Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Diomedean Geography

More maps of planets in Technic Civilization would be helpful.

The Holmenach archipelago, stretching north for hundreds of kilometers from the Britain-sized island of Lannach, separates the Sea of Achan from the colder Ocean. The north coast of Lannach slopes in broad valleys from the uplands towards the Sea and Sagna Bay where the Flock of Lannach have several towns:

Yo of the Carpenters.

Fish called trech have changed their habits and moved from Draka waters (where?) to the Sea of Achan.

Well to the north of the archipelago is the ice-covered island of Dawrnach. The Flock of Lannach takes several Earth-days to fly there, resting on skerries usually visited only by birds. Somewhere to the south of Lannach are the jungles of Swampy Kilnu.

Thursday Landing, the League trading post across the Ocean, deals with the Tyrlanian Flock.

There may be a little more geographical information in the text, which I have not yet reread in full.

Van Rijn At War

Van Rijn At War (although not in the image)

In summarizing the "War of the Wing-Men" (so to call it), I realize that I have omitted several details like:

not only does ice not burn, of course, but also walls of ice protect ice ship crews from flame throwers so that they can get up close before they either burn or board the rafts;

if an ice ship is incapacitated, its crew simply flies off and disperses itself among the other ships;

infantry are protected not only by shields held above them but also by spears that they suddenly thrust up in unison against swooping attackers;

a raft once occupied by the Flock is relatively safe from attack even by a better armed, more skillfully sailed Fleet raft because all of the Fleet's families, dwellings and possessions are on the rafts so that the Fleet commanders dare not risk these vessels in this new kind of sea combat, where everything that they own can be burned;

usually, van Rijn would prudently avoid a battlefield, except when his presence is necessary to demonstrate that he has confidence in his plans, even though he doesn't;

but, when he is in a battle, he goes doubly armored and well armed and can fight as we also see on T'Kela - on Diomedes, he charges the enemy, then wrestles and strangles a swooping warrior who clings to his back;

van Rijn's entire war aim is not victory/checkmate, which is impossible, but stalemate so that there can be a truce and the beginning of negotiations - something that he is good at - but this must be kept secret from most of his army, who regard the enemy as filthy animals.

Thus, he is manipulating both sides all along but the negotiations should lead to everyone's good.

Ice And Fire

Nicholas van Rijn forced the Flock to fight on foot. Next, he gets them to fight the Fleet with a fleet of ships carved from ice! Ice floats but does not burn. Van Rijn's ingenuity is infinite:

(i) most Flock members can wield stone chisels;

(ii) thus, each ship is carved in a few hours and the fleet in a week;

(iii) oil lamps with bellows smooth the ships;

(iv) holes are cut for insertion of mast and rudder;

(v) refrozen water is cement.

There is no time for testing and I am also inclined to agree with Wace that there is nowhere near enough time to solve all the engineering problems that he lists:

How deep should the mast holes be?
Is ballast necessary?
How can clean cuts be made in large, irregular ice blocks?
Should the bottoms be smoothed to reduce drag?
The ice can be strengthened by refrozen mixed sawdust and seawater but in what proportions?

Van Rijn does get some Diomedeans to work under the cold sea water to streamline the bottoms.

When the ice fleet penetrates the Fleet, van Rijn's forces burn some Fleet rafts and board others. The boarders use the new infantry tactics, advancing on foot shielded against aerial assault, still the only form of assault known to the Fleet, whose members rise only to be shot down by archers in a second wave of boarders. Pretty smart stuff.

Since the rafts are dwellings, one female tries to rally the others to fight but van Rijn frightens her by saying that she should stay with her children whom he will otherwise eat. More political lying, which happens to be in the Fleet females' best interests as well.

Regular readers will notice how the war has advanced quickly through distinct stages thanks to van Rijn's innovative inputs. The characters are in the thick of battle at the point to which I have read.

I might post twice more tonight, then this laptop goes back to Ketlan for maintenance tomorrow.

War On Diomedes

Awesome: van Rijn's new Diomedean infantry is unassailable from the air because each foot soldier carries a shield above him and is unopposed on the ground because they are the first infantry on Diomedes so they can march straight to an occupied town and can even recapture it temporarily. However, this alone is not enough to win the battle. Against van Rijn's advice, this town was attacked first only because of its religious significance even though the enemy at that point was clearly strong enough to separate the ill coordinated Flock air and ground forces and to drive them back. (The winged Diomedeans had never thought of fighting on foot.)

Undeterred, van Riin reorganizes, plans his next moves and rallies his disaffected troops with rhetoric from Shakespeare, Pericles etc. Does he remember all this? Surely it loses something in translation? If "royal" means "of kings" and if a throne is a seat of kings, then Shakespeare's "...royal throne of kings..." has to be a double or treble tautology? And less meaningful to a people without a king?

Here is a wise Diomedean saying: "It is written: 'The Lodestar shines for no single nation.'" (The Van Rijn Method, p. 444.)

Poul Anderson shows us a real war with conflict spread across a wide geographical area and the tide of combat moving back and forth.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Chapter XII: Introducing A Clan Sport

On Diomedes, Nicholas van Rijn changes society every time he needs to solve a practical problem. After introducing mass production, he has got the Flock to manufacture new weapons but -

Problem: the new weapons are too heavy to be carried long distance.
Proposal: weapons to be transported to the war zone by wind-powered train.
Problem: no wind.
Proposal: young warriors to pull the carts with ropes.
Problem: by very deep-rooted social custom and prejudice, free clan males never engage in sustained physical labor. (They are not aristocrats. Their society, unlike the Fleet's, has not divided that way yet.)
Proposal: each clan to pull a number of carts with a prize for the quickest: it's not labor; it's sport.

This appeals to the clans. Those smart enough to recognize semantics are also smart enough to keep quiet. Everyone wins? (Not in real life or elsewhere in this future history, they don't.)

I think that, just from habit, van Rijn can carry political lying too far. Although it is necessary to leave at once, he thinks it is politic to say:

it is not necessary to leave at once;
but we know you are eager to fight;
so let's play this small game!

That first statement is untrue but also unnecessary although, again, those smart enough to realize this are also smart enough not to say it.

Eric Wace

We (some of us) want more information about ordinary life on Earth during the Solar Commonwealth and, later, during the Terran Empire. Given a few data, we can extrapolate more. Here is one datum about the Commonwealth: Eric Wace was born on Earth in a slum near "'...the old Triton Docks.'" (The Van Rijn Method, p. 423) Must there still be slums amidst the technological advances of the twenty fifth century?

Both "Triton" and "Docks" evoke the sea and maybe recall Poul and Karen Anderson's maritime city of Ys, which had a covenant with a sea god. But, of course, Triton Docks is a spaceport. Only the poor live so close to the noise and smells of a spaceport but they become used to it because it is incessant. But why is there a regular "'...earthquake noise...'"? We are not talking about rocket launches.

A slum near a spaceport sounds like an excellent setting for a Heinlein-type juvenile sf novel. Of course, a Heinlein hero, like Starman Jones, or an Anderson character, like Wace, gets himself into one of the spaceships and leaves the slum behind but what becomes of the many who don't or can't? An entire series of novels could tell their story, with an occasional sighting of an extraterrestrial or a ship overhead. (Since superheroes are an extension of sf, I also speculate about ordinary lives in Metropolis, where god-like beings occasionally clash overhead or are reported in the Daily Planet.)

