Wednesday, 29 July 2015

300-302

The fifth section of "The Sorrow Of Odin The Goth" is headed 300-302. Thus, it covers an extended period, not just a single incident. It begins with a characteristic Andersonian description of a seasonal change:

"Winter descended and then slowly, in surges of wind, snow, icy rain, drew back." (Time Patrol, p. 362)

In fact, that single sentence summarizes two seasonal changes, winter's arrival and its slow departure.

The viewpoint of this section is collective:

"For those who dwelt in the thorp by the river...the dreariness of the season was lighted that year. Carl abode among them." (ibid.)

Carl narrates alternating sections but in this section we are told in the third person how he appears to others and indeed to an entire community, not just to one individual. It is a fourth century Gothic community that knows nothing of time travel and instead comes to identify this mysterious wanderer with Wodan.

The onset of spring seemed familiar so I compared two passages. In this section:

"Spring stole northward, snow melted, buds burst into leaf and flower, the river brawled in spate. Homebound birds filled heaven with wings and clamor. Lambs, calves, foals tottered across paddocks. Folk came forth, blinking in sudden brightness; they aired out their houses, garments, and souls." (p. 365)

And, in "Star Of The Sea":

"Suddenly springtime billowed over the land. Warmth and lengthening days lured forth leaves. Grass glowed. The sky filled with wings and clamor. Lambs, calves, foals rollicked through meadows. Folk came from the gloom of houses, the smoke and stink of winter; they blinked in the brightness, breathed the sweetness, and set to work readying for summer." (p. 530)

Anderson often describes such scenes. We do not often notice verbal parallels between his descriptions.

I said that I might end this month with the round number of eighty posts. I will definitely end it with one hundred. I want to reread some Stieg Larsson. There is plenty to return to in Poul Anderson next month.

How Characters See Each Other

In a multi-viewpoint series, the viewpoint character of particular installments can elsewhere be shown as he appears to others. Manse Everard is the viewpoint character of the first four Time Patrol stories although never a first person narrator. However, both Carl Farness and Wanda Tamberly narrate in later installments.

Carl on Everard:

"Large, tough-looking, wielding more power than Caesar or Genghis ever dreamed of, he was as comfortable as an old shoe." (Time Patrol, p. 352)

Wanda on Everard:

"Mr. Everard is a surprise. His letters and then his phone call from New York were, well, polite and kind of intellectual. Here he is in person, a big bruiser with a dented nose...He's soft-spoken, with the same old-fashioned quality as his communications had." (p. 682)

"...old-fashioned..." is appropriate in someone who is not only older but also a time traveler, although Wanda does not know that latter fact yet. Later, she is able to comment:

"'Yes, you would stay a polite country boy, wouldn't you? Roving through history, you'd miss out on the social changes in your homeland.'" (p. 716)

When Everard returns as viewpoint character, we read how he thinks he appears to Janne Floris:

"Was she taken aback too? Had she expected the Unattached agent to be something more impressive than a big, homely guy with a battle-dented nose and still, after all he'd been through, 'Midwesterner' written upon him?" (p. 481)

Acquiring History

Time Patrol Unattached agent Manse Everard interviews Patrol Specialist Carl Farness to assess Carl's competence for the job to which he has been assigned. Carl suggests:

"'...all you need do is read the reports I'll have filed in my own personal future. If the early accounts show me bungling, why, just tell me to stay home and become a book researcher. The outfit needs those too, doesn't it?'" (Time Patrol, p. 355)

But the Patrol's job is to preserve the course of recorded events! Manse does not make this objection. Instead, he says that he has checked and that Carl will perform satisfactorily but "'That isn't enough.'" (ibid.) Why not? Manse seems to go off the point here. He says that the Patrol is overburdened and that they cannot check on everything that an agent does, especially when that agent is exploring a little known period. OK. So an agent might turn in good reports but still do something harmful that he does not mention in his reports? This is in fact what happens with Carl.

Manse then does go off the point because he unnecessarily explains why the Patrol explores little known periods: to find out what events they must protect. Usually, acquiring knowledge entails that the knowledge has not been acquired yet but what does "not yet" mean to the Patrol? While Carl acquires knowledge, some of his colleagues must simultaneously be applying that knowledge? Although maybe not. Historical knowledge acquired by Patrol Specialists is published uptime and is applied by the Patrol only if necessary, i.e., if they suspect that a time criminal is trying to change events, then they consult the record to find out what the unchanged course of events is supposed to be. Otherwise, the record need not be consulted by Patrol agents.

The Order Of Events

Even when there is no time travel involved, i.e., most of the time, a novelist need not recount events in the order experienced by his characters. We can be shown the eve of a crisis, then the long build-up to the crisis, then the crisis itself followed by its aftermath. Poul Anderson deploys this technique in "The Sorrow Of Odin The Goth," even as his central character, Carl Farness, time travels back and forth between the fourth and twentieth centuries.

Each section of the narrative is headed by a year date:

in 372, Carl as the Wanderer addresses his and Jorith's great-grandson;

in 1935, he returns from 372;

in 300, he meets the young Jorith;

in 1980, he returns from the Academy on the same day that he had departed to it.

These are just the first four sections. Carl experiences these events in this order:

departure to the Academy;
the Academy in the Oligocene;
return from the Academy;
first meeting with Jorith;
conversation with the great-grandson;
return to 1935 -

- although, of course, there are other events between these. We do not lose track of the narrative while reading but it is instructive to analyze the text and realize how it was constructed.

Extraordinary Time

Referring to his wife, Laurie, Time Patrol Specialist Carl Farness reflects:

"...she spent most of her life in ordinary time, sixty seconds to the minute. As a field agent, I'd go through days, weeks, or months between saying good-bye to her in the morning and returning for dinner - an interlude during which she could pursue her career without me underfoot." (Time Patrol, p. 345)

Sometimes months between breakfast and dinner? That implies some psychological dislocation. Farness continues:

"My cumulative age was approaching a hundred years.
"Sometimes it felt like a thousand. That showed." (ibid.)

Again I wonder: how old is the oldest Time Patrol agent? And do some of them become the Danellians?

Time seems to accelerate as we age. How would this work in an indefinitely extended lifespan? Especially for a time traveler? I read somewhere the speculation that the apparent acceleration would slow down some time in the second century but where did I read this? Was it in a work by Poul Anderson?

Time Patrol Collections

The collection of Time Patrol stories published in The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction grew from four to five stories and lengthened its title from Guardians Of Time to The Guardians Of Time whereas the later collection of all published Time Patrol stories grew from seven to nine to ten stories and shortened its title from Annals Of The Time Patrol to The Time Patrol to Time Patrol.

