Saturday, 16 December 2017

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.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Extra-Solar Visitors And The Ends Of Worlds

An object that might be artificial is currently passing through the Solar System. See here. Poul Anderson's novel about an extra-solar craft entering the Solar System is The Byworlder, which maybe I should reread. I remember that a non-humanoid alien is in orbit while various things are happening on Earth. That is all. Rereading an Anderson novel from sufficiently long ago always generates new blog posts.

"Da capo" means "from the beginning";
a late chapter in Olaf Stapledon's Last And First Men is called "Da Capo":
the last "story-to-be-told" in Robert Heinlein's Future History was called "Da Capo";
Heinlein's Time Enough For Love also ends with "Da Capo" although I do not accept this volume as a valid continuation of the Future History;
the concluding volume of James Blish's Cities In Flight future history is The Triumph Of Time;
the last story in Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic History is called "The Chapter Ends."

There is a conceptual continuity between future histories.

Lies, Fictions, Yarns And More

See Lies, Fictions And Yarns.

Sean pointed out another kind of untrue statement, an error. Thus:

Untrue Statements
"yarns" (?)

But there is also a kind of statement that is intermediate between true and untrue. A scientific theory:

is the best current approximation to the truth;
explains some phenomena;
but is provisional - always subject to revision.

Some sf shows the scientific process:

in James Blish's They Shall Have Stars/Year 2018!, new discoveries are made despite personal conflicts between some scientists;

in Blish's The Quincunx Of Time, messages from the future assume different scientific paradigms;

in Poul Anderson's Starfarers, interstellar explorers encounter quantum intelligences that receive tachyonic messages from their future.

If a novel about a long interstellar expedition is based entirely on current knowledge and theories about remote stellar regions, then it is bound to be inaccurate because such an expedition would gain new knowledge and revise current theories.

Computer Problems II

See Computer Problems.

As a temporary measure, I have copied Sean's comments from gmail to the combox for each relevant post. Thus, several recent posts now have a comment sent by Paul Shackley but signed by Sean. However, this is a roundabout and rather cumbersome process so it is to be hoped that the technical problem preventing the arrival of comments in the normal way will be resolved before too long.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Interrogation Techniques

Stieg Larsson discusses good cop and bad cop and introduces uninterested cop. What does sf contribute?

We get used to sf props like flying cars and hyperdrives. What is a hypnoprobe (scroll down) and how often does it appear in sf?

In one of Asimov's Wendell Urth sf detective stories, the police need to find not sufficient evidence to charge a man but only a smaller amount necessary to authorize a psychoprobing. Thus, in this single story, this sf prop is used to make the detective's job easier.

Needless to say, Poul Anderson does not use the hypnoprobe just as a convenient prop but puts it to dramatic use in the stories of Dominic Flandry's fiancee and also of his illegitimate son in A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows. Nevertheless, I think that we would appreciate more background information on what a hypnoprobe is and how it works.

Addendum: For another interrogation technique, see here.

Swimming In The Atlantic Or The Pacific In Different Universes

"'Come!' she laughed. 'Last one in is a Sassenach!'"
-Poul Anderson, "Delenda Est" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 201), pp. 173-228 AT p. 199.

"'Last one in is a Tasmanian!'"
-SM Stirling, Prince Of Outcasts (New York, 2017), Chapter Fifteen, p. 301.

"He plunged, got hold of a slender leg, and pulled her under."
-Anderson, p. 200.

"...a hand clamped around his ankle and pulled him underwater..."
-Stirling, p. 302.

"'...she's half polar bear."
-Anderson, p. 200.

"Pip seemed to be part sea-otter..."
-Stirling, p. 302.

Deirdre, tumbling and frolicking in the Atlantic, is compared to a polar bear whereas Pip, swimming effortlessly in the Pacific, is compared to a sea-otter.

Three parallels between two accounts.

Computer Problems

Regular correspondent, Sean M. Brooks, has continued to comment on Poul Anderson Appreciation blog posts and I have as usual been receiving his comments as emails although, just recently, they have stopped showing up in the combox. Does anyone have any idea as to what might be wrong? We suspect a google fault and, as such, have no idea what to do about it.

Regular communication is our birthright. I hope that Sean will soon be able to get his comments flowing again. Meanwhile, the blog will continue, between other activities.

A Meal On The Ceram Sea

One regular correspondent has said that he does not mind menus on the blog so here is the meal that I mentioned here:

steamed, fried or boiled rice of different colors;
a sweet, dark, powerful rice wine;
a tumeric-rubbed suckling pig stuffed with coriander seeds, lemon-grass, lime and salam leaves, chilies, black pepper, garlic, red shallots and gingery "kencur," spit-roasted over coconut husks;
fermented bean cake in sweet soy sauce;
chicken in coconut curry;
snake bean and coconut salad;
vegetables in peanut sauce;
tuna steamed in banana leaves;
duck rubbed with tamarind puree and salt, stuffed with eggs, cassava leaves and a spice mix;
coffee and coconut pancakes;
pineapple preserves;
fruit, including durian. 

