Sunday, 23 July 2017

Able And Unable Rulers

"'I knew [Artos] was a very able field commander, but a King requires far more than that. More than a charismatic presence, as well. He must be able to govern, or he is a disaster in the making.'"
-SM Stirling, The Tears Of The Sun (New York, 2012), Chapter Two, p. 21.

This is the point of Poul Anderson's "Marius."

Both Poul and Karen Andersons' Gratillonius and SM Stirling's Artos are able military leaders who, unlike Marius, also become able political leaders.

Artos' natural abilities are miraculously enhanced by his divinely endowed and empowered Sword whereas Gratillonius, appointed to rule the city of Ys by its Gods, later earns the enmity of those same Gods, thus occasioning the legendary inundation of Ys. By contrast, Artos forges the new High Kingdom of Montival, monarchy having replaced democracy after the Change. This is the kind of situation that we read about but do not want to reproduce in reality - I hope.

Catholic Spaces

How often, when reading fsf, do we get into Catholic spaces?

Poul Anderson  
Three Hearts And Three Lions  
The Merman's Children
Nicholas van Rijn
Father Axor

SM Stirling
Emberverse

Blog readers will know of other relevant works. Some have been mentioned on the blog, e.g. here.

Emberverse incorporates Catholicism but is not Catholic. One Mind includes many gods and/or one Power manifests both as the Goddess and as the Virgin Mary. Artos, Wiccan, senses Power in a Catholic chapel - but that can happen in our universe

A Cloud Shadow

Everard questions Heidhin, who is difficult. Suddenly:

"A cloud shadow swept over the men..."
-Poul Anderson, "Star of the Sea" IN Anderon, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), 8, p. 536.

The shadow darkens Heidhin's face and seems to "...whet..." his "...piercing stare."

This is our old friend, the pathetic fallacy, which is as natural to Poul Anderson as rich vocabulary and correct grammar.

The Arrow Of Time In Wells And Anderson II

Carl Farness meets Jorith in 300 and leaves their surviving great-grandson, Alawin, in 372. So far, this is a linear chronological sequence although Carl has been back and forth to the twentieth century and once to the twenty-fourth century between his experiences in 300 and 372. Only once must he reverse the arrow of time, in the period 366-372. Arriving and enquiring after his grandson, Tharasmund, Carl is stunned to be "reminded" that he had attended Tharasmund's grave-ale...

Manse Everard and Janne Floris follow Veleda back through time:

in 70 AD, Veleda's companion, Heidhin, tells Everard that she and he are of the Alvarings;

in 60 AD, Everard and Janne hear Veleda preach;

in 49 AD, Time Patrol ethnographer Jens Ulstrup tells Everard and Janne that Veleda had arrived by ship on the Baltic littoral five or six years earlier;

in 43 AD, Everard and Janne, hovering on timecycles, scan ships until they see one bearing a woman, jump forward to see where that ship will land and jump back so that Everard, disguised, can meet the ship;

the captain, Vagnio of the Alvarings, tells Everard that his people hold half of an island off the Geatish coast and Janne easily identifies the island as Oland;

tracing Vagnio's journey back to his departure from Oland, the Patrol agents learn that a boy and a girl had walked to his home from a village further south;

making an aerial survey through several months, they leap through a precalculated space-time grid on separate timecycles until they see and become part of the event that had launched Veleda on her vengeful mission against the Romans.

We have come a long way from Mrs Watchett proceeding backwards through the Time Traveller's laboratory.

The Arrow Of Time In Wells And Anderson I

I began to reflect on the "arrow of time" in two Time Patrol stories but first applied this line of thought to The Time Machine.

In our experience, the "arrow of time" differentiates the single temporal dimension from any of the three spatial dimensions. Thus, in a single temporal direction, organisms live from birth towards death, memories accumulate and entropy increases.

On his outward journey, the Time Traveller follows this arrow of time:

"at ten o'clock today," he pressed the starting and stopping levers of his Time Machine, then saw that the clock had jumped to nearly half-past three;

holding down the starting lever, he saw Mrs Watchett, who did not see him, shoot across his laboratory like a rocket;

then he saw night following day like the flapping of a black wing and the sun like a brilliant arch...

It is unnecessary to recount the entire journey to 802,701 AD and beyond.

Returning, the Time Traveller saw Mrs Watchett proceed backwards through the laboratory. He comments that this seemed odd but surely it is to be expected? Just before seeing Mrs Watchett this second time, he glimpsed "Hillyer" for a moment. I took Hillyer to be another servant. Since the Time Traveller is now travelling pastward, Hillyer must have entered the laboratory some time after Mrs Watchett had left it. Because of the Time Traveller's speed, Hillyer might have come a day or so later rather than immediately after Mrs Watchett.

The following day, the outer narrator of The Time Machine enters the laboratory just as the Time Machine bearing the Time Traveller departs for a second time, never to return, then the man-servant enters from the garden. So one of these two men must be Hillyer. However, the outer narrator was present just as the Time Machine was beginning to accelerate whereas the man-servant entered immediately afterward when, as the Time Traveller had said of his first journey, the slowest snail would dash past too fast for him to see. Also, the Time Traveller's dinner guests, to whom he narrates his adventures, include the outer narrator. These men would be used to addressing and referring to each other by their surnames and would be less likely to know the man-servant's surname. Therefore, we deduce that the outer narrator is Hillyer.

The Time Machine had departed from the south-east corner of the laboratory but returned in the north-west because the Morlocks had moved it.

On his futureward journey, why does the Time Traveller not see his returning self, and vice versa? Even if invisible to everyone else, which I doubt (see here), he should be visible to another time traveller, including his older and younger self.

Finally, Doctor Who has two precursors, the Time Traveller and Professor Bernard Quatermass, head of the British Experimental Rocket Group, hero of the first BBC TV sf series.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

How Manson Everard Learnt About Two Causal Loops

In the case of Carl Farness, Everard:

had a hunch, an uneasy feeling that something was not right;
read Carl's reports;
steeped himself in knowledge of the Goth milieu;
roved that milieu from end to end, over and over.