Annals Of The Time Patrol amalgamated The Guardians Of Time and Time Patrolman;

The Time Patrol amalgamated Annals... and The Year Of The Ransom and also included the new "Star Of The Sea";

Time Patrol added "Death And The Knight."

Thus, everything is now in one volume except the long novel, The Shield Of Time.

"The Last Act"

"We must understand that what Pascal said is true of every human being in the whole of space-time, ourselves included - 'The last act is tragic, however pleasant all the comedy of the other acts. A little earth on our heads, and all is done with forever.' - understand it in our bones, so that we can live with it calmly if not serenely." (Time Patrol, p. 343)

By "We...," Farness here means not human beings in general but Time Patrol agents in particular. Why them in particular? Because he has just made a, to him, instantaneous jump from 372 to 1935. Every member of his family in the fourth century is long dead.

Manse Everard must live with the same fact. In 1987, he thinks:

"...the calender said that tonight [Bronwen] lay twenty-nine hundred years dust, and there should be an end of the matter." (The Shield Of Time, p. 4)

We have become very familiar with the concept of leaping across the centuries but what would be the human consequences?

New York, 1935

"Here also it was fall, the kind of crisp and brilliant day New York often enjoyed before it became uninhabitable..." (Time Patrol, p. 342).

"Here also..." Farness has just come from Europe, 372, the Wanderer's staff still strapped to the side of his timecycle. This sentence also refers to the future. When will New York become uninhabitable?

Farness continues:

"...this year chanced to be the one before I was born." (ibid.) Thus, we begin to learn about his private life. He was recruited to the Patrol in 1980 but he and his wife have opted to base themselves instead in the 1930's. The descriptive passage continues, appealing to more than one sense:

gleaming masonry and glass;
clouds on a breeze in the blue;
a tang from the few cars;
the stronger aroma of roast-chestnut carts;
glamorous shops;
beautiful women;
diverse people.

The Time Patrol series is a fictional world that the reader can live in.

Points Of View In Time Travel Fiction II

In "The Sorrow Of Odin The Goth," the opening section, headed 372, begins:

"Wind gusted out of twilight as the door opened." (Time Patrol, p. 333)

This is as seen by everyone in the hall. There is no individual point of view. Carved images of gods seem to move in the shadows. The chief's mother claims that the family is descended from Wodan. So far, the narrative is historical fiction unless the divine descent is literally true in which case it is historical fantasy. The Wanderer himself enters the hall and reminds young Alawin that he is his great-grandfather. This seems to bear out the claim of divine descent.

The second section, headed 1935, begins:

"I didn't change clothes until my vehicle had brought me across space-time." (p. 341)

Here we have not only a point of view but even a first person narrator. The Wanderer has left the hall, mounted a timecycle and traveled to a Patrol base. He is not divine and the narrative is science fiction - as we already know because we are reading it in a Time Patrol collection. Nevertheless, Poul Anderson has immersed us in the fourth century before he has revealed how a Time Patrolman impacts on this particular narrative. This is time travel fiction that really does transport both its central character and the reader to an earlier period. And, as yet, Manse Everard and the guardian branch of the Patrol are nowhere to be seen.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Points Of View In Time Travel Fiction

In The Time Machine, HG Wells describes a journey from London 1895 to 802,703 and beyond from the Time Traveler's point of view with first person narration. In "Time Patrol," Poul Anderson describes journeys from New York 1955 to the American Oligocene, Victorian Britain, post-Roman Britain and London 1944 from a Time Patrolman's point of view with third person narration.

Differences:

country and century of origin;
direction of travel;
number of journeys;
a single time traveler, the Time Traveler, as against a member of a time traveling organization, a Time Patrolman;
first as against third person narration;
mere time travel as against space-time travel;
subjective travel time as against instantaneous transition;
implicit as against explicit paradoxes.

Similarities:

a temporal vehicle that the traveler sits on, not in;
vivid descriptions of visited periods;
the time traveler's point of view.

Anderson's first two Time Patrol collections were Guardians Of Time (four stories), expanded to The Guardians Of Time (five stories), and Time Patrolman (two stories).

The first four stories are narrated from the point of view of Patrolman Manse Everard. The fifth is narrated from the point of view of Patrolman Tom Nomura. The sixth returns to Everard. The seventh alternates between the point of view of Patrolman Carl Farness and the collective viewpoint of the Goths visited by Farness. At last, a time travel story presents not only the point of view of a time traveler but also that of the people he visits.

Total Time Patrol

Recent posts might generate the impression of comprehensiveness regarding Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series although really they only scratch the surface. However, any interested blog reader who searches the blog for posts on individual installments of the series should find a fuller account, e.g., "Star Of The Sea."

In this series as in many other works, Anderson presents vivid descriptions of natural scenes:

"Suddenly springtime billowed over the land. Warmth and lengthening days lured forth leaves. Grass glowed. The sky filled with wings and clamor. Lambs, calves, foals rollicked through meadows." (Time Patrol, p. 530)

But here he does more. This passage continues:

"Folk came from the gloom of houses, the smoke and stink of winter; they blinked in the brightness, breathed the sweetness, and set to work readying for summer." (ibid.)

(Lots of alliteration here.) The concluding sentence contrasts spring with winter in the minds of people living in first century Europe. This is the job of historical novelists, including historical sf novelists like Poul Anderson.

Novels And Time

Our overview of the plot of a novel resembles a time traveler's overview of a period of history. Thus, Poul Anderson's Time Patrolman, Manson Everard, travels to 1944 already knowing the course of World War II prior to that year. Similarly, I have just started to reread Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy but at the beginning of Volume III. The title character is in hospital but I already know how she got there.

Also, Everard knows that history can take a different course and we are familiar with different versions of a story. We have been since the Bible and Greek myth. In the case of the Millennium Trilogy, there are:

the novels;
a Swedish TV adaptation of all three novels;
a Hollywood cinema adaptation of the first novel;
a comic strip adaptation of the first part of the first novel.

We derive an additional pleasure from comparing clever variations of the story as the Greeks did with dramatic reinterpretations of their myths. If this works well, something happens that we do not expect but then things work out as they should. Everard can accept minor variations to history.

Revisiting The Time Patrol Timeline

See here.

Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series presents not multiple timelines but a mutable timeline. A close reading of the Timeline shows some bracketed events. These are remembered but prevented. There is also a period of "instability." Potentially, other timelines flow from this period. Such timelines could be displayed separately and a time traveler might pass through the instability into an alternative timeline.

This series has to be the subtlest treatment that there has been of the time travel causality violation paradox. L Sprague de Camp's Lest Darkness Fall and Ward Moore's Bring The Jubilee both succeed because each confines itself to describing a single time traveler initiating a single divergent timeline.