A Future Historical Narrative

Maybe I ought to stop reproducing menus here? There is another meal on p. 297 of The Prince Of Outcasts, Chapter Fifteen, but readers of the novel can enjoy that!

The narrative becomes more future historical. We not only read the further adventures of the Montivallans but also learn what has meanwhile been happening in Australia and the Pacific. Some of these chapters read like sequels to Change stories that have been published elsewhere? When I first read Poul Anderson's The Shield Of Time, I was surprised by references to events in the juvenile adventure, "The Year of the Ransom," not having known of its existence. This is as it should be. Series should be complex and diverse.

Christmas preparations will interfere with blogging. This evening, sf group plus wives will eat in Marco's. See also here. (Marco's was closed by a flood, and here, but has reopened.)

Lies, Fictions And Yarns

A statement is either true or untrue.
An untrue statement is either a lie or a fiction.
However, all three kinds of statements exist within fiction.
In Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization:

The Earth Book Of Stormgate incorporates works of historical fiction;
later, Dominic Flandry counteracts Aycharaych's disinformation by gathering accurate military intelligence.

Is there a third kind of untrue statement, the yarn:

recounted as if it were a true experience;
primarily intended to entertain;
believed by some but not by others;
not intended to mislead about anything that matters?

When I repeated a tall tale and was asked, "You didn't believe him, did you?," I was annoyed not at the raconteur for lying but at myself for being taken in so is there a moral difference between lies and yarns?

Tuesday, 12 December 2017


We first see Adzel as a student, David Falkayn as an apprentice, Dominic Flandry as an ensign and Manson Everard, although more mature, as a new recruit. By contrast, we first see Gratillonius as a centurion and Nicholas van Rijn as a company owner and Master Merchant. However, we are told something of Grallon's and van Rijn's origins and early days.

Everyone begins his career at the beginning but, while any one of us is beginning, others are middle aged or retired. All stages of a profession coexist. Now that I am retired, I see other people working and keeping the world going but also know that, barring accidents, they will in future be as I am now and that I will by then be dead.

Another factor: in this part of the world right now (two important qualifications), life expectancies are increasing (although that may recently have slowed down) and the retirement age recedes before some people who wonder if there will still be a retirement age by the time that they are in old age. Poul Anderson imagines two characters, Manse Everard and Hugh Valland, who face no old age and who just continue to work indefinitely.

Books That I Would Like To Find In A Second Hand Bookshop

An eighth Narnia volume by CS Lewis;
a fourth Millennium volume by Stieg Larsson;
endless continuations of the Technic History and of the Time Patrol series by Poul Anderson -

- not by anyone else.

Might these books exist in an alternative timeline? We can imagine their existence but not their contents. I once dreamed of opening an as yet unread book but did not find within it a coherent text. All unwritten books are in Morpheus' Library, according to Neil Gaiman.

When I finished reading The Last Battle to my daughter, she said that she had seen the eighth Narnia book somewhere in the house and that we would read it when we found it. It had Aslan and soldiers on the cover - The Last Battle, Part II? I did not contradict her. She was making her contribution to the myth.

Ninian Smart's elegant argument about the unpredictability of scientific discoveries (see here) also applies to any attempt to imagine a text that Poul Anderson could have written but did not.

Issues And Indulgences

Poul Anderson's works inspire discussion of current, historical or perennial issues. In any given work, an issue may be addressed or implied.

A premise for alternative history fiction: no Protestant Reformation.


the alpha and beta timelines in Poul Anderson's The Shield Of Time;
an emulated timeline in Anderson's Genesis;
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman;
The Alteration by Kingsley Amis.

So what were the issues in the Reformation? Even if not explicitly stated, these issues would have been present in the minds, e.g., of the Puritan characters in Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest. It is interesting to try to summarize the theology because it engages the same kind of imagination as a work of fantasy:

Christ's sacrifice created an infinite treasury of grace;
martyrs and saints somehow add to this already infinite treasury;
the Church is empowered and authorized to bestow on any individual Christian an "indulgence," i.e., a finite quantity of grace from the infinity treasury;
the Church is also able to impose on the Christian conditions for the bestowal of the Indulgence;
God has created this treasury but has delegated control of it to the Church;
any sin, even if forgiven, still warrants a finite period of punishment either on Earth or in Purgatory;
however, a finite quantity of grace from the treasury can negate the requirement for a corresponding quantity of punishment;
thus, whereas Protestants expect immediate admittance to Heaven after death, a Catholic expects a period in Purgatory which can be shortened by indulgences.

