Monday, 30 July 2012

Harvest Of Stars II

I am rereading Harvest Of Stars by Poul Anderson (New York, 1993). Blogging and rereading are a good combination but the former can get ahead of the latter. I have reached page 106 of 531.

Comments So Far

(i) Once again, Anderson presents the conflict between free enterprise and ideologically driven bureaucracy. Yet again, I think that there is at least one other option: an economy that is controlled neither privately nor bureaucratically but - cooperatively/communally/collectively/democratically. I do not use any one word because no single word is adequate. These terms are loaded because they have a history and are controversial and I will not pursue that debate far here - but it is relevant because Anderson's text raises the issue so it makes sense that each of his readers think about it.

I acknowledge three difficulties:

the viability of a global cooperative economy remains to be demonstrated in practice;
to get from where we are to there requires a major struggle;
a defeat or failure in that struggle can indeed result not in free cooperation but in a nominally "democratic" dictatorship enforcing its idea of "cooperation" on everyone else and that is not a desirable outcome (though, of course, political dictatorship can accompany free enterprise economics as well).

(ii) The hero is Anson Guthrie - after Robert Anson Heinlein? Guthrie, now biologically dead but downloaded into a neural network, tells us that some of his reading, while alive, was unfashionable:

"...Kipling, Conrad, MacDonald, Heinlein, that ilk, they were insensitive reactionaries. Or racists or sexists or whatever the current swear word was. You see, they dealt with things that mattered." (p. 59)

Which MacDonald does he mean? One of Heinlein's early pen names was Anson MacDonald, comprising his own middle name and his mother's maiden name, but Anderson/Guthrie will not have listed the same writer twice. It is a pity that, after Heinlein, he could not have listed "Anderson" but that would have involved the paradox of the future Guthrie reading about the fictitious Guthrie!

Dealing with what matters does not make anyone racist or sexist. "The White Man's Burden" does sound rather racist so let me quote what I think is a very effecive short poem by Kipling:

"What of the hunting, hunter bold?
        "Brother, the watch was long and cold.
"What of the quarry ye went to kill?
        "Brother, he crops in the jungle still.
"Where is the power that made your pride?
        "Brother, it ebbs from my flank and side.
"Where is the haste that ye hurry by?
        "Brother, I go to my lair - to die." (1)

(iii) I have said before that Anderson is a serious writer who likes, and is good at, his action-adventure fiction but does action-adventure sometimes get in the way of serious writing? This novel, as noted, addresses major issues and, as remembered from previous readings, really takes off as imaginative sf in the interstellar passages towards the end but a lot of time before that is taken up with chase scenes and evading the Sepos (Security Police). However, rereading gives an opportunity for reassessment...

(1) Kipling, Rudyard, The Jungle Book, London, 1995, p. 71.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Harvest Of Stars

I am starting to reread Poul Anderson's Harvest Of Stars tetralogy:

Harvest Of Stars (New York, 1993)
The Stars Are Also Fire (New York, 1994)
Harvest The Fire (New York, 1995)
The Fleet Of Stars (New York, 1997)

- a later, major work, totaling about 1670 pages.

A few Anderson novels start with a prologue that makes more sense after reading the novel and that can be skipped when rereading. Harvest Of Stars starts with a one and a half page "Epilogue" that will certainly make more sense when reread afterwards. A planet called Phaeton is, apparently, ending with hordes of volcanos and falling hills. There is a first person narrator who has access to the consciousnesses of animals as they experience and fear shuddering ground and shrieking wind. Names of terrestrial animals are listed.

The narrator says, "Farewell, beloved!" (p. 2) To the sundering planet? (I am not sure.)

Part One, entitled Kyra, starts in the viewpoint of a woman called Kyra and, again, makes references that we must read on to understand - but we are also confident that Anderson's writing will make sense of it all.

The Fleet Of Stars, as I noticed when counting pages, ends with a two word Chapter:

"FENN WOKE." (p. 403)

Having read these works over a decade ago, I have no memory of who Fenn was. I now embark on a new voyage of discovery. Leaving Nicholas van Rijn and Dominic Flandry far behind, we accompany Poul Anderson into a new universe.

Addendum, 30/7/12: I got this wrong. Phaeton is not the planet. But that's my point. The text is not fully comprehensible initially. But it does make sense later.

Poul Anderson's Ninth Future History

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

Psychotechnic;
Technic;
Maurai;
Flying Mountains;
Rustum;
Kith;
the Harvest Of Stars tetralogy;
Genesis.

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.

The Gearch

"In The Shadow" is the odd story out in Poul Anderson's The Queen Of Air And Darkness and other stories (London, 1977) both because it is not about interstellar travel and because its future politics are unique to it. Earth, or perhaps the entire Solar System, is ruled by a "Gearch" called Huang III (p. 91).

It seems that Huang's rule is hereditary, Oriental and despotic. He denies a Petition of Rights, thus causing riots which become an insurrection, suppresses the latter but then maintains control with measures like:

pardoning most insurgents;
making some reforms;
providing Government care for a dead insurrectionary leader's children;
giving the dead man's son, Karl, a good education as an astronaut;
sending Karl on a deep space mission that will both earn his gratitude and keep him out of the way for a while.

I was pronouncing "Gearch" with a hard "G" and to rhyme with "arch," thus "Ghee-arch." However, on page 101, Karl Rouvaratz refers disrespectfully to "...the Gearchy..." Clearly, then, "Gearch" is a contraction of "Geo-arch," meaning "ruler of the Earth." Even in this odd term, we see Anderson thinking carefully about the details of an imagined future society.

The Gearch's schemes backfire. By discovering and communicating with the scientifically advanced inhabitants of a shadow planet passing through the Solar System, Rouvaratz and his colleagues become able to transmit to Earth information that will cause a scientific and philosophical revolution among the technician class on which the Gearchy depends, thus also causing a social revolution. Thus, what starts as a quaint-sounding phrase, "...the Gearch was Huang III...," becomes a way to make a point about power relationships within society and about mechanisms of social change.

Rouvaratz, staying in the Outer System to communicate with the aliens, "...locked in metal for the rest of your life...," is free because:

"I'm my own man now." (p. 111)

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Politics On Rustum

In the concluding Rustum story (Poul Anderson, New America, New York, 1982, pp. 117-157), we read two political speeches about how the Rustumites should respond to a new wave of immigrants from Earth. Dan Coffin wins the argument that new immigrants should be welcomed but let us consider the counterargument, which is in part:

"...since they are alien, since there are bound to be offenses and clashes, they could become the victims of hatred, even outright persecution. We are not saints on Rustum. We are not immune to the ancient diseases of xenophobia, callousness, legalized robbery, and mob violence. Let us not inflict upon our home the same unhealable wound which was inflicted on Mother America.

"Lead us not into temptation." (p. 149)

The speaker cannot claim an academic neutrality. He is leading into temptation. By speaking as he does, he encourages the most xenophobic tendencies in Rustumite society. If both Coffin and O'Malley had welcomed immigration, then individuals who wanted to articulate xenophobia would have felt isolated and might have been silenced. Instead, O'Malley gives them the opportunity to argue, "We are not saints. There are bound to be clashes (so let's cause some). We cannot help hating aliens. We have support in the Constitutional Convention where O'Malley said, 'We are not immune...'"

Thus, O'Malley could have found his proposed exclusion policy supported by demonstrations expressing that xenophobia that he does not want to "...inflict." If that tendency does exist on Rustum, then it should be opposed, not appeased, and it should be the duty of Convention representatives to unite against it.

I am making a speech here but I think that Anderson's story (rightly) invites, or challenges, each of us to be clear about where we stand on this issue.

A Future History Or Not?

In "The Queen Of Air And Darkness" by Poul Anderson, human beings in slower than light spaceships have colonised several extrasolar planets, including Rustum, Beowulf and Roland. In "Home" by Anderson, human beings in slower than light spaceships have established but are now terminating scientific bases on several extrasolar planets, including Mithras.

These stories are the last two in Anderson's collection New America and the first two in his The Queen Of Air and Darkness and other stories. Anderson collections include redundancies that would have to be edited out of any Complete Works editions.

In New America, these two stories are preceded by four about the colonisation of Rustum. Those four in turn are sequels to the four Rustum History stories collected as Orbit Unlimited. In The Queen..., the two stories are followed by four others, all but one also featuring slower than light interstellar travel and extrasolar colonies.

