Sunday, 27 March 2016

"The Shadows, Like Life..."

ADDENDUM: To read something new, see here and HERE.

I am borrowing Ketlan's lap top because the second hand computer that I have been using has died and there will be a delay before it is replaced. Consequently, blog activity will become sporadic although hopefully will continue. Thank you for recent page views and comments.

I hope that recently I have inspired or revived in some blog readers an interest in future histories. I have been fascinated by this sf sub-genre for decades and it just gets better. Parts of the Man-Kzin Wars period of Larry Niven's Known Space future history are mini-histories within the longer history, as are the early Imperial and post-Imperial ages of Poul Anderson's Technic History.

Remember that Wells and Stapledon wrote future histories before Heinlein but did it differently and that Anderson, following Heinlein, made immense and unique contributions - but I have demonstrated this repeatedly.

I am continually reminded of the comprehensiveness of Sean M Brooks' contributions to this blog (see here) and hopefully these also will continue.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Overlapping Trilogies II

See here.

The Correct Reading Order?
"The Children's Hour"
"The Asteroid Queen" (FTL introduced)
"In The Hall Of The Mountain King" (Tyra's father referenced)
"Inconstant Star" (Tyra's father rescued)

My only uncertainty is whether "Iron" belongs before or after "In The Hall..." If the latter, then the reading order can be summarized as:

the Pournelle-Stirling trilogy
the Anderson trilogy

Further rereading and other readers' comments should clarify this point.  

Man-Kzin Wars X: The Wunder War, a tetralogy by Hal Colebatch, is also relevant. These ten works could be re-presented in three volumes. But there are many more Man-Kzin Wars installments. Meanwhile, Ringworld has become a tetralogy and the Fleet of Worlds has become a trilogy. Known Space is vast indeed.

Overlapping Trilogies

(I have discovered that "Man-Kzin Wars IX" looks like "Man-Kzin War Six" if it is typed in lower case without punctuation or spaces.)

"Iron" by Poul Anderson is in The Man-Kzin Wars (1988).

"The Children's Hour" by Jerry Pournelle & SM Stirling is in Man-Kzin Wars II (1989).

"The Asteroid Queen" by JE Pournelle & SM Stirling and "Inconstant Star" by Poul Anderson are in Man-Kzin Wars III (1990).

"In The Hall Of The Mountain King" by Jerry Pournelle & SM Stirling is in Man-Kzin Wars V (1992).

"Pele" by Poul Anderson is in Man-Kzin Wars IX (2002).

Each of these trilogies should be read in the order of publication. However, how do they relate to each other chronologically? I think that "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" precedes "Inconstant Star." However, any such judgment is subject to further reading/rereading and to other readers' comments.

Future histories are a subject of endless research.

The Two Man-Kzin Wars Trilogies

I am realizing that I have not read Jerry Pournelle's and SM Stirling's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" before. At least, it is not raising any memories. (In Man-Kzin Wars V, this story is "In the Hall..." on the contents and title pages but "The Hall..." on the tops of pages.)

The present plan is to finish reading this story. Over 100 pages to go: it is really a novel. It is interesting as a well-written installment of a future history and as overlapping with Poul Anderson's contributions to the same future history. I will probably reread Anderson's Man-Kzin trilogy in order to trace its connections with the Pournelle-Stirling trilogy. In any case, I have read Anderson's third Man-Kzin story only once so far, which is not enough.

These six works make a good series in their own right and as a turning point in Larry Niven's Known Space future history. Like Anderson's Psychotechnic History, Known Space divides into an STL and an FTL period. Niven shows STL interstellar warfare in Protector. Anderson shows such warfare, but only between two nearby planetary systems, in "Time Lag." The nature of man-kzin conflict changes dramatically when men acquire the hyperdrive at the end of the second Pournelle-Stirling story.

I may or may not read Man-Kzin Wars stories by other authors. The focus of this blog remains Poul Anderson and related writers, not Known Space, which is a whole other subject.

Futures Reassess Pasts II

(Roman remains, Lancaster.)

See here.

If we are to understand a fictitious future, then we must understand its, very different, perspective on our present and past. A character in William Morris' News From Nowhere refers to "...those poor wretches of the twentieth century."

Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series has time travelers active throughout history whereas his The Boat Of A Million Years has a small group of immortals surviving through history into an indefinite future. Jerry Pournelle's and SM Stirling's "The Hall of the Mountain King" has "the Brotherhood" surviving through history into the period of the Man-Kzin Wars. We learn that Frederick Barbarossa and Lenin were members who rebelled and were crushed.

I would have appreciated a historical novel by Anderson featuring a character whom the reader recognizes as a time traveler or an immortal but only from having read other works. Historical novels assuming the active presence of the Brotherhood would certainly present a different perspective!

Future Catholicisms

(St Peter's Cathedral, Lancaster.)

There is:

a Jerusalem Catholic Church in Poul Anderson's Technic History;

a Neocatholic Church in Anderson's For Love And Glory;

a Reform Catholic Church in Anderson's Starfarers;

a Reformed Catholic Church on Wunderland in Jerry Pournelle's and SM Stirling's "The Hall of the Mountain King";

an Imperial Church, recognizably Catholic, in Pournelle's CoDominium future history.

Anderson and Pournelle present the inner thoughts and points of view of characters who subscribe to their future versions of Catholicism whereas Pournelle & Stirling, at least in the passage to which I refer, merely mention that there is a Reformed Catholic church in a town among the Jotun Mountains. Nevertheless, this is enough to establish the existence of such a Church.

"The Hall of the Mountain King" is an installment of the Man-Kzin Wars sub-series of Larry Niven's Known Space future history. Thus, this single reference establishes the existence of a Reformed Catholic Church in the Known Space timeline. This denomination may never be referred to again. Alternatively, some contributor to the series could build a story around it. How was the Church "reformed"? Might a kzinti Kdaptist, believing that God made Man in His image, seek admittance to a Terrestrial religion? Etc. See here.

Contrasts And Continuities

(Good Friday. Good weather. Long walk along the River Lune. See image.)

I am impressed by the contrast yet continuity between HG Wells' The Shape Of Things To Come and Larry Niven's Man-Kzin Wars franchise universe, also by the extent of Poul Anderson's contribution to this literary sequence:

not just one future history but eight or nine and of different types;

a Man-Kzin Wars trilogy that is a sequel to Jerry Pournelle's and SM Stirling's Man-Kzin Wars trilogy;

one War World work.

