Saturday, 28 June 2014

Future Histories

A British future history is a fictitious historical text book:

The Shape Of Things To Come by HG Wells
Last And First Men by Olaf Stapledon

- whereas an American future history is a series of stories and novels set in successive periods of a fictitious timeline:

The Future History by Robert Heinlein
The Psychotechnic History by Poul Anderson
The Technic History by Poul Anderson
The Known Space History by Larry Niven

I am now convinced that:

Anderson's Technic History is the best written, most substantial and comprehensive, American future history;
a single volume British model future history could be written to cover the entire contents of the Technic History in Wellsian or Stapledonian style.

The Technic History divides into two major parts with further subdivisions.

(I) From "The Saturn Game" to The People Of The Wind

This corresponds to seven volumes of normal length, four novels and three collections, and comprises Volumes I-III of the Baen Books omnibus Technic Civilization Saga. After early periods of interplanetary and interstellar exploration, this part of the History covers:

(i) the Polesotechnic League period interpreted from several perspectives, including the non-human perspective of Ythrians on Avalon during the later period of the early Terran Empire;
(ii) the history of those Ythrians until the time, immediately after the Terran War on Avalon, when Hloch of Stormgate Choth compiled the Earth Book Of Stormgate, a volume beginning with the human discovery of Ythri during the Grand Survey and ending with human-Ythrian colonization of Avalon during the decline of the League.

Twelve installments of the Technic History with introductions and a conclusion added by Hloch comprise the Earth Book. Unfortunately, we do not read any of the companion volume, The Sky Book Of Stormgate, compiled by Rennhi, Hloch's mother. However, a British style future historian would be able to discuss the Sky Book's contents, at least speculatively.

(II) From Ensign Flandry to "Starfog"

This corresponds to ten volumes of normal length, seven novels and three collections, and comprises Volumes IV-VII of the Technic Civilization Saga. This part of the History covers:

(i) the Terran Empire during the lifetime of Dominic Flandry;
(ii) some information about three post-Imperial periods.

As Hloch looks back on the Polesotechnic League, a later Galactic Archaeological Society looks back on the First Empire. A British future historian of Technic Civilization would have to discuss:

violent global unrest in the twenty first century;
recovery due to resources and energy from space;
exploration of the Solar System;
twenty second century hyperdrive and extrasolar colonization;
the conditions that generated the Polesotechnic League;
the reasons for its decline;
the collapse of the Solar Commonwealth;
the Baldic League;
the founding of the Terran Empire;
several attempted usurpations in Flandry's time, one of them successful;
Chunderban Desai's theory of the decline of Empires (but see comments);
the little that is known about the actual Falls of the Terran Empire and of its rival, the Merseian Roidhunate;
five subsequent periods -
the Long Night;
the Allied Planets;
the spread of humanity through several spiral arms, including one civilization served by the Commonalty;
the Second and any subsequent Empires;
the galactic civilization in which there is a Galactic Archaeological Society.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

For the most part, I found myself simply nodding in agreement with what you said. My most serious quibble being your characterization of Chunderban Desai's summarizing of John K. Hord's theories on the rise and fall of civilizations as being merely about the "decline of Empires." I prefer the former characterization as more accurate.

It's annoying and frustrating that the best summarization I've found of Hord's thought remains to be seen only in Poul Anderson's essay "Concerning Future Histories" and A KNIGHT OF GHOSTS AND SHADOWS. My belief is that Hord's theories are uncannily and disturbingly plausible. So much so I can find a Hordian pattern in the history of the US since the passage of the XVII Amendment to the US Constitution.


Paul Shackley said...

Rise and fall of civilizations, ok.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I've been wondering why you had not included Jerry Pournelle's Co-Dominium series in your list of SF "future histories." It includes works like KING DAVID'S SPACESHIP, GO TELL THE SPARTANS, THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE, THE GRIPPING HAND, etc. And includes collaborations with Larry Niven and S.M. Stirling.


Paul Shackley said...

Dr Pournelle's series indeed belongs on the list after Niven's. But the list as given was meant to be representative rather then comprehensive.