Do these thirteen stories form a continuous sequence? Nine are definitely connected by common references to Rustum. Further, slower than light travel, extrasolar colonies and their related economic, political and ecological issues are strong common themes. However, the author's Foreword to The Queen... states that the stories in the book do not project a single future history. An italicised "Publisher's Note" in New America implies that both "The Queen Of Air And Darkness" (agree) and "Home" (disagree) fit into the Rustum History timeline. However:

in the Rustum series:
 there have been Atomic Wars;
Earth is ruled by a Federation;
there are enduring extrasolar colonies.

In "Home":
there has been a Solar War;
Earth is ruled by a Directorate;
there are terminated extrasolar bases.

These are different timelines. "Home" could have been called "Earthman, Come Home," which is the title of a James Blish collection. Anderson's characters reflect on history and argue about whether the terminated Mithran base should be turned into a colony. Would human beings expanding across the planet displace the pacific native Mithrans? In one chilling passage showing a Mithran point of view, we, though not the human characters, learn that if the human beings were to exceed certain limits, then a Mithran:

"...would be forced to kill. But he would continue to love as he did." (1)

Although "Home" is not consistent with Rustum, it might just form a very loose tetralogy with the three other interstellar stories in the collection. In "The Alien Enemy," the Directorate has a failed colony on Sibylla but surviving colonies on Zion, Atlas, Asgard and Lucifer. Did the Directors, after terminating bases, reverse their policy and initiate colonies?

"The Alien Enemy" has a remarkable surprise ending in which Anderson characters succeed against all the odds. Unable, with their limited resources, to survive on the inhospitable Sibylla, the colony's leaders had faked an alien attack in order to be recalled home. On Earth, they are given the challenge of developing the Sahara where, hardened by Sibylla, they succeed and, decades later, when a spaceman has returned from his next voyage, they are making a difference to Earth itself.

"The Faun" is set on Arcadia which could be another of the Directorate's colonies. "Time Lag" involves relativistic travel between Chertkoi and Vaynamo which could also have been colonized by the Directorate. I suggest that the nine Rustum History stories be collected in one volume and the "Home" four in another.

(1) Anderson, Poul, New America, New York, 1982, p. 253.

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Queen Of Air And Darkness V

"The Queen Of Air And Darkness" in The Queen Of Air And Darkness and other stories (London, 1977).

Sherrinford points out that Rolander outwayers have books, telecommunications, power tools, motor vehicles and a scientific education so are not medieval crofters yet William Irons who cultivates native crops is convinced that human beings travel safely in the mountains only because the Queen of Air and Darkness made a pact with a man. Sherrinford later explains this discrepancy but meanwhile Poul Anderson blends elements of fantasy and sf into a single narrative.

Sherrinford speculates that Rolander natives began their science with biology. This makes them sound like the humanoid but alien race that tries to subvert humanity in Anderson's Star Ways/The Peregrine.

Telepathy works the same way here as in Anderson's Technic History. Each organism generates long wave radiation that can be modulated by the nervous system. When outside his screen, Sherrinford thinks in French, a language that the natives cannot have learned because English is the only human language used on Roland.

We know that the Outlings include "wraiths." Sherrinford's instruments detect organisms, including:

"Another...low temperature, diffuse and unstable emission, as if it were more like a...a swarm of cells coordinated somehow...hovering..." (p. 38)

Thus, a scientific analysis of a "wraith." 

Sherrinford tells Barbo that he switched on the screen, blocking the illusion and letting the bewitched human boy Mistherd see the natives not disguised as fairies but as they really were. We should have seen this but that important scene occurs off stage. We are separately told that they were "...lean, scaly, long-tailed, long-beaked..." but this is a mere summary (p. 46). Anderson has not made us see it. (Ray Bradbury's telepathic Martians pulled a similar stunt.)

I value this work more for its contribution to the Rustum History than for its own sf detective story.

The Queen Of Air And Darkness IV

I thought that the printer had omitted a space between sections five and six of "The Queen Of Air And Darkness," in The Queen Of Air And Darkness and other stories (London, 1977), but closer inspection reveals that section five describes an Outling approaching, eavesdropping on, then withdrawing from Barbo and Sherrinford so that this single section incorporates both points of view.

Mistherd, whom we have met, is accompanied by a nicor and a wraith. Wraiths can sense and send thoughts and cast illusions but this wraith reports that an invisible wall protects the car and Sherrinford's overheard conversation confirms that a generator that he keeps running protects "...against so-called telepathic influence..." (p. 26) The mystery is almost solved. Rolandic aborigines kidnap children and hold their allegiance with an illusion based on legends sensed in human minds. Sherrinford, having studied the record, theorizes that, between the departure of the last survey ship and the arrival of the first colonizing ship, the hidden natives had removed all evidence that their planet had been inhabited.

We learn more about Sherrinford who had lived in the "...densely populated, smoothly organized, boringly uniform..." city of Heorot on a planet called "Beowulf" which is surprisingly similar to Rustum in that it too has a "...lowland frontier..." and also has citizens, including Sherrinford, who "...lack the carbon dioxide tolerance level necessary to live healthily down there." (p. 29)

After eight stories about the colonization of a single extrasolar planet, Rustum, we now learn something about an interstellar civilization. Several colonies keep in laser contact. At least one of these, Beowulf, can mount an expedition around a number of planets, especially those, like Roland, that lack lasers. Sherrinford had joined an expedition and had decided to stay on Roland. He had previously told us that data had been received from Rustum. That alone suggests that the events of "The Queen Of Air And Darkness" occur long after those of the last Rustum story, which had mentioned radio contact with Earth but not laser contact with Beowulf or anywhere else. The Rustumites then had not even known whether there were other colonies.

On Beowulf, Sherrinford had been a police detective. His family had had a tradition of such work and had even:

"...claimed collateral descent from one of the first private inquiry agents on record, back on Earth before spaceflight." (p. 29)

Thus, this is at least the second Poul Anderson series in which Sherlock Holmes was a real person. Time Patrolmen can rub shoulders with Holmes but a Beowulfite can only claim descent. This explains something else. Sherrinford does not resemble Holmes accidentally but has modeled himself on him just as the Rolandic natives have modeled themselves on fairies. Sherrinford starts to speak about archetypes but breaks off. If there are telepathic natives, then he does not want to alert them that he is onto their game.

Mistherd, listening, has several more imaginative titles for his Queen:

"...the Fairest..." (p. 25);
"...she who reigned..." (pp. 25, 30);
 "...the Wonderful One..." (p. 26);
"The Garland Bearer..." (p. 29);
"...the Sister of Lyrth..." (p.29).

The Queen Of Air And Darkness III

The fourth section of "The Queen Or Air And Darkness," in The Queen Of Air And Darkness and other stories (London, 1977), returns to Barbo and Sherrinford as viewpoint characters and advances the narrative.

(i) As ever, Anderson celebrates human life and enterprise. Here, he colorfully describes the bustling life of a Rolandic city evocatively called Portolondon.

"The streets were crowded and noisy..." (p. 18)

Trade comes down the Gloria River and across the sea. As in other works, Anderson evokes urban and commercial dynamism by reciting unusually long lists: "...shops, taverns, restaurants..." etc; "...meat and ivory and furs..." etc; "...laughed, blustered, swaggered..." etc. As long as human beings remain active, Anderson and his readers rejoice. (p.18)

(ii) Sherrinford's Holmesian credentials are confirmed when we learn that he had helped the police in a murder case.

(iii) Sherrinford mentions cases where an outwayer family reports glimpses of a disappeared child, "...grown, not really human any longer..." flitting or peering. (p. 21) This should have been developed, with Sherrinford interviewing a distraught parent before the reader had encountered any Outlings.

(iv) A police detective discourages Sherrinford's investigation. The police are recruited from outwayer families who believe in the Old Folk/Outlings. This would have been much more sinister if we had not yet known that the Outlings existed and if we had initially been given some reason to suspect that Barbo's theory of a secret human organization kidnapping children was correct.

(v) When discussing whether a winged creature could have lifted the boy out of the camp, Sherrinford asserts that birds strong enough to do this exist both on Beowulf, where he is from, and on Rustum, of which he has read. Yes, a spearfowl threatened Dan Coffin on Rustum. Here at last is positive confirmation that this story belongs in the Rustum timeline.

