Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Sword II

Orlaith thinks that the Sword of the Lady:

"...might not be matter at all, as humans defined the term, but instead a thought in the mind of her Goddess embodied in the world of human kind without being wholly of it."
-SM Stirling, The Desert And The Blade (New York, 2016), Chapter Two, p. 37.

I commented on this idea in The Sword but there is always more to be said:

minds and their thoughts originate in brains;
brains are material;
gods and goddesses are conceived as embodied, therefore as beings with brains;
thoughts are embodied in material artifacts.

Thus, a thought that is immaterial in origin and that remains immaterial even when "embodied" sounds right but may not be right. I think that disembodied minds are logically possible but no more than that. The idea of embodied but immaterial thoughts requires further elucidation.

Not By Beringia

Dr. Alice Roberts has just been on British television, presenting evidence that human beings were in the American continents long before Beringia became passable and that they got there by crossing the Pacific. This would be one more piece of evidence that the timeline guarded by Time Patrol is not our timeline:

their human route to the Americas was via Beringia;
their Persia had Mithraism earlier than ours did;
their Sherlock Holmes was a real person, not a fictional character.

Anderson avoided presenting information about the near future in the Time Patrol series. Manse Everard lives through a 1955-1990 period that is indistinguishable from ours. However, Anderson had no way to defend his narrative against increasing knowledge of the past.

The Time Of Legends In Stirling, Niven, Lewis, Gaiman And Anderson

"...the Change did more than end the era of the machines. It reopened a doorway in the world. One that had slowly closed over many thousands of years, a passage to the time of legends, so that they walk among us once more."
-SM Stirling, The Desert And The Blade (New York, 2016), Chapter Two, p. 38.

A common fantasy premise is that legends were real but the world has changed:

Larry Niven has a series in which the magic was used up, the swordsmen started to defeat the sorcerers and a new way to control nature had to be found;

for a Neil Gaiman version, see Ramadan;

CS Lewis even had the time of legends ending in a fantasy realm but, when the Telmarine conquerors had banished even the memory of Talking Beasts and of mythological beings from Narnia, Prince Caspian, a Telmarine but also a true Narnian, wound Queen Susan's horn and called the ancient kings and queens down from the high past.

Although these are valid fantasy premises, it would be an unacceptable intrusion if the time of legends were to return in the middle of a contemporary novel or of a hard sf series like Poul Anderson's Technic History. Each work of fiction must retain its own integrity. But each kind of work can also acknowledge that its world is one of many. That is why it is appropriate when Nicholas van Rijn from the Technic History rubs shoulders with characters from other kinds of timelines in the Old Phoenix Inn.

Emperor And Roidhun

This blog is becoming a bit encyclopedic. When I want to know, e.g., about the Roidhun of Merseia, I first search the blog for any relevant summaries before checking back through Poul Anderson's texts. Now, having found a post specifically about the Roidhun, we are able to compare him with the Emperor of Japan:

"She knew that for much of her nation's history Emperors had been cloistered symbols rather than rulers, recluses whose role was mainly to exist as a link between the world and the spirits. Revered, godlike, theoretically omnipotent but practically powerless, seldom glimpsed by ordinary folk. And very separate from the aristocracy of the sword, the bushi whose warlord masters had held the powers of State in their iron fists."
-SM Stirling, The Desert And The Blade (New York, 2016), Chapter Two, p. 30.

The Emperor is descended from the Goddess whereas the Roidhun is elected by the Hands.

In Britain, we have:

a head of state, the Queen;
a head of church, the Archbishop of Canterbury;
a head of government, the Prime Minister.

The Queen is "Defender of the Faith" but, under the Revolutionary Settlement, no longer rules by divine right.

The Japanese Emperor's life sounds idyllic:

linking the world and the spirits;
far away from all the swords, except the mystical sword used in the Imperial Enthronement.


"...that the line of Amaterasu-omikami be preserved."
-SM Stirling, The Desert And The Blade (New York, 2016), Chapter Two, p. 27.

Japan is a modernized, industrialized, Westernized country that is not even nominally Christian. The Emperors are believed to be descended from the Goddess. An American or European author wanting to imagine what it might be like to visit an extrasolar but terrestroid and inhabited planet, e.g., Merseia or Ythri, might:

visit and/or study Japan;
highlight everything that seems different or "alien";
extrapolate the aliennesses while downplaying any human commonalities.

In Poul Anderson's Technic History, both the Merseian Roidhunate and the Ythrian New Faith are monotheist. "What is alien about that?," readers might ask. However, to give the aliens gods and temples would be equally anthropocentric. We soon learn that the Merseian and Ythrian monotheisms are distinctive and in no way compatible with any Terrestrial religions.


"A man at the point of death was supposed to review his whole life, but Hollister didn't feel up to it. He was too tired."
-Poul Anderson, "The Big Rain" IN Anderson, The Psychotechnic League (New York, 1981), pp. 201-280 AT VIII, p. 278.

