Sunday, 18 December 2016

Endings And Beginnings

This might be the last post of 2016. 1800 is a good round number of posts and I am (temporarily) running out of inspiration. Thank you all for page views, attention and interest during 2016. Merry Yule (21 December) and Christmas (25 December) and Happy New Year (1 January). Also, Happy Birthday (1 January) to me and neighbor, Derek.

Now is a time to contemplate endings and beginnings. A Poul Anderson time traveler spent some time with pre-men. Afterwards, they thought:

"You send stranger, Old Father? Stranger is Old Father?...
"Thank you, Old Father. This holy fire you have given us - we must never let it die."
-Poul Anderson, "The Little Monster" IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 142-163 AT pp. 162-163.

That sounds familiar.

SM Stirling's Nantucketers celebrate Christmas in 10 AE. Jared Cofflin, reflecting on the immigrants from Britain, thinks:

"...before the Alban War, back home they'd have given Sky Father a man, too, so the boss-god would be strong enough to chain the Wolf that would otherwise eat the sun and leave the world in eternal darkness."
-SM Stirling, On The Oceans Of Eternity (New York, 2000), Chapter Twenty-Nine, p. 575.

That also sounds familiar. How close are we still to our origins? See also here.

Addendum: On the other hand, a few relevant posts might appear:

on the Science Fiction blog. See here.
Also on the James Blish Appreciation blog. See here.
And the Logic of Time Travel blog. See here.
Also, the Personal And Literary Reflections blog. See here.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Rosetta

See Inter-Species Communication II and the posts linked from it. Discussions by Poul Anderson and Carl Sagan are a sound basis for critiquing other sf.

In Superman: The Movie, Superman, played by Christopher Reeve, tells Lois Lane that the correct spelling for the name of his home planet is K, R, Y etc, not C, R, I etc, whereas there cannot be any correct spelling for an extraterrestrial word in the Roman alphabet.

In Smallville, Second Season, "Rosetta," Dr Virgil Swann, played by Christopher Reeve, tells Clark Kent that he has been able to translate alien symbols because they have a mathematical basis. Here is a recognition that mathematics would provide a basis for universal communication whereas mere linguistic symbols would not. (In one comic strip version, a scientist did interpret Kryptonese without any help from mathematics.) However, we need a lot more explanation as to how maths could help with linguistic translation and even with pronunciation. Swann addresses Clark as "Kal-El."

Superman fans should read Poul Anderson for more plausible and better conceptualized accounts of human-alien communication.

Friday, 16 December 2016

God In Fiction

How often does the One God Himself come on-stage as a character in fantasy or sf?

Olaf Stapledon's Star Maker and Nebula Maker;
CS Lewis' Aslan and Maleldil;
the Chief in Isaac Asimov's "The Last Trump";
a senile angel in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials;
the descending Hand of Light in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing;
Satan as the new God in James Blish's The Day after Judgment;
Jahweh, then His successor, in Mike Carey's Lucifer.

(Jahweh's successor is not Lucifer Morningstar but a British schoolgirl called Elaine Belloc.)

Does this happen anywhere in Poul Anderson's many works?
Maybe the closest approach is a saint from Heaven in Operation Chaos?

Addendum: John Constantine also meets God.

Fiction And Propaganda

HG Wells wrote:

science fiction;
science fiction with a political message;
political propaganda;
one theological work.

CS Lewis wrote:

Christian propaganda;
science fiction with a religious message.

Poul Anderson wrote science fiction that addressed political and religious issues.

Thesis, antithesis and synthesis.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Future Religious Figures And Divine Wisdom

In Olaf Stapledon's one-volume future history, Last And First Men, future religious figures include the Daughter of Man and the Divine Child.

In Poul Anderson's "The Longest Voyage," there is reference to a Daughter of God. In Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, Djana, brought up as a Christian, then conditioned by a Merseian, imagines a Merseian Christ. Also in the Technic History, Axor seeks a non-human Divine Incarnation and:

Gabriel Stewart goes further. Ivar is the Aenean leader and Tatiana is his bride who will bear his son that the coming Builders will make more than human. Thus, according to Gabriel (a relevant name), the political and spiritual leaderships of the movement will converge. It feels as though we are in the opening chapters of Luke's Gospel, with the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary.
-copied from here.

Thus:

Daughter of Man;
Divine Child;
Daughter of God;
Merseian Christ;
non-human Incarnation;
superhuman son.

Some of these figures are worshiped by millions whereas others are imagined by only a few. However, all express future religiosity.

I remembered the Daughter of Man and the Daughter of God because we recently discussed a goddess and the Virgin Mary. See here. Also, I proposed Indra as a "top god" and it turns out that that deity was instructed about the Spirit Supreme by:

"...Uma, divine wisdom, daughter of the mountains of snow."
-Kena Upanishad IN Juan Mascaro, trans., The Upanishads (Penguin Classics, 1984), pp. 51-54 AT p. 53 -

- a feminine personification of wisdom, as in the Old Testament.

The Sea Of SF

Space is a sea of virtual particles.
Sf is a sea of ideas and interconnections.
Poul Anderson is a good focus because he addresses many ideas and connects with many other authors.

The previous post recalled:

two series written by SM Stirling;
Sandra Miesel's Afterword to one series co-written by Anderson.

Thus, the direct Anderson connection became somewhat tenuous! However, Poul Anderson's works were the primary inspiration for the blog and it is those works that have led to comparative readings of other future histories, alternative histories, time travel stories and fantasies.

I must finish reading SM Stirling's Nantucket Trilogy Volume III, knowing that this Trilogy is a mere prelude to a much longer alternative history series and must also make some preparations for Christmas.

Three Different Series

Marian Alston derides loyal slaves as "House niggers..." (On The Oceans Of Eternity, p. 548)

I find that I have twice quoted a black colleague who identified himself as a "field nigger." (See here) The first time was in connection with Sandra Miesel's humorous Afterword to Anderson's and Dickson's Hoka series, the second in connection with SM Stirling's Draka series, and now we are reading Stirling's Nantucket Trilogy. What different works! Yet serious points about real societies emerge even from fabulous or humorous fiction.