Wace imagines that half of his childhood acquaintances are dead or in prison, the other half competing for occasional half-skilled, hard, dirty and unwanted jobs. In other Andersonian futures, automation has abolished any such jobs. Wace was simply lucky. His already mentioned apprenticeship at the age of twelve was with a fur wholesaler. After two years, he joined a fur-trapping expedition to the planet Rhiannon.

"'I taught myself a little something in odd moments, and bluffed about the rest I was supposed to know...'" (pp. 423-424). For more on bluffing or "faking it," see here and here.

Wace's self-education and bluffing got him from job to job until he became the Solar Spice & Liquors factor in the minor outpost on Diomedes but, of course, this takes us away from the Terrestrial society that we wanted to know about. Lady Sandra Tamarin tells Wace that he would be able to live comfortably on a settled planet like her Hermes.

How To Revolutionize A Planet

Dominic Flandry says that he is against revolutions and, because by this he means military coups, I agree with him. However, "revolution" can and does mean a more fundamental social transformation. The Wars of the Roses merely settled which aristocrat would be the King of England whereas the Civil War and the Glorious Revolution of the seventeenth century replaced aristocratic rule and absolute monarchy with bourgeois rule and constitutional monarchy. The American Civil War revolutionized economic relationships by transforming slaves into free workers. Further, science has completely changed Terrestrial society.

Nicholas van Rijn similarly changes Diomedean society:

"'I made a new way of life here,' said van Rijn expansively. 'It is not this machine or that one which has already changed your history beyond changing back. It is the basic idea I have introduced: mass production.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 418.

Because van Rijn needs to return home and because the Flock cannot help him to do that until they have won a war, their earliest mass production is of new weapons like repeating dart-throwers and ballistas; also flame throwers, for which they must gather sulfur and oil and develop distillation. Van Rijn also introduces these winged beings to the crucial military role of the infantry (lesson from Terrestrial history: air power alone is never enough), who, however, must wear shields against missiles from above - another item to be mass produced.

Van Rijn also urges the Flock to prioritize military necessity over religious observance. Although he does not quote this example, the Maccabees fought on the Sabbath. A chance remark at this stage discloses that van Rijn has a chaplain back home! No doubt his life-style necessitates frequent recourse to the confessional?

It is clear that Diomedean society will remain changed after van Rijn has completed his personal objective of returning home. Each chapter of The Man Who Counts significantly advances the narrative. We wonder how van Rijn will achieve his apparently impossible objectives but we soon learn how he does it.

The Man Who Counts, Chapter X

Nicholas van Rijn's machinations are endless. We already knew that he had engineered a civil war between Grand Admiral Syranax and Chief Executive Officer Delp, realizing that Delp would lose, merely to give himself cover to release a prisoner who would return with help. But, before that, he had given Delp's wife, Rodonis, the means to poison Syranax. Rodonis not only poisons the Admiral but also threatens Syranax's heir, T'heonax, with the all too plausible accusation that he had poisoned his father, thus blackmailing T'heonax to release the condemned Delp, who would otherwise have become a wing-clipped slave. Thus, divisive conflict continues in the Fleet long after van Rijn's departure.

Fleet religion

(i) "...primitive bloody sacrifices to Aeak'ha-in-the-Deeps..."
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 403.

(ii) Worship of the two Moons, She Who Waits and He Who Pursues, seen as marrying when their paths cross.

(iii) " educated person knew there was only the Lodestar..." (ibid.), who has "...holy books..." (p. 404) and whose Leader in Sacrifice and Oracle is the Admiral - aristocracy and priesthood combined.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Wood And Fish

(This double image shows one installment each of the Technic History and of the Psychotechnic History.)

Diomedeans buy metal tools from Polesotechnic League companies. Before that, they had found several creative uses for wood:

fire-hardened bayonets;
dugout ships;
an inhabited fleet of log rafts;
wooden buildings;
paper for books;
wooden locks like Chinese puzzles;
a wooden lathe with a cutting edge of fractured diamond;
a wooden saw with volcanic glass teeth;
a wind-powered railway with wooden wheels on wooden rails, carrying flint, obsidian, timber, fish and handicrafts.

"Wace nodded, realized that the gesture was probably meaningless here..."
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 357.

In this passage, Anderson addresses an issue that I raised earlier. However, the gesture is meaningful here because later a Diomedean nods assent.

The Flock of Lannachska migrates, leaving houses empty during winter, whereas the Drak'honai Fleet sails, fishing for trech. However, the trech change their habits, moving from Draka waters to the Sea of Achan, separated from the Ocean by the island of Lannach and the Holmenach archipelago, so the Drak'honai, following the trech, occupy the Lannachska towns and drive the returning Flock into the uplands where the recent mothers will be unable to rest or feed enough to survive the next migration. Thus, the survival of the Flock is at stake and van Rijn has yet to devise a solution...

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Man Who Counts, Chapter VIII

Diomedean archers, trained almost from birth, effectively use seven limbs. While flying, with two wings, each of them:

"...gripped a bow as long as himself in his foot talons, drew the cord with both hands and let fly, plucked a fresh arrow from the belly quiver with his teeth..."
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 389.

As with driving a car, the entire body is used. (One sf film had US fighter pilots capturing and immediately flying alien aircraft even though the body shape was entirely different.)

Diomedean weapons also include:

weighted nets, pulling enemies to their deaths;
primitive blowguns;
repeater blowguns with bayonets;
fire weapons;

The Fleet army is coordinated by horn calls whereas the Flock has a more flexible Whistler corps. Since "'...the fat Eart'ska...'" (van Rijn) correctly predicts the outcome of a battle, Commander Trolwen jokes that maybe he should command and Tolk, the rescued Herald, more thoughtfully agrees that "'Perhaps...he will.'" (p. 391)

Van Rijn's machinations transcend the differences between species.

The Man Who Counts, Chapter VII

Nicholas van Rijn, faking a poor grasp of the local language, tells a defamatory lie that initiates a fight among the Drak'honai merely so that, in the confusion, he can release their Lannachska prisoner who will, by prearrangement with van Rijn, return with an army to rescue van Rijn and his companions. Is this getting a bit too complicated to be credible? By similar deceptions, Dominic Flandry later escapes from more than one planet.

There is another, minor, parallel. When Flandry is on Talwin, a native shakes her head in disbelief. When van Rijn reminds the released prisoner to bring an army, the latter nods. I understand, although it seems hard to believe, that head-shaking for no and nodding for yes are not even universal gestures in Europe - they can be the other way around - so they should not be projected across the galaxy! We should not even assume that aliens have heads.

 However, since Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization assumes:

"...a universe that produces sophonts as casually as it produces snowflakes..."
-Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), 

- there will be some who not only have heads but who also shake or nod them as we do. These seem like obvious signals to precede or supplement language or its equivalent.

In our universe, if thinking beings were as casually produced as snowflakes, then I would expect us to have found some evidence of their existence by now. Surely astronomers should be able detect obviously artificial energy sources elsewhere in the parts of space observable by optical and radio telescopes? So far, the evidence remains compatible with humanity being the only industrial-technological species in this part of the galaxy.

The Man Who Counts, Chapter VI

Nicholas van Rijn will end the War of the Wing-Men so that the Wing-Men can help him to get home! (War Of The Wing-Men is an editorial, not an auctorial, title for Poul Anderson's The Man Who Counts.) Van Rijn proposes to help not the side that has captured him but the other side, which is losing, because they will be more grateful. Never do anything easy.

Van Rijn learns two Diomedean languages simultaneously and surreptitiously, pretending ignorance while accurately reading the conflicts among his captors:

"'I know a little something about politics. It is needful for an honest businessman seeking to make him a little hard-earned profit, else some louse-bound politician comes and taxes it from him for some idiot school [!] or old-age pension.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 370.

