Monday, 31 October 2016

Muddlehead

Muddlehead the computer thinks that a court might decide that he owns goods that he has individually earned. Lee Chan retorts:

"'You're not a person!...Not even in fact, let alone the law!'" (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 208)

My understanding has been that Muddlehead is a consciousness-level "computer." True or false? In any case, either he is or he is not. If he is not, then Chee is arguing with no one. If he is conscious, then he is a person in fact and should be in law. In that case, whether he can own property is purely a matter of the laws governing property in any given society.

Asimov's Robot stories fail to address this issue. The robots are self-conscious and intelligent, yet are property and can legally be destroyed. It is not good enough that the question about their rights is never even addressed.

The Solution On Ikrananka

As at the end of the following story, "Day of Burning," Falkayn must convene a planetary conference. On Ikrananka, the conference brings together:

Emperor Jadhadi;
King Ursala of Rangakora, resisting Imperial annexation;
Harry Smit, the Ershoka (human) senior;
Bobert Thorn, the Ershoka rebel;
the mayor of the town where the conference is held;
"'...the distinguished representative of the merchant adventurers from Beyond-the-World, Da'id 'alkayn.'" (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 201)

Falkayn's compromise:

Rangakora to remain independent but to drop claims for indemnification;
the League will sell the Emperor firearms so that he can defend his borders and will no longer need Ershoka warriors;
the Ershoka to continue to own farms, ranches and town houses and now also to sell their services as guards of caravans against barbarians;
the Ikranakans to accept galactic missionaries;
threat of war by League (bluff) -

- "'...an equality of dissatisfaction...'" (p. 205), to be followed by unimaginable satisfactions. Of course, it works.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Planning Escapes

"Briefly, she grew rigid. The jolt passed, her mind hummed into overdrive..." (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 160)

"And then his mind rocked. He stumbled back and sat down on the bed. Chee jumped clear and watched with round yellow eyes. The silence grew huge.
"Until Falkayn smashed fist into palm and said, 'Judas on Mercury! Yes!'" (p. 191)

By now, the alert reader recognizes what is happening. First Chee, then Falkayn, suddenly realize how they might escape from their current imprisonment. More moments of realization. But they have to escape from more than physical imprisonment. What they need on Ikrananka is a stable empire that they can trade with. What they have got is an unstable empire trying to annex Ikranankans who would be more amenable contacts for interstellar trade but who are too few to form an empire and also local human beings rebelling against the current empire. How can Falkayn reconcile all the factions and unite the planet sufficiently to please van Rijn in particular or the League in general?

If Falkayn fails on Inkrananka, then he will be given a safe, undemanding routine job and, at the appropriate age, compulsorily retired. That would suit many people but not the few like Falkayn. If I were a citizen of  the Solar Commonwealth, then I would not aspire to work or seek promotion in Solar Spice & Liquor! I would welcome a career in some kind of public service with enough leisure time for reading fiction and studying philosophy.

Michael Karageorge

Hank Davis not only compiled Baen Books' seven volume complete collection of Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, under the title The Technic Civilization Saga, but also wrote the Introduction to "Sargasso of Lost Starships." The names cited in this Introduction are:

Donvar Ayeghen
Winston P. Sanders IX;
D. H. Thomas; (?)
Lester Dent;
Walter B. Gibson;
Norvell W. Page;
Michael Karageorge. (See here.)

Fictitiously, Karageorge writes the Introduction to "Sargasso..." Factually, Davis makes a good contribution to the History.

Saved By Adversity?

"Chee Lan...wanted to become indecently wealthy off her commissions, in order to indulge her every whim when at last she returned to that planet which astronomy designates as O2 Eridani A II and the Anglic language calls Cynthia." (Rise Of The Terran Empire, p. 35)

However, she and Adzel realize that they must not allow their respective planets to suffer:

"'...while outside, the order of things that the Earthfolk brought goes tumbling down...'" (p. 290)

Instead, they must use their money and knowledge to prepare Cynthia and Woden for what is to come.

"'I don't relish the prospect...how I curse it, I who imagined I'd retire to domestic comfort and expensive fun! But we'll be conferring, Adzel, for the rest of our days, yes, yes, we will.'" (ibid.)

But that sounds like the best possible outcome. Chee Lan and Adzel will stay in touch and will be doing something useful. In the longer term:

"'...could be that our races will build us a monument after they've started a whole new course of history for all the planets.'" (p. 291)

That will take time. First, the obstacles of the Terran Empire and the Merseian Roidhunate will have to be removed but then - what role will Cynthia and Woden play in the civilizations that spread through several spiral arms and eventually operate on a galactic scale as evidenced by the existence of a Galactic Archeological Society? (p. 325)

Isolation

Interstellar travel could lead to the isolation of small groups of human beings in space or on other planets. Poul Anderson explores the possibilities.

In his Psychotechnic History:

a spaceship crew and their offspring trapped on a barbaric planet adapt to barbarism;
a women only population reproduces by parthogenesis;
a lost spaceship starts the spacefaring Nomad culture.

In his Technic History:

a spaceship crew stranded on Inkrananka become a phratry of warriors;
a food deficiency means that boys on a colony planet must practice cannibalism to reach puberty;
Kirkasanters can no longer interbreed with galactic humanity.

Humanity is not homogenized but diversified, the ultimate good from Anderson's point of view - especially when those who have had to resort to cannibalism are provided with food that makes the practice unnecessary.

I think that, in Star Trek, Vulcan should have been a small, isolated human colony.

In The Saturn Room Of The Hotel Universe, Lunograd

Nicholas van Rijn almost shares another banquet with the reader but Poul Anderson does not complete his description of van Rijn's order:

Limfjord oysters;
chilled crabs and asparagus tips;
fifty grams of Strasbourg pate;
onion soup a la Ansa;
wine with the soup...

"He went on for several minutes." (Rise Of The Terran Empire, p.136)

So why could we not have read the rest of it?

Van Rijn's host in the Saturn Room of the Hotel Universe, Bayard Story, orders the onion soup, recommended by van Rijn, and "'...the tournedos on the regular dinner, medium rare...'" (ibid.)

Story wants Solar Spice & Liquor to support the Seven in Space during the Mirkheim crisis. Van Rijn refuses and warns:

"'You will be surprised, Freeman, at how much I can bite all by myself.'" (p. 144)

Sure will. Solar will expose the Seven's arming of the Baburites.

Danellian Physics

If a time criminal like Merau Varagan is to alter the course of events, then he must travel to a nexus point where his actions can influence many world lines whereas a personal causal nexus like Lorenzo de Conti already lives at such a point. Most "changes" made by time travelers are minor and were "already" part of the past just as most quantum fluctuations in space-time-energy are inconsequential. However, at a nexus point, there are three possible causes of alterations:

unintended consequences of actions by a time traveler, e.g., Janne Floris;
intended consequences of actions by time travelers, e.g., Neldorians;
random changes in the life of a personal causal nexus.