However, Anderson instead wrote a long series about a large organization, based throughout history, preventing or rectifying causality violations, and he managed to do this while at the same time avoiding any overt incoherencies or contradictions, unlike alternative attempts. His unstable space-time periods are endlessly fascinating because there is no way to pin down exactly what has happened or is going to happen in such situations.

Working Backward

Carl Farness, recovering lost stories and poems, works forward from 300 to 372 AD. However, time travelers must also be able to follow events backwards:

"'He was tracing the migrations of the different Aryan clans. They're very obscure, you know. You have to start at a point when the history is known for certain, and work backward...He'd make inquiries among the people, learn their own traditions, and then afterward check back at a still earlier point...'" (Time Patrol, p. 60)

"'...we must follow [Veleda's] spoor through the past, to wherever she began.'" (p. 542)

"...we're tracking her back through time - to try and discover what she signifies." (p. 548)

In 70 AD, Heidhen tells Everard that he and Veleda are of the Alvarings but the Specialist Janne Floris does not recognize this name.

In 60 AD, Everard and Janne hear Veleda speak and Everard recognizes the younger Heidhen beside her.

In 49 AD, Specialist Jens Ulstrup, resident ethnographer, tells Everard and Janne that Veleda arrived by ship five or six years previously.

In 43 AD, knowing that Veleda and Heidhen will arrive by ship, Everard and Janne, flying on timecycles, see a ship with a woman aboard, jump ahead to see where it will land and jump back to meet it, Everard disguised so that Heidhin will not recognize him in 70 AD. The ship's captain describes the island of the Alvarings and Janne recognizes it as Oland.

Earlier in 43 AD, Everard and Janne, cautiously exploring Oland by flying above on timecycles, see Roman sailors raping Edh (Veleda). Janne intervenes and this intervention by the goddess inspires Edh, accompanied by Heidhin, to leave the island and travel among the tribes, preaching the destruction of Rome...

Monday, 27 July 2015

Fictitious Histories

Future histories are one kind of fictitious history. Fictitious histories include Middle Earth and Narnia. One that I am not familiar with is ER Eddison's Zimiamvia Trilogy although I know that it influenced James Blish's After Such Knowledge Trilogy.

To fundamentalists, the Bible is real history but, to anyone else, it is a collection of every kind of writing:

mythology;
legend;
genealogy;
laws;
poetry;
philosophy;
hymns;
theologically interpreted history;
prophecy;
fiction (Ruth, Job, Jonah);
letters;
propaganda.

Since Alan Moore called religions higher fictions, we might call the Bible a higher fictitious history? It covers past and future and includes a flying city.

Poul Anderson's The Boat Of A Million Years and Time Patrol series are past-and-future histories. For the Time Patrol timeline, see here.

The End Of The History Of The Time Patrol

How should the History of the Time Patrol end? Two key events, not necessarily in this order, must be:

the death of the last surviving member of the last class to graduate from the Academy;

the beginning of the Era of Oneness that precedes the Danellians.

But there are other outcomes. I have argued before that, if a Time Patroller is stranded in the Carthaginian timeline, then that Patroller will live out the rest of his or her life in that timeline. Those Patrollers who have restored their own timeline may say that the Carthaginian timeline has never existed but, if there is anyone in that timeline, then they do regard it as existing.

Patrollers stranded in a "deleted" timeline will think that the Patrol has failed unless they reason as I do in which case they will realize that they do not know the outcome - and to them it does not really matter. Since I regard these various timelines as preceding and succeeding each other along a second temporal dimension, the question becomes whether the Danellian timeline is the last in the series. Does anyone know? And does that have to matter either?

The History Of The Time Patrol

Manse Everard has a career in which:

he is recruited by Mr Gordon and he himself later recruits Pummairam and Wanda Tamberly;
his visit to Victorian London precedes his visit to post-Roman Britain;
some experiences remembered by him do not occur in the timeline guarded by the Time Patrol.

The entire Patrol has an internal history in which:

the Danellians intervene and establish the Patrol;
there is a first and eventually a last class of graduates from the Academy;
agents like Guion guard the history of the Patrol itself.

The Patrol must have a record of its own history, including the circumstances of each member's recruitment, the course of their careers and the dates of their deaths? Yet the quantum nature of reality is such that, on any occasion when a Patrol member returns from a visit to the past, he might find himself in a different version of reality. In that case, he will have to try to restore the preferred reality as recorded in the history and might fail.

A curious situation. 

Time Patrol Supporting Characters

Mr Gordon:

interviews Everard when the latter, not yet knowing what is involved, has answered the Time Patrol's newspaper ad;
shows Cynthia Denison the analysis of a critical milieu.

Cynthia, an Attached clerk, also says that "'...the boss...obliged me by querying himself a week ahead...'" (Time Patrol, p. 61) but I do not know whether this boss is Gordon.

Nick:

lets Everard and Wanda meet in his bookshop;
phones Everard about Marlow.

And that is it for supporting characters. Everard, Unattached, has no direct superior and is answerable only to his peers and the Danellians. The following characters, introduced in Time Patrol, reappear in The Shield Of Time:

Manson Emmert Everard;
Keith Denison;
Merau Varagan;
Raor;
Wanda Tamberly -

- hero, hero's friend, villain, villainness, heroine.

In fact, in the second book, Wanda rescues Keith from the alpha timeline, thus demonstrating that the characters can indeed interact without necessarily involving Everard. Guion becomes a new continuing character in the second volume:

"...Guion...was at least of own rank. Probably higher. Above its lowest echelons, the Patrol didn't go in for organizational charts and formal hierarchies of command. By its nature, it couldn't. The structure was much subtler and stronger than that. Quite likely none but the Danellians fully understood it." (The Shield Of Time, p. 5)

But the Unattacheds must know how they make and implement decisions! They use the phrase, "'...the Middle Command...'" (ibid, p. 68). Specialists can be held to account by Coordinators (Time Patrol, p. 385). And there are uniforms although they are "...seldom worn." (Shield, p. 296) We want to know more.

Increasing Complexity II

Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991).

See here.

My present purpose is not to summarize The Shield Of Time in its entirety but to examine beginnings. Is Manse Everard on-stage from the beginning and, if not, how is he involved later? (There could have been a Time Patrol story without Everard in it but there wasn't.) As before, we find increasing complexity.

Part One:

1987 A.D. Everard and Guion in Everard's New York Apartment.

Part Two:

1985 A.D. Yuri Alexeievitch Garshin in the Hindu Kush.
209 B.C. Everard by the River Bactrus.
Garshin was used to lay a trap for the Exaltationists and Everard is on their trail in Bactria.

Part Three:

31,275,389 B.C. Wanda and Guion at the Time Patrol Academy. (By now, we know Wanda, Guion and the Academy so the Time Patrol universe is becoming quite familiar.)

Part Four:

13,212 B.C. Wanda in Beringia.
Later, she will ask Everard for help.

