Monday, 31 July 2017

Written Wisdom

Copied from the James Blish Appreciation blog:

During their long journey to the galactic Heart Stars, Jack Loftus, Sandbag Stevens and their mentor, Dr Langer, have a lot of time to think and talk. They discuss a Biblical passage which Sandbag renders as:

"'He who darkens counsel without knowledge isn't earning his keep.'"
-James Blish, Mission To The Heart Stars (London, 1980), Chapter Eight, p. 91.

When Jack asks what good is written wisdom when we cannot understand it until we have experienced it for ourselves, Langer replies:

"'Not very much good, in my opinion...Written wisdom, it has always seemed to me, is like an algebraic formula: it states the general case as elegantly as possible, but all the terms in the equation are parameters which you must fill specifically in terms of your own experience. You need to have led a rich and thoughtful life before the formula becomes applicable to you. If you are, in addition, especially thoughtful, you may in the long run be able to refine the formula itself. But that doesn't happen very often. It's a noble ambition, though, I think.'" (ibid.)

Interesting. But how many people can refine proverbs? Blish usually discusses and dramatizes the acquisition of new knowledge through science, not the formulation of timeless wisdom.

When I was at University, a fellow undergraduate made an interesting distinction between proverbs and slogans. Proverbs are relatively changeless and timeless whereas slogans focus the need for immediate action to change something:

"No taxation without representation!"
"Liberty, equality, fraternity - or death!"
"Land, peace and bread!"
"All power to the soviets!" (When those were still popular, democratic institutions, of course.)

I looked up Blish's discussion of experiential knowledge because I had read:

"'Training does only so much. Experience you have to get the hard way.'"
-SM Stirling. The Tears Of The Sun (New York, 2012), Chapter Fifteen, p. 465 -

- which in turn reminded me of some reflections on Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series. See More On Everard and The Quotable Time Patrol.

Myth Meets Economics

Copied from the Science Fiction blog:

SM Stirling, The Tears Of The Sun (New York, 2012) is an fsf mix so it is appropriate to discuss it on an sf blog. There are gods but they are scientifically rationalized. Mind, sometimes manifesting as gods, evolved in an earlier universe and now transforms new universes from their beginnings. (Norse gods originated in a precosmic void so the origin of Stirling's gods is legitimate.)

Let's look at history in our universe before we get into Stirling's fiction. Why were kings powerful?

Mythological answer: because they were descended from and appointed by gods.

Economic answer: because social labour had produced a surplus that maintained, and was controlled by, a ruling class.

My response: appreciate the mythology and understand the economics.

In Stirling's fiction:

high technology stopped working in the Change;
economies retrogressed to cannibal, tribal, feudal etc;
many populations have taken refuge in diverse mythologies;
and beings answering the descriptions of gods, saints and demons have become active both in the Change and in the subsequent course of events.

Now, in this context:

"The Destined Prince with the Magic Sword is wonderful, but less wonderful when he asks you to cough up every tenth bushel and piglet and takes out a mortgage on your farm." (Chapter Fifteen, p. 463)

Myth meets economics. A divinely appointed High King must raise taxes to wage expensive wars against demonolaters. Why can't the gods be more helpful by making him financially independent, e.g., with a secretly located, privately owned gold mine?

A Few More Details In The Time Machine

Copied from the Logic of Time Travel blog:

See A Few Details In The Time Machine.

One detail that I missed before was the detailed description of the model Time Machine:

"The thing the Time Traveller held in his hand was a glittering metallic framework, scarcely larger than a clock, and very delicately made. There was ivory in it, and some transparent crystalline substance."
-HG Wells, The Time Machine (London, 1973), Chapter 2, p. 13.

On closer inspection, that description is not very detailed but it gives that impression. It is appropriate that this hand-held Time Machine is compared to a clock, that it contains an exotic substance, ivory, and that the transparent crystalline substance remains unidentified. We know something of what the Time Machine looks like but not, of course, how it works.

But every description in The Time Machine is appropriate:

the substantial-seeming full-size Time Machine is unstable, swaying like a branch in the wind;
the model looks "'...singularly askew...'" (p. 14) and one part of it seems unreal;
the ruddy sunset sets the Time Traveller's mind on the sunset of mankind (Chapter 6, p. 37).

Another detail is the eclipse in Chapter 14, "The Further Vision." The day darkens as a concavity grows across the curve of the large red sun which is now motionless on the horizon:

"'Either the moon or the planet Mercury was passing across the sun's disk. Naturally, at first I took it to be the moon, but there is much to incline me to believe that what I really saw was an inner planet passing very near to the earth.'" (p. 94)

But Mercury would have to pass very close to cover the entire swollen solar disk as it proceeds to do. And what inclines the Time Traveller to believe that this was not the moon? Earth now has one face to the sun so maybe that is enough to indicate that the moon is not there any more? Here, the experience of Poul Anderson's Martin Saunders closely parallels that of Wells' Time Traveller:

"Saunders looked out on a bare mountain scene, grim as the Moon - but the Moon had long ago fallen back toward its parent world and exploded into a meteoric rain. Earth faced its primary now; its day was as long as its year. Saunders saw part of the sun's huge blood-red disc shining wanly."
-Poul Anderson, "Flight to Forever" IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 207-288 AT p. 284.

Wells wrote about the Time Traveller and his Time Machine. Wells' successors, including Anderson, write about time travellers and their time machines. Heinlein wrote the Future History. Heinlein's successors, including Anderson, write future histories. (Of course, Wells and Stapledon also wrote future histories but on a different model.)

One more detail:

the Time Traveller fancies that he sees a black object flopping about on the beach of the salt Dead Sea;
rereading, we remember that there was such a flopping object;
then he judges that the object is motionless and is a mere rock;
we think that we were mistaken to remember a moving object;
then, after a while, he sees that it is indeed moving, like a tentacled football;
it is the last thing that he sees before he returns home.

Did Wells deliberately write that passage in such a way that anyone reading the text for a second time would think that he had been mistaken but would then rediscover the fitfully hopping object, " against the weltering blood-red water..."? (p. 95) Probably not.

Interminable Voyage

Copied from the Logic of Time Travel blog:

The text in this image is an abridgement of lines in HG Wells, The Time Machine (London, 1973), Chapter 2, pp. 13-14.

" was the Psychologist himself who sent forth the model Time Machine on its interminable voyage." (p. 14)

When Time Patrolman Keith Denison is captured by some locals in ancient Persia, he kicks his "brazen horse"/timecycle into time-drive and later explains to his Patrol rescuer:

"'That's why the search party didn't find the thing. It was only a few hours in this century, then it probably went clear back to the Beginning.'"
-Poul Anderson, "Brave To Be A King" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), pp. 55-112 AT p. 83.