(i) The Protestant idea that - assuming the truth of Christianity in the first place - Christ's grace is freely accessible by all who opt to receive it makes sense.
(ii) I do not buy into the ideas of sacrifice, sin or punishment for sin.
(iii) I do accept the Buddhist ideas of wrong action and of individual responsibility to cleanse karma.
(iv) The Buddhist concept of "transfer of merit" is very similar to indulgences but I regard it as mythological.
(v) Buddhism has had its equivalents of Martin Luther.
(vi) Even if I accepted Christian, and even Catholic, premises, I would find "indulgences" highly questionable.
(vii) If I were living in the sixteenth century, then I would be on the extreme left wing of the Reformation - unless I were living in a country where it was imprudent to express such views!

The Fifth Sense

The four senses identified here are on p. 284. The following page gives us the fifth sense:

fruit-enhanced rum;
mango and pineapple cubes;
spicy grilled chicken.

We also receive more visual input:

flickering torch and lantern light glints on metal and water;
masts loom up into the darkness;
beyond are the yellow city lights.

Another sensory feast.

Periods Visited By Everard

See The Elizabethan Age.

Manse Everard of the Time Patrol has visited "...the London of Elizabeth the First..." ("Star of the Sea" IN Time Patrol, p. 479) between episodes of the Time Patrol series. This passage also mentions "...the Pasargadae of Cyrus the Great...," which he visited in "Brave to Be a King."

Which other periods has Everard visited between installments? He:

accompanied Bjarni Herjulfsson across the Atlantic;
went on a mission in Scandinavia near the end of the viking period;
claims to have visited "posthistory."

In fact, the post, Everard Off-Stage, which lists the Scandinavian mission among others, is more comprehensive than this one.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Four Senses In The Ceram Sea

OK. I will record another literary appeal to four of the senses and then I am finished for the night. When SM Stirling's Montivallan and Capricornian characters recline and rest after a sea battle, they:

receive light from many stars, the moon, lamps on poles above fire-pits and larger lanterns;

hear palms rustling above;

smell the scent, described as both heavy and sweet, from a frangipani tree.

One of their number, Pip, enjoys feeling clean, wearing fresh clothes and smelling dinner.

Reading a descriptive passage and spotting a reference to one of the senses, we start to look out for at least two more and usually find them. Even if not consciously remembered, these sensory details are bound to add a subliminal substance as we read the subsequent discussion between the characters still enjoying these sensations.

Prince Of Outcasts, Chapter Fifteen.

The Elizabethan Age

Last night: improvisation drama/comedy at the Duke's Playhouse (and see here).

Today: Barton Grange Garden Centre and Garstang Victorian Festival.

Tomorrow: Christmas preparations, including buying a tree.

On this blog:

reading about falconry in SM Stirling's Emberverse reminded me of falconry in Poul Anderson's Time Patrol universe;
Anderson mentioned that Emperor Frederick II wrote a book on falconry;
Sean listed other rulers who wrote books;
I added Henry VIII's Defense Of The Seven Sacraments;
SM Stirling mentioned that the Defense was probably ghost written;
Sean, Mr Stirling and Nicholas discussed Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and sixteenth century global politics -

- so what did Poul Anderson write about the Elizabethan Age?

First, it was part of a time war:

"' this present century, Denmark is not where our real European strength lies. Rather we are concentrated in Britain. King Henry has forsaken the Roman Church; but we saw to it that he did not go over to Lutheranism either, and for us his kingdom is pivotal. What you know as the episode of the two Queen Marys is a time of gain for the Wardens; the Rangers will resurge with Cromwell, but we will drive them out at the Restoration.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Corridors Of Time (Frogmore, St Albans, Herts, 1975), Chapter Eleven, p. 102.

"...King Henry snored beside Anne Boleyn...poor Anne whose head would fly from the ax in less than a year, and none to warn her. But her daughter lay cradled in that same palace and was named Elizabeth. The strangeness possessed Lockwood like a vision: not merely his own fate, but the mystery that was every man's."
-op. cit., Chapter Twelve, p. 104.

(By referring to the mystery of every man's fate, Anderson raises this time travel novel to the level of all literature as he also does in There Will Be Time:

("It was a strange thing to meet her at intervals of months which for Havig were hours or days. Each time, she was so dizzyingly grown. In awe he felt a sense of that measureless river which he could swim but on which she could only be carried from darkness to darkness."
-Poul Anderson, There Will Be Time (New York, 1973), Chapter IX, p. 98.)

Secondly, Noah Arkwright questions whether the Polesotechnic League period is a neo-Elizabethan age. See Noah Arkwright III.

Thirdly, in "Call Me Joe," human colonists of Jupiter will experience:

"'A hard, lusty, stormy kind of life, granted - dangerous, brawling, violent - but life as no human, perhaps, has lived it since the days of Elizabeth the First. Oh, yes, there will be small trouble finding Jovians.'"
-Poul Anderson, "Call Me Joe" IN Anderson, The Collected Short Works Of Poul Anderson, Volume 1: Call Me Joe (Framingham, MA, 2009), pp. 11-36 AT p. 35.

Meanwhile, Crown Princess Orlaith's friends and allies have protected her from those two tigers.  

Living In The Future

When I read sf in the '60s, there were two kinds of fictional futures:

space travel;
nuclear war aftermath.

