Friday, 20 April 2012

Fair Winds Forever

Poul Anderson was able to invent new characters for specific purposes, then invest them with substance. An omnibus collection contains twelve works (eleven stories and one novel) set before, during and after the period of the Polesotechnic League. Another novel, The People of the Wind, is set after this period. From this further novel, Anderson generated a title and interstitial passages for the collection. The People of the Wind is set on the planet Avalon where some humans and Ythrians are organised as the Stormgate Choth so the collection became The Earth Book of Stormgate. The rationale for the title is that the works in the collection present human perspectives on events preceding the founding of the Stormgate Choth on Avalon.

Five of the works feature Ythrians. Of these, four focus explicitly on human-Ythrian relations, three are set on Avalon, two are set after the joint colonisation of Avalon and one is about Falkayn, the founder of the Avalonian colony, and his employer, van Rijn. Of the seven non-Ythrian works, one is about Falkayn, one about his future travelling companion, one about a planet previously visited by Falkayn and three about van Rijn. The one remaining story mentions van Rijn. Thus, all twelve works are connected to each other but not all in ways that link them directly to Avalon. Anderson makes this further connection in the specially written Earth Book introductions to the works.

In "Esau," Emil Dalmady reports to van Rijn. The Earth Book introduction informs us that Dalmady's children joined the Avalonian colony where one of them wrote "Esau." The introductions to two other stories inform us that she also wrote them. Earth Book introductions mention three Stormgate members from The People of the Wind: Lythran, Blawsa and Christopher Holm/Arinnian. They also introduce new characters: the historian Rennhi, who wrote The Sky Book of Stormgate about Ythrian perspectives but who died before she could start the companion volume, the Earth Book, and her son Hloch who wrote the Earth Book. Arinnian wrote one Earth Book story and collaborated with Hloch on two others which were based on Rennhi's decipherment of records left by van Rijn and Falkayn on Falkayn's home planet, Hermes.

Hloch's other sources are:

Far Adventure by Maeve Downey, the autobiography of a planetologist;
a private correspondence recorded on Terra and kept in the archives of the University of Fleurville on the planet Esperance;
the reminiscences of James Ching, a spaceman who settled on the planet Catawrayannis;
Tales of the Great Frontier by A. A. Craig;
stories by Judith Dalmady in the Avalonian periodical Morgana;
a historical novel about van Rijn originally published on either Terra or Hermes;
a tale brought to Ythri by the xenologist Fluoch of Mistwood and translated into Anglic by Arinnian;
the private journal of the spaceship captain Hiraharouk of Wryfields Choth on Ythri.

Hloch writes of Rennhi that her Sky Book, which we do not read, describes the history of the choth, the Ythrian ancestors, the Avalonian founders and their descendants to her own day.

"...of how past and present and future have forever been intermingled and, in living minds, ever begetting each other - of this does her work pursue the truth, and will as long as thought flies over our world." (1)

Thus, Anderson adds significantly to the works gathered in the Earth Book. Hloch signs off with:

"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." (2)

(1) Poul Anderson, The Earth Book of Stormgate, New York, 1978, p. 2.
(2) op. cit., p. 434.

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