Knowing The Future III

After basic training at the Time Patrol Academy in the Oligocene, Manse Everard returns to the hour when he was recruited in New York, 1955. He finds that:

"It was a peculiar feeling to read the headlines and know, more or less, what was coming next."
-Poul Anderson, "Time Patrol" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), pp. 1-53 AT p. 17.

He now knows the history of the whole twentieth century as well as you or I.

Born in 1936 and recruited to the Patrol in 1980, Carl Farness opts to live in New York of the 1930s. Narrating his own twentieth century experiences, he tells us that, in the autumn of 1935, there was:

"...the kind of crisp and brilliant day that New York often enjoyed until it became uninhabitable..."
-Poul Anderson, "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth" IN Anderson, op. cit., pp. 333-465 AT p. 342.

Is "uninhabitable" a comment on New York, 1980, or does it express some knowledge of later developments?

When visiting Everard's New York apartment in 1980, Farness comments:

"He didn't like dirt, disorder, and danger any better than I did. However, he felt he needed a pied-a-terre in the twentieth century, and had grown used to these digs before decay had advanced overly far." (p. 353)

Thus, dirt, disorder, danger and decay! Everard has been there for at least twenty five years.

Farness' supervisor, Herbert Ganz, says, in 1858:

"'...before Western civilization begins self-destruction in earnest, I must needs have aged my appearance, until I simulate my death...'" (p. 400)

He knows exactly when the "self-destruction" will begin. Knowing their history, time travelers can ensure that they themselves live in the peaceful periods. Next Ganz might opt for:

"'...post-Napoleonic Bonn or Heidelberg.'" (ibid.) (my emphasis)

Moon And Stars

"Swindapa listened to the Silent Song, the song that the stars danced to with their mother the Moon. Sometimes it was hard to hear it, but then you must try less, not more, and it came."
-SM Stirling, On The Oceans Of Eternity (New York, 2000), Chapter Twenty-Six, p. 526.

So there is a story, or a story within the story, in which the stars are the daughters of the Moon. Who is their father? Or did they need a father? As with other mythical stories, we can comprehend the details if they are recounted to us. However, knowing what we now do about the relative sizes and distances of the stars and Moon, we can no longer buy into such a myth even as a metaphor.

I know that some neo-Pagans revere the Moon. Personally, I regard the Sun as the source of light and life and thus as the agent or instrument of knowledge. There are other suns but they are all one. Poul Anderson updates ancient myths in Tau Zero.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Different Kinds Of Sex In Fiction

Several times, Manse Everard of the Time Patrol and Dominic Flandry of the Terran Empire have sex in ways that are:

appropriate to their characters;

relevant to the plot (consider Everard's two sexual liaisons in "Ivory, and Apes, and Peacocks");

not described explicitly.

Sometimes, SM Stirling gets more explicit. Unpleasantly (not a complaint, just an observation), this includes Walker and Hong on pp. 522-523 of On The Oceans Of Eternity, Chapter Twenty-Five! It sounds horrific. I would never half-strangle or half-smother a woman, even at her request, not only because I find the whole idea distasteful but also because I would not want to risk a murder charge. Of course, neither of these considerations carries any weight with William Walker, King of Men, who has made his own will the whole of the law in his empire. Other writers tell us that their villains are evil. Stirling, like Alan Moore, shows us in detail. And how can we complain? It is is only fiction. And it is only reminding us what the world is sometimes like.

I am not only talking about violent sex. In the same passage, read about Walker's relationship to the men that he commands. If one of them assassinates him, this can only be a Good Thing. And in an earlier post, I entertained the idea of nuking the Draka capital. The Devil with fire etc.

Knowing The Future II

See The Holont: Second Potentiality and Past And Future.

Thus, we have reviewed inter-temporal communicators in works by Blish, Anderson and Benford. (Blish has four interstellar communicators: the FTL ultraphone, the instantaneous Circon radio and two versions of the Dirac transmitter although only the Dirac-with-beep is intertemporal:

Circon, reaching around the continuum, detects and replies to radio waves currently transmitted light years away whereas the Dirac communicator controls the placement of an electron in the circuits of another Dirac communicator by controlling the frequency and path of a positron moving through a crystal lattice accompanied by de Broglie waves which are transforms of the waves of the electron so that a message is received by amplifying the bursts and reading the signal.

Thus:

Dirac is not radio;
its effect is simultaneous, not wave-like;
CirCon and Dirac are not two names for the same device.
-copied from here.)

Now, from interstellar and inter-temporal communicators to time travel:

HG Wells' Time Traveler learns the ultimate fates of man and life on Earth;

Poul Anderson's Jack Havig learns that there will be a nuclear war, then lives after it;

although Havig flees back downtime from his first sight of the later Star Masters civilization, he then learns that he and his companions build that civilization;

in a different kind of timeline, Time Patrolman Carl Farness learns that a harrowing experience in his personal future is already part of the historical past which he can, but must not, change;

to Time Patrollers, all times are past or simultaneous but they must still experience those that they visit in a subjective order;

after any futureward time journey, Patrollers might arrive in an altered timeline where they do not know what is happening.

Knowing The Future

In our experience, the present moment is a single instant of immediate awareness separating a partly known past from a mostly unknown future. How much do we know about the future? Other things being equal, stars and planets will continue to move in predictable orbits while entropy increases.

Maybe time travelers should know more? Particularly Wellsian and Andersonian time travelers? (Not Jack Finney's time travelers. They are just interested in the past although one of his stories shows futurians migrating to their past, our present.)

Before tackling time travel, there are some intermediate cases. James Blish's post-Okies learn, by scientific observations, that the matter and anti-matter universes will collide on a specific date so they try to reach the Metagalactic Center before that date but they do not receive any Dirac messages from themselves having arrived at the Metagalactic Center because that would be possible only in the The Quincunx Of Time timeline where Service experts try to write a complete history of the future although their data are always insufficient and never fully comprehensible.

And I am running out of time.

Continuous Creation II

See A Master Of Physics And Politics and The Nursery Of Time.

Although Fred Hoyle's continuous creation of single atoms in space was never accepted, current theory does refer to continuous creation and mutual annihilation of particle-antiparticle pairs. Further, it seems that this process could have preceded the creation of our present universe.