Part Five:

1990 A.D. Everard and Guion in Everard's New York apartment.

Part Six:

1137alpha A.D. Emil Volstrup in Palermo.
1765 B.C.-15,926 B.C.-1765 B.C. Keith Denison with a migrating Indo-European tribe, in pre-human North America and under Hammurabi's Babylon.
1980alpha A.D. Denison in Paris.
18,244 B.C. Everard and Wanda at the Time Patrol's Pleistocene Pyrenees lodge.
Everard will address the problem of the alpha timeline.

Increasing Complexity

The original four Time Patrol stories and the later "Ivory, And Apes, And Peacocks" each begin straightforwardly with their central character, Manson Everard. Then the series becomes more complicated.

"Gibraltar Falls" is about Tom Nomura and "The Sorrow Of Odin The Goth" is about Carl Farness although Everard plays a supporting role in both.

"Star Of The Sea," "The Year Of The Ransom" and "Death And The Knight" each begin by describing a problem that Everard will have to address.

"Star Of The Sea":

I deities marry in mythological time;
1 A Batavian barbarian addressing a Roman general quotes the sibyl whose goddess has told her that Rome is doomed.
2 Manson Everard arrives in the Amsterdam office of the Time Patrol in the late twentieth century.
Everard will address the threat to the Roman Empire.

"The Year Of The Ransom":

10 September 1987 A man on a timecycle kidnaps Wanda Tamberly.
3 June 1533 [Julian] Two men on a timecycle attack Castelar and Estaban.
15 April 1610 Exaltationists interrogate Stephen Tamberly; Castelar and Tamberly escape on a timecycle.
11 May 2937 BC A hansom cab brings Everard to the Tamberleys house in York Place.
Everard investigates Stephen Tamberly's disappearance.

"Death And The Knight":

Paris, Tuesday, 10 October 1307 Hugues Marot is arrested.
San Francisco, Thursday, 8 March 1990 Manse Everard and Wanda Tamberly are together.
Everard will rescue Hugh Marlowe aka Hugues Marot.

Benegal Dass In Bactra

Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), pp. 51-54.

Bactra was the capital city of Bactria. Benegal Dass, born in the late nineteenth century, wrote a thesis on Indo-Bactrian society that attracted a Time Patrol recruiter.

Dass spends decades in the city, each time arriving and departing by local means of travel, not on a timecycle. He adopts different identities. As Rajneesh, he worked in a silk dealership. As Rajneesh's cousin, Chandrakumar, he seeks enlightenment and stays in a Buddhist monastery while studying Greek philosophy. Usually his visits are "...separated by timespans of a length to preclude recognition..." (p. 53) but urgent Patrol business brings Chandrakumar to Bactra soon after the departure of Rajneesh, necessitating a kinship story to explain their resemblance.

On holiday back home, "...he must lie to family and friends about what he did for a living." (p. 54) He observes and writes the entire history of the city. His work is read within the Patrol and in the distant future. Thus, the Patrol knows what events it must protect in this historical backwater.

Folk are being real swell about page views right now. However, it is tempting to pause posting at the round number of 80 posts for this month. I am sure that Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series is inexhaustible but I will temporarily exhaust my ability to find new details to post about. Would anyone else like to write their completely different take on this series and email it to be posted on the blog?

Newspapers And The Future

How would being a time traveler affect perception of current affairs? When Everard returned from the Time Patrol Academy:

"It was a peculiar feeling to read the headlines and know, more or less, what was coming next. It took the edge off, but added a sadness, for this was a tragic era."
-Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), p. 17.

Reading the Time Patrol series now, we also "...know, more or less, what was coming next..." in the second half of the twentieth century but did not know it when the opening stories were originally published. We have to imagine that Everard did. The image shows a New York Times headline from 1954 although the date is illegible.

Much later, in 1987, Everard has missed something in the news because:

"'I've only been around for a short timespan, and mighty busy.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), p. 71 -

- and also because:

"'...when one knows what lies ahead in history, one's incentive to follow the daily news is slight.'" (ibid.)

That also makes sense.

When Everard says that he has "...only been around for a short timespan...," he means that he has returned from spending several weeks in the far past. In fact, he "...returned on the day after he left..." (p. 3) but, of course, he will not have remembered what was in the news before he left! A Time Patrolman's perception of current events has got to differ totally from ours.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Manse Everard's Relationships With Women

Relationship with Janne Floris begins and ends in "Star Of The Sea."

Meets Wanda Tamberly in "The Year Of The Ransom."

Relationship with Bronwen begins and ends in "Ivory, And Apes, And Peacocks."

Maintains contact with Wanda in The Shield Of Time.

Relationship with Wanda has begun in "Death And The Knight."

Observations
There are six earlier stories. Thus, Everard's relationships occur in the second half of the series.

The order of writing is not the chronological order of fictitious events. Janne is introduced in "Star Of The Sea" but the relationship is ended to make way for Everard meeting Wanda in the already published "The Year Of The Ransom."

Everard and Wanda are married in "A Slip In Time" by SM Stirling. I am not sure that Poul Anderson would have continued the series in this way.

(Today has been a wet Sunday across England and none of my family wanted to drive into the country so there has been extra time for posting.)

Anachronisms

Time Patrollers meet. First, Unattached agent Everard visits Unattached agent Shalten:

"Entering, Everard found the interior cool, dim, anachronistic."
-Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), p. 66.

Later, Everard meets Specialist Wanda Tamberly:

"They met downtown next morning, in the anachronistic opulence of the St. Francis Hotel lobby." (p. 430)

It seems appropriate that time travelers should meet in anachronistic surroundings. I heard that one idea for Doctor Who was to identify him with the Victorian period and to furnish the TARDIS accordingly.

Shalten appreciates knowledge of social change:

"'...my preferred pied-a-terre is Paris of the Belle Epoque. Refinement that will turn into revulsion, innovation that will turn into insanity, and thus, for the foreknowledgeable observer, piquancy becoming poignancy.'" (p. 66)

Far from regretting the loss of innocence, Shalten relishes it. When Everard visits Shalten's Belle Epoque in 1902, he:

"...tried not to remember that in a dozen years this world would crash to ruin." (p. 119)

Time Patrolmen cannot avoid their knowledge of what is to come. When Carl Farness visits Berlin in 1858:

"Occasionally, a uniformed Prussian officer strode by, but his shoulders did not obviously carry the future."
-Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), p. 400.

Not obviously, but a Time Patrolman knows...

"In The Presence Of Innocence"

"...what he needed to regain inner peace was not another love affair but a few more times in the presence of innocence. Like a thirsty man finding a spring to drink from, high on a mountainside -"
-Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), pp. 6-7.

