Sunday, 17 December 2017


In Poul Anderson's works, a "nexus" can be within a timeline or between universes. At a nexus within a timeline, it is very easy for a time traveler or a quantum fluctuation in space-time-energy to change the entire future. Therefore, the Time Patrol polices these nexuses. At a nexus between universes, inter-cosmic travelers can meet and might gain knowledge that would change the entire futures of their timelines. Therefore, Taverner polices the conversations in his Inn of the Old Phoenix which occupies one such nexus. Thus, there is a conceptual continuity between the mutable timeline of the Time Patrol and the multiple timelines of the Old Phoenix.

There are limits both on how long guests can stay in the Old Phoenix and on how often they can visit it. The narrator of "House Rule" suspects that:

"...the hostel exists on several different space-time levels of its own." (p. 65)

- but I do not know what this means or why it should affect guests' visits.

Anderson's Time Patrol guards a past;
James Blish's Service guards a future;
Taverner guards many pasts and futures.

Thus, one man has a bigger job than two organizations.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Notes On "House Rule"

Poul Anderson, "House Rule" IN Anderson, The Armies Of Elfland (New York, 1992), pp. 64-76.

In this edition, Anderson, introducing the story, tells us that:

"That inn beyond every world, the Old Phoenix, first appeared in my Shakespearean fantasy novel, A Midsummer Tempest." (. 64)

He adds:

"I have returned to it a couple of times and hope to do so again." (ibid.)

A Midsummer Tempest is copyright 1974;
"House Rule" is copyright 1976;
"Losers' Night" is copyright 1991.

These are the only Old Phoenix stories that I know of, which implies that Anderson had not returned to the Old Phoenix before writing "House Rule." (?)

He had hoped to return to it again! The Old Phoenix deserves at least a single volume entirely to itself.

The narrator of "House Rule" had been on "...a flight which had been forced down above the Arctic Circle..." (p. 69), where some Eskimos had been helpful. This does not sound like Poul Anderson but does it sound like an adventure of ERB in the introductory passage of his second Moon book? (I am not going to look that up right now.)

On this occasion in the Old Phoenix:

"The talk was mainly Leonardo's. Given a couple of goblets of wine to relax him, his mind soared and ranged like an eagle in a high wind." (p. 66)

A striking simile. I want to comment on some other aspects of the story but find that I have already done so. See Open To Everything.

Addendum: OK. The Armies Of Elfland is copyright 1992. Thus, when Anderson wrote that he had returned to the Old Phoenix a couple of times, he was referring to "House Rule" and "Losers' Night."

Multiple Andersons

Might the first person narrator of Poul Anderson's two Old Phoenix short stories be identifiable with the author? If so, then he has to be a different Poul Anderson from the one who is related to Robert Anderson in There Will Be Time. Although the single immutable timeline of that novel might be part of a multiverse, it does not interact either with the multiple timelines of the Old Phoenix or with the mutable timeline of the Time Patrol.

Also, if there was a Poul Anderson in the twentieth century of the Time Patrol timeline, then that Anderson cannot have written the Time Patrol series and therefore must have written something else in its place. So how many Poul Andersons are there? Every novel set during its author's lifetime assumes a timeline in which, if the author does exist, he does not write that novel and therefore is a slightly different version of himself.

I am just about to reread "House Rule" because I suspect that it does contain information that differentiates its narrator from its author.

Ways Of Knowing: Tomorrow Is Yesterday

(I referred here to an object passing through the Solar System. Here is a later report.)

How might we learn about multi-dimensional space-time? Our inter-dimensional guides this evening are:

HG Wells;
Robert Heinlein;
James Blish;
CS Lewis;
Poul Anderson;
Neil Gaiman;
SM Stirling.

Wells, Men Like Gods
An experiment in the Utopian timeline transports several Earthlings to Utopia.

Heinlein, "Elsewhen" and Waldo
Thought alone gives access to other universes.

Blish, The Quincunx Of Time and Midsummer Century
After receiving a message about time-projection from 25,000 AD, Thor Wald invents a metalanguage which shows that science cannot choose between future paradigms because it is one of those paradigms.
John Martels falls into a radio telescope of a radically new design with an inconceivable reach, thus prompting the message intercepted by Wald.

CS Lewis, Perelandra and "The Dark Tower"
In Oxford, Lewis reads an early seventeenth century Latin text about the celestial frame of spatial references.
In Cambridge, Lewis and his colleagues observe an alternative Earth through a chronoscope which also becomes the mechanism for an inter-Earth mind transference.

Poul Anderson, A Midsummer Tempest
Valeria Matuchek's theorems let her reach the continuum that she wants "'...or a reasonable facsimile of it.'" (Chapter xii, pp. 95-96) whereas Holger Danske has traveled at random, using a "'...superstition-riddled medieval grimoire...,'" (p. 96) so Valeria refers Holger to Sokolnikofff's Introduction to Paratemporal Mathematics and to the Handbook of Alchemy and Metaphysics.

Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: The Wake
A reality storm strands travelers in the Inn of the Worlds' End. When they leave, they will return to the worlds from which they came or very similar ones.

SM Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers
A clairvoyant simultaneously experiences multiple alternative presents.

