Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Low Continuum

We start to learn something about the Hell of the "Operation..." timeline in Chapter XXIII of Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos (New York, 1995). It is referred to as "...the hell universe..." or "...the Low Continuum..." and there is also a "...Heaven" (pp.164-167).  There is an "...Adversary..." with "...minions..." in Hell. (p. 166)

The uncertainty principle allows psychic influences (visions, temptations or inspirations) to be transferred from one space-time plenum to another but the conservation laws of physics entail that a material object can be transferred only if it is replaced with an identical amount of matter "...whose configuration has to be fairly similar to preserve momentum...," which may be why angels appear in human form on Earth. (p. 165)

A demon's naturally chaotic form would arrive as a scattered mass of material weighing only a few pounds but he would immediately pull it together, borrowing an existing shape, while counter-transferring dirt, dust or rubbish - anything in a high-entropy state. Kidnapping Valeria, he counter-transfers mass in her form, hence a changeling.

Army personnel sent to explore Hell returned after a few minutes in acute shock, unable to describe anything, and instruments recorded incoherent data. It is theorized that the space-time there is violently non-Euclidean with locally variable geometry.

In physical science, high entropy would mean no activity and certainly no complex organisms capable of consciousness, intelligence or motivation but clearly para-physical laws are different. In James Blish's The Day After Judgement, the sequel to his Black Easter, human characters speculate that full negative entropy would be eternal life.

If (I am extrapolating here) the universes of the "Operation..." timeline comprise a spectrum stretching from the full negative entropy of Heaven to the permanently high entropy of Hell and if, further, destructively motivated demons are the form naturally taken by consciousness in this version of Hell, then:

(i) this differs from the orthodox Christian belief that demons are rebellious creatures;
(ii) the "...Manichaean elements..." of "...the Johannine doctrine..." would seem to be more applicable.

(The Manichaean idea of diabolical creativity is an issue in James Blish's A Case Of Conscience, which comes after Doctor Mirabilis and Black Easter/The Day After Judgement in Blish's After Such Knowledge Trilogy.)


  1. I know it's shocking but I'm no great fan of Poul Anderson (except for Boat of a Million Years). I preferred James Blish's version of Hell in Black Easter/Faust Aleph Null and Day After Judgement (was that the second book?) which was, I think, based on Dante's vision of Hell. Somehow it seemed authentic whereas this seems more contrived.

    1. Hi, Ketlan!

      Respectfully, I disagree. I thought Poul Anderson's science fictional description of Hell very well done. I can't adequately comment about Blish's THE DAY AFTER JUDGMENT because I read that book too long ago to depend on my memory. So, just this too brief note.


  2. The Day After Judgement was the 2nd book. Anderson is really presenting a different idea of "Hell" here. I have thought of a bit more to add to this post so am just about to extend it.