(We want to read about Everard's endless roving.)

At last, he realizes that some poems, stories and traditions had their sources not in the mythical Wodan but in Carl's physical presence. These include the story of Odin appearing in a battle and betraying his descendants even though Carl has not done this yet...

In the case of the anti-Roman pagan prophetess, Veleda, Everard and Janne Floris follow Veleda back through time to the event that made her a prophetess - which was Janne rescuing Veleda from rape by the crew of a Roman ship.

Thus, whereas Everard had to deduce Carl's role, then persuade Carl that it was necessary to return to 372 and enact a betrayal, Everard himself was present, but unable to intervene, when Janne swooped down to kill the rapists - two very different ways to learn something.

Artos, Superhero And Divine Agent

See "Magic Swords" search result.

I am not sure what is going down with this Artos guy in SM Stirling's Emberverse series. His Sword was not made in this world. When he wields it in battle, he loses himself in divine and cosmic visions and kills with every blow. Seeing his face, the enemy scream, flee or kill themselves. He prophesies that most who flee will not survive. The Sword never needs to be cleaned or sharpened. Quarrelling allies who look at each other through the crystal of its pommel see each other's sincerity and make peace.

That is quite a powerful Sword. As with any other magical or supernatural instrument, we need to know what it can and cannot so so that the narrative does not give us a deus ex machina further down the line.

Resonance


When Everard persuades Carl that he must return to the Gothic period in order to play the role of Odin betraying his followers, this is because, in their timeline, that betrayal has already occurred.

Thus, if Carl refuses to return, the first problem will be the arrival in the twentieth century of that Carl who did appear in the Gothic period and enact the betrayal. Carl’s current intransigence would have prevented his departure from the present but not his arrival in the past because that had happened earlier. I quote the rules of time travel taught in the Academy.

Everard tells Carl that an incipient causal loop can set up a resonance which can produce catastrophically multiplying historical changes. He does not tell us what a resonance is but could it mean this? - Carl’s refusal to conduct the mission of betrayal duplicates Carl; then, if either Carl travels further into the past than the Gothic period, there is the danger that, when he returns to the twentieth century, it will be to the twentieth century of a timeline in which Odin’s descendants were not betrayed, did defeat their enemy and did bring it about that an entirely different story was recorded in the Volsungasaga, thus preventing the history in which a Carl Farness sets out to track down the origin of the story of Odin’s betrayal.
-copied from here

I have copied an earlier attempt to answer a question asked in current posts. Manse Everard says that an incipient causal loop can set up a resonance that can produce catastrophically multiplying changes of history. Can it? Does the Patrol know this? How often has it happened? How was it rectified? Or is Manse's statement mainly theoretical?

In physics, resonance is a phenomenon in which a vibrating system or external force drives another system to oscillate with greater amplitude at specific frequencies. Frequencies at which the response amplitude is a relative maximum are known as the system's resonant frequencies or resonance frequencies.
-copied from here

A resonance is an interaction between two systems or between a force and a system. Catastrophically multiplying changes of history must mean that one change would cause so many other changes that it would be difficult or impossible for the Patrol to identify and counteract the original change.

Carl And Manse III

Heartened by the Wanderer's presence among them for four generations, the Teurings might succeed in their attack on Ermanaric but they must not because that king is known to have died later and in other circumstances. The only way to ensure that the Teurings fail is for Odin, played by Carl Farness, to appear and betray them as recounted in various texts.

What would happen if Carl refused to play this role? The Teurings attacked Ermanaric in 372 (Time Patrol, pp. 450-455) whereas Carl and Manse Everard discuss that attack and its consequences in 1935 (pp. 446-450). Thus, Carl and Manse have their discussion in the twentieth century of a timeline where Carl had already appeared and betrayed his descendants 1563 years earlier. That Carl would return to New York in 1935 and would find there/then the Carl who had refused to do the job. Such duplication is to be avoided. However, that is the only consequence that I can deduce.

Manse says:

"'An incipient causal loop is always dangerous, you know. It can set up a resonance, and the changes of history that that produces can multiply catastrophically. The single way to make it safe is to close it. When the Worm Ouroboros is biting his own tail, he can't devour anything else." (p. 449)

I do not know what "resonance" means in this context. And the loop has already been closed, is no longer "incipient." Otherwise, Manse and Carl would not be there to discuss it.The painful point for Carl, though, is that that job is still ahead of him on his own world line.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Carl And Manse II

Time Patrol, 1935, pp. 446-450.

Manse Everard says that there is a causal loop, that Carl has become a cause of the events that he set out to study. Carl replies that he has merely fitted into what was already there. But surely not? He has started a lineage that is centrally involved in the relevant events. But, if that were all, then events could now be left as they were. However, Carl must do one more thing: return to the fourth century and betray his descendants as recounted in the Norse stories.

In Central Park

Carl and Laurie Farness walk in Central Park in 1935 (Time Patrol, pp. 422-425).

Laurie tells Carl that she lies awake, afraid of what he might blunder into. He reflects that, if he changes events back in Roman times, then he will return to a twentieth century in which neither his civilization nor Laurie had ever existed. But Laurie is walking, talking and sometimes lying awake afraid in a timeline where events had not been changed back in Roman times. Therefore, if Carl does change ancient events, he will generate a divergent timeline. Travelling to the twentieth century of that timeline, he will not find Laurie and it will indeed be true that she had never existed in that timeline but it will not be true that she had never existed period. She does exist, and is conversing with Carl, in the Central Park of the original timeline.

Carl's Great-grandsons

I am surprised that Carl Farness is neither surprised nor concerned when he realizes that his great-grandsons in the fourth century are to be the Hamther and Sorli who died trying to avenge their sister in the stories that Carl himself has traveled to the fourth century to research. If Carl had not had a son by Jorith, then that son would not have had a son who had sons...

Carl is already involved in a crucial causal circle. Surely the Patrol should already be on the alert?

