Monday, 30 January 2017

The Best Future History Omnibus Collection

A future history can be a single novel, e.g.:

The Shape Of Things To Come by HG Wells;
Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon;
A Short History Of The Future by RC Churchill;
Genesis by Poul Anderson -

- or a single collection, e.g.:

Galaxies Like Grains Of Sand by Brian Aldiss;
The Seedling Stars by James Blish;
Tales Of The Flying Mountains by Poul Anderson -

- or a single omnibus volume, e.g.:

The Past Through Tomorrow by Robert Heinlein;
Cities In Flight by James Blish;
potentially, the Rustum History by Poul Anderson -

or may be too long to fit into a single volume, e.g.:

the Robots and Empire History by Isaac Asimov;
the Known Space History by Larry Niven;
the CoDominium History by Jerry Pournelle;
the History of Technic Civilization by Poul Anderson;
the Harvest of Stars History by Poul Anderson.

We have cited five examples by Anderson but have not yet exhausted the full list of this single author's future histories. Known Space and the Technic History each have a representative collection:

Tales Of Known Space;
The Earth Book Of Stormgate.

The Earth Book is an omnibus collection of eleven stories and one novel with new introductory passages. It introduces or incorporates many aspects of the History and even anticipates the Dominic Flandry series by introducing Merseia and mentioning the Empire. Thus, it is a remarkably comprehensive future history omnibus collection.


A link here to a picture of me as a butler led to Sean M Brooks' comment on a butler in Poul Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains. This led to a rereading of Tales and to comparisons of it with several other future histories. (See recent posts.) Meanwhile, I am reading Alan Moore's Jerusalem and watching Smallville but have finished reading Reality Is Not What It Seems. An early project will be to return to reading SM Stirling's Dies The Fire. Meanwhile, real life gets in the way.

Addendum: However, real life can provide material for blogging. Either someone says something relevant to sf (see here) or sometimes I provide background info about Lancaster, which is one of our Great Cities alongside York, New York, Ys, Archopolis etc although I cannot imagine Lancaster becoming one of James Blish's Okie cities because it would not have any industry to take into space.

"Earth itself became a garden planet, bearing only one city worth noticing, the sleepy capitol of a galaxy."
-James Blish, Earthman, Come Home (London, 1963), p. 13.

Lancaster is historically a "city" but physically a small town so it would belong on that future Earth where I would haunt not the Castle but the quay.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

The Conspiracy

Life and blogging interact. Last night, I conversed socially with a conspiracy theorist who thinks that our ultimate oppressors are "not human" and might even be David Icke's shape-shifting reptiles. This enables us on the blog to discuss and compare certain works of sf, including future histories.

Is it possible that a small and secret although powerful group somehow manipulates global society and directs the course of history? No. All the evils supposedly explained by the conspiracy are fully explicable by economic processes and social interactions that anyone can study. Patet Veritas Omnibus ("Truth lies open to all" - the motto of Lancaster University).

If there were any such conspirators, then how would they do it? Economic and financial powers (i) are very great, (ii) can be centralized in very few hands and (iii) can be exercised by people who keep their names and faces out of the news. I think that the conspiracy theory is a "fantastic reflection" of the real world.

(i) In Poul Anderson's "Details" and "No Truce With Kings," two different sets of aliens concealed among us apply a superior social science in order to manipulate humanity - but fail.
(ii) Anderson's psychotechnicians advise governments but also operate secretly and dishonestly and are overthrown as a result.
(iii) Isaac Asimov's Second Foundationers apply a predictive science of society and also deploy fantastic mental powers.
According to Jerry Pournelle's and SM Stirling's "The Asteroid Queen," Marx, Charlemagne, Hitler and Brennan (the Belter who became a protector) were all members of the same ancient, secret, world-controlling Brotherhood. Not in our timeline! And maybe not in the Known Space timeline either? The Brotherhood suppresses knowledge and propagates:

"...slanted versions of past, present, and future." (Man-Kzin Wars V, p. 26) -

- so maybe it lies to itself about its own past?
-copied from here.

To show how imagination that could be invested in the writing of fiction is instead deployed to devise complicated conspiracy theories, let me quote some of what I heard last night:

the City of London controls the world financially;
the City of Washington controls the world militarily;
the City of Rome controls the world religiously;
behind the public "White Pope" is a "Black Pope," the head of the Jesuits;
behind the "Black Pope" is a "Grey Pope" who is - who or what exactly?

How does the Grey coerce or control the Black? How does the Black coerce the White? How does the White oversee anything but the beliefs of his co-religionists? (Is it possible that the term "Black Pope" has been used jocularly? - but no more than that.)

When I expressed skepticism about the Grey Pope, I was advised to do my research so I googled and read some nonsense which was cheek by jowl with vile propaganda. I think that, in this milieu, "research" means reading books or websites which merely state that there is a conspiracy.

SF Premises

A fictional narrative has to be structured in a way that a historical or biographical narrative cannot be. A novel must work towards a resolution whereas a biographical volume merely ends at the time of writing or with its subject's death. Chance events may occur in a novel but must serve the plot and therefore cannot be merely arbitrary or random and there should not be any deus ex machina. John Buchan had too many coincidences. In real life, I encountered the surnames Nichols, Nicholson and Nixon in close association with each other whereas a novelist would usually avoid such a confusing juxtaposition except maybe for comic effect.

A fellow sf reader once suggested to me that a good sequel says, "Now there is a hell of a lot that we didn't tell you before!" A good sequel can do this but should nevertheless remain aesthetically congruous with the previous volume. I think that it would be inappropriate to introduce causality violation in a sequel to The Time Machine or newly discovered faster than light interstellar travel in a sequel to any of Poul Anderson's works that are based on the premise of STL travel.

However, a future history, reflecting real history, can show technological advances. Thus, Heinlein's Future History, Anderson's Psychotechnic History and Niven's Known Space History all show an STL period followed by an FTL period. Comparing future histories is one really enjoyable aspect of reading sf.

