Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Chronology Of The Future

The contents page of Poul Anderson's Starship (New York, 1982) tells us that a "Chronology of the Future" begins on page 283 but, when we turn to that page, we find instead "A CHRONOLOGY OF THE PSYCHOTECHNIC SERIES."

There are two ways to construct such a fictitious chronology. In his Author's Note at the end of The Psychotechnic League, Anderson wrote:

"...I drew up a chart in the manner of Heinlein and, from time to time, completed a piece whose title was on it." (p. 284)

On this model, the chart listing fictional dates and titles preexisted the pieces corresponding to the titles. The opposite approach is to compile the chronological chart while writing a series. Thus, the chart hopefully prevents inconsistencies without prescribing what is to be written. It cannot become a straightjacket.

Doctor Who visited many historical and future periods. Script editors should have compiled a chart to keep the series consistent. However, Terrance Dicks, meeting fans at Lancaster Literature Festival, said that they did not keep it consistent. Fans were supposed either not to notice or not to care. But there are two kinds of fans. We value Heinlein's Future History and Anderson's future histories for several reasons, not least because of their detailed and careful consistency.

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