Wednesday, 25 March 2015

A Few Details On Venus

(The image is a radar topographical map of Venus with false colors but maybe kind of appropriate here?)

SM Stirling, The Sky People (New York, 2006).

(i) Venus has no moon so it has no tides, right? Wrong. There are "...low solar-only tides..." (p. 19).

(ii) One domesticated animal on Venus is the tharg (p. 23). Tharg is the name of the fictional alien Editor of the British comic, 2000 AD, but that has to be a coincidence.

(iii) Is it grammatically incorrect to split an infinitive?

Star Trek: "...to boldly go..."
Stirling: "...to not bother people..." (p. 22)

No. Grammarians trying to model English grammar on Latin grammar thought that an English infinitive should never be split because a Latin infinitive is never split. However, a Latin infinitive cannot be split because it is a single word: amare, to love. We can do what we want in English.

(iv) The multiple qualifications of people sent to Venus are demonstrated in "'Wing Commander Christopher Blair, RAF...Anthropology and linguistics, lighter-than-air pilot...'" (p. 22).

(v) When do timelines diverge? For people on Earth, the Sky People timeline diverged from ours in the 1960's when a probe landed on Venus. But Venus and Mars had diverged a long time ago.

(vi) If their Earth was the same as ours until the 1960's, then Wing Commander Blair might be related to one of our recent British Prime Ministers?

(vii) Christopher Blair has "...an excruciatingly Etonian voice..." (ibid.) just as Mainwethering in Poul Anderson's Time Patrol had an Oxford accent so cultivated as to be almost incomprehensible. Are these North American caricatures of British characters? Maybe, except that there really are British people like that.

7 comments:

  1. Hi, Paul!

    Darn! Why didn't I think of that, Wing Commander Blair being related to former Prime Minister Blair? Or, for that matter, to the novelist Eric Arthur Blair, better known as George Orwell! At least two of Orwell's books: ANIMAL FARM and 1984 are arguably SF.

    Sean

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      A couple more comments I forgot to make. I have heard of the oft maligned or satirized Oxford accent, but "...an excruciatingly Etonian voice..." is new to me. What characterizes both types of accent?

      Sean

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    2. Sean,
      You are right. Orwell is a better guess.
      Not sure if I can characterize those accents, let alone differentiate them! Just very upper crust English. I thought that the actor Robert Morley had attended Eton College but googling discloses that he went to Wellington. But I think that listening to a guy like that gives you some idea, though.
      Paul.

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    3. Hi, Paul!

      I agree, in SF terms, thinking of Wing Commander Blair being related to George Orwell makes more sense.

      Is one characteristic of very upper crust English being how it's very painfully, painstakingly correct and accurate?

      The US also has dialects and regional variations in how English is used or mangled, btw!

      Sean

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  2. Sean,
    Yes. As spoken by someone who is well educated enough to have a large vocabulary complete with Latin aphorisms. Also who is used to being listened to, not interrupted or talked over. Thus, able to expound slowly, thoughtfully and at length without slang or abbreviations, pronouncing each syllable clearly and correctly. (It should be a pleasure to listen to, I suppose.) Jeeves' dialogue falls into this category.
    Paul.

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      Yes, as you defined it, "upper crust English" SHOULD be a pleasure to listen to. Not something to be mocked or satirized.

      Sean

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    2. Hi, Paul!

      I suggest as well that Chives, Flandry's invaluable Shalmuan pilot/valet/chef, etc., was also very like Jeeves in his manner of speaking. Chives' use of the Emperor's Anglic was impeccably correct and cultured. Plus, in Section II of "The Game of Glory," we see this as Flandry was talking to the port official at Nyanza's space port: "Most of him was listening to the fellow's accent. The inexhaustible variations on Anglic were a hobby of his."

      Sean

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