Wednesday, 27 April 2016
History As Time And Place
Whereas the immortals in Poul Anderson's The Boat Of A Million Years live through past and future history, just through more of it than the rest of us, his Time Patrolmen live and work in it. For the Patrolmen, history is not only a sequence of past events to be remembered or studied but also a four dimensional panorama to be directly experienced. They can revisit not only the site of the Battle of Hastings but also the Battle of Hastings. And their lifespans are indefinitely extended. Thus, they also are immortals and, if appropriate, could spend several subjective centuries roaming backwards and forwards within a single objective century. Imagine living through the whole twentieth century, first in Britain, then in the United States, then somewhere else. And they can return to their base time, if they have one, a moment after leaving it even if they have meanwhile, in terms of their subjective experience, spent years or decades somewhen else.
That has got to alter their perception and understanding of time, duration, age, everything that defines and limits human existence. How do the Danellians, who are post- or superhuman, perceive time? They preserve past history because it leads to them but they must be able to intervene in their own future history in order to ensure that that future does not include their own extinction?
Anderson's Time Patrol series focuses on several historical turning points but does not begin to address the questions raised in this post but can anyone address them?