Thus, time travel functions like a strong anthropic principle. It increases the possible causes of alterations but also provides the only possible way to counteract any alterations. Maybe Danellian physics can incorporate the occurrence of time criminals and the occurrence of personal causal nexuses into a single equation? Guion hints that the Exaltationists are part of a bigger problem.

Terrestrial Renaissance And Ikranankan Reformations

Ikanankan Twilight Zone houses remind David Falkayn "...of First Renaissance architecture on Earth." (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 173)

When there had been a Second World War, the Great War became the First. If future history has a Renaissance, then the Renaissance in our history will become the First. Merely by using this phrase, "First Renaissance," Poul Anderson evokes a comparable creative period in his History of Technic Civilization.

Falkayn sees "...a Tyrian sky..." (ibid.) Readers of Anderson's Time Patrol series are familiar with Tyre. Apparently, there can be a Mediterranean blue sky in the Ikranankan Twilight Zone because the planet librates.

Twilight Zoners experience seasonal changes and therefore have a standard polytheistic religion with benevolent gods, divine death, annual rebirth and defeat of the evil one. This makes them easier for van Rijn and the League to do business with than the permanently paranoid Daysiders. In fact, the Twilight Zone sounds like fertile ground for Christian missionaries: polytheism + Occam's Razor = monotheism?

Falkayn thinks that Buddhist missionaries will subvert Daysider dystopianism by offering a more comfortable message than dismal demonology. (There is a Tibetan story about a Buddhist teacher taming the local deities.) The self-knowledge of meditation is often uncomfortable but more truthful and helpful than belief in demons of chaos.

Drunkard's Walk

Muddlehead says that:

"'...Drunkard's Walk computations involve comparatively sophisticated mathematics.'" (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 170)

I first encountered the phrase "Drunkard's Walk" as the title of an sf novel by Frederick Pohl. There is a more recent popular science book called The Drunkard's Walk, which is of interest for at least two reasons. First, it refers to interpretation of stochastic processes. In James Blish's Cities In Flight future history, a future philosophical system is called Stochasticism. Secondly, it refers to misinterpretation of random events.

I could interpret many random events in my life as providential because they had beneficial outcomes. However, it is clearly wrong to generalize from one life to life in general. In Poul Anderson's "The Trouble Twisters," the Inkranankans see their luck as generally bad but this is because of environmental factors specific to their planet. Their condition will be changed for the better by contact with the Polesotechnic League.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

"The Most Expansive, Most Brilliant Time"

"It was the most expansive, most brilliant time which Technic civilization would ever know." (Rise Of The Terran Empire, p. 143)

"The tree was growing, ever leafing, though a snake gnawed its roots. Thus was it often before on Earth, in the age of the Chun-Chiu, the age of the Delian alliance, the age of the Renaissance.
"But when a century had passed -" (ibid.)

These are not empty phrases. Poul Anderson has just presented nearly five pages of Wellsian-Stapledonian future historical writing to summarize the relationship between the Solar Commonwealth and the Polesotechnic League. (See here.) Clearly, Anderson is well informed about the three historical periods that he cites even if we ordinary sf readers are not.

In fact, he covertly invokes yet another tradition because the tree growing between the worlds while a dragon gnaws one of its roots comes directly from Norse mythology - and that tree is visited in Anderson's own fantasy novel, Operation Luna. See here.

The Twilight Zone

Ikrananka turns one face towards its sun and therefore has a permanent Twilight Zone:

"They were at the edge of the Twilight Zone." (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 156)

On Earth, dawn, morning, noon, afternoon, evening and night are a temporal sequence whereas, on Ikrananka, they are places. A planet observed from space is seen to have permanently lit and unlit sides, especially if the axial spin is disregarded. Sunrise or sunset can be made to seem permanent by someone who flies above the planet at just the right height and speed. Can a time traveler reduce his speed to zero and thus witness a single moment permanently? The Wellsian Time Traveler's "speed" is, e.g., one subjective second per one objective millennium. Can he go into reverse, e.g., one subjective millennium per one objective second? Thus, he would die of old age and disappear in an instant? He would be able to spend the remainder of his life watching a single sunset.

I am trying to think of different possible meanings of the Phrase, "Twilight Zone."

Dating A Future History Series

Possible clues in the texts:

years AD;
year numbers in some other style of dating, e.g., Asimov's GE;
a series character's age might be stated in some installments;
the narrator might indicate how much time, in round numbers, has elapsed between major events or periods of the history.

Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization:

presents no AD dates after the opening installment;
creates no new style of dating;
does state some of the characters' ages;
sometimes mentions numbers of centuries.

I think that this makes it impossible to compile a Chronology of Technic Civilization in years AD. At most, it is possible to try to relate the fictitious historical events to each other:

Falkayn is on Ikrananka less than four hundred years after the invention of the hyperdrive;
the Babur War occurs one hundred years after the Council of Hiawatha;
the Ythrian War occurred two hundred years before the Aenean rebellion;
the Terran Empire had existed for over four hundred years before the Starkad affair.

There may be other such indications. Merely for the purpose of constructing a Chronology, we might call the year of the invention of the hyperdrive 1 HD, then calculate dates for later events from this base date? The length of time between 2055 AD and 1 HD remains unknown.

"...Distance Traveled"

The Technic History does to Space what the Time Patrol does to Time. Both series show us distance traveled.
-copied from here.

"...distance traveled."

Today I have driven 258 miles from Lancaster in the North West of England to Cromer (see image) in the South East. I have brought the lap top and three volumes and want to add a few more posts this month although the purpose of the trip is to tour and sight see, not to read or blog.

"The Trouble Twisters" is a fertile text for reflections on life. It reuses Falkayn, cameos van Rijn and the introduces Adzel, Chee Lan, Muddlehead and the trade pioneer crew idea. "How To Be Ethnic...," written later but set earlier, retro-introduces Adzel. By discussing the Ikranankans' attitude to life, we discuss life. Human beings have formulated many hypotheses but the Ikranankans have possibly thought of something new.

Hypothetical Theologies
One good God creates everything.
The good God has an opponent, Ahriman.
God is opposed not by an independent power but only by rebel angels, demons.
Ikranankans: there are only demons!

In "A Case of Conscience" (1953) by James Blish, a Jesuit scientist becomes a Manichaean heretic because of his encounter with the Lithians;
in Satan's World (1968) by Poul Anderson, Nicholas van Rijn declaims that the planet Dathyna is evidence for Manichaeanism!;
in "The Problem of Pain" (1973) by Anderson, Peter Berg questions his Christian faith because of his encounter with the Ythrians.

Was van Rijn's statement about Dathyna maybe influenced by "A Case of Conscience"?

Addendum: Of course, I should have added, in Blish's Black Easter, demons eliminate the opposition and, in the sequel, The Day After Judgment, they have to become good.

Packaging The Technic History II

See here.

