Sunday, 21 August 2016

Character References

Poul Anderson, Operation Chaos (New York, 2000).

Moriarty was the Napoleon of crime so Fu Ch'ing is its Genghis Khan. (p. 144)

Ginny dons a cloak that is:

"...a minor talisman; Fritz Leiber had once played Prospero in it." (p. 145)

Here we have:

a reference to another fantasy and sf writer;
a reference to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream;
by extension, also a reference to Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest;
a reminder that, in this fictional universe, talismans have real power;
a reference, I suspect, to a real cloak owned by the Andersons?

Her owl pin is "...much more potent..." (ibid.) not only because it is the badge of her order but also because it has been to Hell. Although this "Hell" is a planet in another universe, not a supernatural realm, it is somehow connected with magic/goetics. A "demon"/denizen of Hell hears and implements a curse and the demons serve the Adversary.

How does "goetics" work? Anderson makes it sound like an extension of known science:

"'...goetic quantum-wave transference across a potential difference...'" (p. 99)

- is an energy source like fuel or a waterfall and, like them, is conserved. When a scryotronic communicator malfunctions, it is thought that it has:

"...gone into wave-mechanical oscillations, jumps to and fro between alternate histories..." (p. 114)

The apparatus for testing this idea involves mandrakes, described as "...cantankerous buggers." (ibid.)

Go and catch a falling star,
    Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
    Or who cleft the devil's foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy's stinging,
            And find
            What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.
-copied from here.

Neil Gaiman quotes Donne's poem at the beginning of Stardust.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Donne's line: "Go and catch a falling star" seems vaguely familiar. Wasn't this used by an SF author as the title for one of his works?


  2. Sean:
    John Brunner wrote a novel, *Catch a Falling Star* (1968), substantially revised from *The 100th Millennium* (1959). On a FAR-future Earth, an amateur astronomer discovers that another star system will soon collide with Sol System -- "soon" meaning within the next three centuries. He sets out to try to alert people to the danger and mobilize them to do something about it.

    The ending is GLORIOUS. Three words: "They haven't forgotten."

    1. Hi, David!

      I have read some of John Brunner's works, which may have been why "Go and catch a falling star" seemed familiar in SF terms. But I've not read CATCH A FALLING STAR, only Brunner's STAND ON ZANZIBAR and some of his short stories. But you certainly make Brunner's novel seem interesting!


    2. Both,
      Perry Como sang "Catch A Falling Star."

    3. Kaor, Paul!

      Unfortunately, I've not heard or read that song by Perry Como.


    4. Sean,
      I have just googled and found it.

  3. Paul and Sean:
    I remembered the Como song, at least in part, although I didn't recall that he was the singer who put it on the charts.

    There's also a song, "If You Love Me (Really Love Me)," sung by Edith Piaf and others, which has, naturally, lines about what the singer is willing to do for her sweetheart. One of them is "Shall I catch a shooting star? Shall I bring it where you are?"

    1. Hi, Paul and David!

      I really need to look up Perry Como, Paul!

      David: exaggerated and extravagant metaphors is what we expect in songs like that!