Blish's Hevians detect creation and annihilation in intergalactic space and I think that they did this before such creation and annihilation came to be regarded as the normal state of space, as described by Anderson, but please correct me if I have got this wrong.

The above-linked posts cover continuous creation in works by Anderson and Blish and also summarize the matter as far as I want to go into it at present.

Continuous Creation

Sources
The Nature Of The Universe by Fred Hoyle
The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle
The Triumph Of Time/A Clash Of Cymbals by James Blish
Midsummer Century by James Blish
Starfarers by Poul Anderson

Scientific data, scientific theories and science fiction interact:

the cosmic red shift is a datum;
cosmological models are theories;
cosmic journeys are fictions.

In The Nature Of the Universe, Fred Hoyle postulated that mass generates not only gravitational fields but also a creation field to explain why, according to his steady state theory, cosmic expansion does not cause cosmic dissipation. In The Black Cloud, an intelligent gas cloud does not agree that the universe had a beginning. However, the steady state theory was soon disproved and is described as nonsense by a future intelligence in Midsummer Century.

The remaining contributions by Blish and Anderson are more complicated and will require a further post.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Against Time

"'...the will of Weard stands not to be altered... Know that against time the gods themselves are powerless.'" (see here)

For "gods," read "powerful but finite beings." They are powerless against time both because they will end (like everything else) and also because they cannot prevent what they know will happen. James Blish made the same point with his title, The Triumph Of Time. In that novel, even:

"...an immortal man who flew from star to star faster than light..."
-James Blish, They Shall Have Stars IN Blish, Cities In Flight (London, 1981), pp. 7-129 AT p. 17 -

- is powerless against time. His physical immortality - immunity to disease and old age - enables him to live only until the end of the universe. The Norse gods live until their doom, the Ragnarok, even though a sibyl has already described it in detail to Odin in Voluspa.

The Okies' powers include faster than light travel, the antiagathics and the instantaneous Dirac communicator. James Blish told me that, in the earliest, unpublished, version of an Okie story, the Dirac communicator received messages from the future. However, knowing the solutions before encountering the problems would have been inappropriate for the problem-solving central character of this series. Consequently, this application of the Dirac transmitter - the reception of messages not only from the present moment but also from every other moment in a four-dimensional continuum - was developed separately in "Beep"/The Quincunx Of Time.

If detailed foreknowledge had remained a feature of the Okie continuum, then John Amalfi would have been even more akin to:

Odin knowing in advance the details of the Ragnarok;

Poul Anderson's Time Patrolman Carl Farness knowing exactly when and where he was to betray his own descendants.

Alternative Narratives

These are alternative stories or narratives:

there is an inn between the worlds;

there is an inn at the end of all worlds;

the future Buddha lived many lives before he was born as Gautama;

Jesus fulfills the Law and the Prophets;

Muhammad is the Seal of the Prophets.

See The Value of Fantasy.

In the Worlds' End Inn, a man has heard of centaurs - as myths - and a centaur has heard of telephones - but does not think that there is one in the Inn. Different worldviews meet in the Inn.

But they also meet in our conversations. I am able not only to read these five narratives but also to converse with people who live conceptually inside three of them.

Poul Anderson's fiction prepares us for the diversity of the world that we inhabit. In the inn between the worlds, Valeria Matucheck meets a man for whom Hamlet was a historical figure...

Different Stories

We compare works of fiction, e.g., Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization with the same author's Time Patrol series or with other future histories like those of Heinlein, Niven or Pournelle. As a rule, such fictional narratives are mutually inconsistent. If one were true, then the others would remain untrue - unless we incorporate them into a parallel timelines framework, but even then each narrative remains exclusively valid within its particular timeline. Cavor and Armstrong cannot both be the first man on the moon within a single timeline.

We can do something similar with religions provided that we recognize them as stories:

" '...we who are educated, do not take ancestral myths for literal truth, as if we were Christians. They are symbols.
-copied from here.

"The faces of war are two."
-Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (Riverdale, NY, 2012), p. 275.

Anderson refers to the "face" of technology, organization, strategy, tactics and philosophy, then to the "face" of individual experience. See here. But the faces of war are many. It is personified as Ares in the Homeric epics, as Mars in the Aeneid and as Tyr in the Eddas and is an impersonal process in much military fiction, including military sf, as we have discovered.

Hindu texts identify Atman with Brahman, i.e., each individual soul with the transcendent, whereas the Buddha taught anatta, no-soul. Both affirm that our sense of separate selfhood is illusory. The most important event in history is the Enlightenment of the Buddha or the Resurrection of Christ...

Later

After the marines, not many parallels last night, folks:

film quiz, but no sf films;

in a Smallville episode called "Prodigal," Lionel Luthor's other son, Lucas, showed up and turned out to be sociopathic just as, in A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows, Dominic Flandry's only known son, Dominic Hazeltine, showed up and turned out to be working for Merseia.

But maybe this highlights something. Science fiction is an exercise in the imagination and, like all fiction, also deals with people. Thus, at least two kinds of parallels will be found. Between Poul Anderson's works and Smallville:

standard sf ideas like invisibility etc;
personal relationships, like between father and son.

Meanwhile, I have to find out what happens in a war in another timeline. What happens after those marines attack? One thing that does happen is that two Nantucketers kill a couple but rescue their baby.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Marines Attack

"The Marine platoon...were on their feet and charging before the last wreckage pattered down; some of it struck their helmets as they pounded through."
-SM Stirling, On The Oceans Of Night (New York, 2000), Chapter twenty-Four, p. 496.

I am in haste to go out for the evening so I cannot post at length but I was unable to resist making this comparison. Before I finished reading this sentence, I expected some rubble to hit the Marines' helmets. Why? See here.

Imagine...

Imagine thinking that you were going to die, then not. This happens to Dominic Flandry near the end of A Stone In Heaven. Hopefully, such an experience would be followed by a renewed appreciation of life?

Imagine fighting, knowing that you were doomed to die. This happens to Hathawulf and Solbern near the end of "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth." They can only ensure - and they do - that their opponent's victory is Pyrhhic.