(An educated population is an abler work force. Pensioners with purchasing power are a market.)

"'The politics here is not so different from what we do out in the galaxy.'" (ibid.)

Maybe not, but everything else is so different that it takes a genius to discern the politics. Van Rijn discerns:

the throne, in the Fleet, called "the Admiralty";
an old admiral with a disliked crown prince...

He even avails of the thick atmosphere to eavesdrop on gossip when most human beings would be simply overwhelmed by alienness and danger. Anderson's heroes are always able and resourceful but Nick van Rijn exceptionally so.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Man Who Counts, Chapter V

The Flock know that the world is round because they fly long distances. The Fleet know it because astronomy is necessary for navigation. The Drak'honai of the Fleet are neolithic, with stone, glass, ceramics and some artificial resins, telescopes, astrolabes and navigational tables but no iron, therefore no chronometers or compasses. They will be a good market for the League. Already, more primitive Diomedeans exchange furs, gems and juices for metal tools and weapons.

Like Dominic Flandry, an Intelligence officer in the later Terran Empire, Eric Wace, a factor of the Polesotechnic League, has been trained to learn any language quickly:

"When properly focused, a trained mind need only be told something once."
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 364.

Diomedes, "Oceanest" to the Drak'honai, is intermediate between terrestroid and Jovoid planetary types, with greater mass but lower density than Earth. This chapter has an infodump about Diomedean planetography. I have summarized some of its contents in previous posts although I realize that I had also missed some of the details. The low density is caused by the absence of any elements heavier than calcium. Although this is explained, it remains a mystery why pressure has not collapsed the core, as in Jovoids. So far, scientists have found only a most plausible answer... Anderson knows that knowledge is never complete.

The chapter ends with the realization that there is no way to transport the three stranded human beings across the planet to the trading base at Thursday Landing before their stored food runs out - a practical problem for Nicholas van Rijn to solve. Or, rather, as "The Man who Counts," he will motivate the Diomedean and human beings around him to implement a solution.

Friday, 24 October 2014

The Man Who Counts, Chapter IV

This chapter makes clear that linguistic communication on a large planet with diverse cultures is not easy. Tolk,

"...a linguistic specialist of the Great Flock of Lannach..."
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 361,

learns every language;
makes ceremonial announcements;
presides over a messenger corps;
has been captured by his people's enemy, the Drak'honai, who have also rescued three shipwrecked human beings;
can just barely communicate with one of the human beings because the latter has, for trading purposes, learned the language of a remote area of Diomedes.

Van Rijn would have preferred rescue by a trader than by a navy ship. However:

"'...where there are enemies to bid against each other, that is where an honest trader has a chance to make a little bit profit!'" (p. 363)

Well, yes, if you see it that way. I would settle for just getting off the planet. Surely there would be some feelings of fear or distaste at being surrounded by armed winged beings, then crowded together with some of them?

"The cabin was small. Three humans and two Diomedeans left barely room to sit down." (p. 360)

Van Rijn, admirably, keeps thinking about profit, not losing his lunch, in these circumstances.


Antares, also known by its Bayer designation Alpha Scorpii (abbreviated to α Scorpii or α Sco), is the seventeenth brightest star in the nighttime sky[a] and the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius, and is often referred to as "the heart of the scorpion". Along with Aldebaran, Regulus, and Fomalhaut, Antares comprises the group known as the 'Royal stars of Persia'. It is one of the four brightest stars near the ecliptic.
-from Wikipedia.

Nicholas van Rijn gives Sandra Tamarin a lift in his private spaceship from Antares to Earth. Before that, the imperialist Borthudians had attacked and boarded any ship that passed through the volume of space claimed by them, thus making it barely profitable for League companies to trade along the route between Earth and Antares.

Since Antares had appeared at least twice in the van Rijn series, I considered it appropriate to google both for an image and for astronomical data.

Terrestrial Society

What is Terrestrial society like in the Solar Commonwealth? Surely they have school education for everyone until the age of maybe sixteen or eighteen? No, Eric Wace, Nicholas van Rijn's factor on Diomedes:

"...had begun as a warehouse apprentice at the age of twelve..."
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 346.

Have social conditions retrogressed that far? A technological economy needs literate, numerate, computer-literate and healthy workers and consumers. I would expect the Solar government to provide universal compulsory school education and the Polesotechnic League corporations to pay taxes for public schools rather than to fund and administer elementary training of their employees.

The forty three installments of Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization are our only window on this fictitious universe but we can make reasonable inferences from the texts. Van Rijn asks rhetorically and scornfully whether the urban masses are free. They can be if they understand and make decisions about their lives and careers, even though they are not all merchant princes; not everyone can be or wants to be that!

I would like to read a novel about ordinary life on Earth in the Solar Commonwealth period. For some reflections on the period, see here and here.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Man Who Counts, Chapter III

On Diomedes, human beings must be immunized against hay fever, asthma and hives and the local food would quickly poison them.

Wace thinks that the naked van Rijn resembles that extinct ape, a gorilla. In "Hiding Place," when van Rijn sees the organisms that come to be called "gorilloids," he comments:

"'We had one like them on Earth once.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 581.

Thus, Anderson remembers between stories that gorillas are extinct in this future history.

For once, van Rijn offers candles not to St Dismas but to "'St Nicholas...patron of wanderers...'" (p. 354). To make a comparison with paganism, Woden is the Wanderer. In "Margin of Profit," Captain Torres calls St Nicholas "'...patron of travelers...'" (p. 159). Not St Christopher?

In The Man Who Counts, van Rijn does complain to St Christopher when he sees that the Dionedeans propose to pull the rescued human beings through the water with a rope. Without knowing a word of any Diomedean language, van Rijn persuades a Diomedean not only to rescue the human rations but also to airlift him at least from the sinking vessel.

DD Harriman, the title character of Heinlein's The Man Who Sold the Moon, gets mankind to the Moon and out into the Solar System whereas van Rijn, the title character of Trader To The Stars and The Man Who Counts, operates on an interstellar scale.

The Man Who Counts, Chapter II

Eric Wace is the Solar Spice & Liquor Company factor on Diomedes, a post held by David Falkayn on Garstang's and by Emil Dalmady on Suleiman. Because Nicholas van Rijn promotes by results, Falkayn becomes a trade pioneer team leader and Dalmady becomes an entrepreneur so what will become of Wace, whose progess is less rapid? He expects an eventual executive post back on Earth.

We have here a variation on the cover of The Van Rijn Method, with a slightly different image of van Rijn. SSL is PLC 2987165 II. PLC could mean Public Limited Company but here means Polesotechnic League Company, I think. The three people on the sinking skycruiser (see previous post) are Wace, van Rijn and Lady Sandra Tamarin from Hermes, Falkayn's home planet. The plot thickens, somewhat.

These are details soon forgotten after reading a novel but my present purpose is to note as many interesting and interconnected details as possible while simultaneously reading the second Modesty Blaise novel. See here.

The Man Who Counts, Chapter I

The three beings who converse in Chapter I of Poul Anderson's The Man Who Counts are:

winged, therefore not human;


at war with another group called the Flock;

members of an aristocratic society such that an ennobled family may remain despised for its lowly origins;

discussing what the reader recognizes as a downed spaceship - a shimmering floating object longer than the longest canoe, carrying wingless, tailless but clothed animals;

able to deduce first that the mysterious object has not come from the Deeps because its occupants, although only four-limbed, resemble flightless animals, not fish or sea mammals, and secondly that it can only have fallen from the sky.

