Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Against Time

"'...the will of Weard stands not to be altered... Know that against time the gods themselves are powerless.'" (see here)

For "gods," read "powerful but finite beings." They are powerless against time both because they will end (like everything else) and also because they cannot prevent what they know will happen. James Blish made the same point with his title, The Triumph Of Time. In that novel, even:

"...an immortal man who flew from star to star faster than light..."
-James Blish, They Shall Have Stars IN Blish, Cities In Flight (London, 1981), pp. 7-129 AT p. 17 -

- is powerless against time. His physical immortality - immunity to disease and old age - enables him to live only until the end of the universe. The Norse gods live until their doom, the Ragnarok, even though a sibyl has already described it in detail to Odin in Voluspa.

The Okies' powers include faster than light travel, the antiagathics and the instantaneous Dirac communicator. James Blish told me that, in the earliest, unpublished, version of an Okie story, the Dirac communicator received messages from the future. However, knowing the solutions before encountering the problems would have been inappropriate for the problem-solving central character of this series. Consequently, this application of the Dirac transmitter - the reception of messages not only from the present moment but also from every other moment in a four-dimensional continuum - was developed separately in "Beep"/The Quincunx Of Time.

If detailed foreknowledge had remained a feature of the Okie continuum, then John Amalfi would have been even more akin to:

Odin knowing in advance the details of the Ragnarok;

Poul Anderson's Time Patrolman Carl Farness knowing exactly when and where he was to betray his own descendants.

1 comment:

David Birr said...

I think I've mentioned before that David Drake's *Northworld* trilogy is a science-fiction (for a rather "soft" value of science) retelling of a number of Norse myths. Part of the trilogy's situation is that the Odin figure, a space explorer named North, has gained, among other godlike powers, the ability to see the future (apparently inevitable) — and a looming Ragnarok-equivalent.

North isn't the protagonist, though. And in the third book, the Mimir-equivalent (Dowson) tells North that the protagonist, Nils Hansen, despite having also acquired godlike power, has NEVER looked at the future and thus isn't bound by the certainty of doom.

Dowson's words: "When you look to *your* end on the Final Day, as Commissioner Hansen does not ... do you not see him still fighting as the hordes sweep you under? *I* see that, Captain."