Saturday, 29 March 2014

Fifteen Billion Years

Anderson, Poul, "Iron" IN Niven, Larry, Ed., The Man-Kzin Wars (London, 1989), pp.27-177.

(This time, I really will try to regard 160 as a good round number of posts for a month and hold off on any more posts until 1st April.)

"Iron" is the kind of speculative fiction that I have come to expect from Poul Anderson - speculation totally transcending the Man-Kzin Wars setting of this particular story.

A red dwarf star and its five planets numbered by their human discoverers from Prima to Quinta have moved between and through gaseous nebulae for fifteen billion years. That has been long enough for the gravitational fields of the planets and their moons to attract atoms and molecules from the nebulae and even from intergalactic space. This matter affects the surfaces of those planets or moons that have no atmosphere to counteract it. Thus, a carbon compound from space yellows the airless surfaces of the Secundan and Tertian moons.

That carbon compound is too cold to interact with complex organic compounds which therefore are a minor part of the downdrift. Because the sun emits negligible ultraviolet and solar wind, carbon-based molecules reach the airless Priman surface intact and, because Prima is only 0.4 AU from the sun, its surface is warm enough for the organics to interact. Sand, dust and meteor powder provide colloidal surfaces where the organics cluster and concentrate until complicated exchanges occur, seizing free carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms from the downdrift and possibly also adapting to extract matter from surface rocks. Growing patches meet and interact to form a single multiplex molecule or polymer covering the planet with differently colored areas displaying diverse local interactions. Other planetary systems are not old enough and have not passed through enough nebulae for these processes to have occurred in them.

On the atmosphere-bearing Tertia, organics from space evolved into intelligent beings who, lacking metals, became extinct in their stone age when their planet chilled, plants died and rocks bound the atmospheric oxygen. The planetary polymer is a more ingenious extrapolation than the extinct intelligences and the dramatic history of this wandering planetary system makes the Man-Kzin Wars seem very parochial.

Another Detail Of Life On The Moon

Anderson, Poul, "Escape The Morning" IN Anderson, Space Folk (New York, 1989), pp. 52-63.

Quite often in these posts, I try to communicate the richness of Poul Anderson's texts by summarizing the information that he conveys in his imaginative descriptions of extraterrestrial scenery, futuristic scenarios etc, but it is hard to include everything. When summarizing his accounts of three kinds of Lunar vehicle, I overlooked this important detail:

"...even the best glass is fragile and a poor radiation shield..." (p. 54)

- so Mark Jordan, driving his "turtle," views the surrounding Lunar landscape and skyline not through windows but on TV screens. We soon learn that a space rock hitting the surface scatters shrapnel that makes holes in metal so mere glass would indeed have been too fragile.

I compared this single short story to the several Moon-based stories in Heinlein's Future History. All of these well observed details, like TV screens instead of windows, deserve to re-used in successive installments of a series rather than squandered on a single work. Indeed, any fictional narrative set in the future is potentially an installment of a fictitious history. Probably several near future stories of interplanetary travel could, with minimal editing, be re-presented as sharing a common background comparable to that of Heinlein's Future History. Such a "history" can be constructed either on the basis that only stories which explicitly refer to each other are to be included or on the basis that only stories which explicitly contradict each other are to be excluded. Clarifying which of these criteria was to be applied led to some uncertainty as to the contents of Heinlein's Time Chart in its early days.

Jinx And The Old Red Dwarf

Anderson, Poul, "Iron" IN Niven, Larry, Ed., The Man-Kzin Wars (London, 1989), pp. 27-177.

Jinx is a massive, egg-shaped, humanly colonized satellite of a gas giant in the Sirian system. Carita Fenger, a Jinxian, is almost as wide as she is high and:

"Ancestry under Sirius has made her skin almost ebony..." (p. 51)

Black skin that comes not from Africa but from centuries on Jinx!

Very soon after the Beginning, a galaxy formed as soon as it was possible for this to happen. (I think that the cosmic voyagers of Anderson's The Avatar visited a very early galaxy.) The stars of this galaxy lost mass in their red giant phases. This mass, containing oxygen, nitrogen, silicon, neon, magnesium and iron but few or no heavier elements, enriched a cloud from which the red dwarf formed. This dwarf and its five surviving planets have abundant hydrogen and helium because they condensed so soon after the Big Bang.

Displaced probably by an encounter with a larger body, the system has been moving between and through galaxies for fifteen billion years. Carita says:

"'A relic - hell, finding God's fingerprints...'" (p. 69)

Most science fiction readers know only that there are stars and planets with nuclear fusion inside stars transforming lighter into heavier elements which, blasted into space by novae, enrich later generations of stars and planets. Anderson gives us a lot more detail, shows us why it is important and imagines dramatic and unusual events within stellar processes.

Iron 1-8

I have reread the first eight of the twenty four numbered sections of "Iron" by Poul Anderson.

Markham, the unsympathetic character with an ambiguous attitude to the kzinti, is reminiscent of Magnusson who turns out to be pro-Merseian.

The characters investigate a remote, mysterious red dwarf that is reminiscent of unusual stars in other works by Anderson. This metal-impoverished dwarf star with scarcely any iron has an estimated age of fifteen billion years, making it almost as old as the universe. It moves quickly through our galaxy, having been ejected from its parent galaxy very early, probably by an encounter with larger bodies.

Unexpectedly, it has planets, which, even from a distance, are seen to be odd and unlike each other. We probably wonder whether they are inhabited but they can't be, can they? However, something else completely unexpected will emerge.

Thus, although the human characters hail from every planet in Known Space and have recently fought the kzinti, we recognize that we are in a Poul Anderson universe and that, like his contribution to Asimov's Robots, this story is very much part of Anderson's complete works.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Man-Kzin Wars

As far as I can see, Poul Anderson wrote three stories set during the Man-Kzin Wars period of Larry Niven's Known Space future history:

"Iron" (1988);
"Inconstant Star" (1990);
"Pele" (2002) -

- and I have the first two. Further, these two were combined as a single collection called Inconstant Star in 1991. I now think that this is why I had thought that Anderson had novelized one of his Man-Kzin Wars stories.

"Iron" is 149 pages in Niven, Larry, Ed., The Man-Kzin Wars (London, 1989). "Inconstant Star" is 142 pages in Niven, Larry, Ed. Man-Kzin Wars III (New York, 1990). I think that their lengths make them novels. Both feature a character called Robert Saxtorph. Authors who contribute to another author's series tend to create sub-series within it.

Niven's Known Space future history and Anderson's Technic Civilization future history have in common:

spaceships with faster than light hyperdrives;
a hostile tailed species, feline kzinti and green Merseians, respectively.

I have read "Iron" and "Inconstant Star" maybe once when they were first published so it makes sense to reread them and also to track down "Pele" which is in Man-Kzin Wars IX.

Inheritors Of Earth

Inheritors Of Earth is an sf novel by Gordon Eklund and Poul Anderson, based on Anderson's 1950 short story, "Incomplete Superman." The novel features three forms of humanity:

Mortals, the most populous;
Superiors, described as orphans living in shadows;
the Others, enslavers and terrorists.

I have never encountered "Incomplete Superman" and had never heard of Inheritors Of Earth until I found its cover illustration this evening while searching for another Anderson image. Thus, here is an entirely unexpected novel co-written by Anderson. And I think that Anderson also novelized a Man-Kzin Wars story that he wrote?

While waiting for Multiverse, maybe I need to start tracking down the NESFA collections, which are hard to get in the UK? Although they include many familiar stories, they also seem to be lengthy volumes containing plenty of other works not previously collected or anthologized. Yet they are not a Complete Works. Reading everything written by Anderson seems to be an impossible task.

