Sunday, 30 November 2014

Attitudes To Homosexuality

The most noticeable social changes in my life-time so far have been the position of women in society and attitudes to homosexuality and smoking. Homosexuality is no longer illegal; smoking in public buildings is! Smokers have to go outside. When a guy looked as if he was about to light up in a pub, two of us were all set to tell him he was breaking the law but then he finished his conversation and moved outside.

In Poul Anderson's "The Game of Glory," published in 1958, when I was nine, Dominic Flandry, reflecting on the consequences for "...earnest, well-intentioned young patriots..." whose revolution has been defeated, thinks:

"...I suppose it all serves the larger good. It must. Our noble homosexual Emperor says so himself."
-Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 338,

- with the clear implication that homosexuality is reprehensible.

In Anderson's "Death And The Knight," published in 1995, when I was forty six, Manse Everard says of a homosexual relationship:

"'I'm not passing moral judgments. On the contrary...People's bedrooms are none of my business.'"
-Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), p. 756.

Two stages: disapproval; denial of disapproval. The third stage is the assumption, without needing to state it, that this is not a matter for either approval or disapproval.


I would not have believed it possible but Poul Anderson's character, Edwin Cairncross, led to a lengthy digression through several posts to Anderson's fictional planet, Nyanza. But what of Cairncross himself?

I will shortly reread some passages featuring Cairncross solo, then Cairncross in dialogue first with Dominic Flandry, then with Emperor Gerhart. I expect, therefore, to have more to post about Edwin Cairncross. Meanwhile, however, a certain amount has already been posted. See here.

Cairncross' ambitions are cosmic in scope and could have been pursued without contemplating illegality. He had ordered the building of an ornamental battlement:

"...because he wanted to feel his kinship to Shi Huang Ti, Charlemagne, Suleiman the Magnificent, Pyotr the Great, every man who had ever been dominant on Terra."
-Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), p. 26.

Bad news. Less thought of self-glorification would have made Cairncross a far greater ruler. The model of a selfless ruler in Poul and Karen Anderson's works is Gratillonius, the last King of Ys.

(Coincidence: while posting about the oceanic planet, Nyanza, I have meanwhile read about a submerged city inhabited by amphibians in China Mieville's The Scar.)

Audentes Fortuna Iuvat

Audentes fortuna iuvat = "Fortune favors the brave."

The image of falling snow is meant to illustrate the "...winter planet..." mentioned in the opening sentence of "The Game of Glory." See Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 303.

Flandry is indeed lucky in what becomes l'affaire Nyanza. The Merseian agent, A'u, has:

"...fled Conjumar in a poisoned wreck of a spaceship, which might have gone twenty light years before killing its pilot..." (ibid.)

In a sphere twenty light years across, Flandry's men predictably find no trace of a being who must be lying low. However, two Earth-years later, while Flandry is directing Intelligence operations during the suppression of Brae, also in the Spican province, he and his escort pass near a bushwacked squad of marines. The single marine hit by the sniper, Thomas Umbolu, dies in Flandry's arms, saying just enough to suggest that someone might be inciting disaffection on his home planet.

Tom says:

"'It's him in Uhunhu that knows...shall freedom come from slave-masters, asked he in Uhunhu. He and his 'ull teach what we must know...'" (p. 305)

Investigation reveals that Tom is from a colony planet named Nyanza a mere five parsecs away where there is indeed disaffection - the Imperial resident has just been assassinated - and that Uhunhu is "...a permanently submerged area..." (p. 322) in the turbulent Nyanzan ocean. A'u is amphibious. Two investigations converge.

Everything that Flandry does after hearing Tom's dying words is down to his own skills and meticulousness as an Intelligence agent. He is well placed to take advantage of the luck, from his point of view, that Tom was shot where and when he was and that he spoke before he died.

Pragmatic Politics

On Nyanza, Derek Ombolu is complicit in treason and murder. He was a party to the conspiracy involving the assassination of the Imperial resident and the attempted assassination of Dominic Flandry and he himself would have seized control in Jairnovaunt if its hereditary Commander had not supported the revolution.

Flandry does not yet know all this but does know that Derek is anti-Imperial and that his deceased brother had been well informed about a revolutionary conspiracy. Flandry and Derek's father fake the latter's assassination, thus turning Derek against the insurrection. Derek kills the assassin, joins the alliance against the insurrectionists and harpoons the Merseian agent, A'u, thus saving Flandry's life. Flandry could arrest Derek for treason but instead helps him to make a beneficial marriage alliance. All's well that ends well.

When Derek first meets Flandry, he says:

"'I've heard about Brae, and more.'"
-Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 321.

We would like to know about the "...and more." There are two differences between Brae and Nyanza. First, Braeans are non-human whereas Nyanzans are human colonials. This should not make any moral difference and it is to Derek's credit that he protests against the conquest of Brae. Secondly, however, Brae was indeed brutally conquered whereas Nyanza has:

"'...nay suffered much more than a resident and some taxes -'" (p. 317)

- and, as Flandry adds, taxation would have been higher when each Nyanzan nation had to organize its own defense. So how credible is it that some Nyanzans feel murderous hatred towards Imperials?

The Chronology And Nyanza

See here.

OK. I think that I have got this straight.

Edwin Cairncross' five-year hitch in the Terran Space Navy was from some time in 3035 to some time in 3040. In 3035, A'u, a large amphibious agent of Merseia, while stranded on Nyanza, incited one Nyanzan ruler, the Sheikh of Rossala, to arm and prepare for insurrection. Somehow, either A'u or Rossalans acting for him got a message to Merseia. The plan was:

other nations, knowing that Rossala is arming, arm themselves in case Rossala aims to attack them;
a Rossalan harpoonist assassinates the Imperial resident, thus ensuring that there will be no effective space traffic control until he is replaced;
Merseian ships will arrive with heavy weapons;
Rossala will call on other nations to support the insurrection;
any rulers who refuse will be assassinated and replaced.

Although A'u himself is a brilliant organizer, the Rossalans are inept conspirators so that, when Flandry, alerted by Tom Umbolu's dying words on Brae, arrives on Nyanza, he easily follows the trail of the conspiracy. Flandry unites the rest of Nyanza against Rossala, hunts down A'u and speaks of laying traps for the expected Merseian gunrunners. It is at that stage that the Naval forces in which Cairncross is serving will come to be involved.

Thus when, in A Stone In Heaven, Poul Anderson, summarizing Cairncross' career to date, mentions a five-year hitch involving both suppression of a Nyanzan revolt and the Syrax confrontation, this summary fits perfectly into the Chronology of Technic Civilization.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Details On Nyanza

(This is the 150th post this month so possibly the last until next month.)

I missed certain details on previous readings of "The Game of Glory" by Poul Anderson.

Marker lights were:

"...color-coded for depth so that all Jairnovaunt was one great jewelbox..."
-Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 326.

This is both neat and plausible: not only marker lights above tidally submerged buildings but also color-coding for depth and the visual impression that this would generate.

Air-locked buildings are alternately below or just above the ocean surface. At low tide, Nyanzans swim, guided by buoys, between buildings on rocks. At high tide, they swim down to, up from or between submerged buildings wearing aqualungs. Between cities and countries, they travel in sail boats and also have submarines. Thus, their entire lives are spent in, on, above or under water. We knew that but what does it imply about their deaths? When Dominic Flandry tells John Umbolu that his son, Tom, died in combat on another planet:

"'Drowning is the single decent death,' whispered the Nyanzan. 'My other children, all but Derek, had that much luck.'" (p. 325)

How many Nyanzans die by drowning? How many children has John Umbolu lost? A warrior culture would see death in combat as the best. Since drowning is the single greatest hazard to Nyanzans, they accept it and regard it as "...the single decent death..." We are not told whether they have their equivalent of Fiddler's Green or Aegir's Hall.