A Sound Like The Wind

The fourth century Goths whom Carl Farness has befriended are threatened by two bands of Vandals. When Carl has offered to help but in his own way, adding that the Goths must follow his advice even when they do not understand it:

"A sound like the wind passed down the shadowy length of the hall."
-"The Sorrow of Odin the Goth," Time Patrol, 300-302, p. 368.

Like the wind? Is this the passage through the hall of Wodan-Mercury-Hermes who is the Wanderer and "'...the god of the wind...'" (1980, p. 390), with whom Carl will later be identified? Wodan conducts "'...the dead down to the Afterworld...'" (p. 391) and, on a battlefield in 337:

"A breeze flitted cold across gore-muddied earth, ruffled the hair of corpses that lay in windrows, whistled as if to call them hence." (337, p. 392)

As I have said before, the wind is almost one of the characters in Poul Anderson's historical fantasies. The Time Patrol is historical sf but these passages could be fantasy.

Artos, Superhero

Superman, John Carter and Artos:

Kryptonian body cells store and maximally utilize yellow solar energy, bestowing strength, speed, invulnerability, enhanced vision and flight;

in Martian gravity, John Carter can leap above and decapitate a twelve-foot green Martian;

Carter also sees red and becomes exulted in combat, as does SM Stirling's Artos:

"He struck and struck, and struck and struck, killing with each blow."
-SM Stirling, The High King Of Montival (New York, 2011), Chapter Nineteen, p. 452.

Some superheroes derive their powers from a special weapon. Artos' is the Sword which bestows powers like a birds' eye view of a battlefield and a knowledge of the exact numbers of the enemy. Superhero fiction blends sf (Superman is extraterrestrial) and fantasy (Captain Marvel's powers are supernatural) and this blend is also present in Stirling's Emberverse.

The Stories Carl Tells

Carl Farness travels to 300-372 to study songs and stories but, from 300, he himself tells stories in return for those that he hears. Over those several decades, how can the stories that Carl tells not affect those that he has gone to sudy? A pyschosocial calculation has told him that an illiterate society with a mental world where marvels are commonplace has a selective collective memory.

He talks about the Romans, merely adding details to what the Goths have already heard from other travellers, and all such details are shortly garbled down to a common noise level.

Cuchulainn is just another foredoomed hero.

The Han Empire is just another remote fabulous realm.

Carl says that his immediate audience passed on what they had heard:

"'...to others, who merged everything into their existing sagas.'" (Time Patrol, "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth," 1980, p. 388.)

But that does sound like a problem, doesn't it?

Carl talks about:

Rome
Diocletian
the new god
the Persians
hot lands with black-skinned people and large animals
elephants
the Eastern realm where amber-hued people with slanting eyes have built a long wall against wild northern tribes
the World Sea
the wise and wealthy Mayas
Samson the Strong
Deirdre the fair and unhappy
Crockett the hunter...

That is a considerable amount of exotic input.

Carl And Van Rijn

Carl Farness travels to 300-372 and learns that he must betray his followers whereas Nicholas van Rijn travels to Mirkheim where he learns that he has been betrayed by David Falkayn. We see both Carl and van Rijn at their most vulnerable - which is unusual for van Rijn.

Are these comparisons fanciful? Yes. However, the point is that Poul Anderson wrote powerful stories about authentic characters in diverse and exotic spatiotemporal settings.

Another example: Daven Laure travels to the Cloud Universe where he learns that it will be impossible for him to marry the woman that he loves.

Carl's Mission 300-372

For reference, see here.

Carl is surprisingly free to make a lot of impact on the fourth century.

(i) He never filed an account of his relationship with Jorith, believing that it was personal. Thus, it only came out in the enquiry. (p. 385)

(ii) He intervened in a war since it affected his mission and the outcome of the war was not recorded. (p. 386)

(iii) He gave the Goths presents which will rot, rust or be lost. (p. 387) (A lost artifact still exists, to be found later.)

(iv) He told them stories but claims that these will be forgotten and will not affect the material that he has gone there/then to study.

(v) He himself reappears for generations and is identified with an established god. He thinks that it does not matter that some of the stories about this god turn out to have been based on real events, his own visits. Nevertheless, Manse discovers that one of the key stories is directly based on action that Carl has yet to perform.

Carl And Manse

Poul Anderson, "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), pp. 333-465.

Unattached agent Manson Everard interviews Specialist Carl Farness in 1980, pp. 384-391.

Manse uses a homelier version of the metaphor:

"'Operatives must have discretion, or they'd never get their jobs done, and plenty of them have sailed closer to the wind than you did.'" (pp. 385-386)

He claims to have:

"'...kicked around history, prehistory and even posthistory, quite a lot.'" (p. 386)

We know that there is a "posthistory," the Danellian Era, but also thought that Patrol agents did not visit it and would like to know more about Manse's experiences then.

This is where Carl refers to "...the guardian branch of the Patrol..." (p. 389)

Thus, the word "guardian" is used not only in a title, The Guardians Of Time, but also in Patrol terminology.

We learn five names of a single deity:

Gothic Wodan;
west German Wotan;
English Woden;
Frisian Wons;
Scandinavian Odin. (p. 389)

There will be a post about Carl's mission 300-372.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Carl And Jorith

Poul Anderson, "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), pp. 333-465.

Carl and Laurie Farness had spent their younger days in the 1960s and '70s. In 1980, when Carl was teaching in a Pennsylvanian college, he was recruited to the Time Patrol. Finishing that academic year, they moved "abroad," to 1930's New York, where Laurie, no longer a faculty wife, became a successful painter.

Carl's first assignment was to record Gothic songs and stories from 300 to 372. In 300-302, the Gothic teenager, Jorith, bore his son but died in childbirth despite the intervention of Doctor Kwei-fei Mendoza whom Carl had summoned from a lunar hospital in 2319, the only time we see anything of the future in the entire Time Patrol series. I will summarize part of the subsequent dialogue between Carl and Mendoza (pp. 375-378).