The Light

Anderson, Poul, "The Light" IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 164-181.

Anderson's "The Man Who Came Early" is a first person narration addressed to a single auditor, a priest. "The Light" is another first person narration addressed to a single auditor, this time a historian who is being told government secrets - and the surprise ending of the story reveals why. Someone reached the Moon before the Americans. (The background of da Vinci's The Virgin of the Rocks does look as if it might be a Lunar landscape, doesn't it?)

"The Light" is a first Moon landing story published in 1957, so how much did it get right? Americans, three of them, previous circum-Lunar missions, an embarrassing "first man on the Moon" speech written in advance by someone else. However:

they set off from a space station, not from the Earth's surface;
all three go down to the Lunar surface;
they have no radio or television link back to the Earth.

Thus, the first to step onto the surface can get away with:

"'May I suggest that the captain write in the log that the speech was delivered?'" (p. 170)

Description of the Lunar surface: eerie; bright; dead; huge, razor-cornered rocks; horizon near; deep, sharp shadows; cracked, ocherous land; indescribable light; a lava plain like polished black metal; oven in sunlight, freezing in shade; a mysterious mist; meteoric dust; a familiar fog-glow; prints of hob-nailed boots worn by a tall man...

The First Man on the Moon learns the identity of the real First Man on the Moon.

In a pre-Apollo cinema adaptation of The First Men In The Moon, a UN Moon expedition discovers that Cavor and Bedford were there before them. A post-Apollo TV adaptation asks us to accept that Wells' account of Cavor and Bedford and the TV transmissions from Armstrong and Aldrin both happened, then ingeniously fits both of these "first Moon landings" into a single narrative.

The Moon

How many of Poul Anderson's works are set in the Lunar environment, by which I do not mean just "on the Moon"? Parts of Satan's World and one short section of the Time Patrol series are set on the Moon but inside very high tech artificial environments.

In the Harvest of Stars future history, the Selenarchs, tall thin human beings adapted to Lunar gravity, inhabit entirely enclosed environments which, however, they make spacious and beautiful. They have animals adapted to survive naked on the Lunar surface and also colonize both the outer Solar System and an extra-solar asteroid belt but again, of course, inside artificial environments.

Anderson postulates almost Wellsian Lunar or Selenite organisms in Is There Life on Other Worlds? and describes an ambitious Lunar terraforming project in one short story. There is a first Moon landing in the parallel universe of Operation Luna.

"The Light" is a "first men on the Moon" story and "Escape the Morning" is a near future Moon colonization story. "The Light" is similar to CS Lewis' "Forms of Things Unknown." Each of these two stories presents a hard sf account of a vividly imagined Lunar landscape but ends with an abrupt leap into fantasy.

The Nature Of The Catastrophe And The Point Of The Story

Anderson, Poul, "Escape The Morning" IN Anderson, Space Folk (New York, 1989), pp. 52-63.

There are three kinds of vehicle on the Lunar surface:

a four-wheeled, egg-shaped Go-Devil can travel at 50 mph;
the more common eight-wheeled, oblong turtle manages 20 mph max;
a lead-armored tank, "...screened by intense magnetic fields..." (p. 61) is necessary in daylight during solar flare periods - at other times, thermostatic suits are sufficient to protect against a temperature at the boiling point of water.

There are no roads, only safe routes marked by luminous stones a kilometer apart. Anderson visually imagines this detail: "...the coal-like mineral crust..." (p. 55) scatters Earthlight so that a vehicle seems to move in a blue spotlight. (Earth is four times the size of the Moon seen from Earth and many times brighter.)

Small meteorite showers on long-period orbits strike unexpectedly. When a rock hits the surface, it scatters material that can wreck a vehicle. When the Zairean Minister of Technology's Go-Devil is wrecked, Mark Jordan rescues him in a turtle but, when the turtle also is wrecked, the Minister must learn how to run on the Moon in order to reach Jordan Station before a lethal sunrise: "Push, glide, come down, check." (p. 62)

Grateful for the rescue, the Minister offers to pay for the Jordans to receive an education and start a career on Earth and now we reach the point of the story, which is is the same as that of Robert Heinlein's Future History short story, "It's Great To Be Back!" Lunar colonists are at home on the Moon. Why would they go to Earth?

Three Other Time Travel Novels

There are at least three time travel novels by other authors that should be read alongside Poul Anderson's six time travel volumes.

The Technicolor Time Machine by Harry Harrison: familiar Andersonian territory - Vinland, circular causality and humor;

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers: circular causality and fantasy;

Bid Time Return/Somewhere In Time by Richard Matheson: like The Time Traveler's Wife, a romantic novel of time travel.

I said earlier that "the cleverest kind of time travel story" was one in which past events seem not to proceed as they should but then the author gets them back on track. Anderson does this in The Dancer From Atlantis but it is a technique perfected by Powers and Matheson.

In The Anubis Gates:

The Times reports a talk by Lord Byron on a particular date;
a coach party of time travelers, suitably attired in period costumes, arrives to hear the talk;
they have arrived a week too early!;
however, since Lord Byron is to hand and since so many people have traveled so far to hear him (!), he agrees to deliver the talk a week earlier than planned;
a journalist attends and takes notes;
this is the talk that is reported in The Times.


it is recorded that our hero's dead body was found on a particular date;
fighting his (magically generated) clone on the appointed date, he sustains a wound that was not recorded and suddenly realizes that it is the clone's body that is to be found;
passing the presumed date of his death, he happily regains the freedom of the unknown...

In Bid Time Return:

the central character, having read a hotel register decades later, knows exactly when he signed in at a hotel and which room he stayed in;
approaching the hotel lobby, he pauses in order not to arrive too soon, then hurries in order not to arrive too late, although it is impossible that he arrive any earlier or later than he did arrive;
the hotel clerk starts to give him the wrong room key and he must restrain himself from saying, "That's the wrong room!;"
a second clerk says, "That room has been booked," and the first clerk gives him the right key after all.

Ingenious. If I were on the Desert Island with only one work of fiction, it would be Time Patrol but, if I were to be allowed a few more volumes, then they would include a small time travel library.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Escape The Morning II

Anderson, Poul, "Escape The Morning" IN Anderson, Space Folk (New York, 1989), pp. 52-63.

A Lunar station is an isolated enterprise. Jordan Station mined ice but exhausted their vein and, in any case, so much water has been found that the price has gone down so they now mine copper and, when they have saved enough capital, might extract oil.

Lunar oil is "'Heterocyclic compounds formed by photochemical reactions in the original dust cloud that became the Solar System'" (p. 57), and can be used to make rocket fuel.

Mr and Mrs Jordan died two years ago in a pit collapse before it had been learned "'...that ferraloy cross-braces can change into a weaker crystalline form under Lunar conditions.'" (ibid.) Mark Jordan and his younger brother and sister now run the automated station, receive education by two-way television from Tycho Crater and entertainment broadcasts from Earth and deliver ore to Copernicus Town and Keplersburg. Next year, when Mark moves to the Tycho University dorm to take lab courses for an engineering degree, Tom, who is two years younger, will run the station and hire an assistant.

Thus, Anderson briefly sketches economic, educational and social features of life on the Moon and underlines, for his younger readers, that:

"'Pioneers have always had to grow up fast...'" (p. 58)

Escape The Morning

I made three comparisons between Poul Anderson and Robert Heinlein. Here is a fourth. An entire section of Heinlein's Future History features near future Lunar colonization and some of these stories are narrated from juvenile points of view, including one about a Boy Scout en route to the colony on Venus but meanwhile lost on the Moon.

