Friday, 21 February 2014

The Danellians

Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006); The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991).

When time travel was invented in 19352 AD, the post-human Danellians appeared and founded the Time Patrol but there is little direct contact with them. The Patrol is run by the human beings of the Middle Command and it is forbidden to visit the Danellian civilization, more than a million years hence.

Most Patrol members never meet a Danellian. A trainer at the Academy tells new recruits that, if they do, it will be a shock (TP, p. 11). Despite all this, Manson Everard, Unattached agent, based in the second half of the twentieth century, has twice met a Danellian. The first meeting was indeed a shock but the second was a "'Blessing'" (ST, p. 435), that disclosed the meaning of the Patrol.

We must study Everard's experiences closely in order to learn what we can about Danellians. On the first occasion:

"He could not look at the shape which blazed before his eyes. There was a dry sobbing in his throat as he backed away." (p. 51)

"...shape..." suggests something visibly not human;
"...blazed..." suggests intolerable brightness;
I thought of an energy being or living flame but "shape" suggests solidity;
he is affected psychologically and physically by what reads like fear.

"Your appeal has been considered, said the soundless voice." (ibid.)

"...soundless voice": some way to convey meaning other than vibrating air molecules. Telepathy? In Anderson's prose, italicized sentences without inverted commas express private thoughts so maybe this passage expresses shared or communicated thoughts?

"It was known and weighed ages before you were born." (ibid.)

The Danellians live not ages before Everard's birth but ages after his death. However, they can time travel. They time traveled to found the Patrol and an individual Danellian has time traveled to speak to Everard in 1944. In view of what we are told about variable reality, it makes perfect sense for the Danellians to establish a base with full records of their entire history in the very far (even pre-cosmic?) past. In fact (new thought), if their entire population and civilization were to migrate to there/then, then they would no longer need to fear or try to prevent causality violations in human history?

Even if there is some reason why they do not take that latter option, a base in the far past would survive the historical causality violations described in the series. It seems to follow that at least some Danellians were unaffected by those violations. They could have known of the temporal catastrophes but also of Everard's successful salvage operations, in which case they did not need to intervene.

I hypothesize:

a robot programmed by a Danellian in the far past continuously sends a message shuttle to a robot receiver in the Danellian era which must immediately return the shuttle to its starting point. An alarm rings in the far past if the shuttle fails to return. Such a failure to return implies that the timeline ahead does not contain a Danellian era. The shuttle has arrived in the far future but there is no mechanism there/then to return it. In that case, the Danellians based in the far past must travel uptime to ascertain whether there has been a causality violation and, if so, what they can do to reverse it.

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