Wells presents twentieth century conflicts and a twenty first century resolution, a World State, as do some American future historians - the Space Patrol,  the Un-Men, the ARM etc. The Man-Kzin Wars are an interstellar conflict with a longer term resolution: tamer kzinti, although don't tell them that. The kzinti are like the barbarians in Anderson's Technic History, savages given spaceships and nuclear weapons by another race. Trotsky called this "uneven but combined development": Native Americans given rifles by Europeans; large factories in Tsarist Russia - serfs proletarianized in a single generation; not gradual change but sudden upheaval and social revolution.


Wells' airmen;
Stapledon's seventeen successive sapient species, including winged Venerians and Neptunian Last Men, then his Cosmic Mind and Star Maker;
Heinlein's astrogators;
Bradbury's Martians;
Asimov's robots and psychohistorians;
Blish's medieval monks, modern magicians, Lithians, Okies, pantropists, Angels, Traitors and Service agents;
Anderson's Un-Men, Ythrians, Maurai, asterites, Rustumites, Kith and sophotects;
Niven's Belters, ARM's, kzinti and protectors;
Pournelle's mercenaries;
Niven's and Pournelle's Moties -

- and, in the words of one Blish character, go with God! (In fact, He is already on the list.)

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Mixed Ecologies

"Woodlots were the deep green of Terran oak and the orange-green of Kzin, tall frondlike growths in Wunderland's reddish ocher."
-Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling, "The Hall of the Mountain King" IN Larry Niven, Ed., Man-Kzin Wars V (New York, 1992), pp. 5-202 AT p. 38.

Human colonists and kzinti conquerors have imported trees to the Alpha Centaurian planet of Wunderland. Thus, the vegetation is green, orange and red.

For similar scenes on the human-Ythrian colony planet of Avalon, see here, then follow the link to a post on the human colony planet of Aeneas. On Nike (see also here), there is blue-tinted pale green native vegetation but:

"Otherwise, the country had been taken over by the more efficient, highly developed species that man commonly brought with him."
-Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), p. 484.

These are:

grass overwhelming psuedo-moss that thrives only in shade.

On Lokon:

"Clover was another of those life forms that man had brought with him from Old Earth, to more planets than anyone now remembered..." (Flandry's Legacy, pp. 665-666)

However, either the life forms adapt to alien environments or genetic drift changes them at random. Thus, they are often unrecognizable, as humanity must eventually become. We think of man the conqueror but it seems that we should add oak, grass, clover etc to the list.

Future History Building

"'The humans must have either great luck, or more knowledge than is good...'" (Man-Kzin Wars III, p. 60)

"Was General Early a military genius, or incredibly lucky?" (Man-Kzin Wars V, p. 15)

Twice, Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling mention luck. Later in Larry Niven's Known Space History, the Puppeteers, theorizing that luck is a psychic power, successfully breed human beings for luck by influencing the UN to establish a Birthright Lottery. Although human acquisition of the hyperdrive just in time to defeat the kzinti looks like very good luck, it was in fact arranged by the Puppeteers as part of their project to breed tamer kzinti. (Of course, it was lucky for humanity that Puppeteers existed and interacted with kzinti in just this way. Also, the kzinti attack was lucky because it saved humanity from stagnation.)

The Thrintun's three-armed slave technicians remind us of Niven's and Pournelle's three-armed Moties while the Jotoki, even more versatile, have five arms. (I would never have thought of giving aliens an uneven number of limbs.)

Harold's Terran Bar is an excellent invention. The characters who meet there even include one unemployed veteran and two defeated kzinti who then seek work together. The Bar, invented (I think) by Pournelle & Stirling, is also visited by Poul Anderson's characters. It will be illuminating to trace the connections between Pournelle's & Stirling's and Anderson's contributions to Niven's future history. We have come a long way from a single author writing a single novel comprising an entire future history.

Futures Reassess Pasts

HG Wells wrote history and future history: An Outline Of History and The Shape Of Things To Come are almost companion titles.

Olaf Stapledon's Last And First Men and Last Men In London are companion volumes. The first is a future history and the second is one Last Man's assessment of past history.

Poul Anderson's The Boat Of A Million Years combines historical sf with future history. As in James Blish's Cities In Flight, future history ceases to be generational when the characters become immortal but centuries continue to elapse nevertheless.

Anderson's Genesis summarizes past history before proceeding into a remote future. And that future restores primordial themes when a member of the new human race, perceiving artificial intelligences as gods and wizards, embarks on a Quest to help one AI against another. Meanwhile, the Terrestrial AI "emulates" (consciously simulates) historical periods and alternative histories.

Anderson's complete works include many historical fictions and fictional futures and several alternative histories.

According to Jerry Pournelle's and SM Stirling's "The Asteroid Queen," Marx, Charlemagne, Hitler and Brennan (the Belter who became a protector) were all members of the same ancient, secret, world-controlling Brotherhood. Not in our timeline! And maybe not in the Known Space timeline either? The Brotherhood suppresses knowledge and propagates:

"...slanted versions of past, present, and future." (Man-Kzin Wars V, p. 26) -

- so maybe it lies to itself about its own past?

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Some Parallels II

"'The shadow of the God lies on us... We will go to Him together, the hunt will give Him honor.'"
-Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling, "The Children's Hour" IN Larry Niven, Ed, Man-Kzin Wars III, pp. 35-166 AT p. 164.

This sounds like a mixture of Merseian ("...the God...") and Ythrian ("The shadow...," "...the hunt will give Him honor...") However, it is a kzin.

Niven's Thrints' Power is Asimov's Mule's Power. The Mule was like the single alien in a humans only galaxy until we learned that he was a rebel Gaian - and that the robots were behind Gaia. Robots are like artificial protectors.

The Mule, Gaia and robots are in Asimov's Galactic Empire future history;
Merseians and Ythrians are in Anderson's Technic History;
kzinti, Thrintun and protectors are in Niven's Known Space History.

I have gained a new perspective of looking sideways across these future histories instead of chronologically along each in turn.

The conclusion of "The Children's Hour" is the turning point between the STL and FTL periods of Known Space. Poul Anderson showed STL interstellar warfare in "Time Lag," which is, perhaps, the culmination of his ninth future history.

Some Parallels

In Poul Anderson's Technic History:

one Chereionite telepath works for the Merseians;

a dying Marine says, "'...don't eat me, mother...'" (Captain Flandry, p. 306);

the Ardazirho remind Flandry of wolves;

he interrogates one by sensory deprivation.

In Jerry Pournelle's and SM Stirling's "The Asteroid Queen":

the kzinti are feline;

a few are telepathic;

Harold interrogates one by sensory deprivation;

when allowed to speak, the interrogated kzin says, "'DON'T EAT ME MOTHER...'" (Man-Kzin Wars III, p. 133).