Chapter II begins on the floating "skycruiser" with the point of view of Eric Wace, whose name informs us that he is human. Thus, Poul Anderson sets the scene for a novel of human-alien interaction but what happens next remains to be seen because, at nearly 1.55 AM, after a day with a funeral followed by an sf group gathering, I am going to bed.

Two Unusual Planets Early In The Van Rijn Series

"Diomedes' poles are in the ecliptic plane. Each spends half the year in winter and night. Intelligent Diomedeans are winged migrators."
-copied from "Unusual Heavenly Bodies" (see here). 

For more information on Diomedes, see here and here

In the second installment of the Nicholas van Rijn series (see attached image), Old Nick is stranded on Diomedes. The third installment, "Hiding Place," briefly mentions yet another unusual planet:

"'They're under three Gs...Even so, their planet has oxygen and nitrogen rather than hydrogen, under a dozen Earth-atmosphere's pressure. The temperature is rather high, fifty degrees. I imagine their world, though of nearly Jovian mass, is so close to its sun that the hydrogen was boiled off, leaving a clear field for evolution similar to Earth's.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 596.

Large planets made habitable by cosmic accidents are among those listed in "Unusual Heavenly Bodies." Although they begin to sound familiar, each is a unique creation of Anderson's scientifically informed imagination. I may be posting more about events on Diomedes. 

(It has been a struggle to publish this post with the old, borrowed laptop. Normal service might slow down or cease for an indefinite period.)

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Alien Animals II

See here.

By a process of elimination and by some positive inferences, Nicholas van Rijn deduces that the helmet beasts insert their cilia into the gorilloids' sphincters and that the two organisms thus linked form a single intelligence. These beings hid in their own zoo by separating into their two symbiotes. One positive clue was cabins with bunks for both: niches for gorilloids and cubbyholes for helmets.

In true future history style, these beings are appropriately referred to centuries later when Dominic Flandry encounters tripartite symbiotes. Flandry does not at this point refer to Nicholas van Rijn but does reveal that the planet of the Togru-Kon-Tanakh, the bipartite beings, is called Vanrijn! - which we had not known before.

Today has been taken up with a Catholic funeral and its aftermath. One friend of the deceased attended wearing his Jewish skullcap. I will shortly return to the same Community Center to meet two other sf fans and expect some of the family from the funeral still to be present. The deceased had had 13 children, 35 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren.

A next project for this blog might be to reread and post about The Man Who Counts. I will also be reading for the first time the second Modesty Blaise novel, to be discussed on Comics Appreciation. Life continues to be a blast.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Stepping Stones And Patterns II

See here.

Readers of Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization will know what I am getting at here but it may be helpful to explain further to any reader of this blog who is less familiar with the Technic History. The post, "Stepping Stones And Patterns" (see the above link), lists many fictitious events. Most of these events occur in only a single work. That alone would have been more than enough to generate a long and impressive series. However, three of the listed items:

van Rijn as a Master Merchant;
...Falkayn and Adzel working in a team for van Rijn...;
...the Roidhunate as a threat to the Terran Empire in Flandry's time -

- each represents a significant series in its own right. Thus, the History comprises:

the van Rijn series;
the trader team series;
the Flandry series;
several other works that bind the History together, some set before van Rijn, between van Rijn and Flandry or after Flandry but others contemporary with one of these central figures.

Thus, the entire effect is indeed that of a many-sided history and not of a single linear sequence.

Alien Animals

Nicholas van Rijn and his crew, including one Ramanujan and one Altain, explore an alien zoo ship. They find:

a giant tendrilled shark;
tiny, flying, scaled, glittering reptiles;
tiger-striped, bear-sized, clawed, carnivorous mammals (tiger apes);
red, six-legged, otter-like creatures;
black, faceless, hydrogen-breathing quadrupeds with six ropy arms, two ending in boneless fingers, living under high pressure in triple gravity at seventy below (tentacle centaurs);
snakes living in the same conditions as the tentacle centaurs;
a green, scaled, elephant-sized quadruped with a trunk ending in psuedodactyls (the elephantoid);
large, oxygen-breathing bipeds with sphincters in their necks (gorilloids);
small, helmet-like quadrupeds with tentacles ending in cilia and human-like eyes (helmet beasts);
dark blue, silver-spotted, man-sized, oxygen-breathing caterpillars with two arms and hands, each with no thumbs but six opposable fingers, from a high gravity planet (catterpiggles).

This shows the difficulty of imagining alien animals without comparing them to Terrestrial animals. Superman had an extra-terrestrial zoo in his Fortress of Solitude. As described by Alan Moore, this contained "neonmoths" that shrieked with human voices and sentient puddles that evaporated when overexcited.

This comparison of a Nicholas van Rijn story with a Superman story is not frivolous. Although Superman initiated the new genre of "superheroes," he himself is an sf character who, while flying through space, can encounter interstellar traders like van Rijn or pirates like van Rijn's enemies in this story, the Adderkops.

(How can the Adderkops, having colonized a planet in unknown space a century ago, have increased the number of their warships since then?)

Items About Falkayn

Today was the return journey from Staffordshire to Lancaster so there has been little time or energy for blogging. Tomorrow, there will be a funeral in the morning and afternoon and a small sf group gathering in the evening.

In "The Three-Cornered Wheel," Falkayn alone realizes that a shape other than a circle can be used to move objects, although I still do not fully understand the explanation, but surely some of his colleagues would have realized the same or at least would have understood his interrupted explanation?

In "A Sun Invisible," he ingeniously deduces the location and explanation of a planetary system and also devises a new way to send a message in secret: jumping his ship in and out of hyperspace in League code. In "The Trouble Twisters," he realizes how to contact Muddlehead, his ship's computer, even though he and his colleagues have lost their radio transmitters. In this last case, we have a standard example of an Anderson hero faced with a problem suddenly realizing the solution:

"If we could have called the ship -'
"And then his mind rocked. He stumbled back and sat down on the bed.'"
-Poul Anderson, David Falkayn: Star Trader (New York, 2010), p. 191.

Recognizing the signs, we know what this means: he has suddenly realized how to call the ship. In "A Sun Invisible," the realization was gentler:

"He woke some hours later, and there was his solution. For a while he lay staring at the overhead, awed by his genius."
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2010), p. 307.

Usually our hero is fully awake when his genius operates!

A novel is a long prose fiction. My rule of thumb for novel length is 100+ pages. Thus, I would count "The Trouble Twisters," stretching from p. 77 to p. 208 of David Falkayn: Star Trader as a novel. However, it is undeniably shorter than Satan's World (pp. 329-598), which was originally published as a novel.

League training must include guidance in how to function effectively when facing a being whose body can have any size or shape. (For previous discussion of this issue, see here.) In "A Sun Invisible," Falkayn meets a slim, furry tyrannosaur with a large, iridescent dorsal fin and a tapir-snouted, bat-wing-eared humanoid with cilia on his head and tendrils above his eyes. Falkayn walks into an office and converses with these individuals as easily as if they had been human beings. Most of us would just run.

I am rereading the van Rij story, "Hiding Place," which is based on the idea of diverse body shapes, and will post about it shortly, although it will take some time to list the organisms involved.