The History of Rustum could be collected in one volume divided into three parts:

"From Earth to Rustum," four stories;
"Dan Coffin on Rustum," four stories;
"Other Planets," so far, at least one story.

The Queen Of Air And Darkness II

The third section of  "The Queen Of Air And Darkness", in The Queen Of Air And Darkness and other stories (London, 1977), changes perspective again. An impersonal narrator, directly addressing the reader as "You...," discusses galactic distances and refers to "...stars in our neighborhood..." (p. 16).

This narrator imparts information consistent with the History of Rustum:

slower than light interstellar spaceships;
extrasolar colonists few but determined (indeed, earlier (p. 12), we had been told that such colonists hoped to preserve, e.g., a language, constitutional government or reason and technology - the Rustumites were rational-technological Constitutionalists);
suspended animation;
exogenetics;
an Earth that has confirmed earlier fears by ceasing to launch interstellar craft.

However, there is a difference or, if we are still in the Rustumite timeline, there has been some progress. There are other extrasolar colonies and the oldest can now launch new interstellar craft. On the other hand, the vastness of interstellar distances and the slowness of interstellar travel are still major issues:

a colony might be visited two or three times a century;
colonial modernization and even survival are not guaranteed;
for example, although Roland is hospitable, its colonists cannot afford to construct elaborate machinery and are unable to spread to lower latitudes.

Anderson's description of Rolandic environmental extremes recall those in his Technic History, e.g., the planets Hermes and Vixen.

Each new section of this story warrants analysis so there will be more here.

The Queen Of Air And Darkness

"The Queen Of Air And Darkness" (in The Queen Of Air And Darkness and other stories, London, 1977), potentially a major story by Poul Anderson, hits the reader with too many mixed messages, I think. The narrative is divided into unnumbered sections.

The first section contains several clues that it is set on another planet, the most obvious being a reference to "...the moons..." (p. 10), although the characters suggest fantasy:

two "...Outlings...," a flute-playing boy called Mistherd and a singing girl called Shadow-of-a-Dream, meet under a dolmen on Wolund's Barrow (p. 9);

a winged "pook" called "...Ayoch...," with a "...half-human face...," carries a stolen human child towards "...Carheddin under the mountains..." (pp. 9-10);

their Queen, variously addressed as "...Starmother...," "...Snowmaker..." and "...Lady Sky...," appears (pp. pp. 10-11).

Ayoch used "...dazedust..." to steal the child but not from "...yeomen...," instead from a camp where there were "...engines..." (p. 10) Thus, technology has somehow entered this (apparent) fantasy setting.

The second section also gives two messages but different ones. A woman called Barbo Cullen, whose son has been kidnapped, consults a high-cheeked, beak-nosed, pipe-smoking, unmarried private investigator living in an untidy, dusty apartment with laboratory equipment against one wall, who surprises her with information about herself which he then explains that he has deduced from her appearance. Thus, this Eric Sherrinford is based on Sherlock Holmes but the setting is science fictional because they are on the planet Roland to which he has traveled from the planet Beowulf.

So the first section presents apparent fantasy in an apparently extraterrestrial environment whereas the second section presents a detective story in an unequivocally extraterrestrial setting. The strands begin to converge when we learn that there are "...stories about the Outlings stealing human children..." and that the boy had disappeared from an exploratory camp where the dogs were drugged. (p.14)

The mystery is that there is no evidence of any present natives on Roland. But the reader has already seen the Outlings so we are already know the solution to the mystery that this literary descendant of Holmes is to solve! Thus, I think that the story fails to be the sf detective story that it could have been. There is more than this in the story so there will be some further posts.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Three Paperbacks III

I now understand why the blurb of Poul Anderson's New America (TOR, New York, 1982) wrongly described the Rustumite colonists as "Jeffersonians" although their self-description, fully explained in the previous volume, Orbit Unlimited, is "Constitutionalists."

First, although the term "Constitutionalist" is present, it is not used a lot in the second volume. Secondly, the Rustumites have convened a Constitutional Convention to devise a libertarian government now that their population has grown enough to need more than a mayor and a council in a single town. We are not told the outcome of the Convention because the story is about a more urgent matter that must be settled first.

However, while preparing to participate in the Convention, Dan Coffin reads the Federalist Papers and thinks of Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton and Madison. A group of extrasolar colonists in James Blish's future history are called "Hamiltonians" and someone reading or browsing through New America must have thought that the Rustumites were "Jeffersonians" if not, indeed, "Washingtonians."

Of the four Dan Coffin/Rustum stories collected in New America, the third, "A Fair Exchange," is an extended discussion of economics while the fourth, "To Promote the General Welfare," is a discussion of both economics and politics. We read conversations in "A Fair Exchange" and speeches in "To Promote the General Welfare." Does this spoil them as stories? On the contrary, Anderson addresses basic issues while considering both the future of Earth and the idea of a new colony. We see Rustumite issues grow from physical survival to social well being. On a personal level, we see a bullied and frightened schoolboy grow into an old, respected, influential public figure and we see his large lowland dwelling, empty and haunted after his wife's death, filled again with younger members of his family. There is a sense of completion.

Between "To Promote the General Welfare" and "The Queen Of Air And Darkness," is this curious italicized passage:

"Publisher's Note:

"Here ends the story of High America. But other worlds than Rustum were to receive the seed of Earth. Each responded in its own way to the men and women who had fled their own ruined planet..." (p. 158)

Even odder, after the last story:

"And so end these chronicles of the folk who took the long road to the stars. And long it is, not at all like those here, nor the highways of other fictional universes. It is unlike them in another way, too. It is a road that is always open. It is real..." (p. 260) 

Who wrote these passages, Anderson or a TOR editor? The passage on p. 158 could be part of the fiction whereas the passage on p. 260 stands back from the fiction and refers to the possibility of a real interstellar voyage as discussed in the concluding article. The passages seem to be a rather contrived attempt to make a unity out of four Rustum stories, two non-Rustum stories and one piece of non-fiction?

Three Paperbacks II

New America by Poul Anderson collects seven items:

four stories set on the planet Rustum which had been introduced in Orbit Unlimited;
two other stories, "The Queen Of Air And Darkness" and "Home," which are also the first two stories collected in The Queen Of Air And Darkness and other stories;
an article on interstellar travel.

The four Rustum stories were first published in issues I-IV of Continuum, edited by Roger Elwood, 1973-'74. All are about the, now older, Dan Coffin who had been the child rescued from the Rustumite lowland in the concluding story of Orbit Unlimited. Thus, these four stories form a continuous sequence that is a sequel to the four that had been collected in Orbit Unlimited.

At the end of Orbit Unlimited, it had been discovered that Dan was a rare individual who could survive comfortably without needing a helmet in the high air pressure at Rustumite sea level and it had then seemed to be a foregone conclusion that he and his descendants would colonize all the surface of the planet that could not be reached by the majority of colonists who were confined to the plateau of High America.

However, Dan had for many years afterwards suffered from nightmares of his ordeal when lost in the lowland and threatened by a spearfowl. The new stories chronicle four further stages of his life:

first, he must be persuaded to join a mission to the lowland before he realizes that it is a place that he will return to again;

secondly, he realizes that, having settled in the lowland, he must marry a woman who shares his tolerance for the high air pressure, not Highland Mary but Eva;

thirdly, Eva and he have children and live well but need economic help, which Dan negotiates, from the more industrially developed High America;

fourthly, Dan, widowed but now a great grandfather, proposes that Rustum welcome five thousand new immigrants approaching from Earth and that their arrival be preceded by a joint research effort to find a way to enable anyone to live in the lowlands so that the new immigrants will not have to crowd the plateau.

We now know of five generations of Coffins. We first encountered Dan's father Joshua as a spaceship captain on Earth in the opening story of Orbit Unlimited where he conversed with the man who later became the first mayor of Rustum. Dan, not born until that concluding story of Orbit Unlimited, ends the first volume as a lost boy and the second as an elder statesman.

In an earlier post on Anderson's future histories, I wrote that all but one of the six stories in The Queen Of Air And Darkness and other stories were not incompatible with the Rustum History but will now reread that collection to confirm or disconfirm that statement.