Poul Anderson covered both, of course.

James Blish's They Shall Have Stars was called Year 2018! in paperback and I read that version first. Now we live in a third kind of future:

the world wide web.

Try telling that guy reading Twilight World and Year 2018! in the 1960s that, in 2017 and 2018, he will not be visiting the Moon but discussing Anderson and Blish on a global computer network. He will not believe you.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Falconry In 1245beta AD And in Change Year 46, Part II

Crown Princess Orlaith and her party hunt wild turkeys with Harris' hawks (see image), then Orlaith is attacked by two tigers and I am about to go out for the evening so I will learn the outcome later.

They ride through a swale with earth dams, silver ponds, green grass, reeds, willows, cottonwoods, black hawthorn, wild rose, wax currant, crimson sumac and purple-flowered thistle - game food and shelter.

If I were there, I would enjoy the scenery but not the hunting. Sorry to be hasty, folks.

Falconry In 1245beta AD And In Change Year 46

See Falconry. (I have had to check on terminology.)

A Poul Anderson fan must think of an Ythrian when looking at a falcon. This one seems to have arms and hands.

In 1245beta, when Everard of the Time Patrol hawks with the Emperor Frederick:

the sun casts yellow beams and blue shadows;
the warm air is full of earth odors;
the city gleams - like Ys - while bells peal.

Four senses in three sentences.

Frederick has written a book on falconry and Everard has given him a falcon from the Patrol's pre-Indian North American ranch as well as relating sagas which Frederick likens to another whole universe.

I meant to continue about Emberverse falconry but am interrupted.

Swords (Or "S&SX3")

Fantasy includes "Sword and Sorcery," e.g., Conan.
Sf includes "Sword and Science," e.g., John Carter.
Historical fiction includes "sword and sandals," e.g., Ben Hur.

Poul Anderson wrote:

Conan The Rebel (see above);
The Broken Sword (fantasy);
other fantasy novels;
The Golden Slave (historical);
Rogue Sword (historical);
"Son of the Sword" (prehistorical);
The High Crusade (historical sf) -

- and Flandry fences twice (sf).

Thus, Andersonian comprehensiveness.

SM Stirling's Emberverse:
loss of science;
return to "sword and sandals";
also, return of sorcery.

These reflections were prompted by reading an account of a slave galley in Stirling's Prince Of Outcasts.


Science fiction is about change, sometimes about "the Change," and thus about life. We have all experienced social and technological change in a lifetime. Poul Anderson's time travelers and immortals see more of it. Traditionally in England, accents differed and mattered. Decades ago, one of my father's colleagues, a fully qualified and successful mining engineer, spoke with a noticeable and pronounced regional accent. My father commented, "George will not get any further in our company until he is prepared to do something about his elocution. This is something that people are just not prepared to recognize!" I disliked that remark when I heard it. Nowadays, equal opportunities job interviewing ensures that each candidate is considered only in terms of his qualifications and suitability for the advertised vacancy.

I was reminded of this when a new SM Stirling character, Lady Philippa Balwyn-Abercrombie, spoke with:

" accent that exuded arrogant self-confidence even to people who didn't know the background..."
-SM Stirling, Prince Of Outcasts (New York, 2017), Chapter Eleven, p. 224.

History and historical fiction are also about change. Stirling summarizes the Balwyn-Abercrombie family history:

from William the Conqueror's time;
enclosers of commons;
colonial plunderers;
flint-hearted oppressors of the poor;
honorary members of corporate boards;
general n'er-do-wells;
"...she was some sort of distant cousin of the current King-Emperor." (ibid.)

I googled the surname but what came up was this character. See here.

Different Aspects Of Writing

Having praised many aspects of Poul Anderson's fiction, let's consider a couple of aspects that (maybe) other authors have taken further.

(i) Anderson addressed every major sf theme, including alternative history, both fantastic (the Operation... volumes) and realistic (the counterfactual speculations and discussions in the Time Patrol series). Harry Turtledove and SM Stirling have specialized in alternative history and thus have gone further with it.

(ii) The ability to write a long novel with a large cast of diverse characters, each individually interesting to the reader? Within this, many chapter sections each opening by naming a different character, thus immediately catching the reader's attention? As an example, in Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest (London, 2010), Chapter 15:

"Salander..." (p. 357);
"Berger..." (p. 359);
"Holmberg..." (p. 360);
"Erika Berger..." (p. 362);
"Figuerola..." (p. 363);
"Berger..." (p. 364);
"Lisbeth Salander..." (p. 365);
"On Friday morning Jonasson was faced with an obviously irritated Inspector Faste..." (p. 366);
"Bublanski..." (p. 368);
"Edklinth..." (p. 368);
"Figuerola..." (p. 369);
"The Prime Minister..." (p. 374);
"...Salander..." (p. 380);
"Trinity..." (p. 381).

