Thursday, 22 March 2018

Cosmic Context

The cosmic context makes sense not only in hard sf but also in contemporary fiction. Even if a novel is set entirely in London or New York in 2018, its author, readers and characters know that they are on a planet in the Solar System in the Milky Way and the text can express such knowledge. Poul Anderson does this in his Trygve Yamamura novels. Contemporary characters could also refer to Mars and to current ideas about its colonization without trespassing into another genre

In other works, Anderson's time travelers or immortals move among us and therefore could cameo in a contemporary novel.

Life And Consciousness


Understanding Science
Science And Philosophy
Science And Creation
NESFA Collections Vol 2

Consciousness is an accidental byproduct of two unconscious processes:

(i) All energy flows downhill but a small fraction of it temporarily increases order instead of disorder. Life is like a water mill.

(ii) Consciousness is a byproduct of natural selection. Organisms are selected for sensitivity to environmental alterations until some sensitivity becomes sensation which is then selected because pleasure and pain have survival value.

Metaphorically, our lives are conducted inside the artificial structure of human society, also within its ecological support system, but outside and surrounding us in every direction is the unconscious cosmic process of increasing entropy.

Heroes Of Dennitza

Yovan Matavuly led the Founders to Dennitza.
Toman Obilich killed wild Vladimir on the Glacier.
Gwyth sailed through storms on the Black Ocean.
Stefan Miyatovich cast back reavers from Dennitza in the Night Years.
Bodin Miyatovich led a raid that must be remembered in the prose of Poul Anderson because Andrei Simich is no longer alive to celebrate it in a poem.

The Night Years are the Time of Troubles after the Solar Commonwealth, not the (later) Long Night after the Terran Empire.

Stefan Miyatovich, ancestor of Bodin, played the same role on Dennitza as Brian McCormac, ancestor of Hugh, did on Aeneas. See here.

Terra has now entered its regular short night so I will discontinue blogging until maybe breakfast.


Poul Anderson describes a peaceful scene after the Ardazirho have withdrawn from Vixen. Flandry:

"...walked through bustling streets to the little house. Its peaked roof was gold above vine-covered walls."
-Poul Anderson, "Hunters of the Sky Cave" IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 149-301 AT XVIII, p. 298.


"Sunlight streamed past roses in a trellis window, casting blue shadows over the warm small neatness of furnishings."
-op. cit., p. 298.

Kit dials "...the public pneumo for drinks..." (ibid.) (pneumo?)


"...looked through a shielding haze of smoke at roses which nodded in a mild summer wind."
-op. cit., p. 299.

The Ardazirho, reorganized as a loose federation, had fought the Merseians, then accepted the Terran Pax because it would protect their tribes from each other!

However, this is not a fairy tale ending. Flandry has visited only to say goodbye to Kit. I could not have walked out on her like that but then I would not have won her admiration or liberated her planet in the first place.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Harmony Or Mystery

 Aycharaych says:

"'I am beaten not by a superior brain or a higher justice, but by the brute fact that you are from a larger planet than I and thus have stronger muscles. It will not be easy to fit this into a harmonious reality.'"
-Poul Anderson, "Hunters of the Sky Cave" IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 149-231 AT XVII, p. 297.

Why should reality be harmonious? The brute facts of randomness and of natural selection preceded and still encompass both intelligence and moral judgment. Aycharaych was closer to the mark when he said:

"'The totality of existence will always elude us: and in that mystery lies the very meaning.'"
-op. cit., p. 295.

Mystery transcends any discerned or imagined harmony.

Thinking that he is about to "complete" Flandry's life, Aycharaych says that he will miss him. Holmes missed Moriarty.

The Birth Of A Star And Its Planets


In The Coal Sack Nebula (on the James Blish Appreciation blog)
The Sky Cave As Seen From Within (on this blog)

The infra-sun is a broad, blurred, deep crimson disc, streaked with sable spots and bands, hazing into delicate coronal arabesques, shining as yet only by gravitational energy but heating as it contracts, its core density approaching quantum collapse. In a few million years, atomic processes will begin. Gravitation, magnetism and spin bring together orbiting stones which are then united by condensing ice and hydrocarbons. Meteoric motes or mountains descend on a forming nucleus.

Poul Anderson conveys the drama of cosmic events which I try to condense further here.

The Practice Of Deception

Aycharaych is an artist of deception and subversion. Flandry at least enjoys them:

"I trust, he thought with a devil's inward laughter, that they don't know I know they know I'm actually supposed to install a password circuit for Kit.
"It was the sort of web he loved."
-Poul Anderson, "Hunters of the Sky Cave" IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 149-301 AT XIII, pp. 255-256.

It is the sort of web that I hate. I prefer life to be straightforward. How often can "...they don't know I know they know..." be prolonged before it becomes meaningless?

Fortunately, my experiences of cloak-and-dagger are limited. During the Great British Miners' Strike of 1984-'85, a National Union of Miners branch officer rang me and told me a pack of lies because we had reason to believe that the police were tapping my phone at the time. Before the Shah of Iran was overthrown, an Iranian student, funded by his government, asked me if I knew the names of any other Iranian students who might be involved in political campaigns... I referred him to the Students' Union. Mostly and thankfully, life does not involve such complications.


"A tracer shell flashed out, drawing a line of fire through Svantovik's boat. Or, rather, through the space where shell and boat coexisted with different frequencies."
-Poul Anderson, "Hunters of the Sky Cave" IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 149-301 AT XVI, p. 275.

Thus, entire universes might coexist not only in different dimensions but also at different frequencies. In DC Comics, a hero with the power of super speed, by changing the frequency of his bodily vibrations, transferred from Earth 1 to Earth 2, thus initiating twenty years of inter-cosmic crossovers until the Crisis in which most of the universes were destroyed while the surviving five were four-dimensionally merged into a revised timeline.

Flandry's Crew

In "Hunters of the Sky Cave":

Dominic Flandry reports to Admiral Walton, who first appeared in "Tiger by the Tail";

when Flandry pursues Mindhunter Svantozik through hyperspace, his crew, all with Terran citizenship, comprises  -

eight human beings, only one from Terra;
one yellow-haired, horned Scothanian;
two four-armed, gray-furred Gorzuni;
one centauroid Donarrian.

I leave it to other Anderson fans to remember in which works members of these three alien species first appeared or were mentioned.

In hyperspace, Flandry's Hooligan interpenetrates Svantozik's ship and Flandry sees Svantozik. We are not told anywhere else that this can happen.

Designing Spaceships

Svantozik points out that Ardazirho and human beings have thumbs on opposite sides of their hands and that a lumbar conformation makes Ardazirho lie prone instead of sit, therefore their spaceship controls are designed differently. (The ammunition truck driver must have been lying prone.) Ardazirho ships will have to be reconfigured for human use. Can Flandry help? Yes, he can hijack a ship and escape.

An sf film had human beings flying small battle craft designed for entirely non-humanoid beings. I did not go to see the sequel.