Mendoza: You should have left that child alone.
Carl: She was not a child. The relationship helped my mission. We were in love.
Mendoza: Did you tell your wife? What does she say?
Carl: She said that she did not mind. We grew up in the '60s and '70s.
Mendoza: "'Fashions come and go.'" (p. 375)
Carl: We are monogamous by preference. I love my wife.
Mendoza: She let you have your middle-aged fling.
Carl: I loved Jorith.
Mendoza: An aneurysm of the anterior cerebral artery would have caused death whoever she had married. You made her happier than most women of her period. But revisiting Jorith is forbidden. The Patrol and your wife need you. You are a decent man who blundered through inexperience.

Does Mendoza represent a pre- or post-'60s morality?

Close To The Black Hole

Humanity, individually and collectively, should stop dancing on the edge of a precipice! At least, I think that that is a very powerful and appropriate metaphor. Here is another, possible only since the twentieth century:

"'You'll certainly get a stiff reprimand at the very least, as close to the black hole as you've orbited.'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Sorrow Of Odin The Goth" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), 2319, p. 377.

A black hole is an ultimate precipice.

The conclusion of this chapter reflects on the life of a Time Patrolman. The doctor wants to help Carl past his guilt and grief because:

"'You are a field agent of the Time Patrol; this is not the last mourning you will ever have reason to do.'" (p. 378)

Blackness?

SM Stirling, The High King Of Montival (New York, 2011), Chapter Nineteen.

This chapter contains an excellent description of a siege, Ritva Havel and her allies defending. Ritva is on the rampart. Something hits her hard. She staggers and falls.

"A light flashed in the corner of her eye.
"Blackness." (p. 422)

"Blackness" means that she loses consciousness. Thus, rather than seeing "blackness," she stops seeing. Do we ever see "blackness," except when we are conscious and in the dark? What do we see behind our heads or before we are born?

Once, when given a general anaesthetic, I tried to remain conscious by an act of will. Then an irresistable force seized my consciousness and pushed it down below the surface into the dark. I felt my consciousness end, then knew nothing.

Novelizations

I am glad that Poul Anderson never novelized a feature film. That has to be the least creative form of writing. Of the writers occasionally compared with Anderson on this blog:

James Blish, master of interstellar sf, e.g., Cities In Flight, adapted Star Trek scripts as short stories and wrote the first original Star Trek novel;

Isaac Asimov novelized Fantastic Voyage, then wrote a nominal sequel that was in fact an original novel on the same theme;

Jerry Pournelle novelized Escape From The Planet Of The Apes and transformed a cliched clergyman into a sympathetic character.

Thus, each of these authors added some creativity.

These remarks are occasioned by the fact that, last night in our small sf group, John summarized the current POTA film trilogy for Kevin and me.

Literary And Conceptual Sequels

Can Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series, "The Queen of Air and Darkness" and "The Word to Space" be called alternative sequels to Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series? "The Queen of Air and Darkness" is a sequel to Anderson's own Rustum History.

I think that there are also "conceptual sequels," e.g.:

Olaf Stapledon's Last And First Men is a conceptual sequel to four works by Wells because it does different things with the Wellsian concepts of space travel, time travel, Martian invasion and future history;

CS Lewis' Ransom Trilogy and unfinished Ransom novel are Christian replies to those same four works;

Anderson's Time Patrol series is a conceptual sequel to one of those works because -

timecycles replace the Time Machine;
human evolution into Danellians replaces human devolution into Morlocks and Eloi;
Anderson systematically addresses those "curious possibilities of anachronism and of utter confusion" at which Wells merely hints.

All literature is a single long sequence from ancient epics to modern novels, from the gods of Gilgamesh to the post-organic intelligences of Anderson's Genesis.

Literary Sequels

Virgil's Aeneid is a sequel to Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.

Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword is a sequel to an Edda and a saga.

Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest is a sequel to A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest, the two plays that Shakespeare wrote for Neil Gaiman's Morpheus.

CS Lewis' Ransom Trilogy is a sequel to the Bible and the Arthurian cycle (the temptation of Eve, the curse of Babel, Maleldil wept when he saw death, Merlinus returns.)

Is SM Stirling's Emberverse a sequel to Tolkien's Middle Earth History?

"...the children...had both read the Histories, though they'd thought them mere tales."
-SM Stirling, The High King Of Montival (New York, 2011), Chapter Eighteen, pp. 393-394.

Does Ritva believe that the Histories are more than mere tales?
Does she tell two children that?
Is the Emberverse a sequel to the Histories if some of its characters believe that it is?
Are we readers meant to believe that it is? (No!)

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The State Banquet

"'Now it's time for the State banquet,' Kate said firmly."
-SM Stirling, The High King Of Montival (New york, 2011), Chapter Seventeen, p. 373.

When Kate says that on p. 373, we know that we will read the menu on p. 374 - but there is more to the story this time:

roast suckling pigs
glazed hams
turkeys
barons of beef, buffalo or elk
lamb
veal
platters of smoked sturgeon
potatoes whipped with cream, scallions and garlic
scalloped potatoes
potatoes au gratin
asparagus
salads of greens, nuts and tomatoes
hot breads
a dozen more dishes -

- and there are assassins among the waiters. If Mathilda had not glimpsed a reflection in the silver on the table, then the good guys would have been dead. After a pitched battle in the State dining room, Rudi becomes tired of continual violence. In this kind of fiction, our heroes fight one enemy after another but think what that would be like in reality.

The theme song of a British children's television series included the line:

"Life and love and happiness are well worth fighting for..."

- an obvious rationalization: the series was all about fighting, not about life, love or happiness.

Kinds Of Series

Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series was originally complete as four short stories with a single central character, Manson Everard. The series had a beginning, Everard's recruitment to the Patrol, and a culmination, his reversal of a temporal change caused by a group of time criminals, the Neldorians. Like all sf of its period, the stories were published in a magazine before being collected.