Thus, both the model Time Machine and one Time Patrol timecycle are launched on an "interminable voyage." Neither can return because neither has a passenger able to control it. However, when the Time Machine travels from one Thursday in 1895 to a day in 802,701, it passes through every intervening time whereas a timecycle disappears at one set of spatiotemporal coordinates and appears at another so I think that Denison would have had to punch in a specific destination although he might not have noticed what it was.

On p. 14, the Time Traveller points out that "'...this lever...'" sends the model machine into the future whereas "'...this other...'" lever reverses its motion. He says that he will send the model into the future, then guides the Psychologist's hand to press the appropriate lever. However, on p. 15, he is not sure whether the model has gone into the past or the future.

The model Time Machine resembles the Time Patrol message shuttles which can be sent to specific coordinates.

The model:

"'...looks singularly askew...'" (p. 14);
has an oddly twinkling bar that seems somehow unreal.

Somehow unreal because it is not fully present in the here and now or because the notion of time travel is unrealistic? One of James Blish's names for an FTL drive is "the Imaginary Drive."

Round Trips II

Copied from the Logic of Time Travel blog:

See Round Trips.

The Time Machine is an inexhaustible text. See recent posts on this blog and on Poul Anderson Appreciation.

If I travel from Lancaster to York and back, then that is a "round trip" and its distance has to be exactly twice the length of the one way trip in either direction, whereas, if I travel from Lancaster to Lancaster around the circumference of the Earth, is that also a "round trip"? It is both round and a trip but not a "round trip" in the sense of to another destination and back again. In fact, it is considerably longer. And a round trip from Lancaster to Lancaster and back again would be twice the circumference of the Earth.

I ask this because time travel fiction presents both kinds of "trip." The Time Traveller visits the far future and returns to the late nineteenth century whereas Poul Anderson's Martin Saunders in "Flight to Forever" travels from 1973 to 1973 around the circle of time. Anderson goes further than Wells: not only to the transformation of the sun into a red giant and to the end of all life on Earth but also to the end of the universe and even beyond that. "Flight to Forever" and other time travel works by Anderson should be read after The Time Machine.

Round Trips

A round trip returns travellers to their starting point, in Tolkien's phrase: "There and back again." A long spatial round trip with the benefit of time dilation can return interstellar explorers to a changed Solar System tens or hundreds of millennia after their departure, as in Starfarers by Poul Anderson or in A World Out Of Time by Larry Niven. To this extent, such a round trip resembles a long one way time travel journey like the "time projection" in Midsummer Century by James Blish.

A temporal round trip would be "then and back again," as in The Time Machine by HG Wells or in "Flight to Forever" by Poul Anderson. To be complete, such a round trip should return the time traveller to the moment of his departure whereas the Time Traveller re-enters his nineteenth century laboratory several hours after leaving it although he had spent several days in the future.

Did Wells and his earliest readers simply assume that a return must happen after a departure or did Wells deliberately avoid the obvious paradoxes: could the Time Traveller have returned in time to see his younger self departing? Could he even have prevented that departure? Can a younger and an older Time Traveller coexist and converse? The story is tantalizing for the questions that it implies but does not ask.

The Sunset Of Mankind

HG Wells' The Time Machine and Poul Anderson's Genesis share:

imaginative and creative sf;
colorful descriptions of future periods;
reflections on the direction and ultimate fate of civilization;
a cosmic temporal perspective;
the decadence and eventual extinction of mankind.

We have commended Anderson's descriptions of sunsets, including one in Genesis. See A Perfect Haiku and Sunrise And Sunset.

The Time Machine, Chapter 6, "The Sunset Of Mankind," contains this descriptive passage:

"The sun had already gone below the horizon and the west was flaming gold, touched with some horizontal bars of purple and crimson. Below was the valley of the Thames, in which the river lay like a band of burnished steel." (p. 36)


"It seemed to me that I had happened upon humanity on the wane. The ruddy sunset set me thinking of the sunset of mankind." (p. 37)

Pathetic fallacy? The text of the novel begins on p. 7. Thus, only thirty pages into the text, the Time Traveller is beginning to draw conclusions about 802,701 AD although he does not yet have the full facts. He has seen the Eloi but not yet the Morlocks.

Poul Anderson connects a sunset with the decline of empire. See Irumclaw.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Daring Escapes

Meanwhile, I have read to the end of the rescue mission. See here. Our heroes and those that they have rescued are besieged on the flat roof of a tall building. When their rescuing airship approaches, some of them leap off the building to grab the airship's tethering ropes...

This reminded me of a scene in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. The Batman, one arm around the (female) Robin, leaps through a high window of a skyscraper and grabs the automatically controlled Batwing hovering just outside. He now has one hand grasping the Batwing and the other holding Robin's gloved hand. Her hand slips out of the glove - and she grabs hold of his cape.

I have a healthy respect for heights.

"All Possible Dimensions"

HG Wells' Time Traveller argues that:

bodies extend through four dimensions (an instantaneous cube is impossible);

time is the fourth dimension;

only our dimensionless, immaterial minds move along that dimension;

but his Time Machine can accelerate along that dimension (here he contradicts himself).

I have argued against the Time Traveller's account here.

An instructor at the Time Patrol Academy informs recruits that:

travel into the past "'...requires infinitely discontinuous functions for its mathematical description...[and]...involves infinite-valued relationships in a continuum of 4N dimensions, where N is the total number of particles in the universe.'"
-Poul Anderson, "Time Patrol" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), pp. 1-53 AT p. 9.

Anderson updates the sf rationale for time travel! And there is a big difference between four and 4N dimensions!

Despite his limitation to only four dimensions, the Time Traveller worries that, if his vehicle occupies the same space as another object, then the resultant explosion will:

"...blow myself and my apparatus out of all possible dimensions - into the Unknown."
-HG Wells, The Time Machine (London, 1973), Chapter 4, p. 26.

Surely an explosion would merely destroy the Machine? But I am interested in his references to "all possible dimensions" and to an "Unknown" beyond them. These imply other story possibilities. When the Doctor's vehicle occupied the same space as another time machine, both exploded but then reappeared on a blank TV screen where the time travellers met Chronos, the god of time. The Doctor, like several of Poul Anderson's characters, is a successor of Wells' Time Traveller.

Is Time Light Or Heavy?

"Everard climbed weakly aboard the hopper. And when he got off again, a decade had passed."
-Poul Anderson, "Time Patrol" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), pp. 1-53 AT p. 53.