Three Paperbacks I

I am looking at three paperbacks by Poul Anderson:

Orbit Unlimited (Pyramid Books, New York, 1961);
New America (TOR Books, New York, 1982);
The Queen Of Air And Darkness and other stories (NEL Books, London, 1977).

Orbit Unlimited collects four stories set respectively on Earth, in space, in Rustum orbit and on Rustum. The fourth story describes life on the plateau and a rescue expedition to the lowland. This concluding story, and thus also the book, has a positive ending:

a lost child is rescued;
his rescuers, the child's father and another man, are heroes;
the father, a strict puritan, has resolved some personal issues during the rescue;
the mayor had blackmailed the second man to accompany the father in order to counteract the colonists' tendency towards isolated agricultural selfishness - public duties performed freely from a sense of responsibility will minimise the need for coercive laws as the colony grows;
the boy, an exogene formerly bullied by his peers, is now a hero to them;
more importantly, he is a rare individual who can live comfortably in the high air pressure at sea level, thus he and his descendants will colonise the rest of the planet.

This positive ending is well expressed by the concluding sentences as the blackmailed but now happy rescuer recuperates:

"Svoboda didn't return to his book at once. He lay for a while gazing out the window, toward the horizon where the snowpeaks of Hercules upheld the sky." (p. 158)

I am currently rereading New America but can comment now that the title and the blurb are misleading. The latter refers to "...freedom-minded Jeffersonians..." whereas the book features not Jeffersonians in a place called New America but Constitutionalists on a plateau called High America. This book, a sequel to Orbit Unlimited, continues the story of Rustum and introduces other extrasolar colonies.

Rustum

Twenty light years away, Rustum, a planet of e Eridani, hotter and more oceanic than Earth and with one and a quarter terrestrial gravities, has a semi-permanent cloud layer separating two life zones (eg, lower spearfowl are larger) and containing nebulo-plankton browsed on by occasionally glimpsed cigar-shaped, jet-propelled air porpoises.

Theory: the dense air carries fine particles scoured by wind from surface rocks into the clouds where water drops dissolve out minerals which are consumed by microscopic organisms preyed on by larger life forms like the porpoises which rise by filling a bladder with biologically generated hydrogen, eat by sucking in air and plankton and move by blowing air out.

Vegetation is blue-tinged green, brown or yellow. Sea level air pressure is too high for most human beings who therefore colonized an above-the-clouds plateau, High America, where the Swift and Smoky Rivers from the western Centaur Mountains join to form the Emperor River. Hercules Mountains are to the south.

Rustum has two moons:
the outer Raksh changes apparent size as seen from Rustum, sometimes appearing twice the size of Luna as seen from Earth, and raises tides in a lowland lake;
Sohrab moves fast enough for its motion to be seen, like the hurtling moons of Mars in Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter series.

Three thousand colonists, transported from Earth in suspended animation, increase their numbers by both natural and exogenetic births. Little native life is edible so they grow terrestrial crops. Because the ecology supporting the crops is not yet firmly established, harvests are poor and most colonists must farm immense holdings with children transported to the Anchor village school in a publicly owned airbus. More scientifically oriented colonists become, e.g., iron miners or lowland explorers, competing with farmers for machinery and differing culturally, being more pragmatic and hedonistic.

The day-night cycle is longer than Earth's so Rustumites must be active at night although Dan Coffin wonders why they could not adapt to forty hours of activity and twenty of sleep. 

Public policy is settled by televisual discussion without formal government. Military defense is unnecessary and public services are voluntary but one elected official, the mayor, administers laws, presides in debates, judges disputes, oversees medicine and education and collects taxes.

Most sea level explorers must wear helmets but a minority who can live there comfortably settle and begin the colonization of the entire surface of Rustum.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Historical Dramas III

In Poul Anderson's Orbit Unlimited:

Torvald Anker founds the Constitutionalist philosophy;
the younger Laird leads the movement without meeting Anker;
Laird disappears, Governmental assassination suspected;
surprise ending - a Government Commissioner had for devious reasons paid an actor to play Laird, then retire with a new face and name.

So Laird is a historical figure who could be enacted in films but he himself was a role played by an actor on the stage of history and no one will ever know. Is that possible? Could it even have happened somewhere, some time? (I don't think so.)

As part of his deception, Commissioner Svoboda manufactures a long standing hostility between himself and his own son but thus manoeuvres the son and his family to a happy ending. Could anyone really do this? Why not just openly cooperate with and help the son?

Sometimes we remember an idea from an sf story without remembering either title or author. CS Lewis even had to make some acknowledgements on this basis. I read a novel in which a time traveller had, for some reason, paid an unemployed actor to play the role of Mycroft Holmes for the couple of times Mycroft appears in the Holmes Canon. Imagine returning home to the future to read or reread Doyle knowing that you had paid a guy to speak Mycroft's lines.

Poul Anderson's Time Patrolmen rub shoulders with Holmes and Watson. Thus, the timeline protected by the Patrol is not ours. The Time Patrol series and the Holmes Canon, fictions here, are true accounts there.

My American correspondent, Sean M Brooks, reminded me that another sf novel, Double Star by Robert Heinlein, has an idea similar to that in Orbit Unlimited. There is a real politician but he is kidnapped. To prevent a diplomatic embarrassment, his supporters persuade an actor to impersonate him. (During a private audience with the Emperor, the actor is asked, "Who are you, by the way? You have obviously not come here to assassinate me..." Told the truth, the Emperor remains silent.) The politician is rescued but dies and the actor continues in the role... He has effectively changed his identity. (I have known people who have changed their identities but not on that scale.)

Double Star has the plot of The Prisoner Of Zenda by Anthony Hope with three differences. Zenda:

is not sf;
has an additional romantic element - the impersonator would like to stay with the impersonated Prince's wife;
has the other possible ending - the kidnapped Prince is rescued, does not die and resumes his throne.

In a story within the story of The Eighty Minute Hour by Brian Aldiss, a British agent and Old Etonian plays the role of Tito. I have confirmed this memory on the Internet but have not yet found the reference by browsing through the novel. That is where my knowledge of this curious speculation rests at present. Might some of our public figures be professional actors? - or should I rephrase that question?

Historical Dramas II

(Please first see "Historical Dramas I" on the linked "Logic of Time Travel" blog.)

The child who would have grown up to be Cyrus the Great was killed as an infant. Later, a Time Patrolman, Keith Denison, was forced to play the role of the adult Cyrus returned from hiding to claim his throne. After sixteen years in this role and thirteen years before he is due to fall in battle, Denison is found by a colleague, Everard, and they discuss how to get him out of there. They are in a scenario where history can be changed, hence the need for a Patrol.

If they simply proceed to the twentieth century, then they will arrive in a timeline where Cyrus, who is necessary for post-Exilic Judaism and thus also for Christianity, instead of dying in battle in the twenty ninth year of his reign, disappeared in the sixteenth or seventeenth year of his reign. That is acceptable neither to them nor to the Patrol.

Denison comments:

"Suppose I had not showed up? Mightn't Harpagus have found a different psuedo-Cyrus? The exact identity of the King doesn't matter. Another Cyrus would have acted differently from me in a million day-to-day details...But...if he was...reasonably able and decent...then his career would have been the same as mine in all the important ways, the ways that got into the history books." (1)

Here again is the idea of a historical role that could have been played by a different actor. Everard replies that it was Denison's mysterious appearance that gave Harpagus the idea of passing him off as a returned Cyrus.

The eventual solution is for the Patrolmen to prevent the murder of the infant Cyrus who then grows up to play his historical role. To check that history is still on track, they attend a winter solstice festival where they see Cyrus ride past with his courtiers, including Harpagus.

Denison comments:

"He's younger than I was...And a little smaller...different face entirely, isn't it?...but he'll do." (2)

Like seeing a remake of the film with a different actor but these guys are doing it with real history! He'll do? He's the right one!

Now something very strange happens to a legendary story. When Everard had arrived in 542 BC, Croesus had told him that Harpagus, ordered to kill the infant Cyrus, instead:

"...exchanged the prince for the stillborn child of a herdsman..." (3)

so that:

"...our lord Cyrus grew up as a herdsman." (3)

This story, the one told by Herodotus, is "...a typical hero myth...," told of Moses, Romulus, Sigurd etc, yet is sworn to by eyewitnesses. (4) Everard senses a mystery. Of course, he learns that the infant Cyrus was indeed killed and that the story of his growing up as a herdsman was devised in order to pass off the imposter, Denison, as the returned prince.