But this would have been an opportunity for Anderson to summarize several decades of his Psychotechnic History. Both Falkayn and Flandry remember:

The End

Near the end of A Stone in Heaven, the reader believes that Flandry and Chives will die in space. Flandry remembers…then they are rescued. While he remembers, he assesses his life: he had wrought evil but enjoyed life and saved more lives than he ruined. Is it true that he sold his soul to prolong the doomed Empire? (8) Flandry himself does not put it as strongly as that and neither would I. He does contemplate the erosion of his spirit but not the loss of his soul.
-copied from here.

Years And Ages

Poul Anderson's "The Big Rain" is set in 2150 and its central character, Simon Hollister, is thirty eight. It follows that Hollister was born in 2012 or 2013. We are not always told either the date of a story or the age of a character. However, these questions begin to matter when an author constructs a series.

A speculative chronology suggests that James Bond was born in "1920?" Sandra Miesel's Chronology of Technic Civilization published in Poul Anderson, The Technic Civilization Saga, states that Dominic Flandry will be born in 3000 although see here. A year date for Flandry serves two functions. It locates Flandry in the future history chronology and also connects his life events together. Thus, Flandry is known to have been nineteen in Ensign Flandry and to be approaching seventy in The Game Of Empire. Therefore, these works should be about fifty years apart in the Chronology. They are not.

W. Somerset Maugham's and John Buchan's fictional World War I spies inspired real life World War II spies and also the fictional Cold War spy, James Bond. Simon Hollister and Dominic Flandry come later although both were published before Bond. Anderson's adventurer, David Falkayn, refers indirectly to another earlier fictional adventurer, Simon Templar.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Current Reading

Blog readers might be able to deduce what has happened. I have been given a book on James Bond. See image. (Given by Nygel.) I am conflicted between reading this new book and continuing to post on the blog. The result is a sequence of comparisons between the works of Poul Anderson and Ian Fleming, bizarrely with Arthur Conan Doyle and CS Lewis also included among the comparisons. See recent posts. They all wrote series and the other three all have points of contact with Anderson.

Meanwhile, I have yet to finish rereading Anderson's "The Big Rain" and have read only the Prologue and Chapter One of SM Stirling's massive The Desert And The Blade. So there is no shortage of "what to read." It is just a matter of "what order to read it in."

Beginnings And Continuations

Some series have two beginnings, the earliest published installment and a later written prequel. Two such series are CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia and Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry series. Flandry first appeared as a captain. In the later written Young Flandry Trilogy, he begins as a teenage ensign, then rises rapidly through the ranks.

John Watson begins by telling his readers how he met Sherlock Holmes. Later, Holmes tells Watson, and thus also us, how he got into private detective work and the details of his first case.

By contrast, we began to read about James Bond's career at an arbitrary starting point. Bond then moved forward in real time, revealing some later revised details about his earlier life. Current continuers of the series should fill in the earlier years, not keep the character impossibly in our present.

Dominic Flandry could have kept going for longer thanks to antisenescence but Anderson had other things to write.

Holmes, Lewis And Bond

We commented here that:

"Holmes, Lewis and Bond have all been important on this blog."

Poul Anderson referred several times to Sherlock Holmes, most notably incorporating him as a character in the Time Patrol series;

like CS Lewis, Anderson addressed theological issues in sf;

before Ian Fleming had created James Bond, Anderson began a series about a comparable character who however, unlike Bond, reflects on the legitimacy of the social status quo instead of merely defending it.

But Doyle, Lewis and Fleming are entirely unalike. Anderson's versatility is demonstrated by the fact that he can be compared to these three authors and also to many others whom we have mentioned.

Filming It

A film may be a dramatization of a novel or a screen biography of a novelist but how can film show the relationship between the author and his creations?

Aileen and I attended a play. In some scenes, the small cast played Holmes, Watson, Moriarty etc. In others, we saw Conan Doyle and his mentor discussing Holmes and Doyle deciding to "kill him!" Thus, Holmes had two enemies, Moriarty and Doyle. In a film about CS Lewis, a boy entered an upstairs room and looked inside a wardrobe but it was only a wardrobe.

On 17 February 1952, Ian Fleming swam out to a reef, breakfasted on scrambled egg and Blue Mountain coffee, sat at his desk in Goldeneye and typed the first draft of the opening sentence of Casino Royale. Should we see Fleming doing this, then see Bond in the Casino?

Holmes, Lewis and Bond have all been important on this blog. But what of Poul Anderson? Should we see Anderson typing, then Nicholas van Rijn lounging in his Jakarta office?

The Technic Boards

I admit to being less interested in the military manoeuvres at the climax of Poul Anderson's "The Big Rain." However, here is something that I skipped over earlier. Anyone who wants to enter the government on Venus must:

pass a series of rigid tests;
go through years of apprenticeship and of exhaustive study;
accept gradual promotions on the recommendations of seniors.

The study is of:

psycho-technics (a science);
physical science.

" principle, thought Hollister, remembering some of the blubberheads who  still got themselves elected at home, a good idea."
-Poul Anderson, "The Big Rain" IN Anderson, The Psychotechnic League (New York, 1981), pp. 201-280 AT p. 209.