Thus, a few parallels between two future histories. If we assume parallel universes, whether as a fictional premise or as a scientific theory, then there must be some laws governing the parallels. L Sprague de Camp suggested that periods when many world-lines intersect might be periods when it is easier to be transported into the past. Similarly, parallel events might occur at moments when it is easier to travel between universes.

Inter-universal travelers will expect other worlds to be like theirs. A DC Comics super-villain, when told that there was one Earth where no one had acquired any superpowers, thus that in that world the only place to read about superheroes or super-villains was in comic books, not in newspapers, remarked, "Seems unlikely..."

Sensory Descriptions

Currently, this blog contemplates multiple future histories of three kinds: Wellsian, Heinleinian and later Andersonian. See here. Future historical issues range from the ultimate fate of the universe to the details of military strategy. In Anderson's Technic History, Aeneans ambush Terrans whereas, during a Man-Kzin War, human guerillas ambush kzinti.

On Aeneas, the ambushers see many-colored leaves while their leader shivers, hears a rustling tree and flowing water and smells the faint odor of the native equivalent of grass. On Wunderland, the guerillas feel cold, see native squidgrass growing under imported roses and orange kzinti raaairtwo among green mutated alfalfa and smell the roses.

Thus, when presenting the viewpoints of individual conscious beings, Anderson and Pournelle & Stirling sustain the literary technique of appealing to at least three of the senses. At the opposite end of the spectrum of future historical writing, Stapledon summarizes historical eras in a few sentences and Anderson recounts millions of years of Solar history on a single page. See here.

Cosmic History

Poul Anderson, Genesis (New York, 2001).

Some time in our future, it is known that, nine thousand years after that, the Solar System will begin a hundred thousand year long passage through a denser region of the interstellar medium. See here.

The Solar System orbits around galactic center once in nearly two hundred million years. Artificial intelligences protect Earth from:

cosmic clouds;
lethal radiation emitted by supernovae, gamma ray bursters or neutron star collisions.

When necessary, a shield larger than Earth is constructed from interplanetary matter. Preparing for passage close to another star takes a million years and coping with the consequences takes three million. AI mitigates the effects of climates changes and grinding crustal plates but then changes policy and instead observes life adapting.

Self-evolving consciousness spreads among the evolving stars.

Kinds Of Fictitious Histories

We might make a fourfold distinction:

Heinleinian and early Andersonian future histories;
later Andersonian future histories;
Wellsian and Stapledonian future histories;
Stapledonian cosmic history.

This list is conceptual, not chronological. 

The basic distinction is that a Wellsian/Stapledonian future history is:

(i) not a series but a single work;

(ii) not a novel with characters and conversations but a fictitious historical text book.

Thus, we read about the Norman Conquest in a History of England and about Martian invasions of Earth not only in a novel by Wells but also in a future history by Stapledon.

Stapledon's future history covers not just a historical period but the entire future of humanity while his Star Maker summarizes the evolution of consciousness in the cosmos. What has this to do with Poul Anderson? Quite a lot:

Anderson modeled his first future history on Heinlein's;
Anderson's second future history grew into the Heinlein model without pre-planning;
Anderson's last two future histories are respectively a tetralogy and a novel - thus, neither is a series of shorter works;
Anderson's last future history synthesizes Heinleinian future history with Stapledonian cosmic history because some of its chapters are set in future periods whereas others describe cosmological processes. 

Not Only Times But Also Places

A future history series should feature places where some of the characters live, work or spend time so that the reader vicariously experiences not only the passage of time, biographical, generational, historical - even geological and cosmological - but also a number of fully realized physical locations. History is temporal but historical events are spatiotemporal and sometimes contemporaneous. John Ridenour is on Freehold and Chunderban Desai is on Aeneas while Dominic Flandry pursues his career in Intelligence. Earlier, some Polesotechnic League stories had overlapped.

The Rebel Worlds introduces some locations on Aeneas, then most of The Day Of Their Return is set on that planet. Nicholas van Rijn has a penthouse in Chicago Integrate and Dominic Flandry has an apartment in Archopolis. However, these characters move around so much that what we get is a quick succession of places and planets although each of these is realized in detail. We see Flandry in his office at Intelligence Headquarters only once in his entire series.

In the Man-Kzin Wars series, Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling take the trouble to establish the setting of Harold's Terran Bar which Anderson reuses. In one scene, we see this nightspot when it is empty in daylight. Only the proprietor and the bribe-accepting police chief meet and eat:

egg and potato salad;
gulyas soup -

- although the police chief has only a croissant and espresso. More for our food thread.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Three Temporal Dimensions

We experience one temporal and three spatial dimensions and imagine a second temporal dimension to accommodate parallel universes with alternative histories but I suggest that science fiction future histories can be represented as occupying three temporal dimensions. I have listed several series that can be viewed as parallels. For example, Asimov's Galactic Empire, Anderson's Terran Empire and Pournelle's Empire of Man are three interstellar empires built by human beings with faster than light drives. Thus, we can move sideways in time to compare these three empires. The Galactic Empire encounters no alien intelligences (or one if we count a single short story), the Empire of Man encounters one and the Terran Empire encounters many. These are differences within comparable scenarios.

However, Anderson introduces another temporal direction. His later future histories present not more parallels but a progressive examination of different kinds of future history:

if current civilization is destroyed by nuclear war, then a successor civilization might for a long time ban any technologies that would lead to a resumption of space travel;

if there is no faster than light drive, then interstellar colonization and trade, without any imperialism over such long distances, must occur at relativistic speeds;

and what if the other intelligences encountered by human beings are not alien but artificial?

Anderson present two parallels in his first two future histories but then transcends the parallels by soaring upwards in a different direction. 

Subsequent Readings And Subsequent Series

Rereading a favorite novel or series is part of our comfort zone even when the fictional characters experience extreme discomfort in a major war, Prophetic Interregnum, Dark Age, Time of Troubles, Long Night etc. During the first reading of a novel, we expect a "happy ending" or at least a satisfactory resolution whereas, on subsequent readings, we remember at least in general terms how the book ended and can instead appreciate the various narrative details. I have frequently demonstrated that Poul Anderson's works are particularly worthy of being reread.

A future history series can become a familiar mini-universe. We need to remember that each such series covers hundreds or thousands of years involving major conflicts for generations of fictional characters. Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization begins with psychological problems in the Saturnian system in the twenty first century and ends, millennia later, with an intercultural problem in a globular cluster in another spiral arm. Human beings act and interact not only in their immemorial Terrestrial environment but also in the vast spaces that are hostile to organic life.

Science fiction makes us feel familiar with such exotic scenarios whereas reality always turns out to be different from what was imagined. Anderson abandoned his first future history because:

"That clutter of props and backdrops came nowhere near hinting at the variety, strangeness, and sheer wonder of the real universe..."
-SFWA Bulletin, Fall 1979, p. 8.