Ten characters. Someone is missing. However, Chapters 16 and 17 both begin:

"Blomkvist..." (pp. 389, 411)

Anderson presents many fascinating characters but maybe not as many as this in a single text?

Saturday, 9 December 2017

All Things Fall

All things fall and are built again
And those that build them again are gay.
-copied from here.

I was about to begin this post, "When a civilization falls...," then I remembered those relevant lines by WB Yeats.

When a civilization falls, some people survive and some of the survivors rebuild.

When the Roman Empire withdraws from Northern Europe, Poul and Karen Anderson's Gratillonius organizes defensive measures that will become medieval feudalism.

"Later ages wove a myth about Roan Tom. He became their archetype of those star rovers who fared forth while the Long Night prevailed."
-Poul Anderson, "A Tragedy of Errors" IN Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 455-540 AT p. 457.

Tom is mythologized either as a bandit and murderer skulking through the Imperial ruins or as a hero and leader building something better.

SM Stirling's Fifi and her friends were:

"...the most successful salvagers and smugglers and all-around fortune-and-glory rogues afloat in the chaos of the years after the Blackout."
SM Stirling, Prince Of Outcasts (New York, 2017), Chapter Ten, p. 203.

Whereas, the omniscient narrator of "A Tragedy of Errors" invites his readers to imagine Roan Tom addressing us from a Valhalla where Earth grown tobacco is available, Stirling's Emberverse Wiccans literally enter their Summerland and his Catholics enter Heaven - but do his Asatruer enter the Eddaic Valhalla?

Historical Descriptions

Descriptions of historical periods or events are bound to differ historically. The Great War had to become the First World War after there had been a Second and it becomes Terran Planetary War Phase One later in Robert Heinlein's Future History - although, having said that, I do not accept Time Enough For Love as an authentic volume of the Future History.

The event that SM Stirling's Montivallans (Americans) call "the Change," his Capricornians (Australians) call "the Blackout" and his temporally displaced Nantucketers call "the Event." These three populations are too widely separated in space and time for them to have developed a common terminology.

In Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, Daven Laure of the Commonalty refers in a single sentence to no less than four earlier periods:

"'Sir, the League, the troubles, the Empire, its fall, the Long Night...every such thing - behind us. In space and time alike. The people of the Commonalty don't get into wars.'"
-Poul Anderson, "Starfog" IN Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 709-794 at p. 722.

"In space and time alike." The Commonalty is not even in the same place as those earlier societies but in another spiral arm. In fact, as Laure speaks, he is on the planet Serieve near the northern verge of its spiral arm. The periods to which Laure refers can be described in greater detail as follows:

the Polesotechnic League was an economic organization whereas the corresponding political organization was the Solar Commonwealth but perhaps the League is better remembered because it transcended planetary governments and operated on an interstellar scale;

the Time of Troubles followed the dissolution of the League and the fall of the Commonwealth;

the Terran Empire emerged from the Troubles;

"The Long Night follows the Fall of the Terran Empire. War, piracy, economic collapse, and isolation devastate countless worlds."
-Sandra Miesel, "Chronology of Technic Civilization" IN Flandry's Legacy, pp. 795-804 AT p. 803.

In Laure's time, there are human civilizations in two or three spiral arms and the Commonalty is an interstellar service organization in one of the arms. I do not think that Laure would summarize previous periods as League, troubles, Empire and Long Night but this is a convenient shorthand for Anderson to inform his readers as to which future history "Starfog" is set in.

A phrase is repeated almost word for word by several Anderson characters, even the alien Rax:

"'So many, many stars...a hundred billion in this one lost lonely dust-mote of a galaxy...and we on the edge, remote in a spiral arm where they thin toward emptiness...what do we know, what can we master?'"
-Poul Anderson, A Circus Of Hells IN Anderson, Young Flandry (Riverdale, NY, 2010), pp. 193-365 AT Chapter Three, p. 217.

In "Starfog," this has become:

" vast is the galaxy - these two or three spiral arms, a part of which our race has to date thinly occupied..." (p. 718)

Friday, 8 December 2017

Associative Thought

There is nothing linear about this:

Stieg Larssson's Jewish character, Jan Bublanski, reminded me of Poul Anderson's Max Abrams and SM Stirling's Moishe Feldman so I posted about all three;

(Abrams appears in Ensign Flandry);

I mentioned that Bublanski talks to God in a Catholic church;

this reminded Sean of Don Camillo, a Catholic priest, talking to God in a church;

this has led to reminiscences about Don Camillo and also to a post about prayers by fictional characters.

If I knew where we were going, I would say so.


Fiction reflects life. Fictional characters pray.

(i) Poul Anderson's Nicholas van Rijn makes offerings to St Dismas.

(ii) Anderson's Dominic Flandry addresses his dead fiancee, who will later be canonized, but does not think that he receives an answer.

(iii) SM Stirling's Father Ignatius converses with an apparition of the Virgin Mary.

(iv) Characters in works by Anderson and Stirling meet and converse with gods and goddesses.