Imagine fighting, strongly suspecting that you will not survive:

"'Ma'am, it's been an honor to serve with you...'
"He does not think much of our chances either..."
-SM Stirling, On The Oceans Of Eternity (New York, 2000), Chapter Twenty-Four, p. 492.

Again, they can only concentrate on damaging the enemy. I think that Raupasha has the invulnerability of a continuing character although I cannot be certain...

Stronger Gods

Gunnar has not had much religious education. He speaks of " '...St Thor...' " and "...the wizards of Romaborg..." (pp. 228-229)
-copied from here.

Both Poul Anderson and SM Stirling describe characters with pagan worldviews who, encountering Christianity, believe that they are accepting the Christian deity whereas instead they are merely incorporating that deity into their own as-yet-unchanged worldview.

Otto Verger, born Otheleraur son of Vargarex, thinks that a modern weapon gives him the Fist of Tauntutonnarax the Horned Man, then corrects that to the Fist of God the Father and Son and his Mother and makes the sign of the cross. Wanting to settle in Nantucket, he knows that:

"...he must make peace with Jesus and his sky-clan..." because it is "...always well to be in good with the particular Gods of the folk you dwell among, even if they were so strange you didn't understand a thing about them. They were strong; that was enough."
-SM Stirling, On The Oceans Of Eternity (New York, 2000), Chapter Twenty-Four, p. 486.

By this criterion, a military conquest of Nantucket would prove the conquerors' gods to be stronger. I think that the Ecumenical Church would pragmatically accept Otto's conversion, knowing that they would be able to educate his children differently.

Emotional Parasites

In Smallville: Rush, a Kryptonian parasite gives human beings a "rush" in order to feed off their adrenaline and this recalls a telepathic emotional parasite in which Dominic Flandry novel?

There is another parallel. The Kryptonian parasites are from a planet whose inhabitants have superior physical powers whereas the "lucks" in the Flandry novel are from the planet Chereion whose inhabitants have superior mental powers. Also, Siegel's and Shuster's first conceptualization of Superman was as a mentally powerful villain, not a physically powerful hero.

I find more parallels as I post about them. The alien menagerie in the van Rijn story, "Hiding Place," recalls the extraterrestrial zoo in Superman's Fortress of Solitude. Superman was originally an sf character but became the first superhero. Poul Anderson's Jack Havig is a superhero with the power of time travel which enables him to win fights by doubling back through time and appearing beside himself several times simultaneously.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Dated Narratives

In most later installments of the Time Patrol series, dates are used for section headings. Thus:

in "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth" -

372
1935
300
etc;

in "The Year of the Ransom" -

10 September 1987
3 June 1533 [Julian calendar]
15 April 1610
etc;

in The Shield Of Time -

1987 A.D.
1985 A.D.
209 B.C.
etc;

in "Death and the Knight" -

Paris, Tuesday, 10 October 1307
San Francisco, Thursday, 8 March 1990
Harfleur, Wednesday, 11 October 1307
etc.

This demonstrates no less than four different ways to do it. "Death and the Knight" does it best, specifying place, day of the week, day of the month, month and year. This is an efficient way to present a time travel narrative. Unfortunately, "Death and the Knight" was the last installment.

"Star of the Sea" is structured differently. Its headings are:

I
1-9
10 A.D. 60
II
11 A.D. 49
12 A.D. 43
13
14 A.D. 43
15 A.D. 70
16-19
III
20
IV

Sections 1-20 are the fictional narrative set in historical or contemporary periods whereas I, II, III and IV are mythological writing. Changes in the myths reflect historical changes. III is about the goddess Nehalennia and IV is a prayer to the Virgin Mary, as discussed in recent posts.

From The Obvious To The Fantastic

Consider these propositions:

our history is known to us;
without it, we would not be who or what we are;
that history includes many generations brought up to revere the Virgin Mary;
it also includes controversy as to the validity or otherwise of Marian devotion;
Time Patrol agents worked hard behind the scenes to ensure that every part of this history occurred on schedule.

The first four propositions may seem obvious although they are worth reflecting on. The fifth proposition is fantastic although we take it for granted when reading a science fiction series.

Many processes occur without conscious design or intervention although we sometimes imagine otherwise in works of fiction. Rupert Bear stories had Imps of Spring, Elves of Autumn and a Clerk of the Weather. When a character in a Swamp Thing story by Alan Moore complained that the hereafter was inefficient, a voluntary worker advised him to take it up with the guys in the Fate and Destiny Department!

Star Of The Sea II

Floris had wanted to learn what became of Veleda (here) but it turns out that Floris herself supervised Veleda's later career. Based on what she had known even before she joined the Patrol, Floris:

suggested a program to the Patrol;
had it approved;
continued to play the goddess role that had been thrust upon her;
heartened Veleda;
foretold what she would do;
made the necessary arrangements;
watched over Veleda;
appeared to her occasionally between 70 and 95 AD;
got her to proclaim the goddess as peaceful, move to Walcheren and revitalize the local cult of Neha.

Nehalennia was still worshiped centuries later.

Here is where everything comes together:

Neha had retained an association with hunting;
on the alter stones, she is represented with a ship or a dog and thanked for safe voyages to Britain;
she is called Neha Lenis, Neha the Gentle;
this name becomes Nehalennia;
in the mythical story, a hunter meets Nehalennia and her hound;
thanks to the goddess, he becomes wealthy;
because she is goddess of ships and trade, he buys a ship and trades with Britain;
he raises an altar and makes offerings after each voyage;
he bows to the morning and evening stars because they are Nehalennia's;
Floris hopes "'...that something of Nehalennia lingered on.'" (p. 635);
"Star of the Sea" ends with a prayer to "Mary, mother of God...";
Mary is asked for a safe voyage, praised for her gentleness and addressed as Stella Maris, Star of the Sea. (pp. 639-640)

Star Of The Sea

(i) Tacitus does not say what became of the sibyl Veleda after she had helped to arrange an armistice. Floris would like to find out and mentions Latin-inscribed altar stones and votive blocks preserved in museums in Leiden and Middleburg on Walcheren. (Time Patrol, p. 490) Although she mentions this clue only to dismiss it for the time being, when she refers to Walcheren again on p. 634, both Everard and the reader vaguely remember her earlier remark.

