Friday, 12 May 2017

Old And Wise II

I am comparing longevity and/or immortality in sf by Poul Anderson and others. Rereading the conclusion of The Boat Of A Million Years also reminds us of Anderson's appropriate uses of Biblical quotations:

"'When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him?'"
-Poul Anderson, The Boat Of A Million Years (London, 1991), XIX, pp. 599-600.

Having survived through history into an indefinite future, the immortals plan to meet again after a further million years! That must be the longest lifespan of any fictional characters although, of course, Anderson cannot show us those million years. (I have just remembered that some fantasy characters live even longer.)

One of Brian Aldiss' characters says:

"'With more time...well, all our values would change, wouldn't they?'"
-Brian Aldiss, "The Circulation Of The Blood..." IN Harry Harrison, Ed., Four For The Future (London, 1974), pp. 5-32 AT p. 32.

My point, exactly. The closing phrase of the concluding sentence informs us that this woman and her husband will live "...for the next score and a half of centuries." (ibid.)

That Biblical phraseology almost conceals the meaning: three thousand years. That suddenly does not seem so long any more. My next task is to reread the sequel, "...And The Stagnation Of The Heart." (pp. 33-44)


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Even assuming an extremely prolonged lifespan, I disagree with the Brian Aldiss character who said such people would have all their "values" changing. Would it really come to pass that extremely long lived people would think, say, that robbery, murder, tyranny, etc., became "good" things?

    And the bit about the mutant immortals in THE BOAT OF A MILLION YEARS planning to live a million years makes me wonder if such a thing is even possible. I recall reading somewhere in, I think, Tolkien's THE SILMARILLION that even the immortal elves might become so weary that they would die after ten thousand centuries and depart to the Halls of Mandos.


    1. Sean,
      Of course, the character's remark has to be taken in context. She did not mean mere reversals of moral judgments. She had grabbed at a chance of sex with a younger man because she was ageing. The realization that she was no longer ageing would change her priorities - maybe a better word than "values" in this case.

    2. Kaor, Paul!

      Oops! I was taking your earlier remarks too literally!

      Yes, granted the possibility of a much longer lifespan, our priorities might very well change.