But innocence lost is the consistent theme of the Time Patrol series:

Everard and Whitcomb must sabotage Stane's plan for world peace;
Whitcomb succumbs to the temptation to change the past and must leave the Patrol;
Everard, shaken by his encounter with a Danellian, is judged to be "...unfit for steady work..." (Time Patrol, p. 53) and must retrain as an Unattached;
after fourteen years as Cyrus the Great, Keith Denison must relearn how to live in a cramped apartment with Cynthia;
Everard learns that the Patrol itself adjusts the past;
he and Van Sarawak must prevent Deirdre's timeline from coming into existence;
Everard must tell Carl to betray his followers;
Everard has learned better than to return to the Midwest of his youth;
he remembers a golden summer in Amsterdam...;
Wanda learns the consequences of intervening in past events.

Thus, Everard and his colleagues learn from experience that innocence is transitory.

The Day After He Left

"Maybe returning to New York on the day after he left it had been a mistake."
-Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), p. 3.

What does this opening sentence of Poul Anderson's Time Patrol novel mean? That Manse Everard has been away for a day but should have stayed away longer? No. He has spent weeks in Hiram's Tyre and could have returned to New York at any time, a split second before or after his departure or a full week after etc. Only a time traveler can exercise such complete control over when he returns from a journey.

The opening paragraph presents an evocative description of a a beautiful spring dusk with rain-cleared air, blossoms and greenery, lights and noises "...softened, turned riverlike." (ibid.) The Time Patrol series compares time to a river (e.g., Time Patrol, p. 17). Thus, the "riverlike" lights and noises are a subliminal reminder of that temporal river.

Page 4 informs us that Everard has returned from Tyre where he provided for Bronwen. Thus, we are indirectly informed that this novel is an immediate sequel to "Ivory, And Apes, And Peacocks," which is why the Time Patrol omnibus collection should end with that story and no other. When the Time Patrol installments have at last been published to be read in the order in which Everard experiences them, then it will be an even more rewarding experience for a reader to turn from Time Patrol to The Shield Of Time, continuing and completing Everard's pursuit of the Exaltationists and starting to learn of an even greater threat...

Not In Our Yet


"'...we know only that the web [of world-lines] is troubled, not where or when the source of the disturbance lies, for that source perhaps does not exist in our yet, our reality. We can only try to trace it back up the threads.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), p. 135.

We think of divergent, multiple or alternative timelines but another possibility might be a single discontinuous timeline. See here, specifically the third possible solution to the causality violation paradox.

In a causal sequence, event A causes B which causes C. Thus, there is a temporal sequence, ABC. However, if A is the invention of a time machine, B is the departure of a time traveler and C is the arrival of a time traveler, then the temporal order may differ, e.g., ACB. Further, if C prevents B, thus AC(B), then the observable temporal order is AC. In this case, A occurs and would have caused B which would have caused C which, however, occurs and prevents B. Indirectly, A causes C although C may appear to be uncaused. B "...does not exist in our yet, our reality." In the discontinuous timeline scenario, B does not exist in any other reality either.

However, sometimes Time Patrollers, while experiencing an event, say that that event might be prevented and this is contradictory.

"A World Forever Lost"

Jack Finney's time travelers satisfy their nostalgia simply by relocating to a more innocent age but Poul Anderson's Time Patrolmen cannot do this:

"The Midwest of his boyhood, before he went off to war in 1942, was like a dream, a world forever lost...He had learned better than to return."
-Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), p. 178.

Everard's knowledge of what happens after 1942, and indeed throughout history, prevents him from settling down happily in the 1930's Midwest. In any case, Time Patrollers, with their indefinitely extended lifespans, do not look forward to any retirement but instead remain active within the Patrol. Even if Everard, having lived in New York from the 1950's to the 1990's, were, like the Farnesses, to move to the 1930's, that entire decade would remain a very small part of his expected lifespan. He is bound to have a different perspective on any short period, however idyllic.

Revisiting Amsterdam after thirty four objective years - many more subjective - he wonders:

"Had that summer really been so golden...?"
-Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), p. 479. 

Although he is reassured that "Amsterdam had not become the sewer that some people nowadays called it..." (ibid.), he cannot return to being that young Everard, "unburdened with too much knowledge..." (ibid.)

However, Deirdre Mac Morn's home period is "...a world forever lost..." in a more literal sense. Her timeline has been prevented from coming into existence so that she cannot possibly return to it.

You Haven't Read THAT?!

I knew a science fiction writer who had read no Stapledon and was a big Poul Anderson fan but had not read any of the latter's Time Patrol series. I am occasionally irritated by other people's surprise that I have not read a particular work of literature. What we have or have not read is partly a matter of chance and also of reading habits formed early in life.

I latched onto sf very early. Looking at comic strips before even reading them, I like cowboys but preferred men in spacesuits to men on horses - and did not like football. Why? What determines interests? They seem arbitrary. However, my deeper interests turned out to be philosophy and spirituality, the latter now expressed through Zen mediation. Perhaps sf and mythology are imaginative expressions of such interests?

I saw that there were adult paperback novels with pictures of spacemen and robots on their covers. Not sure whether I would like them, I checked out Alfred Bester and Isaac Asimov. Soon I had a list of must read authors. Heinlein and Simak were on the list but went off it. Blish was my favorite but I read his entire canon. Anderson was not on the list. It took me a long time to appreciate his works fully. Now, of course, the Anderson blog is much longer than either the Blish or the SF blog.

By publishing this blog, I have engaged in correspondence that has alerted me to the works of SM Stirling although as a rule I have not kept up with more recent sf authors.

Through Time II

See here.

The following stories each focus more closely on a single location. Thus, in the original Time Patrol tetralogy:

Everard travels from his apartment to Persia 542 BC to rescue Keith Denison;

Everard and John Sandoval travel from Everard's apartment to North America 1280 AD to prevent a Mongol invasion;

Everard and Piet Van Sarawak travel from the Patrol's Pleistocene Pyrenees lodge to an alternative 1960, back to the lodge, then to the Academy, then to the Battle of Ticinus to prevent Carthaginian victory in the Second Punic War. (Ticinus is the only historical location in this story.)

I could proceed through the series. Readers who are already familiar with it will know that it becomes more complicated. In "Star Of The Sea," Everard and Janne Floris follow the life of a pagan prophetess back through time until they themselves unintentionally trigger the event that makes her a potentially history-changing prophetess worthy of their investigation.

Can any subsequent sf writer possibly surpass Time Patrol and The Shield Of Time as a time travel series?

Through Time

Poul Anderson appropriately begins his Time Patrol series with an introductory short story, "Time Patrol," that alternates between several periods and locations:

a Time Patrol recruitment office in New York, 1954;
the Time Patrol Academy in the American Oligocene;
Everard's apartment in New York, 1954;
a warehouse in London, 1947;
Dalhousie & Roberts, Importers, the London Patrol office in 1894;
a London street scene in 1894;
a train, a sleepy village station and the Wyndham estate in 1894;
fifth century Britain and Canterbury (Cant-wara-Byrig);
London, 1944.