(ii) Veleda tells her companion, "'Time is on our heels.'" (p. 535) Little does she know. Not only time but also the Time Patrol are on her heels.

(iii) When Everard and Floris follow Veleda's trail through 60 AD, a local tells them:

"'I think that this Nerha goddess of hers is of the Wanes, not the Anses... unless it's another name for Mother Fricka. And yet... they say Nerha is as terrible in her rage as Tiw himself... There's something about a star and the sea, but I know nothing of that, we're inlanders here...'" (pp. 551-552)

Something about a star and the sea!

(iv) A Patrol ethnographer tells Everard and Floris that Veleda is making her goddess, here called Naerdha:

"'...into a being at least as powerful, as ...cosmic...as any.'" (p. 567)

Naerdha is assuming the roles of Wotan, Tiwaz, Thonar and Hecate. Could she become a mother of gods?

(v) In the mythology, a hunter becomes rich because of an encounter with the goddess Nehalennia and her hound. He buys a ship and trades with Britain.

The theological development approaches a climax.  

Gods And Time

What two words could be more evocative than "gods" and "time"? Poul Anderson writes about gods in heroic fantasy novels, about the passage of time in accounts of relativistic interstellar travel and about both in "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth" and "Star of the Sea," which could be collected as The Gods Of Time.

"'...against time the gods themselves are powerless.'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), pp. 333-465 AT p. 457.

The statement that even gods are powerless against time is a powerful affirmation that human beings are certainly powerless against it.

In a divergent timeline, the Emperor Frederick says, "'...if time allows...,'" not "'...if God allows....,'" as if he somehow senses that he owes his current triumphs to a temporal aberration. (The Shield Of Time, New York, 1991, p. 395)

"Star of the Sea" and The Shield Of Time have certain common features:

each is a novel although the former is shorter and was published in an omnibus collection, not as a separate volume;
each introduces a new variation on the causality violation idea;
each ends with an unexpected revelation.

At the end of The Shield..., Manse Everard and Wanda Tamberly learn the ultimate purpose of the Time Patrol. At the end of "Star of the Sea," the reader realizes that aspects of a goddess have been incorporated into Mary, Stella Maris, Star of the Sea. The Time Patrol's role in this incorporation will be the subject of a further post.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Three Kinds Of Dimensions III

Continued from here.

The Old Phoenix Multiverse
A series of horizontal parallel straight lines.
An arrow pointing from left to right at the foot of the page.
No other arrow on the page.
The straight lines are parallel, not successive, timelines.
The vertical is the inter-cosmic dimension.
Inter-universal travelers move up and down the page.
Maybe they move off it to enter the Old Phoenix?
To them, all timelines are present; none are past.
Each timeline is not derived from the one below it as is the case in the Time Patrol universe.

Three Kinds Of Dimensions II



Continued from here.

The Time Patrol Universe
A series of horizontal parallel straight lines.
An arrow pointing from left to right at the foot of the page.
A second arrow pointing up at one side of the page.
The parallel straight lines are successive timelines which can be numbered 1, 2, 3 etc.
The arrow at the foot of the page represents the direction of time within the successive timelines.
The arrow at the side of the page represents the order in which the timelines succeed each other.
A time traveler usually remains within a single timeline but occasionally departs 1 and arrives in 2 etc.
From our perspective looking down on the page, we can see that, when a time traveler departs timeline 1, that timeline continues to exist although, to inhabitants of timeline 2, it "does not exist and has never existed."
The time traveler arriving in timeline 2 knows that timeline 1 is in the past of the second temporal dimension extending up the page.
He may also think in a confused way that now it has never existed.

To be continued.

Three Kinds Of Dimensions

For convenience, let us describe Poul Anderson's The Corridors Of Time and There Will Be Time as his two Time novels. Let us also consider his Time Patrol series and his Old Phoenix sequence. This totals seven novels, one omnibus collection and two further short stories.

In all of these works, there are, of course, three spatial dimensions. In the two Time novels, there is a single temporal dimension. No surprises there. So far, that accords with our experience. In the Time Patrol series, we are told that theoretically there are 4N dimensions but we need only consider three spatial dimensions and two temporal dimensions. The Old Phoenix multiverse has three spatial dimensions, one temporal dimension and one other dimension. We must call this fifth dimension something so perhaps "inter-cosmic" will suffice.

The two Time novels are set in different universes which, however, have the same four-dimensional framework. Thus, we are considering only three frameworks. Let us imagine that each framework is represented diagramatically on a different page.

The Time Novels
A single horizontal straight line.
An arrow pointing from left to right at the foot of the page.
The straight line is a single timeline.
The arrow indicates that "past" is left and "future" is right.
Each point on the straight line represents a moment which is "present" to any conscious being living in that moment.
The three spatial dimensions are not represented.
Most personal world-lines merely extend from an earlier to a later moment.
The description of a time traveler is more complicated and different in each of the two novels.
However, from our perspective looking down on the page, each time traveler exists statically on different sections of the straight line.

To be continued.

Another Parallel

I asked how many fantasy and science fiction ideas were common to Poul Anderson's works and to Smallville episodes but there is another parallel. Anderson also wrote detective fiction.

Instead of addressing other fantasy or sf ideas, an installment of a superhero series can be a detective story. The hero can find clues with X-ray vision and can escape an assassination attempt with super-strength and super-speed whereas, in every other respect, the installment remains a classic detective story. So who shot Lionel Luthor? Lex Luthor? Jonathan Kent? A Luthor employee? No, the Sheriff that Lionel was blackmailing!

Both Isaac Asimov and Larry Niven combined sf with detective fiction whereas Anderson kept the two genres separate. I have read two of the three Trygve Yamamura novels and one Yamamura short story. Apparently, Anderson stopped writing detective fiction because it did not sell as well as sf. But this is fortunate. I would not have been writing a Poul Anderson Appreciation blog if his output had been mainly detective novels.

