Terran Empire with Galactic Empire and we are almost reading a summary of Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy. But there are a few other differences:

Asimov did not use the term "Long Night," which Anderson perhaps overuses;

Asimov capitalized the "g" of "galaxy;"

Seldon did not fight to postpone the Fall of the Galactic Empire but did try to manipulate events to shorten the dark age;

the Terran Empire governs a four hundred light year diameter volume of space which is way short of the entire galaxy;

Flandry hoped to shorten the dark age by strengthening individual planets like Nyanza and Dennitza, not by applying a predictive social science.

"'I'd like to have Nyanza well populated. When the Long Night comes for Terra, somebody will have to carry on. It might as well be you.'" (Captain Flandry, p. 339)

If anyone thinks that Anderson's History of Technic Civilization plagiarizes Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, then think again. It is different and much better.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

The Twilight Of The Terran Empire

Did Hank Davis, Compiler of Baen Books' The Technic Civilization Saga, write the blurbs? This one is quite good:

"It is the twilight of the Terran Empire. The warriors who made it great are long gone now, and the traders of the Polesotechnic League who made it possible are the dimly-remembered stuff of legend. Alien enemies prowl its outer precincts, and Sector Governors conspire for the Throne of Man. On Terra herself, those who occupy the labyrinthine corridors of power busy themselves with trivialities and internal politics, as outside the final darkness gathers."
-Young Flandry (New York, 2010), back cover.

The blurb deploys evocative terms and phrases: twilight; Empire; warriors; legend; enemies prowling; Throne; not only "corridors of power" but "labyrinthine" ones; the final darkness gathering.

The warriors that made the Empire great include the Founder who, in the previous volume, led a slave revolt, seized a slaver ship and attacked the slavers' planet. How did the League make the Empire possible? It "...spread a truly universal civilization..." (The Van Rijn Method, p. 146), which the Empire took over when the previous system of government had broken down.

Alien enemies include not only a rival imperialism but also barbarians armed with spaceships and nuclear weapons by unscrupulous traders - the other side of the League. The corridors of power include the city-sized Admiralty Center where Flandry receives his orders in the third Young Flandry novel.

The second paragraph of this blurb describes Flandry as "...blazing a trail across the galaxy..." whereas, of course, in this era, known space comprises only one outer part of a single spiral arm. Anderson's text is more considered and restrained than an extravagant blurb.

Praise for Poul Anderson

On the back cover of Poul Anderson, Young Flandry (New York, 2010):

"One of science fiction's giants."
-Arthur C Clarke.

"A Master!"
-Robert Jordan.

"Poul Anderson immerses you in the future...Anderson puts you into a whole new world."
-Larry Niven.

"These are stories of the classic science fiction tradition: hard science and tough characters in logically well integrated action stories."
-Jerry Pournelle.

"Poul Anderson probably does more things well than anyone else in the field. A thorough grasp of language, history, science, and the human spirit make him a possession for all time..."
-Harry Turtledove.

"The winner of seven Hugos and three Nebulas...one of the towering figures of modern SF and fantasy."
-Publishers Weekly.

Each of these six comments says something different. Publishers Weekly imparts information. Sf fans, as represented by the World Science Fiction Convention, give annual Hugo awards for best novel, short story, dramatic presentation etc. Sf professionals, as represented by the Science Fiction Writers of America, give annual Nebula awards in similar categories. When a novel has won a Hugo or Nebula, I think that "Winner of Hugo (or Nebula) Award for the best novel of (year)" should be displayed on the cover. "Hugo (or Nebula) winning author" should not be displayed on other books by the same writer. Publishers Weekly tells us that Anderson has won at least ten major sf awards and also writes fantasy.

Niven expresses exactly how I feel about Anderson's History of Technic Civilization.

Dr Pournelle highlights no less than four salient features:

hard science;
tough characters;
logically integrated narratives (good point);

Turtledove lists four points:

language (I have frequently commented on Anderson's vocabulary);

All of these accomplishments explain the use of the terms "giant" and "Master!"

