Thursday, 7 March 2013

Remote Galaxies

We are used to interplanetary or interstellar travel in science fiction. In Tau Zero, Poul Anderson, defining "families" as clusters of galaxies and "clans" as clusters of clusters, presents both inter-family and inter-clan travel at relativistic speeds. In World Without Stars (New York, 1966), he presents intergalactic travel by instantaneous jumps.

A remote galaxy is said to have a relative velocity that is "...a goodly fraction of c." (p. 7) Surely even remoter galaxies have relative velocities just under c? A ship in galaxy 1 accelerates to the relative velocity of galaxy 2, then jumps to galaxy 2 where it can rest and resupply in a starport. From this base of observation, it can establish the position and relative velocity of galaxy 3, then accelerate enough to jump to galaxy 3. Thus, the entire universe is accessible. With aging ended by the antithanatic, a spaceman might visit every galaxy? Unfortunately, Anderson does not develop this idea further, writing only this one novel about an expedition to a planet in intergalactic space.

The crew of the Meteor (as identified in Chapters III and IV):

Felipe Argens, captain;
Hugh Valland, gunner, second deck officer;
Yo Rorn, electronician;
Enver Smeth, chemist;
Alen Galmer;
Chu Bren;
Galt Urduga;
two others.

Like Robert Heinlein's Lazarus Long, Valland is probably the oldest member of the human race. Like Heinlein's Jetman Rhysling, he is both a spaceman and a singer. He discloses that, five centuries previously, he had composed a song that is known to Argens. Differences from Rhysling: Valland is not blind and plays an "omnisonor," not an accordion. Cover artists have depicted the omnisonor.

Unfortunately, Heinlein went on to write hundreds of pages of drivel about Long. Also unfortunately, Anderson wrote nothing more about Valland, although he did give us another immortal, Hanno, in The Boat Of A Million Years. Hanno crosses interstellar distances at relativistic speeds and agrees to meet fellow immortals again in another million years. Even Anderson was not able to envisage such a meeting.

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