Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The War

When I was growing up in Britain in the 1950s, the War and the Coronation were major recent events. For how much longer will contemporary fiction continue to have characters who were alive during World War II? I will mention just three examples.

Poul Anderson's Manse Everard was born in 1924 (see here) so he was in the War. Recruited into the Time Patrol in 1954, Everard is then able to travel to the War and indeed to anywhen else but my immediate interest in Everard focuses merely on the fact that, having been born when he was, he lived through the War, and indeed participated in it, before he became a time traveler.

Ian Fleming's James Bond had been in the War although Fleming presents two contradictory accounts of this earlier period of Bond's life. In the 1960s, Bond works with the Head of the Japanese Secret Service, who had volunteered for kami-kaze.

Stieg Larsson's Henrik Vanger reaches his eighty-second birthday and shortly afterwards informs Mikael Blomkvist and thus us that he was born in 1920 - earlier than Everard! Thus, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, published in 2005, is set in 2002. Fiction set in the twenty-first century would previously have been sf. And we are now in 2017 so, if a character in a novel set in this year was born in 1939, then he is now seventy-eight, ten years older than me. It can still be done but not for much longer.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Preparation For War

When I was an undergraduate, I was a "pacifist." Some of us labelled ourselves. Now my views are more considered but do not conform to those of my then elders. For example, I now say that:

in some circumstances, an armed population can resist a military coup whereas an unarmed population is defenceless;

when a minority is being persecuted, mere maintenance of order means continuation of the persecution... therefore, a collective right to self-defence comes on the agenda.

Some writers of "military sf" present scenarios where it is right to prepare for war:

against Merseia in Poul Anderson's Technic History;
against the Draka in SM Stirling's Draka series;
against the Protectorate in Stirling's Change series.

In real life, the distinction between defence and offence does not always seem that clearcut. I now think that:

every individual at least has a moral right to physical self-defence;

however, whether an empire or great power has a right to defend what its decision-makers regard as its economic or strategic interests in another continent is a different issue, to say the least;

a police marksman is right to put a bullet in the head of a terrorist holding hostages;

"defence" can never mean the use of nuclear devices against a population.

Anderson shows us a character, Gunnar Heim, waging war as a privateer in one situation but criticizing a later war as imperialistic. See here and here. Thus, Anderson presents more than one side of every question.

Robert Heinlein acknowledged that he glorified the military and he opposed conscription. Free men fight. When I opened a comic book adaptation of Starship Troopers and saw a panel in which a general demanded more conscription, I immediately closed it again.

Eating And Killing (Or Vice Versa)

SM Stirling, A Meeting At Corvallis (New York, 2007), Chapter Five, p. 115ff.

In the Bearkillers' embassy at Corvallis:

smoked salmon cooked in cream and dill;
crab stir-fried with scallions and ginger;
blue cheese with crackers;

The talk over the food is the familiar kind of discussion about the balance of forces and an imminent war - also how to flush out bandits. Casual killing of bandits seems a shame after the population has been reduced so drastically. However, the settled communities are thriving and reproducing. As the meal shows, there is plenty of wealth for bandits to steal. The crabs are brought inland by rail in saltwater tanks with the wheels working fans to circulate the water. Ingenious. And, of course, the sea is full of crabs. Former vegetarians eat meat - but not all have descended into cannibalism.

Preserving Civilization

After the Catastrophe, whichever catastrophe we imagine, we want not only to survive physically but also to remain civilized and indeed human.

In SM Stirling's Emberverse, a knight of the Protectorate regards a Benedictine and a Ranger as:

"'False priest and devil-worshipping whore...'"
-SM Stirling, A Meeting At Corvallis (New York, 2007), Chapter Four, p. 98.

The Protectorate has maintained social order but retrogressed culturally. By contrast, the Ranger invites the Benedictine to stay overnight and share:

roast boar;
scalloped potatoes;
cauliflower with cheese;
dried-blueberry tarts and whipped cream;
(For previous meals, see here.)

The Benedictine will also be able to administer confession and communion to some of the Rangers who are not "'...of the Old Religion.'" (p. 100)

He responds:

"'Most generous of you, my child.'" (ibid.)

This is civilization: difference without division; unity without uniformity.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

More On POVs

See POV and Narrative Points Of View.

Is there a moment in The King Of Ys when a viewpoint character leaves a room but we continue to be told what is happening in the room, thus raising a question about the status of the point of view (pov)? I remember posting about something like this but can't remember volume, chapter, details etc.

Poul Anderson's povs are usually tightly controlled. If a passage is narrated from the point of view of a character, then the omniscient narrator does not in that passage impart any information that is unknown to that character - unless anyone can find an example to the contrary?

I can illustrate what I mean by quoting from another author. At the end of Chapter 2 of Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (London, 2008), Lisbeth Salander guesses that it was Blomkvist's infidelity with Berger that had ended his marriage to Abrahamsson. In Chapter 3, in a passage narrated from Blomkvist's pov, we read:

"...he was helplessly drawn to Berger. Just as Salander had guessed, it was his continual infidelity that drove his wife to leave." (p. 56)

The author and the reader know of Salander's guess but Blomkvist does not. In fact, we read:

"Blomkvist had never heard of Lisbeth Salander and was happily innocent of her report delivered earlier that day, but had he listened to it he would have nodded in agreement..." (p. 57)

Thus, the pov is now that of someone writing later with access to what Salander said and to what Blomkvist thought on that day.

In a later volume of Larsson's Trilogy, we are told that two characters each independently known to us are in the same cafe but unaware of each other. Thus, this information at least is not imparted from either of their povs. This might be regarded as corner cutting. Another approach, requiring more words, is two point of view passages such that we read of character x in the cafe at a certain time, then of character y in the cafe at that time and thus realize that both were there at the same time.