Over a decade later, the series began to be extended:

before long, the stories were first published in books, not in magazines;

new stories were of different lengths, some even shorter than the original four but also some short novels, and were of increasing complexity;

Everard was always present although not always as the central character;

the Neldorians were superseded by a more sophisticated group of time criminals, the Exaltationists;

there is one long novel, The Shield Of Time, although it comprises three lengthy, interconnected narratives;

The Shield Of Time introduces a new kind of temporal change to be counteracted by the Patrol and reveals the Patrol's real purpose;

the series ends with a short story that was also Anderson's contribution to an original anthology on the Knights Templar;

thus, although The Shield Of Time had presented a second and greater culmination, it was not the concluding instalment and the series could have been continued further;

Everard, recruited at the age of thirty and benefiting from Patrol longevity, had lived in the same New York apartment from 1954 to 1990 but would soon have had to move elsewhen.

SM Stirling's Emberverse is a different kind of series, a long sequence of novels describing three generations of protagonists in an alternative history - and there are also short stories with which I am as yet unfamiliar.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Peaceful Times

An unageing time traveller, i.e., a Time Patrol agent, knowing history, can opt to live through several peaceful years or decades and then move to another peaceful era before the next war or other time of troubles is scheduled to begin. Thus:

Carl Farness, recruited to the Patrol in 1980 and believing that US society has disintegrated quickly and obviously since the 1964 election, moves to New York in the 1930s;

Herbert Ganz likes to remain in the Berlin of the 1850s but will have to move elsewhere "'...before Western civilization begins self-destruction in earnest...'"  -"The Sorrow of Odin the Goth" IN Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), 1858, p. 400;

Unattached agent Shalten maintains a large, luxurious flat in Paris in the first decade of the twentieth century...

By contrast, Unattached agent Manse Everard, needing a base in the twentieth century, remains in the New York apartment to which he has become attached right through the 1950s, '60s and '70s and into the decay of the '80s. We last see Everard, in the twentieth century, in 1990.

Another Camp Meal

A plate loaded with:

slices of cured ham;
cold roast beef;
pickles;
mustard;
horseradish;
chicken;
potato salad;
spring greens;
rye bread with butter;
several kinds of cheese -

- dark bitter beer;
dried-apple and cherry pies;
pastries.

SM Stirling, The High King Of Montival (New York, 2011), Chapter Sixteen, pp. 347-348.

And see Food Thread.

Continuing Comparisons

Poul Anderson, "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), pp. 333-465.

SM Stirling, The High King Of Montival (New York, 2009).

Anderson's Alawin wants to join the attack on Ermanaric but the Wanderer tells him both that he is too young and that he has another, harder, stranger task. Stirling's Mark Vogeler wants to enlist in the war against the Church Universal and Triumphant but Rudi Mackenzie shows him that he is too young and makes him his uncle's aide/military apprentice. In both of these stories, an older man teaches and prepares a younger one.

Stirling

"...some had scale-mail shirts rather than chain-mail ones..."
High King, Chapter Sixteen, p. 338.

"...they'd seen the elephant..." (op. cit., p. 341)

A phrase that I had not encountered before.

"'...emptying the honey-bucket.'" (op. cit., p. 346)

Another.

Anderson

When we first see the Wanderer, he is tall, holding a spear, wearing a face-shading broad-brimmed hat, has "...wolf-gray hair and beard..." and there is a gleam in his gaze.
-"Sorrow," 372, p. 339.

Carl Farness, Time Patrolman, is in the process of becoming one manifestation of the mythical Odin. By referring to "...gaze...," Anderson avoids acknowledging that, at this stage, the Wanderer still has two eyes.

The first time the Goths of 300 AD saw Carl:

"...they took him for a mere gangrel..." (op. cit., 300, p. 348)

Indeed: Gangleri.

Recruited to the Time Patrol in 1980, Carl settles with his wife in 1930's New York, believing as he does that US society does not begin to disintegrate quickly and obviously until "...after the 1964 election." (op. cit., 1935, p. 343) We may infer that this is also the author's opinion.

Pre-Patrol, Carl had written papers on Deor and Widsith. (op. cit., 1980, p. 354) and had admired Herbert Ganz's 1853 paper on the Gothic Bible. Ganz recruits Carl to the Patrol. In 1858, Carl reports to Ganz that, in the fourth century, he has recorded poems that may be ancestral to Widsith and Walthere. (op. cit., 1858, p. 404) I can't find Walthere. These are details that we usually rush past when reading but all this historical knowledge is present in the background of Anderson's fiction.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Changes In Social Attitudes

Tempora mutantur nos et mutamur in illis.
"Times change and we change with them." See here.

"The past is another country." See here.

"The past is a foreign country." See here.

In Britain in my lifetime, attitudes to two phenomena, homosexuality and smoking, have reversed. Homosexuality has become legal. Smoking in enclosed public places has become illegal.

SM Stirling imagines Changed conditions followed by a changed attitude to smoking:

"In the old days they'd believed that smoking was bad for you, but there were so many other things that could, would and did kill you now that people didn't care."
-SM Stirling, The High King Of Montival (New York, 2011), Chapter Fifteen, pp. 328-329.

In fact, there was no end to the follies of "the old Americans":

"Some of them had believed eating butter was bad for you, of all things." (p. 329)

Preparations For War

Concurrently reading Emberverse and Time Patrol, see here.

The Teuring headmen, claiming descent from Wodan, prepare to attack Ermanaric, a historical figure.

The Bossman of the Free Republic of Richland prepares a volunteer force to fight the Church Universal and Triumphant, whose leaders are possessed by an evil supernatural entity.

This is one part of the Emberverse theology I do not understand yet. Mind, which has evolved in an uncreated universe but which now directs the course of evolution in subsequent universes, incorporates a disagreement between the view that entropy should be accepted and the view that it should be transcended. But why should the pro-entropy view be represented by a demonic dictatorship?

In any case, there are preparations for war in two fictional universes.

The Gods Of Time

I am concurrently reading SM Stirling's Emberverse novel, The High King Of Montival, and rereading what I call "The Gods of Time," i.e., the two instalments of Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series that deal with Northern European mythology, "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth" and "Star of the Sea."