I have quoted this conclusion to the first Time Patrol story several times before. See here. Everard has time travelled forward a decade and also feels the weight of time. So time can be heavy.

"And so my mind came round to the business of stopping.
"The peculiar risk lay in the possibility of my finding some substance in the space which I, or the machine, occupied. So long as I travelled at a high velocity through time, that scarcely mattered: I was, so to speak, attenuated - was slipping like a vapour through the interstices of intervening substances!"
-HG Wells, The Time Machine (London, 1973), Chapter 4, p. 26.

In Wells' account, a traveller through time, if not time itself, has such a high velocity that he is attentuated, vaporous, slipping through the intervening spaces (see here) of substances. When he departs into time, he is ghostly, indistinct and transparent. See here. When the outer narrator touches the substantial-looking Time Machine, it sways like a branch in the wind and he is exremely startled by its instability. (Chapter 16, p. 99)
Is that a hint that time travel threatens the stability of reality  - or instead that the Time Traveller's story is itself insubstantial?

The Day After The Second Dinner

Copied from the Logic of Time Travel blog:

Even a single, apparently straightforward, temporal round trip can generate complexities. On the day after the second dinner, the Time Traveller is simultaneously present in his laboratory three times.

(i) The Time Machine bearing the Time Traveller is invisibly present in the south-east corner of the laboratory, "travelling" into the future.

(ii) The Machine bearing the Traveller is invisibly present against the north-west wall on its return journey. The Traveller says, "'...where you saw it...'" (p. 96) but surely the guests at the first dinner saw the Machine only before its departure?

(iii) Until about midday, the Machine is visibly present against the north-west wall. The Time Traveller, carrying a camera and a knapsack, enters the laboratory, mounts the Machine and departs for a second time into either the past or the future but he never returns. If he travels into the past, then an invisible Machine is present during the earlier part of the day whereas, if he travels into the future, then the invisible Machine is present during the later part of the day.

It is Time Traveller (ii) that glimpses "Hillyer." See here.

Through Space And Time With Wells And Anderson

Wells' Cavor and Bedford travelled to the Moon and Bedford returned alone whereas Andersonian populations build interstellar civilizations, colonize spiral arms and trade between galaxies.

Wells' Martians invaded Earth, where they lacked immunity to Terrestrial micro-organisms, whereas humanity interacts with many extraterrestrial species for good or ill in Anderson's works.

Wells wrote one volume of future history whereas Anderson wrote several future history series.

Wells' single Time Traveller explored the remote future and returned to the nineteenth century whereas many Andersonian characters make complicated journeys backwards and forwards through past and future time.

However, even the simplest example of time travel gets complicated as I will show in the next post.

"Certain Death Unless Everything Went Right"

"They weren't simply going to a fight, they were going to a fight that was certain death unless everything went right, including actions by strangers they didn't know beyond a brief acquaintance."
-SM Stirling, The Tears Of The Sun (New York, 2012), Chapter Fourteen, p. 413.

The Rangers' Mormon allies wearing enemy uniforms emerge from a warehouse and march through the enemy capital with wagons concealing the Rangers. They are on a rescue mission. How likely would they be to succeed if this were real life? Fiction, to be realistic, has to show some failures. I am reminded of Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry and his fiancee, Kossara, concealed among Merseians marching on the Dennitzan Parliament - where Kossara will be killed in an attempted coup...

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Thank Varda

"Christ, Varda, whatever, thank You..."
-SM Stirling, The Tears Of The Sun (New York, 2012), Chapter Thirteen, p. 402.

I offer this kind of prayer. I am thankful for life and for many good things in it. We should certainly thank our ancestors for their legacy. It is at least possible that other powerful beings, unknown to us, also contribute.

I think that our remote ancestors, proto-human beings, became self-conscious individuals, persons, by interacting and conversing with each other. It is therefore natural that they and we have:

internalized speech as thought and shame as guilt;
personified, then verbally addressed, natural forces and Nature;
sometimes, though not always, personified the transcendent (either "He" or "That" in Hinduism).

Since we do not know the names of any hypothetical benefactors, it is legitimate to invoke fictional names like "Varda." Anyone who believes that Varda literally exists is letting their imagination run away with them. Value imagination but do not let it usurp the roles either of intellect or of intuition.

Fictional Treatments Of Fictional Texts

In the alternative timeline of Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest, William Shakespeare is not the great dramatist but the Great Historian whose texts, recording Englishmen speaking English in ancient times, are thought to prove that the English are the Lost Tribes of Israel.

John Watson's stories are published in the timeline of Sherlock Holmes, thus enabling Holmes, on his return from Reichenbach, to comment that Watson had been inaccurate in one detail of "The Final Problem." In SM Stirling's alternative history novel, The Peshawar Lancers, Conan Doyle wrote those same stories as alternative history fictions. See here.

In Olaf Stapledon's Last And First Men, a mentally time travelling Neptunian observer inspires the author to write what the latter thinks is fiction and indeed he does garble most of it.

In SM Stirling's Emberverse, the Rangers believe that Tolkien:

"...was The Historian, inspired by the Valar demigods even if he didn't know it..."
-SM Stirling, The Tears Of The Sun (New York, 2012), Chapter Twelve, p. 362.

And, if there are any more ways to turn both reality and fiction inside out, then I would like to hear them.

Sunrise And Sunset

A sunrise:

"Above the cliffs, a few eastern cliffs turned red."
-Poul Anderson, Mirkheim IN Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (Riverdale, NY, 2011), pp. 1-291 AT p. 291.

For discussion of this sunrise, see:

Colourful Ambiguous Symbolism
Red In The Morning

A sunset:

"The sun was low in the west, turning the thin clouds there crimson, and the sky was darkening towards night eastward behind the distant line of Blue Mountains. At least it would drop to decent sleeping weather later. The air here was too dry to hold the heat long.
"The end of a long summer day..."
-SM Stirling, The Tears Of The Sun (New York, 2012), Chapter Twelve, p. 338.

In Stirling's passage, we note:

three colour words, "crimson," "darkening" and "Blue," even if the mountains are not really blue;
an appeal to at least one other sense, "dry" and "heat";
that always evocative phrase, "...a long summer day..."

At any time of the year, we can remember or imagine long summer days.


Poul Anderson, American and agnostic, shows us contemporary York (see York Minster) and presents Catholic characters, like van Rijn and Axor, sympathetically. SM Stirling presents authentic British characters, like Sir Nigel Loring, and settings, like Newport Pagnell, and understands every religion that he writes about.