The Value Of Fantasy

Works of fantasy like Poul Anderson's Old Phoenix stories and Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: Worlds' End invite us to imagine that mythological creatures are as real as we are and that, in some unusual circumstances, we might be able to meet them. A conversation between a twentieth or twenty first century man and a centaur from Greek mythology would involve two points of view, that of the man and that of the centaur, and both would be equally real - so how would it seem to the centaur? When Brant Tucker requests the use of a phone because his friend is badly hurt, a long-haired bearded man, naked at least to the waist, replies:

"A telephone? I have heard of such things. I do not believe such an object is to be found in this inn, nor that it could summon any assistance for your friend if it was.
"I am, however, a chirurgeon of no mean skill."
-Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: Worlds' End (New York, 1994), p. 24.

Only then do we see his quadrupedal lower body. This is the centaur, Chiron. Similar scenes occur in Poul Anderson's works. Why is it valuable to read this? Because we do in fact coexist with beings who have very different worldviews - each other. Some of my friends and acquaintances accept as literally true narratives that I regard as mythological - just as Chiron is mythological. We inhabit very different conceptual universes.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Recycling FSF Concepts

OK. Rewatching Smallville, we recapitulate some fantasy and science fiction concepts, then ask: in which work(s), if any, did Poul Anderson address these ideas?

telepathy
invisibility
metamorphosis
werewolves
time travel (handled very badly in Smallville)
precognition
mind transference
aquatic humanity
ghosts
immortality

And probably more that I will remember after I have posted.

Where Can Reality Storms Happen? II

Are all of SM Stirling's alternative histories set in a single multiverse?
Is a reality storm possible in that multiverse?
Is the temporal displacement of Nantucket a consequence of such a storm?
Or is it instead caused by the same powerful intelligent beings that terraformed Mars and Venus in another universe?
Can natural laws differ between universes?
If so, could they change within a single universe?
Is that what happens in the Emberverse series (which I have not read yet)?

This has been an extended comparison of highly imaginative works by Poul Anderson, Neil Gaiman and SM Stirling. We may have exhausted the reality storm concept for the time being but you never know.

The Time Patrol series and the Nantucket Trilogy are sf.
The Sandman is fantasy.
The Old Phoenix Inn links fantasy and sf universes.

As I said recently, the sky is not the limit but the launchpad.

Where Can Reality Storms Happen?

A reality storm, as described here:

requires the coexistence of "space and time and myth" and/or of "conflicting realities";

temporarily relocates people from different times and places to the Worlds' End Inn.

This kind of storm is impossible in Poul Anderson's Time Patrol universe because, in that universe:

myths are not real;

conflicting realities do not coexist but succeed each other;

spatiotemporal displacement occurs only through the mechanism of a vehicle like a time shuttle or timecycle;

there is no inn at the end of the world.

This universe does include unstable space-time zones within which a time traveler might encounter or inadvertently cause a causality violation. Such zones are this universe's closest approach to a reality storm.

By contrast, in the Old Phoenix multiverse:

that which is a myth in one universe is sometimes a reality in another universe;

alternative versions of reality do coexist;

in some universes, magical events can include mysterious disappearances and reappearances, e.g., Holger Danske;

some conflicts are transcosmic;

there is an inn between the universes.

Thus, most of the conditions for a reality storm are in place.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Travelers Between Worlds

Valeria Matuchek in the Old Phoenix:

"'...the theorems I do know let me cross from continuum to continuum, with a fair probability of landing in whichever one I want, or a reasonable facsimile of it. I even deduced there had to be an interuniversal nexus. That's how I found the Old Phoenix.'"
-Poul Anderson, A Midsummer Tempest (London, 1975), Chapter xi, pp. 95-96.

Chiron the centaur in the Inn of the Worlds' End:

"...I have travelled here before. Those of us who travel between realms encounter it on occasion."
-Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: Worlds' End (New York, 1994), p. 146.

The hostess of the Worlds' End (whom we suspect is Kali):

"By the door. Just leave and walk. You will return to the worlds from which you came, or ones very similar." (p. 158)

Thus, Kali (we think) echoes Valeria. It is all one multiverse.

The Reality Storm

Maybe we should look out for signs of reality storms elsewhere in literature and fiction? Travelers take refuge from an unseasonable storm. Thus, a motorist who crashed his car during a snowstorm in June 1993 meets a sailor whose ship had been swept onto rocks apparently in mid-ocean by an unexpected storm in September 1914. They and many others tell stories while they wait...

There are two theories of reality storms. First:

a big thing happens;
it echoes;
the echoes crash across the worlds;
they are ripples in the fabric of things;
this is possible because reality is fragile.

On this theory, the current "big thing," about which there are only rumors, is, in the words of the centaur Chiron:

"...an event of great moment and consequence. Something that reverberates across time and space and myth. I have never seen the Inn so full." (Worlds' End, p. 141)

However, Chiron's own alternative theory is that reality storms:

"...are caused when two conflicting realities meet or overlap, in the same way natural storms are precipitated by the meeting of hot air and cold.
"It is, however, a difficult hypothesis to test empirically. This is only the second of these storms in my lifetime, and we centaurs consider ourselves a long-lived folk indeed." (p. 146)

From other data to which we have access, we are able to deduce that:

the first reality storm in Chiron's lifetime was caused by the Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was an overlapping of conflicting realities;

the current storm is caused by the death and funeral of Dream of the Endless - and this is an event of great moment and consequence.

Its consequences will be felt elsewhere, whether or not they are recognized as such. Why is it that:

"There were many gathered this evening, to sit before the innkeeper's fire, enjoy his food and drink and regale him with their tales."?
-Poul Anderson, A Midsummer Tempest (London, 1975), Epilogue, p. 228.

"Anomalous Variations In Reality" III

See"Anomalous Variations In Reality" II.