Does Poul Anderson ever cut across povs to impart information in the way that I have shown Larsson doing?

Friend Flandry

It might be thought that this post belongs on the Religion and Philosophy blog but I think that it belongs here.

Meditation cannot just be development of self. It also points towards a better relationship if not with one supreme person then at least with other finite persons. This relationship encompasses appreciation of fictional persons whom we share with their creators and with other readers. Friends and fictions are parts of us.

I could at this stage write a long list of characters created by Poul Anderson and by other writers discussed on this blog. However, this is unnecessary. We know what names belong on the list. Readers will produce different, although overlapping, lists.

This post is appropriately illustrated with an image of Dominic Flandry - even more appropriately in combat.

Religion In Practice

Adzel is a Buddhist but fights as necessary during the liberation of Hermes. Other examples of religious observance combined with pragmatic considerations in Poul Anderson's works?

Other authors -

In SM Stirling's A Meeting At Corvallis, a fighting priest offers confession to bandits before they are beheaded.

And a more benign consequence of religion:

"He thought about his own Muslim upbringing, which had taught him that it was his duty to God to help the outcasts. Of course he did not believe in God and had not been in a mosque since he was a teenager, but he recognized Lisbeth Salander as a person in resolute need of help."
-Stieg Larsson, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (London, 2008), Chapter 2, p. 37.

I do not believe in the Catholic or Muslim deity but I imagine that, if God exists, He:

respects Adzel's spriritual practice and moral decisions;
approves of His priest's activities;
is glad that an atheist brought up as a Muslim helps Lisbeth.

Social Movements II

See Social Movements.

In the above linked post, I did not do full justice to the works of Poul Anderson. First, I should have pointed out that the three works cited are installments of a single future history. Secondly, I should also have cited a longer list of installments. The theme is novels about living in troubled times -

Mirkheim: social change on Hermes and civil war in the Polesotechnic League;
The People Of The Wind: mobilization of a planetary population for war;
The Rebel Worlds: the McCormac Rebellion on Aeneas;
The Day Of Their Return: anti-Imperial Messianism on Aeneas;
A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows: near insurrection on Dennitza;
The Game Of Empire: popular support for an Admiral who defeats a Merseian attack, then declares himself Emperor.

Two works set in different periods before Flandry's life-time;
two centrally involving Flandry;
one not directly involving Flandry but set during his life-time;
one centrally involving Flandry's daughter, with appearances by him.

A comprehensive future history.

Saturday, 25 March 2017


I am thinking of rereading Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy yet again. I have previously found ways to discuss the Trilogy in relation to Poul Anderson's works (see here):

Swedish setting;
intelligence services;
political issues;
authentic characterization;
a monumental behind-the-scenes villain;
computer technology that would have been sf earlier in our lifetimes;
hypothetical crossovers, e.g., has the Time Patrol penetrated Swedish Intelligence?

Reopening Vol I, I find a purely formal parallel with some of Poul Anderson's novels: a brief background-establishing Prologue that can be skipped on rereading.

As Anderson's Time Patrol series progressed, its author adopted the practice of dating each new chapter or narrative passage. This is particularly helpful in time travel fiction. Larsson's Prologue is dated "A Friday in November." His Part 1 covers "20.xii-3.1" and his Chapter 1 is dated "20.xii." Thus, the chronological sequence is tightly controlled although we are not told what year(s). But the setting is very up-to-date.

On rereading, we can pause and appreciate details not noticed before or forgotten since, e.g.:

Anderson fans, what is Manse Everard's full name?
Larsson fans, what is Mikael Blomkvist's full name?

"The Hunter Shall Come"

Having shot some geese, a Wiccan acknowledges that:

"'...for us too the hour of the Hunter shall come.'"
-SM Stirling, A Meeing At Corvallis (New York, 2007), Chapter Three, p. 79.

That sounds remarkably like the Ythrian New Faith of God the Hunter in Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization.

The Wiccan continues:

"'Guide them flying on winds of golden light to the Summerlands. Mother-of-All, let them be reborn through you.'" (ibid.)

I cannot buy this. All life is local temporary negative entropy. The entropy of the matter that was organized into geese has just returned to the positive. More matter will become geese but none of those newly hatched geese will be these individual geese reborn. An invocation to acknowledge the death of the geese is appropriate but not a fantasy about their continued existence.

Social Movements

This afternoon, some of us attended the Mechanics' Institute, Manchester, for a meeting on the significance of the Russian Revolution. Hence, this post.

Historical Texts
The History Of The Russian Revolution by Leon Trotsky
Ten Days That Shook The World by John Reed

Fiction by HG Wells
The Shape Of Things To Come
The World Set Free

By Robert Heinlein
Revolt In 2100
Between Planets
The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress

By Poul Anderson 
The People Of The Wind
The Day Of Their Return
The Game Of Empire

Of these works, the historical, Wellsian and Heinleinian volumes describe completed revolutions although the Russian Revolution was soon reversed. Its purpose had not been to replace one dictator with another.

Trotsky and Reed describe mass movements with high hopes, not yet realized. Wells' fictional revolutions are historical turning points that remake the world. Heinlein's Second American Revolution leads to the Covenant, then, after further social troubles, to the first mature civilization.

Anderson captures the danger and excitement of living in troubled times:

the mass mobilization of the Avalonian population;
the militant Messianism on Aeneas;
the hopes raised, then dashed, by the Magnusson Rebellion.


Something Big happens that changes everything:

a nuclear war;
a cometary strike;
an Ice Age;
a global flood;
most people die;
intelligence increases;
Mars and Venus are habitable and inhabited;
technology stops working.


maybe the Ice Age is gradual, therefore doesn't quite fit with the others?;

the first five of these "changes" are generic;

the sixth is a Poul Anderson premise;

the seventh and eighth are SM Stirling premises;

Stirling's two premises require intervention by a superior technology.

