Sunday, 29 July 2012

Poul Anderson's Ninth Future History

Earlier, I listed seven series and one individual work by Poul Anderson that I classified as "future histories":

Flying Mountains;
the Harvest Of Stars tetralogy;

It is appropriate to end with a Genesis, a new beginning, long after human extinction. With Anderson, there is always more to be said:

"Flight To Forever" and "In Memoriam" are miniature future histories;
the Time Patrol series and The Boat Of A Million Years are "past and future histories";
several works present past and alternative histories, as also does the Time Patrol;
four stories that I thought fitted into the Rustum History timeline instead form a loose "Directorate" future history.

"Home": population has grown so large and resources so low that the Terrestrial Directorate terminates all its extrasolar scientific bases, forcibly if necessary. Generations have grown on Mithras and do not leave willingly.

"The Alien Enemy": Policy has changed. The Directorate establishes extrasolar colonies. Sibylla fails but Zion, Atlas, Asgard and Lucifer survive. Returned Sibyllans, given the Sahara to develop, succeed and make a difference on Earth decades later.

"The Faun": colonists on Arcadia preserve ecological balance. A boy is trained to open his senses and comprehend his total environment.

"Time Lag" is a mini-history. The planet Chertkoi attacks the planet Vaynamo three times at sub-light speeds so that three generations of Vaynamoans grow up to resist. A woman taken captive to Chertkoi returns to meet her great-grandson.

Vaynamo is rural and peaceful, Chertkoi the opposite but both represent humanity spreading and diversifying on an interstellar scale with Old Sol's exact location forgotten a thousand parsecs away. This is an Anderson future.


  1. Hi, Paul!

    This note of yours inspires various thoughts by me.

    I would have added the Hoka stories co written by Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson to your list of "future histories." This could be called the "Interbeing League" timeline and comprises the ten short stories found in EARTHMAN'S BURDEN, HOKA!, and the novel STAR PRINCE CHARLIE.

    I agree with your suggestion that four stories you listed in your note belongs to a "Directorate" timeline separate from that of the Rustumite timeline.

    It's been a long time since I read "Home," but I thought the Directorate decided to close down the scientific base on Mithras for two reasons: a diminishing rate of return in scientific knowledge and to prevent the inevitable conflict between humans and Mithrans from breaking should a base become a colony. I am not sure that this was part of a refusal to attempt founding new colonies, however.

    For example, recall how, in "The Alien Enemy," the president of the Sibyllan colony, while meeting the minister in charge of the space service, shrewdly deduced the Directorate may had hidden evidence that some colonies died out. And note the official's reaction. So, I don't think policy had changed--rather, some colonies succeeded while others failed. For real history examples of failed colonies think of the Norse colony on Greenland and the short lived Roanoke colony of the 1580s.

    And one thing I noted about the planet Vaynamo is how the colonists seem to have been Christian. The capital city is mentioned as having a church or cathedral dedicated to a Christian saint (whose name I forget). This would be an example of Poul Anderson's skill as a writer, using a small but telling DETAIL to say a lot without needing to go into long expositions.


  2. I am not familiar enough with Hoka. Read one collection and didn't care for it.

    There is a cathedral on Vaynamo. As on Dennitza, it has been there for centuries so, although these colonies are in our future,each of them has a rich past.

  3. Hi, Paul!

    Well, I still remembered how much I enjoyed reading EARTHMAN'S BURDEN. And, later, HOKA. These stories were examples of Anderson and Dickson writing HUMOROUS science fiction. And THE MAKESHIFT ROCKET is another example of Anderson successfully using comedy in his writing.

    STAR PRINCE CHARLIE is a more serious work set in the Hoka timeline. But it too has flashes of the comedy seen in the other Hoka books. I don't think science fiction has to be always sternly serious!

    I agree, the comparison you made noting how both Vaynamo and Dennitza having cathedrals is a good one. Alas, we don't know much of the religious background of Vaynamo--whether the colonists were Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant. But, given how the Vaynamoans seem to be largely Finnish in origins, I lean to them being Lutherans.


  4. Do Lutherans have Bishops, and therefore Cathedrals? (I'm not sure.)

    STAR PRINCE CHARLIE is one of the Anderson novels that I have not read yet - and I recently felt that I could not afford some that I located online. Does the Hoka series cover a long enough period to count as a future history? If we list not PA's future histories but just his series, then we get a slightly different, longer, list.

    I agree all sf doesn't have to be serious but I kind of think future histories have to be.

  5. Hi, Paul!

    Yes, Lutherans have bishops, altho they don't agree with us Catholics and Orthodox about apostolic succession and deny Holy Orders is a sacrament. And at least in Norway and Sweden the Lutherans took over the former Catholic cathedrals. In fact, some "high church" Lutherans preserved quite a few Catholic customs. Which, for all we know, might be what happened on Vaynamo.

    No, if we include STAR PRINCE CHARLIE with EARTHMAN'S BURDEN and HOKA! I don't think the entire series covers more than about thirty or forty years. The Hoka character in STAR PRINCE is mentioned as having studied at Oxford University, something which is not mentioned as being the case for any Hokas in the other two books. Which makes me consider STAR PRINCE the latest, in terms of internal chronology.

    Yes, the Interbeing League/Hoka stories is probably best understood as a series, not a "future history."


  6. We don't have "Lutherans" as such here so I always imagined them as low church but I gather they are another episcopal group alongside Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican. The diversity of Christianity is greater than I was led to believe when growing up. The Church of England is unique in claiming to have both Protestant and (Anglo-)Catholic wings in the same church. If I had to operate inside Christianity, I would go for Quakerism but now we have access to all the traditions and Zen is the one with which I have least disagreements.

  7. Mind you, if they deny apostolic succession and holy orders, they are hardly the same kind of bishops.

    1. Hi, Paul!

      Precisely! The Lutheran conception of Holy Orders and their denial of apostolic succession is a serious point of disagreement Catholics/Orthodox have with them.

      Yes, I knew of the existence of low/high church wings in the CoE. Truth to say, most Catholics who take an interest in such things found this kind of split within Anglicanism confusing. It does not make sense to find several groups having sharply opposing views within the same church but still claiming to be Anglicans. IMO, the low church Anglicans are more logical and consistent with what Thomas Cranmer taught.

      Needless to say, as a Catholic, I believe all these kinds of Protestants are in varying degrees of error!


  8. I used to think that apostolic succession meant just bishops laying hands on priests at ordination, and question whether Anglicans had lost it, but the real significance of bishops is that they are successors of apostles who were, it is believed, witnesses to the Resurrection. Apostles founded churches and appointed assistants. Each church elected an assistant as a successor when the apostle died. Those first bishops had known and heard the witnesses whereas a man who becomes a bishop now is no closer to evidence for the Resurrection than anyone else and can only read the New Testament like everyone else. So it could be argued from Christian premises that there should no longer be bishops.

  9. I have blogged but elsewhere and have been sidetracked from prose fiction to film and graphic fiction.

    1. No problem, Paul! The HARVEST OF STARS tetralogy is a huge series which needs time to be properly read, assessed, and pondered on.


  10. I have also been lent a book of meditations by a Zen teacher at the point of death letting go of everything to cleanse her karma and realise the truth. As you can imagine, this also needs a lot of attention.