He worked with different models that progressively diverged from earlier sf ideas.


The author(s) of an established future history can inform us about earlier periods of the history in two ways:

(i) installments written later can be set earlier - prequels;

(ii) installments written later can be set later but can divulge for the first time information about earlier periods.

(i) Robert Heinlein described DD Harriman's death before he recounted how Harriman "sold the Moon."

Poul Anderson described Dominic Flandry's career before writing the Young Flandry Trilogy and also described interstellar exploration before interplanetary exploration.

(ii) Heinlein reveals that the Howard Families have existed throughout his Future History, that some Howards were involved in the revolutionary Cabal and that Andy Libby is a Howard.

The Last Flandry novel reveals the existence of the Dakotian and Zacharian communities and also recapitulates some earlier events from a different perspective.

In Jerry Pournelle's and SM Stirling's "The Asteroid Queen," two characters encountered earlier, a United Nations Space Navy general and an oyabun in the Alpha Centauri System, turn out to be members of a Grail Brotherhood that has suppressed knowledge of the Slavers for three centuries. How plausible is this? (Some people think that this is how society is run.) If "The Asteroid Queen" is a canonical part of Larry Niven's Known Space future history, then this Brotherhood exists in the background of every other installment even though not explicitly referenced.


See Teleportation, "Beam Me Up" and here.

In Jerry Pournelle's and SM Stirling's "The Children's Hour," transfer booths are described as "...instantaneous transportation..." (Man-Kzin Wars II, p. 215) whereas, in the same authors' "The Asteroid Queen," the booths are referred to as "...lightspeed psuedo-teleporation." (Man-Kzin Wars III, p. 80)

Travel via the booths is subjectively instantaneous but objectively lightspeed but how is the teleportation "psuedo-"? I think that any kind of teleportation represents a much higher level of technology than is evidenced elsewhere in this period of the Known Space future history. Does Poul Anderson rationalize it in any way in his contributions to the series?

At present, I am regarding two Man-Kzin Wars trilogies, the first by Pournelle and Stirling and the second by Anderson, as a single sub-series to be analyzed as a unit. Anything said in one of these six works might reverberate in any of the others. The transfer booths are an obvious point to ask questions about. If Anderson had introduced the idea, then he would have devised an appropriate rationalization but how does he respond to transfer booths when they are already present in a shared scenario?

Monday, 21 March 2016

Seeing Far

Who wrote this?

A time traveler visits the far future;
men traverse interplanetary space;
Martians invade Earth;
there will be wars and revolutions;
an alternative history unfolds on a parallel Earth.

I have just summarized five major sf works by HG Wells - and also by Poul Anderson.

Moving on from Wells:

Stapledon gave us cosmic sf;

Capek gave us robots;

de Camp gave us a time traveler changing history;

Heinlein gave us a future history series, a generation ship, science fictional treatment of immortality, juvenile sf, elaborate circular causality and magic as technology;

Asimov gave us robotics and a predictive science of society;

Anderson developed all of these themes.

The blog has entered territory where we are comparing future histories, including several by Anderson, and assessing collaborative future histories. Thus:

Niven created a future history series that includes a period of wars between men and kzinti;
Pournalle and Stirling wrote stories set in this period;
Anderson wrote sequels to Pournelle's and Stirling's Man-Kzin Wars stories.

We have come a long way from Wells' Martians invading Earth but are clearly in the same literary tradition. We find Anderson seeing far because he stands on the shoulders of:

de Camp
Stirling -

- and we have not yet mentioned Mary Shelley, creator of science fiction and of the Frankenstein theme developed further by Capek, Asimov and Anderson.

Multiple Authorship

In a future history series, we value length and complexity. Multiple authorship increases both. I used to think that future histories should be multiply authored. Now that franchise universes have been published, what do we think?

(i) Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization achieves both length and complexity with single authorship.

(ii) The Man-Kzin Wars period of Larry Niven's Known Space History is considerably enhanced by (at least) three long contributions from Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling and (just) three long contributions from Poul Anderson.

Anderson's contributions, set in the FTL period, build on Pournelle's and Stirling's contributions, set in the earlier STL period. For example, Pournelle and Stirling introduce a bar and a character that Anderson reuses. Thus, these six works, which could be collected in two volumes, comprise a substantial section of this future history.

It becomes even less feasible to consider one author in isolation from others. We might attempt a comprehensive assessment of the Pournelle/Stirling/Anderson joint contribution to the Niven future history.


We, or at least I, think of interstellar future histories as either FTL, e.g., Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic and Technic Histories, or STL, e.g., Anderson's Maurai, Flying Mountains, Rustum, Kith, Harvest Of Stars and Genesis histories or Larry Niven's Leshy Circuit series.

(The mostly Earth-bound Maurai History goes interstellar in the time travel novel, There Will Be Time.)

However, some future histories have an STL period followed by an FTL period:

Robert Heinlein's Future History has generation ships, then Libby's FTL drive;

the Psychotechnic History has a generation ship, then the hyperdrive;

in Larry Niven's Known Space History, the Thrintun had FTL but the Pak did not;

also in Known Space, the early Man-Kzin Wars were fought at sub-light speeds but men won decisively when they had acquired the hyperdrive.

In an STL period or history, interstellar journeys last for objective decades or centuries but the travelers benefit from time dilation which alters perceptions of aging and of social change.

Two kinds of -

- imaginative fiction: fantasy and sf;
- sf: hard and soft;
- future history: British and American;
- interstellar travel: STL and FTL;
- time travel: circular causality and causality violation. 

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Neutral Advisors

"...Conservors were utterly neutral, bound by their oaths to serve only the species as a whole."
-Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling, "The Asteroid Queen" IN Larry Niven, Ed., Man-Kzin Wars III (New York, 1990), p. 59.

This reminded me of something that I had posted recently. Since I had made a comparison with "a celibate priesthood," I searched the blog for this phrase and found that I had referred to Motie Mediators.

Another comparison could be with a Pak (or human) protector who manages to adopt the entire Pak (or human) species as his kin. On the Ringworld, ghouls make ideal protectors because they must protect all other species as their own food source. I think that Poul Anderson's many imaginary societies include some with neutral advisors loyal to the society as a whole  - if anyone can remember an example?

I learned to practice neutrality as a Careers Advisor. Some pupils at a Catholic school told me that they wanted to leave the school as soon as possible in order to get away from the religion whereas another told me that he wanted to attend a Cardinal Newman College precisely because it was Catholic. I helped each pupil to do what s/he wanted and therefore had to disagree with a Teacher who thought that the pupils should stay at the school.