Two Ravens

Busy today but let's make some notes over breakfast:

"A pair of ravens flew up from the gravestone, probably attracted by the offerings of milk and bread that some left there..."
-SM Stirling, A Meeting At Corvallis (New York, 2007), Chapter Three, p. 73.

We know Who two ravens represent.

There is a good list of farmyard sounds and smells on p. 71.

The Wiccan High Priestess said:

"'When the student is ready, the teacher appears." (p. 64)

I first read that phrase in a book on Buddhism. This kind of interplay between traditions is healthy.


An Archer God

(The image shows the Marvel Comics Uller.)

The Change Series by SM Stirling.

Given the importance of archery post-Change, maybe the Wiccans need an archer god? Or they might deify their own Aylward the Archer who is also an expert bowyer although he denies that this is a master-craftsman's trade.

Names recall ancestral trades. In our local Telephone Directory, I have found:

23 Archers;
48 Bakers;
4 Bowyers;
17 Butchers;
9 Carpenters;
1 Cordiner;
8 Drivers;
6 Falconers;
5 Farmers;
uncountable Coopers, Fletchers, Masons, Millers, Palmers, Shepherds, Smiths, Taylors and Wrights;
20 Glovers;
Gardeners with different spellings;
1 Goldsmith;
1 Millner;
5 Painters;
5 Pipers;
1 Rimmer;
5 Sawyers;
1 Singer;
4 Wainwrights;
12 Wheelers;
1 Wrightson.

And there is a local Baker the Butcher.

Friday, 24 March 2017


SM Stirling, A Meeting in Corvallis (New York, 2007), Chapter Two, p. 60.

Aspects of the Wiccan God and Goddess:

the Green Man;
Arianrhod and Ogma;
Apollo and Athena;
Zeus and Hera;
Freya and Odin;
Sif and Thor.

Many of these figures, referenced before, can be found by searching the blog.
Here, all mythologies are regarded as manifesting the same male and female principles.
Odin and Thor, regarded as father and son in Norse mythology and in related fiction, e.g., by Poul Anderson, are also regarded as aspects of a single divinity.
We are used to different versions of a story. Here is another example.


Let us consider three religious traditions:

Mahayana Buddhism and Jerusalem Catholicism in Poul Anderson's Technic History;

Wicca in SM Stirling's Change series.

Declares an interest: I was educated in Roman Catholicism, practise Zen within the Mahayana and am friendly with Wiccans. Buddhas and gods coexist. (I do not think that they literally "exist." We need a better verb.)

Adzel converts to the Mahayana because he encounters Terrestrial religions when he comes to Earth as a student;

Axor converts to Catholicism because missionaries of the Galilean Order teach on Woden;

a post-Change community becomes Wiccan because it is led by a Wiccan.

In each case, a tradition plays a central role. A guy in a multi-faith discussion on British radio disagreed with the emphasis that the others placed on their respective "traditions." What mattered about Christianity for him was that he believed it, not just that one of a number of traditions taught it. However, I would reply, he believed as he did either because he had been brought up in a particular tradition or because he had converted to a belief that had been transmitted to him by a tradition. Either way, he would not have been Christian without the tradition. Only a tradition can link his belief now to Christ then. Axor would not have believed that God had been incarnate on Earth if he had not encountered a tradition that taught him that - unless he received it in a vision in which case he would then found a new tradition.

In this respect, the Buddhist tradition, at least theoretically, is less necessary. Adzel, or anyone else, could do now what the Buddha did then:

reflect on life;
analyze experience;
criticize received ideas;
experiment with life styles and spiritual practices;
find value in "just sitting" meditation;
identify a psychological cause of suffering;
end that cause within himself;
teach others a way to the end of suffering;
found a monastic community.

But, in practice, how many people can do all that? Traditions save us from reinventing the wheel. A meditative tradition can come from the Buddha, Patanjali or Lao Tzu.

Wicca claims to be an ancient tradition and instead plagiarizes other traditions. Why accept its version of a "Summerland" where souls rest before reincarnation? The Buddha's analysis of mental processes made him reject the idea of a permanent soul. He taught that actions have consequences - I agree - but added that these consequences include the "rebirth" in some later organism of each present being's karmic processes. This seems to me to be an unnecessary hangover from reincarnation of souls. Platonic immortality of, originally reincarnating, souls and Biblical resurrection of the body were synthesized in Catholic doctrine: both an immediate hereafter and an eventual resurrection.

Meanwhile, let's pray if we are theists and meditate if not.

Engineering And Tea

(The discerning reader will find images of blueberry tarts, pie and muffins on the blog. Search here.)

"...the heavy beams that secured the gates were pulled back, and a squeal of steel on steel as the great metal portals swung out, salvaged wheels from railcars running along track set into the concrete of the roadway. Winches grated as the portcullis was raised..."
-SM Stirling, A Meeting At Corvallis (New York, 2007), Chapter Two, p. 52.


a lot of very hard work has been done in a very short time since the Change;
I would not have a clue how to do any of that;
if not for people like Arminger, such elaborate defences would be unnecessary (hot oil is kept permanently above the gates).

Elsewhere, Sir Nigel Loring consumes blueberry muffins ("quite good") and chamomile tea with honey. Of the tea, he thinks:

"It wasn't quite as vile when you got use to it..." (p. 53)

I am a coffee man, not a tea man, but, after the Change, we would have to take what we got. The honey would help. Morals: after the Change, work hard and make do. Some aspects of life are perennial:

"Flames played over the glowing coals, red and gold flickering in an endless dance." (ibid.)

