Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A Chapter Of Revelation

I am just starting to read a 400+ page novel by John Grisham, which will take a while. Meanwhile, here is a reflection on a work by Poul Anderson. I have Anderson's story, "A Chapter of Revelation," in his collection, Dialogue With Darkness (New York, 1985). The printing history reveals that this story was first published in The Day The Sun Stood Still, edited by Lester del Rey. The attached cover illustration further discloses that this book was an anthology of three original novellas on the common theme of the Sun standing still.


(i) What an unusual theme for an anthology.

(ii) Anderson's story is in every way realistic apart from its single Sign or Miracle which, of necessity, is unexplained, unless we just say "Divine intervention." Whether there is no explanation or a supernatural explanation, in either case the story is a fantasy, not science fiction as it says on the cover, but its classification is immaterial. What does matter is the story's point, which is the same as that of the film Oh, God!, starring John Denver and George Burns.

(iii) I can and might reread the story and comment in detail. However, the main impact of a story like this is in it's readers' longer term memories of its point and that is the level of my current observations.

(iv) The story's point is that, even if an undeniable miracle definitely occurred, many people would learn neither awe nor humility but instead would use the miracle to further their own agendas. Thus:

a particular man, an ordinary guy, is somehow associated with the miracle;
maybe he is just this guy no different from anyone else or maybe he does have something to say that everyone else should heed;
but ignore that - while the spotlight of publicity is on him, pressurize him in every way to parrot whatever Message we want propagated!

My God!

Anderson might have created a protagonist able to articulate this point more clearly but maybe the fact that our hero does not know what to say is itself part of the point. Why should he have to say anything after everyone has seen the Sun stand still?

The story ends:

"'When will we see that we've always lived in a miracle?'" (p. 80)

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