Thursday, 6 October 2016

Language, Laws And History

English people value their language, laws and history. A University of Manchester Admissions Tutor said that UMIST staff and students speak the language of mathematics and obey the laws of physics. There is also a history of science although he did not mention it. So how do the concepts of language, laws and history apply to Poul Anderson's Time Patrol?

Patrol agents speak Temporal, a logically organized and expressive language with tenses for time travel. They obey a law of noninterference in past events, however horrendous. A map-maker must meticulously reproduce every contour of a terrain without wanting to add any artistic flourishes. Similarly, a Patrol Specialist must record every datum of past events without wanting to influence them - unless he discovers that his interference is already part of the pattern.

The Patrol guards a history and has a history. The guarded history is a million years of human events culminating in the Era of Oneness, which is followed by our evolutionary successors, the Danellians. What I mean by the Patrol history:

(i) Manse Everard is recruited into the Patrol in 1954 AD;
(ii) Everard attends the Patrol Academy in the Oligocene;
(iii) he returns to 1954 in the same hour that he left it;
(iv) he exchanges message shuttles with the London office of the Patrol;
(v) he collects Whitcomb from London, 1947;
(vi) Everard and Whitcomb arrive in the London office at 12 midnight on June 26, 1894.

Chronologically, these events occur in this order:

(ii) Academy;
(vi) arrival, 1894;
(v) 1947;
(i) recruitment;
(iii) return;
(iv) message shuttles.

An internally written history of the Patrol would record the events of Everard's career in the order (i)-(vi), not (ii)-(iv). Thus, the Patrol history differs from the guarded history and is extremely complicated when the interactions of all the time travelers are taken into account.

1 comment:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Ugh! Trying to write history from the POV of the Time Patrol sounds mind bogglingly complex! And could only be done if written in Temporal.