Addendum: Two more points for the food thread:

blogging was interrupted by a visit to the Wolfhouse Gallery where I had porridge with banana, peanut butter and honey, toast and butter with seasonal jam, a peanut butter brownie and filter coffee with hot milk whereas Ketlan had leek and mustard croquettes, chestnut mushrooms and a fried egg and three lattes;

Lord Bear suggests cooking French-fries and onion rings in the hot oil above the gate.

Not Quite The Pathetic Fallacy

"...weather that couldn't quite make up its mind between fog and drizzle and a possibility of snow."
-SM Stirling, A Meeting At Corvallis (New York, 2007), Chapter Two, p. 42.

When I was somewhere between five and seven and the sun was almost hidden behind clouds, I heard one adult say to another, "It's trying to shine." I believed her. Because she said it, I thought that the sun was trying to shine. And I would have continued to believe that if I had grown up in a society where everyone attributed consciousness and motivations to natural phenomena because they had not yet found any other explanation for sunlight, fog, rain or snow. We understand not only the weather but also our ancestors' psychology.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

A Wandering Point Of View?

"Sandra smiled, very slightly, under an ironically crooked eyebrow. She'd found out..."
-SM Stirling, A Meeting At Corvallis (New York, 2007), Chapter Two, p. 38.

In this passage, the first sentence tells us how Sandra's smile appeared to someone else whereas the second sentence tells us that she smiled because of something that she had found out so is the passage narrated from the point of view of another person observing Sandra or from Sandra's point of view? We have already been told what her husband, Arminger, is thinking. Therefore, the narration is from his pov. He sees that she smiles and how she smiles and knows why she smiles.

This conversation involves three other characters. The simplest dialogue would be between just two characters, therefore would involve two povs and could be narrated from either or even from each in turn in different passages. Is an objective narration possible? This would have to present neither pov. Nor would it be narrated from the pov of a third person observing the two conversants. It would simply have to describe what happened and what was said but not what either person thought or felt. It might say that one person sounded annoyed but nothing more than that. A play or film script might be an objective narration. It tells us what we would have seen and heard if we had spied on a conversation although the assumption is that no one is spying. This is not God's point of view but no one's.

An Understated British Resurrection? (And Another Meal)

On p. 583 of SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Twenty-One:

the Protectorate man, Mack, strikes at Rudi Mackenzie with his greatsword;
Sir Nigel Loring leaps desperately forward;
Sir Nigel gets his shield above Rudi;
the greatsword cuts through the shield and breaks Sir Nigel's arm;
Mack stamps on and breaks Sir Nigel's sword;
he kicks Sir Nigel's helmet off;
Sir Nigel falls back, bleeding from eyes, nose and mouth, and stops moving.

I took this to mean that Sir Nigel had been killed. The course of the battle becomes somewhat confusing. Mack kills another character and then Sir Nigel's son, Alleyne, shouts, "'Father!'" (p. 584) Mack is killed but Sir Nigel is not mentioned again.

I was surprised and pleased to read:

"Nigel Loring was there at [Rudi's] mother's right side..."
-SM Stirling, A Meeting At Corvallis (New York, 2007), Chapter One, p. 20.

They are seated at table for a meal:

corned beef;
grilled venison in a garlic and yogurt sauce;
mashed potatoes with onion;
steamed kale;
boiled cabbage;
glazed carrots;
dried tomato and onion in vinegar;
fresh bread;
hot cheddar biscuits;
blueberry tarts with whipped cream and honey;
creamy milk;
red wine;
dark frothy beer.

More Kinds Of Interactions

See here.

The nature of an interaction may be ambiguous:

"Whether in superstition or in metaphor, Cerialis replied, surprisingly quietly, 'That will depend on the goddess, won't it?'"
-Poul Anderson, "Star of the Sea" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), pp. 467-640 AT p. 609.

Or theistic language may continue to be used when there is no longer any belief in it:

"A man had to take whatever the gods offered him, and they were a miserly lot."
-Poul Anderson, "Brave To Be A King" IN Time Patrol, pp. 55-112 AT p. 74 -

- especially when, as in this case, the individual is operating in an appropriate milieu.

Treating strangers as if they are gods or angels in disguise is good policy. Polytheism appeals to my imagination though not to my intellect. It would be good if invoking Neptune or St Nicholas before embarking on a sea voyage made a difference - but we can continue to appreciate the stories and imagery in any case. Presumably no one repeating the story of St Christopher believes that it is literally true?

Three Kinds Of Interactions With The Supernatural

Narratives in which:

the gods are real and come on stage, e.g., Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword;

the gods are real but remain off stage although their effects are felt, e.g., Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys;

the gods are real according to the characters, e.g.:

"...a stranger met might be anything from an outlaw to a wood-sprite or a godling in disguise."
-SM Stirling, A Meeting At Corvallis (New York, 2007), Chapter One, p. 15.

Norman Arminger role plays Norman brutality, complete with a tame Church, whereas the Dunedain role play Tolkien heroics, complete with references to that author's invented mythology. This plus Wicca make them "...Satan-worshippers...'" (p. 5), according to the "Normans."

Poul Anderson shows us Normans in Sicily, wrote Norse-derived heroic fantasy independently of Tolkien and also wrote some post-disaster fiction.


SM Stirling, A Meeting At Corvallis (New York, 2007), Chapter One, p. 12.

After the Change, these school subjects are boring:

"'...all that hooey.'"

These subjects are more like real life:

King Arthur;
Robin Hood;
Niall of the Nine Hostages;
Thor's trip to Jotunheim;
A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Connections with Poul Anderson's works:

Niall of the Nine Hostages destroyed Ys;
the former King of Ys formed a defensive alliance with British leaders of the generation before Arthur;
an immortal met the original of Arthur;
Anderson's fantasies feature Thor and a trip to Jotunheim although not Thor's trip to Jotunheim;
A Midsummer Tempest is a sequel to A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest.

