Friday, 7 October 2016

Regular Guys In Exotic Scenarios

See Mysterious Transportation.

When a regular guy is mysteriously transported to an exotic setting, we want the guy to be authentic and the setting to be imaginative. For authenticity, the author can either create a character of his own nationality and social milieu or alternatively can give the character some different background. In the latter case, we might recognize the background.

I am not the same kind of guy as Malcolm Lockridge in Poul Anderson's The Corridors Of Time or as Duncan Reid in his The Dancer From Atlantis. James Blish, an American living in England, created John Martels for A Midsummer Century. Martels is a University graduate, a radio astronomer and a British emigre to the US. I can identify with the graduate and the Brit but not with the radio astronomer or the emigre. (Incidentally, Blish's purpose was to revive the old narrative technique of starting in the here and now before whisking his character to somewhere/when else, in this case a far future. However, Martels had already been transposed to an exotic setting, the US.)

I have some things in common with Patrick O'Rourke in SM Stirling's Nantucket Trilogy. Like O'Rourke, I once studied Law in Dublin and also worked in the US one summer - although I was not on Nantucket when it time traveled. My escape from the mundane was to transfer from Law to Philosophy and Religious Studies - and I was already reading sf, which is how most of us time travel.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Interesting that you once visited the US for a few months! I fear the US may well have seemed huge, baroque, and even garish even to a friendly foreigner. Perhaps a bit like Poul Anderson's Terran Empire?

Commenting on your last paragraph. I like your suggestion that the way SF fans travel in time is by resding science fiction. It reminded me of how one reason I read SF is because good works set in that genre are future oriented, not dwelling in the past. Which is one reason why, unlike many, I was never a fan of novels set in the American Old West (what we call "Westerns"). Such stories are fat too nostalgic for my taste. I prefer to think of the future, not the past, of other worlds and stars!

Let me head off a possible misconception. SOME forms of thinking about the past are good. A knowledgeable interest in history help can help us to understand where things went wrong, where mistakes (including disastrous blunders) were made. A knowledge of history can possibly help guide us into making fewer mistakes as we stagger into the future.