Wednesday, 29 March 2017


Help me out here, guys. I remember a Poul Anderson story but not the title or which collection it is in. I could go and get all the collections from a bookshelf upstairs but don't want to disturb Sheila who is resting in that room. Lots of people pray for a sign and the Sun stands still for twenty four hours. I have discussed the story on the blog and, when I am reminded of the title, will link to the earlier posts. It is a rare example of an sf story featuring an intervention by a superior power.

(Addendum: The story is "A Chapter Of Revelation" (see here), an unmemorable title. I found it by experimentally searching the blog for the phrase, "The Sign.")

Three Other Examples
In The Inferno by Fred Hoyle and Geoffrey Hoyle, the galactic centre has become a quasar and the radiation reaches Earth, killing many and destroying civilization, driving the survivors back to earlier forms of social organization. Just before the radiation reached its lethal peak, there was a darkening which prevented sterilization of the Earth. Astronomers determine that that darkening was artificial. A higher power had intervened to save the little creatures of the universe.

SM Stirling has powerful beings terraforming Venus and Mars in one timeline and another (?) power sabotaging technology in another timeline. Although most of us are glad to have been born in technological civilization, Rudi Mackenzie is glad to live after the Change. He prefers fields and woods to cities. Did whoever caused the Change do humanity a favor? Would we have destroyed ourselves with technology if it had not been taken from us?


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Ha! You beat me to telling you that you were looking for "A Chapter Of Revelation."

    Alas, I've not read the Hoyles THE INFERNO. My loss!

    My answer to the question in your last paragraph is, no, whoever caused the Change did not do mankind a favor. Anything which caused so much agony and death was not beneficial. And we cannot know, even now, with no Change, that we will destroy ourselves.


  2. Paul and Sean:
    I couldn't live after the Change. Literally; I require a daily dosage of synthetic thyroid hormone, which I'm fairly certain is beyond post-Change capabilities to create, so I would've wasted away in less than a year. But I also FAR prefer urban life to rural. I grew up in rural and small-town settings, and I haven't the least interest in going back. Rudi Mackenzie and I would, I believe, find precious little common ground.

    A related thing is that in one of Marion Zimmer Bradley's novels, a fellow on a medieval-culture world comments on people from offworld wearing eyeglasses. He says that on his world, people with poor eyesight wouldn't be PERMITTED TO READ, because reading would damage their vision further and make them a burden. When I read that, I hoped for the rest of the book somebody would stick a sword through that [incredibly vile expletive deleted]. I expect that post-Change, making corrective lenses is a lot more labor-intensive and thus expensive, and those with poor vision must often do without — and perhaps be forced to forgo reading.

    Apropos of nothing:
    "The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that this was some KILLER weed."

    1. Kaor, DAVID!

      I agree with what you wrote here. The lack of an advanced pharmacology alone means many, many would soon die of problems of the kind you have. Others like diabetics comes to mind. And while I think I've seen mention of spectacles being made post-Change, it must be more difficult and costly.

      I think S.M. Stirling kind of glossed over difficulties of the kind you cited. The Change might be good for young and healthy persons. But what about when they start getting problems like yours or need really major surgery and can't get either the medications or the surgery because the technology is simply not THERE???


    2. Sean:
      Then they die. And people become case-hardened about it after a while, although they may still try to make the dying "comfortable."

      Also, that flushing sound you hear is women's freedoms and careers going down the drain, because a low-tech and low-population society CAN'T permit fertile women to do much more than have babies. You quibble about the number of women Mr. Stirling shows as effective warriors because you don't think most could handle it physically, but I say after a mass die-off such as the Change, women wouldn't be ALLOWED to risk themselves in battle if it could be avoided.

    3. Kaor, DAVID!

      Your first paragraph, I agree! Altho I can imagine charitable orders of the Catholic Church focusing on care of the sick. And one point I forgot to stress, the KNOWLEDGE of how make advanced pharmaceuticals and carry out difficult surgeries might still be FOUND or available, but not the ability to USE it.

      Second paragraph. Again, I agree! I should have realized no SENSIBLE society forced to live at a low level of technology would have permitted so many of its young women to risk their lives in battle. So, both physical strength and reproductive need would have STRONGLY discouraged the kind of implausibility we see Stirling making about women in the Change books.