In The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), Part Five, pp. 259-265, Poul Anderson links "'...anomalous variations in reality...'" (p. 261) to a thunder storm through the pathetic fallacy. The storm approaches while a colleague warns Manse Everard about "'...instability in [certain] sections of history.'" (p. 262)

"Lightning flickered in darkness, bright enough to pierce through the lamps of New York. Thunder was still too distant to overcome traffic rush; wind and rain would follow." (p. 259)

The storm arrives just as Everard wonders whether Time Patrol agents in the far future might:

"...be afraid of what he barely hinted at, a chaos they cannot chart and therefore cannot turn aside? Are they making what desperate provision they can?
"Lightning flared like a banner suddenly flown above the enclosing towers." (p. 265)

In The Sandman: Worlds' End (New York, 1994), Neil Gaiman goes further by identifying variations in reality with a storm. If, when I asked, "What is a reality storm?" here, you thought that that sounded like something out of Star Trek, then you agreed with one of Gaiman's characters. Our reality, in which people sometimes think, "That sounds like something out of Star Trek," is one of the many realities that interact at the Worlds' End as my friend Kevin (mentioned before) found when I told him about the reality storm and he responded, "That sounds like something out of..."

GK Chesterton knew of the Inn at the Worlds' End:

"For you and me and all brave men, my brother,' said Wayne, in his strange chant, 'there is good wine poured in the inn at the end of the world.'"
-GK Chesterton, The Napoleon Of Notting Hill (1904), quoted in Gaiman, op. cit., p.1.

Douglas Adams wrote not only The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy but also The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe.

OK but what is a reality storm?

"Anomalous Variations In Reality" II

Continued from here.

The Old Phoenix is at an interuniversal nexus. Thus, it is located between universes, not at the end of worlds. Also, the words "universe" and "world" have different connotations. Given these clues, we might be able to deduce where some other Free Houses are located?

The Time Patrol prevents variations in reality whereas the Nantucketers inadvertently cause one. In fact, one Nantucketer demonstrates that there has been a variation in reality by reciting the Odyssey to Odysseus. The Free Houses exist in a context of many variant realities. Those who exit the Worlds' End return to the worlds from which they came or to very similar ones.

Our next question is "What is a reality storm?"

"Anomalous Variations In Reality"

Many works perhaps tell us of variations in reality. Here we consult just four authoritative texts:

the Time Patrol series by Poul Anderson;
the Old Phoenix sequence by Poul Anderson;
the Nantucket Trilogy by SM Stirling;
The Sandman: Worlds' End graphic novel by Neil Gaiman.

Founders, If Any
The post-human Danellians will found the Time Patrol.
Some power unknown granted the Taverners their charter for the Old Phoenix.
I still do not know whether a higher intelligence or technology moved Nantucket through time.
The Inn of the Worlds' End (see image) is continually being created because worlds are ending all the time.

Since the Old Phoenix and the Worlds' End have much in common, it might be instructive to summarize what we are told about the latter. It is:

the inn at the end of the worlds;
its own place;
what's left when the real worlds end;
not part of the realms of Dream or Death;
a Free House;
no part of any kingdom or empire;
a story, vision or hope;
a refuge after the lights go out, for a while;
a place where dead people sometimes go but do not stay.

There is more.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Cosmology And Mythology!

Modern scientific cosmology and ancient Greek mythology: that is how versatile science fiction, and time travel as a science fictional concept, are.

Poul Anderson's Time Patrol are the police force for the anthropic principle whereas, in an entirely different continuum, one of SM Stirling's Nantucketers recites the Odyysey to Odyyseus.

I don't think it gets any better than this but, if it does, I would like to hear about it. Meanwhile - my Pagan friends prepare for Yule.

Wise Odysseus

Ian Arnstein, captive, recites the Odyssey to Odysseus (Odikweos) who comments:

"'So, it is given to me to know how the men of years to come will think of me...
"'...or my deeds and name would have been known, if things had gone forward as they did in the past your age remembers...
"'And this Walker has robbed me of!
"'And much of what Walker knows is the fruit of my people's minds and hands?'"
-SM Stirling, On The Oceans Of Eternity (New York, 2000), Chapter Twenty-Three, p. 473.

Very good: an understanding of time travel, of causality violation and of historical progress plus the beginning of a motive to rebel against William Walker, King of Men! Arnstein makes good use of his time as a captive.

The Cosmic Time Patrol

For me, if not for anyone else, reading about time travel, e.g., in SM Stirling's Nantucket Trilogy, leads to thinking about, therefore also rereading parts of, Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series. Thus, I am currently juggling Stirling's On The Oceans Of Eternity and the Time Patrol.

All the action of the Time Patrol series is confined to various periods of the Terrestrial past except for one passage set on the Moon in 2319. However, we are given many hints of other future periods. See here. Further, at the very end of The Shield Of Time, a Danellian reveals to Manse Everard and Wanda Tamberly that the Patrol's role is cosmic, not just Terrestrial:

"'In a reality forever liable to chaos, the Patrol is the stabilizing element...'" (see here)

Is it an exaggeration to suggest that the word "...reality..." implies a cosmic role? No, because, further down the same page, the Danellian asks:

"'Has the universe therefore brought forth sentience, in order to protect and give purpose to its own existence? That is not an answerable question.
"'But take heart. Reality is. You are among those who guard it...
"'Blessing.'"

Reality exists because it is guarded by entities who exist only as one small part of reality. But the Danellian's question is answerable. Reality cannot generate consciousness in order to fulfill any purpose because, before it can have a purpose, reality must first be conscious.

It is said that, if certain cosmological quantities had had even a slightly different value, then life would have been impossible in this universe. We must ask: would it have been possible for these quantities to have a different value? If yes and if it were possible for a random fluctuation in space-time energy to change these values, then the Patrol or the Danellians would have to intervene in the early universe to preserve the quantities, by what means I do not know.

Terminologies And Concepts

Mark Twain, writing before HG Wells had coined "time travelling," used the term, "transposition of epochs." In SM Stirling's On The Oceans Of Eternity (New York, 2000), Odikweos (Odyyseus) is canny enough to deduce that the Nantucketers:

"'...are from the days that are yet to come.'" (p. 464)

He has overheard Walker say not "...in my land," but "...in my time." He knows that there have been historical changes and therefore can be more. The new people know where iron can be mined and have maps of the land so they must be gods, demigods, seers or "'...from years yet unborn.'" (p. 465) Thus a Homeric hero discusses time travel from the future.

