Monday, 12 June 2017

To The End And Beyond

Imaginative authors sometimes take us to the end of all things and beyond.

One very long body of work on time and indeed on time travel is Poul Anderson's two-volume Time Patrol series: Time Patrol and The Shield Of Time. However, the Patrol guards only a million years and we are shown mostly our past, not the future. The Danellian civilization and its successors, if any, remain a mystery.

Five much shorter works on different aspects of time are:

The Time Machine by HG Wells;
The Great Divorce by CS Lewis;
"Flight to Forever" by Poul Anderson;
The Quincunx Of Time by James Blish;
"Man In His Time" by Brian Aldiss.

Wells' Time Traveller sees the giant red sun eclipsed above a lifeless Earth in a remote future and flees back to the nineteenth century. Lewis addresses the relationship between time and eternity but derived his image of eternity from a story about travel to the past. However, what I want to quote from Lewis here is his account of the end and a new beginning:

"...the rim of the sunrise that shoots Time dead with golden arrows and puts to flight all phantasmal shapes."
-CS Lewis, The Great Divorce (London, 1982), p. 117.

The Great Divorce may be compared not only to these works of science fiction but also to Plato's Phaedo and John's Gospel.

The protagonist of "Flight to Forever" remains within time but travels around its circle because beyond the end is the beginning. The protagonists of The Quincunx Of Time receive messages from their future but cannot understand messages from too far ahead. Characters in a longer work by Blish, Cities In Flight, Vol IV, The Triumph Of Time, survive the end of our universe long enough to create new universes from their own bodies. "Man In His Time" addresses only a very brief temporal discrepancy and is included in this list because of its originality.

And here are two more remote futures from Poul Anderson:

"'Once we've discovered how to build a holontic time communicator - it'll mean more than the future talking to the past, you know. It'll mean calling across the universe.'
"'And in that way also making the universe one.' She sighed. 'A grand vision. You and I won't live to see it, though.' Mastering forces so mighty would take many human lifetimes. 'Unless we do live on afterward.... No, I can't say what the limits are for us.'"
-Poul Anderson, Starfarers (New York, 1999), 52, p. 494.

Lewis believed in a hereafter. Anderson speculated about one. (See the "holontic" link.)

- and, for the post-Ragnarok future, see here.

"'Yes,' answered Njord, god of the sea, 'from this day to the last, we are brothers.'" (ibid.)

Lewis believed Christianity but also, like Anderson, valued Norse myths. Thus, we have rounded up several imagined cosmic endings.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

You did not mention it, but I also thought PA wrote a very interesting speculation in OPERATION CHAOS of what Hell might be like. As an utterly dead universe at the very end of the heat death process?


Paul Shackley said...

I was looking for inspiring future and beyonds! - but, yes, OPERATION CHAOS is another interesting spwculation.