Not a  good idea. It has been suggested that a politician should have a degree in politics just as a doctor has a degree in medicine and Heinlein suggested mathematical tests for voters. Experts who either advise governments or implement government policies should have appropriate qualifications but a government itself should consist of elected and, in my opinion, recallable representatives. Every citizen should be not only informed but also able either to speak publicly or to accept the representative role for a longer or shorter period. That would require a different educational system. There is a difference between social policies, e.g., to eliminate hunger and homelessness, and technical knowledge, e.g., how to grow crops and build houses.

Hollister is surprised that the governing boards are so small, without " omnipresent bureaucracy." (ibid.) Then he remembers that the boards are served by electronic files and computers. Not only dictatorships but also democracies can use information technology to eliminate bureaucracy. Are there unhoused citizens in one city and empty buildings in another? The solution is simple.

A Hierarchy Of Evil

"A Haida shaman and these Koreans and Eaters all working together...that's not like anything that's happened before."
-SM Stirling, The Desert And The Blade (New York, 2016), Chapter One, p. 25.

But it sounds like what did happen in the Angrezi Raj timeline. See here. One difference is that the Russian Count Ignatieff merely believes that he is in touch with supernatural evil...


two civilizations are at war;
they are also in touch with cannibal savages;
one of the warring civilizations mobilizes and arms the savages while encouraging them to remain cannibals.

That has to be classified as evil. I am still unsure where the supernatural evil in the Emberverse comes from.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

La Bella Mano

O lovely hand, that thy sweet self dost lave
In that thy pure and proper element,
Whence erst the Lady of Love’s high advent
Was born, and endless fires sprang from the wave:-
Even as her Loves to her their offerings gave,
For the the jewelled gifts they bear, while each
Looks to those lips, of music-measured speech
The fount, and of more bliss than man may crave.
In royal wise ring-gift and bracelet-spann’d,
A flower of Venus’ own virginity,
Go shine among thy sisterly sweet band;
In maiden-minded converse delicately
Evermore white and soft; until thou be,
O hand! heart-handsel’d in a lover’s hand.
-copied from here.

In SM Stirling, The Desert And The Blade (New York, 2016), Chapter One, p. 21, the characters discuss Dante Gabriel Rossetti's La Bella Mano so I have copied the painting and the sonnet.

Lucifer And Sub-Lucifer

"Lucifer" is:

the evening star;
a character in works of graphic fiction written by Neil Gaiman and Mike Carey (see here);
a place on Venus in Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History (see here);
an extrasolar planet in Anderson's Technic History (see here);
a space-dwelling energy being in Anderson's "Kyrie" (see here);
a space-dwelling energy being in James Blish's Jack Loftus novels (see here).

And Sub-Lucifer is a place on Venus in Anderson's Technic History. See here.

Thus, there is a partial parallel between two place names on Venus in Anderson's first two future histories.

Uses Of The Bible II And More About Venus

Simon Hollister addresses his men:

"'You thought me another of these bootlickers to a rotten government...who was being rewarded for some Judas act.'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Big Rain" IN Anderson, The Psychotechnic League (New York, 1981), pp. 201-280 AT p. 257.

Here is "Judas" again, a word in our language. If you call an atheist, "Judas!," does he say, "That's in the Bible. I don't believe that ___!"? No. He doesn't like it. The equivalent in Norse mythology would be "Loki!"

To gain the men's support, Hollister appeals to their nationalism despite despising it. His psych training helps him to do this effectively. That there can be such an exact science of psychology and society is as much a science fictional premise of the story as the spaceships and other gadgets. Venus will be terraformed by airmakers, pulverizers, genetically engineered organisms, water units and hydrogen bombs causing volcanoes that will release carbon dioxide and water. In Hollister's time, Lucifer is the site of a penal uranium mine. Later, on a free Venus in the Solar Union, there will be a kilt-wearing Lucifer Clan, its members identifiable by their distinctive tartan. We wish that a story had been set on Venus during that later period.

Heinlein And Marx

"Remember Karl Marx and note how close that unscientific piece of nonsense called Das Kapital has come to smothering out all freedom of thought on half a planet..."
-Robert Heinlein, Concerning Stories Never Written: Postscript (This was printed in an edition of Heinlein's Revolt In 2100. I quote from a photocopy posted to me by Sean M. Brooks.)

Heinlein's Future History, including this explanatory postscript to Volume III, is a masterpiece. I must say that before going on to remark that Heinlein wrote a great deal of "nonsense" later!

I quote Heinlein in the light of the previous post. We can read political theories for understanding or future histories for pleasure but, in either case, we engage in a single debate about the nature of mankind and our place in the universe.

Twentieth Century History

Simon Hollister claims that both psychodynamic equations and a reading of history demonstrate that:

"'...once a group gets power, it never gives it up freely.'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Big Rain" IN Anderson, The Psychotechnic League (New York, 1981), pp. 201-280 AT p. 249.