When, in Jerry Pournelle's and SM Stirling's "The Asteroid Queen," a kzinti Conservor of the Ancestral Past recites the Law, the astute reader might hear echoes of:

Merseian religion -

"As the God is Sire to the Patriarch..."
-Larry Niven, Ed., Man-Kzin Wars III (New York, 1990), p. 57.

Merseian social organization -

"...the officer is the hand of the Sire." (ibid.)

and Ythrian religion -

"...the Patriarch bares stomach to the fangs of the God..." (ibid.)

Also, a reference to "'...feral humans in the mountains...'" (p. 58) might remind us that the Draka describe free human beings as feral serfs.

My point of course is not that one work merely imitates the others but that all of these works are worthy of our attention. Kzinti are not just Merseians with feline features instead of green skins. Ythrian psychology and social organization reflect alien biology and physiology. And the Draka are what human beings might become! Read them all. 

Interstellar Slavers and AIs

Larry Niven's Thrintun or Slavers enslave other rational species with hypnotic telepathy. Poul Anderson's Merseians enslave other rational species. Ydwyr, a Merseian, was trained by the telepath, Aycharaych, and reconditions a human women hypnotically. Thus, the Merseians and their Chereionite ally cannot match the Slavers but are the next best thing.

In several of Anderson's works, artificial intelligences generate virtual realities which, when experienced, are indistinguishable from actual realities. An AI in "The Asteroid Queen" by Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling simulates an exploding monobloc and senses it across multiple spectra. Objective nanoseconds but subjective eons later, the simulated matter dissipates as monatomic hydrogen across just ten light years. The AI reruns the program with altered constants.

Is this possible? A mathematical limit is endlessly approached but never reached. Light speed is this kind of limit for any particle with mass. If, between the objective times, t1 and t2, an AI runs a program for which t2 is a mathematical limit, then the AI lives forever in the finite time t1-t2 (I think).

Doomsday And Judgment

In Poul Anderson's After Doomsday, the crews of two interstellar spaceships have survived the genocidal sterilization of Earth. In James Blish's The Day After Judgement, mankind has survived a limited nuclear war. Thus, so far, two futuristic sf novels, each featuring a technological threat to all life on Earth. In Anderson's There Will Be Time, the civilization-destroying nuclear war is called the Judgment War. Thus, Anderson uses the terms "Doomsday" and "Judgment" in two similar secular contexts.

However, what I have not mentioned so far is that Blish's use of the term, "Judgment," is Biblical and apocalyptic. The nuclear exchange was just one aspect of Armageddon, which the demons have won. Thus, we are reading fantasy, not sf. On the other hand, it is what I have called "hard fantasy," reading very much like sf and, if its speculation that eternal life is full negative entropy were to be developed further, then it would return to the realm of sf with the angels and demons scientifically rationalized.

The Startegic Air Command attacks the demon fortress of Dis now manifested in the Valley of Death, Death Valley: science versus the supernatural, a concrete expression of the theme of Blish's After Such Knowledge Trilogy. Anderson presents scientific rationales of fantasy ideas in some works discussed recently on the blog.

Earlier Empires

In Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, Ythrians and Merseians get the hyperdrive from Terrans who invented it independently. However, it is known that there was a previous star traveling race and we learn that they were the telepathic Chereonites. How many such earlier races are there in sf? No doubt many. I think that there was a previous civilization in Ursula K Le Guin's future history although that is one that I have neither read recently nor reread.

We will refer to one other work by Anderson, four by Blish and one by Niven. In Anderson's After Doomsday, the FTL drive spreads like dandelion seeds among many intelligent species. It is not known whether it was discovered once or many times or by whom.

In James Blish's Cities In Flight, there have been four great civilizations in the Milky Way:

I ?;
II the Vegan Tyranny;
III the Earthman culture;
IV the Web of Hercules.

In Blish's Jack Loftus novels, the Heart Stars empire is much older than humanity and the energy beings called "Angels" knew several previous interstellar civilizations in other galaxies. (Blish, like Anderson, goes intergalactic a few times.) In Blish's "This Earth of Hours," the Terrestrial Matriarchy comes into conflict with an ancient telepathic Central Empire whereas, in his "A Style In Treason," High Earth's adversary, the Green Exarch, draws tithes from six fallen empires older than man.

In Larry Niven's Known Space History, the now extinct Thrintun ruled the galaxy three billion years ago and, like the Chereionites, left a telepathic legacy.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Colony Planets

See here. Poul Anderson makes the capital city of a colonized extrasolar planet seem very real as do Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling. On Wunderland in the Alpha Centauri system, New Munchen is shanty suburbs and shoddy factories whereas Old Munchen is:

curving tree-lined streets between hills beside a wide river;
flowers, cafes, University quadrangles, courtyards, fountains, parks, the Ritterhuuse;
a great square with bronze statues of the Nineteen Founders;
a beercellar and fireworks after the graduation-night feast.

This is comparable to Anderson's description of Starfall on Hermes. And there is the same threat. All that has been built is vulnerable to alien aggression. It is worth fighting for but it would be fatal to fight in it with modern weapons.

Parallel Histories II

Robert Heinlein's Prophets ban space flight but are overthrown by the Second American Revolution which establishes the Covenant.

Isaac Asimov's psychohistorians are unable to prevent the Fall of the Galactic Empire but plan to build a Second Empire in a thousand years. The Plan begins with a surviving center of civilization called the Foundation.

James Blish's Bureaucratic State bans space flight but cannot ban atomic research and is overthrown by the Exodus of the Cities after the independent rediscovery of antigravity. Flying cities overthrow the Vegan Tyranny and the Earth police suppress interstellar empires.

The Psychotechnic Institute of Poul Anderson's Solar Union is unable to prevent the Second Dark Ages and the Coordination Service of his Stellar Union is unable to prevent the Third Dark Ages. Unions and Dark Ages are succeeded by several Empires, then by a Galactic civilization.

Anderson's Solar Commonwealth becomes a corporate state but declines and is unable to resist invasions by the Gorzuni, barbarian slavers. However, Manuel Argos leads a slave revolt and founds the Terran Empire. Later, Dominic Flandry is unable to prevent the Fall of the Terran Empire but ensures that several centers of civilization survive.

Larry Niven's UN Earth-Moon government bans technologies with military applications but then uses such technologies against the invading kzinti, carnivorous slavers. The UN survives.

Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium bans technologies with military applications but is unable to prevent the Patriotic Wars which devastate Earth. However, the Exodus of the Fleet leads to the Formation Wars and the founding of the First Empire of Man. The Secession Wars are followed by the Second Empire of Man.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Organized Crime

The Polesotechnic League protects Merseia from the effects of a nearby supernova. Merseia is not yet politically united so the League deals with the Merseians' only international organization, the Gethfennu, organized crime. Thus, humanity earns the enduring enmity of the Merseian aristocratic party.

