Thursday, 30 November 2017

NGC 5457

The image shows NGC 5457.

Poul Anderson tells us how the universe looks and sounds.

Janne Floris of the Time Patrol has on her wall not only:

"...a copy of a Cuyp landscape..."

but also:

" astronomical photograph of the Veil Nebula."
-Poul Anderson, "Star of the Sea" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (Riverdale, NY, 2010), pp. 467-640 AT p. 482.

In a picture on the wall in the Ganymedean colony:

"NGC 5457 coiled stark and glittering in space."
-Poul Anderson, Three Worlds To Conquer (London, 1966), Chapter 12, p. 87.

The universe is the constant background of all fiction and Poul Anderson regularly reminds us of it.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The Jovian Environment II

Elemental forces devastate the environment. Because wind, rain, hail, lightning, quake, flood, geyser, fire spout and avalanche threaten to return Nyarr to barbarism, the Reeve and his kin-tree are primarily master engineers with civilization-saving skills and only incidentally priests, magicians, judges or military leaders. Volcanoes, the only known form of fire, are used to smelt water to forge weapons. The domesticated druga species regularly metamorphoses from vegetable to animal.

Theor, a Nyarran male and Reeveling:

three prehensile toes on each foot;
long armed;
four-fingered hands;
blocky torso;
round head;
shrugs by shaking the head;
no nose, external ears or lungs;
rooster-like comb;
six lipped slits on either side of the thorax admit hydrogen which releases energy by reducing vegetable-derived organic compounds;
abdominal vents release methane and ammonia;
golden eyes three times the size of a man's;
chemo-sensor antennae flank the mouth which is only for eating and drinking;
speech generated by vibrating muscle tissue in a pouch under the jaws;
stands on the back of a flying/swimming forgar with his feet in stirrups.

Norlak, Theor's demi-father:

no comb;
longer, acuter anntenae;
gaudily clothed;
wearing a blanket dyed pirell and onsy;
waving a plume-tipped staff;
more excitable but quicker-witted than males.

Although the Nyarran sexes are equal, among an ocean-crossing invasive species, the Ulunt-Khazul, males own females and kill most demi-males at birth. The Nyarran language is three interrelated systems with different underlying premises.

All this information and more is presented in a few pages before the action starts.

The Jovian Environment I

"...that monstrous atmospheric ocean..."
-Poul Anderson, Three Worlds To Conquer (London, 1966), Chapter 3, p. 21.

This means either literally that the Jovian atmosphere combines gaseous and liquid properties so that it could equally be described as a monstrous oceanic atmosphere or metaphorically that the atmospheric gases are dense and turbulent like the waves of an ocean. The gases are:

"...mostly hydrogen, much helium, a few percentage points of methane, ammonia vapor, and other gases..." (ibid.)

The mantis-like "forgar" is said to fly - or swim. (p. 23)

There are mile-high red cloud banks with tawny precipices. Sun and moons cannot be seen from the surface but dawn is perceived as a swiftly climbing brightness. Human eyes would see only by "...the frequent great lightning flashes..." (p. 21) but Jovians see in the infrared.

Soil is ice powder intermingled with sodium and ammonium compounds. The real ocean is "...thousands of storm-swept miles of liquid ammonia..." (p. 22)

Much more later.

Thursday, 23 November 2017


Mountains like teeth;
craters like fortress walls;
long crater shadows on blue-gray plains;
the John Glenn range;
Berkeley Ice Field, sheening amber;
Mare Navium;
Dante Chasm;
the Red Mountains;
the green beacon at Aurora;
rock and ice;
Jupiter above;
unblinking stars in a black sky.

This is how the colonized Ganymede looks to the pilot of a returning moonship on pp. 7-9 of Poul Anderson's Three Worlds To Conquer. He thinks of it as home but I would not like to live there.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017


Poul Anderson's "The Tale of the Cat," incorporated into his Starfarers as Chapter 17, first appeared in Analog, February 1998.


the furthest colony planet from Sol;
dim sun;
summer light like autumn on Earth;
mountainous glaciers to north and south;
cold clashing seas;
one tropical continent colonized;
beautiful rings, the remnants of a moon;
one temperate zone;
herds and cops;
quakes, storms and metal-gnawing mites;
Terrestrial grass sown;
houses and shops of the Magistrate's retainers;
murky native forest, rarely visited;
castle with homes, worksteads, chapels, stadium, laboratories and a museum;
government mostly by town meetings;
the Magistrate has a militia and a court;
visiting Kith range in their flitters

Monday, 20 November 2017

More On Maia

On Maia, Kenri and Nivala drive by rented groundcar into the Tirian desert where they are surrounded by:

flamboyantly colored stone and sand;
hills with fantastically shaped crags;
scattered peppery-odored thornbush;
argent dunes;
thin, cool air.

There are at least two moons, one moving rapidly. A creature wails at a distance. Making a fire, Kenri fries savory fish filets purchased at a waterfarm.

Thus, there is after all a little more information about Maia. Like the planet Morgana, the Tirian desert exists only as a setting for further interaction between Kenri and Nivala.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Maia And Morgana In The Kith History

Morgana is not a moon (see here) but a sister planet of Maia;

they orbit 61 Virginis, which is 27.9 light years from Sol, therefore, with time dilation, reachable at near light speeds;

the principle Maian town is Landfall where there are Kith offices and native silvercane with a cinnamon-like odor;

the Terrestrial upper class family, Tersis, acquired large holdings on the humanly uninhabitable Morgana in the pioneering period and still draws income from valuable Morganan biochemicals;

Freelady Nivala Tersis, traveling out in the Kith ship Eagle and returning in the Fleetwing, is the first of her family ever to inspect their Morganan property, although everyone she knew on Earth will be old or dead when she returns decades later;

traveling from Maia to collect Nivala, Kenri Shaun lands at Rodan Spacefield and takes the slideway into Northport;

the transparent tube of the slideway protects him from hot, green, poisonous rain;

in Northport, the Far Frontier Hotel is kept clean by machines but also made shabby by its plantationer clientele.

And that is all the information to be gleaned about the planetary system of 61 Virginis although it is more than I had expected. Poul Anderson created this system only as a setting for the first meeting between Kenri and Nivala.