Personal Beginnings

I first read "The Game of Glory" by Poul Anderson in a British reprint edition of Venture SF some time before 1967. This was my first Dominic Flandry story and possibly my first Technic History story. In it, the Merseians ruled an Empire not yet called "the Roidhunate." I compared this work to James Blish's "Beep" - two space secret service stories. See also here.

I knew of Flandry and Nicholas van Rijn before I learned that they inhabited a single timeline. I was surprised to read in an sf mag loccol (science fiction magazine letter of comment column) that David Falkayn, who was with van Rijn in the Polesotechnic League series, had been responsible for the development of Merseia, which was in the Dominic Flandry series. Then I read Mirkheim, starring Falkayn and featuring a Merseian.

Now it is 2014. We are in an sf future where we discuss Anderson's works on a worldwide computer network. Space exploration is not happening to schedule but is happening on a small scale with plans for commercial space travel and for the development of the Moon and Mars. I would like to be alive in 2057, the date mentioned in "The Saturn Game," but would then be 108. The present world is in turmoil which means conflict and change. Change. In 2057, things will be very different both from the way they are now and from the way anyone has imagined them.

Negatively, I do not expect regular space travel any time soon. Positively, we can formulate hopes and preferences but not expectations.

Friday, 28 November 2014

"An Inferior Class"

Spare a thought for the plight of Lady Varvara Ayres Bannerji, widow of Hurri Chundra Bannerji, the recently assassinated Imperial resident on Nyanza. Immediately after her husband's violent death, she speaks disparagingly of "Lubbers," then explains:

"'City people. Technicians. Pinkskins. Whatever you want to call them. Like that fat little von Sonderburg.' She was shrill again. 'Do you know what it's like, Captain, to associate with no one but an inferior class? It rubs off on you. Your soul gets greasy.'"
-Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 312.

Good heavens! Those of us with less refined souls do not have such problems. Lady Varvara offers to come to Flandry, even right away, just because he is from Terra. Flandry inwardly promises the deceased Bannerji that he will try to avoid this but it is his duty to be tactful, "For the Empire and the Race!" (ibid.)

They are both saved by the arrival of another visitor who turns out to be a more interesting prospect for Flandry. But later in his career, on Diomedes, the wife of another, still living, resident turns out to be a valuable source of intelligence for the skilled and resourceful Flandry.


Manuel Argos based his Terran Empire on the Roman Empire which, according to Virgil's Aeneid, succeeded Troy. This is why, when listing "Historical Achievements" here, I started with Dardanus, the mythical founder, as I thought, of Troy. Reading further here, I find that Dardanus is said to have founded Dardania and his great-grandson, Ilus, to have founded Ilion, which is Troy. (Because Ilion is Troy, Homer's first epic, set during the siege of Troy, is called the Iliad.) However, the words "Trojans" and "Troad" had already originated from the name of Dardanus' grandson, Tros. In any case, Dardanus is a grand progenitor, especially since he is a son of Zeus.

My list of "Historical Achievements" is, of course, mostly mythical, legendary and fictitious although it crosses over with history in the person of Augustus.

I mention all this because Dominic Flandry also makes a connection with Troy:

"He had not been truthful in claiming indifference whether he lived or died: not while a supple young woman stood clad in sunlight, and blooded horses stamped on the ringing plains of Ilion, and smoke curled fragrant about coffee and cognac on Earth. But half the pleasure came from these things being staked against darkness."
-Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 318.

Maybe heroes of this kind of fiction are obliged to think like this? But here I differ from Flandry. I derive no pleasure from our civilization being staked against darkness. If civilization could be made secure, then there would still be many intellectual and other challenges to stretch our abilities. Risking death is not my idea of a good time although, of course, we enjoy reading about Bond and Flandry doing precisely that.

Flandry's Deductions About Nyanza

Dominic Flandry:

travels five parsecs from Brae to Nyanza in a high-speed flitter;

lands at a spaceport of grav-grid, field and buildings with forest to west and south, a small ancient city to the east and a cloudless sky above blue ocean to the north;

is flown to the resident's mansion in an aircar by the Portmaster;

from the air, sees steep narrow streets of native stone with many pedestrians but few vehicles and busy modern docks where -

- a majority of sailing ships implies a leisurely, aesthetic life-style;
but their hydrodynamic design implies appreciation of efficiency;
sea-water processors, factories and sea weed delivered to a plastics plant imply that most Nyanzans harvest the ocean and trade with this one island for industrial products and technology.

The widow of the murdered resident is an Ayres of Antarctica. Thus, that Terrestrial continent is occupied in the Imperial period. I seem to remember something about the urbanization of Antarctica in the Psychotechnic History? 


What would a novel look like that was set during the "Chaos" period of Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization? First, I think that it would have to be set during the early twenty first century, preferably as that period might have been anticipated from within Anderson's lifetime, 1926-2001, rather than as we now know it to be.

Secondly, it would have to address global issues and also show some movement towards their resolution. Resources from space would be one part of a solution. By 2057, there will be an Apollo University in Leyburg on the Moon. Before then:

one thousand people will have taken six months to travel to Mars in a solar sail ship, the J. Peter Vajk, will have launched minerals from Phobos to Earth and will have begun to explore Mars with auxiliary craft;

similar colony ships will have traveled as far as Jupiter;

the Vladimir will have been lost en route to Mercury;

the Chronos, launched by a Britannic-American consortium, will have taken eight years to reach the Saturnian system.

And, meanwhile, there would be many events on Earth. Thus, quite a lot has to happen in just fifty six years: a rich period. We are fortunate that Anderson did write "The Saturn Game," the single link between our history and the Technic History.

Interstellar Feudalism

Dominic Flandry reflects that the slowness of interstellar communication:

"...made a slow growth of feudalism, within the Imperial structure itself, inevitable. Of course, that would give civilization something to fall back on when the Long Night finally came."
-Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010).

These are the two themes of the Flandry series:

the Empire will fall;
there will be systems in place enabling at least some planetary systems to cope with the "Long Night."

In this story, Flandry hopes that Nyanza will "'carry on...[w]hen the Long Night comes for Terra...'" (p. 339) but we do not read about this planet in the Long Night, Allied Planets or Commonalty periods.

Poul and Karen Anderson's character, Gratillonius, starts to build feudalism after the Fall of the Roman Empire. See here. And, in another of Poul Anderson's imaginary worlds, Time Patrolmen must visit post-Roman Britain to prevent a divergent timeline.

These are three fictional universes with common themes: history and heroism.


On Earth, the World Ocean covers two thirds of the planetary surface.

On Poul Anderson's fictitious planet, Nyanza, a single ocean covers everything except one island and some tidal reefs.

Anderson's fictitious planet, Kraken, is also described as oceanic so it is appropriate that, late in the Flandry period of the Technic History, a Krakener man is married to a Nyanzan woman.

By coincidence, I have interrupted rereading Anderson's "The Game of Glory," set on Nyanza, to start reading China Mieville's The Scar, only to discover that this fantasy novel begins with a four page section describing a sea, the life in the sea and an event affecting one specimen of that life. This section has no speech, just sights, sounds and sensations of the sea.