More On Ikrananka

"Tidal action has forced one hemisphere of the small, eccentrically orbiting, librating planet Ikrananka to face its red dwarf sun but such slow rotation generates a weak magnetic field so that the planet retains an atmosphere although most of its water has frozen on the cold side making the warm side a slowly deteriorating desert whose inhabitants, struggling for survival in their season-less, rhythm-less environment, regard nature as hostile, believing in demons but not in gods, whereas dwellers on the edge of the Twilight Zone with rain, snow, day, night and constellations, more conventionally believe in an annually dying and rising god and a single devil whose power can be neutralized. The latter are easier to trade with."
-copied from "Unusual Heavenly Bodies" (see here). 

Fr Axor might see evidence for his Universal Incarnation here? 

"Rangakora [in the Twilight Zone] had a perfectly standard polytheistic religion, with gods that wanted sacrifice and flattery but were essentially benevolent. The only major figure of evil was he who had slain Zuriat the Bright, and Zuriat was reborn annually while the other gods kept the bad one at bay."
-Poul Anderson, David Falkayn: Star Trader (New York, 2010), p. 175.

Anderson effortlessly sketches an alien equivalent of familiar Terrestrial myths. The Ikranankans who lack this "...perfectly standard polytheistic religion..." are harder to deal with because their pessimistic belief makes them paranoid, suspicious of each other and certainly of any newcomers. Adzel insists that acceptance of missionaries be included in the trade deal:

"The Katandarans would surely leap at Buddhism, which was infinitely more comfortable than their own demonology. Together with what scientific knowledge trickled down to them, the religion would wean them from their hostility complex. Result: a stable culture with which Nicholas van Rijn could do business." (p. 205)

A result acceptable to Adzel and van Rijn for completely different, indeed opposite, reasons.

Other details: 

Anderson cleverly has the Ikranankans ride not galloping quadrupeds but leaping bipeds;
Falkayn, not yet knowing of the human community on Ikrananka, cannot believe his eyes when he sees a scene from an sf magazine cover - a young woman pursued on zandara-back by a band of lance- and saber-armed beaked natives.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Prince Rupert And Other Matters

Today we visited the City and Cathedral of Lichfield, where I learned something of interest to readers of Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest. On 7 April 1643, Prince Rupert, leading three thousand troops, attacked the Parliamentarians in the Cathedral Close. The Cavaliers mounted artillery to the north of the Close where one site is still called Prince Rupert's Mound. Rupert's force drove out the Parliamentarians.

I have made some additions to the Poul Anderson's Cosmic Environments blog and also to a recent post, "Stepping Stones And Patterns" (See here). I have finished rereading "The Trouble Twisters" and will shortly try to summarize its complicated political situation. Basically, what van Rijn needs on any planet is a stable civilization to trade with. When Falkayn, negotiating on Ikrananka, learns that human soldiers working for the local Emperor have on Imperial orders conquered a city but have then held the city and declared themselves independent, he, Falkayn, offers to use his superior fire power (without killing anyone) to end the human resistance.

Thus, he is not automatically loyal to members of his own species. But he offers them a fair deal as well. Too acclimatized to Ikrananka, after living there for generations, to return to the technological civilization of Earth, the "Ershokh" (human beings) can remain on Ikranka where they can continue to work as soldiers but now armed by the League to guard the proliferating trade routes. This sounds like another example of van Rijn's "My making a reasonable profit is beneficial to all concerned" philosophy. (I may have already summarized this situation sufficiently.)

If Falkayn, now a Master of the Polesotechnic League and leader of van Rijn's first trade pioneer team, had not secured a deal and had even had to be rescued by a relief expedition, then he would neither have earned a commission nor have continued to lead a team. He must continue to excel. But eventually he becomes van Rijn's confidante and grandson-in-law despite breaking his oath of fealty at a crucial historical turning point.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

What Is To Be Got From Ikrananka

At least two new intoxicants;
several antibiotics;
potential spices;
spectacular furs;
other goods to be identified;
a civilization to trade with.

Robots brought pictures and samples so the trader team investigates but, of course, must solve problems with the natives first.

On T'Kela, the carnivorous dominant species could not understand charity but could understand profit-making whereas, on Ivanhoe, the idealistic dominant species could not understand mere profit-making and had to be shown that human beings also valued something transcendent. Fortunately, some of the traders celebrate Christmas.

What is the problem on Ikrananka? I am about to reread "The Trouble Twisters" to remind myself.

Origins Of Van Rijn

Nicholas van Rijn was introduced as a character by the publication in Analog Science Fiction of "Margin of Profit"(1956), although that original, pre-revised, text was not consistent with the emergent History of Technic Civilization. Van Rijn became a series character with the publication of "The Man Who Counts" (ASF, 1958) and "Hiding Place" (ASF, 1961).

Those of us who first read the Technic History not in ASF but in books first encountered van Rijn in Trader To The Stars, which collects "Hiding Place," "Territory" (ASF, 1963) and "The Master Key" (ASF, 1971). For us on first reading, it was appropriate that "Territory" was prefaced by a long expository passage quoted from "Margin of Profit." That was van Rijn's first story which we had not yet read and thus it had an authoritative status.

As for van Rijn's fictional origins within the series, there is no information. Sandra Miesel's Chronology of Technic Civilization says:

2376  Nicholas van Rijn born poor on Earth.
-Sandra Miesel, "Chronology of Technic Civilization" IN Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), pp. 611-619 AT p. 612.

For an alternative view of the Chronology, see here.

Do the texts confirm that van Rijn was born poor? If not, it is a logical deduction. Van Rijn reminisces:

"He thought back to the days when he had ridden ships through yonder spaces, bargaining in strange cities or stranger wildernesses, or beneath unblue skies and in poisonous winds, for treasures Earth had not yet imagined. For a moment, wistfulness tugged at him. A long time now since he had been any further than the Moon..."
-Poul Anderson, "Margin of Profit" IN Anderson, The Van Rijn Method, pp. 135-173 AT p. 147.

Thus, a feel for his earlier days but no biographical data.

Stepping Stones And Patterns

20 Sept, 2014: This kind of Internet self-publishing (blogging) makes it possible to revise posts after they have been published. In the present post, I tried to show, first, how the events in Poul Anderson's fictitious history are interconnected and, secondly, how often certain key characters contribute to the course of events. I have thought of further connections and will now add more.

Tracing the major lines of development in Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization reveals a pattern.

We see -

(I) van Rijn as a Master Merchant,
Adzel, a Wodenite convert to Mahayana Buddhism, as a student,
Falkayn as an apprentice on Ivanhoe,
Falkayn as a journeyman for van Rijn and
later events on Ivanhoe -

- before we see Falkayn and Adzel working in a team for van Rijn and, later, a Wodenite convert to Jerusalem Catholicism;

(II) van Rijn's factor outwitting the Baburites on Suleiman,
Falkayn discovering Mirkheim and
Vixenites planning to build weather stations with their share of the wealth from Mirkheim -

- before we see the Babur War for Mirkheim and, later, Flandry in a Vixenite weather station;

(III) interplanetary exploration,
discovery of Ythri,
Ythrian-human exploration of Gray/Avalon,
van Rijn's belated arrival at Mirkheim in an Ythrian spaceship,
human and Ythrian colonization of Avalonian islands led by Falkayn,
later colonization of an Avalonian continent and
proclamation, then expansion, of the Terran Empire -

- before we see the Terran Imperial War on Avalon and, later, an Avalonian Ythrian spy for both Ythri and Terra exposing a Merseian plot on Aeneas;

(IV) Falkayn saving Merseia,
Merseian mercenaries working for Babur and
the Merseian Roidhunate expanding -

- before we see the Roidhunate as a threat to the Terran Empire in Flandry's time;

(V) Freehold, Atheia and Kraken as colony planets in the Terran Empire -

- before we a see a Krakener woman hunting her Atheian husband's killer with neo-Freeholder techniques in the post-Imperial period;

(VI) Flandry exiling Aenean rebels and 
the aftermath of the Aenean rebellion -

- before we see a New Vixenite man helping the rebels' descendants in a later interstellar civilization.