Everard's apartment becomes a base location with extra details added as the series progresses. When Everard returns from the Oligocene to 1954, he reads the headlines knowing in general what is to come next. Thus, he already knows the outlines of the second half of the twentieth century that Anderson and many of his readers then proceeded to live through although, of course, we do not read the name Gorbachev until a Time Patrol novel is published in 1990.

At the end of the story, Everard returns from 1944 to 1954:

"Everard climbed weakly aboard the hopper. And when he got off again, a decade had passed." (Time Patrol, p. 53)

The temporal vehicle, a literary descendant of Wells' Time Machine, is not yet called a "timecycle." We are made to feel that Everard has aged a decade because of his experiences in this story. The passage is subjectively instantaneous, unlike Wells', but nevertheless Everard seems to bear the weight of that ten years between '44 and '54.

That Man Bradshaw

Bradshaw's Guides appear in:

Rudyard Kipling;
Sherlock Holmes;
Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series, which incorporates Sherlock Holmes;
SM Stirling's Angrezi Raj, which refers to Holmes;
Michael Portillo's Great British Railways TV series.

On his third dvd, Portillo has just reminded us of another prominent literary use of Bradshaw: Dracula uses the Guide to plan the transportation of his coffin! Portillo also informed us of a historical reference to the Guide: during World War II, RAF pilots navigated across Britain by following the railway lines and called this practice "Bradshawing!"

I meant to mention this briefly in the previous post but forgot, then decided that it was important enough to warrant its own post but now, at just after 1.00 AM, I will stop posting and enter the realm of the Lord Morpheus.

Time Travelers In The Shield Of Time And In Death And The Knight

To prove again that the Time Patrol series is not just about Manse Everard, let us list the other time travelers in the rest of the series:

Guion
Chandrakumar
Shalten
several more Exaltationists
a black woman from Jamaica, 1950
Wanda Tamberly
Tu Sequeira
Ralph Corwin
Nick the bookseller
Emil Volstrup
Keith Denison
Agop Mikelian from 1908
the director of Babylon base
a thirty second century Saturnian
Unattached Agent Komozino
a Frenchman from the period of Louis XIV
a former Chinese cosmonaut
a twenty first century Nubian (our contemporary)
a babu from the British Raj
Otto Koch, German, born 1891
Jack Hall, a cowboy till 1875
Karel Novak, Czech
a Nick who phones Everard, maybe the bookseller
Hugh Marlow
Boniface Reynaud from the twenty third century
bully boys who rescue Marlow

A list longer than expected and as always with a surprise, in this case Nick's reappearance.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Space Travel And Time Travel

HG Wells described a single round trip to the Moon in The First Men In The Moon. Robert Heinlein described the financing of the first trip to the Moon in "The Man Who Sold The Moon," then went on to describe regular interplanetary travel in The Green Hills Of Earth.

Wells described a single round trip to the far future in The Time Machine. Poul Anderson described the consequences of the future discovery of time travel in "Time Patrol," then went on to describe regular time travel in the Time Patrol series.

However, regular time travel is considerably more difficult to describe than is regular space travel. There are many space-based series but few time-based series. Substantial though Anderson's Time Patrol series is, it barely scratches the surface of its subject. Time Patrol Specialists spend years or decades in unrecorded periods. Unattached agents travel to whenever they are needed. But what of those later and higher civilizations that send scientists and tourists into the past? We would like to read a series of novels set in such a civilization, when journeys to 1,000,000 BC are as routine as are journeys to Mars for Heinlein's Space Patrol.

The Time Patrol is the police force of several successive time traveling civilizations so there must be stories to be told about those civilizations where, presumably, the Patrol is able to recruit openly instead of approaching prospects discretely and obliquely as it has to do in the earlier periods when the fact of time travel is kept secret.

We could also be told about the interstellar civilization in which the Nine discovered time travel, about the Nine themselves and about the Danellian intervention that prevented the Nine from changing history and established the Patrol. However, this is much more than any one author could have written and I think that experience shows that group approaches to writing sf series do not work well. This would be even more the case with a subject matter that needs to be as finely tuned as time travel, especially in a variable timeline.

Time Patrol: Revised Edition

I think of Time Patrol not in its 2006 Baen Books edition but slightly rearranged to acknowledge the actual contents of the stories. Thus, "Death and the Knight" would be relocated to the end of The Shield Of Time and the remaining nine works would appear in this order:

"Time Patrol"
"Brave To Be A King"
"The Only Game In Town"
"Delenda Est"
"Gibraltar Falls"
"The Sorrow Of Odin The Goth"
"Star Of The Sea"
"The Year Of The Ransom"
"Ivory, And Apes, And Peacocks"

Apart from Manson Everard, these nine installments present a fascinating cast of time traveling characters:

Mr Gordon, Dard Kelm born 9573, Charles Whitcomb from London 1947, Elizabeth Gray from 1972, a veteran of the Martian war of 3890, Mainwethering, Stane from 2987.
Cynthia Denison, Keith Denison.
John Sandoval.
Piet Van Sarawak from twenty fourth century Venus, a man from the Scientific Renaissance, a nineteenth century Colonel Blimp type, Neldorians from the two hundred and fifth millennium.
Tom Nomura recruited in 1972, and Feliz a Rach, a First Matriarchy aristocrat.
Carl Farness based in 1930's New York, Herbert Ganz in 1858.
Janne Floris and the Patrol chief of operations in late twentieth century Amsterdam, Jens Ulstrup.
Stephen Tamberly born 1937, Helen Tamberly born 1856, Wanda Tamberly born 1965, twenty second century Andean Julio Vasquez, Exaltationists from the thirty first millennium, Luis Castelar from 1533 [Julian].
Chaim and Yael Zorach recruited in 1975, Epsilon Korten from twenty ninth century New Edom on Mars.

And there are a lot more in the following volume. It is not just Everard although he does dominate the series to a great extent.

Desert Island Book

There is a radio program called Desert Island Discs. Do they have it in the States? A guest says which ten or so pieces of music s/he would want on a desert island, plus one book other than the Bible or Shakespeare. My book would have to be Time Patrol. I would reread this omnibus volume from cover to cover, looking for previously unnoticed details on each page, like:

the admirable economy and skill with which Anderson introduces the doubly complex concept of a time travel organization in a mutable timeline;

physical descriptions of locations in diverse periods;

discussions of divergent timelines and the creation of such a timeline in "Delenda Est;"

the increasing subtlety, sophistication and complexity of the series when the author returns to it after a decade-long interval (I am additionally thinking of The Shield Of Time which, by the rules of Desert Island Discs, I would not also have on the island);

comparisons and contrasts with The Time Machine, which ideally I would also have smuggled onto the island.