Later, he suggests to Denison:

"...all the scientific historians in the future are convinced that the story of Cyrus' childhood as told by Herodotus and the Persians is pure fable. Well, maybe they were right all along. Maybe you experiences here have been only one of those little quirks in space-time which the Patrol tries to eliminate." (5)

So a story that was a lie in the deleted timeline becomes a myth in the revised timeline. The scientific historians do not know what underlies the events that they study.

(1) Anderson, Poul, The Guardians Of Time, New York, 1981, p. 102.
(2) ibid., p. 123.
(3) ibid., p. 83.
(4) ibid., p. 84.
(5) ibid., p. 119.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Svoboda

In an earlier post, "Orbit Unlimited," I summarized as much fictitious sociological information as possible in a few sentences in order to convey how much of such information Poul Anderson imparts in a few pages, in this case in the first nine pages of Orbit Unlimited. I omitted personal information on the viewpoint character Svoboda although this is also socially significant.

Sold young to a Brotherhood thiefmaster but wounded at twelve by a guard's explosive slug, Svoboda, re-apprenticed to a fence,  learned to read and write, thus starting his ascent from Lowlevel to the Guardian Commission. His estimated age of sixty is ancient for Lowlevel but middle-aged for an upper-level Citizen or a Guardian. He has read Alice In Wonderland but knows that this is uncommon. Breaking out of the dead end Astronautical Department where his superiors had hoped to contain him, he has become Commissioner of Psychologics and now proposes to undermine Constitutionalism because that movement threatens radical social change.

A character with whom Anderson wanted us to sympathize fully would have stayed with Astronautics, turned it out of its dead end and encouraged gradual social change with the help of the Constitutionalists. Svoboda has the redeeming feature of a sense of humor. He is powerful, confident of his ability to break a fellow Commissioner, and able to influence the Premier.

What Anderson plausibly conveys here, as in the first Kith story and in Mirkheim, is conflict between socioeconomic classes in an imagined future society that is strongly grounded in knowledge of past societies.

Addendum, 23/7/12: By the end of Part One, it turns out that Svoboda, like an Asimovian psychohistorian, has manipulated a lot of people towards a satisfactory Andersonian conclusion. He will be dead soon but his son will go to Rustum. The idea that it would be possible to manipulate history by hiring an actor to play the role of the leader of a movement, then retire him while leaving open the possibility that he had been murdered is pretty amazing.

Post-Maurai Space Travel?

After the Maurai, will there be space travel? (The space travelling Kith who share the title of Poul Anderson's collection Maurai And Kith exist in an alternative future.) Yes, Orion shall rise and yes, there will be Star Masters, although these predictions seem to apply to alternative post-Maurai futures. In one sequel to the Maurai series and in an Author's Note to a second, Anderson adequately accounts for any inconsistencies with the original series.

Several Anderson characters, including some in the Maurai series, express a wish not only to traverse space but even to travel to the stars. Why? Decades ago, I felt embarrassed when an American teacher (a Trekkie?) addressing a World Science Fiction Convention, tried to express optimism about the human condition by proclaiming, "We're going to the stars!" Are we? Not yet. But why should we and what would we do on arrival?

Earth is the only place in the universe where we do not need to be protected from everything outside our own skins. Even here, in most climates, we need clothing, shelter and heating. Of course, we have spread across the globe, changing local environments to suit our needs and also adapting ourselves, even changing skin colour in the Northern Hemisphere. This process will continue and need not be confined to Earth.

On the other hand, a planet on which humanity has not evolved, ie, any planet other than Earth, will not be a new North America or Australia and its inhabitants, if any, are unlikely to be either remotely humanoid or humanly comprehensible. I agree that there are compelling reasons to get some human beings off Earth and out into the Solar System in self-sustaining habitats but that means taking our environment with us, not traversing interstellar distances hoping to find that environment duplicated elsewhere.

We can observe and study the universe from any point within it, from here as well as from there. I agree that we will learn more if we can travel further and that this should be done if possible. What Anderson's characters really mean about going to the stars is that we should accept no physical or mental limits to our activities and I agree with this completely.

Orbit Unlimited

As works of science fiction go, the four story collection, Orbit Unlimited by Poul Anderson, is an extremely restrained account of the colonisation of an extrasolar planet:

at the end of the first story, a slower than light space fleet leaves the Solar System;

the second story describes an incident en route when the option of turning back must be considered;

the third story describes an incident when the fleet is in orbit around the new planet, Rustum;

thus, the colonists are settled on the surface and starting to reproduce there only in the concluding story.

The reader is pleased to learn that there are sequels, including a story in which Rustum must cope with a second wave of colonists from Earth and another story set on a colony in a different planetary system. As in other series, Anderson gradually broadens his narrative perspective.

The opening pages of the first story quickly establish a detailed sociopolitical background of high tech but overpopulated urban decay, with Atomic Wars in the past. Some terminology is familiar from other works but each future society envisaged by Anderson is unique. The (unelected) Guardian Commission of the Federation meets in teleconference:

Premier Selim, before a window opening on palm trees;
Svoboda, Commissioner for Psychologics, in his departmental tower surrounded by airborne filth in a city on an Atlantic coast;
Security Chief Chandra in India at sunrise;
Rathjen, Commissioner for Astronautics;
Novikov of Mines;
Larkin of Pelagiculture;
Dilolo of Agriculture.

That Astronautics is decaying, with a Venerian colony discontinued, is a sure sign that this Federation will not have the author's approval. The Commission discusses Constitutionalism, a philosophy founded by a man called Anker who advocated basing thought patterns on the constitution of (empirical) reality, not on mysticism, although, in North America, despite recent Oriental immigration, the term "Constitution" retains for the English-speaking half of the population another meaning that had even instigated an anti-Federation Rebellion twenty years previously.

Constitutionalism may inspire middle class professionals on whom the Guardians depend to seek political power for their class so Svoboda proposes to close Constitutionalist schools by reviving free compulsory education, though not for the illiterate eighty per cent of the population of course. Thus, in the nine pages of section 1, Anderson sketches an entire society and sets the scene for persecuted Constitutionalists emigrating to Rustum.

Time Travel And Space Travel

HG Wells wrote definitive works on time travel, The Time Machine, and on space travel, The First Men In The Moon. Can these ideas be combined? Time dilation (see Tau Zero by Poul Anderson) comes close but is not time travel because it is only futureward.

It occurred to me years ago that time travelers could travel within a slower than light interstellar spaceship, even a Heinleinian "generation ship" with many generations born and dying in flight. A time traveler whose existence was unknown to the crew but who appeared briefly now and then might be regarded as a ghost, hence a possible title: The Haunted Spaceship.

Another implication of this notion is that a time traveler entering the ship on Earth, traveling forward along the ship's world line to emerge at its destination, then returning along the ship's world line back to Earth would be able to report on the outcome of the mission before its departure.

Poul Anderson seems to have hit on the same idea in the concluding chapter of There Will Be Time (New York, 1973) but develops it slightly differently. He imagines not a generation ship crew with invisible time travelers moving among them but simply a ship crewed by time travelers for whom the journey will take only hours or minutes even if the ship itself takes centuries to cross an interstellar distance and he does not mention the obvious implication that the crew would be able to report back to Earth before their departure - although perhaps they would prefer to preserve the freedom of not knowing, a point which is mentioned in the novel.

Finally, a point that I could not have thought of, "...a mathematical equivalence between traveling into the past and flying faster than light..." means that the fact of time travel might enable physicists to develop an FTL drive. (p. 174)

The End Of There Will Be Time

In the beginning is the end. On the first page of Chapter I of Poul Anderson's There Will Be Time (New York, 1973), the narrator, Dr Robert Anderson, describing the midwestern town of Senlac, where the novel begins and ends, as he saw it in February 1933, remarks:

"The beginning shapes the end..." (p. 9)

and mentions:

"...a darkness which was Morgan Woods." (p. 9)

At the mid-point in Chapter VIII, the central character, Jack Havig, who had been delivered by Dr Anderson in Senlac on that February morning in 1933, enters:

"...a timberlot big enough to gladden Havig with memories of Morgan Woods." (p. 79)

Finally, in October 1971 and in the concluding Chapter XVI, Robert Anderson walks through "...a delirium of color..." to the Morgan Woods creek where he stands on the bridge watching the water, a squirrel and an oak, then returns home to be visited by Havig for the last time. (pp. 170-171)

Thus, Morgan Woods becomes a real place in the course of the novel and the lives of its characters.