Gods appear in "The Gods of Time" because Time Patrol members adopt such roles whereas the Virgin Mary appeared in an earlier Emberverse novel because that series is set within a "many mansions" polytheology.

The Time Patrol is historical science fiction whereas the Emberverse is perhaps an fsf mix like CS Lewis' Ransom Trilogy, i.e., sf with supernatural elements. Lewis has pagan gods subordinate to the Christian God whereas, in the Emberverse, the deities live in different mansions.

In "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth":

"It was the gods carved on the pillars that seemed to move amidst unrestful shadows..." (Time Patrol, 372, p. 334)

The Darkness And The Wind

Ok. Writing Fiction In The Past has got me back into the theme of the Wanderer in the darkness and the wind. "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth" opens:

"Wind gusted out of twilight as the door opened."
-Poul Anderson, "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), 372, p. 333.

Later:

"The door flew open.
"Dusk had deepened fast, when autumn was on hand, so that the newcomer stood in the middle of blackness. Wind flapped the edges of his blue cloak, flung a few dead leaves in past him, whistled and chilled along the room. Folk turned to see who had come, drew a sharp breath, and those who had been seated now scrambled to stand. It was the Wanderer." (p. 339)

Time Patrolman Carl Farness, who is the Wanderer, explains to Manse Everard:

"'Wodan-Mercury-Hermes is the Wanderer because he's the god of the wind.'" (1980, p. 390)

The Roman general Cerialis tells Everardus:

"'You're royal at home, descended from Mercury. Got to be, the way you bear yourself.'"
-"Star of the Sea" IN Time Patrol, 16, p. 604.

Mercury, divine super-speedster, would make an appropriate patron deity for the Time Patrol. Nicholas van Rijn tells us here that Mercury is also the god of thieves - who work in darkness.

When Carl as the Wanderer leaves his descendants for the last time:

"He strode through the shadows, out the door, into the rain and the wind."
-"The Sorrow of Odin the Goth," 372, p. 459.

Fiction In The Past

Poul Anderson's time travel fiction, including his Time Patrol series, presents authentic-seeming accounts of past ages but also projects a lot of historical fiction and science fiction into the past:

in the fourth century, Ulfilas, Christian missionary to the Goths, met the mysterious Wanderer, the source of some of the Eddaic stories about Odin;

in Berlin in 1858, two Time Patrolmen watched a holographic recording of the meeting;

one of the Patrolmen, Carl Farness, was the Wanderer but Carl thinks -

"Was it truly me looming over [Ulfilas], lean, gray, cloaked, doomed and resigned to foreknowldge - yon figure out of darkness and the wind? On this night, one and a half thousand years after that night, I felt as if it were somebody else, Wodan indeed, the forever homeless."
-Poul Anderson, "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), pp. 333-465 AT 1858, p. 403.

And when the Roman general Cerialis makes peace with the Northern rebels, their intermediary is another Patrolman, Everardus/Manse Everard.

Two Meals

SM Stirling, The High King Of Montival (New York, 2011).

Camp Meal (Chapter Fourteen, p. 290)
steaks
fried potatoes
cowboy beans with garlic
bacon and onions
frybread with honey
chicory-root coffee with brandy

Hospitality (Chapter Fifteen, pp. 322-323)
kielbasa
blutwurst
liverwurst
three kinds of cheeses
rye and wheat bread
pickles
home-brewed dark beer
walnut-studded oatmeal cookies
chicory coffee with beet sugar and cream

And see Food Thread.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Naked Survival

Many of SM Stirling's Changelings believe that they live more authentically than the "ancients" (us) because they know the important things, how to farm, fight, hunt etc. See here. I suggest that what the Changelings know is survival skills and that human life is more than survival. Of course, post-Change life has not been reduced to a continual struggle for mere survival. There are also satisfying social interactions, cultural traditions and the genuine enjoyment of the fruits of their labours. Nevertheless, what they value is knowledge of survival strategies that most of us no longer need to spend our time on because we have been freed to develop other potentialities.

Poul Anderson's Time Patrolman Manse Everard mentally lists the pros and cons and then the legacy of the Roman Empire:

Cons
slave traders
tax farmers
sadistic games

Pros
peace
prosperity
a widened world

Legacy ("scattered through the wreckage")
books
technologies
faiths
ideas
memories of what once was
stuff to be salvaged, treasured and built with again
the memory of "...a life not given over to naked survival."
-Poul Anderson, "Star of the Sea" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), pp. 467-640) AT p. 604.

Wild Cattle

SM Stirling, The High King Of Montival (New York, 2011), Chapter Thirteen.

"A herd could flee with its most timid, or charge with the most aggressive." (p. 259)

Unfortunately, this is also true of human beings. However, it does mean that individuals or small groups can give a lead, sometimes in a good direction.

When the travellers kill several wild cattle, Cernunnos, St Hubert and Ullr are invoked. (p. 261)

Before the Change, each person knew a small part of the "'...scientific arts, and they traded the results among themselves, and there were so many that that was workable.'" (p. 255) After the Change, the important knowledge is how to:

farm;
fight with a sword;
hunt with bow or spear;
milk or butcher a cow;
make butter;
tan leather;
shoe a horse.

I think that the optimum society would be one whose members enjoyed the benefits of technology but who would also be able to survive and thrive if those benefits were lost.

Meanwhile, Greater Britain thrives under William the Great! (p. 269)

Nature Reclaims II

See River Bend Road and Nature Reclaims.

On the one hand, I like to watch nature gradually reclaiming a wall or a building but, on the other hand, in a rational society, that would not happen. Every empty or abandoned building would be put to use. For example, no one should ever be homeless. But what will happen when all human society ends?

"Nature was winning with its infinite patience..."
-SM Stirling, The High King Of Montival (New York, 2011), Chapter Twelve, p. 235.

"...a mantle of green that must have started as tree-lined streets and gardens and now was a burgeoning forest..." (op. cit., p. 240)

There are oak, maple, fir, spruce, locust and apartment towers half overgrown with ivy. Rudi Mackenzie sees and hears birds and imagines deer, boar, rabbit, fox, badger and raccoon.