I am getting the message that the sea is important. One of Anderson's Time Patrol stories hauntingly links the deaths of seafarers, spacefarers, timefarers...

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Another Note On Other Reading

I read one China Mieville fantasy novel a while back and have just been given two more. In Iron Council (see here), according to the blurb, "...a mysterious masked figure spurs strange rebellion..." This sounds familiar to fans of Alan Moore, whose "Codename V" now inspires British demonstrators. If I continue to post about Mieville's novels, it will be on one of the other blogs.

A pause in rereading Poul Anderson's works seems advisable although I will meanwhile continue to reread at least one short story, "The Game of Glory," in order to relate it chronologically to Edwin Cairncross' Naval career. See recent posts here and here.

I did not realize until it happened that rereading a passage about Flandry in Archopolis would lead to a reexamination of the Chronology of Technic Civilization with reference to events on Nyanza or that this in turn would recall how imaginatively rich a fictitious world Nyanza is. It remains possible to wander back and forth through the Technic History noticing new details and interconnections.

Background Material On The Technic History

I suggest here that a fictitious historical text book could be written about Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization. It seems that Poul Anderson did write it:

"I wrote out the entire historical scheme explicitly, with a time chart, star maps, and related aids."
-Poul Anderson, "Concerning Future Histories" IN SFWA Bulletin, Fall 1979, p. 10.

Would we like to read this scheme? Or should it be regarded as part of the background material and therefore not as part of the finished work?

Anderson wrote in the same article:

" seems obvious - and certainly there is a good bit of detail in my head, even though I'll never put it into print - that humanity in this imaginary universe did muddle through its present set of crises; that a more humane order of things did evolve; that English, eventually shifting enough to be called 'Anglic,' became the main international language, without suppressing the rest..." (p. 11)

(Later, David Falkayn in space is surprised to be addressed not in League Latin but in German.)

Anderson's thoughts on the Chaos cannot be published because they were only in his head. A work set in this period could be near future or even contemporary fiction without any explicit reference connecting it to the later Technic History. The only such reference in "The Saturn Game," set in the mid-twenty first century, is that one character was brought up in the Jerusalem Catholic Church. So that religious change or split had occurred that early. What happened to Rome during the Chaos? (In James Blish's Black Easter/The Day After Judgment, Rome was nuked and the Cardinals met in Venice to elect a new Pope but that is in a different timeline.)


By George! I have just reread four earlier posts summarizing information about Poul Anderson's fictional planet, Nyanza. Here they are again.

What a wealth of colorful details that we cannot possibly remember after reading a story, that we cannot even appreciate fully on reading a story once! And all of Anderson's massive output is like that.

I encourage every blog reader to:

read or reread "The Game of Glory," about Nyanza;
tick off the details that I have listed;
look for any that I have missed;
please inform me of any errors or inconsistencies on my part.

I hope that this blog does what it says, encourages appreciation of Poul Anderson's works.

The History Of Nyanza

I am checking on Nyanza. See here. Again staying with Sandra Miesel's dates for convenience, "The Game of Glory," set in 3035, tells us that:

"...Nyanza...had been colonized some 500 years back during the breakup of the Commonwealth. It had been made an Imperial client about a century ago, a few abortive revolts were crushed, now there was only a resident - which meant a trouble-free but unimportant and little visited world."
-Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 306.

This means that Nyanza was colonized in the same period as Avalon and, indeed, Sandra Miesel's Chronology of Technic Civilization shows us:

26th Century  "Wingless"
                          "Rescue on Avalon"
                          Colonization of Nyanza (p. 401)

One earlier main period of colonization was immediately after the discovery of hyperdrive in the twenty second century. That period is called "...the Breakup..." in the Chronology (p. 399) but is this term used in the texts?

Cairncross cannot have been involved in crushing any revolt over a century ago so it seems as if Nyanza revolted again soon after Flandry had been there? I will continue to check the text of "The Game of Glory."

Organic Automata

I think that this speculation is relevant to Poul Anderson Appreciation. He might even have written a story about it?

My question is: how much complicated social behavior could be entirely unconscious and merely automatic? Imagine a planet where evolution has taken a different course. There are large, complex, sensitive, mobile, social organisms in which reflective self-consciousness has never emerged. The highest level of consciousness is mere sensation and I am trying to envisage a minimum even of that.

Such organisms would:

cooperate and specialize;
gather, hunt, cultivate, herd and fight;
build complex structures for shelter and other practical purposes;
communicate non-conceptually, i.e., exchange complex signals but not meaningful symbols.

They would therefore lack language, religion, myth, philosophy, science, inquiry, experiment, art and literature. Andersonian explorers would arrive, identify a dominant species and attempt contact but, after a while, would realize that there was "no one home."

How possible is this? Could the native structures initially be mistaken for a civilization?

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

In Archopolis

Dominic Flandry has come a long way since we knew him as a nineteen year old Ensign on Starkad. At sixty one, he is a Vice Admiral and Knight of the Order of Manuel with a personal staff and three dwellings in different parts of Earth. These include a home base and office in Archopolis, where there is a gym with a swimming pool and a roof garden with a fountain and a bright-plumed Cynthian yaoti singing from an orange tree. It is fourteen years since Dennitza.

Flandry's guest, the Grand Duke of Hermes, stares curiously after the servant Chives, probably never having seen a green, tailed Shalmuan before. Again, I wonder what it would be like to live in a society where a person performing an ordinary job might be human or might not.

The Duke knows of Flandry's achievement on Chereion. As a rule, each installment of Flandry's biography refers to the previous one. Aline refers to "'Dominic Flandry, the single-handed conqueror of Schothania...'" (Captain Flandry, p. 280). "The Game of Glory" tells us that Flandry "...discovered how to lie to a telepath." (p. 303) Aycarayach congratulates Flandry on his "'...handling of l'affaire Nyanza.'" (Sir Dominic Flandry, p. 160)

Reconstructing periods of time as given in Anderson's texts and dates as given in Sandra Miesel's Chronology, we deduce that the Duke, Edwin Cairncross, was born in 3006. (We know that there are longer term questions about the Chronology but I am quoting Miesel's dates for convenience and to relate events during Flandry's lifetime to each other chronologically.) Cairncross' five-year hitch in the Imperial Navy included the Syrax confrontation of 3040 and, before that, the suppression of a "...Nyanzan revolt..." (Flandry's Legacy, p. 34), despite Flandry's successful prevention of subversion on Nyanza in 3035. Or does Cairncross' five-year hitch stretch from 3035 to 3040? I did not think that Naval forces had been deployed during the Nyanzan affair handled by Flandry but might have to reread "The Game of Glory."

Cairncross returned home, gained support, became Duke in 3051 and met Flandry in 3061.

More Earlier Information

See here.

For inter-galactic travel by:

Bussard ramjet, see here;
T-machine, see here;
many instantaneous space jumps, see here.

I made a link to the "In Space" post because it imparts information on space in the Cloud Universe. However, it also refers to asteroidal, interstellar and inter-galactic space so I considered it appropriate to add further links to posts covering these aspects of space.

On the issue of inter-galactic travel, as with the end of the universe (see here), AI (see here), future histories (see here) and time travel (see here), Poul Anderson once again seems systematically to address every possible aspect of the topic. Bussard ramjets and T-machines are theoretically possible now. Although, in World Without Stars, the characters visit only a single planetary system in inter-galactic space, instantaneous jumps combined with the antithanatic suggest the intriguing possibilities of visiting every galaxy and of traveling to the relativistic edge of the universe if it has one.