Sean M Brooks wrote on this blog (see here) about Anderson's ability to write attention-catching opening paragraphs for novels. Here, I must commend the conclusion of There Will Be Time. A good concluding sentence or paragraph can leave the reader reflecting on the events of the novel or even wanting immediately to reread it. A now out-of-date British novelist, Dornford Yates, often had his first person narrator recapitulate several dramatic scenes in the concluding paragraph. In early secondary school, I read a juvenile adventure novel set in the Middle East. I have forgotten title, author and plot but I do remember that the novel ended with the viewpoint character leaving, looking back, seeing a light and knowing that, in her heart, that light would always shine.

In Chapter XVI, the narrator learns that the time travelling Havig and his wife will, in a distant future, travel between stars and probably not return to Earth. On the very last page, he speculates that, from an even more remote future, newly created time travellers travelled back to spread the time travel gene-bearing virus that empowered Havig to travel through time and initiate that future civilisation. He concludes:

"I walk beyond town, many of these nights, to stand under the high autumnal stars, look upward and wonder." (p. 176)

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Time Patrol And There Will Be Time

(i) Our evolutionary successors, the Danellians, must recruit human beings to the Time Patrol to counteract individual time criminals, groups like the Neldorians and Exaltationists and, ultimately, temporal chaos whereas Jack Havig must recruit fellow time travellers to his group to counteract Caleb Wallis' Eyrie.

(ii) The Patrol Academy, in the American West of the Oligocene period, exists for half a million years on either a greensward or an elevation between large trees and close to hills, woods and "...a great brown river." (1) The Havig group's main base, in North America near where the Eyrie will be but during the Pleistocene, stands on a wooded hill above "...a mighty river..." (2)

(iii) The Patrol transports building materials and equipment instantaneously without transit time in temporal vehicles whereas the Havig group, able to transport only what each individual can carry, must ferry everything piece by piece. For them, this lengthy passage requires resting places, caches en route and special equipment like miniature oxygen tanks for periods when they cannot emerge to breathe because the land is under water or ice.

(iv) When Patrolman Manson Everard discovers that the Danellians not only preserve history but also sometimes meddle to create their own past, he thinks, "It may be a crooked game...but it's the only one in town." (3) The Eyrie is white supremacist so Confucian, Aborigine, Polish, Mesopotamian, African, Mexican and Eskimo time travellers easily accept that, for them, the Havig group is "...the only game in town." (4)

(v) The Patrol must prevent changes to history and may use one paradox, circular causality, but only to prevent another, causality violation, whereas neither the Eyrie nor the Havig group can change history but the Havig group must use circular causality to alter the significance of known events.  

(vi) The Patrol is the stabilising element in a chaotic reality. The Havig group brings forth and participates in the future civilisation of the Star Masters.

These contrasting narratives are just two of Anderson's four major works on time travel. The alert reader might notice that a villain in the Time Patrol series and another in The Corridors Of Time have almost identical physical descriptions.   

(1) Anderson, Poul, Time Patrol, New York, 2006, p. 6; The Shield Of Time, New York, 1990, p. 129.
(2) Anderson, Poul, There Will Be Time, New York, 1973, p. 157.
(3) Time Patrol, p. 171.
(4) There Will Be Time, p. 156.

Maurai In There Will Be Time

 I think that the best reading order for Poul Anderson's Maurai series is:

(i) the three short stories which are collected in Maurai And Kith but should now be a single volume, just Maurai;

(ii) the long (486 pages) novel, Orion Shall Rise;

(iii) the much shorter time travel novel, There Will Be Time.

In each volume, in fact in each individual work, the perspective broadens, first geopolitically, the historically. The Maurai rule in the Southern Hemisphere. Then we learn progressively more about the Northern Hemisphere: the Northwest Union; Uropa. Finally, the entire Maurai period is placed in a longer historical context. Jack Havig, born 1933, visits, among other eras, Constantinople in 1204, the Maurai Federation and the further future of the Star Masters.

I was surprised to realise that, despite my preferred reading order, Orion is copyright 1983 whereas Time is 1973. Thus, only the first three stories informed Time. In fact, Orion acquired the name of a character, Terai Lohannaso, and that of a country, the Northwest Union, from Time. The Domain of Skyholm did not exist until Orion.

Time both informs us that Poul Anderson invented the name "Maurai" for a future civilisation visited by Havig and continues to use that fictional name so there is a real history that we are not being told. In one of the three stories, Poul predicted something that Havig discovered later but he "...guessed wrong more often than right." p. 129.

Havig comments;

"If anybody who knows the future should chance to read this, it'll look at most like one of science fiction's occasional close-to-target hits...Which are made on the shotgun principle...These stories never had wide circulation. They soon dropped into complete obscurity." (p.129)

Let us hope not.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Politics In There Will be Time

In American political terms and as far as I know, Poul Anderson was liberal when he wrote "Un-Man" but had become conservative by the time he wrote There Will Be Time (New York, 1973), although the narrator of the latter work, Robert Anderson, is liberal. The central character, Jack Havig, spends time as a radical in 1970, then parodies left/liberal misuse of words like "fascist" and "racist" (pp. 27-32).

It is unfortunate that such words were misused. Fascists are indeed pro-capitalist but are also anti-democratic, violent and, when there is a racial minority that can be scapegoated, racist in the real meaning of the word. It is therefore inaccurate and inadvisable to apply the term "fascist" simply to anyone who is pro-capitalist, ie, to most people most of the time! Margaret Thatcher won three General Elections and did not close down Parliament. She was not fascist.

(I have an Italian friend who says that he is a democratic fascist, parting company with Mussolini only at the point when the latter, with a majority in a Parliament from which all other Parties withdrew, then proclaimed himself Il Duce of a one-party state. However, everyone else means by "fascism" an anti-democratic movement.)

While Havig parodied misuses of these words, it it to be hoped that he remembered their real meanings and indeed he opposes racism later in the novel (see pp. 135-136).

There Will Be Time III

In Poul Anderson's There Will Be Time (New York, 1973), the time traveler Jack Havig tells Robert Anderson that the Mong will invade North America across the Bering Straits which will be frozen when the War of Judgement fills the atmosphere with dust.

If we have read Anderson's Maurai series, then we already know of this invasion. Characters in future histories often refer to an event that has occurred either in an earlier episode of the fictitious history or, as in this case, simply between our time and theirs. Here is yet another perspective. Havig refers to an invasion that occurs not in his and Anderson's shared past but in a future that he has traveled through.

We have, in earlier works, encountered individuals from whose perspective the Mong invaded several centuries previously. Or have we? From the perspective of There Will be Time, the Maurai series is a fictional narrative based on accounts received by Poul Anderson indirectly, via Robert Anderson, from Jack Havig.

Willingly suspending disbelief while reading Orion Shall Rise, we accept at face value accounts of the Maurai Federation, the Northwest Union and the Domain of Skyholm. Willingly suspending disbelief while reading There Will Be Time, we accept that there is a future civilization that Poul, not Robert or Jack, has called "Maurai" and that Poul's accounts of it are fictions incorporating some elements of veracity. Simultaneously, we know that both texts are equally works of fiction. Complicated but creative.

The Time Machine And There Will Be Time

Poul Anderson's There Will Be Time bears comparison with Wells' The Time Machine - and, of course, acknowledges it with a reference to Wells.

(i) Wells creatively imagined what has come to be called a "time machine," which is rather archaic terminology. We no longer speak of "flying machines" although I remember a friend's grandfather doing so. Anderson creatively imagined time travel as a psychic power not needing a machine.

(ii) Wells' Time Traveler demonstrates "time traveling" by making a model time machine disappear in front of his dinner guests. Anderson's Jack Havig demonstrates his own chronokinesis by disappearing and reappearing in front of Robert Anderson.

