Friday, 22 February 2013

Flying Mountains III

Two points to note so far. (I have started to reread Poul Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984) and have also looked ahead a bit.) Winston P Sanders is a joke pen name that Anderson used now and again, for example on four of these stories when they appeared in Analog. Correct me if I am wrong but I think Sanders was quoted as an authority in Fire Time? (And, similarly, a "Pander Oulson" was referred to somewhere in the Dune series.)

Surprisingly, Sanders comes on stage as the first person narrator of the Prologue and presumably also of the remaining interstitial material in this collection/novelization. As a new member of the Advisory Council on the spaceship Astra, just leaving the Solar System for Alpha Centauri at sub-light speed, he is a convenient foil for the older and established Council members. They can explain their situation and dilemmas to us through him. The Prologue is eight pages long. Thus, it and the remaining add-ons form a substantial part of the text.

Secondly, the first story, "Nothing Succeeds Like Failure," is one of the three that had not been published before. Like the Prologue, it has been written for the book. In fact, it is also a prologue since, set on Earth, it recounts both the science and the politics behind the colonization of the asteroids. Therefore, only six of the seven stories are going to be set in the Asteroid Republic. As in Anderson's Rustum History and his The Star Fox, we have to be told how it all began so the first story in the series precedes the events that the series is about, just as James Blish, after writing a series about flying cities, then wrote the prequel, a short novel describing the two discoveries, antigravity and anti-agathics, that had enabled cities to fly between the stars.


David Birr said...

I think it's worth noting that the David Falkayn story "A Sun Invisible" includes a quote attributed to "Sanders," a bit of poetry with which Falkayn stirs a girl's imagination:

Their topmasts gilt by sunset, though their sails be whipped to rags,
Who raced the wind around the world go reeling home again,
With ivory, apes, and peacocks loaded, memories and brags,
To sell for this high profit, knowing fully they are Men!

The girl's reaction leads Falkayn to muse, "And to think he'd resented his schoolmasters, when he was a kid on Hermes, making him read Flecker and Sanders in the original." [He'd also quoted the "chase the morning" line from Flecker's *Hassan*.]

It sure stirred *MY* imagination.

A couple of years ago, I tried to track down the origin of this verse, not knowing at the time that "Sanders" was an occasional pseudonym of Poul Anderson. I found a conversation in which his son-in-law Greg Bear told another reader that his wife believed this poem was, in fact, by PA himself.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Birr:

You can find an incomplete collecting of the poems written by Poul Anderson in a now rare, hard to find book called STAVES. Alas, it did not include "Mary O'Meara," "The Battle of Brandobar," or "The Queen of Air and Darkness."

Any comphrehensive collecting of Anderson's verses will have to include these major poems AND the verses found in "A Sun Invisible."


David Birr said...

Hmmm. Mr. Brooks, did it include a short fantasy poem titled "Three Kings"? I particularly recall that one because the opening line, "Three kings rode out on the road to Hell," so closely resembles the first line of "The Battle of Brandobar."

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Birr,

I checked my copy of STAVES, but it did not include any poem called "Three Kings." Where did you come across "Three Kings rode out on the road to Hell"? One of Anderson's novels or short stories? It does not seem familiar to me.


David Birr said...

Dear Mr. Brooks:

It was printed in a fanzine (*Amra*) one of my aunts bought and gave me back in 1975. The 'zine focused mainly on Conan, and it had a star-studded list of contributors including Anderson, Marion Zimmer Bradley, John Brunner, L. Sprague de Camp, Frank Herbert, Michael Moorcock, Jerry Pournelle ... and still more....

The poem is -- well, here, it's short enough that it's simpler to just post it:

Three kings rode out on the road to Hell,
And ravens flew on the gale.
The night wind rang like an iron bell,
And hissed with sleet and hail.
Three kings rode out where the night wind runs,
And on, to Death's highway:
The king of the Britons, the king of the Huns,
And the king of Norroway.

The king of the Britons was crowned with gold,
And rode on a stallion white.
"Oh, all men gang when they are told,
But I go not in fright.
A goodly king who loved his folk;
And guarded them with the rod,
With stake and gallows against themselves,
Will surely go to God."

The king of the Huns was capped with steel,
And rode a stallion red.
"Oh, truly proud my fathers feel,
Of me who crowned my head,
Halfway around a world in pain,
Which I did mightily win;
And I go home to my fathers' fane,
And not to the evil Djinn."

And the king of Norway was helmed with wings,
And rode a stallion gray.
"Oh, fiercely glad my heart now sings;
Odin guests me today.
I died in bed; I vowed I hung
Full many a screaming thrall,
On Odin's tree, with runes on tongue.
I go now to his hall."

Three kings rode down to the depths of Hell;
And the bloody-breasted hound
Howled as they rode into black halls fell,
Icy beneath the ground.
Three kings a fine old judgment won
From the high gods' lips that day:
The Devil took the Briton, the Djinni took the Hun,
And Hel took Norroway!