(v) CS Lewis' juvenile characters meet Aslan in Narnia and his adult hero, Ransom, is addressed by Maleldil in Perelandra.

(vi) James Blish's magicians meet Satan who has become God.

(vii) Stieg Larsson's Jan Bublanski thinks about life/talks to God in the back of a church.

(viii) Giovanni Guareschi's Don Camillo not only talks to the Lord in a church but also receives explicit replies! However, I think we understand that the replies are the promptings of Don Camillo's conscience, not a literal divine voice?

(ix) Graphic fantasies are too complicated to summarize here - although John Constantine (and see here), very familiar with demons, once meets the Good Shepherd!

(x) A cartoon that someone cut out and stuck on the notice board in the Lancaster University Religious Studies Department:

a man in pajamas kneels in prayer beside a bed;
a large bearded male figure wearing a horned helmet and holding a hammer hovers above the bed;
the man says, "Oh, I'm sorry, Thor. I thought that, when I said, God," I'd get...well you know...JEHOVAH!"

A Pacific Sunrise

"...the world turned from shades of black and gray to pale gray and white; then the mist began to lift in earnest."
-SM Stirling, Prince Of Outcasts (New York, 2017), Chapter Nine, p. 178.

"...the mist burned away and the sun came up.
"The eastern horizon flashed green as the burning arch cleared the horizon, with crimson the color of molten copper on the fringe of clouds. The stars showed as the mist cleared and then were gone in the greater light, fading away to a few scattered in the midnight blue of the western horizon for a moment. Ruan's young voice rose from the bows as he greeted the sun with the Dawn Chant."
-op. cit., p. 179.

Feldman quotes (?) "'Dawns like thunder'" and Deor quotes four lines beginning:

"'Between the Pedestals of Night and Morning...'" (ibid.) (see here) (Search result; scroll down.)

The sun rises every day and should be greeted appropriately.

A Link

SM Stirling posted the above link in the combox here. On my screen, links do not work in the combox although they do work in the email notifications that I receive of new combox comments. I have, letter by letter and symbol by symbol, reproduced the link here on this post (see above) but it doesn't work here either, at least not for me. However, when I spelled out the link in the search box at the top of the screen, it did work, showing a photo of the young Teddy Roosevelt which I have saved and have now copied to this post (see image). Sorry for this complication. Time for me to have some breakfast, do some grocery shopping, meet a friend for lunch, visit Ketlan, then greet Sheila on her return from a few days holiday in Torquay. Maybe some blogging after that.

Constitutional Oversight

Points made by Stieg Larsson

There should be constitutional oversight of intelligence services;

this is almost impossible in Sweden.

Relevance to Poul Anderson's works

The Psychotechnic Institute is overthrown because it operates unconstitutionally;

we would like to know more about such issues in the Terran Empire;

the Time Patrol operates openly during the periods after the discovery of time travel but how do the human governments of those periods deal with the Danellians who: (i) control the Patrol; (ii) are not human; (iii) do not exist yet?

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Comic Comparisons

I cannot reread other works of fiction without finding points of comparison with Poul Anderson, e.g.:

heroines here;
borderlands here;
intelligence services here;
feminine objects of devotion here;
Jewish characters here;
narrative points of view here;
"cosmic consciousness" here.

These comparisons generate others, e.g.:

Bublanski talking to God recalls Don Camillo doing the same (see combox here);

Guareschi might present different perspectives on both Catholicism and Communism?

I am finally trying to read something else and to sign off from further posting till tomorrow!

Cosmic Consciousness

On Earth, there is both animal and human consciousness. What else might there be here or elsewhere?

(i) Poul Anderson imagines non-human Terrestrial intelligences. See here.

(ii) Alan Moore imagines a vegetable consciousness pervading the Earth. See here.

(iii) CS Lewis imagines immortal inorganic intelligences throughout the Solar System. See here.

(iv) Fred Hoyle imagines intelligent interstellar gas clouds. See here.

(v) In Anderson's Technic History, the universe produces sophonts as casually as snowflakes. See here.

(vi) James Blish imagines immortal energy beings interacting with civilizations in successive galaxies. See here.

(vii) In Anderson's Genesis, inorganic intelligences emanating from Earth find little life and apparently no extrasolar organic intelligences. See here.

(viii) Current evidence: many nearby extrasolar planets, some suitable for life, but no life or intelligence detected as yet. See here.

Seven fictional examples, three by Anderson.

The Transcendent And The Mundane In Life And Fiction

Every moment has two aspects, the transcendent and the mundane, although we might not recognize both. It seems that some lives are spent entirely within the confines of the mundane although transcendence (going beyond) is always possible. Someone watching a soap opera might remember a line from Shakespeare or a scripture, reflect on life and death and begin to change his life-style? Or maybe not, most of the time.

