Sunday, 29 March 2015


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

On Venus, pterosaurs (see image) - not pterodactyls - attack the Vepaja. How many sf writers present dinosaurs surviving into the present? For example, James Blish wrote The Night Shapes. Poul Anderson has characters encountering dinosaurs but that is because they have time traveled, in "Wildcat" and "The Nest."

Marc keeps noticing oddities about the Englishman but does not draw conclusions from them. The reader has been informed that the supposed Englishman is in fact a French spy. Was the author right to inform us of this or should he instead have left us to draw conclusions from the oddities? Or is he preparing us for some other surprise? I am unwise to speculate while still reading.

Words That I Either Have Not Encountered Before Or At Least Was Unsure Of Their Meanings
tumpline (p. 138)
abatis (p. 180)
Ainu (p. 185)

A Clever Invented Word
Venus grows sham bamboo, thus shamboo.

Literature In Alternative History
Marc has often reread At The Earth's Core and A Princess Of Mars (p. 180). So have some of us but the point here is that many more people would do so if it turned out that ERB's fictional Solar System was closer to the truth.

I noticed some perhaps unintended parallels between Anderson's Aeneas and ERB's Barsoom. See here.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I clicked on the link you gave to your comments about Aeneas, the planet created by Poul Anderson, which we see most of in THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN. I agree, Aeneas has a surprising number of parallels with Burroughs' Barsoom. I suspect you will find similarly surprising parallels with both Aeneas and Barsoom when you get, in due time, to Stirling's IN THE COURTS OF THE CRIMSON KINGS.

    "Tumpline" is an unfamiliar word to me, but I have seen "abatis" and "Ainu" before. "Abatis", of course, is a military term while "Ainu" refers to the aboriginal inhabitants of Japan before the Japanese islands were occupied thousands of years ago by the people who became our Japanese.


  2. Kaor, Paul!

    Your comments here reminded me of how S.M. Stirling was not the only writer of SF or fantasy to experiment with pterosaurs/pterodactyls, or creatures like them. J.R.R. Tolkien, quite intentionally, had similar animals in THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

    This is what I found in Book V, Chapter 6 of LOTR, from his description of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, outside Minas Tirith (as the Witch King of Angmar attacked King Theoden): "The great shadow descended like a falling cloud. And behold! it was a winged creature: if bird, then greater than all other birds, and it was naked, and neither quill nor feather did it bear, and its vast pinions were as webs of hide between horned fingers; and it stank. A creature of an older world maybe it was, whose kind, lingering in forgotten mountains cold beneath the Moon, outstayed their day, and in hideous eyrie bred this last untimely brood, apt to evil. And the Dark Lord took it, and nursed it with fell meats, until it grew beyond the measure of all other things that fly; and he gave it to his servant to be his steed."

    Next, this bit from a letter of Tolkien dated October 14, 1958 is appropriate (from page 282 of THE LETTERS OF J.R.R. TOLKIEN): "Pterodactyl. Yes and no, I did not intend the steed of the Witch-King to be what is now called a ' pterodactyl,' and often is drawn (with rather less shadowy evidence than lies behind many monsters of the new and fascinating semi-scientific mythology of the ' Prehistoric '). But obviously it is PTERODACTYLIC and owes much to the new mythology, and its description even provides a sort of way in which it could be a last survivor of older geological eras."

    Quite fascinating, really, how so many writers, often unintentionally and unknown to each other, tap into the same ideas and sources! Another example being how both Tolkien and Poul Anderson drew heavily on Scandinavian legends and sagas for their own works.


    1. Kaor, Paul!

      Dang! I made an error in my first paragraph, in the note quoting Tolkien. I wanted to say "...quite UNintentionally...," but forgot to type "un."