Tuesday, 15 July 2014

"We're Setting Up A Causal Loop!"

Robert Silverberg, "Christmas in Gondwanaland" IN Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois, Editors, Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson's Worlds (Burton, MI, 2014), pp. 215-244.

Manson Everard, an experienced Unattached Agent of the Time Patrol, is far too naive in this story by Robert Silverberg. He rightly asks why, if the founding of the Time Patrol has been prevented, the twentieth century remains unchanged but he lets a fellow Patrolman palm him off with the story that a single timeline contains both a murdered Founding Convocation back in Gondwanaland and an unchanged twentieth century because they and two other colleagues are going to prevent the murder of the Founders. Hopefully they will but that will be in another timeline.

Later, he says that Gonzalez and he, by mingling with the Founders when they were not Founders, are "'...setting up a causal loop!'" (p. 235)

No, they are not. They are simply visiting the past and reconnoitering for a mission as they always do. Where is the loop? And, even if there were one, it would be necessary to prevent a violation.

"There were rules about causal loops, causal vortices, interventions within interventions..." (ibid.)

Anderson did use the term "causal vortices" and I wish that he had elucidated it further. At the end of "The Only Game in Town," Everard, fleeing the Mongols on horseback, reduces his speed when he hears a storm behind him. That is Everard returning with a storm-making machine. The Patrol disapproves of a Patrolmen escaping, then helping himself to escape (causal loop or circle) but, in this case, it is justified because it is necessary to save Sandoval's life and is not absolutely necessary for Everard's escape. But why should they disapprove of it?

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