Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Quest And Beyond

I have previously commented on Poul Anderson's three novels set in the fourteenth century:

The Merman's Children is historical fantasy because it assumes the truth of medieval Catholic beliefs;
Rogue Sword is historical fiction, assuming nothing either supernatural or extraterrestrial;
The High Crusade is science fiction because it assumes faster than light interstellar travel by extra-solar aliens.

In "Quest," the short sequel to The High Crusade, it is unlikely that the Grail had been transported to another planetary system because that would make this short story a fantasy sequel to an sf novel. However, the knight leading the Quest must become a detective when he and his companions enter a chapel containing a large silver chalice protected by a Fisher King and two white-clad maidens.

There are several discrepancies but the largest single clue is the size and composition of the chalice. Surely it should be a small wooden cup? When the hoax has been exposed, the base of the chalice is found to contain a nuclear device intended to assassinate either the King Emperor or the Pope of the interstellar English Empire. That brings us back down to Earth - almost. But, before that, we have enjoyed Anderson's colorful account of a medieval Quest, including the exotic location of the supposed Grail.

In Going For Infinity (New York, 2002), the introduction to the next story after "Quest" begins: "There were other series." (p. 219) If a series means at least two, then we can classify The High Crusade and its sequel as a series. The next series to be considered is the Maurai History, here represented by "Windmill." Anderson comprehensively explains the premises of the Maurai series which begins with "The Sky People" and ends with Orion Shall Rise: rebuilding civilization with reduced resources.

Thus, looking backwards and forwards in the volume, the number of series represented here has considerably increased:

the Technic Civilization History, including van Rijn and the Ythrians;
the Psychotechnic History;
the Time Patrol;
the Kith;
the interstellar Crusade;
the Maurai;
extracts from two fantasy novels that are connected although that is not evident here;
Trygve Yamamura;
the Rustum History is represented by "The Queen of Air and Darkness," which is set in that timeline.

Flandry, of the Technic History, does not make it into this collection although he is mentioned in an introduction. Anderson remarks that the Yamamura story "...skirts fantasy." (p. 296) I think that it is fantasy.

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