Thursday, 21 February 2013

Flying Mountains II

I am trying to finish rereading Poul Anderson's Three Worlds To Conquer and to start rereading his Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984) but am surrounded by the interruptions of life like helping a friend to move house, venturing into the cold to buy a takeaway meal for my family and watching bizarre events at home and abroad on the television news.

Flying Mountains I really have read only once maybe twenty nine years ago. Looking ahead, I note that it has an elaborate structure with perhaps three layers of narrative. It contains seven stories of which we are informed that four had previously "...appeared, in somewhat different form...in Analog..." (p. 4). This suggests that maybe the remaining three were written for the book? These seven are about asteroid colonization.

There are also a Prologue, an Epilogue and six numbered Interludes, making eight shorter passages in addition to the seven stories. In these shorter passages, extrasolar colonists discuss how to teach the history of the asteroid colonies to their children.

In Larry Niven's Known Space future history, the Asteroid Belt, called simply "the Belt," is colonized entirely with technology that could be envisaged when the stories were written, e.g., a hollowed out asteroid is spun to generate centrifugal force in place of gravity. Anderson's extrasolar colonists are still en route at sub-light speed. My point is that Flying Mountains need not have involved any technological innovations, just the application of existing space technology on a larger scale.

However, as I remember it, the asteroids are colonized by using some sort of gravity control involving the artificial generation of terrestroid gravitational fields on asteroidal surfaces. Although not FTL, gravity control is a very big premise indeed. I will reread with interest both Anderson's rationale for "...gyrogravitics..." and his colonists discussions of how to teach history as well as the seven individual stories (p. 29).

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