Sunday, 28 July 2013

Some Remaining Details In "Earthman, Beware!"

I list details in Poul Anderson's stories, as in the previous post, because the details are ingenious and because I would soon forget them if I did not write them down.

Four concluding comments on "Earthman, Beware!":

(i) One sentence in this story contains a phrase that became important in a later Anderson series:

"The long night wore on."

(Alight In The Void, New York, 1993, p. 45)

(ii) In the first seven pages of the story, Peggy has tracked Joel to his Alaskan cabin. So far, the story could have had a contemporary setting although with the science fictional elements of Joel's partial telepathy and his robot chef invention. Then suddenly, Joel thinks:

"Maybe he should have gone to Mars or some outer-planet satellite." (p. 36)

With this sentence, we are wrenched into a futuristic scenario where interplanetary travel is routine. We are used to such scenarios in science fiction but are usually given notice of them earlier in a story. Two pages further on, we are informed that Joel invented the ion-jet space drive so it seems that he is responsible for interplanetary travel.

(iii) A single word can trigger an entirely accidental association in one reader's mind. Joel's human foster parents were called not Kent but Weatherfield. I live on Blades St in the city of Lancaster in the county of Lancashire. Since December 1960, a British TV series has shown the denizens of Coronation St in the fictitious town of Weatherfield, Lancashire. (Apparently, Weatherfield is a hour by motorway from Lancaster. If only I knew which direction to drive in...) So maybe the foster parents' ancestors came from the North West of England...

(iv) When, in the very last sentence:

"Dr Joel Weatherfield, eminent young physicist, rose cheefully and began making ready to go home." (p. 60)

- he has been made to forget his personal cosmic connection. We are Joel. We are all connected to the cosmos and are usually unaware of it.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

The very first Dominic Flandry story, "Tiger by the Tail," was first pub. by PLANET STORIES in Jan. 1951. And "Earthman, Beware" in the June 1951 issue of SUPER SCIENCE STORIES. So, actually, the term "the Long Night" came a bit earlier than "Earthman."

Also, I've been wondering if you agreed with how "Earthman, Beware" ended. That is, do you agree or disagree with how Joel Weatherfield's people handled his case? That is, was the most humane solution being to make him forget that he was not truly an Earthman of genus Homo sapiens? The non humans belief that it was too late for Joel to "fit in" with them seems to make sense to me.


Paul Shackley said...

It was too late for him to fit in but I am not sure if it could be right to deprive him of his memories.
Do the aliens sound to you as if they are unFallen?
Are you able to read the blurb before "Earthman, Beware!" on the attached mag cover?

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I'm not sure I would agree. What good would it do Joel if he continued to recall in his memories that he was not truly an Earth human? Wouldn't he be troubled by grief, frustration, and anger over how his own race refused to take him back because he would be unable to fit in? That this was because he was now too warped to fit in would not exactly make him happy.

It seems to me that minimal editing of his and Peggy's memories to erase knowledge of how Joel was not truly an Earth human was the least bad solution.

No, I would not consider the non humans of this story to be unFallen. VERY advanced in knowledge and technology, and plainly a very decent people as well. But, not unFallen. Mostly because I don't think members of an unFallen race would suffer accidents of the kind which killed Joel's mother and caused him to be stranded as an infant on Earth.

I googled SUPER SCIENCE STORIES and looked for a link for cover images of that magazine, and found the cover for June 1951. The blurb before the title of Anderson's story says "A Story of Worlds Beyond."


Paul Shackley said...