Approaching Completion II

Although I have discussed all of Poul Anderson's works that I have been able to get hold of, there are still a lot more to be tracked down if possible. See here.

Surveying Anderson's complete canon, we see:

fictional prehistory;
a version of Atlantis;
100 BC;
the legend of Ys;
the Fall of the Roman Empire;
the Viking period in myth and history;
aliens, mermen and men in the fourteenth century;
time travelers and immortals in diverse periods;
fantasy and mystery in the twentieth century;
many alternative futures;
human and cosmic destinies;
many alternative timelines;
different kinds of universes;
a place between the universes and timelines.

We are in that place when we read Anderson's works - guests in the Old Phoenix Inn, drinking with van Rijn and Holger Danske.

Approaching Completion

(Another historic building is to be visited today.)

I have now discussed every Poul Anderson work in my possession, several of them more than once. With the passage of time, it is possible to reread a novel and to discuss it afresh - but more time has to elapse.

Two or three NESFA collections remain to be acquired but, on past form, are unlikely to contain many unfamiliar works. Also, the unfamiliar works tend to be less interesting. It is a safe bet that the the best of Poul Anderson has already been collected.

I am a big fan of good time travel fiction and regard Anderson as Wells' main successor in this respect - also a vast improvement on Twain. The NESFA collections have yielded two time travel stories:

"My Object All Sublime" contributes nothing new to the concept;
"The Barrier Moment" presents a clever but, by its nature, limited philosophical application of the concept.


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Designing A Universe

People used to imagine a breathable atmosphere not only on other planets but also between planets. In Karen Anderson's "The Piebald Hippogriff," a boy rides a hippogriff through a blue sky to a cultivable Moon but this is unadulterated fantasy. David D Levine's contribution to Old Mars is sf set in an alternative universe with different laws of physics. Lifted by balloons, Captain Kidd's ship sails through the Terrestrial, interplanetary and Martian atmospheres down to the surface of Mars where the inhabitants, for a change, are not humanoid but crab-like. (We know that we will get Martians but not what they will be like.)

We are not unfamiliar with interplanetary atmospheres. A breathable atmosphere stretches between planets with a common orbit in an ERB work and Larry Niven's Smoke Ring is a torus of breathable gasses encircling a star at a planetary distance. However, Levine's Solar atmosphere requires different laws of gravity. Thus, this story about an alternative Mars also presents an alternative history and cosmology. The cosmology could be the premise of another themed anthology.

If Poul Anderson had contributed to such an anthology, then I would expect his story to outline the alternative laws of physics enabling the Solar gravitational field to hold a breathable atmosphere enclosing the particular planetary atmospheres. Anderson might also have presented a natural philosopher speculating about an alternative universe where the planets were instead separated by the Lucretian void. Anderson's vast corpus of works enables us to speculate about how he might have contributed to later trends in sf.

Fine-Tuning Mars Fiction

Recently, I divided science fiction about Mars into three periods:

Old or pre-Mariner;
New or post-Mariner;
retro -

- and stated that Poul Anderson's fictional versions of Mars were New. But the dates do not bear this out. However, I now think that Old Mars had two phases:

the earliest, ERBian, idea of a humanly habitable and inhabited Mars, usually the setting for sword fights although Ray Bradbury and CS Lewis changed that;

a later recognition that Mars is not humanly habitable combined with the idea that it may nevertheless be inhabited.

Anderson's Mars fiction is not New but Old, later phase. Post-Mariner versions of Mars are less likely to be inhabited although Larry Niven's Martians are concealed under the sand. James Blish's Welcome To Mars, published as Mariner IV approached Mars, correctly predicted craters and explained "canals" as impact marks radiating from the craters.

