Friday, 23 September 2016

Literature And Time II

Poul Anderson: "Flight to Forever"
The time projector is an enclosed temporal vehicle with subjective passage of time, not instantaneous transition, for its passengers. Thus, it is basically like the TARDIS although cylindrical, not box-shaped. Alone in the projector, Martin Saunders traverses billions of years between:

"The universe was dead!" (p. 284) and:

"The universe was reforming." (p. 285)

Poul Anderson, "Flight to Forever" IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 207-288.

Between times, he eats one sandwich. The projector can travel pastward for only a few decades so the only way to return home is to continue forward around the circle of time.

Doctor Who
The Doctor and his assistant viewed the asteroidal remnants of Earth, then returned to twenty-first century London to buy bags of chips (French fries).

HG Wells: The Time Machine
The Time Traveler traveled forward to a time when, as the large, red, motionless sun was eclipsed by an inner planet, the already silent Earth -

"'It would be hard to convey the stillness of it. All the sounds of man, the bleating of sheep, the cries of birds, the hum of insects, the stir that makes the background of our lives - all that was over.'"
-HG Wells, The Time Machine (London, 1973), 14 "The Further Vision," p. 94.

- became dark and even colder. The white snow flakes increased, then only the pale stars were visible.

"'So I came back...The blinking succession of the days and nights was resumed, the sun got golden again, the sky blue. I breathed with greater freedom.'"
- 15 "The Time Traveller's Return," p. 95.

"'...that remote and awful twilight...'" (14 "The Further Vision," p. 95) will fall in a remote future but, to the Time Traveler, it is like a place to which he went and from which he returned.

Poul Anderson: "Brave To Be A King"
Time Patrolman Manson Everard travels not to the future but to the past and not to an uninhabitable period but to one that is unbearably alien:

"Overhead he saw a painted roof, where a youth killed a bull, and the Bull was the Sun and the Man. Beyond columns and vines trod guards in dragon-skin mailcoats, their bows strung, their faces like carved wood. The harem wing of the palace could be glimpsed where a hundred or a thousand young women counted themselves fortunate to await the king's occasional pleasure. Beyond the city walls lay harvest fields where peasants readied sacrifice to an Earth Mother who was old in this land when the Aryans came, and that was in a dark predawn past. High over the walls floated the mountains, haunted by wolf, lion, boar, and demon. It was too alien a place. Everard had thought himself hardened to otherness, but now he wanted suddenly to run and hide, up to his own century and his own people and a forgetting."
-Poul Anderson, "Brave To Be A King" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), pp. 55-112 AT p. 92.

Mountains do not float but Everard is reflecting on how they appear. They are "haunted" by wolf, lion and boar but not literally by demons - but Everard is letting the prevailing worldview get to him. We can think about our own country and people but Everard thinks about "...his own century and his own people..." I do not understand how the Bull is the Sun and the Man but it sounds like religious mysteries that I was told in childhood.

When I read about the Persian Empire in SM Stirling's Island In The Sea Of Time, I consulted Everard's interview with Dennison/Cyrus in Anderson's Time Patrol. Everard wanting to flee from alienness back to his own century reminded me of the Time Traveler returning from the "...great darkness..." (p. 94) of his "Further Vision" to the nineteenth century. This is the great literature of time travel.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

"Flight To Forever" is interesting and well worth reading. But it was nowhere as sophisticated and carefully thought out as Anderson's later time traveling stories.

I don't think all writers who tried their hands at writing time travel stories stopped to think and realize how ALIEN past or futures can be for a time traveler. So, Poul Anderson showed unusual sensitivity in showing how Manse Everard suffered a bad moment of "temporal dislocation" or culture shock in "Brave To Be A King."