Flandry enriches a vice boss on Irumclaw but only so that the vice boss will then pressurize the Empire to continue defending that Imperial frontier - against the Merseians.

In Jerry Pournelle's and SM Stirling's "The Children's Hour," the Yakuza, Japanese organized crime, still operate in the Solar System and have also moved to the Alpha Centaurian colony where they will help UN agents against the kzinti occupation without charge. Kzinti estates are squeezing out human society. Yakuza can try to deal with either but are safer with the latter.

I think that the Mafia is a survival of feudal social relationships (tradition, protection, violence, personal loyalty, religious observance) into capitalist society. A survival and an adaptation: organized criminals want either to transfer into legitimate businesses or to continue to prey on legitimate society. Either way, they need to protect that society against any invader (Nazi, Draka, kzin) that would really try to change the rules of the game.


While we are paralleling future histories, we should include Star Trek. Merseians, kzinti and Klingons are obvious parallels. However, Star Trek has transporters and Known Space has transfer booths whereas the Technic History does not have teleportation.

An alien interstellar empire does have teleportation in Poul Anderson's "Interloper." However, the human societies in his Technic History do not develop such a mode of travel. But this makes the Technic History more plausible. How could a physical object or a human being be transported from one place to another without traversing the intervening space? Is it destroyed at the first place and reconstructed at the second? In that case, it is not transported - and could surely be duplicated at several places?

A civilization with sufficient knowledge and energy to practice teleportation would surely be capable of feats for beyond those that are otherwise displayed in either Star Trek or the Known Space History? In Clifford Simak's City, men in a dome on Jupiter can transform one of their number into an organism that can survive on the Jovian surface, then return him to human form. With that much knowledge and power, why do they huddle (Simak's own word) in a dome?

I think that Anderson's limited use of teleportation as an sf prop is a sign of his carefulness as an sf writer.

Species With A Subordinate Sex

Merseian females are subordinate and confined to domestic roles, several wives to one male. Kzinti females are not intelligent, each successful male owning a harem! And -

"...the Sterile Ones...non-bearing females were kept as a rare privilege for Heroes whose accomplishments were not quite deserving of a mate of their own."
-Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling, "The Children's Hour" IN Larry Niven, Ed., Man-Kzin Wars II (London, 1991), p. 206.

Kzinti are like Merseians but more so. They not only enslave other rational species but also eat them.

Niven's Pierson's Puppeteers have three sexes of which one is not intelligent and is really of a different species.

Merseian and kzinti females sound like how some male human beings think of women. A kzinti visitor to the inhabited Map of Kzin on the Ringworld is interested to find females who are intelligent.

A Multiversal Wavefront

Poul Anderson refers to Old Wilwidh on Merseia. Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling refer to Old Kzin. We think of Old England. Evocative language. The use of this adjective with a capital initial conveys that its hearers or readers are aware of history, time and change.

One pocket universe comprises the Old Phoenix. Another might be a control room where an observer monitoring screens and instruments detects a multiversal wavefront with details manifesting alternately as Martians, Merseians, Moties, kzinti etc. Multi-dimensional patterns emerge. A Solar Commonwealth morphs into a CoDominium, each succeeded by a different First Empire:

"'Those two worlds - and many more, for all I know - are in some way the same. The same fight was being waged, here the Nazis and there the Middle World, but in both places, Chaos against Law, something old and wild and blind at war with man and the works of man. In both worlds it was the time of need for Denmark and France. So Ogier came forth in both of them, as he must.'"
-Poul Anderson, Three Hearts And Three Lions (London, 1977), p. 155.

The observer in my hypothetical control room must dispatch agents to crucial moments where they intervene to prevent inter-cosmic chaos. Although the observer knows of a single timeline protected by a Time Patrol, he oversees multiple timelines.

"'Once the crisis was past in both worlds, the job done...well, equilibrium had been re-established. There was no unbalanced force to send me across space-time. So I stayed.'" (ibid.)

Our history does not record Ogier opposing the Nazis - or the Merseians, kzinti etc - but what might occur without our knowledge?

AI Alternatives

Artificial Intelligence:

is impossible;
is possible but impractical;
will supersede organic intelligence.

These are possibilities considered by Poul Anderson. Jerry Pournelle & SM Stirling suggest a fourth:

conscious computers quickly go insane.

This might be because a consciousness able to think in nanoseconds and to control its sensory input prefers to make a universe that will last subjectively forever in a few objective milliseconds.

In Anderson's A Circus Of Hells, an abandoned conscious computer alone on an isolated planet for five hundred years plays robotic chess and war games in order to preserve its sanity. Thus, it is moving in the direction of Pournelle's and Stirling's AI's.

Anderson covers nearly every possibility.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Parallel Histories

Future histories were not written to be read in parallel but can be. Larry Niven's kzinti are, under different aspects, comparable to:

Wells' Martians;

Anderson's Merseians, Ythrians and Imperial Terrans;

Stirling's Draka.

Slavery in different forms is common to these six cultures. Kzinti and Ythrians are intelligent carnivorous hunters, motivated by blood odors in their warships. Kzinti enslave human beings and eat some whereas the Martians would have enslaved human beings and drained the blood from some. Kzinti and Draka plan to spend generations taming enslaved populations. Merseians and kzinti are aggressive interstellar imperialists.

We can imagine a narrative in which these timelines are discussed in the Old Phoenix and another in which characters in a quantum ship jump between timelines trying to influence the outcomes of space battles described in the various future histories.

Ythrians And Kzinti

In an Ythrian flagship:

"The air blew warm, ruffling their plumes a little, scented with perfume of cinnamon bush and amberdragon. Blood odors would not be ordered unless and until the vessel got into actual combat; the crew would soon be worn out if stimulated too intensely."
-Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011), p. 518.

And in a kzinti Slasher:

"...the cabin was furnace hot and dry, full of the wild odors of fear and blood that the habitation-system poured out in combat conditions."
-Jerry Pournelle & SM Stirling, Man-Kzin Wars II, p. 185.

Although Ythrians and kzinti are hunting carnivores, the former are fliers, needing room to spread their wings even in a spaceship and would soon go insane if confined in spacesuits. Thus, although they are stimulated by blood odors like the kzinti, they cannot travel or fight in the same cramped conditions as either kzinti or human beings.

Slasher And Meteor

"His grandparents had considered emigrating to the Wunderland system...If they'd done it, he might have ended up as a conscript technician with the Fourth Fleet."
-Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling, "The Children's Hour" IN Larry Niven, Ed., Man-Kzin Wars II (London, 1991), pp. 133-306 AT p. 184.