Sequel To Flying Mountains

How does society develop in the Astra?
What do the Astrans find at Alpha Centauri?
How long do they stay there?
Where do they go after that?
Do some opt to stay and found a colony?
Do they encounter aliens?
Meanwhile, what is happening in the Solar System?
Are other interstellar craft launched?
If so, to where?

Many of Poul Anderson's works end with the vista of a vast future stretching ahead, even those that are set in the past. At the end of The Corridors Of Time, the Bronze Age is coming.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

"The Vacant Interstellar Spaces" II

Why cross an interstellar distance, especially at sub-light speeds?

Poul Anderson's Answers
In the Rustum History, political refugees from Earth colonize an extra-solar planet.

In the Kith History:
interstellar traders live in their ships;
one smaller ship visits a remote civilization.

In Harvest Of Stars and The Boat Of A Million Years, those dissatisfied with Solar civilization leave it.

In Tales Of The Flying Mountains, the motive is exploration. The Astrans will spend time at Alpha Centauri but might then either travel elsewhere or return to Sol. They will be equipped to colonize terrestroid planets although colonization is not their primary purpose.

Anderson as ever covers every option.

Generation Ships

What do the generations inside a generation ship (slower than light multi-generation interstellar spaceship) do? I disagreed here with the social policies inside one of Poul Anderson's fictional generation ships. The same issues are addressed in Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984).

The embarking crew are mostly ne'er-do-wells but their children are expected to rebel against them and to "'...grow up almost Spartan, chronically appalled at the behavior of their elders.'" (p. 274) There must be a minority of first-class experts to run the machinery and bio-systems and to direct social development. The ship is described as:

"'...a placid, isolated environment where the only challenges are those they make for themselves.'" (p. 273)

Again, I disagree. The ship is not isolated but surrounded by the universe which can be studied en route. The interior need not remain placid and indeed:

"This mobile planetoid has ample room for athletics, even for camping and hunting in the forests we have planted." (pp. 284-285)

There will be elaborate ceremonies to inculcate discipline and belonging. The Polynesians are cited as a personality type able to live an easy life without going soft while retaining the ability cope with problems. In previous posts, I have suggested this as the optimal kind of person to respond to the kinds of challenges faced by some of Anderson's characters.

Unheroic Beginnings

In Poul Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984), the theme of "Nothing Succeeds Like Failure" is the unheroic origin of gyrogravitics and the theme of "Recruiting Nation" is the unheroic origin of the interstellar expedition. Anderson also wrote heroic fiction, however.

"Recruiting Nation" has two moments of realization.

"The drink leaped from my hand and splashed across my lap." (p. 276)

That is when a remark about programming computers alerts Sanders to a scam on the ship.

"An answer hit me, hard as the original solution had done. I sat straight in my chair and barked a delighted oath." (p. 281)

That is when Sanders realizes how he can make the miscreant confess. Sanders is an Andersonian problem-solving hero.

Mountains And Boat

Now let's compare Poul Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains with his The Boat Of A Million Years.

"'...Americans are descended from the failures of Europe, and asterites are descended from the failures of Earth.'"
-Poul Anderson, "Recruiting Nation" IN Anderson, Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984), pp. 255-283 AT p. 272.

The interstellar craft is crewed by:

clunkbrains breeding in the easy conditions;
the handicapped;
the elderly.

In Boat, Hanno argues that, at each stage of evolution, it is the failures, atavisms and outcasts that make the next step:

fish that couldn't compete struggled onto land;
ancestors of the reptiles were forced out of the amphibians' swamps;
birds were forced into the air;
mammals were forced to find niches safe from dinosaurs;
some apes were forced out of the trees;
Phoenicians went to sea because they held only a thin strip of land;
only those uncomfortable in Europe went to America or Australia;
the immortals go into space.

Boat, like the Harvest of Stars Tetralogy and Anderson's Genesis, also addresses the relationship between biotic and post-biotic intelligences:

"' last we will meet the postbiotics as equals...'
"'I wonder if, at the end, we and our allies won't be more than the equals of the machines.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Boat Of A Million Years (London, 1991), XIX, Thule, pp. 455-600 AT p. 598.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Approaching A Conclusion

I am rereading Poul Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains. The remaining stories are:

"Que Donn'rez Vous?"
"Recruiting Nation"

I have previously posted about all three of these installments (see the links) but remember less about "Recruiting Nation" so will skip to it. The first person narrator of the Prologue and Interludes comes on-stage as the viewpoint character and narrator of this last story. Committee members have lived through some of the history that they discuss.

I also have business on other blogs so might be less on Poul Anderson Appreciation for a while. I remain amazed by the scope of this blog which is down to its title character, not to the blogger.

Utopias And Dystopias

"'And that is all,' said Dr. Calvin, rising. 'I saw it from the beginning, when the poor robots couldn't speak, to the end, when they stand between mankind and destruction.'"
-Isaac Asimov, I, Robot (London, 1986), p. 206.

Susan Calvin speaks of fictional robots. However, anyone who had lived through the twentieth century would be able to speak in a similar way about other aspects of technology: automobiles; flying machines; computers. The conclusion of I, Robot is utopian. Giant robot brains move mankind towards its greatest good known only to the robots. (The sequel is clever: the greatest good is self-determination so the robot brains phase themselves out.)

In Poul Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains, gyrogravitic technology generates a utopian conclusion. Prosperity grows and spreads. Material resources flow from the asteroids to Earth where people enjoy leisure and security.

However, sf writers, living in the real world of the twentieth and twenty first centuries, know that technological progress can coexist with economic crises and social chaos. Robert Heinlein's Future History has:

the "Crazy Years" in the 1960s;
a Strike in '66;
the "False Dawn," 1960-70;
religious fanaticism and dictatorship in the early twenty first century;
cessation of space travel until 2072.

Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History has:

mass technological unemployment;
the Humanist Revolt in 2170;
two future Dark Ages.

From Short Stories To Longer Works

By James Blish
"At Death's End," set in New York, describes the discovery of antiagathics without which interstellar flight would have been impossible.