Further, Stirling acknowledges his sources. Thus, let us on this blog also thank:

Steve Brady for assistance with dialects and British background;
Kier Salmon for help with the Old Religion;
Diana L. Paxson for information on Asatru;
Dale Price for help with Catholic organization, theology and praxis.

Stirling also acknowledges other sources but here I focus specifically on the British and religious backgrounds.

SM Stirling, The Tears Of The Sun (New York, 2011), Acknowledgments.


Poul Anderson's "Star of the Sea" ends with a prayer to the Virgin Mary. See here. Prayer is not only speaking but also hearing:

"I must listen for the voice of the saint or the Imacculata with calm or I won't hear it."
-SM Stirling, The Tears Of The Sun (New York, 2011), Chapter Ten, p. 306.

In zazen meditation, instead of thinking about a problem, we sit with whatever comes up and thus learn what is important. We listen calmly even to inner turmoil. In this one sentence of Stirling's novel, I find an overlap between prayer and meditation.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Ghosts In The Future

Ghosts are fantasy, not sf - as a rule. Robert Heinlein's Martians have direct contact with their "Old Ones." CS Lewis surprised me when, reading his Ransom Trilogy out of order, I came across, early in Volume II, the startling statement that, on Mars, Ransom had encountered beings that were both extraterrestrial and supernatural - both alien and uncanny! Characters in hard sf can think that they see ghosts. See a relevant quotation from Poul Anderson's The Day Of Their Return here.

When Wells' Time Traveller first glimpses Morlocks as white figures at night, he remembers Grant Allen's notion that, if each generation dies and leaves ghosts, then the world should eventually become overcrowded with such ghosts. In The Goblin Reservation by Clifford Simak, because a future University has both a Time Travel Department and a Supernatural Department, William Shakespeare is able to meet his own ghost. See here.

This idea of ghosts in the future has enabled us to assemble references to:

Robert Heinlein
CS Lewis
Poul Anderson
HG Wells
Grant Allen
Clifford Simak

Names to conjure with. I had never heard of Grant Allen before but he is yet another period reference in The Time Machine. It is late, approaching the hour at which people see ghosts, and I am out of here.

Emberverse And Ys

SM Stirling's Emberverse reminds me in some respects of Poul and Karen Anderson's The King Of Ys:

politics and war with swords;
deities in the background;
a divinely chosen King.

In the Ysan milieu, the many ancient gods were retreating before one new God whereas, in the Emberverse, the One and the Many coexist. In Ys, Gratillonius, a Mithraist servant of a Christian state who is also the incarnation of the Ysan Taranis, has insoluble conflicts with the Gods (!) whereas Artos will remain true to Those Who gave him the Sword. Gratillonius must consult a bishop so that he will be able to appoint a suitable Christian minister to Ys whereas Artos will marry a Catholic for both personal and political reasons.

The King Of Ys is a discrete, but thankfully lengthy, tetralogy where Emberverse is a continuing sequence of trilogies. Is this what Game Of Thrones is like? I have neither read nor seen any of that series as yet.

Current Blogging And Reading

The previous post, on engaging with the future (see here), compared:

one short novel by HG Wells;
one short novel by James Blish;
two long series by Poul Anderson;
three novels by Anderson;
one long story by Anderson.

Thus, Anderson matches Wells and Blish in quality of imaginative fiction and surpasses both in quantity.

See also "A Few Details In The Time Machine," here.

Meanwhile, I am reading for the first time SM Stirling's The Tears Of The Sun, not futuristic sf but alternative history fiction. Stirling understands that, if he is to write about war, then he must also write about the preparations for war. We learn the High King Artos' plans for the coming major conflict and next we will learn how that war is to proceed in practice.

Onward and upward!

Ways To Engage With The Future

Science fiction writers imagine futures. Some imagine many. How many does Poul Anderson have in short stories, novels and series?

Anderson's Nicholas van Rijn and Dominic Flandry live in different periods of a single future history although, of course, each regards his period as the present. Flandry makes provision for the post-Imperial Long Night, shown in a later story.

The characters in James Blish's "Beep"/The Quincunx Of Time not only live in our future but also receive messages from different periods of their future. Thus, they really do engage with the future although without travelling into it.

Characters in Anderson's Starfarers also receive messages from their future.

HG Wells' Time Traveller traverses the entire future of life on Earth.

Anderson's Manse Everard visits 2319 and we believe other future periods and also knows of the post-human Danellians a million years hence.

Anderson's Malcolm Lockridge visits several historical periods and two future periods but winds up in the Bronze Age.

Anderson's Jack Havig travels into the future, never to return. He will leave the Solar System by time travelling futureward within a slower than light interstellar spaceship to a colony planet.

Anderson's Martin Saunders time travels forward around the circle of time and back to 1973.

After recent posts, I now see Wells' Time Traveller flickering impalpably through time somewhere in the background behind all of Anderson's characters.

After-Dinner Conversations

An after-dinner conversation is a comfortable setting for the narration of a "story within the story," e.g.:

HG Wells, The Time Machine;
Ian Fleming, "Quantum of Solace,"
Poul Anderson - which short story? (I forget the title.)

James Bond has dinner with the British Governor in Nassau who recounts a story about one of the other guests after she has left. Dominic Flandry has dinner with the Imperial resident on Diomedes, Martin Lagard, and his wife, Susette. Flandry recounts a risque reminiscence at which Lagard smiles sourly but Susette laughs and blushes. Anderson does not share the reminiscence with his readers. Later, Flandry and Susette do more than converse and Flandry gathers intelligence from what he persuades her to divulge.

Glory to the Emperor!


Science fiction refers to scientists, both fictional, like James Blish's Haertel, and real, like Einstein (see image), Dirac, Mach, Milne and Dingle (see here). A "Mach drive" is one of Poul Anderson's several FTL drives. Rereading HG Wells' The Time Machine (London, 1973), we find and take for granted this topical reference:

"'...some philosophical people have been asking why three dimensions particularly - why not another direction at right angles to the other three? - and have even tried to construct a Four-Dimensional geometry. Professor Simon Newcomb was expounding this to the New York Mathematical Society only a month or so ago.'" (Chapter 1, p. 9)

We accept Newcomb as we accept every other period reference in The Time Machine. The text is rich in such references, placing this novel firmly in its own period before its protagonist launches himself "'...into futurity.'" (Chapter 4, p. 25) Now, however, it is an easy matter to google the pre-Einstein Newcomb, who even turns out to have written a science fiction novel!

