Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Realization Under Fire

In "The Three-Cornered Wheel," Poul Anderson combines an action scene with a problem-solving exercise. Falkayn is thinking while defending himself from attack by archers and firing back with his blaster:

"He ought to have hit, with a broad beam at such close range. The bolt struck the barricade and greasy smoke puffed outward. The Larsan dove for cover.
"What made Falkayn's hand jerk was suddenly seeing the answer." (The Van Rijn Method, p. 245)

This is the first of at least two moments of realization in Falkayn's career. This one is marked not by going tense, breaking off in mid-sentence, leaping up or shouting but by missing his shot. It makes sense. Fight scenes and problem-solving are two hallmarks of Anderson's fiction. Falkayn tries to radio the answer while continuing to fight for his life. I have never understood the technicalities of this story but have just sought elucidation by googling "constant-width polygon." (ibid.) The story definitely needs diagrams.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    This discussion of "The Three Cornered Wheel" also got me interested in finding out how many light years the Pleiades cluster is from Earth. Because I don't recall mention of the Pleiades after the Terran Empire arose. That's because the cluster is 425 light years from Terra...and the Empire only claimed suzerainty over the space/planets radiating within 200 light years from Sol.

    The events seen in "The Three Cornered Wheel" and "The Season of Forgiveness" must have been at the very furthest limits of operations by the Polesotechnic League.


    1. Sean,
      The location of the Pleiades had not occurred to me. It is clearly significant.

    2. Kaor, Paul!

      Significant how? NOT merely to indicate the furthest operations of the League?


    3. Sean,
      Yes, as showing how much further the League went than the Empire.