The two retro-Mars volumes that I know are In The Courts Of The Crimson Kings by SM Stirling and Old Mars edited by GRR Martin and Gardner Dozois although another possible candidate for retro status is Michael Moorcock's Mars trilogy which uses time travel to place its hero on an ERB-inspired Mars.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Martian Series

Innumerable works of science fiction feature Mars, Martians or both but how many Martian series are there? If a series comprises a minimum of two installments, then Poul Anderson has a Martian series. See here.

I ask this question because I had wrongly described Old Mars as presenting fifteen original versions of Mars. In fact:

SM Stirling's "Swords of Zar-tu-Kan" is a prequel to the same author's Mars novel;

Matthew Hughes' "The Ugly Duckling" is a sequel to Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, which is itself a series;

there might be similar surprises in store in the remaining contents of the anthology.

Edwin Arnold's Lieut. Gulliver Jones, a possible source for ERB's A Princess Of Mars, ends, like Wells' The First Men In The Moon, in a way that rules out a sequel. The magic rug returns Jones to Earth, then disappears forever. However, A Princess... became a series that inspired further, imitative, series by both Otis Adelbert Kline and Michael Moorcock.

So we have identified Martian series by Anderson, Stirling, Bradbury, Burroughs, Kline and Moorcock. There are other such series on the periphery of my awareness. Poul Anderson is much better known for his many other kinds of writing but it is good to see that, with just two short stories, he does make it onto the list of authors of Martian series.

Alternative Historians

Another day spent visiting a historic building has left little time for posting -

- but where are we at with the blog? This blog has accepted that SM Stirling is a worthy successor of Poul Anderson, although it seems that, as an alternative historian, Stirling is an even worthier successor of Harry Turtledove, with whose works I am as yet barely familiar. I would welcome any correspondence comparing the alternative histories of these three authors. Anderson presents several alternative timelines and also discusses prevented divergent histories in his Time Patrol series.

Having read and posted about Stirling's alternative versions of the British Empire and of the inner Solar System, I then followed the latter series into Old Mars, an anthology co-edited by GRR Martin and Gardner Dozois. I expect that this book's fifteen original retro-visions of Mars will coalesce in memory as GRR Martin's Introduction said happened for him with the pre-Mariner fictional versions of Mars.

Allen M Steele's Martians are dark and golden-eyed and Steele cleverly gives the adjective, "artesian," a second meaning. The Martians have an artesian well while they themselves are Homo artesian, men of Ares/Mars. However, these Martian aborigines are technologically primitive and their "canals" are merely diverted rivers. In this respect, they diverge from Martin's composite Martians who were the heirs of many old and fallen civilizations.

I listed Poul Anderson's various Martian races here. Some of these appeared in more than one timeline, for example an owl-like Martian showed up in an unconnected story about the exploration of Mercury.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Request For Articles

Once again, blog readers are invited to email paulshackley@gmail.com long articles or brief notes to be published on the blog.

Why do you read Poul Anderson?
How does he compare with other fantasy, sf, historical or mystery writers that I have not mentioned?
How do you assess the moral issues raised by the Polesotechnic League, the Terran Empire or the human-AI interactions of Anderson's later future histories?
Is Nicholas van Rijn good, bad or too big for easy categorization?
Is Anderson's humorous sf successful?
Is the time travel logic of his Time Patrol series valid?
Are his aliens convincing or sometimes too anthropomorphic?
Does he realize historical periods and make them seem different from each other?
Should he have written more fantasy?
Do we want to read sequels or continuations written by other authors?
Should his works be filmed?
Which is his single most enduring work?

More On Mars

Poul Anderson has an ambiguous relationship to Mars. On the one hand, he is not among the main known writers about Mars or Martians. In this connection, over a dozen names come to mind before Anderson's. On the other hand, as this blog showed earlier this month, Anderson created over half a dozen different versions of Martians. And he would almost certainly have contributed to GRR Martin's and Gardner Dozois' Old Mars if he had still been alive when this anthology of original stories was being compiled.