Juvenile novels were a major part of Heinlein's output. To some extent, his juvenile fiction and his Future History overlap. Not only are there a handful of juvenile stories in the Future History but, further, several of the Scribner Juvenile novels share a considerable amount of background material with the History despite not being fully consistent with that series.

Anderson did not write anything like the same amount of juvenile fiction but nevertheless incorporated two juvenile short stories into his major future history series, the History of Technic Civilization, and one longer juvenile work, originally published as a single volume, into his Time Patrol series. His non-series short story, "Escape The Morning," is Heinleinian in every respect:

published in Boy's Life and copyright Boy Scouts of America;
featuring a juvenile hero who is a Lunar colonist and is called on to rescue a stranded VIP.

Returning from Anderson's time travel collection, Past Times, to his space travel collection, Space Folk, I have just begun to reread "Escape The Morning" and find that I remember none of the details so that it is almost like reading a new story.

The Little Monster And The Man Who Came Early


(i) In both of these stories, the title character is transported to the past by accident.

(ii) In both stories, the traveler is presented as seen by inhabitants of the period to which he has been sent.

(iii) Both stories address the question of how a modern person would be able to cope if transported to the past.


(i) The Little Monster is sent from and returns to a period where time travel technology is in regular use whereas The Man Who Came Early was struck by lightning.

(ii) "The Little Monster" alternates between the time traveler's point of view and that of an inhabitant of the Pliocene. (In fact, the title is ironic because each perceives the other as both little and monstrous.)

(iii) The Little Monster uses a knife and Scouting skills to survive whereas the Man Who Came Early, lacking necessary knowledge and skills, does not survive.

Thus, Poul Anderson not only addresses a question raised by earlier sf writers, Twain and de Camp, but also presents alternative answers to it.

Three Comparisons With Heinlein

Reflecting on time travel has made me aware yet again of three specific cases where it makes sense to read a work or works by Robert Heinlein, then to follow this with a subsequent body of work by Poul Anderson.

Heinlein's Magic Inc: magic as technology;
Anderson's two Operation... novels: magic as technology but developed in considerably more detail;
two other novels and two short stories connected to Operation... by the inter-cosmic Inn, the Old Phoenix.

Future Histories
Heinlein's substantial and seminal Future History series;
Anderson's Psychotechnic History, directly modeled on Heinlein's but also substantial, as I realized recently when rereading and posting about it;
Anderson's Technic History, a much longer and very substantial Heinleinian future history series that was not planned but grew organically;
several later future history series by Anderson, including the long Harvest Of Stars tetralogy.

Time Travel
Heinlein's three classic statements of the circular causality paradox - one time traveler is both his own parents, another short story is entirely populated by a single character meeting and interacting with his older and younger selves and The Door Into Summer is a novel;
Anderson's several works of time travel discussed in recent posts.

Three Culminations

I thought that Jack Finney's two Time novels and Poul Anderson's two-volume Time Patrol series were the two culminations of time travel fiction but Audrey Niffeneger's The Time Traveler's Wife (the one of these works that also happens to have been filmed) joined the list as soon as I had read it and I hope that there will be a sequel, The Time Traveler's Daughter.

Finney: nostalgic time travel to earlier decades in the United States;
Niffeneger: a contemporary novel of relationships involving time travel;
Anderson: historical periods and processes and futuristic speculations.

Niffeneger perfects the circular causality paradox. Thus, her novel needs to be compared with Anderson's three non-series time travel novels rather than with his Time Patrol series. Unlike the three by Anderson, Niffeneger's novel is a longer work, is neither historical nor futuristic but entirely contemporary and deals with personal relationships, not with any wider issues.

Henry tells Claire not to sign a drawing because he has seen it unsigned in the future but she signs it... But events remain consistent despite this. (She was right to trim off the signature because they want their known future to be their experienced future. A time traveler who sets out to change events might succeed in which case they will be in a different timeline, which is not what they want.) See here.

What I am saying here is that I recommend not only Poul Anderson's time travel works but also certain others for comparison and that these others definitely include The Time Traveler's Wife.

From Twain To Anderson

I found Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee implausible, tedious and unsatisfactory. However, any work by Twain is part of American and world literature and this work is a precursor of Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series. A Connecticut Yankee was of interest first because, despite its theme, it does not address the causality violation paradox (which even Wells merely hints at) and secondly because, as a pre-Wells text, it refers not to "time travel" but to "transposition of epochs."

The works that I think should be read before Time Patrol are:

A Connecticut Yankee;
The Time Machine;
Lest Darkness Fall by L Sprague de Camp;
Bring The Jubilee by Ward Moore;
Anderson's own Past Times, preferably revised.

Anderson's contributions to time travel could be published in four volumes:

an omnibus edition of his three circular causality time travel novels;
a collection of his time travel short stories;
his Time Patrol series in two volumes.

"Welcome," about time dilation, and "Time Heals," about temporal stasis, should both be in Past Times because they present characters surviving into the future and are appropriate precursors to "Flight to Forever," which is about travel to and beyond the end of the universe.

I think that I once read in an anthology an Anderson short story about some kind of future hive consciousness which sends to the present an agent whose activities in the present have the unintended effect of preventing that hive consciousness from coming into existence but I cannot remember the title and am not even sure about that story being by Anderson. Even if it is, I do not think that it would quite fit in with what I perceive as the theme of a Past Times: Revised Edition.

Icelandic Wisdom

Anderson, Poul, "The Man Who Came Early" IN Knight, Damon, Ed., 100 Years Of Science Fiction (London, 1972), pp. 1185-212.

The tenth century Icelandic narrator of "The Man Who Came Early" is "...a godi, a chief who holds sacrifices..." (p. 195). I was unfamiliar with this term. Googling reveals that some of the godis became Christian priests. Presumably, the similarity to the word "god" is accidental?

This godi says:

"Birth and life and death, these are the great mysteries, which none will ever fathom, and a woman is closer to them than a man." (p. 206)

Women are closer to birth and, in some societies, to preparing the dead for burial. We now fathom more than we did but not everything.

"I wonder if Gerald thought that the strangeness of his weapon would unnerve us. He may not have understood that every man dies when his time comes, neither sooner nor later, so that fear of death is useless." (p. 211)

That attitude helped them to face danger but I think we can say that a man who dies young potentially had decades in him if things had gone differently.

"...I look into the future, a thousand years hence...Maybe some of them, walking about on the heaths, will see that barrow and wonder what ancient warrior lies buried there, and they may well wish that they had lived long ago in his time when men were free." (p. 212)

We might.

Lack Of Knowledge Of Social Complexities

Anderson, Poul, "The Man Who Came Early" IN Knight, Damon, Ed., 100 Years Of Science Fiction (London, 1972), pp. 185-212.

Unable to support himself in tenth century Iceland, Gerald Robbins is insulted and must fight;
he wants to fight with fists but is obliged to fight to the death;
he kills a man with his gun so the Thing must decide between weregild and outlawry;
failing through ignorance to declare a manslaying at the first garth he seeks, he becomes immediately a murderer and an outlaw;
the slain man's father and brothers attack him till his gun gives out.

I would have known even less than Gerald and succumbed even sooner!

Even when dead, he receives some respect:

it is acknowledged that he defended himself well with a dead man's sword when his gun gave out;
for fear of the ghost, since he may have been a warlock, his body and everything that he had owned, even a valuable knife given as a present, are burned and a barrow erected but shunned.