In response to an inquiry about the proposed contents of the volumes in the "boxed sets":

RISE OF THE POLESOTECHNIC LEAGUE
"The Saturn Game"
"Wings of Victory"
"The Problem of Pain"
"How To Be Ethnic..."
"Margin of Profit"
"The Three-Cornered Wheel"
"The Season of Forgiveness"
The Man Who Counts

DECLINE OF THE POLESOTECHNIC LEAGUE
"Esau"
"Hiding Place"
"Territory"
"The Trouble Twisters"
"Day of Burning"
"The Master Key"
Satan's World
"A Little Knowledge"
"Lodestar"

RISE OF THE TERRAN EMPIRE
Mirkheim
"Wingless"
"Rescue on Avalon"
"The Star Plunderer"
"Sargasso of Lost Starships"
The People Of The Wind

YOUNG FLANDRY AND THE TERRAN EMPIRE
Ensign Flandry
A Circus Of Hells
The Rebel Worlds 
"Outpost of Empire"
The Day Of Their Return

CAPTAIN FLANDRY OF THE TERRAN EMPIRE
"Tiger by the Tail"
"Honorable Enemies"
"The Game of Glory"
"Hunters of the Sky Cave"
"A Message in Secret"
"A Plague of Masters"

ADMIRAL FLANDRY AND THE CHILDREN OF THE TERRAN EMPIRE or THE MOLITOR DYNASTY
"The Warriors from Nowhere"
A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows
A Stone In Heaven
The Game Of Empire

AFTER THE TERRAN EMPIRE or THE POST-IMPERIAL AGE
"A Tragedy of Errors"
"The Night Face"
"The Sharing of Flesh"
"Starfog" 

Friday, 28 October 2016

Innocence Forever Gone

The theme of innocence lost is perfect for time travel fiction and we have seen that it pervades Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series. See here. The same theme is also relevant to an sf series in which primitive societies are integrated into an interstellar civilization and in which some individuals, benefiting from an advanced education, leave their home planets to visit other planetary systems:

Adzel reflects:

"...now he was so changed that he would never feel at home among the hunters...a certain sense of belonging, an innocence, was forever gone." (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 132)

Chee Lan says:

"'We can't go home to what we left when we were young; it may still be, but we aren't, nor is the rest of the cosmos.'" (Rise Of The Terran Empire, p. 290)

The Technic History does to Space what the Time Patrol does to Time. Both series show us distance traveled.

Drink

Adzel finally drinks enough to get drunk. While his Buddhist principles do not prohibit alcohol, it is not a good idea for a Buddhist to drink a lot. Alcohol and meditation pull in opposite directions, like slimming and eating cream cakes. Although I have not formally adopted any Buddhist rules, I try to meditate regularly and have found that it is better not to drink as a rule although without any absolute prohibition.

How would Terrestrial religious rules apply to extraterrestrial organisms or vice versa? Alcohol does not affect Cynthians but Chee Lan smokes narcotic cigarettes. Adzel, while on Earth or in space, never has any problem with celibacy because he is not near Wodenite females during the rutting season.

I strongly suspect that human-alien interactions, if they ever happen, will not be remotely like anything imagined. Carl Sagan once said that we won't be able to go out into the galaxy and ask, "Are you fellows Prespetarians?"! We will be starting from scratch with no idea of what the rules are. See here.

An Ikranankan Inn

We have seen a lot of inns. Here is an Inkranankan one:

a wench approaches Padrick but withdraws when she sees that he is human!;
the smoky room becomes still as Adzel enters;
patrons draw forth knives;
torchlight, bright to natives, is dim and red to Adzel;
garments are sleazy;
faces are avian;
eyes are unwinking;
when Padrig introduces Adzel as the Emperor's guest, a drunk laughs and patrons resume drinking but remain watchful.

It sounds like Hell to me. How do League traders become used to going into such places?

A Former Palace

Points of interest on Ikrananka include:

"...the palace of a former dynasty turned into a warehouse..." (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 125)

How many beings use, work in or walk past that warehouse without knowing its history? In Liverpool, a large building that was, and possibly still is, empty and unused was once a Trade Union Centre. When it was in use as the Centre, I attended a public meeting that was critical of the role of the police in society. One speaker from the floor volunteered the information that that building had previously been Merseyside Police Headquarters and, further, that the room in which we were meeting had been the Chief Constable's office! No one else at the meeting had known that.

Once when I routinely visited our local shop, the Verger of Lancaster Priory Church happened to call in. He remembered a time when what we knew as the shop had been a family home. The family was called Mashiter, the boy was in the Choir and Choir Committee meetings were held in the front room. Every building has a history that is usually unknown to its current users.

On Ikrananka

On the planet Ikrananka:

most of the water has collected and frozen on the Night Side;

wells are precious and guarded;

walls are of dry stone because water cannot be squandered on mortar;

drapes are used for interior doors because wood is scarce;

the Emperor sits not on a throne but on the saddle of "the Beast," a bronze chimera, with his feet in stirrups;

standing at attention has not been invented and the human beings who serve as warriors have had the good sense not to introduce it;

because Falkayn has come for business reasons, not for racial imperialism, he offers to reduce a castle held by human rebels - but, of course, the eventual business deal will find a profitable role for everyone;

Ikranakan magical religion does not serve gods who maintain order but counteracts demons who try to restore chaos!;

primordial Fire and Ice came together and condensed into the universe - good dialectical philosophy.

Packaging The Technic History

Yet again I think that I have worked out how Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization should be packaged and published. This version is a refinement of several previous attempts. Three boxed sets:

LEAGUE AND EMPIRE
Rise Of The Polesotechnic League
Decline Of The Polesotechnic League
Rise Of The Terran Empire

FLANDRY AND EMPIRE
Young Flandry And The Terran Empire
Captain Flandry Of The Terran Empire
Admiral Flandry and The Children Of The Terran Empire or The Molitor Dynasty

AFTER THE EMPIRE
After The Terran Empire or The Post-Imperial Age
a volume containing the original versions of the revised stories plus essays and commentaries on the Technic History.

The titles of the proposed boxed sets are suggested because they are appropriate. They also invite comparison with Asimov's Foundation And Empire etc. What Asimov's series aspires to be, Anderson's is.

Spica, Star Or Sector

The planet Ikrananka is in orbit around a dwarf star. From the Ikranankan surface, David Falkayn sees, through dull light and thin air, a few stars including the white jewel of Spica. The reader thinks no more of this. The narrator has named a star. However, we later learn why Falkayn is on Ikrananka:

"A sector would be chosen, out where the traffic is still thin: Spica, for instance. A base would be established." (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 99)

The star has given its name to a sector of space and Falkayn is the captain of the first trade pioneer crew. Later in the Technic History, the Spican marches are mentioned and Dominic Flandry:

"...accepted reassignment to the Spican province." (Captain Flandry, pp. 303, 304)

The sector has become an Imperial province. (See here.) Every background detail in Poul Anderson's works is there for a reason and has deeper repercussions.

Since Ivanhoe

Nicholas van Rijn looks down on the Sunda Strait, presumably from his office in Djakarta. We learn that David Falkayn's teen-age exploits on Ivanhoe not only got him quick promotion to journeyman but also brought him to van Rijn's attention. Thus, more was happening behind and between the scenes than we realized.

