Friday, 29 July 2016

Time Patrol And Island In The Sea Of Time II

We already knew that Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series was a rich and dense work. Now I find that it generates endless quotations and comparisons when discussing SM Stirling's substantial time travel novel, Island In The Sea Of Time (New York, 1998).

"...it is another myth that primitive man lives in harmonious balance with the life around him." (Anderson, The Shield Of Time, p. 234)

"'...people have never lived in harmony with nature. Goats and axes and wooden plows can ruin countries every bit as surely as bulldozers and chemical plants; it just takes a little longer.'" (Island..., p. 244)

"'Earth was a planet fit for gods, unbelievable, before civilization mucked it up.'" (The Shield..., p. 100)

If we had a second chance, would we muck it up again? Arnstein, who said (above) that people have never lived in harmony with nature, continues:

"'We've got three thousand years of knowledge to apply to a fresh world. Let's do it right this time.'" (Island..., p. 244)

Stirling's characters debate the issue. When Arnstein argues that seven thousand people need trade, not just subsistence farming, to preserve civilization, Ms Lisketter replies:

"'There's nothing wrong with a simple life! We should all learn to lower our expectations and walk lightly on the earth, not kill its whales and cut down its trees and... We've got an opportunity to escape from a culture dominated by machines, and cultivate our skills and the spiritual -'
"A chorus of whistles, catcalls and boos shouted her down. 'I've had all the fucking simple-life blisters I want or need!' someone shouted, and there was a roar of approval." (pp. 242-243)

The debate continues. We need a culture that uses machines without being dominated by them.

A sufficiently small population of temporal exiles might have agreed to the collective discipline of not having children, thus:

enjoying life as long as they all shall live;
not having to make any provision for future generations;
minimizing their impact on the past.

However, in a population of seven thousand, human life continues. The debate is necessary.

1 comment:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    And I agree with Arnstein and others who advocate the use of technology, NOT Lisketter. I would simply hope, on a "fresh" world, our accumulated knowledge would help us avoid repeating at least some of our mistakes.

    Sean

    ReplyDelete