In his eloquent and evocative Introduction, "Red Planet Blues," Martin refers to an amalgam or consenus vision of Mars emerging from many authors' imaginations. This vision is strengthened by an anthology that presents fifteen new original versions. The opening story, "Martian Blood" by Allen M Steele, has a humanly habitable Mars with tall, dark-skinned, humanoid natives whose similarities to Terrestrials are to be explained either by parallel evolution or by panspermia.

 I gather from SM Stirling's story, "Swords of Zar-tu-Kan," that Phobos seen from Mars would be a third the size of the Moon seen from Earth (I thought smaller) and that Deimos would be seen to crawl past it (I thought that ERB had got it wrong about either moon moving visibly).

There was a time before scientific writing and science fiction about Mars had separated. The astronomer Lowell mapped canals and oases and wrote about civilization irrigating deserts with water from the poles - as, following Lowell, did Edgar Rice Burroughs. There have been three stages of Martian sf:

Old Mars;
New (Mariner) Mars;

Sf writers have realized that they were not obliged to confine their fiction to the astronomical universe. Poul Anderson wrote mainly about New Mars but would have embraced, and surpassed at, retro-Mars if this third trend had started sooner.

Space Time Fiction

In Poul Anderson's and Gordon R Dickson's "The Adventure of the Misplaced Hound," the quadrupedal criminal indeed turns out to have been masquerading as the Hound of the Baskervilles. No surprises there.

If anyone were to read the fourth NESFA collection of Anderson's short works from cover to cover, then they would encounter the third Gunnar Heim story, the fourth Hoka story, the fourth Time Patrol story, two independent stories and a pivotal David Falkayn story one after the other. Some readers might even prefer these unexpected reappearances of familiar characters. To this extent, the collections recapture something of the unpredictability of the original magazine publication of the author's works.

I remarked recently that Captain Heim of Fox II might recall Captain Kirk of the Enterprise. However, I feel that a worthier comparison can be drawn between Anderson's interstellar fiction and some comic strip sf written for example by Alan Moore. See here.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

This Weekend

Thank you for many page views this weekend despite no new posts since Friday evening. Yesterday was a day trip to London - a long way from Lancaster. Today was an afternoon drive to view private gardens temporarily opened to the public. Despite this activity, two very brief posts have been published on other blogs. See here and here.

For this blog, the next action is to finish rereading Poul Anderson's and Gordon R Dickson's "The Adventure of the Misplaced Hound." I had forgotten that the title of this story refers to the Baskerville Hound. Also, our heroes are tracking down a quadrupedal criminal, which seems appropriate for a story featuring the Hound.

Two further points:

on Thursday, we visited a nearby stately home where a TV dramatization of "The Dancing Men" was filmed;

although the Hoka series is humorous, Anderson's serious treatment of role-playing games is, of course, "The Saturn Game."

Addendum: Old Mars has arrived.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Hokas And The End Of Time

Michael Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time are immortal decadents who can create whatever they want with energy stored by their ancestors millions of years previously. Consequently, their time is spent neither working nor learning but playing their chosen roles and, in this at least, they resemble Poul Anderson's and Gordon R Dickson's Hokas. Jherek Carnelian does not find himself falling exclusively in love with a woman who has been brought from the nineteenth century but decides to do so and is then applauded by his contemporaries for original thinking.

When Jherek has returned from a visit to the nineteenth century, it takes him a while to appreciate that no one in Victorian London was playing a role. Each was what s/he seemed to be. Anyone who appeared to be old and poor really was old and poor. This would be difficult for an End of Timer to comprehend. Unlike the Hokas, they encounter no practical limitations to the roles in which they have immersed themselves. Instead, they create and inhabit artificial or illusory landscapes and therefore never encounter any contradictions requiring rationalization.

Thus, superior technology enables End of Timers to take Hoka-type role-playing to a higher level. I think that there remains considerable scope for this idea in sf and also that it can be used to comment on our condition which combines material necessities with enacted fictions and pretenses that can be mistaken for realities.