Kemel Ataturk is cited as an exception. Hollister says that the state was supposed to whither away in the Soviet Union. But things went badly wrong there. For a text on what is meant by the "withering away of the state," I recommend The State And Revolution by Lenin.

Carpe Diem?

Simon Hollister, a secret-service Un-man, spying on Venus, marries there. He thinks:

"Carpe diem. If he ever pulled out of this mess, he'd just have to pull her out with him..."
-Poul Anderson, "The Big Rain" IN Anderson, The Psychotechnic League (New York, 1981), pp. 201-280 AT p. 236.

These two statements are at variance. "Carpe diem" means "seize the day" whereas "...pull her out with him..." implies a longer term commitment to another person. While I approve of this latter attitude, it is not that of every undercover man. In Britain recently, undercover policemen infiltrated dissident groups, started relationships with women members and even had children with them. The women felt betrayed when the truth came out.

Uses Of The Bible

First read Sean's article here.

Simon Hollister asks a Venus colonial whether she believes in God and, when she says no, he replies:

"'You're wrong...Venus is your god...An Old Testament God...merciless, all-powerful, all-demanding. Get hold of a Bible if you can, and read Job and Ecclesiastes. You'll see what I mean. When is the New Testament coming...or even the prophet Micah?'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Big Rain" IN Anderson, The Psychotechnic League (New York, 1981), pp. 201-280 AT p. 232.

She replies that, after the Big Rain, Venus will be the Promised Land.

That is quite a good Biblically-informed dialogue:

the Old Testament;
divine characteristics;
the New Testament;
Micah, prophesying the Messiah;
the Promised Land.

I am particularly impressed with Hollister's understanding of the role of Micah.

Fabrications And Falsehoods

How to fool a "narcoquiz"?
Have false memories implanted.

How to lie to a telepath?
Use a drug that makes you believe falsehoods.

Similar answers to similar questions in Poul Anderson's first two future histories.

Anderson probably did not think of "Honorable Enemies" (1951) when writing "The Big Rain" (1954). However, they exemplify the proliferation of ideas through works of fiction.

"Honorable Enemies" has two contexts. Originally published in the pulp magazine, "FUTURE combined with SCIENCE FICTION stories," it is now republished as part of one of the seven volumes of The Technic Civilization Saga, which includes not only pulp short stories but also substantial novels about Dominic Flandry.

Although Anderson's later future histories leave the adventures of secret agents in the remote past, they nevertheless present post-organic intelligences as finding reasons to alter memories, in Genesis, or to falsify data, in The Fleet Of Stars. Conflict continues on vaster scales and in different forms.

The Golden Gate And The Summerland

SM Stirling, The Desert And The Blade (New York, 2016), Chapter One.

The Golden Gate looms again:

"...the fog-shrouded Golden Gate loomed before the Tarshish Queen's bow." (p. 5)

When dealing with people, certain basic issues recur. This time, I have formulated a mini-catecism.

Would I tell a child that she will meet her dead dog in the Summerland?


Would I contradict a child's parents if I heard them telling her this?


Is there a Summerland?

In the Emberverse, yes!

Can Emberversers be certain of this while still alive?


So we are back where we started?


The question of a hereafter is logically odd. An empirical question can be answered either yes or no on the basis of experience, e.g., there either will or will not be an eclipse tomorrow. If there is a hereafter, then we will know whereas, if there is not a hereafter, then we will not know so is it an empirical question?

Versions Of Venus

Robert Heinlein's Future History Volume II ends with "Logic of Empire," indentured servitude on an inhabitable swampy Venus that has yet to declare its independence from Earth, whereas Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic League Trilogy (earlier, incomplete edition) Volume I ends with "The Big Rain," political dictatorship on an uninhabitable desert Venus that has already declared its independence.

There can be a dictatorship on an uninhabitable planet because the colonists live in enclosed cities while gradually terraforming their environment. This Venus contrasts with Heinlein's version, with the (inhabitable?) oceanic Venus of Anderson's "Sister Planet," and with the also oceanic Venuses of Olaf Stapledon's future history and CS Lewis' Ransom Trilogy. (Posting over a hasty breakfast before a visit to the dentist, I hope that I can be excused from tracking down and checking the details in "Sister Planet.") There is a colonized Venus in Anderson's Time Patrol series and an incompletely terraformed Venus in his Technic History.

What are my points?

We appreciate Heinlein's Future History;
therefore, we appreciate reading something else like it, Anderson's early future histories;
however, we also appreciate Anderson's later future histories because these works go way beyond anything imagined by Heinlein and even surpass Olaf Stapledon's cosmic history.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

A Cannibal

The Prologue of SM Stirling's The Desert And The Blade (New York, 2016), pp. 1-4, is narrated from the point of view of a cannibal whose vocabulary is severely limited because the founders of his tribe avoided despair and self-loathing by avoiding thought as much as possible. David's life consists of stalking, eating and minimal speech. This extreme human degeneration is common to Stirling's  Emberverse and Angrezi Raj timelines. Complete loss of speech would be loss of humanity but I do not think that that has happened in either timeline yet.