Anderson and Blish cite Einstein etc when rationalizing their FTL drives. Now Newcomb, expounding four dimensional space, joins this august company. It is quite a thing to be named in The Time Machine.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Two First SF Novels

Poul Anderson's Brain Wave:

had an original premise;
fully developed every implication of its premise;
initiated a long, prolific, creative writing career.

HG Wells' The Time Machine:

had an original premise;
hinted at implications that were developed by Wells' successors, notably by Anderson;
was followed by some good sf but also by a lot of repetitive propaganda.

This is unfair to Wells. His contributions are greater than is suggested by this comparison. He:

wrote two major interplanetary novels;
pioneered future history;
accurately, almost prophetically, predicted and warned against the consequences of air warfare, the result of twentieth century technology in the hands of nineteenth century nation-states.

Saving The Appearances

In many works of sf, bizarre events occur behind the scenes throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. To give just three examples:

the Time Traveller on his Time Machine is invisibly present in Richmond, London, from about 1895 and throughout the twentieth century;

timecycles arrive and depart in hidden locations;

Wardens and Rangers from two thousand years in the future enter or exit time corridors at particular times and places.

The fictional convention is that the on-stage events of the these two centuries proceeded as remembered or recorded despite such odd behind-the-scenes occurences. The appearances are saved.

However, I am not sure that Wells does save his appearances. On the one hand, he goes to elaborate lengths to conceal the names of the Time Traveller and of most of his dinner guests. On the other hand, he concludes Chapter 16, just before the Epilogue, by writing:

"The Time Traveller vanished three years ago. And, as everyone knows now, he has never returned." (p. 101)

If "...everyone knows...," then the Time Traveller, unlike Poul Anderson's various time travellers, is a public figure whose name is known and his vanishment is a matter of record.

Future Furniture

How often, in Poul Anderson's futuristic sf, do we read about self-adjusting furniture automatically molding itself to the body shape of whoever sits on it - provided that they relax and cooperate, of course?

In the Technic History:

"Torres gave the chair no opportunity to mold itself to him. Perched on the edge, he proceeded harshly..."
-Poul Anderson, "Margin of Profit" IN Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (Riverdale, NY, 2009), pp. 135-173 AT p. 140.

"[Coya] sat down on the edge of the spare lounger, ignored its attempts to match her contours..."
-Poul Anderson, "Lodestar" IN Anderson, David Falkayn: Star Trader (Riverdale, NY, 2010), pp. 633-680 AT p. 649.

Both Torres and Coya are confronting Nicholas van Rijn, which explains why neither is relaxed.

And at the Time Patrol Academy in the Oligocene period:

"Dard Kelm demonstrated the gadgets in a typical room. They were the sort you would have expected by, say, A.D. 2000: unobtrusive furniture readily adjusted to a perfect fit, refresher cabinets, screens which could draw on a huge library of recorded sight and sound for entertainment. Nothing too advanced, as yet."
-Poul Anderson, "Time Patrol" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2006), pp. 1-53 AT p. 8.

Well, who invented such self-adjusting furniture? You are not going to believe it:

"The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us...Our chairs, being his patents, embraced and caressed us rather than submitted to be sat upon..."
-HG Wells, The Time Machine (London, 1973), Chapter 1, p. 7 (the opening page of the text)

Flies And Flypaper

"'Let the flies conquer the flypaper,' she said..."
-SM Stirling, The Tears Of The Sun (New York, 2012), Chapter Eight, p. 198.

Our old friends, the flies and the flypaper again. Increasingly, before posting about a word or phrase, I need to check whether I have already done so. See here. Both Stirling and Anderson quote Steinbeck. Please read the previous post, its link and comments.

Former Enemies

In the twentieth century (history), in Star Trek (futuristic sf), in Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization (future history) and in SM Stirling's Emberverse (alternative history), former enemies become friends and allies.


a pity that we could not all have been friends in the first place!;

can this process continue until every enemy has been transformed into a friend?;

I think that some societies deny their own internal conflicts by projecting them outwards, e.g., campaigners against local injustices must be agents of a foreign power?;

looking ahead to the blurbs for later novels, there seems to be a dynamic in the Emberverse that throws up a new enemy every time one has been defeated?;

I still hope for an eventual age of peace both in the real world and in others.

More Martians

Something else common to HG Wells and Poul Anderson is several references to Martians in their respective works. For Anderson's Martians and also for more general discussion of Mars and its inhabitants, see here.

A single Martian race observes Earth in "The Crystal Egg" and invades it in The War Of The Worlds;

Martian astronomers observe Earth in "The Star";

in The Autocracy Of Mr Parham, the title character dreams that he is possessed by a Martian warlord;

in Star-Begotten (and here) some people convince themselves that Martians are influencing Earth.

However, this amounts to only two real Martian races.

The Time Machine And The Terran Empire

Today we walked to the Hest Bank Inn again.

It is blog policy to continue posting on a theme until that theme is exhausted for the time being. The Time Machine and time travel seem to be inexhaustible. I compared HG Wells' Time Traveller to Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry in The Wellsian Vision.

Now let us consider future histories. For Anderson's, see here. Wells' works imply perhaps three future histories:

the ascent and descent of mankind in The Time Machine;
the ultimate revolution of The Shape Of Things To Come;
the industrial capitalism of The Sleeper Wakes, "A Dream of Armageddon" and "A Story of the Days to Come." (See here)

While flinging himself into "futurity," the Time Traveller glimpses, in the dim and elusive world racing and fluctuating around him:

great and splendid architecture, "...built of glimmer and mist..." (The Time Machine, Chapter 4, p. 25);
green hills "...without any wintry intermission." (ibid.)

Thus, he passes over the entire advancement and decline of civilization. But what else had happened between 1895 and 802,701 besides the eventual devolution into Morlocks and Eloi? It is to be hoped that Cavorite or some other means of interplanetary propulsion had been discovered and that undevolved human beings still exist elsewhere in the 803rd century, perhaps in a Wellsian counterpart to Anderson's Terran Empire?

A Sheriff's Hospitality

SM Stirling, The Tears Of The Sun (New York, 2012), Chapter Seven, p. 165.

Time travelling (see recent posts) need not get in the way of eating:

platters of grilled pork chops crusted with chili-flavored breading;
mashed potatoes with chives and butter;
glazed carrots;
orecchiette pasta and brocolli baked with pine nuts and cheese;
onion-and-cabbage pancakes with sour cream;
hot biscuits;
fresh bread;
cold spring water;
red wine.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

What Can Time Travellers Do?

I will list fifteen answers to this question, then list the titles of twelve relevant works, all but one by Poul Anderson.