Although Gerald's story of the world a thousand years hence refutes the priest's claim that the world will end soon, it seems that Gerald himself came from a time when the world might indeed end soon. Suddenly the great social differences between the two periods seem insignificant.


Anderson, Poul, "The Man Who Came Early" IN Knight, Damon, Ed., 100 Years of Science Fiction (London, 1972), pp. 185-212.

"'I was out in the storm, and somehow the lightning must have smitten me in just the right way, a way that happens only once in many thousands of times. It threw me back into the past.'" (p. 194)

A way that happens never, we believe! So this passage is ironic. Anderson is commenting in two ways on L Sprague de Camp's Lest Darkness Fall. De Camp's hero, thrown into the past by lightning, uses modern knowledge and expertise to succeed in the late Roman Empire and even averts the Dark Ages whereas Anderson's character, lacking the skills necessary to succeed in tenth century Iceland, comes to grief and is commemorated only by a burial mound.

The tenth century narrator of "The Man Who Came Early" had suggested:

"'Maybe Thor's hammer knocked you from your place to here.'" (p. 190)

- so he propounds essentially the same theory but in mythological language.

Being thrown into the past by lightning is so rare that it happens only in an occasional work of science fiction. However, Bob Shaw suggested in one of his "Serious Scientific Talks" at a Science Fiction Convention that it was quite common. His words, as far as I can remember them, were:

"Most people think that, if you are struck by lightning, it will kill you. But, if you read science fiction, you know that a much more likely result is that you will be flung into the past. Which period of the past you go to is a product of three factors:

"the voltage of electricity in the lightning;
"your body weight, measured in pounds;
"which period the author has been mugging up on!"

 Authors "mug up" on periods, no doubt. We appreciate Shaw's honesty and humor. But we may add that Poul Anderson displayed a detailed knowledge and sound understanding of many historical periods in several works of both historical fiction and time travel fiction.

The Man Who Came Early II

Anderson, Poul, "The Man Who Came Early" IN Knight, Damon, Ed., 100 Years of Science Fiction (London, 1972), pp. 185-212.

The protagonists of "Wildcat," "The Nest," "The Little Monster" and "The Man Who Came Early" travel to the Jurassic, the Oligocene, the Pliocene and the late tenth century AD respectively. Thus, they are true time travelers. The protagonist of "Welcome" psycho-physically exists for less than half an hour between 1997 and 2497 and the protagonist of "Time Heals" undergoes zero duration between 1952 and 2837 but neither can return so they are not time travelers.

The protagonists of "Flight To Forever" can travel into an indefinite future but would need infinite energy to travel more than about seventy years pastwards. But they can travel in that direction so they are time travelers. They can also reach the past by traveling forwards around the circle of time, which is a new angle. (Olaf Stapledon's Last Men discovered that time is a circle and that most of it is an unknown period between the end and the beginning of the universe.)

"The Man Who Came Early" perfectly complements these other stories of characters displaced in time. Its point, contra L Sprague de Camp's Lest Darkness Fall, is that a twentieth century engineer and soldier would lack the skills necessary to succeed or even to survive in tenth century Iceland. The time traveler is described entirely as perceived by the tenth century narrator. He wears what we recognize as a military uniform inscribed not with runes but with Roman letters, "...thus, MP." (p. 189) So we know that he is a military policeman.

By speaking with this stranger, the narrator has learned that the Christian priest is wrong to say that the world will end in two years but has also learned that Christ will conquer Thor - so he might as well be on the winning side. The stranger introduces himself as Gerald Robbins but, when asked, says that his father was named Sam, so he is known as Gerald Samsson. When he asks what year it is, he is told, "''s the second year after the great salmon catch...'" (p. 191), but he perseveres and learns the approximate date AD.

Thus, this is a time travel story recounted entirely from the perspective of the period that has been traveled to.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Man Who Came Early

(The end of the month approaches. I will probably hold back a few posts in order to end the month with a round number. Figures ending in "0" are more satisfying and easier to total.)

Anderson, Poul, "The Man Who Came Early" IN Knight, Damon, Ed. 100 Years of Science Fiction, Book One (London, 1972), pp. 185-212.

"The Man Who Came Early" reminds us of other historical fiction by Poul Anderson. Its second sentence refers to "...the king in Miklagard..." (p. 185) and to an "Eilif Eiriksson," who had served in the Varangian Guard.

Not only is the narration first person but it is addressed conversationally to a single auditor, a Christian priest. The speaker, having seen how the English and French prosper, concedes that "...the White Christ...must be a very powerful god, to ward so many realms..." (ibid.) and is attracted by the idea of receiving a white robe at baptism. Such a garment would mildew in Icelandic weather but he would sacrifice to the household elves...

Someone who thinks thus is prepared to change his deity within the Pagan world view but is not yet making the change to the Christian world view. How many of the first generation in Northern Europe did it that way? Christianity represented civilization, a higher culture and wider trade. There were pragmatic reasons for conversion. But subsequent generations grew up in a society that had collectively changed its world view from Pagan to Christian.

We now experience social change with, potentially, a more sympathetic understanding of earlier periods. I attended a handfast ceremony in which some people were surprised to hear a prayer to the Lord Jesus. However, the bride was Christian so it was appropriate that her deity was invoked. When a Pagan seasonal ritual was held in our kitchen, my daughter quietly informed the celebrant that she did not have any religious beliefs but was advised that belief or disbelief did not matter. (That is the Christian approach.) She found that she appreciated the ceremony.

I feel attuned to a world view in which it is acceptable to invoke local gods or not as we want and also to respect other people and their gods. Attending an anti-racist rally in Trafalgar Square, I again found my fellow demonstrators queuing to receive free vegetarian food from devotees of Krishna. And, if we learn meditation from Zen monks, then we offer incense to the Buddha who, in the mythology, was a "teacher of gods and men."

The Crime That The Time Patrol Cannot Prevent

A lone time criminal sends a doomsday devise programmed to detonate on arrival to a time before the earliest Time Patrol or other extratemporal presence on Earth. This would generate a timeline in which:

Earth exploded before any Terrestrial life had developed;
before the explosion, no time traveler had arrived from the prevented future;
even if a time traveler had arrived, s/he would not have been able to do anything to prevent the explosion.

Why would anyone commit such a crime? Some people do mad things.

It is possible that this crime has been committed. The bomb leaves timeline 1 to arrive and explode in timeline 2. In timeline 2, no one knows that a crime has been committed. In timeline 1, only the perpetrator knows.

There is a moment, t1, at which the criminal presses the button that sends the bomb backwards along the familiar temporal dimension and, we must add, forward along a second temporal dimension. In my opinion, from the point of view of its inhabitants, timeline 1 exists until t1 and continues to exist after t1.

Before t1, the criminal exists and is conscious of his existence. However, if he accepts the Time Patrol view of time travel paradoxes, then, before t1, he thinks, "After t1, it will be true to say that I have never existed; it will then be true to say that I did not exist even at this present moment when I am thinking this."  A patently self-contradictory thought.

However, there is no contradiction in saying that:

the criminal exists at t1 in timeline 1 but does not exist at t1 in timeline 2, in fact has never existed in timeline 2;
timeline 2 succeeds timeline 1 along a second temporal dimension;
if there is any observer for whom the second temporal dimension is his single temporal dimension, then, from that observer's perspective, it is true to say that timeline 1 has ceased to exist but not that it has never existed.