The distinction is artificial. The first moment of consciousness (imagine!) transcended previously universal unconsciousness. When everything was new, then nothing was mundane. The familiar seems mundane only because it has become familiar. Poul Anderson's Patrician System with its multi-species colonized planets, Imhotep and Daedalus, "the world without a horizon," is exotic to us although mundane to its inhabitants. See Mundane And Exotic and On The Highroad River I. Science fiction can respond to CS Lewis' longing for the Unearthly.

Poul Anderson goes further by writing not only hard sf but also heroic fantasy and even imagining a meeting place for characters from both kinds of universes. As Alan Moore wrote about a comic book continuum:

"Imagine for a moment a universe jewelled with alien races ranging from the transcendentally divine to the loathsomely Lovecraftian. Imagine a universe where the ancient gods still exist somewhere and where whole dimensions are populated by anthropomorphic funny animals. Where Heaven and Hell are demonstrably real and even accessible, and where angels and demons alike seem to walk the earth with impunity."
-Alan Moore, Introduction IN Moore, Saga Of The Swamp Thing (New York, 1987), pp. v-xi AT p. vii.

So, fellow Earthlings, transcend the mundane by reading Poul Anderson and Alan Moore and meditating.

POV In Anderson And Larsson

(Giannini and Salander.)

On points of view (POVs), see here:

Hash Browns And Conversations
Points Of View
Narrative Points Of View
More On POVs
Yvonne POV
A Wandering Point Of View?

- and search the blog for other posts on POVs.

I will quote a short passage from Stieg Larsson, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest (London, 2010), Chapter 7, and leave it to the alert blog reader to critique the POV:

"'Hello, Lisbeth. I'm Annika Giannini,' she said. 'May I come in?'
"Salander studied her without expression. All of a sudden she did not have the slightest desire to meet Blomkvist's sister and regretted that she had accepted this woman as her lawyer.
"Giannini came in, shut the door behind her, and pulled up a chair. She sat there for some time, looking at her client.
"The girl looked terrible." (p. 163)

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Three Jewish Characters

(Bublanski and Blomkvist.)

Many characters in modern fiction are non-religious. For example, on this blog, we refer to:

Poul Anderson's Manse Everard, David Falkayn and Dominic Flandry;

Ian Fleming's James Bond;

Stieg Larsson's Mikael Blomkvist.

However, Anderson also gives us:

the Catholic Nicholas van Rijn and Fr Axor;
the Buddhist Trygve Yamamura and Adzel.

After SM Stirling's Change, many religious traditions flourish and the merchant, Moishe Feldman, is Jewish.

Non-religious central characters often interact with religious believers, e.g.:

Falkayn with van Rijn and Adzel;
Flandry with the Jewish Max Abrams, the Orthochristian Kossara Vymezal and Axor;
Blomkvist with the Jewish Jan Bublanski.

Thus, three wise men. (They are.)

Bublanski attends synagogue for fellowship and congregational worship but sits quietly in the back of a Catholic church - where he knows that he will not be disturbed - when he needs to think/talk to God about his job or his life. Thus, this Swedish Police Inspector is wise enough to enter two places of worship for different reasons. While thinking/talking to God, he might see me meditating.

Another Sea Battle And Another Meal

SM Stirling, Prince Of Outcasts (New York, 2017).

Chapter Seven
A giant saltwater crocodile with a graven metal armband on one forelimb attacks three ships in the Pacific. Read it.

Chapter Eight
In the Great Hall of the manor of Barony Harfang, commoners are served:

warm maslin loaves with butter and cheese;
white bean and ham soup;
roast pork and mutton with gravy;
steamed cabbage, carrots, peas and green beans;
heaped fried potatoes;
local catsup and pickles;
apple, cherry, rhubarb and peach pies;
casked beer -

- while the gentry are served:

dumplings filled with scallions, spiced minced lamb and hot chili sauce;
beef broth with noodles, mushrooms and veal meatballs;
green salad with walnuts, oil and vinegar;
Hungarian pheasant with cooked apples, sweet onions, cider and cream;
elegantly cut fried potatoes;
baked tomatoes stuffed with peppers, mint, dill and cheese;
brussel sprouts in butter sauce;
crusty white manchet bread rolls;
chocolate cake in cherry brandy with layers of whipped cream and brandied cherries.


gym and swim;
visit Ketlan;
visit Andrea above the bookshop;
evening meeting;
less blogging.


"Futures," the study of possible futures, is an academic discipline. See the link to Dr Richard Slaughter here.

In much sf, including many works by Poul Anderson, we contemplate possible shapes of future society, in fact, to quote Wells, The Shape Of Things To Come or "A Story of the Days to Come." (For the latter, see here.)

However, "futures" is news as well as sf. Newspapers discuss the future for Europe, Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after a recent British referendum.

A story set in our future is set in its characters' present. However, The Quincunx Of Time by James Blish features characters living in our future and receiving messages from successive periods of their future:

"One of the many original features of this novel is that it does actually concern the future. Most science fiction, if it is not fantasy, is about some extension of the present which only by agreement do we call the future. It catches our attention because we see in it a mirror of the present day. Blish was after something different. Quincunx is like few other fictions, and does not resemble closely anything else Blish wrote."
-Brian Aldiss, "PEEP: An Introduction to The Quincunx of Time" IN James Blish, The Quincunx Of Time (New York, 1983), pp. 6-10 AT p. 7.

