Thursday, 4 October 2012

Temporal Conundra

In Poul Anderson's The Dancer From Atlantis (London, 1977), as Duncan Reid grows a beard, Erissa says, "'You come daily closer to the Duncan I knew...' " (p. 62).

Of course. They have traveled to 1400 BC, he from 1970 AD, she from 1376 BC. He will soon meet the twenty four years younger Erissa for the first time.

For Reid, a single audience with the Ariadne of Atlantis resolves two temporal conundrums. Erissa had told him that he was not wearing a wristwatch when they first met. That is because he had given it as a present to the Ariadne after which the latter assigned the young Erissa to guide him in Atlantis. She chose Erissa because that lay sister's name, the same as that of Reid's current woman companion, might be an omen.

We suspect, although we cannot be sure yet, that this is a timeline where circular causality but not causality violation is possible. Thus, Reid can meet Erissa because he has met Erissa but they cannot prevent the doom of Atlantis. We also expect that Reid will return to his wife in 1970 at the end of the novel. That return is not a foregone conclusion, though. Some heroes of such stories opt to remain in the other world or time where they have adventured.

At the end of Anderson's The Corridors Of Time, Malcolm Lockridge, who admittedly has no ties in the twentieth century, stays in the past to found a realm in the Bronze Age. We must read to the end of The Dancer From Atlantis to find out what becomes of Duncan Reid.

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