Thursday, 27 June 2013

A Planet In Space III

Extraordinarily, the mere similarity between the titles A Stone In Heaven and Pebble In The Sky led to yet another comparison between Poul Anderson and Isaac Asimov, repeating points made in earlier posts. It is remarkable that quite a long list of parallels between these authors' future histories can be compiled although the gestalts of the two series are very different.

Another example of such similarity with difference is Perelandra by CS Lewis and A Case Of Conscience by James Blish. Each of these novels is a volume of a theological trilogy and, in each, a Christian and an atheist scientist disagree and argue on a sinless planet... But the differences are far greater.

A Stone In Heaven is certainly an evocative title. Taken literally, it suggests something like the Black Stone of the Kaaba before it fell to Earth, a fitting subject for a mythological fantasy by Anderson. Sometimes, the title of a novel turns out to be a brief phrase used casually in the text of the novel. When the reader comes across the phrase, it gains an additional significance because it is recognized as the title and thus as somehow encapsulating the theme of the novel. I had remembered that the stone in heaven of the title was a planet seen from space but which planet? While rereading the novel, I was looking out for the phrase and wondering if I had missed it.

As it happens, in Baen Books' The Technic Civilization Saga, Volume VII, Flandry's Legacy, pages 1-188 are A Stone In Heaven. Page 171 ends:

"Elaveli [a moon of the planet Ramnu] filled much of the scene, its lighted three-quarters a jumble of peaks, ridges, scarps, clefts, blank plains, long shadows - airless, lifeless,"

and page 172 begins:

"a stone in heaven."

Thus, Elaveli is the titular stone. We turn the page and find our title. But then Flandry reflects on the bright blue Ramnu as a "sapphire" and "a precious jewel" because it holds awareness and because he thinks that his journey here has been his "last expedition..."

So Ramnu is the important planet but Elaveli gains significance because its description becomes the title of the novel.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I did know "a stone in heaven" appeared in the text of A STONE IN HEAVEN, but I thought it referred to Ramnu, not its moon Elaveli. Nice joining of ideas PA made, the dead, lifeless "stone" which was Elaveli with the precious "sapphire" of the living world Ramnu. I don't think Asimov would have thought of such a pairing of ideas or metaphors.