Thursday, 5 September 2013

Winners

The five stories collected in Poul Anderson's Winners (New York, 1981) and the eighteen works collected in his Going For Infinity (New York, 2002) overlap by two items: "The Queen of Air and Darkness" and "Goat Song."

The rationale for Winners is that each of its five stories had won the Hugo award from the annual World Science Fiction Convention (sf fans) - and "Goat Song" had also won the Nebula award from the Science Fiction Writers of America (sf professionals). The rationale for Going For Infinity is that it is a retrospective of fifty years of writing so it is appropriate that it includes two of the award winners.

I am rereading another Winner: "The Longest Voyage." This story opens with a reference to a "...Sky Ship..." (p. 97) We may guess that this will turn out to be a spaceship, although not necessarily. The characters in Anderson's "The Sky People" are not space travelers. Initially, "The Longest Voyage" reads like a parallel world story where magic might work. A sailing ship is circumnavigating a world where all the place names are strange and so-called sea monsters are heard to breach at night. An Elizabethan atmosphere is generated when the captain refers to "'...Her Majesty...'" and "'...her most excellent Company of Merchant Adventurers...'" and says that this voyage is "'...to her glory.'" (p. 100)

Before long, the characters, and thus the reader, learn that Tambur, the large stationary celestial body that became visible when the ship entered the other hemisphere, is a planet of which the sailors' own world is a tidally locked satellite. This is hard sf. There is a legend that mankind was "'...hurled...down onto the earth, at the time of the Fall from Heaven.'" (p. 102)

- so are our protagonists descendants of stranded Earthmen and will the "Sky Ship" reestablish interstellar contact? Only further reading will tell.

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