But the future, however alien, is a consequence of the present. Our actions affect it. Wells points out that, when The Shape Of Things To Come is being published, its protagonists are already young men. Poul Anderson's time traveler, Jack Havig, exploring the future, flees back to the twentieth century after glimpsing an awesome civilization, then builds that civilization.

Devotion To A Feminine Principle

(i) Some Christian churches have a side chapel to the Virgin Mary.

(ii) The Three of Ys are male, female and elemental.

(iii) The Time Patrol must prevent a counter-historical feminine monotheism in Northern Europe.

(iv) A Montivalan household of mixed religious loyalties but with a Catholic majority has a discrete shrine to Athena in an upper room.

(v) At the Buddhist monastery, someone was going to spend time in the Kuan Yin chapel. (I think that the word "chapel" was used.)

Some of us participate in rituals focused on such figures while understanding them as mythological and metaphorical, not literal. See Myth.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The Elite

Gullberg is the (fictional) head of the small secret Section of Swedish Security that spies on members of Swedish Security. See here.

"[Gullberg]'s model was the legendary James Jesus Angleton, who had a similar position in the C.I.A., and whom he came to know personally."
-Stieg Larsson, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest (London, 2010), Chapter 5, p. 110.

(For Angleton, see image.)

"[Gullberg] met Angleton, and he got to drink whisky at a discrete club in London with the chief of M.I.6. He was one of the elite." (p. 119)

It was suggested in the combox here that such a small and secret group as this Swedish Section might not be noticed even by the Time Patrol although the Patrol does have people in military intelligence. However, during the Cold War, the Patrol would have to know about the activities of people like Angleton and C (Fleming's "M," le Carre's "Control"). Consequently, I think that they would also know about Gullberg meeting Angleton and drinking with C.

At this point, the fictional narratives of Poul Anderson and of Stieg Larsson almost meet.


Orlaith, still on that train, passes through a former border country:

"For generations this had been a borderland between the PPA and the United States of Boise, claimed by both and ruled by neither; raid and skirmish had gone back and forth across the marches along with the banditry that always sprang up in debatable lands."
-SM Stirling, Prince Of Outcasts (New York, 2017), Chapter Six, p. 103.

I grew up in border country. See Borders.

On an interstellar scale, Dominic Flandry refers to the Spican marches. He also learns that the Merseians have a secret scientific and intelligence base on the planet Talwin in the volume of space between the Roidhunate and the Empire. Thanks to Flandry and the Merseian Ydwyr, Talwin instead becomes a joint scientific base and a venue for diplomatic negotiations. Good as well as bad things can happen in border regions.

Contrasting Heroines II

See Contrasting Heroines.

Initially, I thought of Diana and Lisbeth as a sharp contrast but the next question is how other heroines shape up in relation to these two and SM Stirling's Crown Princess Orlaith maybe occupies an intermediate position?

sexually active as a Wiccan
daughter of a hero and a heroine
military and political skills
faculties enhanced by the Sword (like a supernatural computer?)
cheerful and sociable

Contrasting Heroines

Poul Anderson's Diana Crowfeather
still a virgin
daughter of a series hero
survival skills
average intelligence
cheerful and sociable

Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander
bisexually active
daughter of a major villain
survival and hacking skills
photographic memory and high IQ
withdrawn and antisocial

Into The Shadows

"Gullberg, formerly Senior Administrative Officer at the Security Police, was now seventy-eight years old and had been retired for thirteen years. But intelligence officers never really retire, they just slip into the shadows."
-Stieg Larsson, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest (London, 2010), p. 106.

Into the shadows? Then where were they already? This sounds like a fiction writer's idea of an intelligence officer, i.e., a secret agent must never really retire because the author might always write another sequel.

Ian Fleming knocks ten years off James Bond's life in order to keep him active and on the right side of retirement whereas Poul Anderson shows us Dominic Flandry aging despite anti-senescence, gaining his own staff and considerable autonomy while heading towards a Grey Eminence role - from the shadows in the field to the shadows behind the Throne.

A Pre-Change Historical Novel

How might a text acknowledge a source? Read on and learn.

The leisurely train journey (see here) continues. The land lit by the rising sun is described:

the Blue Mountains;
banners flying from barons' castles;
gaudy riding nobles;
autumnal trees.

Orlaith reads, then:

"She laid aside her book - it was The Broken Sword, a pre-Change historical novel of grim gritty realism by a knight named Sir Bela of Eastmarch, and more accessible to modern tastes than the more fanciful efforts of the time." (p. 102)

Have you read The Broken Sword? Very realistic! It has already been quoted in the Emberverse. See Seidh II. And we do not need to explain why the Emberversers attribute this realistic novel to "Sir Bela of Eastmarch."