"Bridge," set on Jupiter and Jupiter V, describes both the exploration of Jupiter and the discovery of anti-gravity without which also interstellar flight would have been impossible.

They Shall Have Stars novelizes these two stories with new material, set in Washington, describing the political machinations without which early interstellar flight would have been impossible. (See here.)

Thus, the tripartite novel is a substantial opening volume for a future history which has six further installments since Volume IV is itself a collected tetralogy.

By Poul Anderson
Tales Of The Flying Mountains, which is a complete future history, has a similar structure, having developed through two stages.

(i) Stories in Analog by "Winston P. Sanders"
"What'll You Give?" (April 1963)
"Industrial Revolution" (September 1963)
"Sunjammer" (April 1964)
"Say It With Flowers" (1965)

Two titles change; the order changes; three stories and other new passages are added. Thus:

(ii) Tales Of The Flying Mountains (1970) by Poul Anderson
"Nothing Succeeds Like Failure"
"The Rogue"
"Say It With Flowers"
"Ramble With A Gamblin' Man"
"Que Donn'rez Vous?"
"Recruiting Nation"
+ Prologue, six Interludes and Epilogue.

Of the additions:

"Nothing Succeeds Like Failure" describes the discovery of gyrogravitics;
"Ramble With A Gamblin' Man" describes the first gyrogravitic propulsion of an asteroid;
"Recruiting Nation" describes the preparation of the interstellar vessel;
the other extra passages are a dialogue during the interstellar journey.

Thus, what began as four stories with a common background becomes a continuous sequence.

A World In A Grain Of Sand

Auguries of Innocence
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower 
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour
-copied from here.

Time Patrolman, Gypsy Man

Time, You Old Gipsy Man
TIME, you old gipsy man,
  Will you not stay,
Put up your caravan
  Just for one day?
All things I'll give you         5
Will you be my guest,
Bells for your jennet
Of silver the best,
Goldsmiths shall beat you
A great golden ring,  10
Peacocks shall bow to you,
Little boys sing,
Oh, and sweet girls will
Festoon you with may.
Time, you old gipsy,  15
Why hasten away?
Last week in Babylon,
Last night in Rome,
Morning, and in the crush
Under Paul's dome;  20
Under Paul's dial
You tighten your rein—
Only a moment,
And off once again;
Off to some city  25
Now blind in the womb,
Off to another
Ere that's in the tomb.
Time, you old gipsy man,
  Will you not stay,  30
Put up your caravan
  Just for one day?
-copied from here.

A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows

With a host of furious fancies
Whereof I am commander,
With a burning spear and a horse of air,
To the wilderness I wander.
By a knight of ghosts and shadows
I summoned am to tourney
Ten leagues beyond the wide world's end::
Methinks it is no journey.
-copied from here.

The Queen Of Air And Darkness

Her strong enchantments failing,
Her towers of fear in wreck,
Her limbecks dried of poison
And the knife at her back,

The Queen of air and darkness
Begins to shrill and cry,
'Oh young man, oh my slayer,
Tomorrow you shall die.'

Oh Queen of air and darkness,
I think ‘tis truth you say,
And I shall die tomorrow;
but you will die today.
-copied from here.

I copied this poem for obvious reasons. I will try to copy a few more relevant poems.

Important Dates

In Poul Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains, the politically unified North American continent is called the United States of North America and governed from Washington.

For purposes of teaching history in an interstellar spacecraft, important dates are listed as:


That last must have been the discovery of gyrogravitics. History becomes future history or, now, alternative history. Other important sf dates have been:

1964 Fred Hoyle's Black Cloud entered the Solar System
1984 need I say more?
1999 Dan Dare
2000 AD, an sf comic, still published
2001 comment unnecessary
2018 Volume I of James Blish's Cities In Flight, anti-gravity and antiagathics
2049-'50 Blish's A Case Of Conscience
2100 (approximately) Heinlein's Second American Revolution

Thursday, 26 January 2017


On the gyrogravitically terraformed asteroid Odysseus, Donald and Avis Bell live above the breathable atmosphere on the top of Mount Ida. Their home, comprising rooms, pools and colorful conservatories, is approached via a lift through the rock. The spacious living room has a hardwood floor, a fire of synthetic logs in a copper hearth, and a vitryl dome extending from waist height.

Visible in different directions from the dome are green plants, an ice mine, an undeveloped area and open space.

"The butler set coffee and liqueur on a table carved from a single great quartz crystal." (Tales Of The Flying Mountains, p. 140)

The mention of a butler enhances the impression of wealth but sounds discordant in a space colony but it is explained on the following page. In Isaac Asimov's future history, the butler would have been a robot, thus raising moral questions about the treatment of artificial intelligences that Asimov did not address.


I saw this one coming:

"'Our trouble today is that we could leave individually, but we've got so big an investment in Odyyseus, emotional more than financial, it'd hard to see how we could -'
"And the cigarette dropped from his fingers, and he stared into a vision for a minute that became very silent in the room, until he breathed, 'Or could we?'"
-Poul Anderson, "Ramble With A Gamblin' Man" IN Anderson, Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984), pp. 129-163 AT pp. 154-155.

This is yet another moment of realization, of course!

Harker, head of the commission from Washington, says that both Donald Bell of Odyyseus and he himself are guilty of being "'...glutted while others are poor.'" (p. 143) No, they are not. I am not guilty if my salary is higher than another man's because my work is more skilled than his. I am guilty if my large income derives directly from keeping others in poverty. Don't spread the guilt around. Direct it to where it applies.

Harker seems to contradict himself. Having spoken of poverty, he acknowledges that no one in North America is starving but claims that there are riots because "' ever-mounting standard of living...not only stops rising, it takes a sharp downturn...'" (ibid.)

I think that hardships greater than a mere downturn in an already high standard of living are necessary to explain riots!