"Here you could see how root and branch and leaf and burrowing beast were slowly reclaiming the land, and it gave you a detachment where the lifetimes of men waxed and vanished like morning light on the leaves."  (ibid.)

This is almost poetry.

In Chapter Thirteen, the suburbs are "...mostly forest..." (p. 245). Stirling goes further and says that farmland has become forest of a transitional type because never before were so many prime acres abandoned overnight. Waves of saplings have spread from lines of trees by roads or boundaries. Please read this passage because I cannot possibly summarize the whole account.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Nature Reclaims

In Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, we never see the Earth of the Long Night or of the further future. See here. However, we are shown a quiet, forested Earth both in Anderson's earlier Psychotechnic History and in his comparable novel, World Without Stars. See here and here.

From some angles, Lancaster, where I live (see image), looks more like a wood than a town. SM Stirling's The High King Of Montival presents beautiful descriptions of forest reclaiming city which I will quote when less rushed.

Roots Of Paganism II

See Roots Of Paganism.

The attached image shows a disused railway line surrounded by nature and thus is doubly relevant to SM Stirling, The High King Of Montival (New York, 2011), Chapter Twelve, where Rudi Mackenzie articulates one root of Paganism:

"Awe at the Powers, or at the nature They embodied." (p. 232)

However, some of us reverse this proposition, thus: awe at nature and at the Powers that are imagined to embody it. Awe and imagination are two responses to nature. If it is understood that a Pagan ritual is a dramatic performance, then I can participate on that basis. Some believe that the ritual addresses real beings whereas others believe instead that the beings addressed are imaginary personifications.

Hegel's philosophy was idealist, based on the primacy of consciousness, thus "standing on its head," whereas Hegel's materialist successors stood philosophy on its feet, on the ground of unconscious being from which consciousness arose.

Rudi goes on to reflect that:

"The ancients had had awesome powers..." (p. 233)

Gods are awesome Powers and the ancients had awesome powers both in Greek mythology and in the Emberverse.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Fortuna And The West

SM Stirling, The High King Of Montival (New York, 2011), Chapter Ten.

"'Fate and Fortuna willing...'" (p. 208)

See here. I agree that Fortuna rules. Each of us exists only because of a chance meeting between a sperm and an egg.

When Rudi's sister quotes the Histories, i.e., certain works of fiction, he replies, "'True...'" (p. 209) See here.

In the Histories, goodness comes from the West. In the Bible, wise men came from the East. For Chinese Buddhists, their wisdom came from the West and there is a Western Paradise. For many people politically, "the West" means US capitalist power.

These are a few notes that I made while reading this afternoon.

Founders Of Nations

"'You will not be fleeing. You will be off to forge a mighty morrow. Alawin, you now keep the blood of your fathers. Ward it well.'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), pp. 333-465 AT p. 458.

"'Descendants of [Alawin's] took a leading part in founding the Spanish nation.'" (op. cit., p. 462)

"So had Sun Hair promised... 'A new world.' He did not understand, but he believed, and made his people believe."
-Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), Part Four, "Beringia," 13,210 B.C., p. 250.

"...David and Coya Conyon/Falkayn...led to this planet humans who would found new homes...they were raising afresh the ancient banner of freedom...they knew - it is in their writings - how rich and strong a world must come from the dwelling together of two races so unlike."
-Poul Anderson, The Earth Book Of Stormgate (New York, 1979), p. 409. (Hloch's commentary between "Lodestar" and "Wingless.")

Time travellers and historians know when nations are founded.

And how many new nations are founded in SM Stirling's Emberverse?

Guardians

Poul Anderson's first Time Patrol collection was called Guardians Of Time, a Time Patrolman claims to be a "border guardian..." (see here) and Carl Farness refers somewhere to the "guardian branch" of the Patrol.

The Wiccans in SM Stirling's Emberverse believe that, between lives, authorities called "Guardians" help us to assess our most recent life. This makes a lot more sense than instant salvation or damnation. I imagine that a Guardian asks the just dead, "What do you think of your most recent life?," then invites us to turn back and look at it from a perspective that shows us all our weaknesses and blindnesses. By meditation and self-reflection, we do this for that part of our present life that we have lived so far.

Some Notes On "Lodestar"

Poul Anderson, "Lodestar" IN:

Anderson, The Earth Book Of Stormgate (New York, 1979), pp. 368-408;

Anderson, David Falkayn: Star Trader (Riverdale, NY, 2009), pp. 631-682.

(i) Supermetals spaceships use "...evasive maneuver[s]...that the League had thought were its own secrets." (Earth Book, p. 391)

This is a clue that someone high in the Polesotechnic League is involved in Supermetals.

(ii) "If [Coya] could please [Hirharouk] by explaining in simple terms..." (p. 396)

This is a too obvious indication that the supernova is about to be explained in simple terms to the reader.

(iii) Giant stars don't have planets and van Rijn remarks:

"'...they is still scratching their heads to account for Betelgeuse.'" (p. 396)

Here, Anderson acknowledges that he gave Betelgeuse a planetary system before it was known that giants do not have planets. In his "A Sun Invisible," a blue giant does have planets, in eccentric orbits, because it captured a swarm of rogues.

(iv) We read a sentence spoken in the Ythrian language, Planha:

"'Iyan wherill-ll cha quellan.'" (p. 399)

(v) A neat van Rijn coinage for detective work: "'...sherlockery.'" (p. 401)

(vi) Van Rijn bellows, "'Wat drommel?'" (pp. 401-402) What does this mean?

(vii) A very good van Rijn malapropism:

"'...always she finds nothing except an empty larder, Old Mother Hubris.'" (p. 402)

(ix) "'Damask rose and shittah tree!'" (p. 405) I googled this phrase and found it in this text. See here.

(x) An Ythrian spaceship must have a hold large enough for the Ythrians to fly around in. It happens to be the only chamber large enough to accomodate the Wodenite, Adzel. Thus, a hold designed for one species is also appropriate for another.