No, if his paternal (or maternal) grandparents' children had grown up in a different planetary system, then they would have had different children and he would not exist. Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series shows that the world would now be populated by different individuals if history had gone differently.

"The Slasher-class armed scout held three crewkzin in its delta-shaped control chamber, the commander forward and the Sensor and Weapons Operators behind..." (p. 184)

So the Slasher sounds like a Terran Imperial Meteor with its commander, fire control officer and engineer-computerman (Rise Of The Terran Empire, p. 478). Authors of military sf write with apparent familiarity about combat vehicles that do not exist yet and that, hopefully, will not have to exist.

A Bar With Food

A Bar With Food

Harold's Terran Bar. A World On Its Own. humans only -

- is in Munchen on the human colony planet of Wunderland in the Alpha Centauri System during the kzinti occupation of that system. It is a known underworld hangout with strictly human service. Human labor, displaced from kzinti estates, is cheap.

Food served includes dark green, many-eyed, translucent-shelled, grilled grumblies. You break off the head with your fingers and dip it in sauce.

We have documented hostelries and meals and might hear more from Harald's.

Planha And Eriau

Fantasy and science fiction feature characters speaking languages that are unknown to us:

Tolkien has Elvish, Orcish etc;

CS Lewis tells us a few words of Solar, e.g., hnau and eldil;

some Star Trek fans have invented Klingon;

the kzinti "Hero's Tongue" has unusual consonant combinations like "Kdapt," "kzin" and "sthondat";

Poul Anderson does not tell us any Temporal or Anglic but does impart a few words of Planha and Eriau;

Planha-speaking Ythrians live in choths whose Wyvans can call Oherran;

Olaf Magnusson knows Eriau and two other major Merseian languages;

Max Abrams, introduced to Brechdan Ironrede, responds in fluent, accented Eriau, "'The Hand of the Vach Ynvory is my shield...'" (Young Flandry, p. 94);

when Flandry and Tachwyr meet, Flandry inquires about Tachwyr's wives and children in polite Eriau and Tachwyr must ask whether Flandry is still a bachelor in Anglic because the Eriau equivalent would be an insult.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Three Master Races

Shwylt Shipsbane remarks, "'I suspect you actually like [Terrans].'" Brechdan Ironrede replies, "'Why, that's no secret...They were magnificent once. They could be again. I would love to see them our willing subjects...Unlikely, of course. They're not that kind of species. We might be forced to exterminate.'"
-Poul Anderson, Young Flandry (New York, 2010), p. 92.

Forced, indeed! You might be forced to reconsider, Brechdan.

Djana (human) is horrified when she overhears Ydwyr (Merseian) discussing her as if she were an animal:

"'A reconditioning. It improved her both physically and mentally.'" (p. 351)

Under Ydwyr's tutelage, she had begun to see him as her father and to imagine a Merseian Christ or even that the Merseians did not need redemption... A reconditioning.

Chuut-Riit (kzin) thinks:

"With a fully-domesticated human species at their disposal, his son's son's sons could even aspire, unthinkable"
-Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling, "The Children's Hour" IN Larry Niven, Ed., Man-Kzin Wars II (New York, 1991), pp. 133-306 AT p. 155.

I would have preferred if Chuut-Riit had completed that sentence, though. Finally, he sounds exactly like one of Stirling's Draka looking forward to the subordination of the rest of the human race.


We see human beings subordinated to:

Martians in The War Of The Worlds;
extrasolar aliens in Martian-like machines in John Christopher's Tripods Trilogy;
Borthudians in the van Rijn period of Poul Anderson's Technic History;
green Merseians in the Flandry period of the Technic History;
feline kzinti in Larry Niven's Know Space History;
green Treens in Dan Dare;
Daleks in Doctor Who;
fellow human beings who make themselves biologically superior in SM Stirling's Draka History.

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

I was reminded of Draka and serfs when reading about a kzin and his human secretary. Like a Draka, the kzin promises to attend the secretary's offspring's naming-day celebration.

Subordination can be one way to survival. In a novel by Fred and Geoffrey Hoyle, workers asked what they thought about the prospect of an alien invasion, said that, under the aliens, they would still have to work. In one of Aesop's fable, a donkey carrying a heavy burden is advised to run away from an invading army but, when told that they are unlikely to make him carry anything heavier because he is already at his limit, says that he will stay where he is.

Having said all that, slavery is definitely worse than paid work and should be resisted at all costs!

The Arrival Of The Prince

This blog is currently juggling with three future histories:

Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization;

Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium History;

the Man-Kzin Wars period of Larry Niven's Known Space History (this period is a shorter history within the longer history).

Poul Anderson wrote the first and contributed to the second and third.

The purpose as always is to appreciate whichever work is currently under discussion while sooner or later returning to Andersonian themes or comparisons.

My copy of The Prince (CoDominium) has arrived. I hope that the image conveys some impression of its size. It has 1151 pages and collects four volumes but one of those was originally two volumes.

Meanwhile, however, I have become interested in Pournelle's and Stirling's contributions to Man-Kzin Wars, which connect with Anderson's, so I am not sure how soon I will return to the CoDominium.

"Witless Hordes"

In several of Poul Anderson's fictional futures, high technology maintains a large human population in comfort but raises questions about the meaning of life. This is a basic question addressed by science fiction.

In Jerry Pournelle's and SM Stirling's "The Children's Hour," Captain Jonah Matthieson, a Belter, thinks that flatlanders have nothing useful to do for most of their lives. Matthieson does something useful. In his small Dart spaceship, the UNSN Catskinner, he fights Kzinti Vengeful Slashers. (UN Darts sound like Terran Imperial Meteors.)

Matthieson thinks:

"Earth's witless hordes were of little help to Sol's military effort. Most of them were a mere drain on resources - not even useful as cannon fodder in a conflict largely fought in space." (Man-Kzin Wars II, p. 143)

It is understandable that a military man thinks like this. My response to Matthieson would be:

not all of the hordes are witless;
even the witless are human beings and can lead meaningful lives;
they are the people whom you are defending.

I think that a species like Larry Niven's kzinti or Poul Anderson's Merseians is highly implausible - aliens will be alien - but I certainly agree that mankind will have to be on its guard when there is First Contact. I CAN BE WRONG! (That needed to be written in capitals.) Questions about mass unemployment and the meaning of life have been discussed here before and will be again. In fact, I need to read more opinions differing from my own. Thank you to regular contributors. You know who you are.