Three years after Ivanhoe, Falkayn, van Rijn and Dalmady were all having extrasolar adventures in overlapping stories and we subsequently learn that at that time van Rijn had begun to follow Falkayn's career. We still do not know how far Falkayn will progress, becoming van Rijn's grandson-in-law, running Solar Spice & Liquors in van Rijn's absence and founding the colony on Avalon.

Cynthia

I recently wondered whether the Cynthians had discovered the hyperdrive independently. Of course not. Since Chee Lan is introduced in "The Trouble Twisters," this is where the introductory data about Cynthia are presented:

when discovered, an Alexandrine technological level on one continent;
scientific method;
no cities;
trade routes instead of nations;
well adapted to fit into the League;
white Angora fur on the dominant species.

We learn elsewhere that:

the trade routes are in the treetops;
Cynthians become independent spacefarers;
they build a forest village on Daedalus;
the trade routes that join the League do not help other Cynthians to develop economically;
some underdeveloped trade routes join Supermetals.

Woden And Cynthia

In Elfland, Lunograd, trees grow tall because of the low Lunar gravity. Organisms on a large planet with high gravity should be low and wide except on Woden where the sun is energetic enough to compensate.

Adzel the Wodenite says:

"'...when I got a scholarship to study planetology on Earth, I earned extra money by singing Fafnir in the San Francisco Opera.'" (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 93.

Chee Lan the Cynthian retorts:

"'And by parading at Chinese New Year's...'" (ibid.)

Poul Anderson later ingeniously based an excellent short story on this dialogue.

When David Falkayn explains to a newly rescued young woman that the human discoverers of Cynthia named it after the captain's wife, Chee Lan retorts:

"'I have heard that she was not exactly his wife...'" (ibid.) -

- Falkayn blushes and glances at the young woman who, however, does not seem to be embarrassed. I should think not! Falkayn's apparent embarrassment dates this story somewhat.

Five hundred human beings, including children, were stranded on Ikrananka three generations previously. Adzel comments that such a small initial population would have lacked sufficient knowldge to maintain a modern civilization, especially since:

"'...a colony ship would not have carried a full microlibrary.'" (p. 92)

Our civilization needs more than five hundred people to keep it going. And they must also be people of widely differing aptitudes and interests. If everyone wanted to be a carpenter, then who would the plumbing let alone the brain surgery?

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Beginning To Construct A Chronology

A document quoted in "The Saturn Game," and discussing then recent events, is dated 2057. At that time, there is interplanetary exploration but not yet a hyperdrive. "The Trouble Twisters" is set less than four hundred years after the invention of the hyperdrive (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 89) - but we are not told when that was.

The three stories that were originally collected as The Trouble Twisters present three stages of David Falkayn's career:

apprentice;
journeyman, factor;
Master Merchant, trade pioneer crew leader.

Like the first four Time Patrol stories, these first three Falkayn stories are bound together as each new narrative refers to the earlier installments:

"When he got his journeyman's papers, he was one of the youngest humans ever to do so. In large part, that was due to his role in the trouble on Ivanhoe." (The Van Rijn Method, pp. 270-271)

"Chee bristled. In some respects she was not unlike Master Beljagor." (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 91)

Chee Lan has just been introduced whereas Beljagor was in the previous story. In The Technic Civilization Saga, that puts him in the previous volume.

"Not being Martin Schuster, to upset a whole cult by introducing the Kabbalah, Falkayn must needs stall." (p. 120)

Again, in the Saga, Schuster is way back in the previous volume.

The Time Patrol gets a lot of trouble from an age of bandits in the two-hundred-fifth millennium and the League is troubled by squadrons from "...the Pirate Suns..." (p. 90) How does that work?

On land, bandits hide in the woods or hills;
at sea, pirates hide out on islands;
in space, pirates hide in remote planetary systems;
in time, bandits hide in a particular millennium?

Van Rijn's Age

All that I can say so far about the dating of Satan's World is that its events occur shortly before the first part of "Lodestar," therefore when Falkayn is thirty two or thirty three. There must also be some relationship to van Rijn's age. That individual says in Mirkheim, Prologue, Y minus 9, that he is thirty years older than Falkayn. (Rise Of The Terran Empire, p. 17) Accordingly, Sandra Miesel's Chronology has van Rijn born in 2376 and Falkayn in 2406 whereas Sean M Brooks gives 2421 and 2451, respectively. We can see that the thirty year difference is consistent with the text of Mirkheim but not necessarily why any particular year dates are specified.

Meanwhile, while rereading a text for clues about characters' ages, we also enjoy other details. The Ikranankans ride not quadrupeds but large, leaping bipeds, I suppose like kangaroos. That is the sort of imaginative difference that we expect from a creative sf writer. This book cover shows Adzel carrying Falkayn who is shooting at a lance-wielding Ikranankan riding a zandara. The Ikranankans are too far away for us to discern their beaks, ruffs or corvine beaks.

Falkayn's Age IV

Sandra Miesel's Chronology of Technic Civilization (see here) rightly puts the birth of David Falkayn seventeen years before "The Three-Cornered Wheel"  and could have placed "A Sun Invisible" exactly three years after "The Three-Cornered Wheel" instead of more vaguely in the 2420s but how was it determined that "The Three-Cornered Wheel" occurred in 2423 rather than in any other year? There is disagreement about the dating of the Chronology (see the above link) but my question is: how was any specific year decided on in the first place?

If, for the sake of argument, "The Three-Cornered Wheel" were to be dated to 2423, then "Lodestar" should be dated to 2439 for its first part and 2449 for its second part whereas the Chronology gives 2446. I am rereading "The Trouble Twisters" for any clues about Falkayn's age but not for year dates because none are given. Does Technic Civilization even keep the Gregorian calendar?

In our first sight of the trader team:

Captain David Falkayn, human, Hermetian, Master Merchant of the Polesotechnic League;
Adzel, Wodenite, planetologist;
Chee Lan, Cynthian, xenobiologist;
and Muddlehead, consciousness-level spaceship's computer -

- are playing poker in the ship, Muddlin' Through, as they do again at the very end of Satan's World. There, the renewed card game signifies that life has returned to normal after a crisis. But history will move forward, nevertheless.

Falkayn's Age III

David Falkayn broke his oath of fealty to Nicholas van Rijn  not in the first part of "Lodestar" but later when he discovered Mirkheim but concealed it from van Rijn and instead gave the planet to those who needed its industrial wealth more. Falkayn tells us that he did this eighteen years before Mirkheim, Chapter I. The second part of "Lodestar" occurs ten years after the first. In the second part, Supermetals has been selling supermetals from Mirkheim for three years. Therefore, there were five years between the discovery of Mirkheim and the launch of the Supermetals company.