And why did Shakespeare not write a Robin Hood play, having mentioned Robin in As You like It?

Fiction And Reality II

Yesterday was a day of fiction-reality interaction on the blog:

Lancaster, with its rich and varied history and Asian and European immigrants, feels like a precursor of Poul Anderson's Terran Empire - but that is because fiction reflects reality, in this case with international and interracial relationships projected onto an interstellar and inter-species scale;

we enjoy sitting at home safely reading about the exploits of Dominic Flandry while the media reports wars waged by Parliaments and, yesterday, an attack on the British Parliament.

When we read science fiction in the twentieth century, 2017 was part of the future but now, in 2017, it is the present from which humanity might advance to a high tech future like Anderson's Technic History or regress to a post-technological future like SM Stirling's Emberverse. (Stirling's fictional premise is that technology simply stops working but we can imagine several other ways to lose technology either through natural events or through our own actions.)

Today, plans are changing but I might be out in the good weather and not blogging as much.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Fiction And Reality

Dominic Flandry and his fiancee, Kossara Vymezal, march with Merseians to the Dennitzan Parliament. When Kossara begins to address the Parliament, the building is attacked and she is murdered/martyred. The account of her death is fictional but harrowing so it is not inappropriate to compare it to the kind of real events that are reflected in fiction.

On Saturday, 30,000 people marched through London to Parliament Square where we were addressed by several Members of Parliament. Afterwards, some of us crossed Westminster Bridge to our parked coach. We saw armed police at an entrance to Parliament. Today we hear news reports of an attack on Parliament in which several people, including one policeman, were killed. Fortunately, this real attack was not on the scale of the fictional one.

We did not expect to blog about either slavery or terrorism but cannot always choose our agenda.


Although I concluded the previous post by imagining that the international interactions of Terrestrial history might be followed by something like the interstellar interactions of Poul Anderson's Technic History, I really think that the future history of Anderson's Genesis is much more plausible: post-human intelligences spreading at sub-light speeds through a mostly lifeless galaxy - or maybe through a galaxy where, although organic life is common, everything else - multi-cellularity, consciousness, intelligence, civilization and technology - is rare. All that life requires is energized complex molecules changing randomly until one of them becomes self-replicating. Everything else requires a great deal more.

However, here is a paradox. If a writer of fiction imagines space travellers crossing an immense distance, like to the galactic centre or to another galaxy, but confines his account of those remote regions to what is known about them at the time of writing, then he is definitely wrong. Merely by travelling that far, explorers will learn considerably more than is known at present. As yet, not a single living molecule has been detected off Earth - but extrasolar planets are being detected all the time whereas none were known to exist when I read about the universe in the 1960s. More will be learned but none of it will be anything like what has been imagined.

Lancaster Life And The Blog

The previous post was occasioned by the fact that I had just attended a history class on Lancaster and the slave trade in the Friendship Centre at the Baptist Church near the Town Hall. Lancaster was the fourth biggest English slave port after Liverpool, London and Bristol.

The Baptist Church is almost opposite a Polish language Catholic Church where Sheila taught English to Polish immigrants. We are always involved in international interactions and now look forward to interplanetary and interstellar interactions. Although it will not really happen like this, we meanwhile imagine Adzel converting to Mahayana Buddhism, Axor converting to Jerusalem Catholicism, human Avaonians joining Ythrian choths, Dennitzan children hearing Eriau lullabies etc.

Slaves And Immortals

Recurrent themes on the blog include:

slavery in the Roman Empire, the Terran Empire, the Confederate States and the Draka Domination;
parallels with Neil Gaiman;
quotations from James Elroy Flecker.

One work, The Sandman: The Wake, unites these themes:

it is written by Gaiman;
it begins by quoting Flecker and draws imagery from this poem;
in its Epilogue, a black American woman does not understand why her British boyfriend continually apologizes to her for the slave trade - she does not know that he is an immortal and was a slaver.

Immortals interact with Southern States slavery in Poul Anderson's The Boat Of A Million Years. Boat is historical and speculative sf prose whereas Sandman is graphic fantasy. The Egyptian sun god is real in Sandman. Anderson's few immortals are mutants whereas Gaiman's single immortal has made a one-sided deal with Death just as Death's younger brother, Dream, has made a fairer deal with another Englishman, William Shakespeare, who wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest for Dream. Anderson wrote A Midsummer Tempest.

There are two kinds of fictional immortals: those who must move and change their identity every few decades to conceal their immortality (vampires are a sub-set) and those who can live openly in the future. Needless to say, the works of Robert Heinlein and Poul Anderson include both kinds.

Four Reasons To Fight With Swords

Many fictional characters fight with swords because their stories are set in the past.

John Carter fights with a sword because ERB wanted to write "sword and science" sf whether or not this made sense.

Dominic Flandry is able to fight with a sword because the Terran nobility is decadent and therefore practises archaisms.

SM Stirling's Emberversers fight with swords because the premise of their series is that technology and gunpowder have stopped working.

Have I missed anyone? (Addendum: Yes, but I will let readers find it.)

The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson
Rogue Sword by Poul Anderson
"Swordsman of Lost Terra" by Poul Anderson (here)
Swords Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Sword Of The Lady by SM Stirling


Memory is conscious or unconscious. Apparently, every experience is recorded unconsciously. A finite brain cannot accumulate unconscious memories indefinitely. Would memory overload drive an immortal brain mad or would the brain merely stop recording? In Poul Anderson's World Without Stars, the memories of immortals are artificially edited whereas, in Anderson's The Boat Of A Million Years, the handful of immortals learn within themselves how to cope with memory overload. Should we have been shown at least one who did not cope?

