Thursday, 16 March 2017

Opening Pages

An author plans and plots a novel, then writes page one of the text. We read page one of the published work, then read the rest of the novel. Thus, our starting point is not the author's. After reading page one, we gradually learn the details of a plot that he had planned before writing page one.

Robert Heinlein's Double Star (New York, 1957) begins:

"If a man walks in dressed like a hick and acting as if he owned the place, he's a spaceman." (p. 5)

On the opening page of Poul Anderson's World Without Stars (New York, 1966), Chapter II, we read:

"...starports are necessary." (p. 7)

(Chapter I is a short introduction from an alien viewpoint.)

Years ago, both of these opening passages would have got my attention because both established that here was a society with regular space travel. But what kind of society and what kind of space travel? They are completely different. Still on p. 5, Heinlein's first person narrator spends his "...last half-Imperial...," buying a drink for the spaceman. So the unit of currency is not the dollar or the pound sterling but the Imperial. Indeed, we will learn that there is an Emperor, also that the space travel is merely interplanetary.

Anderson's p. 7 tells us that:

there are extrasolar colonies;
there are "multisense tapes";
the original colonists of a planet are still alive centuries later;
theoretically, every point in space is as close as any other;
travel is possible not only between the inner and outer parts of a spiral arm but even to "...really remote galaxies."

This is a very different civilization and a completely different order of magnitude of space travel.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I agree that Heinlein's juvenile SF novels are among his best works. But he also wrote good SF meant for adults as well, such as DOUBLE STAR. That book was written before STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, which is when I date RAH's calamitous decline as a writer. DOUBLE STAR is one of the many books I should reread.

    I'm currently reading THE GOSPEL OF JESUS: THE PASTORAL RELEVANCE OF THE SYNOPTIC PROBLEM, by William R. Farmer. The author is an advocate of the view that Matthew was written first, and that Luke used Matthew as a primary source. And that Mark used both Matthew and Luke. Farmer discusses as well the theological implications he thinks follows from either the Neo-Griesbachian/Two Gospel hypothesis or the still dominant Q/Mark theory.


  2. Sean,
    I buy into the primacy of Mark merely because most, very knowledgeable, scholars do. For what it's worth, Matthew and Luke read to me like alternative expansions of Mark. But I am a philosopher, not a theologian!

    Everyone else,
    Sean and I have just demonstrated that this blog can be used to discuss any issue. And it is all relevant. Anderson addresses the history of Christianity along with everything else.

    1. Kaor, Paul!

      But there are many equally learned scholars who don't agree with the Q/Mark (also called the Two Source theory) hypothesis. Such as Abbot John Chapman, OSB, B.C. Butler, Dom Bernard Orchard, William R. Farmer, etc. Their arguments, as summarized by David Laird Dungan in his A HISTORY OF THE SYNOPTIC PROBLEM, destroyed the Q/Mark theory for me. Which in turn eventually led me to getting a copy of Farmer's THE GOSPEL OF JESUS.

      There are many cogent arguments against the Q/Mark theory, but I'll limit myself to a few points many writers seem to overlook. First, why should I take seriously a theory which depends so much on a HYPOTHETICAL source called "Q"? Why hasn't ANY evidence ever been found of this crucial document actually existing? No manuscripts or even fragments of Q has ever been found. A theory depending so much on a HYPOTHETICAL document seems very weak!

      Second, have ANY pro Q/Markan priority writers ever come to grips with the actual, PHYSICAL evidence of the Oxford/Bibliotheque Nationale Fragments of Matthew? These were fragments of Matthew's gospel found in Egypt WITH legal documents dated to the twelfth year of Nero's reign (AD 65/66). Iow, BEFORE AD 70 or 80, the years proposed for when Matthew was written by pro Q writers. Assuming about ten years for Matthew to reach Egypt from where it was believed to have been written, Suyrian Antioch, that means Matthew may have been written as early as AD 55. Again, that destroys the Q theory.

      Thanks for the nice mention of me in your second paragraph. Yes, Poul Anderson took religion, including Christianity, seriously. And alert readers will see comments touching on Christian history in his works.


  3. Kaor, Paul!

    And the unit of currency in Poul Anderson's Terran Empire stores is the "credit" (with some of the other planes in the Empire being authorized to have their own, local currencies). Plus, in Niven/Pournelle's THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE and THE GRIPPING HAND, the Empire of Man uses the "crown" as the standard currency unit.