Monday, 11 November 2013

Unicorns Etc III

I keep trying to exorcise the unicorns but not succeeding. I forgot to mention that Karen Anderson's sphinxes hunt unicorns. So maybe the unicorns were wiped out by the sphinxes who were wiped out by early men who then displaced the centaurs?

Science fiction writers, including those who also write some fantasy, present alternative answers to shared questions like, in this case: where did the mythical beasts go? One story reminds us of others although, as CS Lewis comments in The Great Divorce, we do not always remember either titles or authors. On this occasion, I remember an author but not the title either of the story or of the collection. In a story by Brian Aldiss, a member of Noah's crew sees a larger Ark with dinosaurs on one deck and mythical beasts on another, then wonders whether the right Ark survived the Flood.

Karen Anderson's "The Piebald Hippogriff" might conceivably find its way into some future "first man on the moon" anthology because it ends as its viewpoint character flies his newly tamed hippogriff towards the moon to homestead there. First man on the moon stories are dated but have their place:

Vernes' characters went round the moon;
Wells' characters went in the moon;
Heinlein wrote a Future History version, a Scribner Juvenile version and a film version of the first trip to the moon;
Lewis' and Blish's successors of Cavor, Weston and Haertel, went to Mars, not to the moon (and Haertel used anti-gravity);
Edgar Rice Burroughs' characters tried for Mars but were sabotaged and crashed on the moon;
a Niven character was on the moon before Armstrong because he traveled to the moon later, then time traveled;
Poul Anderson's Valeria Matuchek was the first human being on the moon in her parallel universe where magic works;
a TV adaptation of The First Men In The Moon showed Armstrong and Aldrin approaching a lifeless moon, then flashed back to Cavor and Bedford - a fixed Cavorite sheet was used to eject the lunar atmosphere into space, thus killing the Selenites.

And that returns us to our starting point: accepting a mythical account, then explaining why the account is no longer applicable.


  1. Hi, Paul!

    Altho not using magic or any mythological beasts, your comments about Valeria Matuchek reminded me of another story by Anderson concerning a first man to reach the Moon, "The Light" (which can be found in the collection PAST TIMES). i thought that story was esp. interesting--involving as it does Leonardo da Vinci and the invention of technology our times has not yet discovered.



  2. Sean,
    Yes, I should have remembered "The Light".

    1. Hi, Paul!

      And "The Light" got me interested in looking up Leonardo's two paintings titled "The Virgin of the Rocks." Yes, I think I can see what Poul Anderson wrote in "The Light" about Leonardo's use of light for those paintings.