David Falkayn appears in:

Falkayn stories
"The Three-Cornered Wheel"
"A Sun Invisible"

Trader Team stories
"The Trouble Twisters"
"Day of Burning"

Van Rijn and Trader Team stories
Satan's World
"Lodestar"
Mirkheim

In "The Three-Cornered Wheel," Falkayn is a seventeen year old apprentice to Martin Schuster of the Polesotechnic League. (The Van Rijn Method, p. 204)

In "A Sun Invisible," Falkayn is a twenty year old factor for van Rijn's Solar Spice & Liquors Company. (p. 270)

I will have to check "The Trouble Twisters."

Having recently reread both "Day of Burning" and Satan's World, I do not think that either text tells us anything about Falkayn's age but will gladly publish any corrections.

In the first part of "Lodestar," Falkayn is thirty three (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p, 637). Therefore, he must be forty three in the second part, ten years later.

However, later again, in Mirkheim, Prologue Y minus 9, he is forty one. (Rise Of The Terran Empire, p. 14).

Falkayn's Age II

Mirkheim, Prologue, Y minus 9, is set nine years before Mirkheim, Chapter I. In Y minus 9, Coya Falkayn is about to embark on her first mission as a member of the trade pioneer crew led by her husband, David. In Chapter I, we learn that she was on the team for five years (Rise Of The Terran Empire, pp. 34-35) and has since had three years in the Solar System (p. 34). That adds up to eight years.

Sandra Miesel's Chronology of Technic Civilization gives a span of ten years between the end of "Lodestar" and Mirkheim, Chapter I. David and Coya have begun to come together at the end of "Lodestar." Thus, the Chronology allows a year or two for David to propose to Coya, become engaged, get married, have a honeymoon and recruit her to the team.

"Lodestar" is divided into two parts, the first set soon after Satan's World, the second, ten years later, set ten years before Mirkheim. In Mirkheim, David reflects that he betrayed van Rijn eighteen years previously. (p. 35) That was in the first part of "Lodestar."

Poul Anderson gives no year dates except in "The Saturn Game." All that we can do with the remaining installments of the Technic History is to calculate their chronological relationships to each other, not the years AD in which they happen.

Addendum: There is an error in this post. See the next post.

"A Godland"

(Chicago at night.)

"He could scarcely believe that human beings dwelt yonder, not elves or Gods." (p. 104)
-copied from here.

"Seen from an activated transparency in Nicholas van Rijn's penthouse atop the Winged Cross, Chicago Integrate was a godland..." (Rise Of The Terran Empire, p. 11)

We see the Winged Cross penthouse three times.

The "godland" comprises:

spires;
towers;
multicolored walls;
crystalline vitryl;
gracefully curving trafficways;
flickering emblems;
trees;
lawns;
glittering movement in the sky and on the lake as well as on the ground.

Chicago Integrate is another Great City.

In the second sentence, we are told that the Falkayns never tire of the view. The next two sentences confirm that the Falkayns are David and Coya. Coya, van Rijn's granddaughter, first appeared in the previous story, "Lodestar," and has married David since. She is about to join the trader team but there are no stories set in the period when she is a member. The following installment, Mirkheim, moves the action to a considerably later stage of the characters' lives and careers and concludes this sub-series of the Technic History.

Falkayn's Age

"Lodestar" is in two parts:

(i) on pp. 633-639 of David Falkayn: Star Trader;
(ii) on pp. 639-680.

(i) The first part happens "...shortly after the Satan episode..." (p. 639);
in it, David Falkayn is thirty three (p. 637);
he starts to think about the possibility of a planet like Mirkheim (p. 639);
we are told in the second part that Coya Conyon was an adolescent at the time of the Satan affair (p. 651) but has since matured.

(ii) The second part is set "...almost ten years..." (p. 652) after the first;
see also "...for most of the following decade..." on p.639;
"...ten years earlier..." (p. 654);
it follows that Falkayn is forty two or forty three in the second part;
the Supermetals company has been selling supermetals, secretly mined on Mirkheim, for "...barely three years..." (p. 660);
thus, there were seven years between Falkayn conceiving the idea and the Supermetals company starting business;
Falkayn and Coya are not yet married.

In Mirkheim, Prologue, Y minus 9:

David and Coya are newly married (Rise Of The Terran Empire, p. 13);
he is eighteen years older than her (ibid.);
he is forty one (p. 14).

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Happy Endings

How often does this, or something like it, happen in Poul Anderson's works? A, trapped or in danger, orders B, who is nearby, to depart without delay. Instead, B rescues A, then departs without further delay. Thus, successful insubordination. At the end of Satan's World, Falkayn and Chee Lan disobey orders and risk their own lives by rescuing van Rijn and Adzel. This turns out to b a Good Thing not only because of the rescue but also because Muddlehead's bombardment gives the Shenna a taste of the kind of nuclear warfare that they were preparing to inflict on much larger populations.

The concluding Chapter XXVI presents three happy endings:

(i) in Dathynan orbit;
(ii) in a Terrestrial garden;
(iii) in Muddlin' Through.

(i) The Solar Commonwealth is referred to as the Terrestrial Commonwealth but I suppose that either name will suffice. Later in the Technic History, a Solar Empire is renamed the Terran Empire. See here.

Fleet Admiral Wiaho of the Polesotechnic League, a Ferran, is happy because the Shenna are being pacified and integrated into the interstellar economy. The Shenna do not resent being ordered around by someone demonstrably stronger. Freelady Beldaniel, League liaison with the Shenna, is happy because the race that raised her is not being exterminated. The only people unhappy are Commonwealth politicians like Garver and Anderson thinks that this will make his readers happy! (I think that Anderson's stereotypical dichotomy between freedom-loving entrepreneurs and up-tight bureaucrats becomes a little strained at times.)

(ii) Van Rijn is in a garden beneath palm trees, above blue water and white surf, with girls bringing him drinks and smokes, watching a screened view of Satan, starting to dictate terms to "...the mightiest industrialists in the known galaxy." (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 597) What's not to like? And can we begrudge van Rijn his luxury when we have seen what he goes through to get it?

(iii) Muddlin' Through is outward bound. The team members are rich but want to continue pioneering in any case. The ending implies that the series will continue. It will but not as before. Anderson gives us not a TV series but successive stages in the careers of his characters and the decline of their League.

A Spaceship

We take for granted that we can buy a car and travel maybe for several hours at a time between cities. Nicholas van Rijn's generation take for granted that they can buy a spaceship and travel maybe for several weeks at a time between inhabited planetary systems. Willingly suspending disbelief, we also accept that they can do this - but think what it implies in terms of energy, technology and the effects on society: regular contact not only with human beings of different cultures but also with rational beings of different species. Van Rijn must understand the psychologies of T'Kelans, Cainites, Baburites and Shenna for pragmatic, not academic, reasons.