David does not believe most of the stories of the pre-Change world not only because they contradict his experience but also because, with his limited vocabulary, he probably cannot understand them. At the same time, however, he is sharp enough to understand and lead his fellow tribes people who, by comparison, are slow and stupid. Will it be possible to civilize David? I do not yet know whether he will become a continuing character in the novel.

This Evening

This evening, when I enter the Gregson Centre (and see image) to attend our small sf group, Kevin will be catching up with this blog on his mobile, having forgotten to look at it since last month. John will arrive late from farm work and will tell us about current super-hero films.

I will have taken along my newly acquired copy of SM Stirling's The Desert And The Blade and will recommend Stirling's alternative history fiction. None of us will drink much, if any, alcohol. We will arrange to meet again probably on the third Wednesday of next month. A meal at another venue, also involving our respective wives, might be discussed.

I will not need to tell them about the richness of the Time Patrol texts because they have heard all that before. Kevin and I first met at the inaugural meeting of an sf society on 4 November, 1976. John joined us much later from a comics group. Our group is called "Englishmen" for a very obscure reason. The greeting, if I ever remember to use it, is "England prevails," taken from Alan Moore's V for Vendetta. See here. For a short while, we were a Prisoner (also here) and sf group.

Combining Kinds Of Fiction

Poul Anderson wrote:

heroic fantasies;
alternative histories;
future histories;
post-apocalypse fiction.

SM Stirling's Emberverse combines these four kinds of writing. Apocalypses vary but minimally involve megadeaths and empty cities if not also radioactive ruins.

Anderson also wrote detective fiction. Stirling set at least two detective stories in the Emberverse. Thus, these stories might be collected in anthologies of different genres.

Asimov's and Niven's future histories each contain a detective fiction sub-series. Anderson combined detective fiction and sf at least once.

Decades ago, a comic book combined sf and sports fiction. I thought that that was strange but see also here.

A Crossroads In Fictional Time

Does a bear equidistant between two honeypots starve because he does not know which way to go? SM Stirling's The Desert And The Blade has arrived and its text is a massive 832 pages in length so will I continue to read Stirling's fascinating Emberverse future history series or continue to reread Poul Anderson's fascinating "The Big Rain"? First, I will eat some lunch.

The publication dates of the Emberverse novels get nearer to the present. Does the series approach its end or will it accompany us further into the twenty first century?

Future Historical Details

On Mars:

"...he eased the throttle of his sandcat..."
-Poul Anderson, "Un-Man" IN Anderson, The Psychotechnic League (New York, 1981), pp. 31-129 AT p. 39.

On Venus:

"A descending ramp brought them to a garage where the tanks were stored. These looked not unlike the sandcats of Mars, but were built lower and heavier, with a refrigerating tube above and a grapple in the nose."
-Anderson, "The Big Rain" IN The Psychotechnic League, pp. 201-280 AT pp.210-211.

This is a future historical detail. Earlier stories provide background material for later stories. Having introduced "sandcats" in "Un-Man," Anderson refers to them later in "The Big Rain."

In James Blish's Haertel Scholium, "dune cats," another future historical detail, are not vehicles but Martians.

In future histories, we have also learned to look out for details of how lifespans might be extended. Simon Hollister, immigrant to Venus, has a chronological age of thirty-eight Earth-years but a physiological age of about twenty five thanks to "biomedics." (p. 203) A dead-end form of immortality will be developed later in this future history. Again, comparisons are possible with several other future histories and futuristic novels or stories. See here.


On Venus in 2051:

"He reflected that the communist countries before World War Three had never gone this far. Here, everything was government property. The system didn't call itself communism, naturally, but it was, and probably there was no choice. Private enterprise demanded a fairly large economic surplus, which simply did not exist on Venus.
"Well, it wasn't his business to criticize their internal arrangements. He had never been among the few fanatics left on Earth who still made a god of a particular economic set-up."
-Poul Anderson, "The Big Rain" IN Anderson, The Psychotechnic League (New York, 1981), pp. 201-280 AT p. 208.

WWIII has ended most fanaticism. City governments on Venus are called Technic Boards! The Polesotechnic League in the Technic History; the Psychotechnic Institute and Technic Boards in the Psychotechnic League History.

What will happen when the economic surplus becomes so large that private enterprise becomes unnecessary as a means of production and distribution? Some people think that an unoppressive and liberating "communism" becomes possible but this leads us back into familiar old arguments. Meanwhile, we move forward through the twenty first century which has been the setting of so much science fiction.

Interplanetary Independence

The colony on Venus declares independence in:

Heinlein's Future History;
Heinlein's Between Planets;
Anderson's Psychotechnic History;
James Blish and Robert Lowndes' The Duplicated Man.

The Martian colony declares independence in:

Heinlein's Future History;
Heinlein's Red Planet;
maybe in Anderson's "War-Maid of Mars"? (I don't remember exactly);
Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy.