Asterite Political Geography

As Jupiter orbits the Sun, one cluster of asteroids follows in the Trojan point sixty degrees behind and another precedes the gas giant sixty degrees ahead. Ahead are Hector, Achilles, Nestor, Agamemnon, Ajax and Oddysseus. Hector is the seat of regional colonial government. Oddyseus is mined for ice and is also a recreation center. Five asteroids follow Jupiter.

Vesta is the capital of the North American asteroids that have not seceded into the new Asterite Republic.

Probably more on this later. Right now, I must attend Holocaust Memorial at Lancaster Castle.

Rich Interconnections II

I missed several Rich Interconnections:

the Grand Survey discovered many inhabited planets, including Ythri, Gray/Avalon and Merseia;

Falkayn led the League expedition that initiated the shielding of Merseia against supernova radiation;

resenting extra-planetary assistance, the Merseians built a xenophobic global regime called the Roidhunate;

some Merseian refugees from the Roidhunate became laborers or fisherfolk on the human colony planet, Dennitza;

during the Terran-Ythrian War, the Roidhunate was a remote but growing threat;

most of Flandry's career consisted of defending the Empire against the Roidhunate;

Flandry intervened when a Merseian plot nearly severed Dennitza from the Empire although the Dennitzan Merseians remained loyal to the Emperor, not the Roidhun;

the Roidhunate declined at about the same time as the Empire fell;

thus, the long term goal of a Merseian-dominated galaxy was never achieved -

(- whereas the last time we see SM Stirling's Draka, they still aim for interstellar Domination. See here.)

The telepathic Chereionites had an ancient interstellar civilization but died out, leaving ruins and telepathic parasites on many planets;

the ruins inspire the belief that the Ancients went beyond and will return;

when the Roidhunate engulfed Chereion, the last surviving Chereionite, Aycharaych, tricked the Merseians into thinking that his planet with its intact cities and still-functioning technology was still inhabited by a powerful race;

spearheading Merseian Intelligence, Aycharaych nearly succeeded in fomenting a human jihad based on belief in the returning Ancients;

he also masterminded the plot on Dennitza and conditioned Admiral Magnusson who later rebelled within the Empire;

when Flandry bombarded Chereion, Aycharaych, if he survived, lost any motive to continue working for Merseia;

Fr Axor, a Wodenite convert to Jerusalem Catholicism, interprets Ancient inscriptions, hoping to find evidence of an earlier Divine Incarnation;

the Technic History includes other Wodenites and other Jerusalem Catholics.

David Falkayn is:

the captain of the first trade pioneer crew;
the savior of Mersia;
the discoverer of Mirkheim;
the founder of Supermetals;
the successor of van Rijn;
the Founder of Avalon.


I have long been dissatisfied by most allegedly "science fiction" movies and TV shows.  I've seen very little of either real science or at least semi-plausible speculative advances of science in them.  And I have to say that most of them are also unsatisfactory when it comes to extrapolating possible changes, advances, retrogressions, etc., in both human and non human societies in the future.  And that reminds me of how unconvincing I've seen speculative depictions of what non human alien races LOOK like.

Poul Anderson was and is one of the few science fiction writers who have really pleased and satisfied me as regards the points I listed in the prior paragraph.  Even when he goes beyond what we currently know in the sciences, he is careful to explain how things like a FTL drive MIGHT work (and SOME scientists don't totally dismiss FTL as a possibility).  Anderson is also very convincing in showing how human societies of the future might arise and work.  And I especially admire the skill and care in how he worked out ways non human intelligent races might evolve, live, think, organize themselves into societies, etc.

I have long wished some adventurous movie producer or director would take a chance and try filming versions of some of Anderson's stories and novels. It's my view that cinematic versions of his Nicholas van Rijn and Dominic Flandry tales would be good candidates for such an effort.  I have thought that a good choice for such an experiment would be a filmed version of Anderson's "The Game Of Glory."  Because that story might need only minimal special effects and could be filmed mostly in, say, the Bahamas Islands.  I think a film like that would be a good way for a producer/director to gain experience in how to satisfactorily produce cinematic versions of some of Anderson's stories.

Here I digress a bit.  Many of the STAR WARS movies famously begins with a textual crawl beginning with the words "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..."  The purpose of the textual crawl is to impart to viewers some background information and help set the mood desired for watching the movies.  It's my belief that any filmed versions of the Nicholas van Rijn or Dominic Flandry stories should begin with a similar textual crawl.  AND, a text that could be used for introducing any Flandry movies already exists.  I have a first edition hardback  copy of Anderson's collection FLANDRY OF TERRA (Chilton Books: 1965).  The jacket cover text for this edition would, with some editing, make a very good textual crawl for these hypothetical Flandry movies.  The text below was copied from the book jacket.
Captain Sir Dominic Flandry of Terra's Imperial Naval Intelligence Corps returns, dashing and debonair as ever, for more adventures among the stars

Long before Flandry was born, mankind had spread widely through the galaxy.  Humans had colonized many strange planets.  Then came a Time of Troubles out of which eventually arose the Terran Empire, rich and peaceful.  But some of those ancient colonies had been lost, and in these lost colonies, civilization had gone its own curious ways.

Now the Empire has grown old.  It wants nothing but peace in which to enjoy the pleasures of its wealth.  No longer are the barbarians and the rival, non-human powers held at bay.  Hungrily, they press inward.  Only a few devoted men risk their lives to stop the march against mankind.

Captain Flandry is one of these.  Spying, intriguing, fighting--joking, drinking, wenching--he goes from world to world on his lonely missions.
The text quoted above was a general summary--next came material specifically relating to the stories in FLANDRY OF TERRA.  The material I'll be quoting should be included after the text quoted above for the movies made for different stories.  For Nyanza, the planet seen in "The Game Of Glory," the book jacket said: "One such involves a world of ocean, settled by humans of African descent long before.  Somewhere, hidden from prying eyes, is an enemy agent--and what an agent!  He has to be found, and found at once, all one hundred feet of him!"