If an immortal being were to remain identical with his earlier self, then surely he would have to consciously remember earlier experiences some of the time? However, he would be able to remember any particular experience less and less often as he grew older. Thus, he would effectively become a different person, as if one had died and another had been born, but that is how life works in any case.

The Wild Hunt

"...some danced with spears flashing dully in the gray light, enacting the Wild Hunt."
-SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Epilogue, p. 588.


The Wild Hunt
The Wild Hunt
The Wild Hunt II

- and searching the blog for "The Wild Hunt" brings up some other references. However, I will now join not the Wild Hunt but the Lord Morpheus.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017


I encountered the name, "Epona," in SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Twenty, p. 563 and searched for it on this blog. See here.

In The Protector's War, Rudi, a future king, addresses an unruly horse as "Epona" in a voice like the wind, a harp or a trumpet, reveals his own Craft name and speaks as if they already know each other. Then he rides Epona safely. This is seen by some as an intervention by the Goddess. It happens at the horse fair, which is sacred to Epona.


Arthur Conan Doyle and his readers are real whereas Sherlock Holmes is fictional. Usually, fictional characters are also fictional to each other. Thus, Holmes refers to Dupin, Poirot might refer to Holmes etc. I did read a detective fiction anthology where several of the characters referred to each other almost in rota. There would be a conceptual problem if two contemporaneous characters each referred to the other in this vein. The novelistic Montalbano does refer disparagingly to the fact that he is dramatized on TV. There are three ways in which fictional characters might be real to each other and Poul Anderson presents two of them.

(i) A one-off reference. Close readers of Anderson's Time Patrol series realize that the timeline guarded by the Patrol is not ours because, in it, Holmes is real - although his name is not used except in contexts where he could be fictional. (If this is confusing, read it and see.)

(ii) A shared universe:

the Wold Newton universe;
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen;
various comic book universes, now being adapted to screen.

(iii) A multiverse where what is fictional in one universe is real in another and vice versa:

Last Action Hero (and here);
the DC Comics multiverse;
Anderson's Old Phoenix multiverse.

Holmes shows up in the Old Phoenix along with Huck Finn and others.

This leads to another issue. There are kinds of multiverses. Parallel universes might have:

different histories;
different laws of nature;
inhabitants who are real in one but fictional in another.

SM Stirling's multiverse(s?) are of only the first kind. In the Emberverse, some laws of nature begin to work differently on Earth after a certain date but (we think that) this is because a higher technology has tampered with them so this is another alternative history but not a different kind of universe.

Three Miscellaneous Points

(i) Nat Falkayn growing up among Ythrians on Avalon is another example of a juvenile character living inside an adventure story. See here. He must be the forerunner of the many human Avalonians who later join choths.

(ii) An Englishman is correct about English grammar:

"...I hadn't quite decided whom to ask." (Chapter Twenty, p. 549)

(iii) The 622-page A Meeting At Corvallis (Emberverse, Vol III) has arrived so discussion of this series will continue. Meanwhile, there will continue to be unpredictable revisits of Poul Anderson's works. We have a universe to win.

"Hunting Through Hills..."

Many horrible things happen in fiction but sometimes the characters get to do exactly what they want. Diana Crowfeather runs away from home because:

"...Tigeries were hunting through hills where wind soughed in waves across forests, and surf burst under three moons upon virgin islands."
-Poul Anderson, The Game Of Empire, Chapter One, IN Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), pp. 195-215 AT p. 214.

And, in another timeline:

"'What the Dunedain need is a base...We could claim this whole area...'"
-SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Twenty, p. 548.

They will hunt and trade instead of farming. Yes!

Time Patrol Blurb II

See here.

If there is an observer, like maybe a "god of time," for whom:

our temporal dimension is his fourth spatial dimension;
the relationship between successive timelines is his temporal dimension -

- then, from his perspective though not from ours, our timeline has vanished.

The blurb concludes by stating that the past must not be altered in case this leads to a worse future. But, even if it led to a better future, the Danellians would still guard the timeline that leads to them. However, it transpires that ultimately the Patrol prevents a worse, chaotic, timeline in which life would be impossible.

Time Patrol Blurb

"The discovery of time travel means that everything we know, anything we know, might not only vanish, but never even have existed."
Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), back cover (not written by Anderson).

There are different models of time travel but, on the Time Patrol model, this can happen:

I am born in 1949 in our familiar timeline;
in 2017, I acquire a time machine;
I travel into the early nineteenth century to prevent the birth of Hitler - no easy task but, on this model, it is theoretically possible;
I succeed.

Whatever their ontological status, we can now differentiate between two timelines:

the original, in which "everything we know" exists;
the altered timeline, in which everything we know has never existed.

There is no third timeline in which everything we know did exist but has now vanished. There is another issue but let me get some breakfast first.

Guardians Of Time And Time Patrol

When I first read Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series in the early 1960s, it was four stories in one collection, Guardians Of Time, and the collective villain was the Neldorians.  

Time Patrol (New York, 2006):

collects ten stories, including the original four;

includes, among its six newer stories, two that are over 100 pages long,  therefore counting as novels by my rule of thumb;

is the first of two Time Patrol volumes;

informs us on its back cover blurb that the collective villain is the Exaltationists - who, unlike the Neldorians, are continuing villains.

The second volume, The Shield Of Time, concludes the story of the Exaltationists but also reveals that there is a greater threat beyond them and that that greater threat is the real reason for the Patrol. Guardians Of Time and the Neldorians have been incorporated into the longer series but have also been left a long way behind - like the Torah incorporated into the Bible but also left way behind by the time the reader reaches the Apocalpyse.

We might discuss the Time Patrol blurb but not tonight.