Van Rijn, Adzel and Thea Beldaniel must travel together to a rendezvous with Beldaniel's masters, the Shenna. Neither van Rijn nor Beldaniel wants to travel in a ship owned, pre-prepared or controlled by the other so:

"...they settled on jointly ordering a new-built vessel from a nonhuman yard - there happened to be one that had just completed her shakedown cruise and was advertising for buyers - with an entire supply stock. They boarded immediately upon Solar System delivery..." (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 523)

Beldaniel instructs the robopilot with coordinates as soon as they go hyper. The two human beings and one Wodenite are merely passengers in a spacious vessel with staterooms, passages, a galley and a bridge. In this nonhuman-built ship, one compartment is encircled by a transparent strip showing the stars. The ship lands on Dathyna where its drive unit is removed. When van Rijn and his trader team escape from Dathyna in Muddlin' Through, they bombard the castle and the Dathynan spacecraft parked beside it. Since the disabled ship is there as well, it is probably damaged. In any case, it has been bought, has made a single voyage and has then been abandoned but it was a sound investment for van Rijn.

Science And Combat

Poul Anderson can apply scientific principles even while describing a fight scene. Turning and attacking his Dathynan pursuers, Adzel expects them, after some experience of his hoofs, hands, tail and fangs, to scatter and flee because, if the instinct to attack rashly had not been coupled with an equal tendency to stampede, then the species could not have survived.

Ammonites and dinosaurs died at the end of the Cretaceous;
large mammals died at the end of the Pliocene;
Dathynan species are wiped out by periodic solar flares.

The tribe is the fundamental unit of human society;
the matrilinal clan of Cynthian;
the migratory band of Wodenite;
hierarchical polygynous families under an absolute patriarch of the Shenna.

Understanding this, Nichloas van Rijn looks forward to making a lot of money from the Shenna. His grin is broad and smug - until he realizes that he faces a month long journey with no beer in the ship.

Non-Stop Action

David Falkayn goes directly from drugged captivity on Luna to exploration, confrontation and combat at Beta Crucis, then to covert activity and more combat on Dathyna. He is not allowed to stop for an instant.

As we have seen, when Nicholas van Rijn appears to be at leisure, eating, drinking and yarning with Thea Beldaniel, his mind is working at top speed all the time. And Nick gets involved in the combat when necessary, never ceasing to look for a profit. Grabbing a gun from a Shenn, he says:

"'I take that thing home and see if you got new ideas in it I can patent.'" (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 582)

Although van Rijn is old and fat, he remains fast. The bigger and stronger Shenn yells at a karate kick and is felled by a blow from the statuette of St Dismas. That statuette has been with van Rijn from the beginning of the series and suddenly has a very practical application.

The Future

A lot of sf is set in the future, including Poul Anderson's future histories. However, such works are not really about the future because they are set in their characters' present. Also, as Brian Aldiss wrote in his Introduction to James Blish's The Quincunx Of Time:

"One of the many original features of this novel is that it does actually concern the future. Most science fiction, if it is not fantasy, is about some extension of the present which only by agreement do we call the future. It catches our attention because we see in it a mirror of the present day."
-Brian Aldiss, PEEP: An Introduction to The Quincunx of Time IN James Blish, The Quincunx Of Time (New York, 1983), pp. 6-10 AT p. 7.

Quincunx concerns the future not or not only because its characters live in our future but because they receive messages from many very different periods of their future. I have just watched an episode of Smallville in which an old blind woman called Cassandra sees other characters' futures. A Kryptonian will outlive all his human friends. Cassandra herself dies when she sees Lex Luthor's future which seems to be all about death.

Poul Anderson's The Corridors Of Time and There Will Be Time are about the future because, in each of them, a time traveler from the twentieth century sees the future of humanity. Returning to Anderson's main future history, Nicholas van Rijn finds the answer to the question: how can herbivores become hunters? On Dathyna, the sunlight causes plants to form high-energy compounds supporting more active and intelligent animals and some fruit juices make meat nourishing for vegetarians through enzyme action.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Nicholas Van Rijn, Actor And Spy

The previous post demonstrated that Poul Anderson's knowledge of history informed not only his historically based fiction but also his main future history series. Technic civilization follows Western civilization as Western followed Classical.

After one night in Moath's castle on Dathyna, van Rijn complains so dramatically about the temperature, the pollen, the noises etc that Beldaniel arranges for the prisoners to sleep in their ship with the drive removed and guards outside - but the radio intact. Beldaniel accepts that it would help van Rijn to understand the Shenna if he were able to hear their radio programs. He would not be a safe man to have as a prisoner.

When Moath returns from the Grand Council and harangues his household into a frenzy, van Rijn shouts at Beldaniel:

"'Tell me what is happening! I order you!'" (David Falkayn: Star Trader, 562) -

- and she obeys. This is the fruition of all his work on Beldaniel. Now knowing that the Shenna intend to attack Technic planets, van Rijn transmits a coded message to Falkayn, Chee Lan or anyone else who may be nearby...

How does he do it? Just the physical description of the Minotaur-like Shenna would put me off wanting to be taken to their planet.

Nicholas Van Rijn, Detective, II

The spaceship carrying van Rijn, Adzel and Thea Beldaniel makes rendezvous with a Shenna fleet. Thea joins the Shenna and interprets when they open radio communication with van Rijn. Then the Shenna are joined by Gahood, fresh from his defeat by Falkayn. See here. Van Rijn's influence on Beldaniel has been such that she secretly radios him to say that Gahood has lost Latimer at the rogue planet. She advises van Rijn to flee. But this would probably mean being overhauled and destroyed by the fleet. Van Rijn deduces:

if Latimer, a slave, had merely died, this would not have upset Gahood;
therefore, Gahood probably lost the living Latimer to Falkayn and Chee Lan;
they would then have got the coordinates of Dathyna from Latimer's brain;
they would have proceeded directly to Dathyna for intelligence-gathering purposes;
if van Rijn and Adzel are taken as prisoners/hostages/negotiators to Dathyna, then they will be able to gather more intelligence and might also be able to contact Falkayn and Chee Lan.

Van Rijn shares with two of James Blish's characters the ability to make far-reaching deductions, then to base practical policies on such deductions:

Kit shares with Amalfi, the hero of Cities in Flight, the ability to manipulate populations for remote ends based on abstruse reasoning.
-copied from here.

Van Rijn successfully persuades Beldaniel to persuade her master, Moath, to take him and Adzel to Dathyna. En route, van Rijn is interrogated and thus learns more about the Shenna, especially when he insists on being given more precise questions. For example, Lord Nimran wants to know about occasions when a Terrestrial civilization inherited from an earlier one. Van Rijn cites examples:

Greeks succeeding Minoans;
Western Christendom succeeding the Roman Empire;
Turks succeeding Byzantines;
supplanters like Hindus;
hybrids like Technic or Arabic;
the segue from Classical into Byzantine.

He is confirming that the Shenna inherited their cybernetic technology. He needs to know:

how they did it;
how they can be warlike herbivores;
why they regard coexistence with Technic civilization as impossible.

He is learning which questions to ask.