The text I'll be quoting here should be placed after the indented material I quoted above for any filmed versions of "A Message In Secret":  "Next, rumors reach Flandry of suspicious goings on through the chilly plains and polar snows of Altai, the lost ice world settled by clans of Mongols.  He suspects that Merseia, Terra's great enemy, is somehow involved, and goes there to see for himself.  At first the Kha Khan receives him hospitably, even sending him a girl from the royal harem.  But this girl blurts out the truth, that Merseian agents are indeed at work to turn Altai into a military base.  Flandry has to escape the palace to save his life and hers.  Then he has to warn Terra--and he is cut off in the wilderness, with no way to get at a spaceship. The best of fighting men can accomplish only so much; after that, he must depend on his own wits."  And I especially admired the ingenious way Flandry found for getting a message sent to the Empire!

This is what the book jacket said about the last story in FLANDRY OF TERRA, "The Plague Of Masters": "Unan Besar is almost the opposite of Altai.  This is a warm, rainy planet whose civilization has developed from a Malayan stock.  It looks peaceful, backward, even idyllic.  But Flandry soon finds it is under a ruthless scientific tyranny.  And almost at once, the agents of that government are out to kill him.  He takes refuge in the slums, is captured by Kemul the mugger, and brought before beautiful, catlike Luang.  His first need is a supply of those pills without which men soon die in the poisonous atmosphere of Unan Besar.  After that he must get off the planet and break the stranglehold of its government.  But Luang shows no particular interest in helping him."

I think the text about Unan Besar should be edited before being placed at the beginning of any filmed version of "The Plague Of Masters."  First, I would eliminate as unnecessary the mention of Altai.  Second, I think too much is given away about the plot of the story with the mention of how a special medicine is needed for human beings to continue living on Unan Besar.

IF done well I think any filmed versions of stories featuring Nicholas van Rijn and Dominic Flandry would be better, more convincing, than the STAR WARS or STAR TREK shows and movies.


According to Lao Tzu, water is like the highest good in three ways:

it brings life to all;
it seeks the lowest place for itself;
it overcomes obstacles by gentle pressure, not brute force.

When a child on a terraformed asteroid asks why water is important, he is reminded that:

he drinks it;
he washes in it;
it provides most of the oxygen for terraforming;
it is necessary for every industry.
-Poul Anderson, "Rambling With A Gamblin' Man" IN Anderson, Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984), pp. 129-163 AT p. 133.

He also knows that water is the most convenient way to transport the hydrogen needed for fusion. But he nevertheless asks: why mine water on a Trojan asteroid rather than on closer-in asteroids, on Jupiter or on Jovian moons? The answers are that:

the Trojan asteroid has an ice core and rich lodes;
miners of the Jovian atmosphere seek "'...still more valuable materials...'" (p. 134);
the moons are in a deeper gravitational well and are too big to terraform so that working there would require expensive life support.

I never knew that.

Rich Interconnections

The continuity of Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization is endlessly impressive. The previous two posts, here and here, have referred to:

van Rijn
the Polesotechnic League
the Terran Empire
(David) Falkayn
Dominic Flandry

- but have not mentioned many of the rich interconnections between these people, peoples and planets:

van Rijn employed Falkayn to lead his first trade pioneer crew;

Ythrians transported van Rijn to Mirkheim;

Falkayn had discovered Mirkheim, a natural source of supermetals, and founded the Supermetals Company, thus breaking his oath of fealty to van Rijn;

nevertheless, Falkayn married van Rijn's granddaughter and became acting CEO of van Rijn's company while the latter tried to patch together the Polesotechnic League;

Falkayn also founded the human-Ythrian colony on Avalon;

his descendant, Tabitha Falkayn, was part of the successful Avalonian resistance to annexation by the Terran Empire;

later, Dominic Flandry prolonged the life of the Terran Empire and expected planets like Avalon to build new civilizations.

Thus, everything, however apparently disconnected, fits together.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The Ninth Stage

I did not mention this here because it hardly counts as a ninth stage in Ythrian history but no less a figure than Dominic Flandry comments:

"'The sophont races will survive. In due course, they'll build fascinating new civilizations. Cultures of mixed species look especially promising. Consider Avalon already.'"
-Poul Anderson, A Stone In Heaven IN Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), pp. 1-188 AT p. 75.

Flandry and Anderson hint at a ninth stage that would have been outlined if it had been possible to continue the Technic History indefinitely. Flandry means that the sophont races will survive the collapse of the Empire which will result from a cycle of rule by force, oppression, general unhappiness and revolts led by ambitious Imperial claimants.

Flandry has striven to ensure that certain planets, like Nyanza and Dennitza, will remain strong after the fall of the interstellar civilization. Dennitza also has a culture of mixed species. Avalon has been strengthened by:

its Founder, Falkayn;
its inter-species cultural synthesis;
its survival of the Time of Troubles;
its incorporation into the Domain of Ythri;
its successful resistance to the Empire.

Thus, although Avalon has not benefited from any interventions by Flandry, it will hopefully be among those planets that are destined to rebuild interstellar civilization after the Long Night.

I am trying to post about Flying Mountains. However, a comparison with the Earth Book has reopened an interest in the successive stages of the Ythrian history.

Ythrian History

See here.

To recapitulate information from earlier posts, Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization incorporates eight stages of Ythrian history. Six are included in the Earth Book:

human explorers under Captain Gray discover Ythri;

Ythrians and human beings jointly explore a planet named after Gray;

an Ythrian ship takes van Rijn of the Polesotechnic League to Mirkheim and its captain sees the shadow of God the Hunter over van Rijn's way of life;

human beings and Ythrians colonize islands on Gray, renamed Avalon;

colonists on Avalon spread to a major continent;

[the Terran Empire and the Domain of Ythri wage war and Terra tries to annex Avalon];

soon after the war, an Avalonian Ythrian writes The Earth Book Of Stormgate;

[much later, an Avalonian Ythrian spies for both Domain and Empire].

Ythri is as important as League and Empire and we want its history to continue.


In Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984), people from Earth use gyrogravitics to terraform and colonize asteroids and to move one terraformed asteroid towards Alpha Centauri whereas, in The Earth Book Of Stormgate (New York, 1979), human beings and Ythrians, having crossed interstellar space by hyperdrive, colonize the terrestroid planet Avalon.

Tales is seven stories and additional passages collected in 286 pages whereas the Earth Book is eleven stories and one novel with additional passages collected in 434 pages and is just one volume of a much longer series.

Tales focuses entirely on gyrogravitics and asteroids whereas only five of the twelve works in the Earth Book feature Ythrians and only three feature Avalon although the additional passages are fictitiously written by an Avalonian Ythrian whereas the additional passages in Tales are dialogues inside the asteroid moving to Alpha Centauri.

Inter-Cosmic Echoes

When we read one work by Poul Anderson, we are reminded of others. Film makers might be able to evoke such a feeling. I suggested here that, in films of the Technic History, the Ythrian concept of "God the Hunter" should have a distinctive musical theme. That theme could then be played at appropriate moments in other dramatizations, e.g.:

"The weather felt suddenly less warm and she noticed too clearly how dark the sky was."
-Poul Anderson, "Ramble With A Gamblin' Man" IN Anderson, Tales Of The Flying Mountains, pp. 129-163 AT p. 130.

Meanwhile, this fourth of the seven installments of Flying Mountains evokes mythology. There is a "...zoo island Aeaea..." (p. 132) in Lake Circe on the colonized asteroid, Odysseus. And, in the Greek myths, the sorceress Circe changed Odysseus' men into animals on the island of Aeaea. Our much-quoted poet, James Elroy Flecker, also references Aeaea immediately before mentioning Odysseus:

but in that same  20
(Fished up beyond Aeaea, patched up new
—Stern painted brighter blue—)
That talkative, bald-headed seaman came
(Twelve patient comrades sweating at the oar)
From Troy's doom-crimson shore,  25
And with great lies about his wooden horse
Set the crew laughing, and forgot his course.
-copied from here.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017


We are having interruptions to interruptions. However, the blogging mind is free to roam throughout the fictional and literary multiverses.

Recently, I have been trying to connect these inter-linked blogs. Poul Anderson's future histories have been compared to other future histories discussed on the James Blish Appreciation and Science Fiction blogs. The themes of cities, quantum mechanics and dimensions have connected blogs and there have also been several new posts on two of the other blogs.

Shortly, I will return to rereading and posting on this blog about Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains.

Walking Through Archopolis Or Metropolis

Robert Heinlein's Lorenzo tells us that he:

"...threw my cape over my right shoulder, and strode along, enjoying the mild autumn weather and the various odors of the metropolis."
-Robert Heinlein, Double Star (New York, 1957), p. 9.

Reading this novel in the 1960s, I was disappointed that Lorenzo did not tell us what this futuristic city looked like. I imagined metallic buildings. Would there be provision for mere pedestrians in a city with advanced technology?

Alan Moore's viewpoint characters walk around Northampton. The author writes a character's stream of consciousness while also imparting information about urban geography and history. I would like to read a description of Dominic Flandry strolling around Archopolis. Flandry would be able to reflect on Terrestrial urban history, not only Chicago Integrate and San Francisco Integrate but also the slum where Eric Wace had grown up.

Pedestrians in Metropolis would continually look up...

Filming The Earth Book II

Continuing from here.

"...because of its nearness to populous Gray, our choth receives more humans into membership than most." (p. 1)

Pictures of Gray, then of winged Ythrians and human beings with gravbelts flying together. The words and the pictures begin to explain "choth."

" remembered for writing The Sky Book Of Stormgate."

The accompanying visuals should hint at the contents of the Sky Book, which is a volume that we never read or, in cinematic terms, a film that we never see.

"In this, as you well know, she traced and described the whole history of our choth. Of the ancestors upon Ythri; of the founders here upon Avalon; of the descendants and their doings unto her own years..." (pp. 1-2)

Scenes on two planets, showing the differences between their environments.

"God stooped upon her before she could begin the next chronicle." (p. 2)

"'In the end, God the Hunter strikes every being and everything which beings have made. Upon your way of life I see His shadow.'" (p. 407)

"...that race with which ours is to share this world until God the Hunter descends upon both." (p. 434)

God the Hunter should have a distinctive musical theme accompanied by a darkening of the scenery.

"Then came the Terran War..." (p. 2)

We should see scenes that we recognize from the dramatization of The People Of The Wind.

"...and, when it had passed by, ruined landscapes lay underneath skies gone strange."

This should be easy enough to visualize.

"Hloch, who had served in space, afterward found himself upon Imperial planets, member of a merchant crew..."

We should recognize planets from other parts of the Technic History.

"...Hloch had wearied of the void and returned to the winds."

A visual of the void, then of winds.

"This is the tale, told afresh, of how Avalon came to settlement and thus our choth to being. This is the tale as told, not by Rennhi and those on whom she drew for the Sky Book, but by Terrans, who walk the earth."

Intersecting streets; many human beings walking purposefully; birds' eye/Ythrians' eye view.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Filming The Earth Book Of Stormgate

A thought can move through my mind for a very long time before I realize that I should post about it. For links to other "filming" posts, see here.

As an introduction to a film based on Poul Anderson's The Earth Book Of Stormgate (New York, 1978), I think that a narrator should read in its entirety Hloch's Introduction, pp. 1-2, beginning:

"To those who read, good flight."

We should see Ythrians flying on the horizon but they should as yet be too far away for us to differentiate them from large birds.

"It is Hloch of the Stormgate Choth who writes, on the peak of Mount Anrovil in the Weathermother."

The audience should understand that terms like "Choth" will be explained later. For now, it is sufficient to pick up some idea of their meaning from context. We should see churning clouds above a large mountain.

"His Wyvan, Tariat son of Lythran and Blawsa, has asked this. Weak though his grip upon the matter be, bloodpride requires he undertake this."