The lunar colony declares independence in Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.

The Asteroid Belt declares independence in Larry Niven's Known Space future history.

Comparative future historical studies could become a major sub-discipline in sf scholarship.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The 2050s

What will happen in the 2050s?

In Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History, New America will be the chief city on Venus in 2051;

in Anderson's Technic History, there will be a crisis for interplanetary explorers in about 2055;

in Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, Stephen Byerley will complete his second term as World Coordinator in 2052;

in Robert Heinlein's Future History, the US will be under a religious dictatorship in the 2050s;

in James Blish's Cities In Flight, Earth will be under a Bureaucratic dictatorship in the 2050s;

in Larry Niven's Known Space future history, the Belt will be colonized and become independent and interstellar ships will be launched in the period 2040-2099;

in Jerry Pornelle's CoDominium future history, out-system shipment of convicts will have begun in 2040.

For 2044, see here.

I have read SM Stirling's Emberverse as far as Change Year 46/2044 AD/Shohei 1.

An Aspect Of The Reading Experience

I can assure you from experience that the physical condition of a copy of a book makes some difference to the reading experience. I own old, battered, torn, faded copies of Poul Anderson's Time Patrol and The Shield Of Time and also newer, barely used copies of the same editions but nevertheless regularly reread the older copies in order to preserve the newer ones for as long as possible.

I look forward to receiving The Complete Psychotechnic League not only because it will be complete and might also have new Introductions or other additional material but also because the Baen Books volumes are old and faded.

I gather that this new "complete" edition is to be published in three volumes whereas I think that two longer volumes would have been more appropriate. See here. And the misleading word, "League," could have been removed from the title. Nevertheless, this will be a new reading experience quite apart from the fact that, like The Time Patrol and The Technic Civilization Saga, these new collections will include fiction by Anderson that many of us have not read before.


The previous post has inspired me to stay with the symbolism of the cross for a little longer. In Poul Anderson's heroic and historical fantasies, old gods withdraw before the advent of the White Christ. Ysan astrologers see changes in the heavens. They know that Gods represent Beings as words represent things and that, like languages, Gods change over time. See Lir II.

Christianity stands at the crossroads between the cyclical, seasonal time of agricultural societies and the linear, historical time of urban civilizations. Divine death and resurrection, originally a perennial process, was transformed into a unique and pivotal historical event with a specific date, "under Pontius Pilate." This was a transition. The next stage was fully secularized history, beginning with the Greeks.

In our seaside town, Morecambe, a "Dark Wiccan," told me about his seasonally changing deity. When I commented that this was cyclical, seasonal time and asked him how he responded to linear, historical time, he replied, "I don't." Every past stage of development is preserved somewhere, studied by scholars and lived by those who prefer the perspective of a previous era. Vicariously, we inhabit the past eras through fiction.

A Ship Sailing Into Eternity

SM Stirling's The Golden Princess (New York, 2015), Chapter Twenty, presents an excellent account of the ambush and slaughter of a gang of would-be rapists. One paragraph ends with the death of a running man:

"He flopped forward onto his face, twitched and lay still, with the arrow standing from his spine like the mast of a ship sailing into eternity." (p. 503)

Not bad. Stirling's Nantucket Trilogy titles are:

Island In The Sea Of Time;
Against The Tide Of Years;
On The Oceans Of Eternity.

In The Golden Princess, the equation of eternity with navigable water occurs not as a title but as a metaphor in a single sentence. (" the mast of a ship..." is a simile but "...sailing into eternity..." is a metaphor.)

How does a dead man sail into eternity? We are always alive in the present. From our standpoint in the (eternal?) present, events recede into the past on the Einstein express at the speed of light. A man who is dead is completely in the past and therefore shares the unchangeability (eternity?) of all past events.

The man had been running forwards whereas the arrow/sail now stands up at right angles to the direction of his flight. This is appropriate. A flatlander, informed that three-dimensional space transcends his planar existence but unable to visualize the third dimension, might imagine that space is an infinite plane. Religious believers, told that eternity transcends time but unable to conceptualize anything transtemporal, imagine that eternity is endlessly prolonged time. Whatever eternity is, we are already in it - and also in time.

I think that the Christian cross can symbolize the relationship between time and eternity. The short horizontal line is time. The longer vertical line is eternity intersecting time in the present like the arrow in the man's back.

The Rules Of Fantasy And SF

The Rules
Imaginative premises.
No deus ex machina.

A surprise must be shown to have followed logically from already stated premises which include the laws of hyper-physics, e.g., is FTL possible?, or of magic, e.g., are flying carpets possible? A counterfactual premise, e.g., a talking lion, is neither logical nor illogical but simply a premise with logical implications, e.g., discourse with such a lion. (Someone thought that "talking lion" was illogical. Clearly, he thought that "logical" meant not "consistent" but "consistent with our experience, therefore familiar and expectable." Aristotle and his successors did not formulate and systematize the familiar and expectable but how to think about it - and about anything else. And some people get their idea of logic from Mr Spock.)