An even busier weekend looms ahead. I do not expect even to look at a computer any time tomorrow.

Ppussjans And Hokas

Ppussjans from Ximba are:

"'...small, slim fellows, cyno-centauroid type; four legs and two arms...'" (Admiralty, p. 56)

Yet another quadrupedal race. How many in Poul Anderson's sf?

Regarding the Hokas, I do not buy intelligent alien teddy bears. On the one hand, the Hoka series is humorous sf. Therefore, its details are not meant to be taken too seriously. On the other hand, I would like to see a more serious treatment of this premise:

"'...my servant...does not consciously believe he's a mysterious East Indian; but his subconscious has gone overboard for the role, and he can easily rationalize anything that conflicts with his wacky assumptions...Hokas are somewhat like small human children, plus having the physical and intellectual capabilities of human adults. It's a formidable combination.'" (p. 58)

But is that not what we are? Protoplasm with an imagination? - that "...Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven as make the angels weep."


Since I have begun to reread Poul Anderson's and Gordon R Dickson's Sherlock Holmes pastiche, I considered posting my thoughts on the phrase, "Elementary, my dear Watson!" Fortunately, I first searched the blog to check whether I had already done so and found that I had done it twice, first in September 2013 and again in November of that same year. See here.

Both posts have the same title and begin by quoting Anderson's and Dickson's story, yet I had clearly forgotten the September post when I published the November post. This happened at least once before with two nearly identical posts on Starkadian mathematics although a search has located only one such post so the other must have a different title.

I have found the other mathematical post here by searching for "factorial N." So how much of the blog is repetition? Please feel free to search it and let me know!

Genre Stories

When a short story is published in a science fiction magazine, we know that the story is sf. Likewise with a detective magazine etc. However, an sf story published in an sf magazine might also be a detective story whereas I do not think that a detective story in a detective magazine can also be sf? Science fiction has been a more clearly delineated literary ghetto. Isaac Asimov and Larry Niven each pioneered an sf detective series within their respective future histories whereas a futuristic novel would not so easily cohere with a contemporary detective series.

In any case, a text should be self-explanatory. If a story is republished anywhere else, then its genre should be easily discernible, if not from the title, then at least from its opening passage. Poul Anderson and Gordon R Dickson needed to convey that "The Adventure of the Misplaced Hound" was:

science fiction;
an installment of an already existing series;
at least in part, a Holmesian pastiche.

They succeeded:

the story was published in Universe Science Fiction and collected in Earthman's Burden;
the title is Holmesian;
the opening sentence communicates humor by parodying a line from Gilbert and Sullivan;
the opening paragraph refers to the Inter-Being League, already familiar from previous Hoka stories, and also to the Interstellar Bureau of Investigation, clearly a detective outfit;
by the middle of the second page, we have learned that our regular hero and the visiting IBI man will visit the Tokan equivalent of England, where we might expect them to meet a Hoka Holmes, especially if we have noticed the cover of Earthman's Burden.

The Contents of NESFA Collections Vol 4

non-series stories, 12
Psychotechnic History, 4
Technic History, 2
Gunnar Heim, 1
Hoka, 1
Time Patrol, 1
"Directorate," 1
Operation..., 1
verse, 1

In this volume, "Marius," the opening story of the Psychotechnic History, immediately follows "Gypsy," a much later installment of that same future history. "Marius" is a near-future post-nuclear-war story set so close to the present that its characters had been involved in World War II whereas "Gypsy," set in a remote future of faster than light interstellar travel, recounts the origin of the space-traveling Nomad culture. Reading these two works here, there is no way to tell that they belong on the same timeline. The idea is merely to appreciate them as individual stories. "Quixote and the Windmill" and "Holmgang" recount stages of the history intermediate between these two chronological extremes.

I find it impossible to read such a collection without mentally re-cataloguing its contents. It is possible that the fifth volume will contain not a single story that I have not read before. At the same time, even already familiar stories can generate new observations and comments when they have been re-packaged and re-presented.