Similarly, in There Will Be Time, two concepts creatively combine: STL + time travel = FTL.

Exploring The Center Of The Cloud Universe

Jaccavrie identifies and approaches a star of a particular type;

Laure descends in his sled to the surface of an orbiting airless body while Jaccavrie hovers directly above;

Laure takes analytical readings and mineral samples and observes the larger bodies from a distance;

they repeat this procedure for different stellar types;

because of the radiation levels, he finds no life;

next, he plans to measure element distribution on the surface of a planet with an atmosphere even though the air will impede visual contact and the charged ionosphere will prevent radio contact;

spectra, spots, flares, prominences and coronas indicate surface turbulence on the stars in the Cloud Universe;

however, infalling matter continually changing their already unusual compositions makes their cores also violently variable;

a nova-like outburst from the sun "...might be akin to the Wolf-Rayet phenomenon..." (Flandry's Legacy, p. 781);

either the increased irradiation triggers a cyclone or the conductive dust transfers energy into a vortex or something else happens;

the sudden wind wrecks Laure's sled.

Historical Achievements

Dardanus migrated from Italy and founded Troy.

When Troy fell, Aeneas migrated to Italy where his descendent, Romulus, founded Rome and Augustus Caesar founded the Empire.

As the Roman Empire declined, Gaius Valerius Gratillonius built defensive systems that would become feudalism.

As the Solar Commonwealth and the Polesotechnic League declined, David Falkayn founded Avalon.

After the Commonwealth had fallen, Manuel Argos founded the Terran Empire.

As the Terran Empire declined, Dominic Flandry prolonged its existence and strengthened certain planets that would hopefully survive its Fall.

After the Terran Empire had fallen, Roan Tom formed an alliance of Kraken, Sassania and Nike.

While the Commonalty was still strong, Daven Laure opened up the Cloud Universe whose owners will command more wealth than many civilizations.

Thus, after three declines and subsequent periods of impoverishment, Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization ends with a period of expansion and enrichment.

Kirkasant And Commonalty

Kirkasanters give each individual duties to clan and country from birth but then protect individuality by discouraging slavishness and encouraging privacy. Masks are a motif in their art.

The interstellar civilization served by the Commonalty gives each individual very broad freedoms but then protects society by discouraging greed, selfishness and callousness - although Laure mentions quadrillionaires.

The vast expense of locating Kirkasant in the Cloud Universe can be met neither by taxation, because no tax mechanism can exist on such a scale, nor by donations, because the cause cannot be publicized to such a vast, diverse civilization with many more pressing needs of its own.

Fortunately, however, Laure has thought of a way to make economics work for the Kirkasanters. By discovering and exploring many planetary systems in the Cloud Universe, they establish ownership and therefore a share in the wealth when the vast mineral resources generated by the incessant stellar processes are mined. Miners swarming through the "starfog" will build so many beacons that it will become an easy matter to navigate and find Kirkasant.

Poul Anderson combines astrophysics, economics and human concerns.

Earlier Information

here for more on the Cloud Universe;
here for how to track a spaceship through space;
here and here for more on Daven Laure's spaceship, Jaccavrie;
here for life in asteroidal space.

What I am saying here is that I have said a lot already and some of it is relevant to what I am trying to say now! I have noticed some repetition because I have simply forgotten what was posted earlier. But it is all interesting stuff (I hope).

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Pathetic Fallacy In The Cloud Universe

The Cloud Universe globular cluster's eccentric orbit passes through dense clouds near the galactic center, gathering gas and dust which condense into heavy-metal-rich stars and planets.
-copied from here

Daven Laure and Graydal, having left Serieve, look into the Cloud Universe (see here and here) from an unusual planet (see here).

It will be difficult to find Graydal's home planet, Kirkasant, in the Cloud Universe but she says:

"' will find a way.' The mirth faded. It had never been strong. 'Won't you?' The reflection of clouded stars glistened on her faceplate like tears." (Flandry's Legacy, p. 756)

Laure cannot see Graydal's face behind the reflection in her face plate but that reflection, of the stars in the Cloud Universe, resembles tears.

On Kirkasant

The Kirkasanter crew are of the Hoborkan clan and speak its tongue. Reyad is the need to search, to hunt, to find the new or to be alone in wild places. The crew are fifteen men and five women. Women are included because they are better at some jobs but every woman is accompanied by an older male relative!

Kirkasanters are instinctively, not culturally, motivated to have children and will not limit their population in any circumstances. With an initially small population in a hostile, radioactive environment, the race survived only by reproducing as much as possible, helped by mutations. The Hoborkans initially refuse to give cell samples for chromosome analysis because this would violate the body which is the citadel of the ego. This attitude hinders medicine but encourages dignity and self-reliance.

Graydal tells Laure that, on Kirkasant, they will:

watch the sunset in the Rainbow Desert, followed by the bright night with auroras;
see flying flocks rise from dawn mists over salt marshes;
stand on the battlements of Ey beneath the banners of knights who "'...rid the land of firearms...'" (Flandry's Legacy, p. 748);
watch dances welcoming the new year.

I am not sure what is meant by ridding the land of firearms - Graydal carries a gun - and, of course, I do not remember noticing this phrase before I started to summarize information about Kirkasant. Graydal also wears a uniform, a practice that has become obsolete in the Commonalty civilization.

Serieve II

In the region of space where the planet Serieve has been colonized, stars are an average of four parsecs apart whereas Sol and Proxima Centauri are about 4.24 light years apart. Since one parsec is about 3.26 light years, this is a big difference. In the Serievan region, stars are just over 13 light years apart.

The thin interstellar medium has not been greatly enriched by earlier stellar generations. Local systems, including that of Serieve's sun, are poor in heavy metals. Hence, the extraction of minerals from ocean currents in the arctic waters around Pelogard.

Laure, who feels young and awkward, just as Falkayn had been conscious of still being only a journeyman, is annoyed when Vandage patronizingly lectures him about:

"'The interstellar medium from which stars form...'" (Flandry's Legacy, p. 720) -

- but, of course, what is really happening here is that the author is ensuring that his readers understand the cosmological context. It is not possible to tell Laure that.

Imagine living not in the northern hemisphere of Earth but near the northern verge of another spiral arm with only the galactic halo beyond; also working in an office high in a tower of Pelogard with automated extractor plants visible down at the waterfront; and knowing that, beyond the nearby Dragon's Head Nebula where human beings are barely beginning to explore, lies the unknown.


When human beings colonize a planet, they spread across its surface and therefore build low. When the planetary population has become considerably larger, then they:

build higher;
preserve wilderness areas;
discourage procreation;
encourage emigration.

At least, these generalizations apply to the civilization served by the Commonalty - although they seem to make sense for most interstellar colonists? (We were told earlier in Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization that the Gorzuni spread their dwellings underground, regarding the planet as a Mother.)

The narrator of Anderson's "Starfog" refers to "...our race..." and to "...our own culture..." and mentions something of what "We know..." about "...other branches of humanity..." (Flandry's Legacy, p. 718). Thus, this narrator is not able to give us an overview of the two or three spiral arms that have been humanly colonized. Maybe Donvar Ayeghen, President of the Galactic Archaeological Society, who commented on the much earlier Terran Empire, would have been able to do so.