Poul Anderson's fantasy and sf exemplify the above rules. Some writers of graphic fantasy seem to make up their laws of magic and supernature as they go along but manage to make this work, nevertheless. Is SM Stirling's Sword of the Lady a deus ex machina?

The Sword:

cannot be cut, stained, blunted, damaged or stolen;
can cut a falling hair;
bestows the gifts of tongues and of detecting falsehood;
has adjusted its length and weight to a new wielder;
will not harm its wielder or his/her kin.

So far, this seems intuitively right but what will come next?

"From The Hag And The Hungry Goblin..."

"'From the hag and the hungry goblin
"'That into rags would rend ye;
"'All the sprites that stand by the Horned Man
"'In the Book of Moons defend ye -'"
-SM Stirling, Dies The Fire (New York, 2005), Chapter Thirty-Two, p. 552.

These are a version of the opening lines of "Tom o' Bedlam," which is the source of Poul Anderson's title, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows. We have quoted "Tom o' Bedlam" before. See here.

Does anyone know what the Book of Moons is?

Monday, 16 October 2017

Chase The Morning

Our Jewish merchant quotes the poem ending:

"'Thy merchants chase the morning down the sea!"
-SM Stirling, The Golden Princess (New York, 2015), Chapter Nineteen, p. 487.

We must refer to previous encounters with this poem: see here.

This has become a catch-phrase on the blog comparable to:

"Ten leagues beyond the wide world's end
"Methinks it is no journey." See here.

Mack Reynolds

Someone else that I have read very little of: Mack Reynolds. Does one of his series count as a future history? Reynolds is comparable to Poul Anderson in that he addressed socioeconomic issues in sf but contrasts with Anderson by virtue of holding opposite political views but again is comparable in apparently regarding utopian societies as problematic.

I read one Reynolds novel in which religious liturgy in an arcane language was cynically regarded as deliberate mystification: a superficial analysis sharply contrasting with Anderson's empathetic treatment of religious beliefs and practices, whether Catholic or Buddhist.

And that is all that I can say about Reynolds but some blog readers will know more. Poul Anderson covers a universe of issues, thus connecting with a very wide range of other authors.


We have been comparing Poul Anderson with other future historians so here are some more:

Olaf Stapledon's Last Men future history has Martians invading Earth;
ERB's Moon Maid future history has Martians communicating with Earth and Moon Men invading Earth;
Wells and Anderson each have Martians invading Earth in a separate novel;
Clifford Simak's City future history has a Jovian exploration story comparable to Anderson's "Call Me Joe" and James Blish's "Bridge";
ERB's Jupiter story is "Skeleton Men of Jupiter";
ERB's future history is a small part of his fictional universe that also includes Tarzan, John Carter, Pellucidar, Venus, the Land that Time Forgot and an extra-solar planet.

The main comparative points here are:

interplanetary invasions (Wells, Stapledon, Burroughs and Anderson);
Jovian expeditions (Burroughs, Simak, Blish and Anderson).

History And Time

Do H. Beam Piper's Terro-Human Future History and Paratime Police series approximately correspond to  Poul Anderson's Technic History and Time Patrol series, respectively? The Paratime Police travel between parallel timelines whereas the Time Patrol travels through time. However, both series address the question of alternative histories so there most basic premise is identical. I bought a copy of Lord Kalvan Of Otherwhen but never got into it.

(Short post at Motorway Services.)


Both Herbert and Anderson have an interstellar Empire. However, Anderson shows us Imperial rise and decline plus before and after.

Anderson shows us many imaginative intelligent species interacting with each other whereas Herbert, like Asimov, presents a humans only galaxy albeit with human beings altered in various ways.

The Dune series seems to have continued because books with the word "Dune" in the title sold whereas readers had to recognize which works belonged to Anderson's Psychotechnic and Technic Histories. Anderson's Harvest Of Stars Tetralogy continued because its author had more to say about that future history.

Sunday, 15 October 2017


I have read none of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover future history. Comments would be welcome. There are superficial similarities to Poul Anderson's Technic History:

Terrestrials colonize extra-solar planets;
one colony is isolated and develops independently;
eventually, it is recontacted by an interstellar Terran Empire.

Some future histories focus on a single colonized planet:

Anderson's Rustum, although see also Roland;
Heorot by Niven, Pournelle and Barnes, although Niven's Destiny's Road is set on another planet in the same history.

This and the previous post focus on works that are not known by the current blogger - who will return to Lancaster tomorrow, hopefully avoiding high winds forecast for the western coast of the UK.

The Institute And The Instrumentality

There are some formal parallels between Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History and Cordwainer Smith's Instrumentality of Mankind future history. Both series:

can be complete in two volumes;
cover millennia of future history;
begin in the aftermath of a nuclear war;
feature an organization that addresses the long term development of mankind and that presides for a while over a sterile utopia.

Are these parallels accurate and are there any others? I have read some Instrumentality stories in the past but have not been drawn into the series. In fact, it does not sound as realistic or plausible a history as any of Poul Anderson's several future history series. However, blog readers who have read both series in full might say more.