(i) Explore the future.
(ii) Influence the future.
(iii) Become involved in circular causality paradoxes.
(iv) Time travel back and forth within slower than light interstellar spaceships.
(v) Use modern knowledge to survive in the past.
(vi) Perish in the past because of lack of appropriate skills.
(vii) Raid and plunder through time under cover of recorded atrocities.
(viii) Try to change the past for good or ill.
(ix) Study and record past events in order to prevent temporal alterations.
(x) Wage war through time.
(xi) Escape from an imminent nuclear war.
(xii) Exile criminals to the past.
(xiii) Retire to a preferred earlier period.
(xiv) Trade through time.
(xv) If seriously ill, hope to benefit from future medicine.

The Time Machine
"Flight To Forever"
There Will Be Time
The Corridors Of Time
"The Little Monster"
"The Man Who Came Early"
"The Nest"
The Time Patrol series
"My Object All Sublime"
"Time Heals"

A Potential Series

Whereas the stories of Malcolm Lockridge and of Jack Havig are complete, each in his single novel, The Corridors Of Time And There Will Be Time respectively, we are glad that Manse Everard and his many colleagues in the Time Patrol were given a series and also that that series lasted as long as it did. Like the same author's History of Technic Civilization, we want it to last forever but that is impossible.

By contrast, we want to know much more about HG Wells' Time Traveller whose character is succinctly delineated by a few lines in the opening paragraph of Chapter 3. In Chapter 16, "After The Story," which is followed only by the short Epilogue, the outer narrator asks the Time Traveller whether he really travels through time. He replies:

"'Really and truly I do.'"
-HG Wells, The Time Machine (London, 1973), p. 100.

He follows this with an invitation to wait half an hour, have lunch and receive proof. That reads like the beginning of a series, not like the last words that this character will ever utter. The Epilogue suggests six sequels:

that the Time Traveller fell among the savages of the Age of Unpolished Stone;
that he fell into the abysses of the Cretaceous Sea;
that he fell among the Jurassic saurians;
that he is "even now " (p. 101) wandering on a plesiosaurus-haunted Oolitic coral reef;
that he is "...beside the lonely saline seas of the Triassic Age";
that he went forward into "...the manhood of the race..." (ibid.)

All that in a few lines but Wells went on to write other things - and none as good as this. In a sense, the Time Traveller lives on in his many successors but any direct sequel (see here) should extend Wells' legacy, not add ideas that we know originated later. And no sequel that I know of succeeds.

But Poul Anderson could have done it.

Six Kinds Of Time Travel

The Time Traveller, invisibly and intangibly seated on the Time Machine, fast forwards or rewinds his environment.

Jack Havig by an act of will pulls the same stunt as the Time Traveller.

A Time Patrolman, seated on his timecycle, disappears from one set of spatiotemporal coordinates and appears at another with neither experienced duration nor physical aging between departure and arrival.

Martin Saunders, able to move around inside his spatially stationary time projector, sees only grayness through its porthole. Thus, the time projector resembles the Doctor's TARDIS except that the latter is bigger inside than out and moves through space as well as time.

Wardens and Rangers walk or drive along corridors that have been constructed in space, then rotated onto the temporal axis.

A different kind of machine projects travellers through time.

The Time Traveller, while travelling, sees Earth changing, e.g., seasonal changes ceasing, the day lengthening or the sun growing and reddening, whereas Saunders must periodically stop to check whether he is under the sea, inside a mountain, in empty space, in a molten environment etc. Thus, a lot hangs on what means of time travel is imagined.

"Flight to Forever"

Poul Anderson's "Flight to Forever" has a fine opening paragraph which I discuss here. The timeline of the story is summarized here: Part I; Part II.

Memorable passages include Saunder's farewell to the sun:

"So, good-by, Sol, he thought. Good-by, and thank you for many million years of warmth and light. Sleep well, old friend."
-Poul Anderson, "Flight to Forever" IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 207-288 AT Chapter Six, p. 284.

Taury's reminiscence (see here):

"'...I thought I deserved this last farewell to the days when we fought with our own hands, and fared between the stars, when we were a small band of sworn comrades whose dreams outstripped our strength.'" (p. 275)

Saunder's reflection on his experience of future history:

"Man's works were so horribly impermanent; he thought with a sadness of the cites and civilizations he had seen rise and spend their little hour and sink back into the night and chaos of time." (Chapter 3, p. 238)

After The End Of Everything?

What comes after the end of everything - if everything has an end? Nothing. Unless everything begins again? Or something else begins? If there is a new beginning, then "the end of everything" meant "the end of everything that exists now," not "the end of everything that will ever exist." If the universe began as a quantum fluctuation, literally of something from nothing (see here), then what happened once can happen again.

For the Time Traveller, his experience of the end of life on Earth (see here) is not his last experience precisely because he is a time traveller:

"So I came back...The blinking succession of days and nights was resumed, the sun got golden again, the sky blue."
-HG Wells, The Time Machine (London, 1973), Chapter 15, p. 95.

For such literary expression of sf ideas, I think that Wells' principal successor is Poul Anderson, whose Martin Saunders travels beyond the end of life on Earth to the end of the universe, then beyond that:

"...there was nothing but the elemental dark. Entropy had reached a maximum, the energy sources, were used up, the universe was dead.
"The universe was dead!"
-Poul Anderson, "Flight to Forever" IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 207-288 AT Chapter Six, p. 284.

However, five paragraphs and billions of years later and after Saunders has eaten a sandwich inside his time projector:

"The universe was reforming." (p. 285)

Anderson's heroes usually find something to hope and strive towards. After his previous accomplishments, Saunders just has to keep moving forward.

The alternative endings shown to Artos (see here) were edged out of previous cycles into implausibility by the Goddess - straining comprehensibility.

Visions Of The End Of Life On Earth

Wells, The Time Machine
More than thirty million years hence, the motionless red sun covering nearly a tenth of the sky is totally eclipsed by a nearby inner planet. There is snow, ice, a cold wind and little life.

Anderson, "Flight To Forever"
A hundred million years hence, a gray-furred being carrying a brightly lit staff through a fierce snow storm is comprehensible through the psychophone and realizes that Saunders is from an earlier cycle in the far past.

A billion years hence, a non-human city warns Saunders away.

A hundred billion years hence, Earth has a Moon-like surface and Saunders sees part of the large red motionless sun.

Several billion years beyond, there is nothing.