(xi) "The creases deepened which a hundred suns had weathered into Falkayn's countenance." (p. 407)

We have seen Falkayn under half a dozen suns but are rightly reminded that by now he has been under many more.

(xii) Coya addresses her grandfather as, "'Gunung Tuan...'" (p. 407)

(xiii) Falkayn appropriately uses the phrase, "'...the only game in town...'" (p. 407), the title of an early Time Patrol story. See here.

(xiv) The story ends with Coya realizing that her grandfather is "...indeed old." (p. 408) This story and the entire series are about the passage of time.

Correspondence has diverted me from SM Stirling's Emberverse back to Anderson's Technic History but the blog continues and anything that has been left will be returned to.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Supernovae

Concerning supernovae:

"Epsilon Aurigae, Sirius B and Valenderay were simply among the most famous examples."
-Poul Anderson, "Lodestar" IN Anderson, The Earth Book Of Stormgate (New York, 1979), pp. 368-408 AT p. 386.

Here Poul Anderson seamlessly blends current cosmology with his own science fiction. Epsilon Aurigae and Sirius B are real stars. Valenderay is the Eriau name for the supernova that threatened to destroy Merseian civilization in the earlier story, "Day of Burning."

Finally, "Lodestar" is about the search for the supernova that created Mirkheim.

Complexity

"The universe is rather bigger and more complicated than any given set of brains."
-Poul Anderson, "Lodestar" IN Anderson, The Earth Book Of Stormgate (New York, 1979), pp. 368-408 AT p. 389.

Is it? I thought that the human brain was more complex than anything else. See here.

Some will reply that the brain must be complex to generate self-consciousness and intelligence. However, mere complexity is insufficient to generate these phenomena. Below reflective self-consciousness, which includes intelligence, is mere consciousness of the environment and below that is immediate sensation, e.g., feeling hot or cold.

Consciousness requires interaction between two entities such that one of the entities becomes the subject and the other becomes the object of consciousness. These entities are an organism and its environment. Naturally selected organismic sensitivity to environmental alterations quantitatively increased until it was qualitatively transformed into conscious sensation. A complex central nervous system became necessary, and was naturally selected, to process immediate sensations into perceptions of discrete objects. Then, even greater complexity became necessary to think about the environment.

Thus, in the generation of intelligence, organism-environment interaction was primary and complexity was secondary. A mere complex artifact cannot be intelligent.

From The Beginning To The End

The Beginning Of The Polesotechnic League
"The world's great age begins anew...
"We do not know where we are going. Nor do most of us care. For us it is enough that we are on our way."
-Poul Anderson, "Hiding Place" IN Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (Riverdale, NY, 2009), pp. 555-609 AT pp. 555-556.

The Beginning Of Its Decline
"...the philosophy and practice which once animated the Polesotechnic League...were becoming somewhat archaic, if not obsolete."
-Poul Anderson, "Esau" IN The Van Rijn Method, pp. 517-553 AT p. 517.

Approaching The End
"The League's self-regulation was breaking down, competition grew ever more literally cutthroat, and governments snarled not only at the capitalists but at each other. The Pax Mercatorica was drawing to an end and, while [Coya] had never wholly approved of it, she sometimes dreaded the future."
-Poul Anderson, "Lodestar" IN Anderson, The Earth Book Of Stormgate (New York, 1979), pp. 368-408 AT p. 385.

Unfortunately, "Esau" appears immediately before "Hiding Place" in The Van Rijn Method. However, the introduction to "Hiding Place," attributed to "Le Matelot," which I quoted, could be moved to much earlier in the volume.

These passages show the rise and decline of an era far more effectively than Hari Seldon's mathematical predictions of the Fall of the Galactic Empire in Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy. And Anderson does it again later in his Technic History: Manuel Argos founds the Terran Empire and Dominic Flandry lives through its decline.

All hail, Poul Anderson!

In An Ythrian Ship III

Continuing the theme of hedonism from "In An Ythrian Ship II" (here) -

Coya, visiting van Rijn's stateroom, can sit on:

an extra lounger;
a desk chair;
an emperor-size bed;
a sofa between liquor-cabinet and bookshelf;
the deck -

- and she can consume:

beer;
gin;
whisky;
cognac;
vodka;
arrack;
slumthunder;
maryjane;
ops;
galt;
Xanadu radium;
a soft drink;
coffee.

Will technology ever enable a man like van Rijn to carry such luxuries with him between stars faster than light?

In An Ythrian Ship II

See "In An Ythrian Ship" here.

Quetlan, the sun of Ythri, is yellower than Sol. In the Ythrian ship, Gaiian, Nicholas van Rijn keeps his quarters at Earth-standard illumination whereas his granddaughter, Coya Conyon, does not. Because of his spacefaring experiences, van Rijn is "...used to abrupt transitions..." (p. 381) whereas Coya blinks when she enters his luxurious stateroom. She also coughs in the tobacco haze of his churchwarden pipe. I did not know that "churchwarden meant "long-stemmed" until I googled it. Which other Poul Anderson character smokes a churchwarden? Van Rijn has hired the Gaiian for a perilous journey and imposes his enormous presence on its internal environment. He sprawls with the pipe in one hand and a two-litre tankard in the other. A spout at his elbow gives instant refills. The reader vicariously enjoys both van Rijn's hedonism and the mysterious danger that Gaiian approaches. We know that great events are afoot for van Rijn and Technic civilization.

In An Ythrian Ship

In Poul Anderson's "Lodestar," Coya Conyon, travelling in an Ythrian spaceship:

breathes air thinner than Terrestrial;
smells the slight smokiness of Ythrian bodies;
hears through the ventilator the wingbeats of crew members cavorting in a large hold;
is exhilirated by 0.75 Terrestrial gravity.

We check the earlier story about first contact with Ythri for consistency. See here. We also check for information about Ythri on a companion blog. See here. And, finally, we say good night.

(The Grand Survey is a five-year mission, as in Star Trek.)