Incomplete Time Travel Stories

Many of us appreciate and analyze fiction but cannot write it. Perhaps everyone would be able to write something: a short autobiography or a poem?

It is worthwhile at least to attempt fiction writing if only to gain a keener appreciation of what is involved. My two attempts at time travel stories, to be found on the Logic of Time Travel blog, are:

Yossi, the Time Traveller
Time Travel Memoirs Fragments

Other notions:

The (Time) Patrol asks an agent to live through the 1950s and 1960s in the town where he grew up. He sees his family, including his younger self, at church. How would the daily news appear to someone who already knew the outcome of each new crisis/storm in a tea cup?

A historical fiction/futuristic sf/time travel trilogy: the time travel novel reveals that a character in the historical novel is a disguised time traveler from the future period.

A time traveler knows that he will get back together with his estranged girl friend because he has glimpsed them together older and looking happy but does not know when or how.

The masked head of the Secret Intelligence Time Travel Section tells an agent to travel several decades into the past on a unique mission, to found the Section. Taking off his mask, he says, "You will need this."

Saturday, 14 October 2017


Three works by Poul Anderson feature virtual realities experienced by AI programs which think that they are human beings. However, Anderson did not write any story about such programs beginning to doubt the reality of their perceived environments. That kind of existential question is the province of Philip K. Dick.

In Anderson's Genesis, two uploaded personalities are in no doubt as to the nature of their "emulated" environment. However, each of these personalities remains a conscious and intelligent being able to converse with the other through an emulated body as effectively as s/he had been able to converse with other human beings using a material body when alive.

On the other hand, each upload is a copy of the personality made shortly before his or her physical death. If that original self-conscious individual survived into a hereafter, then the surviving soul is different from the uploaded copy.

Philip K. Dick

I regularly compare Poul Anderson with certain sf writers but not with others, e.g., I am not a big fan of Philip K. Dick. I have just read the opening pages of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, set not in the twenty first century but in 1992. (I think that Dick sometimes made the point that the future is nearer than we think, like Wells pointing out that the protagonists of The Shape Of Things To Come must already be young adults at the time when the book is being published.)

Dick addressed a big philosophical question, reality versus appearance, but did he also deploy the kind of knowledge of history, science etc that we find in Anderson's works? Comments on Dick's sf would be welcome.

Two More Ultimate States

The previous post summarized:

Poul Anderson's first sf novel;
four future histories;
his time travel series.

Then I thought: which other future histories or time travel works lead to ultimate states for humanity?

There Will Be Time points to an interstellar civilization united by time travel along the world-lines of STL spaceships. Compare Blish's world-line cruiser here.

The Corridors Of Time has the peaceful interstellar civilization of the "time wardens" after the period of the time-warring Wardens and Rangers.

These are two time travel novels and There Will Be Time also incorporates the Maurai future history.

Six Ultimate States

In Poul Anderson's Brain Wave, a global increase in intelligence leads to the conquest of instinct by reason.

In Anderson's "The Chapter Ends," human beings mentally control their own instincts and also cosmic forces.

In his "Starfog," human civilizations have achieved stability with freedom and no longer wage wars.

Starfarers points towards a multi-species, interstellar civilization unified by inter-temporal communication - like James Blish's "Beep"/The Quincunx Of Time.

The Harvest of Stars Tetralogy has two outcomes:

cosmos-surviving post-organic intelligences;
perpetual re-embodiment of recorded human personalities on newly terraformed extra-solar planets.

At the beginning of the Time Patrol series, we think that the only purpose of the Patrol is the mere survival of the Danellians but, at the end of the series, we learn of two profounder purposes:

maintenance of cosmic order without which there could be neither consciousness nor freedom;
preservation of a history that leads the descendants of humanity beyond their animality.

Two Histories

Someone could write a single volume Wellsian-Stapledonian future historical text book based on Poul Anderson's Technic History and another on his Time Patrol series. These tasks would be different. The Technic History is already a coherent history, requiring only expansion and elaboration, whereas the Time Patrol series presents only arbitrary events and dates, requiring the creation of a history to connect them.

These are two distinct and independent histories. However, the annals of the Time Patrol record many divergent and deleted timelines. Thus, many other fictional histories, even including the History of Technic Civilization, could be incorporated on that basis. For some earlier speculations on linking the Time Patrol to other works of fiction, see here.

Three Kinds Of History

Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series, comparable to several future history series, can be classified as a past and future history series. See its Timeline. There are three kinds of history:

(i) past;
(ii) future;
(iii) speculative/alternative.

The Time Patrol series incorporates all three. SM Stirling applies vast knowledge of (i) to create many versions and volumes of (iii). By discussing the works of a handful of fantasy and sf authors, we contemplate not only these three kinds of history but also philosophy, theology, cosmology and mythology. Other blog readers, please share with us your philosophical theories, historical interpretations, religious beliefs or political opinions. Controversy is not only not discouraged but positively welcomed.