Harvest Supper

SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Nineteen, p.528.

Another harvest supper (see here):

hot biscuits
warm round loaves marked with the Wheel of the Year
green salad
glazed hams
cold roast beef
fried chicken
apple-cured bacon
wild mushrooms
steamed vegetables
baked beans
steaming new potatoes
baby beets
strong homemade mustard
creamy horseradish
peaches, berries and cherries with cream
cold water
home brew
herbal tea

Monday, 20 March 2017

Children Of League And Empire

Nat Falkayn is David Falkayn's grandson and Nicholas van Rijn's great-great-grandson.
Nat's father is Nicholas Falkayn.
Since David's mother, Athena, appears in Mirkheim, we know four successive generations of Falkayns.
Tabitha Falkayn is their later descendant.

The four works set during the Molitor dynasty feature:

two sons and one granddaughter of Hans Molitor;
a son of Dominic Flandry and Persis D'Io;
a daughter of Flandry;
a daughter of Max Abrams;
a son of Dragoika -

- and also mention a grandson of Molitor, Crown Prince Karl.

I think that it makes sense for these four works to be collected under the title of Children Of The Terran Empire. Poul Anderson's Technic History is not presented as a family saga and indeed its main focus is not family histories but historical processes. See here and here. Nevertheless, certain families make major contributions to more than one volume.

Grim Goddess

Poul Anderson shows ancient Paganism in its period and also presents fantasies in which the Gods are real. He makes at least one disparaging comment on modern neopaganism. After we have been told that the slaves who wash the idol of a goddess are then drowned:

"'A pretty grim sort,' Everard said. The neopagans of his home milieu did not include her in their fairy tales of a prehistoric matriarchy when everybody was nice."
-Poul Anderson, "Star of the Sea" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), pp. 467-640 AT p. 565.

Sir Nigel Loring reflects:

"He'd known Witches before...two dozen had hidden out in the New Forest..."
-SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Eighteen, p. 507.

I think that Stirling is ironically referencing Gerald Gardner's claimed initiation:

According to Gardner's later account, one night in September 1939 they took him to a large house owned by "Old Dorothy" Clutterbuck, a wealthy local woman, where he was made to strip naked and taken through an initiation ceremony. Halfway through the ceremony, he heard the word "Wica", and he recognised it as an Old English word for "witch". He was already acquainted with Margaret Murray's theory of the Witch-cult, and that "I then knew then that which I had thought burnt out hundreds of years ago still survived."[96] This group, he claimed, were the New Forest coven, and he believed them to be one of the few surviving covens of the ancient, pre-Christian Witch-Cult religion. Subsequent research by the likes of Hutton and Heselton has shown that in fact the New Forest coven was probably only formed in the mid-1930s, based upon such sources as folk magic and the theories of Margaret Murray.[97
-copied from here.

(I met Philip Heselton when he visited Lancaster to address the Briganti Moot.)

What Will People Wear In The Future?

Nicholas van Rijn lounges in a sarong.

Ythrians are unclothed because feathered. Some human choth members, emulating Ythrians, wear only body paint.

Dominic Flandry dresses as colorfully and flamboyantly as possible but not in anything unexpected like a kilt or toga.

Robert Heinlein, aware that social norms differ historically, has shorts on men in Double Star and kilts in parts of the Future History.

In SM Stirling's The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Eighteen, a hostage wears:

"...a plain gray guest-weave rather than the Mackenzie tartan..." (pp. 514-515)

I was told that a book describing clan tartans has been taken as normative. See here. Apparently, one of the Kings had a tartan designed for him but anyone can wear it. Scottish people of Italian descent have a tartan. See here.

Role Play

"The Saturn Game" by Poul Anderson is a hard sf short story about characters role playing a fantasy scenario while exploring the outer Solar System. Thus, one kind of synthesis between fantasy and sf. The fantasy narrative is a "play within the play." However, what becomes of an astronaut when his fantasy character has to die?

The Protector's War by SM Stirling is an alternative history novel in which some characters ground their activities in Tolkienesque fantasy complete with conversations and terminology in Elvish. Such role play is facilitated by a return to a society in which combat is with swords and spears, not guns or explosives.

Given technology for personal flight, would it be possible to base a life-style around Anderson's Ythrians or other aspects of his Technic History? It would be necessary to build the languages from scratch since we learn only a few syllables of Planha and Eriau and nothing of Anglic.

Founding Dynasties

We have compared:

Nicholas van Rijn, entrepreneur;
Hugh Valland, natural leader;
Sir Nigel Loring, baronet and SAS colonel.

They are distinct characters, not generic fictional heroes. Here is another question: what kind of man founds a dynasty? Manuel Argos, pragmatist, founds the Terran Empire. Both Roan Tom and Gratillonius could start a dynasty. Tom merely makes alliances in order to survive whereas Gratillonius is concerned about the well being of society.

Sir Nigel Loring assesses Lord Bear:

a good friend and a dangerous enemy;
capable of making a sudden deadly blow without warning;
able to run a company and to do much more if needed;
wit, if not genius;
"...willpower to spare..." (The Protector's War, Chapter Eighteen, p. 506)

Sir Nigel suspects that most dynasties are founded by men like Lord Bear.

Sunday, 19 March 2017


Science fiction, including Poul Anderson's sf, covers interstellar empires. This can lead to reflection on the reasons for imperialism whether planetary or interstellar. See here for an alien empire and many other posts for the Terran Empire of the Technic History.

SM Stirling's Sir Nigel Loring summarizes the British Empire pithily:

presence of mind;
pinching land.

He adds:

"'...keeping the bloody Frogs out.'"
-SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Eighteen, p. 497.

("Frogs" are the French.) Sir Nigel might perhaps have summarized this anti-French policy as "prevention" or "pre-emption."