Despite the usual practice of building low, the Serievan city, Pelograd, is on an island where minerals can be extracted from sea water and is therefore built high. From an office high in a tower, Laure looks down across metal, concrete, glass and plastic buildings linked by trafficways and freight cables to the automated extractor plants, warehouses, sky-docks and cargo craft at the waterfront.

Serieve is near the northern edge of the spiral arm and the galactic halo of thin dust and widely scattered ancient globular clusters. Do any explorers venture out into intergalactic space?

Daven Laure

See here and here.

Daven Laure, a Ranger of the Commonalty, has been asked to go to the planet Serieve to investigate the twenty mysterious red-skinned human beings called "Kirkasanters" who have arrived there in an archaic spaceship with hyperdrive and gravity control but also with nuclear fission instead of fusion and even human piloting.

The Serievan linguistic computer had interpreted the Kirkasanters' language and encoded vocabulary, grammar and worldview on cylinders sent by courier to Sector HQ. En route to Serieve, the language was re-encoded in Laure's neurones. He listens to the recorded voice of the Kirkasanter navigator, then asks the consciousness-level computer of his spaceship, Jaccavrie, to screen the Serievan translation for comparison.

Laure walks from his study cabin to the bridge which is still so called although the ship navigates, pilots, lifts, maintains, repairs and fights for herself. When he orders the simulacrum activated, he seems to float in space although he still feels the gravity field and the hardness of the deck, senses the ship's energies and hears the ventilators change their odor-temperature-ionization cycle. He sees stars, the galaxy, Serieve, its moon and the depths of space. He also looks back, as if for comfort, in the direction of Old Earth.

 I think that it is implausible that he would do this. Earth is no part of his civilization or of his everyday life. However, the gesture is an opportunity for the author to inform the reader that Earth is two spiral arms away and that no one on this frontier knows anything about it.

From The League To The Commonalty

(i) In "A Sun Invisible," David Falkayn is the factor on the planet Garstang's for the Solar Spice & Liquor Company and the Polesotechnic League. In "Starfog," Daven Laure is a Ranger of the Commonalty.

(ii) "A Sun Invisible" begins as Falkayn travels solo in a speedster through hyperspace to the planet Vanessa. "Starfog" begins as Laure, with the consciousness-level computer of his spaceship, Jaccavrie, travels through hyperspace to the planet Serieve.

(iii) Falkayn is forty light years from Beta Centauri, which is 350 light years from Earth, in the twenty fifth century whereas Laure is at the galactic fringe two spiral arms away in the seventy second century.

(iv) For information on his destination, Falkayn reads Terrestrial Pilot's Guide To The Beta Centauri Region on microreel. For information about what to expect at his destination, Laure asks Jaccavrie to display on screen a text molecularly recorded on a plugged-in memory cylinder.

(v) On Vanessa, Falkayn has a sometimes difficult conversation with the meter-tall factor Beljagor. On Serieve, Laure has a sometimes difficult conversation with the small physicist Vandange.

(vi) Beljagor would have preferred to be sent "' experienced man... '" rather than "'An unlicked cub!'" (The Van Rijn Method, p. 275). Vandange had hoped that "'...the Rangers would have sent a real team, instead of - '" (Flandry's Legacy, p. 721).

(vii) Beljagor denies that the blue giant, Beta Centauri, can have a planetary system. It does but those planets did not condense around that star. Vandange denies that the "Cloud Universe" as described by the Kirkasanters can exist. It does, although not as a separate universe.


In "The Saturn Game," Minamoto's report is dated 2057. Thus, this opening installment of Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization is definitely set in the mid-twenty first century. It is a safe bet that interstellar travel begins in the following century. In Sandra Miesel's Chronology of Technic Civilization, 2150 makes sense as a round number date for the second installment, "Wings of Victory."

In the forty third and concluding installment, "Starfog," Daven Laure refers to:

"'...five thousand years of interstellar travel...'"
-Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), p. 717.

Thus, it makes perfect sense that the Chronology gives the round number date of 7100 for this story. (I thought before that this was just an arbitrary date.)

A linguistic computer says that the speech of the Kirkasanters, who have been isolated for millennia:

"'...appears to have remote affinities with a few that we know, like ancient Anglic.'" (p. 715)

Thus, Anglic, still spoken even during the Long Night, in the fortieth installment, "A Tragedy of Errors," has become a dead language at last. Descended from English, it was for a long time the dominant language of Terra as Eriau was of Merseia and Planha was of Ythri. There was also a "League Latin" used by the Polesotechnic League.

The narrator of "Starfog" says:

"We know that other branches of humanity have their distinctive ways, and hear rumors of yet stranger ones." (p. 718)

and refers to "...our race..." (ibid.). Thus, this narrator is not omniscient but is part of the same civilization as the viewpoint character, Daven Laure. He or she, the narrator of "Starfog," is the last historical commentator of the series, which started with Minamoto, then Hloch.

"Starfog" expresses the richness of human life on the fringe of another spiral arm of the galaxy in a remote future. I will try to convey some of this feeling in the next post or two.


(i) Suleimites harvest bluejack, a spice and tonic for hydrogen-breathers. The Solar Spice & Liquors Company sells it to Babur.

(ii) The Baburites send armed, self-defending robots to harvest the bluejack.

(iii) The SSL factor, Emil Dalmady, gets the Suleimite Translator to approach the robots crudely disguised as a Baburite. Instructed by radio, the Translator reprograms the robots.

(iv) The robots are reprogrammed not to harvest for SSL but to stand idle so that the Suleimites can continue to harvest. They are also reprogrammed to attack, after a warning, any approaching machine and anyone attempting to enter the computer blockhouse. Thus, the Baburites are excluded even if they attempt some trick or disguise.

(v) Dalmady recommends not raising the price of bluejack to Baburites in case they decide to synthesize it.

(vi) Nicholas van Rijn has to interview Dalmady to confirm that he has found the best answer by intelligence, not by luck. Then he backs him as an independent entrepreneur.

Monday, 24 November 2014

The Escape And Birthright

I found this image on the Internet. Does anyone know what "The Escape" by Poul Anderson is about?

Next, I will reread all or parts of Anderson's "Birthright"/"Esau," the purpose being to answer certain questions:

What was the Solar Spice & Liquor Company's trade deal on Suleiman?
How did the Baburites threaten this deal?
How did the Altaian factor, Emil Dalmady, turn the tables on the Baburites?
Why did Nicholas van Rijn agree to interview Dalmady?
Why did Dalmady immobilize the Baburites' robots instead of reprogramming them to work for SSL?
Why did van Rijn agree that this was the best action that Dalmady could have taken?

I already know the answers to most of these questions but it will be helpful to list the answers in a blog post. However, it is too much to ask right now since I got up early this morning and it is getting late now. Since we are contemplating not the Terran Empire but the Polesotechnic League, the appropriate sign-off is not "Glory to the Emperor!" but "All the traffic will bear!"

Meeting An Alien

To reinforce my earlier point about the oddness of doing regular business with non-human intelligences, David Falkayn enters the office of Beljagor, the Polesotechnic League factor on the planet Vanessa, and, for the first time in his life, sees a being from Jaleel. Beljagor is "...somewhat anthropoid" (The Van Rijn Method, p. 274) but:

he is just above a meter in height;
his (visible) feet each have three thick toes;
his hands have three mutually opposed fingers;
his only garment is a kilt;
he has gray scales and a yellow abdomen;
his nose resembles a tapir's snout;
his ears resemble bat wings;
"carroty" (carrot-colored or carrot-like?) cilia grow from his head;
a chemosensor tendril of flesh grows from above each of his small, ultraviolet-detecting eyes.