Thursday, 18 June 2015


How many Holmesian allusions are there in Poul Anderson's works? I will not try to list them all. However, there are major allusions in:

"Time Patrol"
"The Queen of Air and Darkness"
"The Martian Crown Jewels"
"The Adventure of the Misplaced Hound" (with Gordon R Dickson)

"Time Patrol" -

- is premised on an untold case mentioned in one of Conan Doyle's stories;
introduces Manson Everard and the Time Patrol;
cameos Holmes and Watson in a scene shared with Everard.

Thus, Holmes is seen by a time traveler. In the remaining three listed stories, he is imitated by a descendant in an extrasolar colony, by a Martian and by a Hoka. It follows that all these works are science fiction.

Since I plan to reread "...the Misplaced Hound," I here share links to some previous posts, on another blog, about the Holmes canon:

The Structure of a Series: Conan Doyle
The Structure of a Series: Conan Doyle II
The Structure of a Series: Holmes Omnibuses

Four Significant Characters

In his Editor's Introduction to the fourth NESFA collection, Rick Katze writes that Manse Everard, David Falkayn and Nicholas van Rijn are in this volume and that Dominic Flandry will also be in the fifth. These are Poul Anderson's four most significant characters. Every dedicated Anderson fan has already read everything that there is to be read about each of the four. Anderson also has many comparable characters in other series and in single works.

Between them, the four named characters represent three institutions:

the Time Patrol, founded by Danellians and staffed by human beings;
the Polesotechnic League and the Terran Empire, founded by human beings and incorporating other species.

Van Rijn and Falkayn live in the same period;
Flandry lives in a later period of the same history;
Everard lives in a different kind of history.

Everard's timeline is single and mutable, hence the need for a Time Patrol, whereas the timelines connected to the Old Phoenix Inn are many and static with no direct contact. Thus, we read seven omnibus volumes of the Technic History with no reference to the Old Phoenix but do find van Rijn in the Inn elsewhere in the Anderson canon. Thus also, Anderson imagined both a Time Patrol universe and an Old Phoenix multiverse.

Some Points About Time Travel And Admiralty

If the universe began to exist at time t-zero, then what becomes of a time traveler who, not knowing this, tries to travel to a time earlier than t-zero?

Does he enter a void?

Or does the entire universe including a time traveler with a reverse arrow of time begin to exist at t-zero? Thus, in terms of that reverse arrow of time, the past-ward traveling time traveler would cease to exist at t-zero?

Another possibility might be that the earliest moment, in this case t-zero, is like the northernmost point, the North Pole. Thus, someone who travels to the North Pole and keeps going travels south again but through another hemisphere. In the same way, a time traveler who travels to t-zero and keeps going would travel future-ward again but through a different volume of space.

There are at least three possible answers. A Poul Anderson story ends unexpectedly with one of these three.

I have got back into "Admiralty" - see the two previous posts - so will probably post more about this third Gunnar Heim story. Hard sf premises lead to human stories. If Heim merely blockades occupied New Europe indefinitely, then the human colonists, living off the land but cut off from supplies by the Aleriona occupation force, will run out of vitamin C and will have to surrender. Learning this from a freed prisoner, Heim must change his approach. But, despite the evidence about Aleriona intentions, the World Federation remains reluctant to wage war. Policy might be changed by the emotional appeal of a shipload of New European women and children entering the Solar System. So Heim has to smuggle a ship to the surface of New Europe concealing it from the Aleriona by hiding it behind a small asteroid that has been nudged into a collision course with the planet...

At each stage, Anderson combines a hard sf concept with a human issue.

Admiralty And Admiralty II

I was surprised to find a passage that is much shorter in the later version of "Admiralty." See previous post. On p. 14 of Admiralty, there is a reference to an Aleriona delegate who is called "...Admiral Cynbe ru Taren..." I did not think that the text of The Star Fox had applied Terrestrial naval terms to the Aleriona, who instead had much more elaborate - literally florid - ways to describe their own military ranks and functions, so I checked the corresponding passage in the novel. This passage, on p. 143, turns out to be much shorter, one sentence instead of two paragraphs, and not to refer to Cynbe.