It is invidious to ask which is the "best" of an author's works. Tau Zero is a classic of hard sf but A Midsummer Tempest is equally excellent in the very different category of literary fantasy. If I were to be allowed not just one volume but two entire series, then they would have to be the Time Patrol and the Technic History, totaling nine long volumes. Each series contains several individual works of extremely high quality. In the Time Patrol, Manson Everard has a protege, Wanda Tamberly. In the Technic History, Nicholas van Rijn has a protege, David Falkayn, and Dominic Flandry is succeeded by his daughter, Diana Crowfeather. And there are others. Two series give us many characters.

Returning to SM Stirling whom I have been reading as a worthy successor of Anderson and in any case worth reading in his own right, I can rank the four novels that I have read so far in order of preference:

The Peshawar Lancers
Conquistador
The Sky People
In The Courts Of The Crimson Kings

And Marching Through Georgia is in the trans-Atlantic post.

Socratic Fiction?

Scientia is Latin for knowledge.
Science is a systematic search for knowledge.
Technology is the application of scientific knowledge.
Science fiction is literature about that application.
Yet Socrates is quoted here as saying that "To know is to know that you know nothing."

The Delphic oracle, asked who was the wisest man in Greece, answered, "Socrates." Socrates thought that this must be wrong because he knew nothing. Then he realized that it was right because he was at that time the only one that knew that he knew nothing. But he did try to find out.

However, his means of seeking knowledge were limited to mere reasoning and argument. Humanity has learned a lot since then but by other means: observation and scientific method. Poul Anderson celebrates this search for knowledge for example in "Starfog," his story about the exploration of the "Cloud Universe" cluster.

It remains true that to know is to know how little you know. If reality is an infinite plane with human knowledge a finite circle somewhere on the plane, then, as the circle grows, its area, the number of things known, increases but so does its circumference, the point of contact with the unknown. Someone with a very small circle knows very little and also has very little contact with anything unknown to him.

Kurt Vonnegut quotes:

"My name is Yon Yonson.
"I live in Wisconsin.
"I work in the paper mills there.
"When people ask me my name, I say,
"My name is Yon Yonson..."

That expresses someone who knows who he is, where he is, what he does and nothing else and does not ask anything else. Even the name, Yon son of Yon, implies no change from generation to generation. Poul Anderson's characters may start in Wisconsin but from there they explore the universe.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Aristocracy And Humanity

Rome was a monarchy, then a republic, then an Empire. The world still contains monarchies, republics and accusations of imperialism. Poul Anderson presents a future Terran Empire modeled on the Roman Empire. SM Stirling presents a New British Empire in an alternative timeline where:

"The physician stared in appalled wonder at the work ahead of him, then darted forward, ignoring the King-Emperor for the more seriously wounded behind him and calling for his assistants and their supplies.
"Charles glanced after him. 'I like that chap's priorities,' he said."
-SM Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003), p. 454.

Charles is the King-Emperor. I also like the MO's priorities. In Britain today, if a Duke and his valet are trapped inside a burning building, then, to the Fire Brigade, they are two living bodies, both to be rescued as quickly as possible. Physical danger removes the distinction between nobility and commoners. It is good to see a King-Emperor who knows that, when others are in greater need of medical treatment, his rank counts for nothing.

Civilization can, of course, be reorganized without such ranks. But, as long as the ranks exist, they must be recognized as social conventions and nothing more.

Socratic Fiction

Poul Anderson wrote philosophical fiction. Let me explain.

In the European tradition, Thales, the first pre-Socratic philosopher, initiated natural philosophy, now called "science," by theorizing that "all is water." Socrates differentiated conceptual philosophy, now called "philosophy," by analyzing concepts like goodness and justice instead of theorizing about material substances.

Mary Shelley initiated science fiction by writing a novel about a natural philosopher who creates life. Thus, science fiction is already and essentially about philosophy in its original sense. Frankenstein is a successor of Thales.

In the futuristic sf of Alan Moore's Halo Jones, philosophy and horror fiction have been synthesized (not a serious suggestion!), thus generating titles like Frankenstein Meets Wittgenstein. That imaginary title is not as far-fetched as it might seem because, although Frankenstein and his Monster have become cinematic horror fiction characters, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley is a reflection, full of Biblical, Miltonic and mythological references, on the consequences of natural philosophy. I suspect that Alan Moore was conscious of this when he wrote a throwaway line in Halo Jones.

Isaac Asimov addressed "the Frankenstein Complex." Poul Anderson's Genesis re-asked: Would it be right to (re-)create human life? Anderson's Starfarers summarizes modern scientific cosmogony, thus addressing the philosophical question of the nature of reality. Recent blog discussion of Anderson's Technic History and of SM Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers addressed the philosophical question of the nature of morality.

Thus, science fiction at its best is speculative or philosophical fiction. We might say "Socratic fiction," to preserve the initials. CS Lewis, who addressed theology and morality through science fiction, belonged to a Socratic Club, more properly a Christian Socratic Club, Christians debating with sceptics. The Club was "to follow the argument wherever it led them." However, natural philosophers have moved from mere argument to the scientific method. For the rest of us, important issues are decided by our total experience of life, including our ability to reason about it, but not by the abstract arguments of comfortable academics!

Anderson's characters learn about life by acting in the world. I am forever locating Anderson in appropriate traditions but this is the first time that I have traced science fiction back via science to Thales.

False Religions

I believe that:

human beings were naturally selected to help others either because they bear the same genes or because they might help us in return;

we experience this motivation as moral obligation, not as calculating self-interest;

extraterrestrials cannot bear the same genes but might help us in return and, in any case, as conscious beings should be protected from harm;

therefore, our morality should apply to them;

religions tell stories that are good if they express universal morality and bad if they do not;

thus, "Thou shalt not kill" is good whereas "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" is bad and the stoning of an adulteress is abominable.

"'By adversity, the God tempers the steel of the Race.'"
-Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), p. 447.

This is a racial, not a universal, religion. The God wants his Race to enslave or exterminate others. Fortunately, not all Merseians are in the Roidhunate.

"I thank thee, Tchernobog, for the gift of my enemy's pain. I feel their pain, finer than the sweetest of wine on the tongue!'"
-SM Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003), p. 425.

Good God! If I had to fight and even kill Ignatieff, I would neither cause him unnecessary pain nor enjoy whatever pain he did experience.

Anderson and Stirling show us two bad religions. But how should we assess the New Faith of Anderson's Ythrians?

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Foresight And Desert

SM Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003), pp. 362-374.