I leave it to the interested reader to count how many times particular individuals, races and planets contribute to the History.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Multiple Characters

Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization is a multi-character series:

in "How To Be Ethnic In One Easy Lesson," James Ching and Adzel are students on Earth;
in "Margin of Profit," Captain Torres works for Master Merchant Nicholas van Rijn;
in "The Three-Cornered Wheel," David Falkayn is an apprentice to Master Polesotechnician Martin Schuster on Ivanhoe;
in "A Sun Invisible," Falkayn is van Rijn's factor on Garstang's;
in "The Season of Forgiveness," Juan Hernandez is an apprentice to Master Trader Thomas Overbeck on Ivanhoe;
in "Esau," Emil Dalmady is van Rijn's factor on Suleiman;
in "Hiding Place," Captain Bahadur Torrance works for van Rijn;
in "The Trouble Twisters," van Rijn asks Falkayn to lead a team that will include Adzel...

At last these three characters appear in a single story! And the rest is history... But the earlier stories are also history. Anderson builds a substantial future history by showing diverse facets of the Polesotechnic League involving many characters apart from the few who come to dominate the series.

"Cultures Of Mixed Species"

Dominic Flandry says:

"'Cultures of mixed species look especially promising. Consider Avalon already.'"
-Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), p. 75.

Not only Avalon - human beings share:

Avalon with Ythrians;
Dennitza with Merseians;
Freehold with Arulians:
Imhotep with Starkadians;
Daedalus with Cynthians and Donarrians.

We see several strong intercultural influences. On Avalon, human beings join choths. On Dennitza, the Zmayi (Merseians) have a House in the Parliament. On Freehold, outbacker Mistresses of Skills apply Arulian techniques. Many more volumes could have been devoted to this single aspect of Technic Civilization.

Friday, 17 October 2014

The T'Kelan Solution

See here.

(i) Van Rijn shows the T'Kelans that they cannot trust each other and therefore need armed but benign Earthmen to keep the peace.

(ii) Solar Spice and Liquors will build nitrogen-fixing plants, produce ammonia and nitrates and exchange them for wine and furs.

(iii) T'Kelans will use ammonia and nitrates to enrich their soil and will cultivate nitrogen-fixing bacteria to increase crop yields to buy more ammonia and nitrates.

(iv) They will buy guns because they are hunters but will also buy other modern tools and machines that will gradually civilize them.

(v) Carnivorous T'Kelans do not understand charity but will understand profit-making and will even be happy to swindle SSL on the price of wine.

(vi) SSL will not disempower the established intelligentsia, the Ancients, first because they will employ young Ancients as agents and clerks and secondly because they will build oil wells and electrolyzer plants, then sell these on long-term mortgage to the Ancients.

(vii) The electrolyzer plants will sell hydrogen to the ammonia plants and the oil industry will sell electricity.

Van Rijn makes a market economy sound good for everybody. It is not always like that in practice as Anderson shows later in the Technic History.

"No Boundary In Space Or Time"

Poul and Karen Anderson's character, Gratillonius, the last King of Ys, loves the Roman epic, the Aeneid, but dislikes Greek poetry because he does not understand the latter.

I suggest that Homer and the poets are the Classical parallels of Moses and the prophets while the Aeneid parallels the New Testament. The Bible is Hebrew and Greek; the Classics are Greek and Latin.

 In the Aeneid, Jupiter promises:

"'To Romans I set no boundary in space or time. I have granted them dominion, and it has no end.'"
-Virgil, The Aeneid, trans. WF Jackson Knight, (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1982), p. 36.

Well, it is a national epic. Mussolini might have thought that he was regaining the endless dominion. Manuel Argos bases his Terran Empire on the Roman Empire. Combining Classics and scriptures, someone else might argue that the Roman Catholic Church fulfills both the promise to Abraham and Jupiter's prophecy of endless Roman dominion?


I am rereading Poul Anderson, "Territory" IN Anderson, Ed. Hank Davis, David Falkayn: Star Trader (New York, 2010), pp. 1-76. Before posting about this story, I searched the blog and found that I had previously posted about:

the planet, t'Kela;
t'Kelan society;
t'Kelan psychology.

With the passage of time, a story can be reread but almost as if for the first time. (This is particularly true of the Sherlock Holmes series.) I am amazed at how much environmental information Anderson was able to convey in one short story - and also how much I was able to summarize without fully understanding it.

I have nothing to add as yet. (Later: see.)

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Minor Anomalies

"The following story was also written by Judith Dalmady/Lundgren for the periodical Morgana."
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 317.

"Children of [Dalmady's] moved to Avalon with Falkayn. This story was written in her later years by one of them, Judith...It appeared in a periodical of the time called Morgana." (p. 517)

Alert readers will notice that the passage introducing Judith Dalmady and Morgana comes two hundred pages after the passage referring to a second story by Judith in Morgana. This is because the order of stories in The Van Rijn Method, compiled by Hank Davis, differs slightly from that in the earlier The Earth Book Of Stormgate.

However, I agree with the placing of "Esau," introduced on p. 517, later in the Technic History since its introduction describes the philosophy and practice of the Polesotechnic Leauge as "...already...becoming somewhat archaic, if not obsolete." (p. 517) Anomalously, the introduction to the immediately following story, "Hiding Place," celebrates the League's early days with:

"The world's great age begins anew..." (p. 555)

I suggest that the introduction to "Hiding Place," which had originally opened the Trader To The Stars collection, should, in the omnibus History, be placed before "How To Be Ethnic In One Easy Lesson," where it would then appropriately introduce the League period as a whole.

This period begins with three short stories featuring, respectively, Adzel, van Rijn and Falkayn and ends with a novel featuring all three. We see Falkayn and, later, Flandry from the beginning of their careers into their mature years whereas we first encounter van Rijn when his early days are far behind him. I will seek out what the texts disclose, although it is not very much, about those early days.

Emil Dalmady

Emil Dalmady:

"...had been born and raised on Altai."
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 524.

His parents sent him to:

"...managerial school offplanet..." (p. 526).

Solar Spice and Liquor employed him as their factor on Suleiman, where he outwitted the Baburites who later invaded Hermes and Mirkheim. Nicholas van Rijn, the owner of SSL, backed Dalmady as an entrepreneur. Some of Dalmady's children, including Judith Dalmady/Lundgren, accompanied David Falkayn (see also here) to Avalon (see also here).

Judith wrote accounts of:

her father's experience on Suleiman;
an incident on Ivanhoe (where Falkayn had been as an apprentice) of which Dalmady had heard when he was an entrepreneur;
an incident involving Falkayn's grandson on Avalon (see here).

These accounts were included in The Earth Book Of Stormgate. See also here.

Thus, the Dalmadys are an important family in the History of Technic Civilization.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


David Falkayn explains "Satan" to Chee Lan:

"'The enemy of the divine, the source of evil, in one of our terrestrial religions.'"
-Poul Anderson, David Falkayn: Star Trader (New York, 2010), p. 457.

The Cynthian replies:

"'But any reasonable being can see that the divine itself is - Oh, well, never mind.'" (ibid.)

