Thursday, 27 February 2014

Gibraltar Falls III

Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), pp. 113-128.

Rereading Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series has been a new lease of life for this blog but I am coming to the end of rereading the series and really must take a break after that.

"Gibraltar Falls" is sixteen pages, divided into eight unnumbered and untitled sections. The first section describes the natural environment of the Time Patrol base in southern Iberia during the hundred year transition from the Miocene to the Pliocene epoch.

In the second section, Feliz a Rach and Tom Nomura leave the base on their timecycles but use these temporal vehicles only as anti-gravity-powered aircraft. The human drama has begun - Tom is the viewpoint character so we know that he loves Feliz. In the third section, they fly above the Gates of Hercules where the Atlantic pours through into the Mediterranean basin. Feliz is making a full-sensory recording; Tom, her assistant, carries tapes, power cells and other equipment.

In the fourth section, Feliz flies too near the waterfall and is pulled into it. "He fled for help." (p. 121)

The fifth section: Everard tells Tom that an inquiry by message capsule has disclosed that Feliz never returned to her home era. A rescue attempt would be dangerous and the record shows that, if they tried, they failed. Therefore, they should not have made the inquiry, which now constrains their actions.

Tom thinks:

"Never say it...that I could tell her and my earlier self to beware. It did not happen, therefore it will not happen." (pp. 122-123)

If, after his conversation with Everard, this Tom, the Tom who saw Feliz fall, does travel back one day, speaks to his day-younger self and to the still living Feliz, then returns to one moment after his conversation with Everard, then he will now coexist not only with a Feliz who, forewarned, had not flown too close to the waterfall but also with a Tom who had been visited by his older self, had not seen Feliz fall and therefore had not had any reason to travel back one day to issue a warning. Presumably such self-duplication is to be avoided, if nothing else.

In "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth," if Carl Farness had refused to return to the fourth century and betray his followers, then, as an immediate consequence of this refusal, he would have been faced with the return to the twentieth century of the Carl who had appeared in 372 and betrayed his followers. When Everard tells Carl that this betrayal is necessary, they are speaking in the timeline in which, although they had not realized it until now, that betrayal had already happened - so there was a Carl who appeared and made the betrayal and that Carl will return home. The Carl to whom Everard is speaking can either travel to 372 and be the Carl who made the betrayal or remain in 1935 and see that other Carl return. The series does not mention this kind of duplication which seems to me a very real possibility.

There are three more sections of "Gibraltar Falls" but I have other things to do first.

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