Sunday, 10 April 2016
Typing Up Loose Ends
(i) future history continuity;
(ii) personal relationships between our hero, his wife and the new female character;
(iii) who was the kzinti's intelligence source on Wunderland?
We will take the first one first.
(i) A prequel must not contradict later continuity. In Niven's Known Space future history, neither the kzinti nor the Earthmen acquired a tnuctipun weapon enabling them to win a decisive victory in the Man-Kzin Wars. Yet representatives of both species have discovered such a weapon in "Inconstant Star." Captain Saxtorph (human) has given Weoch-Captain (kzin) and his crew a lethal dose of radiation so it looks as if Saxtoroh's crew have sole control of the weapon. But they have not. Weoch's last defiant act is to propel the weapon with himself on it into hyperspace. The Rover crew "...saw their prize disappear." (p. 294)
That concluding phrase of Chapter XIX represents a literary tradition that is Wellsian or older. Except when alternative histories are invoked, it is a literary convention that fictional events occurred in the world as it is known to us. Thus, a Tolstoyan character can contemplate assassination of Napoleon but decides against it - and, if he did attempt it, would not succeed. The Cavorite sphere disappears into space and the Selenites kill Cavor before he can transmit the formula back to Earth. The Time Traveler does not return from his second expedition. On a more trivial level, in the 1950's, a weekly comic strip had cavemen discovering that the Moon is made of cheese, pulling it down to Earth and eating it. I said that the following installment must explain why there is a Moon today. Someone said, "Don't be stupid. It's only fiction." But, sure enough, the next installment explained how the Moon had been replaced.
That disappearing tnuctipun weapon follows in the proud footsteps of the disappearing Time Machine and Cavorite sphere.