(iii) The Time Traveler colorfully describes day and night passing like the flapping of a wing, the Sun as a ring of fire across the sky, trees shooting up like green rockets etc. Havig describes a shadow world with a flickering for day and night.

(iv) Both characters try to account for their experiences in terms of their current scientific understanding.

(v) Both give an account of the future of mankind, with concern about immediate prospects followed by longer term perspectives:

devolution into Morlocks and Eloi, then the Further Vision;
a peaceful and pastoral but high tech future with "Star Masters" visiting Earth and time travelers moving forwards, then backwards, along the world lines of slower then light interstellar craft.

(vi) Anderson adds a historical dimension which The Time Machine lacks, although, of course, Wells also wrote The Outline Of History.

(vii) Anderson surpasses Wells by describing a community of time travelers, instead of just a single "Time Traveler," and by elaborating the paradoxes at which Wells merely hints.

This one work of Anderson's is a considerable achievement. I also regard his, very different, Time Patrol series as a direct successor to The Time Machine because the Patrol's timecycles are like high tech descendants of Wells' elaborate nineteenth century contraption and because the evolution into Danellians parallels and contrasts with the devolution into Morlocks and Eloi.

The Time Machine and There Will Be Time are two short novels whereas the Time Patrol series is two long volumes. Uniform editions of these four volumes would make a good "Introduction to Time Travel."

Friday, 20 July 2012

Senlac II

By page 10 of Poul Anderson's There Will Be Time (New York, 1973), the text has not yet informed the reader that this will be a time travel novel. We have probably read the blurb but, apart from this, we have not yet been told that in this narrative historical events will have a double significance. Not only do they affect human lives both immediately and later but also a time traveller can decide whether to revisit or shun them.

However, Anderson which here can mean either the author Poul or the narrator Robert, prepares us for what is to come by carefully delineating the historical period of the early 1930's when the time traveller Jack Havig is born:

a worldwide depression;
the Japanese conquest of Manchuria;
a bonus march on Washington;
the Lindbergh kidnapping;
Hitler Chancellor of Germany;
a new US President due to take office;
Prohibition about to be ended;
for local colour, "...springtime in these parts is as lovely as our autumn." (p. 10)

A different era, although Havig can revisit it - but will he want to? If this novel were written by Jack Finney, then there would be no doubt. The protagonist would be strongly motivated by nostalgia for this or an earlier period. Anderson's characters differ from Finney's and from each other. In a very different time travel scenario, one Time Patrolman says, of Victorian London:

"I'd like to have lived here..." (1)

- and, when his colleague asks:

"Yeah? With their medicine and dentistry?" (1)

defiantly replies:

"And no bombs falling." (1)

(This character's fiancee had died in an air raid in 1944.)

Much later, both in history and in the characters' lives, the colleague thinks, of his own birth period:

 "The Midwest of his boyhood, before he went off to war in 1942, was like a dream, a world forever lost, already one with Troy and the innocence of the Inuit. He had learned better than to return." (2)

But why not return sometimes? I would.

Back to Havig's birthplace:

"Senlac is a commercial center for an agricultural area..." (p. 10)

with "...some light industry..." and a big Rotary Club. Robert and Kate Anderson's friends are her father (a local banker), the public librarian, professors and their wives from Holberg College forty miles away and New Englanders Tom and Eleanor Havig who attend the local church as the only way to keep Tom's high school science teaching job which pays so little that he must supplement his income with a summer job in creamery quality control. A teacher needing a summer job? Again, a different era (I hope).

Robert drives his Marmon down Union St to Elm to visit Eleanor who has panicked because Jack disappeared when she dropped him in surprise at hearing, then seeing, another baby crying in his crib. The baby in the crib is indeed Jack so she must have hallucinated...

The reader who has skipped the blurb might begin to suspect time travel and circular causality. When dropped into the crib, the baby time travelled a few minutes into the past and screamed, thus causing his mother to carry him into the bedroom and drop him in surprise. The novel will present several intricate elaborations of this paradox.

(1) Anderson, Poul, Time Patrol, New York, 2006, p. 28.
(2) Anderson, Poul, The Shield Of Time, New York, 1990, p. 178.   

The Technic Civilization Saga

This has been a long time coming. I finally have Baen Books Technic Civilization Saga in its entirety. One volume had to be reprinted before the bookshop could get it. I already had all but one of the collected stories but this series is definitely worth buying. (Referring to another Anderson series, I bought an identical  new copy of The Shield Of Time when my original copy began to crumble into dust through over-use, then patched up the original and continued to use it.)

Hank Davis' Introductions to the Volumes are worth reading, also his entertaining new Introduction to one old story that definitely needed it. The Volumes can be critiqued for their covers, contents and titles. I do not want to be comprehensive right now but here are some main point, not in any order.

Volume I, cover: excellent image of van Rijn;

Vol III, I agree with contents and cover but not title - should be Late League, Early Empire or, better still, just League And Empire;

Vol IV, I agree with contents and title but not cover;

I think the last three Flandry novels should be a Volume called Children Of Empire;

Flandry should be absent from the title, cover and contents of the concluding Volume, which should be Long Night And Dawn, although that is a good image of an older Flandry;

Flandry does not look quite aristocratic enough - the illustrations in the Ace Books edition of The Game Of Empire are truer to the physical descriptions in the texts.

Senlac

From the top floor of the county hospital in February, 1933, when Jack Havig is born, Dr Robert Anderson sees to his right the small upper-midwestern town of Senlac (a fictional name invented by Poul Anderson for his novel based on the deceased Robert's notes, clippings and photographs and on remembered conversations). The town was:

"...clustered along a frozen river, red brick at the middle, frame houses on tree-lined streets, grain elevator and water tank rearing ghostly in the dawnlight near the railway station." (There Will Be Time, New York, 1973, p. 9)

Ahead and to the left are hills, woodlets, fences, farms and Morgan Woods. Like Clark Kent and an earlier "superman," Philip Wylie's Hugo Danner, the time traveler Jack Havig grows up in a small American town, a "small ville." In fact, there is an explicit reference to Clark Kent. On a page that I will find when rereading, Havig remarks that a cubicle in a public toilet is a more discrete place than Clark Kent's telephone booth for a time traveler to disappear in.

I also intend to scour the book for data on Senlac, yet another of Anderson's imaginatively detailed fictitious locations. The Foreword has already told us that Robert's father, a journalist, became editor of the local newspaper in 1910. These Andersons were Episcopalian and Democratic. Looking ahead, I am reminded that there is a Senlac Arms which, by 1969, will have been razed and another hotel built on the site. Most details are forgotten when reading a novel whereas studying the text means retaining many of these details and also enhances appreciation of the author's creativity.

There Will be Time II

HG Wells' "outer narrator," who seems to be identical with Wells, describes the Time Traveler's dinner parties whereas the Time Traveler himself describes his "time traveling," thus leaving open the possibility that the time travel is a fiction within the fiction - although the outer narrator does see the Time Traveler departing at the end.

In There Will Be Time (New York, 1973), Poul Anderson constructs a more elaborate narrative framework. Not Anderson himself but a relative, Dr Robert Anderson, meets the time traveler, Jack Havig, and we are told that one of Havig's fellow (time) travelers gave the time travel idea to

"...a young Englishman in the '90's, starting out as an author, a gifted fellow even if he was kind of a socialist." (p. 73)

Thus, three works of fiction, Anderson's Maurai series, the present novel and the original The Time Machine result indirectly from time travel activities.

Through Havig, Robert Anderson knows of the coming nuclear War of Judgement that is a premise of the Maurai series. He comments:

"Oh, God, the young, the poor young! Poul, my generation and yours have had it outrageously easy. All we ever had to do was be white Americans in reasonable health, and we got our place in the sun." (p. 6)

Well, we cannot exactly choose to be white. By putting that single adjective into the mouth of an older character, Anderson acknowledges a deep division in American society during the period referred to.

By time traveling within the twentieth century, Havig tells the medical practitioner Robert Anderson things that we know:

"They'll find the molecular basis for heredity, approximately ten years from now."
"What?...This you've got to tell me more about!"
"Later...I'll give you as much information on DNA and the rest as I can, though that isn't a whale of a lot..." (p. 47) 

And many of us would not have been able to tell him much either.

