Friday, 2 December 2016

James Blish And The Megamultiverse

This posts combines two previous themes:

comparison of Poul Anderson with James Blish;

the idea of the incorporation of many fictional universes into a single megamultiverse.

Blish, like Anderson, wrote hard sf, fantasy and historical fiction but with a much smaller output. Blish's main bodies of work are:

Cities In Flight;
The Seedling Stars;
the Haertel Scholium;
After Such Knowledge.

These comprise:

two linear future histories;
one sequence of branching future histories;
one trilogy set in the past, present and future.

It will be seen that the future predominates. In fact, Blish's single volume of historical fiction and single volume of fantasy are Volumes I and II of After Such Knowledge. The branching future histories might provide material for a multiverse? Adolph Haertel, who supersedes Einstein, is referred to in more than one future - but so is Einstein. The planet Lithia exists in more than one future - but so do Earth and Mars.

When "Beep" was lengthened/novelized, it was incorporated into the Haertel Scholium. In the original "Beep," one character explicitly states:

"'I was going to do all those things. There were no alternatives, no fanciful "branches of time," no decision-points that might be altered to make the future change. My future, like yours, Dr. Wald's, and everyone else's, was fixed.'"
-James Blish, "Beep" IN Blish, Galactic Cluster (London, 1963), pp. 93-128 AT p. 116.

Although this piece of dialogue remains unchanged in the lengthened The Quincunx Of Time (New York, 1983), p. 75, the characters think their way around it. Maybe some of the Dirac beep messages come from different futures? Maybe, forewarned and forearmed, they themselves can choose between futures? - although they wisely decide against such an act of hubris.

Three characters discussing the implications of the Dirac transmitter are Blish's nearest approach to Anderson's Old Phoenix clientele and the Service that they found parallels Anderson's Time Patrol.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I have read the Flying Cities and the AFTER SUCH KNOWLEDGE books, and a few of Blish's short stories, I can't really comment due to not being as familiar with his works as I am with those of Poul Anderson.