Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Themes And Issues

If someone has enjoyed reading Poul Anderson's works, what should he read next? The question becomes: which relevant predecessors, contemporaries and successors have you already read? When I thought about this, I began listing titles and authors that have already been discussed many times on the blog. However, it is worth listing Anderson's themes and issues. This shows the range of his works and each blog reader will be able to think of other relevant writers.

Would it be right to use scientific knowledge to create life?
Will AI supersede humanity?
How might it be possible to travel faster than light?
The experience of time traveling.
Circular causality.
Changing the past.
Alternative histories.
Historical fiction.
Heroic fantasy.
Norse mythology.
Detective fiction.
Juvenile sf.
Humor in sf.
How easy would it be to colonize other planets?
The reasons for the rise and fall of civilizations.
Military sf.
Cosmological sf.
How should society be organized?
Alien physiology and psychology.
The theological status of aliens.
Hard fantasy, i.e., magic as technology.
Future histories.
Interstellar empires.
Historical sf.
Longevity or immortality.
Elder Races.

Right now, I say:

for alternative histories, read SM Stirling;
for military sf, read Jerry Pournelle;
for cosmological sf, check out John C Wright.

I have to say "check out" because I have not yet read Wright. However, I am reliably advised that he is worth checking out. This means that he is worth checking out.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Experimenting with ANIMALS? Yes. No with human beings, unless they are adults capable of giving informed consent.

It's impossible to say if AI is possible. But Anderson pushed the frontiers of that concept in his HARVEST OF STARS books and GENESIS.

I wish I could comment better about FTL. Alas, I lost the POPULAR SCIENCE issue containing the article seriously discussing FTL. I'll only say SOME scientists don't think it's totally impossible.

As of now, time traveling is impossible. But I think PA speculated in STARFARERS how it might not be.

Ditto with circular causality and changing the past.

And some reputable scientists (PA mentioning Hugh Everett) think quantum mechanics allows for the possibility of alternate timelines.

I approve of how Anderson wrote historical novels. Unlike many other authors Anderson respected known history and historically likely probabilities.

And I greatly enjoyed Anderson's fantasies, both novels and short stories. Altho I did think his WAR OF THE GODS one of his very few weaker books.

Anderson's view of Norse mythology can be most clearly seen in THE BROKEN SWORD and HROLF KRAKI'S SAGA.

Most of Anderson's mysteries, novels and short stories, features his Japanese/Norwegian detective: Trygve Yamamura. I remember PA saying he enjoyed writing mysteries but he had to be practical and focus on SF and F because it paid better.

Anderson's juvenile SF, such as VAULT OF THE AGES and short stories like "The Season of Forgiveness" can be enjoyed by adults as much as I hoped they pleased younger readers.

Poul Anderson could be funny, most often in a ruefully wry, understated way. See "A Bicycle Built For Brew" or the Hoka stories co-authored with Gordon R. Dickson.

It would NOT be easy to colonize even worlds are a lot like Earth. We have to expect mysteries and unexpected dangers. And some planets will be hard to settle, like Rustum (see ORBIT UNLIMITED).

As for why civilizations rose and fell, Anderson was influenced by writers like Spengler, Voegelin, and most of all, John K. Hord. And I too thought Hord's analysis disturbingly plausible!

Anderson could write skillfully about war, as we see in ENSIGN FLANDRY and short stories like "Kings Who Die," but military SF was not a major focus of his work.

For Anderson's cosmological SF his HARVEST OF STARS books and GENESIS most clearly shows his speculations.

Anderson was not dogmatic about political forms, he could accept practically any form of gov't as long as it respected the rights of the people and accepted checks, restraints, and limits on the state's powers.

Anderson was definitely better and more convincing in his speculations about non human rational beings than too many other SF writers.

Unlike some, Anderson did not expect non humans to be particularly better than humans. THE GAME OF EMPIRE also touches on theological speculations about aliens.

Anderson's OPERATION CHAOS and OPERATION LUNA shows us very plausibly how "magic" might be morally neutral and more of a technology.

Anderson's preference and focus was on SF and F, not "future histories" set in alternate timelines. But he could do it very well when he chose, as in his Time Patrol stories. But, he was surpassed in this branch of SF by S.M. Stirling.

And Anderson wrote VERY plausibly about interstellar empires (no matter what form they took). See his stories about the Terran Empire.

I believe Anderson was skeptical about the possibility of indefinite longevity, but he could write very well about that topic: see WORLD WITHOUT STARS or FOR LOVE AND GLORY.

Elder Races? Anderson was VERY skeptical of that idea! In THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN we see how Aycharaych cynically used that idea to perpetrate a cruel deception.

I agree with your recommendations about Pournelle, Stirling, and Wright.