Friday, 22 February 2013


I knew that Poul Anderson occasionally dabbled in humor but I have been surprised to find some in Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984). The director of NASA, addressing a Congressional Committee says:

" ' would appear evident to my perception of the situation that the aegis of this distinguished group is superimposed on the intricacy of era-characteristic fields of inquiry falling more under the rubric of basic philosophical justifications, while simultaneously concerning ourselves not to lose sight of the over-all necessity for action-oriented orchestration of innovative inputs.' " (p. 26)

There is plenty more like this but I limited myself to quoting a single sentence. John Wither, the very distinguished and gentlemanly Deputy Director of the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments in CS Lewis' That Hideous Strength was a master of such discourse and would have felt very much at home at such a Committee meeting.

Secondly, the Committee includes a "Carter of Virginia." (p. 27) Science fiction readers remember the Virginian John Carter who traveled to Mars by astral projection in novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. And the next thing that Committee member Carter says is:

" 'Anitigravity belongs with witches on broom-sticks. I could reach Mars easier astral projection.'" (pp. 27-28)

- so, if we were in any doubt about what Anderson meant by "Carter of Virginia," our doubt is dispelled!


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Yes, I remember how Poul Anderson used sardonic humor in "Nothing Succeeds Like Failure," from TALES OF THE FLYING MOUNTAINS. It was amusing to see how two sclerotic bureaucracies, the US and Soviet space agencies, found a tacit common cause in backing a "fringe" technology like the "spindizzy" to avoid getting axed. And the NASA director's gobblydegook is all too reminiscent of the twaddle we see from real world politicians and bureaucrats.

But even the NASA director showed he could be more than a bureaucratic hack. For a moment, in his testimony in Congress, he revealed bitterness and frustration over how LITTLE had been done to develop the possibilities of space even with Apollo level technology.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I forgot to add in my previous note that I totally missed the "Carter of Virginia" bit when I read TALES OF THE FLYING MOUNTAINS. And I'm a fan of the Barsoom novels of ERB! I'm crushed! (Smiles)


Paul Shackley said...

I don't remember noticing it the first time around.