Friday, 23 September 2016

Literature And Time

Literature addresses the passage of time. In a biographical novel or series, the central character is young at the beginning and old or dead at the end. Poul Anderson does this with Dominic Flandry. We last see Flandry aged, not dead, but we then read four installments of the Technic History set long after Flandry's lifetime just as he lived long after the lifetimes of Nicholas van Rijn, David Falkayn, Christopher Holm, Philippe Rochefort and Tabitha Falkayn.

Natural time is cyclical but a human life has a direction. Volume I of Poul And Karen Anderson's King of Ys Tetralogy begins:

"At noon upon that Birthday of Mithras..."
-The King Of Ys: Roma Mater (London, 1989), I, 1, p. 13.

Very near the end of Volume IV, the ex-King of Ys exclaims:

"'Today is the Birthday of seems to me as though this, everything that matters to me, it began that selfsame day, five-and-twenty years ago. I stood on guard on the Wall...'"
-The King Of Ys: The Dog And The Wolf (New York, 1989), XXV, 2, p. 497.

Science fiction can show us the death of the universe. Time travel fiction can show us a character visiting and returning from the death of the universe. In fact, to travel too far in either temporal direction is to enter realms that are increasingly alien and ultimately uninhabitable. We will demonstrate this with two examples from Poul Anderson and two from those most quintessentially British of time travelers, the Time Traveler and the Doctor.

(Before it is objected that the Doctor is neither British nor even human, I will reply that:

(the feature film Doctor Who, played by Peter Cushing, was indeed an English inventor, like Wells' Time Traveler;

(the incarnation of the Doctor whom I will cite, played by Christopher Eccleston, when asked why he had a Northern accent (this matters in England), replied, "Every planet has a North!")


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I agree we see Flandry AGING in THE GAME OF EMPIRE, but I would not say he was AGED. Not when the antisenescence of Technic medical science allowed persons to live as long as 110 years.


David Birr said...

One author writing a *Star Trek* original novel included a scene of experimenting with a "forebear" of the Holodeck. Several films from USS *Enterprise*'s library of old fiction were converted to holographic form.

One such snippet was the materialization of a blue police call box, out from which came a curly-haired fellow with an "excessively" long scarf, who, seeming to look straight at Kirk, asked cheerfully if he'd arrived at Heathrow.

So according to this author, *Doctor Who* existed as fiction in *Star Trek*'s history.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, David!

I'm reminded of how, sometimes, we see mention of fictional characters by some of Poul Anderson's characters. Most often, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. I've also seen mentions or allusions of Lewis Carroll's ALICE IN WONDERLAND books by Andersonian characters.