Nicholas van Rijn, Detective

Van Rijn and Adzel spend three weeks in an automated spaceship with Thea Beldaniel, human slave of the Shenna. (I have just noticed the two components of that surname: "Bel..." and "...daniel." And "Thea" means "goddess.") At mealtimes, van Rijn talks over the food, then over large quantities of wine and brandy. At first, Beldaniel excuses herself early but soon stays to listen at length. Van Rijn has briefed Adzel on what to say, ask and either agree or disagree with. Van Rijn also experiments with conversational and anecdotal styles. His purpose is to gain her attention, then to learn from her responses. He is both an actor and a detective.

By the half way point, he has learned how to keep her attention and no longer needs Adzel. He maintains the Jovian/Jovial character he has adopted by flamboyantly rejecting some perfectly acceptable wine. When Thea indignantly rejects his suggestion that the Shenna fear Technic civilization, he realizes that she worships them. He gets her slightly drunk and plays Terrestrial melodies while Adzel slowly adjusts the light to a romantic glow. Van Rijn's purpose is not physical seduction if only because that "...would have triggered her defenses." (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 529)

Beldaniel rightly says that "'...human nature is plastic...'" (ibid.) but then follows this with a non sequitur: "'I don't believe you can call us warped, any more than you yourself are because you were brought up in a particular tradition.'" (ibid.) What is the truth about our species?

Each of us is brought up in a tradition that is not and cannot be of our own choosing;
traditions vary across a wide spectrum (the species is "plastic");
some traditions allow or enable individuals to learn and develop;
however, other traditions warp and distort individuality in many weird and wonderful ways.

"Neither of us is warped because each of us was brought up in a tradition" is nonsense if my tradition was law-abiding and yours was the Mafia.

Look how much Beldaniel discloses in a casual reminiscence:

"'My earliest memory is...Isthayan, one of my master's sons, took me exploring...he wanted someone to carry his weapons, even their toddlers have weapons. ...We went out of the household, into the ruined part of the old, old building...we found some machinery in a high tower room, it hadn't rusted much, the sunlight struck through a hole in the roof like white fire, off metal, and I laughed to see it shine... We could look out, across the desert, like forever -'" (pp. 531-532)

We could make a long list of how much Nicholas van Rijn, Detective, has learned from those few unguarded sentences.

Dathyna

A peak of radiation from the planet Dathyna's massive, metal-rich, irregularly variable sun, which probably condensed near a recent supernova, destroyed civilization but produced a killer mutation which exterminated the parent race, appropriated its technology and now threatens the Polesotechnic League.
-copied from here

Sun middle-F type, 5.4 times as luminous as Sol, more white than gold;
less hydrosphere than Earth because solar ultraviolet splits water molecules;
lower mountains and continents;
shallow, tideless, algae-covered ocean over half the flatter surface;
slight axial tilt;
small edge effects;
poles similar to the equator;
steep air pressure gradient;
uplands of ice and rock;
large deserts with dust storms over red rock;
fertile areas with forests, meadows and crops;
the dominant species inhabiting large, partly ruined buildings. 

Future Historical Segue

How a League series segues into an originally distinct Flandry series:

the Polesotechnic League;
Falkayns in the League;
Falkayns on Avalon;
Holms on Avalon;
the Terran Empire;
Falkayns and Holms on Avalon resisting the Empire;
Dominic Flandry defending the Empire;
Flandry's daughter in the Empire.

Thus, by a long process of many stages, history, whether real or fictional, eventually reaches a different place.

Historically also, diverse strands of events intersect, e.g.:

Ythri;
Ythrians exploring Avalon;
Ythrians on Avalon;
Ythrians on Avalon resisting the Empire;
an Avalonian Ythrian later spying for both Ythri and Empire.

A third strand is Merseian:

David Falkayn saves Merseia;
some Merseians join the Baburite space navy;
the Merseian Roidhunate grows;
the Roidhunate, threatening the Empire, is thwarted by spies like Flandry and the Avalonian Ythrian;
Dennitzan Merseians are loyal to the Empire, not to the Roidhunate.

Complicated - like real history.

Near The End

Nicholas van Rijn quotes both Shakespeare's Hamlet and Goethe's Faust. He describes the former as "'...Old Anglic.'" (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 530)

In Chapters XVIII and XIX of Satan's World, there is a feeling of impending doom. Van Rijn knows that there is a threat to Technic civilization but also knows almost nothing about it. David Falkayn and Chee Lan in Muddlin' Through have flown into danger and have not yet returned to the Solar System. Van Rijn and Adzel must travel with a human agent of the unknown Shenna to meet some representatives of that race. They do not know what will happen or whether they will return. Van Rijn has sent confidential orders to reliable factors, district chiefs, officers and other employees throughout his company, has alerted other merchant princes, has caused Polesotechnic fighting units to be mobilized, has thus also indirectly alerted governments, whose armed forces will stand by, and has left information that will be published if he does not return.

This all sounds like the end. It is not yet the end because two further installments of the Technic History will feature van Rijn and his trader team. However, Satan's World is a major turning point:

Technic civilization will learn that it can be threatened from outside;
the next lesson will be that there are also internal problems;
the trader team will become so rich that they no longer need to go on missions for van Rijn - but they continue to do it because they want to.

Quiz question: This image is relevant for two reasons. What are they?

Monday, 24 October 2016

One Immense Convulsion

The day side of Satan is "...one immense convulsion..." (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 511):

stormclouds;
explosions of lightning;
wild winds;
volcanoes;
avalanches;
floods;
waves like mountains torn to shreds;
air almost solid with rain, hail and stones;
boiled-off vapors turbulently, massively recondensing;
a storm that drives half an ocean across a continent;
winds of two or three hundred kph forming a hurricane as a back eddy or dead zone.

The hurricane catches Gahood's nineteen destroyers:

"...as a November gale catches dead leaves in the northlands of Earth." (p. 513)

The destroyers are variously:

bounced around and cast aside;
peeled open;
broken apart by solid chunks;
drowned in spume-filled air;
tossed against mountains.

Their pieces are strewn, buried, reduced to dust and atoms or locked into new rock strata and never found. The revenge of nature against technology?

Battle At Satan

I am losing count of David Falkayn's moments of realization. Here is another:

"Wait! Drag that thought by slowly. You'd started playing with it before, when Chee interrupted -
"Falkayn sat rigid, oblivious, until the Cynthian grew nervous and shouted into the intercom, 'What ails you?'
"Oh.' The man shook himself. 'Yes. That. How're we doing?'" (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 507)

He has just realized how his single ship can defeat a fleet. We are about to read about yet another space battle. See Battle In Space, Hell Rock and The War Against The Seven In Space.

Gahood of Dathyna arrives near Satan with a fleet:

he and his single human assistant are in a large spherical battleship, its shape obscured by towers, pillboxes, derricks and emplacements;
Gahood also controls nineteen streamlined robotic destroyers and three shark-like robotic cruisers;
all twenty three vessels bristle with guns, missile launchers and energy projectors.