Thus, in timeline 1, the Time Patrol remains unaware that a time criminal has generated timeline 2. I specified that the explosion occurred before the earliest Time Patrol presence on Earth. However, suppose that, because of a quantum change in space-time-energy, one Time Patrolman did travel to a time before the explosion. That Patrolman might then travel forward into timeline 2. But everyone else would remain unaware of timeline 2.

The Freedom Of The Will

"'...we have free will. The fixed-time concept need not, logically, produce's will is itself one of the links in the causal chain.'"
- Poul Anderson, "Wildcat" IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 7-57 AT p. 32.

I agree so far although, since the speaker is a chaplain, he and I would probably disagree if we discussed free will further.

Determinism is the belief that every event is caused. Fatalism is the belief that every human effort is futile. (Futilism?) I can only know whether my efforts are futile by making an effort and making an effort makes a difference. It may be that some people are caused to make an effort and that others are not but those who do make an effort do make a difference. Otherwise, we would not have a civilization.

Determinism and "...fixed-time..." are not necessarily identical. We explain an event in three ways. It is:

(i) caused, an effect of an earlier event;
(ii) uncaused or random;
(iii) a free act.

However, I suggest that "free" means "unconstrained" but not "uncaused." And, if a free act were uncaused, then it could be classified as random. Thus, (i) and (ii) are sufficient to explain all events, including free acts.

War And Time Travel


you know as a historical fact that there will be a global nuclear exchange a year from now;
you can time travel.

You will not die when everyone else does because you will travel far enough into the past that you will have died of old age long before World War III. However, everyone will be dead a year from now.

I think that this would make an effective film or TV sf series: someone develops time travel, explores the future, learns of the war, returns to the present, investigates ways of preventing the war, learns that this is impossible and, at the outbreak of war, escapes into the past. Subsequent installments would show the protagonist surviving in an earlier period and exploring the last days a few more times but always returning to their new home era before the end.

I mention this idea first because I have thought of it before in relation to one of the Terminator films and secondly because the hero of Poul Anderson's "Wildcat" learns, while in the Jurassic, that, back home, the Cold War will go nuclear about a year after the current twentieth-century base date. If we knew for certain that this was going to happen, then we would at least be able to prepare inwardly for it. And time travel would help.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


HG Wells, the seminal sf writer, presents only one single solitary individual time traveler, the Time Traveler, who sets off into the future on his newly invented Time Machine. The title characters of Poul Anderson's "The Man Who Came Early" and "The Little Monster" are also individual time travelers but each is propelled into the past by an accident.

However, the first accident is an extremely rare natural occurrence whereas the second is a mishap involving regularly used time travel technology. Thus, the inventor of the Time Machine is conceptually intermediate between "The Man Who Came Early," with no time travel technology, and "The Little Monster" growing up in a civilization where the use of such technology has become routinized.

Such a civilization ought to generate organizations of time travelers. In previous posts, I have observed that Poul Anderson's time traveling characters include:

a gang of brigands;
a police force;
two sets of warring armies.

I should also have mentioned the Transtemporal Oil Company (Transoco) whose crude oil, extracted in the Jurassic, is sucked from the small temporal unit by the main projector in the twentieth century.

"Project Mastodon" by Clifford Simak is about trade between the sovereign nation of Mastodonia, established by time travelers in the Pleistocene, and the United States.

Wellsian premises; science fictional developments; Andersonian culminations.


I have discussed some aspects of Poul Anderson's "Wildcat," IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 7-57, previously but not recently.

Scientific knowledge includes knowledge of dinosaurs. Therefore, science fiction includes imaginative accounts of encounters with dinosaurs that are to be found in the most ingenious of locations:

a lost World;
a Land that Time Forgot;
the center of the Earth;
a Dinosaur Island;
an African valley;
other planets;
a Jurassic Park;
the Jurassic Period.

Explorers in jungles, in the Pacific, within the Earth, on other planets and in time encounter dinosaurs. Once, according to the Brigadier in Doctor Who:

"Large prehistoric reptiles began to appear in the center of London. Needless to say, there was a certain amount of panic and some loss of life. The criminal element took advantage of the situation. We have contained the criminals and the reptiles within a five mile radius of the center."

(Or words to that effect.)

Anderson's wildcatters encounter brontosaurs, tyrannosaurs, plesiosaurs and pterodactyls because they travel to the Jurassic Period just as his Time Patrolmen meet Sherlock Holmes because they travel to the Victorian period. However, the dinosaurs, although dangerous, are essentially just part of the Jurassic scenery. What mainly happens is that the wildcatters interact economically and politically with the Cold War period of the twentieth century:

"...there would not be such a shortage of oil up in the future if Transoco had not gone back and drained it in the past. A self-causing future -" (pp. 16-17)

"Hoyle's idea seemed to be right, [oil] had not been formed by rotting dinosaurs but was present from the beginning. It was the stuff which had stuck the planets together." (p. 17)

Fred Hoyle? I thought that oil was formed by rotting vegetation?

Monday, 24 March 2014

References In Time Heals

Suspended animation is biological whereas temporal stasis is physical.

In Poul Anderson's "Time Heals" IN Anderson, Dialogue With Darkness (New York, 1985), pp. 165-191, before entering the temporal stasis of "'...a level-entropy field...'" (p. 166), Philip Hart remembers:

"the Seven Sleepers," a Christian and also a Muslim story about a group of religiously persecuted youths in suspended animation in a cave;

Herla, a British king who visited the Otherworld and led the Wild Hunt, then returned two hundred years later after the Anglo-Saxon invasions;

Frederick Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Emperor who, according to legend, sleeps and will come again;

Holger Danske, who sleeps until Denmark needs him and is the hero of Anderson's Three Hearts And Three Lions;

Tannhauser, Wagner's opera about a minstrel detained for over a year in the magical mountain of Venusberg.

The irony of "Time Heals" is that Hart remains in stasis until his cancer can be healed but then is unable to fit into the changed society so that he loses his sanity and must be put back into stasis until his insanity can be cured, by which time society will have changed yet again.

Before becoming "...completely catatonic..." (p. 190), Hart, reflecting on social change, remembers:

"...the wistful reminiscences of old men who had grown up in that forever lost world between the Congress of Vienna and the murder at Sarajevo..." (p. 181)

That apparently stable period is visited in Anderson's Time Patrol novel, The Shield Of Time, and the phrase, "...that forever lost world...," recalls the theme of innocence lost that pervades the Time Patrol series.

It is all too easy for the reader to regard the people of 2837 as retarded because of the way they speak:

"'Dis are yaar 2837, du would say.'" (p. 173)

- but Anderson's only point is that language has changed without yet becoming incomprehensible, not that these people are unable to pronounce English correctly.

The year that we call 2837 is by then called 2841 because an intervening theocracy has adjusted the calender to reflect Christ's real birth year. I once told a Religious Education class in a secondary school that, because of a mistake when our calender was formulated, the individual called Jesus was born in the year that we call 4 BC. Some of the pupils were so keen to seize the chance to laugh openly at me for the supposed absurdity of saying that Christ was born before Christ that I honestly think that they were missing the quite simple point. (I got into school teaching by accident and out by design. At present in Britain, 40% of those who enter the profession leave it within five years.)

Differences From "Welcome"
A world population of half a billion, not fifteen billion!
The person propelled into the future experiences not greatly reduced duration but zero duration, thus nothing.
We are told exactly where he is, inside a totally reflecting, self-maintaining cubical field six or seven feet on a side, stored in a casket in a vault and penetrable only by a neutralizing field.

Time is a fourth dimension, therefore rigid, not flowing. The arrow of time is the increase of entropy. Therefore, the level-entropy field has no internal time, thus also no time in which to decay.