Why does Chee break off and how would she have continued? Surely she could only have said, "...the divine itself is the source of evil"? And I agree. If the divine is the source of everything other than itself, then it is the source of evil. And, if it is not the source of evil, then it is not the source of everything other than itself. If Satan sinned through pride, then he could have been created without the pride or with enough good motivation and will power to resist any temptation towards pride.

We confidently predict that a good man will perform good actions without believing that his predictability precludes his "free will." Thus, an omnipotent and omniscient creator could have created a host of angelic free agents knowing that none of them would rebel.

Nicholas van Rijn

Adzel accuses Nicholas van Rijn of "'...dangerous pride...'" in unilaterally assuming responsibility for deciding how to respond to the Shenna threat.
-Poul Anderson, David Falkayn: Star Trader (New York, 2010), p. 519.

Van Rijn replies:

Adzel is too naive and trusting;
most other people are too stupid, hysterical, ideological, greedy (!) or cruel;
van Rijn can pray for the intercession of St Dismas;
he is in fact informing and conferring with other good people as far as possible, although discretely;
he does go on to discuss the matter further with the "naive" Adzel.

Adzel acknowledges that he himself does not want the responsibility. We might laugh at van Rijn saying that some others are too greedy but, in fact, he knows better than to enjoy luxuries while Rome burns, so to say. It is others who wreck the Polesotechnic League by doing that. Van Rijn's faith in saintly intercession seems superficial but turns out to be sincere. It is his last point that clinches the argument. He does in fact "'...make connections in this life too...'" (p. 520), as he puts it. And, as he also says, even if he did hand the decision-making to someone else, that itself would be a decision of his for which he would be responsible.

I am sure that most of us see the Shenna as nothing but a threat but van Rijn has the imagination to realize that they are an entire race and even to recognize potential customers among them! Mercantile, but better than militarist. Finally, his faith in St Dismas turns out to have a practical application when his small statue of the saint becomes a weapon in a fight against an individual Shenn. Poul Anderson draws out every possible implication of his fictional premises.

Monday, 13 October 2014


Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization is a series of forty three installments, yet seems too short. Each installment is packed with condensed information, yet the complete series points beyond itself. Two entire volumes after Aycharaych's home planet, Chereion, has been destroyed, the mere possibility that he might have survived is raised but never referred to again. As with real history, we can never know the whole story.

This long series, collected in seven dense volumes, is broken down into more manageable units. For example, the trader team sub-sub-series comprises only four works and might therefore be described as a tetralogy:

in "The Trouble Twisters"/"Trader Team," the team is formed and has its first mission;
in "Day of Burning," the team saves Merseia;
in Satan's World, the team does intelligence work, first in the Solar System, then at Beta Crucis and outside known space;
in "Lodestar," the team works in secret, its leader, Falkayn, even breaking his oath of fealty to Nicholas van Rijn.

Thus, we see the team on only one ordinary mission. "Lodestar" is a conclusion whereas Mirkheim (both titles referring to the same planet) is a sequel. The team, long disbanded, is reassembled just once more and for no ordinary mission but only as an emergency measure on the eve of war. Much has happened between installments. The team was rich enough to have retired at the end of Satan's World. After "Lodestar," Coya Conyon married Falkayn and joined the team before starting a family. There are no stories with Coya in the team, although there is one reminiscence of this period by Falkayn.

The David Falkayn series comprises:

"The Three-Cornered Wheel"
"A Sun Invisible"
the trader team series
the sequel to the trader team series

Thus, Falkayn appears in a total of seven works. The van Rijn series overlaps with the Falkayn series but also contains six other works. According to the Chronology of Technic Civilization, these thirteen works and six others are set during the period of the Polesotechnic League.

Skipping for the moment over an intermediate period, the History concludes with:

a Young Flandry trilogy;
an "Outposts" diptych;
a Captain Flandry tetralogy;
a Captain Flandry diptych;
a Molitor dynasty tetralogy;
a post-Imperial tetralogy.

As I say, manageable units but nevertheless encompassing an immense volume of space and three cycles of interstellar history.

What Survives

I want to trace how a handful of civilized planets, including Freehold, (seem to) survive through the post-Imperial dark age called "the Long Night" into the later periods of interstellar civilization. However, this has mostly been covered by earlier posts.

The Technic History connects:

Dakota on Earth;
Dakotia on Atheia during the Imperial period;
Atheia as a member of the Allied Planets.
(See here, here and here.)

Searching the blog reveals connections between Atheia, Kraken and a few other planets that are colonies in the Imperial period and mentioned again later. We do not know for certain that Freehold survives but its techniques certainly do. An Atheian is killed and eaten on Lokon. His Krakener wife seeks the killer. Because Atheian flesh is alien on Lokon, its consumer will excrete compounds with odors detectable by neo-Freeholder organisms that can be given "'...the appropriate search program...'" (Flandry's Legacy, p. 689).

This is perfect Heinleinian future historical fiction: data imparted in an earlier installment of the pyramidally-structured series provide background information taken for granted in a later installment.

Freehold Miscellanea

(i) "Warm outfits were kept for travelers at the foot of the pass, to be returned on the other side, with a small rental paid to the servant of the landholder."
-Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 41.

That is neat. Something, in this case warm clothing for travelers, is organized for the benefit of everyone. The service is not exorbitant, "...a small rental...," although the reference to a rental fee reminds us that the outbackers operate a money economy while the reference to a landholder's servant reminds us of the property differences that still exist in this part of Freeholder society despite the abundance of free food.

(ii) No one owns Moon Garnet Lake, which is "...the heart of the Upwoods..." (p. 50) and "'...too basic to the whole country. Anyone may use it.'" (p. 51) It is a natural site for head of household meetings and for an army rendezvous. Outbackers violently and successfully resist a City dwellers' attempt to found a town beside the lake.

(iii) Outbackers use horses, stathas (green and hexapodal although not described here), wagons, boats and rafts. The reference to naturalized horses and stathas provides a strong background link with the following "Outpost of Empire" work, The Day Of Their Return. Also, there is Merseian influence on both Freehold and Aeneas.

(iv) John Ridenour thinks: "If we ever fall, [the outbackers]'ll carry on something of what was ours. But I'd better not emphasize this [to a fellow Imperialist]." (p. 69)

Something of Freehold itself survives because a "'...neo-Freehold technique...'" is used nearly a millennium later during the Allied Planets period. See Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), p. 689.


An outback woman on Freehold may be a Mistress of a Skill:

"A special ability, inborn, cultivated, disciplined."
-Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 45.

Mistresses are not bred because outbacker women prefer to become pregnant by landholders. However, female biochemistry is more complex and psychic. A girl with an ability is trained, e.g., drugs might change her body secretions. A woman who either ingests certain trace chemicals or generates them with her glands can use appropriate stimuli to control organisms bred to respond, a practice learned from the Arulians.

(i) A Mistress of War can deliberately induce in herself instant hysteria with heightened perception and recollection.
(ii) Mistresses of Love are called "aphrodites."
(iii) Another kind of Mistress activates signal plants.
(iv) Mistress Jenith controls fire bees.
(v) Mistress Persa's buzzer-wave bugs jam radio.
(vi) Mistress Randa's insects drink and exude dew, thus generating a camouflage fog, but is her chanted spell necessary? (Mistresses keep secrets.)

Men lack Skills but can be trained to use certain animals:

(i) Messenger birds, having heard information or orders spoken in Anglic, repeat them in bird language, which military leaders and scouts can understand.
(ii) Weasel-like intelligencers report what they see: men talking to their wrists must have radiocoms etc.
(iii) The Grand Packmaster leads "...two great hellhounds..." (p.. 2)
(iv) "...monitors..." (p. 21), large and crocodilian, can be given orders and aimed but not redirected or recalled.