How much damage can Falkayn and Chee Lan in Muddlin' Through do to all that? Quite a lot. Muddlin' Through, controlled by the consciousness-level computer, Muddlehead, has small arms, light guns, four heavy blast cannon and four nuclear torpedoes. Falkayn, invited aboard the Dathynan battleship to be interrogated by Gahood, goes booby trapped and barely escapes with the human Hugh Latimer as a hostage. Chee Lan gets the Dathynan coordinates out of Latimer's brain. When Gahood realizes that he has retrieved from space not Latimer but his empty spacesuit, he attacks. Muddlehead leads the nineteen destroyers into a Satanic hurricane which destroys them utterly. The cruisers, orbiting Satan against possible space attack, which Falkayn has led Gahood to expect, are attacked by Muddlin' Through. Two are destroyed by torpedoes but a countermissile intercepts the third torpedo so Falkayn launches his fourth which has a near miss and badly damages the one surviving cruiser. Gahood retreats and returns home, not knowing that he can now be followed. You win this time, Earthlings!

Van Rijn's Qualifications

 "Poul Anderson immerses you in the future....Anderson puts you into a whole new world."
-Larry Niven, quoted on the back cover of Poul Anderson, The Technic Civilization Saga: David Falkayn: Star Trader (New York, 2010), compiled by Hank Davis.

I am finding that Larry Niven's statement is literally true. I am immersed in the Polesotechnic League period of the Technic History and can continue to blog about it indefinitely. And what better audience for a blogger than Poul Anderson fans?

Nicholas van Rijn explains to Adzel why he, van Rijn, is best placed to handle a major threat to Technic civilization:

Adzel himself is too naive and trusting;
most other people are stupid or hysterical;
some chop up the universe to suit their political theory;
others are greedy or cruel;
van Rijn invokes the intercession of St Dismas;
he also seeks advice from good people whom he tells as much as they need to know.

This makes me realize that van Rijn takes his often invoked saintly intercession seriously. That some people fit the universe into their own political theory is a cliche that also happens to be true. Leon Trotsky thought that World War II would end in the collapse of capitalism. Therefore, when the War ended but capitalism had not collapsed, some orthodox Trotskyists argued that the War had not ended! However, there are unorthodox Trotskyists who learn from new experiences and who disagree with Trotsky when necessary. The leading theoretician of one such group argued that the British Poll Tax would be defeated not by a non-payment campaign but by industrial action. The Tax was in fact defeated by a non-payment campaign spearheaded by an orthodox group. The unorthodox group then acknowledged that its leading theoretician had been wrong on that issue whereas theory fetishists never admit that they have been wrong about anything. That is a small contribution based on my experience of political theoreticians but they are not the kind of guys that van Rijn would have conferred with so let's return to the Technic History...

Cynthian Religion? II

See here and combox.

Poul Anderson's fictions encourage philosophical discussions so it is appropriate that the discussions continue in new blog posts as well as in the combox, especially when they become lengthy.

When I agreed with Chee Lan, I did say that I was not basing my argument on the idea of divine foreknowledge. The author of a novel does more than foreknow what the characters will do. He makes them do it. Similarly, an alleged omnipotent creator from nothing of all things other than himself creates intelligent beings with the motivations as a result of which they choose to commit evil acts. An aggressive drunk automatically kicks a dog that bites him whereas a pacifist saint who lives what he believes does not. Both men act freely, which can only mean without any external constraint, yet their actions are not only opposite but also entirely predictable.

God could have created the first man without an addiction to alcohol or with moral beliefs and will power strong enough to counteract his spontaneous impulses or with different spontaneous impulses. With a single proviso, it is unthinkable either that the saint would kick the dog or that the drunk would refrain. The proviso is that, even in extreme cases like the drunk and the saint, we cannot predict a man's actions with 100% accuracy because we do not know all the factors influencing his actions. God not only knows those factors but creates them and could have created them to be different. He could have created a world full of saints or at least with a population whose moral starting point was closer to sainthood than that of an aggressive drunk.

An adult can pull a child away from a fire or, respecting his freewill, warn him of the danger but let him choose. However, God creates:

the fire;
the properties of the fire;
the effects of the fire on a human body;
the child's inclination to approach the fire;
the child's inclination or disinclination to heed a warning;
the adult's attitude of concern or indifference towards the child;
anything else that we can think of that is relevant.

Thus, the child can have freewill in relation to the adult but not in relation to an omnipotent creator.

Aristotle's Logic II

See here.

Aquinas was limited not by Aristotelean logic but by the application of that logic to a single timeline. (Aristotle's logic is simply everyone's logic as formulated by Aristotle, not a specific set of rules invented by Aristotle.) In the Time Patrol scenario, a time traveler can:

remember that it was recorded that Socrates died in 399 BC;
experience, then remember, his own prevention of Socrates' death in 399 BC.

Prima facie, he is contradicting Aristotle's logic but there is more than one way to apply that logic to the time traveler's experience, as we have seen here. In the Time Patrol scenario, we must get used to discussing the relationships between timelines before addressing the question of whether, or in what sense, alternative timelines exist. We might say that the first timeline remembered by the time traveler simply does not exist but this is counterintuitive and is not the only way to formulate the issue.

No one can consistently say that, in a single timeline, Socrates both died and did not die in 399 BC.

Aristotle's Logic

"St. Thomas Aquinas declared that God Himself cannot change the past, because to hold otherwise would be a contradiction in terms; but St. Thomas was limited to the logic of Aristotle."
-Poul Anderson, Introduction to Anderson, "Death And The Knight" in Katherine Kurtz, ed., Tales Of The Knights Templar (New York, 1995), p. 274.

We are all limited to the logic of Aristotle because that logic formulates the kind of consistency between propositions without which we would not succeed in saying anything. If I begin a lecture by stating that Socrates was executed in 399 BC and end it by stating that he was executed in 299 BC, the first question will be, "You've given us two dates. Which is it?" Of course, I will say, "Sorry, that should have been 399 BC."

I will not claim that I am free to contradict myself because I am not limited to the logic of Aristotle and, if I did say that, then I would not succeed in telling anyone when Socrates was executed.

Mutual Interests

Nicholas van Rijn says:

"'The most thickly sworn enemies always got some mutual interests.'" (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 431)

True or false? It is van Rijn's working hypothesis because he always wants to prevent destructive conflicts and to encourage peaceful trade. He is not among those unscrupulous League traders who sell atomic weapons and spaceships to barbarians. In fact, he is a saint of peace and universal benevolence...who needs just a little profit to save him from beggary in his old age.

I believe in mutual interests. We must speak the same language so that we can understand each other even when we are in total disagreement. We must drive on the same side of the road - it doesn't matter which -; otherwise no one is able to travel anywhere. It is in some governments' perceived interests to possess nuclear weapons but it is in everyone's interests to prevent their use. It is also in everyone's interests to prevent pollution.

Who do we not have any mutual interests with? First, Nazis who want to complete the genocide project. A Nazi and I do have shared interests as human beings but he denies that by his ideas and actions. I cannot accept continued existence on his terms. The ultimate example of no shared interests is a madman who wants to commit suicide and to take others with him.