Again, "Wyvan" and "bloodpride" will be explained later. "Bloodpride" is largely self-explanatory. We might see two Ythrians, Tariat and Hloch, in conversation.

"Judge, O people. The father of Hloch was Ferannian and the mother was Rennhi. They held the country around Spearhead Lake."

We see an Ythrian dwelling beside a lake with Ythrians circling overhead.

"He was an engineer who was often in Gray [and here], Centauri, and other towns, dealing with humans."

For the first time we see human beings in a town accompanied by Ythrians.

And at the end:

"Now The Earth Book of Stormgate is ended. From my tower I see the great white sweep of the snows upon Mount Anrovil. I feel the air blow in and caress my feathers. Yonder sky is calling. I will go.
"Fair winds forever." (p. 434)

We should see what Hloch sees and hear an eagle's wings.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Quantum Time

Quantum Mechanics
What is it?
Can subatomic indeterminacy coexist with macrocosmic determinism? (I think so: see here.)

How many are there?
Is time a fourth dimension?

How do quanta and dimensions interact?
(i) In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series, time travel requires 4N dimensions and causality violation is described as quantum indeterminacy on the macroscopic level. Thus, time travel links multiple dimensions to macroscopic indeterminacy.

(ii) "The attempts thus far to reconcile the quantum microcosm with the classic macrocosm have led to such mind-wrenching extravagances as string theory, notions that require extra dimensions, ranging between ten and twenty-six, before the mathematics will make sense."
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), pp. 781-782.

Thus, string theory synthesis of quantum mechanics with classical physics requires additional dimensions - although not as many as 4N of them!

Quantum Mechanics In Science And Fiction

I seek to draw together threads from three blogs. See:

A Sea Of Virtual Particles
Reality Is Not What It Seems

Poul Anderson writes sf.
Alan Moore writes a novel in which an artist considers the philosophy of science.
Carlo Rovelli tells us the science.

Onward, Earthlings.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Pun And Gun

"Both guards bent close to the lying man."
-Poul Anderson, "Say It With Flowers" IN Anderson, Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984), pp. 103-125 AT p. 118.

"...lying..." turns out to have been a pun. Flowers, a prisoner, has faked an illness to get a drop on his guards. Like moments of realization, "hero punches guard and grabs gun" is a standard Anderson plot maneuver. But it has to be presented plausibly and Anderson manages that here.

The war for asteroid independence has begun before this story starts and ends before it does. This is an economically written future history. Flowers winds up not only meeting but even employing the North American Intelligence officer who had interrogated him.

Interlude 3 confirms that there were Soviet asteroid colonies. Thus, the Soviet Union lasted much longer in the Flying Mountains timeline than it did in ours. Check out its parallel histories in James Blish's Cities In Flight and in Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium History.

"Say It With Flowers"

Can anyone see what is happening here?

The third tale of the flying mountains is called "Say it with Flowers";

it is about Lieutenant Robert Flowers, Space Force of the Asterite Republic, during the war for asteroid independence;

Flowers is tattooed with a comet that is also a flag, a dancing naked woman and, as a recent addition, a design of roses and lilies;

on a recent drinking spree, Flowers blacked out, does not now understand why he chose the flowers tattoo and intends to have it removed;

Flowers in his courier boat is captured by an enemy cruiser;

enemy Intelligence is unable to decipher Flower's dispatches;

however, after interrogating him under drugs and brain stimulation, they conclude that he is no one important.

The clue is in the title.

Friday, 20 January 2017


In Poul Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains, asterites discuss the newly elected Social Justice administration in North America.

In Anderson's contribution to Isaac Asimov's Robots series, two men out in space discuss Stephen Byerley (see here) who has recently been elected on Earth.

In 2017, people around Earth discuss the newly elected President of the United States.

When I started reading science fiction, including works by Poul Anderson, in the 1960s, all three of these statements would equally have been sf.

Next year will be 2018. Year 2018 was an alternative title of Volume I of James Blish's Cities In Flight Tetralogy which begins with politics in Washington.

It is good to read about the future, then to live it.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

What Is A Weapon? II

An asterite defies the North American Space Navy:

"'The station hasn't got any armament, but trust the human race to juryrig that. We commandeered the scoopships belonging to this vessel and loaded them with Jovian gas at maximum pressure. If your missile detonates, they'll dive on you.'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Rogue" IN Anderson, Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984), pp. 45-100 AT p. 95.

See What Is A Weapon?

This adaptation of peaceful technology for warfare is another conceptual parallel between Anderson's Tales Of the Flying Mountains and Larry Niven's Tales of Known Space.

Also relevant is a very perceptive comment by an Alan Moore character:

As Alan Moore’s extraterrestrial character, Zhcchz (“Skizz”), says:

“You…refuse to…understand. When technology…has reached…a certain level…weapons…are redundant. When you already have…all that you need, then…why fight? We…have devices…that you would call weapons. To us…they…are tools.”
-copied from here.
We do not fight for the air that we breathe and I am confident that we will not fight for anything when technology has been used to make everyone rich.

Pivotal Characters

Starting to post about "Pivotal Characters," I find that I have already posted about "Important People"! My point is that a future history is about future historical events - to quote Wells, "Things To Come" - and about the future of humanity - to quote Stapledon, "Last and First Men." Thus, a series just about a single individual like Nicholas van Rijn or Dominic Flandry, is not a future history. However, particular installments of a future history series feature individual characters and early installments might feature some characters whose role is pivotal for the subsequent history. We can look for such characters although we will not necessarily find them in every case. With an eye to that earlier post but also making some additions or alterations, we find:

de Windt wrote Social Nucleation.

Harriman "sold the Moon."

I think that we were told the name of the founder of US Robots?

Rullman invented pantropy.
Wagoner secretly oversaw the development of the spindizzy and the antiagathics.
Haertel invented the Haertel overdrive.
Wald invented the Dirac transmitter.

Valti wrote the first psychotechnic equations.
Emett discovered gyrogravitics.
Anson Guthrie founds Fireball.
Guthrie's granddaughter is the "Mother of the Moon." See here.

