Tuesday, 28 August 2012


I have gone directly from rereading Poul Anderson's The Fleet Of Stars (1997) to rereading his Three Hearts And Three Lions (1953). The contrast could not be more complete: forty four years back through Anderson's career from late science fiction (sf) to early fantasy. Between the early fifties and the late nineties, there was an earlier period of very different sf.

The Fleet Of Stars is Volume IV of a hard sf tetralogy of imaginative speculation about the future of society, artificial intelligence, interstellar travel and the cosmos. Three Hearts And Three Lions is the first of four more loosely connected fantasy novels about parallel universes where history was different and magic works.

The Harvest Of Stars tetralogy, culminating in The Fleet Of Stars, uses the terms "chaos" and "chaotic" in their modern scientific senses whereas Three Hearts... presents a supernatural/magical cosmic conflict between Law and Chaos that is also to be found in Michael Moorcock's fantasies and, under the names of "Order" and "Chaos," in DC Comics including Neil Gaiman's The Sandman which I have previously compared to Anderson's works. (I have just found a character's name common to Three Hearts... and The Sandman: Alianora.)

Despite all the differences, the reader remains conscious of being in just another part of Anderson's  imagination. We need not worry that, if we enjoy one of the genres in which he works, we will dislike others simply because they are different.

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