Friday, 2 August 2013
Galactics And Time Patrolmen
Imagine if two such organizations co-existed - extra-galactic space travelers and futurian time travelers do meet in the past of Earth in Julian May's Pliocene Exiles Tetralogy.
Anderson's Galactics and Time Patrol have opposed aims. However, although the Galactics try to direct human history toward peaceful, stable, international relations, events unfold as we know they did:
there is an unfortunate incident at Sarajevo;
Ulyanov gets into Russia;
Hitler comes to power in Germany...
This, despite all its horrors, is the history protected by the Patrol. Thus, if the Galactics and the Patrol did occupy the same timeline, then the Galactics' unsuccessful attempts would have to be guarded by the Patrol, even if Patrolmen remained unaware of the Galactic presence, whereas, if the Galactics learned of the Patrol, then they would have to oppose it. Could two such organizations conceal their existence so effectively that neither knew of the other? And, if so, then how many secret operators might there be? How complicated can history and reality get?
We do know that there are levels of reality that were unknown in the past and that other levels almost certainly will be discovered in future. This opens at least the possibility of non-human intelligences (supernatural, extraterrestrial, extra-temporal) operating among us now without our knowledge.
Time Patrolmen, with access to future medicine, live indefinitely prolonged lives so that they can spend years or decades in other periods yet return to their present apparently unaged. Similarly, the Galactics, although basically human, survive for millennia presumably thanks to their medical technology although this is not made explicit. They use their lifespans to guide primitive planet after primitive planet.
In an alternative history novel by Michael Moorcock, an old revolutionary called Ulyanov wonders at what point during his career he missed his opportunity. The first time I read Moorcock's book, I did not know by what name Ulyanov was known in our history. Anderson's Galactics arrange for Ulyanov to be smuggled into Russia in a sealed train, hoping that the revolutionary will pull Russia out of the War but not realizing what will happen next. In case Anderson's readers do not get it, he tells us that:
"[Ulyanov's] Party name was Lenin." (Seven Conquests, New York, 1984, p. 158)
Similarly, two Galactics unsuspectingly make a date for the evening of Thursday, October 24, 1929.
By the end of the story, the Galactics have not saved us from ourselves. Anderson's message is clear: it is down to us.
Addendum: A Galactic speaks disparagingly of Kaiser Wilhelm. I am no defender of Kaiser Wilhelm but I would not expect a Galactic's perspective to be identical with that of the author or his readers.