Athelstane King's band fights nomads in the Thar, the Great Indian Desert. Yasmini responds to the nomads' movements from foresight, not from physical sight. Desert dwellers and foresight based on perception of multiple timelines recall Frank Herbert's Dune. However, the two works are otherwise dissimilar - apart from the use of the term Padishah, which further reminds us that both novels also present fictional empires.

As ever, reference to a work like Dune prompts from me the observation that Poul Anderson addressed such themes far better than some better known authors. See here.

Festival Food

SM Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003), p. 349.

I tried to post late last night but the laptop did not cooperate. Another food-based post - Athelstane's band, visiting a manor holding a polo tournament, is served festival food in covered brass bowls:

tandoor-baked chicken (see image);
fragrant basmati rice;
nargisi koftas (lamb meatballs around hard boiled eggs);
fiery sauces;
the meats and sauces scooped up with balls of rice or chapatis.

For the sake of completeness and by contrast with all this rich food, it might make sense to describe a feast conducted by our villain, Count Vladimir Obromovich Ignatieff, but I have not got the stomach for that.

If there are any more laptop problems, there might be another delay in posting but I trust that the blog by now has plenty of material for rereading? Onward and upward.  

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

This World And Two Nearer Ones

Imaginary worlds are inside us so they are nearer to us than the external world.

Although I recently compared SM Stirling's Angrezi Raj to Poul Anderson's Terran Empire, the two imaginary worlds of this post are the timelines of the Angrezi Raj and of Anderson's Time Patrol.

The Patrol prevents divergent timelines whereas Stirling's seeress, Yasmini, tries to prevent an end-of-life-on-Earth timeline;

in the Patrol timeline, John Watson recounts the real adventures of Sherlock Holmes whereas, in the Angrezi Raj timeline, Conan Doyle recounts the fictional adventures of a detective in an alternative timeline...

Common to these timelines and ours is Bradshaw's Guide.

"Mainwethering consulted his Bradshaw. 'You can get the 8:23 out of Charing Cross tomorrow morning,' he said."
-Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), p. 23.

""The Lancer officer dug into one of the bundles, pulling out a copy of Bradshaw's Indian
Imperial Railways, by Newmans of Calcutta, and lost himself in thought."
SM Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers (New York,2003), p. 343.

I posted about Bradshaw before. The subject of Bradshaw has come up again because, on Sheila's birthday yesterday, her presents included the dvd's of Michael Portillo's third, fourth and fifth TV series based on Bradshaw. Thus, Bradshaw ties together our three timelines.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Oblique Commentaries

Works of fiction set in alternative histories obliquely comment on what we regard as real history.

(i) In a British TV play with the premise that the Germans won World War II, a man making a TV drama about the War said, "I can't rewrite history..."

(ii) In Poul Anderson's Operation Luna, cooperation between Einstein and Planck released forces previously regarded as magical. What would have happened if they had continued to work separately?

(iii) In Alan Moore's Watchmen:

when a superhero has won the Vietnam War for the US, someone remarks that, if we had lost this war, we would have gone mad as a nation;

two journalists called Bernstein and Woodward are found dead;

the headline "RR to run for President?" is greeted with the question, "Who wants a cowboy actor in the White House?" Of course the headline refers to Robert Redford.

(iv) In SM Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003), Warburton remarks that, if the Fall had not thrown back progress, then by 2025 the world would be beyond the possibility of a World War and might even have been united by the British Empire. Yasmini, a clairvoyant who sees alternative realities, stirs, then subsides... "Ask later, [King] thought." (p. 315)

Princess Sita

Exam Question: Compare and contrast strong women characters in the works of Poul Anderson and SM Stirling.

Answer: I am not going to compare and contrast them all right now but does anyone else out there want to tackle it?

Let us say something about Princess Sita in Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003). First, Cassandra King tells Prince Charles:

"'That girl needs a man. And in the worst way.'" (p. 177)

Charles responds:

"'Has she been doing the thousand-hands-of-Pravati thing again?'" (ibid.)

- and reflects:

"Usually only a problem when she was bored, but..." (ibid.)

I confess to not understanding the use of the phrase "...the thousand-hands-of-Pravati..." in this context.

Secondly, Sita implausibly takes part in a raid on the house of a traitor. Immediately, after seeing one man killed by a blow to the face and another shot dead, she is able to lecture Henri on the mythological significance of Kali. Even more implausible? Or further evidence of how cool she is? I am still rereading but I seem to remember from the first time round that she got a man killed so how does she feel about that afterwards?

Thirdly, Sita is magnificently anti-racist.

Dinner At The French Embassy

SM Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003), pp. 249-250.

While I eat a Danish pastry for breakfast, Henri who enjoyed a samosa now enjoys dinner at the French Embassy:

lobster thermidor;
salad with goat cheese;
kefta (minced lamb cakes with pepper sauce);
poulet aux truffles;
bottles of Sidi Bouhai (?);
desserts, including cakes, marron glacee and Creme Anglese;
cheeses;
unspiced coffee;
brandy from the ambassador's family estates.

Meanwhile, on our timeline, Sheila and a friend share their birthday today so, as usual, we will eat out although this time pizzas instead of Indian.

Barfi And Samosas

Fiction and life interact. Today, Lancaster Muslims, celebrating the end of Ramadan, shared food with their Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan or secularist neighbors. Some years, it is plates of curry; this time, a box of barfi.

In SM Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003), the diplomat, Henri, enjoys "...the spicy deep-fried vegetables..." (p. 220) of a samosa while really wanting what he, a Frenchman (not an Englishman!), regards as a real breakfast.

Samosas have become the staple diet at multi-faith meetings. At one such gathering in County Hall, a large plate at the end of a long table held a tall pile of samosas but a longer queue stretched around the table so I did not get one. On a more spiritual level, our local Cathedral hosted a ceremony at which we heard readings from the Veda, the Torah, the Fourth Gospel and the Koran.

I hope that we in this generation can approach the pluralism to be found in SM Stirling's Angrezi Raj and in Poul Anderson's Terran Empire.

Addendum: For references to local places of worship, see post and comments here.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Another Meal And Another Adventure

SM Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003).

Athelstane King visits his family's business agent in Delhi, Elias the Jew, and is served a meal:

"...minced lamb cooked with garlic, turmeric, and coriander, mixed with peas and tomatoes and served on basmati rice with naan for scooping, hot tea, and fruit to follow." (p. 214)

Athelstane is also told about another of his father, Eric King's, adventures. Eric rescued Elias' son, David, from a dungeon of the priests of Malik Nous in Bokhara (see second image). Such an exploit would furnish an excellent episode in a series of Eric King's
adventures. Athelstane thinks:

"That was something he had to get the details on, someday. To go into the empire of evil, and the very heart of darkness..." (p. 216)

Our sentiments, exactly.