Sunday, 2 December 2012


Armageddon, with an unexpected outcome, occurs at the midpoint of James Blish's contemporary fantasy diptych, Black Easter/The Day After Judgement. (See here.) A contrastingly understated version of Armageddon, with a different unexpected outcome, is presented in the Epilogue of Poul Anderson's historical fantasy novel, The Merman's Children (London, 1981).

(i) Anderson's Armageddon is a fiction within the fiction because it is not an event in the novel but a hypothesis presented in a sermon by the character Father Tomislav.

(ii) Tomislav envisages the post-Armageddon repentance of Satan.

(iii) He also envisages the resurrection not only of the Christian dead but also of "...all that ever was, ever lived..." (p. 258) This would include the soulless merpeople who feature in the novel.

Tomislav's rationale for his vision is that Satanic repentance and universal resurrection would mean that nothing had been created in vain but he warns that what he has said "...could be heresy." (p. 258)

Immortality of the soul and resurrection of the body were two contrasting views of survival that merged in Christianity. Aristotle said that the soul was the form of the body but Plato had each soul transmigrating through many bodies. Greek philosophers laughed at St Paul for preaching bodily resurrection. Jehovah's Witnesses stand by the Biblical account of bodily resurrection, therefore rejecting the Pagan philosophical idea of immortal souls.

Some modern speculation, reflected in science fiction by Anderson and others, has artificial intelligence surviving and remembering the cosmos.

In the concluding Chapter XI, Tauno, a merman-human halfling, and his leman, a woman possessed by a ghost, do not (yet) experience Tomislav's hypothetical resurrection but they do achieve an acceptable apotheosis by sailing:

" 'Westward, maybe to Vinland or beyond. Whole vast realms of nature, Faerie, and man must be there, untouched by Christendom, open for our adventuring...we might become gods...Anything might happen, which is why we are going...' 'To know as much wonder as we can reach in whatever our spans may be...' " (p. 256)

- the kind of freedom that other Anderson characters gain by crossing interstellar space.

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