Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Multiple Pathways

In how many directions is it possible to travel? In various works, Poul Anderson's characters have traveled:

around the world;
beneath the sea;
up and out into space;
between galaxies;
backwards, forwards and sideways in time;
around a cosmic cycle;
into supernatural realms;
within - psychologically speaking.

That seems to exhaust every possibility, including one or two that may be only imaginary - although fsf fans are always interested to read more. Anderson's ventures "sideways in time" were chiefly fantasies: myths are true, magic works etc. However, his realistic alternative histories are to be found in two short stories and in two installments of the Time Patrol series.

Post-Anderson classics of realistic alternative history include SM Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers and Conquistador. Stirling's Draka History is a brilliant example of the sf principle of imagining an original premise and realizing its logical implications. We must indeed be grateful that a slave-owning culture has not become dominant in our history.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Yes, I agree, Poul Anderson was one of the pioneers of the alternate world or history branch of SF. Along with Ward Moore and L. Sprague de Camp. But I admit they were surpassed, first by Harry Turtledove and then by S.M. Stirling.

Am I right to think you enjoyed most of all Stirling's THE PESHAWAR LANCERS and CONQUISTADOR? What did you think of John Rolfe VI? I've thought of him as like a William Walker with some decency and of deciding that enough was enough and setting some limits to his ambitions.

And Stirling's villains, like the Draka and William Walker, interests me because they make a sharp contrast to many of our real world villains. I mean the Draka and Walker were examples of INTELLIGENT tyrants, not at all like the bungling brutes we have seen: Soviet Communists, Nazis, Maoists, etc. We don't see Stirling's villains being as stupidly wasteful and incompetent as the ones I listed.

Even if you don't believe in God, make an agnostic's prayer that nothing like a real world Domination of the Draka ever arises!


Paul Shackley said...

I have enjoyed those 2 books the most.
John Rolfe was not a villain, was a sensible ruler and tolerant of criticism.
I do make agnostic prayers to whom it may concern. I feel particularly grateful for existence.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I agree, John Rolfe was not TRULY a villain, and he was a sensible ruler patient of criticism. I esp. recall how, in his rule of the Commonwealth set in alternate "California," he tried to arrange things so that the mistakes which has led to the wrecking of OUR California were not made.

An example of the kind of moral restraint John Rolfe was capable of was in that meeting of the Central Committee of the Thirty which met to discuss the Hawaiian problem. Rolfe and many of his colleagues were convinced Salvatore Colletta had deliberately introduced smallpox to Hawaii to create a virgin field epidemic which would kill off most of the people there, and did not like it one bit! But, absent any hard evidence PROVING this, Rolfe did not think it wise to move against the Collettas. Note the disgust he had for the idea of deliberately starting a devastating plague.

I also recall how you liked THE SKY PEOPLE best of Stirling's two Lords of Creation books. I know you did not entirely care for IN THE COURTS OF THE CRIMSON KINGS, because of finding the Martian Earth descended hominids too dry or "astringent." Altho I did relish COURTS myself.

Agnostic prayers? Good! My view is that God accepts honest agnostic prayers.