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. 

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I've thought that one reason why the CoDominium and the First and Second Empires of Man had not encountered non human rational beings (till the events seen in THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE) was simply because humans had not explored ENOUGH planets.

And as you know I would disagree with the Maurai Federation's banning of nuclear technology.

I think interstellar trade and colonization at STL would be extremely difficult and costly, albeit theoretically possible. We see PA examining various aspects of those themes in the History of Rustum timeline and the Kith storiers. It might need an Earth gov't at odds with malcontents of various kinds to trigger attempts at colonization at STL. More or less expelling tiresome and potentially dangerous dissidents might be one way of Earth both ridding herself of a vexatious irritation and founding colonies.