Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Four Kinds Of Writing

Poul Anderson's "Star Of The Sea" incorporates four kinds of writing:


The mythological passages imaginatively reproduce earlier stages of Northern European mythology;

the historical passages summarize the course of the Northern revolt against the Roman Empire;

the concluding section is a prayer addressed to Mary, Stella Maris;

the fictional passages are of three kinds:

historical fiction, e.g., an account of a barbarian siege of a Roman camp;
science fiction, e.g., a conversation between two time travelers in modern Amsterdam;
a synthesis, i.e., the time travelers interact with Romans and barbarians.

Comments: comprehensive and impressive.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Am I right thinking it's your view that few, if any other SF writers have handled the timei traveling theme as well as Poul Anderson? That even L. Sprague De Camp's LEST DARKNESS FALL and Ward Moore's BRING THE JUBILEE were merely pioneers in a sub genre of SF in which Anderson surpassed all others?

I would classify the "alternate universe/history" story or novel as a type of time traveling, albeit one where characters in one timeline were generally unaware of other timeslines or unable to contact or travel to them. Poul Anderson made serious and worthy contributions to this branch of SF/F as well: THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS, A MIDSUMMER TEMPEST, the two OPERATION books.

But, here is where I believe other SF writers made contributions as good as anything Anderson wrote. Or even surpassed him. Yes, I have S.M. Stirling's works in this subgenre in mind: THE PESHAWAR LANCERS, the four Draka books, the two Lords of Creation books. I'm not sure if CONQUISTADOR should be included because the "FirstSide" in that story is our actual, real, contemporary world.

Harry Turtledove has also specialized in writing "alternate history" novels and stories. Such as his GUNS OF THE SOUTH. But my favorites were his Basil Argyros stories (most of which were collected in AGENT OF BYZANTIUM), about an intelligence officer serving an Eastern Roman Empire which never had to struggle desperately for survival against militant Islam.


Paul Shackley said...

The answers to the question in your first paragraph are yes. And I agree that THE PESHAWAR LANCERS surpasses Anderson in alternative history fiction.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul

As your massively detailed commentaries on Poul Anderson's Time Patrol stories makes plain, it's very, very difficult to successfully write time traveling stories which are coherent and makes sense. Which makes Anderson's success with this subgenre all the more impressive!

Another conclusion to be drawn from all this is my belief that the only reason Anderson did not write "alternate history/universe" stories as successful as those of S.M. Stirlling's was simply his preference for writing straight forward hard science fiction and fantasy. Examples from his late phase being Anderson's four HARVEST OF STARS books, STAR FARERS, and GENESIS.

And I look forward to you reading Stirling's Draka books despite them being dystopian SF, which I know is not your cup of tea. I'm not entirely sure if Stirling's premise, speculating about what might have happened if everything that could have gone wrong had gone wrong is entirely convincing, but those Draka books were still very interesting.


Anonymous said...

Kale (whatever that means) Sean,

Excuse me, but the FirstSide in CONQUISTADOR is not quite our world; e.g., the family history of the Rolfes is different. As I recall, Stirling confirmed in an online discussion that their world is similar to ours, by comparison to the New Virginia timeline, but not the same.

Best Regards,
Nicholas D. Rosen

Anonymous said...

Oops, I meant "Kaor", not "Kale". Blankety blank autocorrect.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Nicholas!

Thanks for your comments. Responding to both here.

My use of "Kaor" comes from Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom novels, beginning with A PRINCESS OF MARS. It's a Barsoomian greeting meaning "Hello," "Hi," "Greetings," etc. It shows what a geek I am to actually use it with some persons! (Smiles)

To complete my descent into nerdiness, I even sometimes use "Donna," a polite title of respect for women to be found in Poul Anderson's Terran Empire stories. (Laughs)

Yes, I did see in the Appendix in CONQUISTADOR where Stirling discussed how FirstSide differs from OUR world in showing a somewhat different Rolfe family history. But FirstSide seems so MUCH like our actual world that I interpreted this tiny difference as simply a means used by Stirling to advance the plot of CONQUISTADOR. I still find it very easy to think FirstSide is meant to show our world. But I obviously have to defer to Stirling's views!

I also think the Earth seen in DRAKON, the fourth of Stirling's Draka novels, showing a female Drakensis being hurled by a wormhole accident to an alternate world, is meant to be our Earth as well.