Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Falkayn And Merseians

Anyone who starts to read Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization now can read the entire series in chronological order of fictitious events in Baen Books' seven-volume The Technic Civilization Saga, compiled by Hank Davis. Many of us in the past have of necessity read later installments before earlier installments. Anyone who followed the entire series as it was first published (before it was even recognized that many of its parts did belong to a single series) read of:

Dominic Flandry and Merseians in 1951;
Flandry's first encounter with Merseians in 1966;
David Falkayn's centuries-earlier encounter with Merseians in 1967.

Thus, when Falkayn conversed with Morruchan Long-Ax, the Hand of the Vach Dathyr, we were already familiar with Merseian personal names, nick-names, Vachs and Hands. It was as if an entire section of the Dominic Flandry/Terran Empire series had intersected with the Polesotechnic League/David Falkayn/trader team series whereas, to anyone reading the series chronologically now, this is their first knowledge of Merseians.

Morruchan has to be persuaded that the nearby supernova, Valenderay, poses a threat. He says:

"'The radiation, when it comes to us, will equal a mere one-third of what comes daily from Korych. And in some fifty-five days' (Terrestrial) 'it will have dwindled to half...'"
-Poul Anderson, David Falkayn: Star Trader (New York, 2010), p. 218.

The omniscient narrator intervenes awkwardly at this point. We know that Morruchan speaks Eriau whereas we read English. The author wants us to know that the radiation will be halved in the equivalent of fifty-five Terrestrial days even though "fifty-five" is not the number spoken by Morruchan. Another way to do this would have been for Morruchan to state the number of Merseian days and for Falkayn, the viewpoint character of this passage, to recalculate mentally.

Falkayn spells out the effects of radiation on electronics. And the story began with the omniscient narrator's account of the supernova and its generation of transuranic elements, including technetium, which may be appropriate for the Technic History?

Having said that, this is not really an omniscient narrator because he states:

"This was the first chance in our history to observe a new supernova." (p. 212)

Two words, "...our history...," make him one of us. He is someone living later in the Technic History and reflecting back on this period.

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