Despite all this unfamiliar alienness, Falkayn thinks that Beljagor is not so bad when the factor offers him a beer and he responds, "'Thank you, sir.'" (ibid.) They then discuss immediate practical business as straightforwardly as if they were members of a single species. The only distinction that concerns Falkayn is the Beljagor is a Master whereas he himself is a mere journeyman.

Also in the office is a shape that Falkayn does recognize and finds "...not an unpleasing sight..." (p. 268), a Vanessan, Beljagor's liaison officer, a slim, brown-furred, tail-squatting tyrannosaur with a large shimmering dorsal fin (!) who, Falkayn can see, is neither male nor transmitter but female. Personally, I would take one look in that office and run like heck.

Noah Arkwright

Noah Arkwright is a commentator comparable to Le Matelot, although with more humor. Arkwright's points are:

there are so many planets that many are humanly habitable;
there are so many intelligences that many are humanly comprehensible -

- so we can bypass the rest.

Incidentally, none of the many races discovered so far is technologically superior. In fact, mankind was the first into interstellar space in its immediate spatial volume. Ythrians and Merseians get the hyperdrive from us. I have been told that technological superiority is a feature of Babylon 5: human and similar races avoid regions of the galaxy where incomprehensible technology is in regular use?

Arkwright discusses an issue that I still find fascinating: human beings getting used to doing regular business with intelligences whose bodies can be of any size or shape. Could you do it - tell your receptionist to send in a visitor whose physical description was completely unknown to you until he/she/yx appeared in your office doorway?

Arkwright quotes a prospector on Quetzalcoatal describing his partner:

"'...he looks like a cross between a cabbage and a derrick...'" (The Van Rijn Method, p. 265).

He also belches hydrogen sulfide, sleeps in mud and passes time not by playing poker but by discussing philosophy. (Well done. Far too many even of Poul Anderson's aliens have a head with two eyes above a nose above a mouth...)

Arkwright makes some further points:

most races have as many individual and cultural variations as humanity;
hence, there can be some overlap with humanity;
nevertheless, a non-human being can show us only his humanly comprehensible aspects;
therefore, he can seem two-dimensional;
Arkwright mentions some stereotypes - Warrior, Philosopher, Merchant etc;
but we can seem flat to him - humanity is a subject of bawdy jokes on many planets.

These observations:

make the Polesotechnic League period seem very real;
also emphasize that it is a period in which much is still being learned. 

Le Matelot

Le Matelot comments on the early days of the Polesotechnic League. His opening words:

"'The world's great age begins anew...'
"As it has before and will again."
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 555,

and his conclusion:

"We do not know where we are going. Nor do most of us care. For us it is enough that we are on our way." (p. 556)

- are inspiring.

"...sailing out among the stars..." makes him and his contemporaries "...akin to Europeans overrunning America or Greeks colonizing the Mediterranean littoral..." (p. 555)

They have a frontier along which they discover, pioneer, trade, proselytize and compose epics and sagas. Technic civilization, different from either Classical or Western, spreads itself thinly across unimaginable volumes of space, learns from non-human peoples and changes unpredictably. The Polesotechnic League, although analogous to European medieval mercantile guilds and descended from Terrestrial concepts, also mutates and miscegenates unpredictably.

And that thought leads Le Matelot to his magnificent conclusion.  

The Early Technic History

The Chaos
Humanity survives its current crises.
A more humane global order emerges.
English becomes Anglic and the main international language.
There is no dark age although there may be conversion tyrannies.
However, the main, historically unprecedented, factors are scientific method and knowledge and technology. (Note: Wellsian.)
Space technologies provide resources and energy.
Technic civilization succeeds Western civilization and its rivals.

The Breakup
With hyperdrive, human beings found extrasolar colonies to preserve cultural identities or to try social experiments, for example on Hermes. The Solar Commonwealth governs the Solar System although not the colonies.

The Grand Survey...
...discovers Ythri, Gray/Avalon, Merseia etc. Ythrians and Merseians acquire hyperdrive from Technic civilization. However, the Merseians are not revisited for centuries and then only because of Valenderay. Their resentment endures.

A Tragedy Of Errors: Conclusion

Roan Tom and his wives meet in an abandoned castle but then fly their stolen aircraft into a violent storm and have to crash land on a grounded barge where, however, their Nikean adventures end because Yasmin solves the mystery of Nike and its sun, thus enabling Tom to bargain by radio with the local feudal lord:

stars and their planetary systems condense from hydrogen and helium;

about 98% of any star is these two gasses;

large planets keep their original hydrogen, thus are "gas giants;"

Earth-sized planets cannot keep their hydrogen but generate an atmosphere by internal processes;

heavy elements sink to the center, thus generating a core, which causes planetological processes;

volcanic, tectonic and radioactive heat force gas out of mineral compounds;

however, Mars-sized planets have weaker gravity and therefore form cores more slowly;

much of their iron instead combines in surface rocks;

smaller planets form a core and generate a substantial atmosphere only when they are old;

Nike, very small but with a breathable atmosphere and native life, must be extremely old and so must its sun;

this explains the sun's erratic behavior;

because the sun is not young, as was thought, but very old, the hydrogen at its core is almost exhausted, nuclear reactions are moving outward and "'...the photosphere is expanding and cooling while the total energy output rises...'" (Flandry's Legacy, p. 534);

thus, the sun is becoming a red giant and is currently in a variable, transitional stage;

knowing this, meteorological experts imported by Tom will be able to predict solar activity and to forecast the violent Nikean weather, thus enabling the Nikeans to save lives and to make big economic savings.

There is one more linguistic misunderstanding. Yasmin, who is to be left as a hostage while Tom and Dagny depart and return, tells Tom that she will "'...make arrangements with quite a number of men.'" (p. 539) Tom is not sexually possessive but cannot afford to be disrespected. However, Yasmin means that she will persuade several Nikean lords that they want to restore her Sassanian Shah to his throne with Krakener weapons, training and transport, provided by Tom.

Tom, already powerful on Kraken, will now have a sound alliance for trade and defense with Sassania and Nike. Thus, he is in the forefront of building the Allied Planets which will re-civilize other planets and start to end the post-Imperial Long Night.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

A Tragedy Of Errors

(Roan Tom shook pursuit in a Nebula so it is appropriate to show this image again.)

I am rereading "A Tragedy of Errors" not for the first time but find that I have completely forgotten most of it. Quite often, it is like reading the story for the first time. Roan Tom ingeniously sky-writes a message in Momotaroan phonograms that Dagny will be able to read, then awaits rendezvous ("togethering") in abandoned castle ("cave") where he remembers:

"...the still more ancient, vanished glory of the Empire, or the League before it..."
-Flandry's Legacy, p. 522.

The Technic History is a future history. Of its three parts, (what I call) the Extended Earth Book of Stormgate is in itself a complete future history, as is the third and last section, the Post-Imperial Age. The second and longest section, the Flandry Period, is set within the lifetime of a single person. Therefore, it does not of itself constitute a future history although it does cover historical events and turning points and also builds the Technic History by reflecting on the causes of the decline of the Polesotechnic League.

I doubt that I will be able to reread another installment of the Technic History as if for the first time but it always seems to be possible to find extra details to discuss.

Anderson's works refer to Sherlock Holmes. That is certainly a series in which it is possible to reread individual stories without any memory of a previous reading.