"'...ruwm duurs...'" (p. 178) means "your room;"
"'...goal nos...'" (p. 186) means "our goal;"
as in "Welcome," the Russian word for "comrade" is in general use.

Future History
Rule by the Church of the Second Coming.
Asian invasion of America.
Mechaniolatry of Australian Reformers.
Martian colonials' invasion of Luna.
Scientific State, eugenic modifications for interplanetary colonization.
Retirement of the Dissenters.
Evolution of the family groups.

Politics And Economics in 2837/2841
colonists of Venus, Mars, outer planets and other systems now radically different from Terrestrials;
one rule of Earth and Lunar cave-cities;
personal life, relationships and work no longer governed by chance but entirely guided by psychometry and preventive psychiatry - you can be told whom you will happily marry and for how long.

Past Times: Revised Edition

My proposed revised version of Poul Anderson's Past Times (New York, 1984) would contain:
"The Nest"
"The Little Monster"
"The Man Who Came Early"
2497 AD
"Time Heals"
2837 AD
"Flight To Forever"
the circle of time

"Time Patrol" would have made a good concluding story if it were not the opening story of Time Patrol. Past Times introduces time travelers and Time Patrol presents time travelers changing the past.

In "Welcome" (1960),Tom Barlow has gone from 1997 to 2497.
In "Time Heals" (1949), Philip Hart goes from 1952 to 2837 and is about to go further.
In "Flight To Forever" (1950), Martin Saunders goes from 1973 to 2073, then does go further, all the way around time and back to 1973.

I discussed "Flight To Forever" a while back and "Welcome" yesterday. The next task is to compare and contrast "Welcome" and "Time Heals." To start with, I imagine that "superenergy," in "Welcome," and "level-entropy," in "Time Heals," are opposite ways of saying the same thing?

Time Leaper

Poul Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984).

In Poul Anderson's "Welcome," Tom Barlow calls himself a "time leaper, " (p. 61), not a time traveler. He can only "leap" futureward. But where is he while he leaps?

He experiences some duration, less than half an hour, while the world endures for five centuries. However, he is not enclosed by any artifact like an invisible "time machine" or a visible stasis box nor is he himself visible to external observers. They see him arrive or appear in 2497. They know where and when he will arrive, and are able to prepare a place for his coming, because he left "...messages...sealed into marked blocks of concrete..." (ibid).

So where is he and what does he see around him during his less than half an hour of time leaping in "...the superenergy state..." (p. 58), from which he is said to emerge? Our inability to answer this question strikes me as one detail that Anderson, uncharacteristically, did not think through while writing the story. We can regard the unanswered question simply as a mystery or as an issue that could be addressed if the story were ever to be adapted into a visual medium.

Historical And Science Fiction

"She was as startled and amused to hear of race riots as he had once been to learn of blood spilled by early Christians over the iota distinguishing homoousian from homoiousian."
- Poul Anderson, "Welcome" IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 58-70 AT p. 63.

Amused? About riots and bloodshed?

"...she..." is a citizen of the world in 2497 whereas "...he..." has just arrived from 1997.

"Homoousian" must be Greek to a lot of sf fans! My upbringing gave me some inkling and, of course, it is now an easy matter to google. Poul Anderson, while writing a work of futuristic hard sf, was able to insert a reference for example to the Roman general Marius or to the Greek theology of "same" or "similar" substance(s) within the Trinity.

Thus, we are instantly reminded that this same author also wrote historical novels set in the Western and Eastern Roman Empires. For some writers and readers, sf was a literary ghetto but not for Anderson. His canon encompasses and sometimes synthesizes several genres as I have remarked before.

"Homoousian" could not possibly be further away from the theme of "Welcome" but, while our hero encounters a culture five hundred years later than his, it is good to be reminded of another culture fifteen hundred years earlier. Humanity through the ages is one.

Social Appearance And Reality

The opening paragraph of Poul Anderson's "Welcome", IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 58-70, informs us that, by traveling five hundred years into the future, Barlow has arrived in the North American Federation of the United World Republics although Barlow himself cannot possibly know that yet.

He has "'...increased [his] rate of existence several millionfold...'" (p. 60) and left the twentieth century "...less than half an hour ago, as far as his conscious mind knew." (p. 61) My rough calculations confirm that there are several million half hours in five centuries. However, surely it would be more accurate to say that he has decreased or slowed down his rate of existence? Speeded up, he would age, die, decay and disappear in an instant. We say that an astronaut undergoing time dilation slows down, not that he speeds up, but sometimes there is conceptual confusion on this issue, most notably in HG Wells' The Time Machine, where the Time Traveler, arriving unaged in 802,701 AD, is said to have accelerated.

However, Barlow's chronokinesis is merely a vehicle or literary device to address the issue of the difference between appearance and reality in social systems. We are familiar with this difference in physical systems. If reality were simply identical with appearance, then the Sun would go round the Earth because it appears to do so. However, I think that it is wrong to overemphasize the difference or to infer that appearance is experienced whereas reality is merely inferred. Rather, we experience reality and our experience of it is its appearance to us. But experience or appearance must be interpreted.

Once, walking between buildings at a place of work, I glanced behind me, saw a colleague lying on his back on the ground and instantly interpreted what, on reflection, was a rather unusual sight. Because George was lying near a parked car with one arm flung out towards the car, I thought that he had dropped a coin or other small object which had rolled under the car and that he was reaching underneath to retrieve it. I soon learned that, if I had glanced back a moment earlier, I would have seen George's companion, Chris, lay him on his back with a blow to the jaw.

My immediate and erroneous interpretation fitted the scene as it appeared to me but not the full story as recounted by an eye witness. But both stories did involve George, not Chris, lying on his back, not on his front, near a car, not a van etc. I got that much right. If reality and appearance were merely different, then we would never detect any reality. If our interpretation and its application ever cease to be practically efficacious, then we will have to acknowledge that reality and appearance have finally parted company. In Anderson's Genesis, there are characters whose rocket technology never works because, although they appear to be on the surface of the Earth, they are really inside an immense but incomplete AI emulation.

Any society can probably look good to a newcomer who is welcomed by its social elite but he might go on to learn how that elite relates to the rest of society. Barlow is relieved to have arrived neither in a desert nor in an Orwellian dictatorship but, as he had hoped, in a civilization that welcomes him as a celebrity. However, the Earth of 2497 has:

suffered Atomic Wars;
a population of maybe fifteen billion;
hereditary government;
no technological innovation and very little space travel;
a drab continent-wide city;
only a small skyscraper apartment even for a celebrity;
but domestic servants either bred or conditioned for invincible stupidity;
an even lower breed eaten by the elite.

The heroes of Anderson's "Time Heals" and "Flight To Forever" continue traveling further into the future. Barlow might want to do this also. He keeps rationalizing the unpalatable facts of future society until he encounters the cannibalism.

This suggests an even finer gradation of Anderson's time travel stories:

a time traveler who visits a single past or future period;
a time traveler who visits several other periods;
a group of time travelers etc.

Sunday, 23 March 2014


Poul Anderson's short story, "Welcome," originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1960, occupies thirteen pages of his collection, Past Times (New York, 1984). The entire story builds towards a nasty surprise in its last word so everything else is subordinated to that.

Tom Barlow has projected himself five hundred years into the future, to 2497. He was the first discoverer of "...the superenergy state..." (p. 58), which is well understood by the time of his arrival. One of his welcomers confirms that there is no way for him to return. Barlow accepts that pastward time travel is "' obvious absurdity.'" (p. 60) Ability to return to 1997 is not necessary for the story so the complexities and paradoxes of travel to the past can be avoided.

