Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Moving In Time

Poul Anderson, "Flight to Forever" IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 207-288.

There is a big difference between space-time machines, like the TARDIS or the Time Patrol timecycles, and mere time machines, like the Time Traveler's Time Machine or Martin Saunders' time projector. The latter remain in the same position on the Earth's surface. The Time Traveler returns to a different part of his laboratory because the Morlocks had moved the Time Machine into the White Sphinx. Saunders had departed from the underground workshop of a house on a hill but returned to a point half way up the hill because the projector had been moved at Brontothor.

Eve and MacPherson who had remained at the house are surprised to see not the projector returning in the basement but Saunders walking into the house - but why does he say that he is "'...a little early.'"? (p. 288)

After the Morlocks and Eloi in 802, 701 AD, the Time Traveler has "The Further Vision" of a darkening, dying Earth under a red giant sun. After Brontothor in 50,000 AD, Saunders has a "Flight Without End," beyond the end of the universe. To return home, the Time Traveler turns back whereas Saunders can only "GO ON..." (p. 281)

The location of the time projector changes from an underground workshop to:

a ruined basement;
a pit;
the top of a low hill;
"...a small cobbled courtyard between high houses with shuttered and darkened windows..." (p. 222);
radioactive, blackened, fused rock;
a vitrified crater;
a forest;
a lawn between buildings of the American College;

Three times, Saunders and Belgotai arrive to find a spaceship parked nearby.

Saunders' first companion, Hull, is killed by the Armageddonists in 2500 AD. In 3000 AD, Belgotai, a mercenary, joins Saunders because "...mercenary companies were helpless before the organized levies of the rising nations..." (p. 228) Belgotai hopes to find an era where he can still fight as a "' comrade...'" (ibid.) He is a helpful companion for Saunders because of his military skills but is he a good guide to the future? He is able to tell Saunders, in general terms, what has happened in the Solar System between 1973 and 3000 and this might be of some assistance in preparing to face further periods of interplanetary travel. Nevertheless, he knows no more about periods post-3000 than Saunders.

Earth had suffered from:

"...the onslaughts of barbarians from the outer planets..." (p. 227)

Anderson did a good job of rationalizing barbarians with spaceships in his History of Technic Civilization but is interplanetary barbarism a likely development in the Solar System?


  1. Paul:
    You asked, " interplanetary barbarism a likely development in the Solar System?"

    I shouldn't think so, unless someone managed to terraform the other worlds to be livable even if the inhabitants have lost technology. As it stands, being on any (Solar) world other than Earth without technologic support is to be very quickly dead.

    An instance of barbarism, however, could at least in theory be a regression of cultural attitudes ONLY by a society that nonetheless retained high technology in some respects. Robert Heinlein's *Orphans of the Sky* portrayed the crew of a generation ship still maintaining apparently-nuclear equipment ... because they memorized the maintenance procedures as religious rituals in service to the god "Jordan" -- actually the Jordan Foundation which built the ship.

    1. Hi, David!

      I agree, barbarism of the kind Paul had in mind would most likely be possible in the Solar System only if planets like Mars and Venus had been terraformed, colonized, and then suffered drastic technological and cultural collapse or retrograding.


  2. It just now hit me, by the way, about the name Brontothor -- and I apologize in advance to everybody who'd already realized this long since: "bronto" is from the Greek for thunder, and "Thor" is of course the thunder god, meaning PA was tossing in a sly little joke here, and I read right past it Dralm knows how many times....

  3. David,
    It resonated with me somehow. It sounds like "Brontosaur."