Stirling, The Sword Of The Lady
The Triple Goddess grants alternative visions to Rudi Artos:

hot glowing sand, oceans reduced to hills of salt, bubbling pools, motionless air;

no air or sea, subliming ice, engines and energies in the sky;

birds flying in mathematical patterns, empty buildings, a man with silver tendrils instead of eyes.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017


"'Sir,' said Merlin, 'what will come of this? If they put forth their power, they will unmake all Middle Earth.'
"'Their naked power, yes,' said Ransom. 'That is why they will work only through a man.'"
-CS Lewis, That Hideous Strength IN Lewis, The Cosmic Trilogy (London, 1990), pp. 349-753 AT Chapter 13, 5, p. 653.

"'...we have made the Sword for you, to sever their power and show humankind the truth of things. That much we can do in this turn of the Wheel, without breaking reality asunder with our contentions. All the rest is your burden.'"
-SM Stirling, The Sword Of The Lady (New York, 2010), Chapter Twenty-One, p. 653.

Merlin and Artos are human instruments of the Powers which must work through such an instrument if they are not to unmake Middle Earth or break reality.


Visions Of Heaven

"...very far away I could see what might be either a great bank of cloud or a range of mountains. Sometimes I could make out in it steep forests, far-withdrawing valleys, and even mountain cities perched on inaccessible summits. At other times it became indistinct. The height was so enormous that my waking sight could not have taken in such an object at all. Light brooded on the top of it: slanting down thence it made long shadows behind every tree on the plain. There was no change and no progression as the hours passed. The promise - or the threat - of sunrise rested immovably up there."
-CS Lewis, The Great Divorce (London, 1982), p. 29.

"Far distant mountains climbed steep and blue, their peaks floating like peaks of white. [Ignatius] thought the silver towers of a city rose in their foothills, tall and slender and crowned with banners."
-SM Stirling, The Sword Of The Lady (New York, 2010), Chapter Twenty-One, p. 641.

"The abbot rested a hand on [Ignatius'] shoulder; it was a light touch, but the younger monk felt a sudden shock at the depth of the contact. As if he was a ghost, a figment, and the contact had revealed him as unreal, a dream within a dream that strove to wake itself from illusion."
-Stirling, op. cit., p. 643.

"Screaming, I buried my face in the folds of my Teacher's robe. 'The morning! The morning!' I cried, 'I am caught by the morning and I am a ghost.'"
-Lewis, op. cit., p. 117.

Comparing CS Lewis and SM Stirling with Poul Anderson leads to comparing them with each other.

Future Destinations

These are fanciful comparisons:

the Time Traveller, seated on the Time Machine, travels to 802,701 AD, then to his Further Vision;

Martin Saunders, in his time projector, travels to and beyond the end of the universe;

the crew of a Bussard ramjet, the Leonora Christine, makes the same journey as Saunders but by time dilation instead of by time travel;

Hugh Valland, benefiting from the antithanatic and from instantaneous spatial jumps, continues to travel between galaxies into an indefinite future;

the spaceship Chinook travels via T machines to a place where the Others study a new monobloc;

James Blish's New Earthmen and Hevians, propelled by antigravity, fly the planet He to the Metagalactic Centre in order to create new universes after the mutual annihilation of the matter and anti-matter universes;

SM Stirling's Rudi Artos Mackenzie, armed with and empowered by the Sword, travels into the High Kingdom of Montival which did not previously exist!

Many imaginative future destinations.

Previous Posts

I am frankly amazed at the conceptual connections between The Time Machine and Poul Anderson's time travel fiction highlighted in a few recent posts. e.g., in:

Conceptual Continuities
Outer Narrators
The Arrow Of Time In Wells And Anderson I
The Arrow Of Time In Wells And Anderson II

These connections emerged in the process of writing about them. Earlier discussion of The Time Machine, Anderson's Time Patrol and the Time Traveller's successor, Doctor Who, can be found here, including a suggested synthesis of these three works of fiction. I started to imagine this synthesis in Norwich Cathedral shortly after visiting Walsingham, the site of an Apparition of the Virgin Mary (see In Norwich) who also appears in SM Stirling's Emberverse series. See Emberverse Theology, also here. Connections everywhere.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Conceptual Continuities

Conceptual Continuities Between The Time Machine And Poul Anderson's Time Travel Fiction

The Time Traveller:

initiates a discussion that includes the idea of a visit to the Battle of Hastings;
sits on, not in, the Time Machine;
fast forwards, then rewinds, the rest of the universe;
inaccurately describes this process as motion along the temporal dimension;
causes the outer narrator to contemplate "curious possibilities";
encounters devolved humanity;
traverses the entire future history of life on Earth before returning to the nineteenth century.

Time Patrolmen:

visit historical battles;
sit on their timecycles;
address the "curious possibilities";
encounter the next stage of evolution after humanity.

Jack Havig fast forwards and rewinds the universe.

Wardens and Rangers literally move along the temporal dimension inside their corridors.

Martin Saunders traverses the entire future and past histories of the cosmos and thus returns to 1973.

How Do Universes Develop And Why The Change?

See here.

"'...the Others would not let us do much more, the Maiden said, sadness in her voice. 'What we did...was something so terrible that only a greater terror made it possible to think it.'
"The Mother nodded. 'All we could do while Mind was divided...was take this island out of its year, so that it could then reach across the spiral and make the Change. The Change gives you time, no more, as the island was given time. Time to learn, so that when you regain the powers taken from you they'll be used properly.'"
-SM Stirling, The Sword Of The Lady (New York, 2010), Chapter Twenty-One, p. 652.

There is more about the Others and the Sword but this passage answers one of my main questions: who caused the Change and why? These gods are not omnipotent. If they were, then they would not have had to use such terrible means.

The other main question was: how are the universes connected?

"'And now there is a God...'" (p. 649) -

- clearly means that "God" has come into existence and thus is not "God" in the Christian sense.

OK, rereading pp. 647-649, there is a light at the beginning of each universe but that light is the monobloc of that universe whereas the light that survives one universe and passes into another universe is Mind? Two meanings of "light"?

Omnipotence And Aesthetics

An author is omniscient and omnipotent in relation to his characters. He can decide exactly whether or when they live and die. However, the author is bound by aesthetic considerations. Usually, the hero of a novel does not die on page 1! - unless, maybe, the rest of the text is going to be a series of flashbacks? It is difficult to delineate precisely what can or cannot happen but there are such rules nevertheless.

SM Stirling's Artos has the backing of God or a god. Is that deity omnipotent in relation to human affairs? An omnipotent creator from nothing of everything other than himself would be able to control every event. In battle, an arrow or spear would strike Artos only if such a creator decided that it should do so. The creator would be like the author of a novel. A lesser degree of "omnipotence" might just mean the ability to do whatever is possible according to the most fundamental laws of a given universe. Nevertheless, that would surely be enough to ensure Artos' success in every struggle and endeavour? Would such omnipotence, if it exists, negate drama? See Virtual Omnipotence.