I like the contrasts between:

the radio telescope and the chronoscope;
Wald's Machine language message from 25,000 AD, Lewis' Latin manuscript from the seventeenth century and Valeria's reference books;
Valeria reaching the continuum she wants or a facsimile of it and the Inn guests returning to their worlds or similar ones;
Wald theorizing about multidimensionality and Stirling's Yasmini directly experiencing alternative realities.

The Anthropomorphic Universe

Anthropomorphising human beings have successively imagined:

(i) spirits and gods in the terrestrial environment;
(ii) Selenites, Martians, Venerians, Jovians etc - within the Solar System;
(iii) extrasolar intelligences.

Brian Aldiss suggested somewhere that (iii) are as anthropomorphic and nonexistent as (i) and (ii).

Fantasy writers, Poul Anderson and Neil Gaiman, have imagined supernatural beings withdrawing from Earth, thus explaining their current absence. If they withdrew, then they might return.

In Anderson's Operation Otherworld, magic/"goetic" beings re-Awaken and the Adversary directly addresses Steve Matuchek.

Elwin Ransom tells CS Lewis:

"'When the Bible uses that very expression about fighting with principalities and powers and depraved hypersomatic beings at great heights (our translation is very misleading at that point, by the way) it meant that quite ordinary people were to do the fighting.'"
-CS Lewis, Perelandra IN Lewis, The Cosmic Trilogy (London, 1990), pp. 145-349 AT p. 163.

And the Powers are also reactivated in SM Stirling's Emberverse:

"And there was war in Heaven, John thought with a shiver. It's the same one here, against Principalities and Powers."
-SM Stirling, Prince Of Outcasts (New York, 2017), Chapter Seventeen, p. 336.

But that is fantasy. If we do not expect (i) to return, then do we expect (iii) to arrive, maybe speaking English because radio messages from Earth are detectable throughout an expanding volume of space? I do not expect First Contact in our lifetimes, although I could be proved wrong tomorrow. But, as a generalization from past experience, the future is always very different from whatever has been imagined or predicted.

Even if an alien does speak English, s/he will not share any of our history or even our evolution. We cannot imagine on what basis s/he will communicate with us.

Friday, 15 December 2017


During childhood, I enjoyed fights in films and on TV. Westerns, a prevalent genre, guaranteed fights. A Western film alternated between incomprehensible conversations and exciting fights. The comic strip adaptation of a Lone Ranger episode disappointed because it showed two men fighting in one panel but did not reproduce their choreographed fisticuffs.

ERB wrote four Western novels (for one of these, see here);

James Blish wrote pulp Westerns during his writing apprenticeship (see Some Early Blish);

despite his prolificity, Poul Anderson did not write any Westerns although he and Gordon R. Dickson parodied this genre in one Hoka story;

both Anderson and SM Stirling present action-adventure fiction with well-described fight scenes but fortunately that is not all that they have written;

on this blog, I have summarized accounts of fights and battles but we have also discussed every major issue including what people fight about;

these remarks are occasioned by the climactic fight between Lisbeth Salander and her half-brother near the end of Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest.

Four More Mysterious Places

(i) Poul Anderson's "Time Heals" refers to Venusberg.

(ii) An Arthurian country similar to Ys is Lyonesse.

(iii) The primary Arthurian location is Camelot:

"'It was in Britain after the Romans were gone, at the court of a warlord. They called him Riothamus, their High King, but mainly he had some cataphracts. With them he staved off the English invaders. His name was Artorius.'
"Richelieu sat motionless.
"'Oh, I was no knight of his, merely a trader who came by on his rounds,' Lacy stated. 'Nor did I meet any Lancelot or Gawain or Galahad, nor see any glittering camelot. Little of Rome lingered there. In fact, it's only my guess that this was the seed corn of the Arthur legend.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Boat Of A Million Years (London, 1991), XI, pp. 229-230.

Maybe "camelot" should have read "Camelot"?

(iv) Another Arthurian location is Avalon which CS Lewis places on Venus. See Grallon And Arthur. In Anderson's The People of The Wind, two planets in the Lauran System are called "Avalon" and "Camelot." See here.

Mysterious Places

The Old Phoenix
The Inn of the Worlds' End

After Mysterious Characters, maybe we have begun to find a list of mysterious places? Such places are mysterious because their precise nature and even their location is conjectural. All five of the places listed above can be found by searching this blog and another transtemporal inn is mentioned here.

Evocative Ship Names

In SM Stirling's Prince Of Outcasts:

(i) the South Sea Adventure, explicitly evocative;

(ii) the Tarshish Queen, named after a mysterious Biblical realm (see Wiki) which has been identified with Tartessos and Carthage and associated with Hiram of Tyre (and the attached map places it close to Gibraltar, which also plays a role in Stieg Larsson's Trilogy);

(iii) the Silver Surfer, named after a Marvel superhero.

God Quote

Gods and God figure prominently in works of fiction by Poul Anderson and SM Stirling. Supernatural beings exist in works of fantasy and are believed to exist by some of the characters in works of science fiction.

Richard Dawkins, an atheist polemicist, was recently mentioned in the combox here so let's have a Dawkins quote on "God," although I do not find the T shirt image fully legible:

"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it, a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak, vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, a misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, infanticidal...filicidal, pestilential...-maniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolant bully."

Anderson's Father Axor and Stirling's Father Ignatius do not worship such a deity but I suggest that this is because they are better than their own earliest scriptures.