When Poul Anderson wrote his Time Patrol series, he inherited the Wellsian terminology of "time travel" and "time machine" but added some more:

timecycles
nexuses
causal vortices
a quantum fluctuation in space-time-energy
a personal causal nexus

More On Everard

Everard advises Carl Farness:

"'What I'm trying to make you know, not in your forebrain but in your marrow, is that reality never conforms very well to the textbooks, and sometimes it doesn't conform at all.'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Sorrow Of Odin The Goth" IN Anderson Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), pp. 333-465 AT p. 387.

In Everard's career, this statement is intermediate between miserly gods and cosmic capriciousness. He is learning. Later still, he learns more, from a Danellian:

"'In a reality forever liable to chaos, the Patrol is the stabilizing element, holding time to a single course...left untended, events would inevitably move toward the worse. A cosmos of random change must be senseless, ultimately self-destructive. In it could be no freedom.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), p. 435.

Thus, the Time Patrol universe is anthropic. Intelligence exists because intelligent beings, having come into existence, travel into the past to ensure the conditions for their own existence. They are responsible for any apparent synchronicity. Their role is that of "gods," like the far future beings encountered by a single time traveler in "Flight to Forever."

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

On Identifying "Top Gods"

Of a goddess:

"'She did what gods are supposed to do, gave courage and solace, made men a little more decent than they might otherwise have been, and sometimes opened their eyes to beauty.'"
-Poul Anderson, "Star of The Sea" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), pp. 467-640 AT p. 634.

Courage, solace, decency, beauty. Not all gods do these things.

"Hers are the trees, the vine, and the fruits thereof. Hers are the sea and the ships that plow it. Hers are the well-being of mortals and peace among them." (p. 628)

Yes, a good story in more ways than one. I value this goddess without believing in her literal existence.

Gods that need not apply for the top jobs include:

those that will destroy their worshipers if they do not receive blood sacrifices;
the gods of intolerant sects;
the god of the Mosaic Law.

Does the Golden Rule encapsulate "the law and the prophets"? In general terms, yes - but only if we leave out details like stoning adulterers. The Buddha is not a god but is, according to the mythology, a "teacher of gods and men" - and he taught that the best sacrifice is an offering not of blood to the gods but of fruit to the poor.

Continuing To Explore The Wisdom Of Manse Everard

Manse has referred metaphorically to miserly gods, then to a fundamental cosmic capriciousness. Next he speculates about Jungian synchrony:

"...the structure of the plenum...isn't just changeable in time as well as space. It seems to be subtler and trickier than they see fit to teach us at the Academy. Coincidences can be more than accidents. Maybe Jung glimpsed a little of the truth, in his notions about synchrony - I dunno. The universe isn't for the likes of me to understand. I only work here."
-Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), p. 261.

For Jungian "synchronicity," see here.

Because spatial relationships change, we refer to time as the relationship between a spatial relationship changed from and a spatial relationship changed to. If temporal relationships were to change, then there would have to be a succession of four dimensional spatiotemporal continua, e.g.:

in the first continuum, the Scipios survive the Battle of Ticinus and Rome wins the Second Punic War;

in the second continuum, the Scipios are killed at Ticinus and Carthage wins the Second Punic War, now calling it the Second Roman War;

the relationship between the two continua would be a second temporal dimension in which it is meaningful to say that now history is different.

But Everard suspects that something more is happening. But he does not understand what. We all work in the universe and some of us are retired here! We can try to understand it both for practical purposes and as a theoretical exercise.

Reflections II

Although Manse Everard refers metaphorically to gods (see here), he really accepts another aspect of a pagan world-view. Everard inwardly reflects that the Tyrians are "...fundamentally right..." to think that:

"'...the world isn't entirely governed by laws of nature; it's capricious, changeable, magical.'"
-Poul Anderson, "Ivory, and Apes, and Peacocks" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), pp. 229-331 AT p, 254.

The friend of Italian descent whom I have mentioned is a Pagan who reveres the Roman goddess Fortuna. Apparently, a priestess kept her temple clean and neat although no prayers or sacrifices were offered there. Fortuna must be respected but not entreated although fortuna audaces iuvat.

That Latin proverb would make a good motto for the Time Patrol. Everard guards time sometimes by daring action as when he attacks two Exaltationists and their military escort and grabs a communicator to summon instant help. The course of history depends on such Time Patrol actions.

Three Top Gods

See Reflections.

Prometheus
was a Titan;
thus, of the divine generation before the Olympians;
stole fire from heaven;
thus, perhaps, is a deification of the first man to control fire;
personifies human action on nature;
suffered for mankind.

Indra
is a Thor equivalent;
was the chief of the Vedic pantheon;
as such, would have been known to the young Gautama;
is mentioned in Buddhist texts;
released rain from heaven;
thus, personifies the life-sustaining aspect of nature;
and also complements Prometheus;
was the first god to know the Spirit Supreme, according to Kena Upanishad (see here).

Krishna
taught karma yoga;
inspired SM Stirling's character, Athelstane King.

Reflections

Manson Everard of the Time Patrol reflects on life. Maybe the reader reflects also? We can certainly reflect on the passage of time even without the hind-and-foresight of a time traveler. This blog expresses my reflections inspired by Andersonian characters. Everard, van Rijn, Falkayn and Flandry present different world-views. Of these four, van Rijn is the only religious believer, specifically Catholic.

Everard reflects:

"A man had to take whatever the gods offered him, and they were a miserly lot."
-Poul Anderson, "Brave To Be A King" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), pp. 55-112 AT p. 74.

Two differences between Everard and van Rijn:

van Rijn refers to saints, not to gods;
Everard, of course, does not believe that any of these superior beings literally exist.

However, it is a natural way to think, especially when Everard has time traveled to ancient Persia where gods were part of life. But we still do it now, projecting concepts applicable to psychology and society onto nature and the cosmos:

I complain that life was not designed better, forgetting that I do not believe that it was designed;

I spontaneously address the One as "Lord," although my philosophy tells me that It, or (to use a Hindu term) THAT, cannot be a person;

looking at it from the other direction, I imagine that few people who travel with a St Christopher medal believe that the story of Christopher carrying Christ carrying the world is literally true - it is a good story about travel and that is all that matters.

Gods and some saints are good stories or, in Alan Moore's phrase, "higher fictions." Thor has made a good transition from altars and prayers to comic books and films. On this note, I will shortly post my personal list of the three top gods.