"'All I did was give myself a jolt of energy, a vector along the time axis rather than through space, and so increased my rate of existence several millionfold...'" (ibid.)

What does this mean? All that is necessary for this single short story is a brief scientific rationale for Barlow's temporal displacement. Did he move along time instead of through space? The theory that accounts for time as a fourth spatial dimension stipulates that we do not move but extend in that direction. If physical motion along the temporal dimension is assumed, did he accelerate, move several million times faster than everything else? If so, then he would have left everything else behind.

HG Wells' Time Traveler spoke of accelerating along Time whereas in practice he did the exact opposite. He slowed down his own psycho-physical processes so that his entire environment, the rest of the universe, fast forwarded around him. If Barlow did this, then he should have been visible and tangible as an immobile body for five hundred years but it is clear that this has not occurred:

"'This place was readied special for your coming.'" (p. 59)

So he appeared as if from nowhere on arrival as fictional time travelers usually do.

As I say, this does not really matter for story purposes but it is always interesting to analyze the theoretical basis of sf stories involving time travel/time dilation/temporal stasis etc.

Friday, 21 March 2014


According to the Danellians and their Time Patrol, only one timeline exists at a time. Since each timeline comprises an entire four-dimensional spatio-temporal continuum, the phrase " a time" that I have just used can refer only to a second time axis containing a succession of such continua, each continuum existing at a different time, thus "one at a time," along that second temporal dimension.

According to the proprietor of the inter-cosmic Old Phoenix Inn, many timelines exist at the same time. Thus, the Time Patrol and Old Phoenix series present contradictory cosmologies.

However, could the variable timeline guarded by the Time Patrol itself be one of the many universes that have fleeting access to the Old Phoenix? Thus, could Manson Everard of the Patrol also find his way to the inter-cosmic Inn?

As things stand, the timecycles of the Time Patrol, the time corridors of the Wardens and Rangers, the self-propelling time travelers of the Eyrie and of Jack Havig's rival group and the many doors to the Old Phoenix exist in the alternative realms of Poul Anderson's imagination as expressed in different volumes of his complete works. However, we are free to speculate about connections between various ultimates like:

the Danellians;
the "gods" of the further future in "Flight To Forever";
the literal gods of Anderson's heroic and historical fantasies;
the Elder Races that exist, or are believed to exist, in various timelines;
the cosmic energy accessed by the Black Nebulans and the Chereionites;
cosmic AI in the further future of Anderson's Genesis;
the transtemporally communicating interstellar civilization of Starfarers;
the mysterious licensing authority of the Old Phoenix.

Ideally, each fictional universe could be continued indefinitely while, at the same time, additional volumes or subtle inter-textual cross-references could be used to construct an immense hyper-cosmic unity. Anderson's canon is vast and makes us wish for more.

(Tomorrow: coach from North West to South East of England, depart 6.00 am, return evening, anti-racist march through London (No Nazi parties in the European Parliament!), no time for blogging, plenty of time for creative thinking on the Motorway, fried breakfast and coffee in the Services.)

Ostrog, Varagan And Brann

I do not often think about which actor should play which character but sometimes it is obvious although the case that I am about to suggest is a might-have-been.

Although the Daleks are Doctor Who's main continuing villains, the Master is another major continuing villain, a rebel Time Lord. (Parallel example: although Lex Luthor is Superman's main continuing villain, Zod is another major continuing villain, a rebel Kryptonian.)

The first actor to play the Master was Roger Delgado (1918-1973), who could easily have played Ostrog in HG Wells' The Sleeper Awakes. In fact, a TV series sequel to the film of the novel could have had the Sleeper surviving the plane crash at the end of the novel and continuing to lead the workers' revolution against Ostrog.

I mention Delgado on Poul Anderson Appreciation because surely he could also have played both the Exaltationist, Merau Varagan, who is the individual continuing villain in Anderson's Time Patrol series, and the Ranger, Brann, who is the villain in Anderson's The Corridors Of Time? - with one qualification. Good though Delgado looked with a beard, it would have had to be shaved off for Time Patrol and Corridors because Exaltationists and Rangers are beardless.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Time Travel And Related Works II

After completing the previous post, I was impressed at how easy it became to summarize so many of Poul Anderson's works under headings related to time. The focus expanded from a single time traveler to a gang, to a police force, to contending armies; then from a single timeline to several although, of the several, two were Babylonian whereas four were Old Phoenix-related. There were also the two works, very dissimilar in style and content, showing, respectively, a cosmic cycle and the origins of some Greek myths.

Anderson's Psychotechnic future history diverged from the real world when that world's near future became its present. At that stage, Anderson scholar, Sandra Miesel, inserted interstitial material outlining the divergent history, for example dating World War III. Anderson's Technic Civilization future history begins far enough in the future to prevent any early divergence. Nicholas van Rijn's presence in the Old Phoenix shows that the Technic History coexists with, among many others, the three alternative timelines whose distinguishing features can each be conveniently summarized by a two-word phrase: Carolingian mythology; working magic; Shakespearean History.

I mention all this in order to commend yet again Poul Anderson's diversity and creativity.

Time Travel And Related Works

Over the past two months, we have surveyed the extraordinary timescapes of:

"The Little Monster" (a single time traveler);
"The Nest" (time traveling brigands);
Time Patrol and The Shield Of Time (a time travel police force);
The Corridors Of Time and There Will Be Time (two time wars).

Correspondents have been too polite to observe that I became unusually focused on Corridors.

Earlier along our own particular timeline, we also considered:

"Flight To Forever" (a journey around cosmic time);
The Dancer From Atlantis (the originals of some Greek myths).

Neither backwards nor forwards but sideways in time are:

"Eutopia" (Alexander did return from Babylon);
"The House of Sorrows" (the Jews did not return from Babylon) -

- and four of the many timelines with fleeting access to the Old Phoenix Inn:

Three Hearts And Three Lions (Carolingian mythology);
the two Operation volumes (working magic);
A Midsummer Tempest (Shakespearean history);
the History of Technic Civilization (Nicholas van Rijn).

My points are that:

Poul Anderson wrote many time travel and alternative timeline scenarios;
I have published a lot of posts about them;
but I have probably exhausted my current stock of observations on these works;
however, after the complexities of the Time Patrol, the time corridors and the Star Masters, it feels anticlimactic to return to the merely linear plots of Anderson's non-series short stories from which time travel has been an extended digression;
so I will have to find out where the blog goes next.

I usually do think of something to say - although not always at the recent rate.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Time War Intelligence II

Poul Anderson, The Corridors Of Time (London, 1968).

Lockridge can truthfully tell Brann:

the geographical location of the Wardens' new time corridor into the Ranger heartland;
that Brann himself will lead a counterattack down the corridor, killing all the Wardens in it except Storm whom he will capture with Lockridge in Avildaro in 1827 BC;
that he, Lockridge, escaped from Avildaro.

However, Lockridge must also lie. Exploiting Brann's ignorance of the people of Avildaro, he claims that Storm led them in ceremonial cannibalism, thus beginning Lockridge's disenchantment with her. He also claims that, by working as a deckhand on an Iberian trading ship, he traveled to Crete from where the Wardens sent him "' this year.'" (p. 149) Further disillusioned with the Wardens in their home era, he has made his way to Brann.