Outer Narrators

Here is a fictional, and logically possible, scenario:

time travellers from our future are present now but disguised and concealed;

they have been active throughout history and have even influenced the course of history but again without anyone else's knowledge.

I will consider four versions of this scenario, one by Wells, three by Anderson.

The Time Machine
We begin not with time travellers from our future but with a time traveller from the author's present, i.e., from the late nineteenth century. The original "Time Traveller" presented an unconfirmed account of his journey through the future, then departed for a second time into either the past or the future but never returned. Notionally, he is invisibly present now in Richmond, London, on his outer and return journeys. He will be there until the end of life on Earth.

The Time Patrol Series
Time travelling explorers, scientists and tourists from civilizations later than 19452 AD are policed by the Time Patrol.

The Corridors Of Time
Two antithetical civilizations from two millennia in our future wage war throughout history.

There Will Be Time
Two groups of mutant time travellers contend to influence the further future after the post-nuclear Maurai Federation.

How different are Anderson's three scenarios! Now I want to address a point about narration. In all four cases, the time travel notionally occurs in our timeline although without our knowledge. If the Time Traveller had returned from his second expedition and had then initiated regular, publicized time trips, then those trips would have had to have occurred in an alternative timeline because we know perfectly well that there have been no such trips in our timeline. However, Wells "saved the appearances" by making both the Time Machine and the Cavorite sphere disappear, never to return, at the end of their respective narratives.

Similarly, Anderson's Time Patrol might really be operating in secret in our timeline? Well, no, it can't be. As a first point, Anderson subtly underlines that the Time Patrol scenario is fictional because Sherlock Holmes is a real person in that timeline. More importantly, however, our timeline is one in which the Time Patrol series by Poul Anderson has been published. A single timeline cannot accommodate both a secret Time Patrol and a published Time Patrol series. Therefore, we must in this case contemplate two timelines:

ours, in which the Time Patrol series exists;
theirs, in which the Time Patrol exists.

The same point applies to The Corridors Of Time, which begins with a third person account of its viewpoint character, Lockridge, being bailed out of gaol by a woman who turns out to be a time traveller and to need Lockridge's help. Such events cannot occur in the same timeline as a novel describing them. In any case, Lockridge winds up in the Bronze Age and there is no way that an account of that could ever have got back to the twentieth century.

However, there is a fictional convention by which, sometimes, real events are published as if they were fictional or at best ambiguously. In The Time Machine, the outer narrator tells us what was said at the Time Traveller's dinner table. It is the Time Traveller himself who is responsible for the accounts of time travelling. In There Will Be Time, Poul Anderson publishes a fictionalized acount based on notes left by Robert Anderson of his conversations with the mutant time traveller, Jack Havig. CS Lewis corresponds with the original of "Ransom" in his Ransom Trilogy. In these three cases, there is an "outer narrator" who merely informs his readers of what was said to have happened by the inner narrator...

It could have happened. This is a literary device to reinforce that "willing suspension of disbelief" which is necessary for all fiction.

Who Or What Caused The Change?

Who or what caused the Change in SM Stirling's Emberverse series? Was it Satan? See comments here. I understood that it was the good guys/gods. See here, including the Addendum dated today, and here. This view is backed up by the Wikipedia article on the novel (see here), which states that humanity had to be deprived of high technology so that it would have time to mature without destroying itself first. I will return to this issue when I have more information to hand.

Alternative Societies

Among many other issues, writers and readers of sf discuss:

how society should be organized here and now;

how it was organized in various historical periods;

how it might be organized if some initial conditions were altered - indeed "Changed."

Fsf authors imagine future and alternative feudalisms.

Although Poul Anderson's Terran Empire has all the trappings of historical imperialisms, it defends, in return for a modest tax, planetary populations who are free to organize their internal affairs however they decide.

The Change has deprived SM Stirling's Emberverse of the benefits of the industrial and technological revolutions but has not reduced it to mere subsistence level. In the High Kingdom of Montival, the Chancellor informs a young heiress that the Queen:

"'...will settle lands on you from the Crown demense, several manors, to be held by you in your own right for life as a tenant-in-chief of the Crown, and to descend to the heirs of your body.'"
-SM Stirling, The Tears Of The Sun (New York, 2012), Chapter Two, p. 27.

This fortunate young woman will have her pick of suitors and could even marry a landless man if she prefers.

"Land" means not just earth but commoners working the land and receiving in return for their labour only a small fraction of the wealth that that labour creates. Let's have everyone equitably benefitting from the fruits of their labours.

Sunday, 23 July 2017


Artos, who is a Wiccan, thinks:

"We can never know the whole inwardness of another, nor all the paths their souls have taken from the Eastern to the Western gate. Not even our own, until the Dread Lord comes for us, and we stand before the Guardians in the place where Truth is seen whole."
-SM Stirling, The Tears Of The Sun (New York, 2012), Chapter One, p. 11.

Wiccans seem to have borrowed the idea of a Day of Judgement although, sensibly, their Judgement is never final.

If we knew the whole inwardness of another, then they would not be other. And, if there were no other, then there would be no self.

If we cannot know our own "whole inwardness," then how can we be sure that we will fare well at any Judgement? I do not believe in a post-death Judgement but we can have moments of devastating self-realization here and now. I think that some have meditated and seen Truth whole.

The Tears Of The Sun will be a book of flashbacks to tell us what had been happening back home while our main characters were on their Quest in the preceding volumes. It might need to be read in discrete stages.

Able And Unable Rulers

"'I knew [Artos] was a very able field commander, but a King requires far more than that. More than a charismatic presence, as well. He must be able to govern, or he is a disaster in the making.'"
-SM Stirling, The Tears Of The Sun (New York, 2012), Chapter Two, p. 21.

This is the point of Poul Anderson's "Marius."

Both Poul and Karen Andersons' Gratillonius and SM Stirling's Artos are able military leaders who, unlike Marius, also become able political leaders.

Artos' natural abilities are miraculously enhanced by his divinely endowed and empowered Sword whereas Gratillonius, appointed to rule the city of Ys by its Gods, later earns the enmity of those same Gods, thus occasioning the legendary inundation of Ys. By contrast, Artos forges the new High Kingdom of Montival, monarchy having replaced democracy after the Change. This is the kind of situation that we read about but do not want to reproduce in reality - I hope.