Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Versions III

A future history, or any fictitious series, gains substance when it presents a single event from different points of view.

Poul Anderson's "Virgin Planet" presents a diary entry by Yamagata Tetsuo, Chief of Coordination Service, Argus 293 Region, Stellamont, Nerthus. There is quite a lot of information to absorb here before comparing this passage with the corresponding one in the expanded version, Virgin Planet.

Stellamont is the single city on Nerthus, a colonized terrestroid planet about a thousand light years from the Solar System in the direction of Argus. This explains why, when the Author's Note to Virgin Planet identifies a star in a Nerthusian constellation, the star is named not just "Delta Capitis Lupi" but, more specifically, "(Ar 293) Delta Capitis Lupi." This means "the fourth brightest star in the Wolf's Head as seen from the base planet (Nerthus) of Argus 293 Region." The same star will have other designations if it is visible from other base planets.

But, to return to the content of Tetsuo's diary entry, the Chief writes notes and makes comments after his interview with Davis Bertram, a stellagraphic survey man. One of the comments is, "So much for Man's Starward Yearning..." (Starship, New York, 1982, p. 89)

Here, the Chief seems to parody the title of Enrico Yamatsu's "...classic history Starward!..." (p. 9)

Virgin Planet presents not Tetsuo's diary entry but a lengthier account of Tetsuo's interview with Davis from Davis' point of view. We even get a third character, the interplanetary freightman, Smith Hilary, who converses separately with both the others. Thus, reading both versions in tandem enriches our perception of the characters and their setting.

Tetsuo, conversing with Smith, confirms what we also glean from The Peregrine, that cities, redundant on Earth, have re-emerged on the frontier. This passage also confirms that men have been in this region of space for about six decades which fits with the Chronology at the end of Starship.

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