Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Winding Up On World Without Stars

In Poul Anderson's World Without Stars (New York, 1966), spaceman Felipe Argens might not see his City portwife Lute and their daughter Wenli again for another fifty years (p. 45). Because of the antithanatic, Lute and he will be physically unchanged but Wenli will have grown from small child to adult.

Although space jumps are instantaneous, a spaceship needs time to accelerate to the velocity of its destination spiral arm or galaxy and a large energy differential must be made up in stages - plus which, the company rotates personnel between stations.

However, half a century is little to an immortal. First, Argens has other portwives and Lute has other spacefaring husbands. Secondly, even within an unextended lifespan, each new year seems progressively shorter because it is a smaller proportion of the total to date. (CS Lewis argued that our surprise that "Time flies" shows that we belong in eternity but I think that the mathematical explanation just given sufficiently accounts for our sense of acceleration with age.)

Isaac Asimov's characters who live well into their second century count their age in decades without specifying which year in a decade just as we say, "I am sixty four," without adding, "...and two months." So Argens would view decades as we view years and years as we view months. I envy him and his fellow immortals their greater ability to "...set the years in perspective..." (p. 121).

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