Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Sea Ammonia

This is the sort of detail that we read Poul Anderson for. Sea water contains too much salt for us to drink it but, in Anderson's Three Worlds To Conquer (London, 1966), "...the mineral content of sea ammonia..." is too little to prevent Jovians from drinking it. (p. 72)

In fact, there is even a little nourishment in sea ammonia, although not enough to live on. In the upper atmosphere, sunlight irradiates methane and ammonia, forming amino acids and other organic materials which descend to below the level where ultraviolet radiation would break them down. Some even enter the sea where they support microbes that Jovians can digest.

Incredible. Anderson casually tells us this after describing a battle in which our Jovian viewpoint character, by striking with a pike, kills one of the great sea beasts commanded by his enemies. Anyone dismissing Anderson as merely a blood and thunder man is missing the scientific content permeating his action-adventure fiction.

6 comments:

  1. Hi, Paul!

    I fully agree! Anderson's skill as a writer included being able to deftly include scientific detail even in the middle of describing a battle in such a way as not to seem intrusive or jarring.

    Indeed, Anderson was far more than a mere "blood and thunder" pulp writing hack. And that reminded me of his sardonically titled essay "Of Thud and Blunder," where he gives advice to would be writers on how to write good fantasies.

    Sean

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  2. Yes, I almost wrote "thud and blunder" above.

    Page views have gone mad! 202 already today (7.52 am here) whereas the highest in one day was previously 96 and most days were much lower.

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  3. Hi, Paul!

    I'm very glad this blog is getting so many visitors! I hope your essays and notes will encourage some visitors to look up some of Poul Anderson's books to get a better idea of what is being talked about. And I hope they come to like his work!

    I also hope some of these visitors will deposit comments of their own in the combox. Esp. since I assume most will be British, which will be esp. interesting for an American like me.

    Sean

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  4. 279 page views so far today. A lot of my traffic is from North America.

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  5. 285. 200 more than yesterday and still just under 4 hours till midnight.

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  6. Hi, Paul!

    Oops! Some of that might be my fault! I've wearied some of my other online friends by telling them about this blog! (Smiles)

    And I would still like to see comments from British SF fans!

    Sean

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