Thursday, 25 February 2016

More On American Future Histories

I listed four Campbell-edited future historians (Heinlein, Asimov, Blish and Anderson) but maybe should have included a fifth:

"H. Beam Piper was first and last a John W. Campbell writer, his first SF story, "Time and Time Again," appeared in Astounding in April 1946, and his last, "Down Styphon!," in Analog in November 1965."
-John F. Carr, "The Terrohuman Future History of H. Beam Piper" IN Bulletin of the Science Fiction Writers of America, Fall 1979.

However, returning to the authors that I do know something about, Poul Anderson not only wrote hard science fiction in the tradition of Robert Heinlein  but also, and completely independently of JRR Tolkien, wrote heroic fantasies derived from Norse mythology. These two literary traditions converged when Heinleinian sf writer Jerry Pournelle included "Sauron supermen" in his CoDominium future history.

In The Mote In God's Eye (London, 1979), Niven's and Pournelle's characters speculate as to whether isolated extrasolar colonists might not only regress sociologically but also evolve biologically. The concluding installments of Poul Anderson's Technic History address this question.

Mote presents its own distinctive version of hyperspace: instantaneous transit along "tramlines" (p. 32) between certain stars, with the usual restriction that this kind of travel is impossible from too deep within a gravity well. Travel time is necessary to and from tramline end points. By contrast, I think that the version of hyperspace in Anderson's Technic History is unique because it involves many instantaneous quantum jumps through normal, familiar, 3D space, not through any other kind of space.

We recognize Anderson-type world-building in the description of the New Caledonia star system on pp. 32-34 of Mote. I do not think that Heinlein did this? Direct Imperial rule of New Chicago after the defeat of its rebellion recalls the comparable situation on Aeneas in Anderson's The Day Of Their Return.

For the nationality of a space warship's Chief Engineer, Niven and Pournelle follow neither Heinlein nor Anderson but Star Trek:

"Like many engineering officers, Sinclair was from New Scotland. His heavy accent was common among Scots throughout space." (p.15)

How can a handful of writers create such fascinating texts? It continues to be a blast.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I am glad you are having fun reading Niven/Pournelle's THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE! I did, every time I read the book.

And one point I recall from reading Pournelle's essay "Building the Mote in God's Eye" was that if you are going to have an INTERSTELLAR government, whatever its form may be, then you need a FTL drive. Because it simply would not be practical otherwise.