Words And Meanings II

See here.

Nike has both insolation and isolation!

"...on Nike, to be 'enslaved' was nothing more than to be taken into custody: perhaps as a prisoner, perhaps for interrogation or protection. In Hanno, as in every advanced Nikean realm, slavery in Tom's sense of the word had been abolished a lifetime ago.
"The two men stared at each other."
-Flandry's Legacy, p. 516.

The men stared because they had had time to talk and to realize the extent of their misunderstanding. When Roan Tom said that he was a friend come to do business, that was unacceptable and, when he was then told to slave himself, that was equally unacceptable. Therefore, combat ensued. Tom and Aran have time to talk because Tom has had the good sense to take a prisoner ("slave") and try to straighten things out.

I am still rereading "A Tragedy of Errors" and have not yet found the explanation, if it is given, of Aran's title, "fish." Is this an abbreviation of "official"?

This happens in a film starring Peter Ustinov. He asks someone, "Are you here officially?" - and is handed a fish. I have seen some very strange linguistic developments. Someone wrote that Alan Moore's novel, Voice Of The Fire, shows mankind developing from Logos to logos. A while ago, the British government legislated that trade union membership would automatically lapse after five years if the member did not re-sign. Thus, not to re-sign was effectively to resign. Union officials and stewards, who at that time included myself, responded with a recruitment drive. We approached everyone at work: "Are you in the union? if not, sign. If yes, re-sign." Membership increased. I have not heard of that legislation since. I think that it either lapsed or was repealed although I would have to check with the brothers and sisters to be sure.

Gods And Stars

James Blish's starfaring Okies swear by the gods of all stars as if an interstellar frontier has revived polytheism.

In Poul and Karen Anderson's King of Ys Tetralogy, Niall of the Nine Hostages, after an ill-advised attack on the city of Ys, promises unblemished animal sacrifices to the gods in return for a safe voyage home.

In Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization:

Nicholas van Rijn continually offers candles and altar cloths to St Dismas;

Dagny, Od's Daughter in the House of Brenning on the ocean planet of Kraken, vows to "'...the gods a hundred Blue Giant seabeasts...'" (Flandry's Legacy, p. 489), if she can rescue her husband unhurt.

Dagny has received, not as a scientific education but as an oral tradition, an understanding of how stars and planets condense from the interstellar medium and even of why younger planetary systems contain more metal than older systems. Nevertheless, she remains part of a society whose lowest strata have lost technological control of their environment and have resumed the ancient practice of offering beasts to the gods.

Dagny's Krakener dowry to Roan Tom was their home, Skerrygarth, towers above surfs and reefs - like a smaller Ys.

Deductions II

Time frames matter. In "A Tragedy of Errors" by Poul Anderson, when Roan Tom, Dagny and Yasmin in  Firedrake approach a new planetary system, they detect radio emissions from that system of human voices speaking Anglic, the old Imperial language that Tom speaks and that Yasmin has learned as a classical language. (Angles, Anglians, Anglicans and English retain that much influence after more than a thousand years of interstellar exploration and colonization.) However, the transmissions cease when Firedrake is still a few light years from the system.

Because Firedrake is FTL (faster than light), Tom and his two wives soon enter the system and identify the only possible planetary source of the transmissions. However, because radio waves are a light speed phenomenon, the event that caused the cessation of the transmissions is by now several years in the past. Tom detects nuked cities but there has been some time for a recovery.

(Another, to me, unfamiliar word: "mukluks" -Flandry's Legacy, p. 462.) 

Dagny makes some more deductions:

Nike had fallen far even before its cities were nuked from space. This is known because:

the "Engineer of Hanno," whose air force attacked Firedrake, is clearly a local feudal lord;
his air force is a few small craft with gravmotors but also wings!;
there are sailboats, no real cities and very little radio.

From this backwardness, it can in turn be deduced that:

there is a small half-educated class with a few technicians but the masses have been poor and ignorant for generations;
the planet is divided into very small lordships and realms;
thus, if the Engineer is the outworlders' enemy, then they must also have potential friends nearby;
if the Engineer has captured Tom and Firedrake, i.e., a spaceship, then other lords are likely to unite against him;
that makes the escaped Dagny and Yasmin valuable potential advisors of an anti-Engineer coalition that might rescue Tom and recover Firedrake.

As when Nicholas van Rijn was stranded on Diomedes, it might be necessary to overturn a political system in order to escape from a planet.

Narratives And Perspectives II

See here.

"A Tragedy of Errors" has an elaborate four-stage beginning.

(i) The italicized passage about the King of England and Christopher Wren in ancient times.

(ii) The omniscient or later narrator discussing the myth of Roan Tom.

(iii) Tom himself addressing us from a hypothetical Valhalla well supplied with Earth-grown tobacco. He begins a first person narration which, however, is soon discontinued.

(iv) A third person in media res beginning:

"The image in the viewscreens flickered so badly that Tom donned armor and went out for a direct look at the system he had entered."
-Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), p. 459.

(i) -(iii) make this story a good opener for a Post-Imperial Age volume. The mysterious narrator is this Age's equivalent of Hloch. The History of Technic Civilization has three parts:

the Extended Earth Book of Stormgate;
the Flandry period;
the post-Imperial Age.

All three sections are good fictitious history.

Words And Meanings

Because the plot of Poul Anderson's "A Tragedy of Errors" will turn on words changing their meanings, the point is made throughout the story.


"awful" meant "awesome;"
"pompous" meant "stately;"
"artificial" meant "ingeniously conceived."

Future historically:

for some, "rogue planet" has come to mean not a sunless planet but one with an unusual composition or orbit;
they instead call sunless planets "bandit planets;"
when a scientific culture is lost, any surviving scientific knowledge is reclassified as a classical art and "Engineer" becomes the title of a feudal lord;
one group refers to "nukes," another to "tommics;"
a Nikean deduces from context that "to spot" means "to espy;"
a "cave" turns out to be a castle;
because of a tragic use of irony on a single past occasion, "friends come to do business" is now understood to mean "enemies about to attack" - the acceptable phrase has become instead "camarados come to 'change."


Even spare travelers untrained in either astrophysics or planetology have enough general knowledge to make deductions about new planetary systems and environments.

Because the planet Nike's sun flares a lot, Roan Tom's senior wife, Dagny, deduces that:

anomalous chemical composition has so far prevented this sun from stabilizing at its proper position on the main sequence;

this implies that the sun, and therefore also its planetary system, is young;

primitive life forms also imply a low age;

such a young planetary system will have condensed from an interstellar medium metallically enriched by the novae of an earlier stellar generation;

therefore, local fruit and water may contain lethal quantities of, e.g., arsenic, selenium or radioactive elements.

Thus, Dagny deduces poisonous local food from solar flares. However, she remains puzzled as to how such a small planet has retained a terrestroid atmosphere. Maybe the system is so young that there has not been enough time for the atmosphere to be lost? But she knows that her knowledge of cosmology and cosmogony is derived from an oral traditional that has become a modern myth and that she has not been trained to apply scientific method so she does not speculate further.

Then, at the same time, other factors have to be considered:

Dagny and Yasmin must take risks to survive;
there is a human population on Nike;
such a population may have adapted to a metal-rich diet;
however, Terrestrial plants and animals have become dominant after a mere thousand years;
therefore, the adaptation cannot have been large;
it follows that Nike should be biochemically safe at least in the short term.