Filming Poul Anderson

See "Textual Crawl For Flandry Movies" by Sean M. Brooks here and "Filming It" by me here. The latter links to a post about filming Mirkheim which links to a post about filming the introductory passage of "The Game of Glory." See also "Film Versions," here.

Although I welcome Sean's discussion of how to introduce films based on Poul Anderson's works, I think that the book blurbs that he cites are rather too wordy and "spoiler" for this purpose. The famous intro to Star Trek might serve as a model. Something about how mankind has spread into - rather than "through" - the galaxy would certainly make sense as an opener to any film or TV episode set in Anderson's Terran Empire.

However, I like my proposed start for "The Game of Glory," simply a narrator's voice quoting the opening sentence:

"A murdered man on a winter planet gave Flandry his first clue." See here.

The Rogue

Like Robert Heinlein's "Logic of Empire," Poul Anderson's "The Rogue" presents economic imperialism in the Solar System:

"'What the new government wants is something like the eighteenth-century English policy toward America. Keep the colonies as a source of raw materials and as a market for manufactured goods, but don't let them develop a domestic industry.'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Rogue" IN Anderson, Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984), pp. 45-100 AT p. 85.

Not only America but also India?

So we are not just reading about men in spacesuits. (My childhood idea of sf.) We might discuss the Social Justice party and Systemic Developments but I suspect that this would merely rehash issues from previous posts.

When Mike Blades realizes how he can resist North American Naval encroachment on his asteroidal enterprise, we get yet another Moment of Realization: Mike drops his wine bottle, stares ahead and eventually whispers that he really thinks they can swing it. (p. 86)

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Exploring And Exploiting The Solar System II

In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series, human beings colonize the Moon, Venus, Mars and the Saturnian moons. Of course, the Time Patrol is a historical time travel series, not a tenth future history. However, this involves extending the same science fictional imagination in the opposite temporal direction. Further, the Time Patrol presents an implicit future history, giving many hints about future periods. See The Time Patrol Timeline.

Poul Anderson wrote:

more future histories than any other sf author;
a time travel series, the Time Patrol, to which nothing else is comparable.

Like Heinlein's Future History and Anderson's own Psychotechnic History, the Time Patrol series can be appropriately collected in two dense volumes. See here. In fact, it has been although I slightly disagree with the order in which the installments are presented.

Exploring And Exploiting The Solar System

In Robert Heinlein's The Green Hills Of Earth, human beings colonize the Moon, Mars and Venus. In Heinlein's "Misfit," they move an asteroid. In his early Scribner Juveniles, which I classify as a Juvenile Future History (and here), they colonize the Moon, Mars, Venus and Ganymede.

In Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, human beings, assisted by robots, work on Mercury, a space station and an asteroid.

In James Blish's They Shall Have Stars, human beings explore Jupiter by remote control.

In Larry Niven's Tales Of Known Space, a cyborg and his human partner explore Mercury and Venus. Later, the Belters colonize and exploit the asteroids.

In Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History, human beings colonize Mars and Venus.

In Anderson's "The Saturn Game," human beings in a solar-powered space fleet explore the Outer Solar System.

In Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains, asterites use gyrogravitics to colonize and exploit the asteroids and to mine the Jovian atmosphere.

In Anderson's Harvest Of Stars, some human beings live in a space habitat whereas others are adapted to live in Lunar gravity. Later, some Lunarians colonize a newly discovered outer planet.

That is nine future histories:

two by Heinlein;
one each by Asimov, Blish and Niven;
four by Anderson.

Two Organizations

Having mentioned organizations in future histories, we should contrast Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic Institute with Isaac Asimov's Second Foundation. In Asimov's Foundation series, Hari Seldon is able to devise a science of society merely because the human population of a colonized Galaxy is large enough to have become mathematically predictable whereas Anderson's Valti synthesizes and extends existing relevant disciplines.

Following Valti, the Psychotechnic Institute significantly increases the practical understanding of individual psychology and physiology and of social dynamics whereas, following Seldon, the Second Foundation makes an impossible leap from predictive psychohistory to a mixture of hypnotic and semi-telepathic mental powers.

The Institute advises government and is overthrown by a revolution whereas the Second Foundation, somehow manipulating populations without holding any direct political power, conceals even its existence from the rest of humanity.

See here.

Revolt In 2170

Revolt in 2100 is Volume III of Robert Heinlein's Future History whereas The Snows Of Ganymede is a volume of Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History which was modeled on the Future History. In Revolt In 2100, the Second American Revolution led by the Cabal overthrows a theocracy whereas, in the Psychotechnic History, the Humanist Revolution of 2170 outlaws the Psychotechnic Institute. In The Snows Of Ganymede, some psychotechnicians try to make a comeback but are thwarted by members of the Order of Planetary Engineers. Organizations are a feature of some future histories. Psychotechnics was a genuine, if incomplete, science of humanity and returns later in that History.

Structurally, each of these Histories could be collected in two omnibus volumes.

The Future History
I. Pre-space flight Earth and the early interplanetary period, culminating in "Logic of Empire," which is set on Venus but which also refers to the Prophet Nehemiah Scudder on Earth.
II. The theocracy and subsequent history.

The Psychotechnic History
I. The periods of the UN and the Solar Union, culminating in "Brake," which shows social fragmentation and disintegration on Earth.
II. The period of faster than light interstellar flight.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Some Details In Three Future Histories

also after the Revolution, space travel is resumed and asteroids are moved to orbits between Earth and Mars where they are adapted as space stations for refueling and rescue.
-copied from here

Thus, in the original Future History, asteroids were adapted as space stations.

The Future History
(i) Technological advances and social changes on Earth.
(ii) The colonization of the Solar System.
(iii) The first interstellar round trip.

Tales Of The Flying Mountains
(i) A single technological advance leading to colonization of the asteroids which in turn leads to prosperity on Earth.
(ii) The first interstellar expedition.

Book Covers In Two Future Histories
See for yourself.