A Mistress of War overhears and apprehends an Imperial spy. A landing spaceship and its accompanying aircraft are disabled by strategic use of camouflage fog, buzzer-wave bugs, fire bees, monitors and aphrodites. The Avalonians had lured an Imperial task force to a beachhead where hostile organisms overwhelmed them but, on Freehold, the hostile organisms are controlled by the outbackers.

Sunday, 12 October 2014


On Freehold:

"...the forests bear ample food the year around."
-Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 30.

"'...we've got abundant free food and stuff. No special effort involved in satisfying the basic needs.'" (op. cit., p. 39)

Edible plants grow everywhere all year;
meat animals are bred to come when summoned in various ways;
the climate is mild;
outbackers move in search of food, sleeping in temporary shelters or bedrolls -

- although each territory has one house for shelter during heavy rainstorms with outbuildings for immobile equipment.

Imagine what a difference the abundance of free food would make to social organization! For mere physical survival, no organization would be necessary. However, human society transcends mere physical survival. Outbackers cooperate, for example, to build roads and to resist encroachments from the Nine Cities. Their own society is organized as follows:

"'A man claims a certain territory for his own, to support him and his family and retainers. He passes it on to one son. How he chooses the heir is his business. Anybody who kills the owner, or drives him off, takes over that parcel of land.'" (ibid.)

In this case, "A man..." does not mean any man: every man cannot have retainers! Somehow, at an earlier stage, landholders were differentiated from the landless. But the latter do not starve. And they can become itinerant laborers, entrepreneurs or scientists studying, e.g., animals and how to control them. Alternatively, they can be employed by landholders as servants, assistants, guards etc. Currency is iron and copper slugs.

The ancestors developed plants with leaves that become paper and juices that become ink. Many landholders keep wind- or water-powered printing presses. Books and magazines proliferate without electronic competition. No one collects books but copies are cheap. There are schools and arts: music, dance, scrimshaw, jewelry, weaving, painting, carving, drama, literature, cuisine and some that the Empire does not have.

Territorial battles have become less common but, by succeeding in such a conflict, a man proves himself fit to have children and women choose to become pregnant by a landholder because they want their children to have some claim on him.

A Short Break II

Hi. I am back, using a borrowed, second hand lap top. There is more to post about the colony on Freehold (in Poul Anderson's "Outpost of Empire"). Then, more about earlier sections of the Technic History. Then I still have to track down the NESFA Collections from Vol 2 up. After that, who knows? I keep thinking that I must have come to the end of Poul Anderson Appreciation but so far not.

On Tuesday, most of us here are going away for a week but we take our lap tops with us.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

A short break

Apologies on behalf of Paul: his laptop has finally given up the ghost. With any luck he'll be back Sunday evening.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Colonizing Freehold II

The floor of a valley on Freehold is:

"...covered...with a thick blanket of silvery-green trilobed 'grass' and sapphire blossoms."
-Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 27.

Anderson never fails to describe the local equivalent of grass on another planet. But there is another ground cover on Freehold:

"The path crossed a high hillside, smoothly graded and switchbacked, surface planted in a mossy growth so tough and dense that no weeds could force themselves in." (p. 38)

I do not find this clear. Is the growth planted on the path, the hill or both? In either case, this specially bred growth requires traces of manganese salt which are supplied by maintenance gangs who thus keep the "moss" within appointed bounds. The outbackers, calling themselves "the Free People," construct through the forest not a single broad highway but several small interconnected parallel roads which are:

easier to make;
enough for the traffic;
less ecologically or scenically harmful;
invisible from the air.

Other mutant plants are designed to mask human chemistry from technological surveillance. Outbackers do not conduct censuses but Karlsarm, war chief of the Upwoods, guesses a population of either forty or sixty million. (He guesses twenty million for his continent "'...and about the same for the others.'" (p. 39) There are two other continents but I do not know whether he means twenty million for each or for both together.)

I think that there are two other continents but I need to reread some more.

Colonizing Freehold

Mutated plants and animals able to survive on Freehold were introduced so that human beings would be able to live there without synthetics. It was necessary to import vitamin-generating organisms able to concentrate essential trace minerals, including the little iron in the soil. With such organisms in place, it became easier to colonize and exploit the wilderness. However, the new organisms, with no natural enemies, upset the ecology, destroying forests and generating deserts, like the one south of Startop. Consequently, early outbackers had to work hard to restore balance and fertility.

The outbackers were helped in this by the F-type sun's actinic and ionizing radiation penetrating the dense atmosphere. Because of such stellar radiation, the highly energetic biochemical compounds are more vigorous and evolve faster than their counterparts on Earth. The outbackers live in and with the Freehold environment instead of cultivating or domesticating it to support cities. This brings them into conflict with the Nine Cities whose citizens aim to re-civilize the "savages" and reclaim the land in order to practice traditional agriculture. However, the outbackers, who are not mere savages, possess not only scientific knowledge but also new "Skills" and techniques enabling them to destroy cities.

Here is a conflict completely independent of that between the Empire and the Merseians or the Arulians.

Monday, 6 October 2014


Poul Anderson describes many dynamic towns and cities in Technic Civilization, notably the two on Avalon. Here is another. War on Freehold has not damaged Norsdyke but has filled its airport and seaport with ships and its "...streets with young men from every corner of the Empire." -Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 11.

Norsdyke factories use raw materials from the other continents. On the heights are old castle-like buildings and, along the Catwick river, a modern town with blooming parks and brawling taverns where the locals spend the money brought by the Imperialists.

Admiral Fernando Cruz Manqual and Terran military headquarters are in Norsdyke, where Ridenour, the xenologist sent from Earth and billeted in a float-shelter on the bay, is able to interview an Arulian prisoner, although he must travel to another of the Nine Cities, Domkirk, to meet human outbacker prisoners.

More On Freehold

See Freehold, Freehold II, Aruli, Why Freeholders Leave The Cities and Arulians And Outbackers.

The opening paragraph of Poul Anderson's "Outpost of Empire," set on the humanly colonized planet of Freehold, states that the star Betelgeuse is nearby. That alone informs knowledgeable readers not only that this colony is on the edge of the Terran Empire but also that it is on the side that faces towards the enemy, the Roidhunate of Merseia.

I was puzzled by the passage that introduces John Ridenour:

"John Ridenour had arrived that day. But he had made planetfall a week earlier..."
-Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 4.

What is the difference between arriving and making planetfall? However, this introductory sentence means not that he had arrived on the planet but that he had arrived in Domkirk, having made planetfall in Sevenhouses, then gone to military headquarters in Nordyke before visiting Domkirk to interview prisoners there. It takes a while for the reader to unravel events because, immediately after telling us that he "...had arrived that day...," the text backtracks to Ridenour approaching Freehold in the merchant spaceship, Ottokar.

Anderson expounds to the reader by creating opportunities for the characters to expound to each other:

Ridenour expounds on the Freehold environment to the steward's mate;
Ridenour internally expounds to himself on the smallness of the Terran Empire when contrasted with the galaxy and the universe;
Lieutenant Sadik expounds on the current war to Ridenour;
Ridenour expounds on Freehold politics to an Arulian prisoner;
the mayor of Domkirk expounds on the outbackers to Ridenour, who thinks, "Good Lord...I have found a man who can out-lecture me." (p. 16)

(Thus, Anderson acknowledges to the readers that they have been lectured for a few pages - but it is all interesting subject-matter.)