Dagny and Yasmin eat the apples and drink the water.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Nikean Insolation

Insolation (from Latin insolare, to expose to the sun)[1][2] is the total amount of solar radiation energy received on a given surface area during a given time. It is also called solar irradiation
- copied from Wikipedia.

" the upper air, he encountered severe turbulence. That was unexpected, on a planet that received less than 0.9 Terran...insolation..."
-Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), p. 469.

Poul Anderson's dictionary-necessitating vocabulary strikes again. I had guessed the meaning of "insolation" (not insulation) from the form of the word and also from the context, then Wikipedia confirmed it (see above). The three dots before "insolation" must indicate Roan Tom's hesitancy about applying a word derived from "Sol" to radiation from another star.

Like the recently spotted "acher," this is a word that I do not remember noticing on any previous reading. However, this time, I am rereading very carefully in order to find any possible detail to post about. I think that it has already been demonstrated that, the more deeply we look into Anderson's texts, the more there is to be found in them.

Roan Tom

"Later ages wove a myth about Roan Tom. He became their archetype of those star rovers who fared forth while the Long Night prevailed."
-Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), p. 457.

These two opening sentences of "A Tragedy of Errors" inform us that the Fall of the Terran Empire and the subsequent "Long Night," delayed by Dominic Flandry, have occurred at last. They also apply the evocative phrase, "star rover," to this new character, Roan Tom. (Anderson's Time Patrol series gives us a "time rover.")

Tom's Lochlanna father, outlawed after a family feud, became a space pirate. Tom, born on a spaceship to a freedwoman said to be of Hermetian descent, grew up fighting, was captured while in a landing party and sold into slavery. He somehow regained his freedom, acquired a spaceship and a following and went to Kraken which:

like Nyanza, is mostly ocean;
has 1.25 standard gravity;
has a half barbaric region where the Eylan-speaking inhabitants are intricately tattooed and women learn combat skills.

An impoverished Krakener noble family, the House of Brenning, made alliance with Tom by giving him Dagny, Od's daughter, in marriage. Tom accepted Krakener body tattoos but, having gained some power on the planet, tried to restart trade, regarding fighting only as a means to an end.

Although no non-human intelligences appear in any of the post-Imperial stories, they are mentioned twice. Tom makes alliance with the Shah of Sassania and is on that planet when the Pretender's non-human mercenaries overthrow the Shah. Tom and Dagny escape in the Firedrake with Yasmin, the deputy governor's daughter. Yasmin speaks Pelevah and has studied the classics, like Anglic, astrophysics and planetography, at Anushirvan University and in the Royal Library.

Narratives And Perspectives

There are two ways to begin a narrative.

(i) The text can plunge in media res, into the midst of things, with the viewpoint character's perception of a particular scene or even with a burst of action: two of Poul Anderson's heroes are introduced to the reader as they dive into water to escape from an immediate physical threat.

(ii) The narrator can contemplate the events to be described and place them in some historical, or at least wider, context before introducing the - or at least a - viewpoint character.

Anderson's History of Technic Civilization concludes with four works set in the post-Imperial period. Working our way back from the end of the concluding volume of Baen Books' The Technic Civilization Saga, we find the following three beginnings:

"'From another universe. Where space is a shining cloud...'"
-Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), p. 711.

(The viewpoint character is listening to a recording.)

""Moru understood about guns." (p. 663)

(Moru seems to be our viewpoint character, although he is soon succeeded in this by Evalyth.)

"The Quetzal did not leave orbit and swing toward the planet until she had got an all-clear from the boat which had gone ahead to make arrangements." (p. 545)

(Thus, immediate action, with a viewpoint character introduced and named two sentences later.)

These are three in media res beginnings. By contrast, the first post-Imperial work, "A Tragedy of Errors," begins with a short italicized paragraph separated from the text of the story by three blank lines. The italicized passage begins:

"Once in ancient times, the then King of England told Sir Christopher Wren, whose name is yet remembered..." (p. 457)

Thus, this text begins with a historical reference. Further, reading the story immediately after the previous installment of the Technic History, we know that the word "...yet..." refers to some period in our future, either in Dominic Flandry's time or, as we soon realize, later.

The story itself begins:

"Later ages wove a myth about Roan Tom." (ibid.)

Thus, Tom will be the central character. However, the narrator is either omniscient, entirely detached from the narrative, or is an inhabitant of a much later age, able to look back at the intermediate ages in which there were myths about Roan Tom.

So far, in the Technic History:

Hloch of the Stormgate Choth on Avalon has presented an Ythrian perspective on human history from the Grand Survey to the early Terran Empire;

other commentators, Le Matelot, Vance Hall, Noah Arkwright and Urwain the Wide-Faring, have presented their perspectives on the period of the Polesotechnic League;

Donvar Ayeghen, President of the Galactic Archaeological Society, has commented on the founding of the Terran Empire;

an unidentified narrator has addressed readers of the History thus:

"Consider Helen Kittredge. We pick her name at random out of personnel data. These say little more about her than that..." (p. 276)

Thus, this narrator, living at some period of the History and having access to Naval data, admits to his ignorance (lack of omniscience) and goes on to speculate about the course of the Magnusson Rebellion as experienced by the randomly chosen Helen Kittredge.

Now another, or possibly the same, narrator comments on the myth about Roan Tom.


See here.

"Ultimate reality" means whatever exists at the most basic level. Thus, particles are more basic than macroscopic objects but are composed of energy which therefore is yet more basic.

One view was that discrete atoms and/or souls, which could have existed independently, happen to coexist and to interact. Thus, atoms combine as material bodies in some of which souls are incarnated. Alternatively, several "elements" accidentally coexist and interact. A subtler understanding was that opposites are not only interactive but also interdependent.

A modern understanding is (something like) that a single field of energy variously and transiently manifests itself as particles, larger structures and consciousness. Thus, an individual subject of consciousness is not an independent, immaterial, immortal soul but a transient, material organism generating consciousness by sensitively interacting with its environment. Buddhists got this idea but retained "rebirth" as a hangover from the strong Indian traditional belief in reincarnating souls.

Thus, as Poul Anderson wrote in the SFWA Bulletin, concepts of ultimately reality change, although maybe not constantly.

Friday, 21 November 2014


"In an age when everything else is constantly changing, including our concept of human nature and of ultimate reality, what's the sense in clinging to the old? (Here I refer simply to old literary devices. Basic principles are different. They are eternal. What we need is ever new ways of expressing them.)"
-Poul Anderson, "Concerning Future Histories" IN SFWA Bulletin, Fall 1979, pp. 7-14 AT p. 14)

I agree that everything is changing and also that some principles are eternal even though, prima facie, that is a contradiction and requires further elucidation. Basic concepts do not change with the daily news but they have certainly changed. The phrase, "human nature," is used in two senses:

(i) the nature of humanity (obviously);
(ii) a particular idea about the nature of humanity, i.e., that human beings are fundamentally and unchangeably selfish.

My replies to (ii) are:

nothing is unchanging;
"human nature" has already undergone the greatest possible change, from non-existence to existence;
human beings have differentiated themselves as a species precisely by cooperatively changing their environment with hands and brain and changing themselves in the process.

Thus, our nature is cooperative change, not unchangeable selfishness. It is a historically recent discovery that we have evolved and are related to all other Terrestrial life which, in turn, is physically connected in more than one way with the rest of the cosmos. Many mental processes are unconscious and many motivations are concealed. These are major changes in our concept of human nature but let us consider ultimate reality tomorrow.