Thursday, 13 November 2014

Future Historical Context

Let us contextualize "A Little Knowledge" within Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization. I suggest that Volume II of the Complete History should be entitled Decline Of The Polesotechnic League and should comprise, in this order:

"Hiding Place"
"The Trouble Twisters"
"Day of Burning"
"The Master Key"
Satan's World
"A Little Knowledge"

I place "Esau" later than it appears in The Earth Book Of Stormgate simply because Hloch's introduction to "Esau" says that at this time the philosophy and practice of the Polesotechnic League were already becoming archaic or even obsolete. (The story is included in the Earth Book because it shows something of that philosophy and practice even though it is in no way directly related either to the colonization of Avalon or to the founding of the Stormgate Choth.)

"Hiding Place" begins excellently with "The world's great age begins anew...," quoted by "Le Matelot." I have argued here that this introductory passage would be better placed early in Volume I before the very first story to feature the League. However, to relocate an introduction in this way would be to edit Anderson's texts. As it stands, the passage made a good introduction to Trader To The Stars and would make an equally good introduction to Decline Of The Polesotechnic League, as long as "Hiding Place" no longer comes directly after "Esau" as introduced by Hloch! (This makes the League archaic or obsolete before the world begins anew.)

The proposed Decline... volume would comprise:

two stories of van Rijn in space;
two trader team stories;
two stories of van Rijn at the Winged Cross;
three works about change.

In "Lodestar," an Ythrian sees the shadow of God the Hunter on van Rijn's way of life: a fitting end to a volume beginning: "The world's great age begins anew..." We know that, during the post-League Troubles, savages in spaceships will raid Earth for slaves. "A Little Knowledge" informs us that the irresponsible selling of spaceships to savages has already begun. What is thankfully averted is the selling to them of plans for "primitive" interstellar ships that, with expensively bought expert help, they would be able to produce and reproduce for themselves.

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