Time Travel, Dilation And Stasis

We have learned three ways to:

"...survive the re-contraction of the primal monobloc and its explosion into a new cosmic cycle..."
-Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling, "The Children's Hour" IN Larry Niven, Ed., Man-Kzin Wars II (London, 1991), pp. 133-306 AT p. 149 -

- by (i) time travel, (ii) time dilation and (iii) temporal stasis.

(i) In Poul Anderson's "Flight to Forever," one man in a "time projector," i.e., a kind of time machine, circumnavigates space-time. We owe the idea of a temporal vehicle or "time machine" to HG Wells and it is because of Wells that we retain such archaic terminology. I remember that, in the 1960s, a friend's grandfather used the phrase, "flying machine."

(ii) In Anderson's Tau Zero, the crew of an exponentially accelerating Bussard ramjet survives cosmic contraction and explosion. We owe the idea of an interstellar ramjet to Robert Bussard.

(iii) In "The Children's Hour," it is merely stated that a Slaver stasis field "...would probably survive..." (op. cit., p. 149) Stasis fields are an sf prop but we owe two very unpleasant species, the Slavers and the kzinti, to Larry Niven. Thank you, Mr Niven!

However, the current cosmological model is not cyclical. Anderson's Harvest Of Stars Tetralogy and Genesis ask whether consciousness can survive the heat death of a universe that does not re-contract and re-explode.

Interstellar Warfare

Larry Niven's Man-Kzin Wars is a war series with an interstellar setting. Thus, at least two kinds of contributions to this series are possible:

cosmological speculations;
stories based on an understanding of military history.

Poul Anderson's contributions (see here) feature the kind of scientific extrapolation about cosmic conditions that Anderson displays in "Pride" and "Starfog" whereas Jerry Pournelle's & SM Stirling's first Man-Kzin Wars story begins with a former bureaucrat, now a general, who had taught military history before first contact with the kzinti. The ratcats are not used to encountering military resistance but are learning from it and one of their commanders has written two works on strategy.

Thus, we expect Pournelle and Stirling, both specialists in military fiction, to emphasize this aspect of the series. Their approach and Anderson's are complementary and should generate a better rounded series than any single author would have been able to write. 

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Collaborative Fiction

Science fiction is collaborative. James Blish said that sf writers practice what would be called plagiarism in any other genre. An author publishes a story with a new idea and a logical deduction from it. A second author publishes a story with an alternative consequence of the same idea. The second author is not condemned for plagiarizing the idea but commended for his new interpretation of it.

Thus, when Robert Heinlein had written about a "generation ship" (a slower than light multi-generation interstellar spaceship), then so did Poul Anderson, Brian Aldiss and Clifford Simak. Aldiss even said, in a conversation at Eastercon 1970, "I thought I could do it better!"

Much later, collaboration was institutionalized:

"The franchise universe lives!"
-Larry Niven, Man-Kzin Wars II (London, 1991), p. vii.

Now, Poul Anderson, Jerry Pournelle, SM Stirling and others were able not only to write about militaristic, carnivorous, feline aliens but also to call them kzinti. Anderson's Man-Kzin Wars stories are:

"Iron" (also here, here and here)
"Inconstant Star" (also here, here, here, here and here);
"Pele" (also here).

We have been following Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling as to some extent successors of Poul Anderson so we might be interested in rereading their co-written Man-Kzin Wars stories. Since the first of these, "The Children's Hour," is 171 pages long, I regard it as a novel.

A Spiritual Spectrum

We encounter not only alternative histories but also alternative metaphysics:

in Poul Anderson's fantasies, gods are real;

in Anderson's hard sf, as in our experience, supernatural beings are believed in by some though not by others and theological issues are addressed;

in SM Stirling's Angrezi Raj, Christian and Hindu theologies are synthesized and offerings are made to a fictional goddess created for a cinema film (so what is the status of "belief"?);

in CS Lewis' uniquely theological sf -

- hnau are rational animals like Terrestrials, three Martian species and Venerians;
eldila are immortal inorganic intelligences inhabiting space, not planets, and resembling beams of light;
Maleldil is a mysterious being who:

created the universe;
commands all eldila except the rebels confined to the Terrestrial atmosphere;
was born as a hnau in Thulcandra (Earth);
speaks to Elwin Ransom when the latter is in Perelandra (Venus).

To summarize:

pagan deities as a fictional premise;
deities believed to exist by some, i.e., our experience;
a fiction-faith blend;
Christianity imaginatively restated.

Alternative Pasts, Presents And Futures

Whereas a future history becomes an alternative history as it recedes into the past, an alternative history becomes a future history if it is extended into the future. Thus, SM Stirling's Protracted Struggle between the Alliance for Democracy and the Domination of the Draka parallels the various UN/US-USSR/Cold War/World War III scenarios that we listed recently. In Stirling's The Stone Dogs, as in James Blish's They Shall Have Stars, Earth becomes a dictatorship but a few political refugees escape from the Solar System.

In fact, various other discontented groups also leave the Solar System in:

Robert Heinlein's Methuselah's Children;
the Breakup period of Poul Anderson's Technic History;
Anderson's Rustum History, The Boat Of A Million Years and Harvest Of Stars;
the Great Exodus period of Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium History.

Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers is an alternative history novel set in 2025 but does not feature space travel because, like Anderson's Maurai History, it recounts recovery from a global disaster.

The Ransom Trilogy, CS Lewis' reply to Wells' and Stapledon's future histories, also addresses the history of the future. Issues concerning the future of mankind on Earth are resolved in Volume III. In Volume II, the future is prophesied. Ten thousand years hence, Maleldil, Malacandra, Tor-Oyarsa-Perelendri and many hnau and eldila will descend, destroy the Moon and liberate Thulcandra (Earth) from its present hidden rulers -

- and you cannot get any more alternative than that.

Mankind In Spacetime And The Universe

HG Wells describes:

the experiences of space traveling and time traveling;

the far future of mankind and Earth;

Selenites in their environment;

Martians invading our environment;

political and military conflicts;

in one future, the transcendence of social problems and the emancipation of humanity but, in an alternative future, devolution into Morlocks and Eloi.

Poul Anderson describes:

many experiences in space;

the experience of time traveling;

the far future of AI on Earth and in the galaxy;

political and military conflicts on Earth and between interstellar empires;

imaginative alien life forms, e.g., in the Terran Empire.

Too much emphasis just on political and military conflicts is not really sf - maybe? Characters in Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium future history have such conflicts on Earth - and export them to space. Nuclear exchanges on a single planet are suicidal so let's have them between planets instead? Some people will draw the lesson that they need to build a society free of such conflicts and will use the Alderson drive to travel far enough away that they can make a fresh start without Imperial interference, like the McCormac rebels in Anderson's Technic History.