Stirling reminds or informs us that horses injured in battles scream and that the historical castles of Britain and Europe would become useful again if history took a different course. Poul Anderson imagines orbital forts like Hell Rock.

M And DVDs

The Roman language, Latin, became the Romance languages of Europe although I have just been told that English, which incorporates a lot of Latin, is Germanic. In Poul Anderson's Technic History, English will become Anglic which will be long dead by the end of the History.

We experience linguistic changes. The Latin accusative ending is -m. Thus, "slave" is servus in the nominative case but servum in the accusative. The accusative -m survives in English in the words "him," "them" and "whom." However, we are ceasing to say "whom."

"'They lost who?'"
-SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Seventeen, p. 486.

This does not even sound incorrect as "They lost she" would. And when we hear:

"Don't tell I, tell 'ee" (see here)

-we understand it and attribute it to a regional dialect.  

The man who asks "They lost who?" wonders whether DVDs really would have replaced videotapes in an unChanged world, which is a good indicator or reminder of the state of technology at the time of the Change.

Important Planets

Every inhabited planet is important to its inhabitants. In an interstellar civilization, planets interact. Poul Anderson's Ensign Flandry shows us Terra, Starkad and Merseia. Terra and Merseia are rival imperial powers. Starkad will shortly be destroyed but some Starkadian Tigeries and Sea Dwellers will be evacuated to the Patrician System where one Tigery will serve Terra as an Intelligence agent and will help to defeat a pro-Merseian rebellion.

A Circus Of Hells shows us Irumclaw, Wayland and Talwin. Irumclaw is important for the defense of a Terran border against Merseia, Wayland will provide the wealth necessary to maintain Irumclaw and Talwin becomes a joint Terran-Merseian scientific base where secret negotiations can be held.

The Rebel World shows us Terra, Shalmu, Llynathawr, Aeneas and Dido and mentions Ifri:

Dominic Flandry's servant, Chives, is Shalmuan;
Catawrayannis on Llynathawr is the capital city of Sector Alpha Crucis of the Terran Empire;
Aeneas is the base of the McCormac Rebellion;
study of the tripartite Didonians is the reason why there was a scientific base, that became a colony, on Aeneas;
Ifri is Navy sector headquarters.

The Day Of Their Return, set entirely on Aeneas, introduces Aycharaych from Chereion, a planet that was an interstellar power and is now the spearhead of Merseian Intelligence.

So it seems to be impossible to find an unimportant planet.

Hash Browns And Conversations

SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Seventeen.

Mike Havel eats "...another fried egg...," then "...load[s] more hash browns on his plate." (p. 471)

A man after my own heart! So how many of each does he eat? Yesterday, we had a very short stop on our way to London so I bought a take-out breakfast including two fried eggs and two hash browns. Sometimes we have breakfast at a place where I load my plate with them.

This chapter is part of an extended section of the novel when the good guys discuss recent activities, interrupted by frequent lengthy flashbacks to those activities. Sir Nigel describes his meeting with the dictatorial "Protector," then a flash back passage recounts the meeting from Sir Nigel's pov. However we leave that pov before returning to the good guys' conversation because another short passage recounts a conversation between the Protector and his wife when they are alone. Whose pov is this? Most of it could be an externally observed dialogue. We might initially assume that it is the Protector's pov because the passage begins with him grinning when he is alone with his wife. So, if it is anyone's, it is going to be his pov unless we are informed otherwise. When we are told that he grits his teeth, it is even more likely to be his pov although the teething gritting is externally observable because her smile widens when the gritting happens. Finally, we are told what he is inwardly thinking so it is definitely his pov.

Pov is important. Poul Anderson and SM Stirling always get it right. The Protector and his wife are by-now-familiar Stirling villains. To them, other people exist only as means to their ends. Ideally, they would be prevented from exercising any power over anyone else. In practice, they are going to have to be killed - the sooner the better.

Return From London

After visiting London yersterday, I searched the blog for London and found a post that I had written after returning from a trip to London. See here. The city is like a museum.

London is mainly important in Poul Anderson's works as the location of Time Patrol headquarters for the current milieu just as New York is important because it is where Time Patrolman Manse Everard resides. We would like to see:

what is left of London when Earth and its Empire are ruled from Archopolis;
what becomes of London after SM Stirling's Change.

In the case of the Change, we are told that every large city, together with a wide area around it, has become a dead zone. No doubt. It would be interesting to read an account of nature reclaiming historic buildings. Also, small groups would be able to survive by scavenging among the buildings, then gardening and farming in the wildernesses that had previously been Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace Gardens, Kew Gardens etc. There must be a history not only of a city but also of what happens when the city is no more.

A Local Incident

Sometimes we post about Lancaster life, especially if it can be shown to be relevant to Poul Anderson Appreciation. On the blog, we have discussed:

Indian food, including samosas;
market economics;
entrepreneurs like van Rijn selling spices and condiments;
pluralist societies like the Terran Empire, Avalon and Birmingham;
law and order.

There is a twice weekly open air market in Market Square, Lancaster. See image. Sanah sells Indian food. A week ago, when I had bought a bag of samosas, a white youth smelling of drink grabbed the cash box from one of the stalls and ran into the network of pedestrian alleys between the Square and the former Market Hall. Sanah's family and I gave chase. Shopkeepers came out to say, "He went that way!" The youth was trapped in a cul-de-sac and made to return the box and some coins although the family insisted that bank notes were still unaccounted for, which he denied. A Castlegate Security man and I detained the youth until the police arrived to arrest him. I have yet to learn whether the bank notes were recovered or whether I will be required to give evidence in court. And the moral of the story is: "We don't need it!" (I mean we don't need the hassle. Sanah does need the cash back.)