Monday, 29 July 2013

Flight To Forever

Poul Anderson's "Flight to Forever" occupies eighty pages of his collection, Alight In The Void (New York, 1993, pp. 161-240). Despite its less than novelistic length, it is, in the pulp tradition, divided into six titled chapters:

I No Return
II Belgotai of Syrtis
III Trapped in the Time-Stream
IV End of Empire
V Attack of the Anvardi
VI Flight Without End

"Trapped in the Time-Stream" and "End of Empire" are particularly pulp sf titles.

Anderson's time travelers set out twenty three years into the future, in 1973, and one of the years that they visit is 2013. For me, there is a sense of following in HG Wells' footsteps. The characters travel by stages into the future so what will they find? Some of the futurians that they meet are almost as decadent as the Eloi. The Time Traveler travels to the end of life on Earth whereas Anderson's character, Saunders, travels beyond the end of the universe.

One difference is that the Time Traveler, from the seat of the Time Machine, sees the world flash past whereas Saunders and Hull, through the porthole of the time projector, see only grayness until they stop. Also, the Time Machine risks materializing inside an object and exploding whereas the time projector's mass-sensitive circuits prevent it from halting inside anything solid.

There are a few notable passages in this rather crude early story:

"The important thing was change, an unending flux out of which all could come." (p. 167)

"Men lived in their own times, a brief flash of light ringed with an enormous dark, and it was not in their nature to think beyond that little span of years. He began to realize why time travel had never been common." (p. 182)

"Man's works were so horribly impermanent; he thought with a sadness of the cities and civilizations he had seen rise and spend their little hour and sink back into the night and chaos of time." (p. 191)

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