Wednesday, 11 July 2012

How Future Histories Get Written

Preferably, we read the stories and novels of a series in chronological order of fictitious events and not in the order of writing or of publication if this was different, although those who followed the series as it was being  published did not have this option. But it is illuminating to reflect on the order in which the works were written.

Poul Anderson introduced the character of David Falkayn in "Three-Cornered Wheel," (1963) then introduced the team of Falkayn, Adzel and Chee Lan in "Trader Team" (1965). One more story about Falkayn before he met the others, "A Sun Invisible," was published in 1966.

A three-sided conversation characterizes Falkayn and his colleagues, the dinosaur-like Adzel and the squirrel-like Chee. Adzel affirms his appreciation for other cultures by mentioning that he sang Fafnir while a student on Earth, Chee retorts that he also paraded as a dragon in Chinese New Year and Falkayn, their captain, says that that is enough from both of them. Here, the references to Fafnir and Chinese New Year serve only to show us how these characters interact.

However, "How To Be Ethnic In One Easy Lesson" (1974) shows us Adzel as a student on Earth and recounts how he came to play Fafnir and the Chinese dragon. This story is narrated by a one-off character, Adzel's fellow student, James Ching. Further, although its narrator never recurred as a character, the story was collected in The Earth Book Of Stormgate where it acquired a fictitious introduction informing us that Ching had, as he had hoped, become a spaceman and had eventually settled on the planet Catawrayannis which is known to us from other episodes in Anderson's Technic History.

Thus, the order of Anderson's creativity reaches forwards and backwards through time from Falkayn before he led a trader team to Falkayn leading the team to Adzel and Ching as students on Earth to Ching retiring on Catawrayannis and, of course, there is a lot more in the series than this.

Anderson introduced Merseians as opponents of the Terran Empire in "Honorable Enemies" (1951) but then informed us, in the second "trader team" story, "Day Of Burning," (1967) that it was Falkayn and his team who had enabled the Merseians to become opponents of Terra. Ythri is mentioned as a rival imperium in "Honorable Enemies" (1951). First contact is made with the winged Ythrians on their home planet in "Wings Of Victory" (1972). Remarkably, four further short stories and two novels all featuring Ythrians were all published in 1973 even though their fictitious dates in the Chronology of Technic Civilization range from 2150 to 3028 (thus all earlier than "Honorable Enemies," set, we are told, in 3033). Although human-Ythrian contact is spread across the History, it occupied only the 1972-'73 period in Anderson's writing career and this becomes evident only when the reader studies the dates as given in the Chronology/bibliography.

The Terran Empire first appeared in "Tiger By The Tail" (January, 1951) and "Honorable Enemies" (May, 1951) but had been founded centuries earlier in "The Star Plunderer" (September, 1952). For many years, the History had started with faster than light interstellar travel in 2150 ("Wings Of Victory," 1972) but later Anderson told us something of how Earth had recovered from global unrest with the help of interplanetary exploration around 2055 ("The Saturn Game," 1981). Thus, this first story in the Chronology was written much later than the last, "Starfog," (1967) which, the Chronology tells us, occurs in 7100.

Thus, we appreciate not only the long narrative of the History but also the creative skill with which it was all put together.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

One comment I would like to make is, recalling my note about Sandra Miesel's chronology, I don't think all the dates she proposed were accurate. I argued that various pieces of evidence indicates some of her dates erred. And Sandra Miesel herself was careful to point out Poul Anderson did not commit himself to her chronology. So, the differing dates I suggested could be as likely as hers.


Paul Shackley said...

I agree with this. I did say " we are told..." in relation to the Chronology.

Greg Hullender said...

Catawrayannis is a city. The planet is Llynathawr.

Paul Shackley said...

Greg, Thanks.