He must add:

"'After my story...I wonder why the Wardens didn't go back a few months and warn her.'" (p. 150)

Brann explains that they can't. They did not warn Storm before her departure to the twentieth century, therefore they must not attempt to. Has she been gone a few months? That has been long enough for Brann to learn of her disappearance. However, the uncertainty factor of about two months could prevent her from returning promptly, even if she had wanted to, and could also create difficulties for anyone attempting to warn her, although they know better than to try.

Could the Wardens, alerted by Lockridge, attempt an assault on Brann in the twentieth century just after his victory in the corridor? Brann explains that the Koriachs, Warden leaders like Storm, have absolute authority and are accountable to no one else:

"'For fear of spies, this one probably told no one except the few technicians she took along. Time enough to do that when the corridor was ready.'" (ibid.)

The result of this is that the current Wardens, now hearing of the twentieth century operation for the very first time and already preoccupied with many known activities in other periods, have no capacity "' organize a substantial force...'" (p. 151) for an extra intervention. If anyone was sent, then they would have been baffled by the uncertainty factor, but possibly no one was because: "'She has rivals who would not be sorry to lose her.'" (ibid.)

The secrecy necessary for the time war really works against its practitioners. And the Wardens work against each other. Can we compare Wardens and Rangers to cats and wolves?

The Triple Goddess

Poul Anderson, The Corridors Of Time (London, 1968).

Speaking of Stone Age dolmens, Storm Darroway says:

"'They adored the Triune Goddess, they who brought those burial rites here, Her of whom the Norns were only a pallid memory, Maiden, Mother and Hellqueen. It was an evil bargain that traded Her for the Father of Thunders...She will come again...'" (p. 23)

Here is another parallel with Neil Gaiman. The Triple Goddess, in various forms, is a major theme in The Sandman:

Morpheus consults the Fates;
the Fates try to warn Rose Walker of coming events;
Rose researches the Triple Goddess in TV sitcoms;
by granting Orpheus' wish for death, Morpheus takes family blood;  
therefore, the Furies attack him in the Dreaming;
after preparing his succession, Morpheus enters the realm of his older sister, Death.

If they can make the transition from prose to graphic fiction, then fans of Anderson's fantasies might appreciate The Sandman.

The Time Wardens' Period

Poul Anderson, The Corridors Of Time (London, 1968).

(I have only just recognized the Little Mermaid of Copenhagen on that cover.)

Malcolm Lockridge escapes from the Rangers into their future. Despite previous bad experiences in the futureward sections of time corridors, Brann orders his men to continue the pursuit on their gravity belts. Lockridge knows only that there were guardians with incomprehensible weapons. His corridor sled stops and the flyers approach.

The guardians' weapons do not harm bodies but do attack minds. Lockridge experiences Night, Fear, loss of sensations, eternal disembodiment in infinite space, a horrific presence, negation, cold, darkness, hollowness, a vortex, contraction and cessation.

Then, the opposites: music, the scent of roses, peace, sunlight, a friendly greeting in Kentucky English, a screen with changing colors, a door to a summer garden and another house across a lane.

Leaving the house with his hosts, John and Mary, Lockridge sees homes among high trees, a machine tending a lawn and people, some nude, two bowing respectfully to the continental councillor, John. Flying, they see mostly green land but also a clean city stretching for miles and the half-mile long silver ovoid of the Pleiades liner rising above the horizon. Crossing the Atlantic and approaching the Limfjord, they see woods, pastures, strange animals and a town with red walls and copper spires.

And that is all that we see of the period a thousand years after Lockridge's visit to the Wardens and Rangers. 

Rich And Colorful

I have been determined to continue posting about Poul Anderson's The Corridors Of Time as long as I was able to find new things to say. I have probably reached a limit by now but I am amazed at how much there has been. I never expected to follow the course of Lockridge's morning walk through Copenhagen or of his and Storm's car journey through Denmark.

Careful rereading of relevant passages discloses the intricacy and subtlety of the temporal journeys, time war and causal paradoxes. The Warden and Ranger realms and their single successor are briefly but fully realized as are the philosophical conflict between Wardens and Rangers and its place in the history of religion. The main past period in the narrative is the early second millennium BC but there are also vivid glimpses of the seventh and sixteenth centuries.

Superficially a mere action-adventure novel with heroes and villains fighting through history, The Corridors Of Time turns out to be one of it's author's richest and most colorful science fiction narratives.

The Pivotal Moment II

Poul Anderson, The Corridors Of Time (London, 1968).

It is very difficult to think these matters through to a final conclusion. If Storm's new corridor had emerged in the fortieth century immediately after her departure to the twentieth century, then there would have been no time for Brann to receive any warning about the new corridor. He would have been unable to lead any counterattack down the corridor and the Wardens' victory would have been complete.

However, maybe such fine-tuning of the operation was not possible. When a corridor is activated, it extends an equal distance in both directions. Corridors can be of different lengths but perhaps not of any length. The Wardens had to build a corridor that would not emerge before Storm's departure. They were limited both by their activation point in 1963 and by whatever length of corridor was available for them to use. So maybe this was the best that they were able to do. And it would have worked if not for an entirely unpredictable causal circle.

Both sides used circular causality to wage their war through history so maybe it was only a matter of time before a causal circle worked against both of them. At least from the perspective of observers within this universe, the distribution of causal circles along the timeline must be random, like the distribution of prime numbers along the number line. But, if causal circles are random, can their likelihood be calculated?

The Pivotal Moment

Poul Anderson, The Corridors Of Time (London, 1968).

I have identified the pivotal moment in all of history. In the later fortieth century, there is a short period after Storm has departed to the twentieth century but before Brann has counterattacked down Storm's new corridor from the twentieth century. That is the period during which Malcolm Lockridge must travel to Brann's headquarters and inform him of the new corridor.

When they speak, Brann says of Storm:

"'...she disappeared some time ago, undoubtedly on a major mission.'" (p. 148)

This suggests an elementary security measure. Storm should not be gone for "some time" but should return as soon as possible after her departure in order to minimize the period during which her antagonist can learn that she has disappeared and infer that she is on a major mission. But she must avoid returning before her departure because the time travelers do not want their future actions limited by foreknowledge.

In this case, Storm will not return to the fortieth century. She flees from the twentieth century to 1827 BC when, captured by Lockridge, then bound by his men, she is strangled by the dying Brann, who has just been freed by Lockridge - the agent of destiny.

Circularity In The Corridors

Poul Anderson, The Corridors Of Time (London, 1968).

Wardens and Rangers cause the entire history that led to them, then are neutralized by two causal circles involving Malcolm Lockridge. That sounds designed. Well, Poul Anderson did design it but what conclusions might be drawn by people living in that timeline?

Storm, the Goddess, founded the cult of the Goddess and every conflict, prehistorical or historical, is a front for Wardens and Rangers:

aborigines and invaders;
Vanir and Aesir;
goddess-worshipers and god-worshipers;
Catholics and Protestants;
Cavaliers and Roundheads; 
Allies and Axis;
pre-time-travel Wardens and Rangers in the fortieth century;

Wardens led by Storm try to end the conflict by attacking the Ranger heartland through a new corridor from the 1960's but Brann leads a counterattack down the corridor and captures Storm when she has fled to 1827 BC with Lockridge. As we know, the key is Lockridge. With the tables turned against Brann, the Wardens begin to organize the Bronze Age but then Lockridge escapes under cover of an attack led by himself and organizes a Bronze Age free from both Wardens and Rangers. It is probably the loss of both Storm and Brann that causes the two sides to lose momentum and to wear each other out in their own era.

Both Brann and then Storm have the horrific experience of finding themselves attacked by Lockridge when they least expect it. It as if the gods had at last said, "Stop fighting in our name."