There Will Be Time

What have Poul Anderson's Orion Shall Rise and There Will Be Time got in common? Each has a title that is a full sentence in the future tense (one refers to space; the other to time) and the Foreword to There Will Be Time refers to the Maurai, one of the future nationalities in Orion Shall Rise.

In this very strange Foreword, the author, Poul Anderson, directly addresses the reader. He convincingly describes a relative, Dr Robert Anderson, who, we come to realise, must be fictitious. This fictitious Anderson (fictitiously) inspired both the Maurai series and the present novel. Could this fictitious inspiration, Robert Anderson, partly represent a real inspiration, Robert Anson Heinlein? (I don't know.)

Robert addresses the narrator of the Foreword as "Poul" and refers to "Karen" so we are in no doubt that, in this case, narrator and author are identical, but, for the rest of the novel, Robert is the narrator though not the central character. He mediates between Poul and Jack Havig, a time traveller. In fact, there are perhaps five layers here:

you and me reading the novel;
Poul Anderson, the author of the novel;
Poul Anderson, the narrator of the Foreword;
Robert Anderson, the narrator of the rest of the novel;
Jack Havig, the central character of the novel.

Poul Anderson the narrator is a strong link between reality and fiction.

There Will be Time is a very good time travel novel of which there are few. I used to think that Poul Anderson's two volume Time Patrol series, considered as a unit, and Jack Finney's two Time novels, also considered as a unit, were the two culminations of the time travel fiction that had been initiated by The Time Machine and wondered if there could be a third. Later, I accepted that Audrey Niffeneger's The Time Traveler's Wife was a third. However, a few other novels, like The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers and this one by Anderson, are certainly comparable.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Orion Risen

I am quite certain that orbiting astronauts radioing an appeal for international cooperation would not affect terrestrial politics in the slightest, unless, of course, those politics were already moving in that direction, as Anderson tries to show. For one thing, the conflict has killed its own chief architects. Further, nuclear missiles and laser beams fired from the stratosphere are not weapons but instruments of genocide. The War of Judgement had left a deep disquiet at the idea of destruction on such a scale. That destruction has started again precisely because of Maurai attempts to suppress it so now it is easy to argue that Federation policies must change. (This cover makes the (spherical) aerostat resemble an attacking flying saucer but accurately conveys its capacity for destruction.)

Also, in the interests of realism, the character Plik, a sort of auctorial spokesman within the text, reminds his friends and thus us that all will not be sweetness and light despite the popular revulsion against continued hostilities. Anderson, as always, shows us every point of view. A scientist helping to design a spaceship is idealistic about how resources from the Solar System will transform the Earth, poorer countries included, whereas the Intelligence chief protecting the project expects space traveling human beings to continue polluting their environments but wants the military applications of spacecraft for his country in particular.

Designing spacecraft secretly without the benefit of a large scale ground control system, the Norrmen must build from scratch a ship that is more maneuverable than the old NASA capsules. Thus, this ship carries a crew and supplies, can be controlled from within, can orbit Earth indefinitely, fly once round the Moon and land back on Earth to be reused - kind of like an experimental spaceship in an old sf novel!

The behavior of a Gaean teacher confirms my earlier characterization of this future philosophy as "green fascism." When it is suggested that lasering entire territories will damage Gaea, he responds:

"We are Gaea." (Orion Shall Rise, London, 1988, p. 459)

Indiscriminate destruction of life in the name of all life: the reader is relieved when this character is among the fatalities.

Although I wrote earlier that the Pey d'Or tavern becomes a familiar venue in the novel (and it does), closer reading reveals that it appears only three times - and the surviving characters do not rendezvous there again at the end. Nevertheless, Anderson's writing makes the setting familiar to the reader. Iern tells Plik:

"I used to carouse in Kemper, on furloughs while a Cadet, often in this very den..." (p. 45)

- so the place has a history for the characters even though we are, in that passage, seeing it for the first time. As I remarked before, Anderson combines wealth of imagination with economy of writing.

Anderson's vocabulary continues to be broad. I googled "maintruck" (p. 466) only to be informed that there is no definition recorded. Blogging about a novel while rereading it is slower but more meaningful. I retain more of the details and can refresh my memory on the blog.

The Pey d'Or

Not for the first time, I have tried to summarise all that Poul Anderson tells us about a fictitious place and have found that there is a lot more detail than I had realised.

Kemper, spared in the War of Judgement, became the largest town and chief seaport in Brezh and the capital of Ar-Mor. It has a multi-denominational Cathedral of St Corentin and a museum housing ancient relics.

The Pey d'Or, a basement tavern in Kemper, mostly for labourers and sailors, has smoke-blackened beams, low ceiling, clay floor, a dusty clerestory (high window above eye level), four tables with benches and stairs from a door to the street. The balladeer Peyt "Plik" Rensoon, an Angleyman from Free Church-governed Devon in southern Angleylann across the Channel, sings in Angley, plays his lute, drinks from a goblet of wine, smokes a clay pipe, addresses the Francey-speaking barmaid Sesi as "Vineleaf" and, at different times, drinks with sailors, labourers, farmers, psyans (peasants), the Stormrider Iern and visitors from the Northwest Union.

Two members of a new green-uniformed force, the Terran Guard, enter the tavern with an announcement from the new Captain of Skyholm, thus provoking political argument among the sailors from ships in port and other patrons present. The tavern becomes a familiar setting to which the narrative returns and where some of the major characters meet for the first time.  

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Orion Rises

 When I wrote that Orion Shall Rise by Poul Anderson (London, 1988) was "Rooted In The Past," I had not yet reread to pages 306-308 where a hundred women - maidens, wives and grandmothers - meet at standing stones to curse a usurper who:

"...claimed his world-view embraced eons, but...had no real conception of ancientness. He could not admit that a people may have a right to preserve their own nature..." (p. 306)

The curse, in the names of Deu, Zhesu-Crett and all saints, is Christian. A distinction is made between saints "...on high..." and "...in the Afterworld..." "...on high..." must refer to the aristocrats in the aerostat who, we have been told, are commonly regarded as "saints."

This curse takes us right back to the earliest European history and even evokes the Nine Witch-Queens in Poul and Karen Anderson's historical fantasy tetralogy, The King Of Ys. The town that was Quimper in the Ys period has become Kemper in the Orion period. Orion Shall Rise encapsulates the past of Europe and a future for the world. The old religion Christianity, represented by a Bishop in Devon, clashes with the new philosophy of Gaeanity, represented by the cursed usurper.

We had known from early in the novel that "Orion" was a top secret prohibited technology project in a country defeated by the conservationist Maurai. On page 311 of 468, we are finally told exactly what it is although perhaps I should not state that here? The Maurai go to war to suppress Orion but are resisted by their adversaries' peculiar "Lodge" system. What seemed to be a population fleeing from invaders turns out to have been a population mobilized to use hidden weapons to destroy the Maurai Marine Corps. Any population outnumbers any invading army so that, if the population is motivated, armed and organized, then invaders beware. Anderson knew the importance of different kinds of social organization.

The Pey-d'Or is a tavern introduced early in the novel and a place that becomes familiar as characters meet and return there. They include "the Stormrider" Iern and the balladeer Plik. Anderson endows the latter with a (slightly implausible?) poetic/prophetic ability to mythologize the historical events occurring around him and to predict in general terms how they must go. Although an archaic Nicene Christian, he knows that:

"...the gods are doomed - everybody's gods - and what new ones will come striding through their ashes, we shall not live to understand." (p. 316)

 And:

"The Apollonian Domain and Arthurian Maurai are up against Orphic Gaeanity and the Faustian Northwest...the Norrmen are demons readying to overthrow the gods of sky, sea, and earth - though chthonic gods have always had their own dark side - and the war that is coming will bring an end to the world." (p. 270)

The Norrmen of the Northwest are industrial demons challenging European aerostatic government (sky), the Maurai (sea) and Gaeans (land).

Although in this instance writing sf, Anderson, through Plik, applies the language of mythological fantasy and ensures that the reader does not miss the significance of seemingly small events that will have enormous consequences later in the narrative. By "...an end to the world..." is meant an end to the present world order. A four sided conflict is an improvement on the twosidedness often seen in popular fiction. A Gaean, secretly helped by the Northwest Wolf Lodge, has seized control of the Domain but is provoking civil war.