However, on the question of naval terms applied to Aleriona, The Star Fox, p.24, has "Cynbe ru Taren, Intellect Master in the Garden of War, fleet admiral, and military specialist of the Grand Commission of Negotiators..." so the word "admiral" is used even if only by way of comparison with Terrestrial ranks. Anyone who has the NESFA collections and The Star Fox can, if they want to, make detailed comparisons of the texts at every such point.

The Aleriona, like the Merseian Roidhunate, are unequivocally determined to eliminate humanity. Consequently, the human characters who are prepared to wage war are in the right. Peace mongers are at best mistaken and at worst dishonest. However, Anderson shows a different situation in the sequel, Fire Time, where it is the Terrestrials who are imperialistic in their war against the Naqsa.

"The boats went forth. Heim settled himself in the main control chair and watched them..." (The Star Fox, p. 139)

How many of us read about Captain Heim and the Star Fox and remember Captain Kirk in Star Trek? However, this is serious hard sf, not a popular TV series.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Admiralty And Admiralty

The title of this post refers to two versions of a Poul Anderson text:

(i) "Admiralty," original version, republished in NESFA collections, Vol 4, Admiralty (Framingham, MA, 2011);

(ii) "Admiralty" in The Star Fox (London, 1968).

(i) fills pp. 11-55 of Admiralty and is divided into nine sections numbered 1 to 9, preceded by an unnumbered introductory page.

(ii) fills pp. 133-204 of The Star Fox and is divided into ten Chapters numbered One to Ten.

In (i), the introductory page presents a summary that is unnecessary in The Star Fox where "Admiralty" is immediately preceded by the two earlier Gunnar Heim stories. The summary informs or reminds us that:

the Phoenix region of space is about 150 light years from the Solar System;
this region contains a French colony on the planet New Europe in the Auroran System;
the alien Aleriona from the system of The Eith have occupied New Europe and are building what will become impregnable orbital defenses;
the Aleriona are opposed only by a single, well-armed privateer, Fox II, captained by Gunnar Heim;
Fox II captures Aleriona ships and sells them in the Solar System;
however, the prize crews cannot return because Fox's movements must remain unpredictable;
the Aleriona begin to arm unescorted cargo ships;
however, despite its unexpected armaments, Fox captures the ship, Meroeth;
nevertheless, this capture will end Fox's raiding missions - we must read on to find out why.

The introductory page begins with the omniscient narrator directly addressing the reader:

"Consider his problem." (p. 11)

This leads into the summary.

In (ii), Chapter One fills eight pages, presents less summary and describes the battle with Meroeth. Missiles and lasers are deployed. Meroeth's FTL drive is disabled and its captain surrenders. Heim sends a boarding party which learns that Meroeth carries human prisoners.

The second paragraphs of section 1 and of Chapter Two both begin:

"The mess seethed with men."

Crew and liberated prisoners celebrate.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Some Previously Discussed Stories

(Don't waste a good cover.)

The fourth NESFA collection includes "The Star Beast." I considered rereading this story but then found that there is already quite an extensive discussion of it on the blog. See here.

I am able to find less on "The Adventure of the Misplaced Hound," so I expect to reread this story as well as the original version of the title story, "Admiralty."

Rick Katze writes in his Editor's Introduction that he had planned 6 volumes but now expects that there will be at least 7. I cannot suggest, "Continue indefinitely," because I dislike all the duplication of already published stories. I would suggest, "Stop this series now but plan for a Complete Works with non-series short stories reprinted in several volumes in their original publication order."

I now have an agenda, at least two stories to reread and post about, other activities permitting, over the next few days. (Family visit to Preston tomorrow.) Meanwhile, in Latin class, Aeneas confronts Charon in the Underworld.