Friday, 20 April 2018

The Last Planet

The last planet explored by Laure in the Cloud Universe:

unlike the others, it has an atmosphere - thin, mainly noble gases;
he wants to check element distribution on the surface;
the charged ionosphere prevents him from radioing the orbiting Jaccavrie;
nebular friction causes the planet to spiral towards its primary;
surface temperature is about 50 degrees Centigrade;
very little water;
large red dust storms;
a fiery ring of refracted light;
a jumbled plain;
chaotic terrain;
bare mountains;
gleaming black and brown rock;
deep purple sky;
hard ground;
1.22 Gs caused by planetary density;
strong wind;
high radiation;
heavy metals and radioactives -

- suddenly an exploding sky. Our old friend, the lethal unexpected.

As on Satan and Mirkheim, Poul Anderson creates drama in an uninhabited and uninhabitable environment.

Sunday, 8 April 2018


While on Gwydion, Raven, a Commandant of the Oakenshaw Ethnos in the Windhome Mountains on Lochlann, remembers his home planet:

red sun;
sheer mountains;
incessant winds;
gnarled, dwarfed trees;
ice plains;
salt oceans too dense for bodies to sink;
a peasant's house with a rope holding the roof against the gales;
his father's castle above a glacier;
hoofs in the courtyard;
burned villages;
dead men;
smashed cannon.

Oh well, let's hope humanity does spread among the stars even if it takes burned villages and smashed cannon with it.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

In A Dennitzan Forest

Dominic Flandry and his fiancee, Kossara Vymezal, land on her home planet, Dennitza, where:

gravity is 7% less than Terran;
ground cover is mahovina turf and woodland duff;
ever-green equivalents are low and blue-black;
there are shrubs but no underbrush;
the smaller, nearer moon, Mesyatz, moves visibly;
human Dennitzans see an orlick, a winged theroid, in the markings on Mesyatz;
ychani tell humorous fairy tales about Ri, who went to live on Mesyatz;
Flandry and Kossara eat fried riba, caught from the river, then cloud apples;
guslares trill;
a horned bull leads a herd of yelen;
Kossara's uncle, the Gospodar, keeps a lodge from which he hunts gromatz, yegyupka and ice trolls;
Flandry calls the view "'Austere but lovely...'" -Poul Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (New York, 2012), p. 521.

We must not imagine a green Terrestrial landscape with feathered birds overhead. This post really belongs on the Poul Anderson's Cosmic Environments blog but, because more people read Poul Anderson Appreciation, I have put it here first.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Yet Another Grass Equivalent

"The ground was low, wet, thickly covered with a soft and intensely green moss-like turf. It sparkled with a million water drops. Fog rolled and streamed, slowly breaking up as the sun climbed. The air was cool, and filled the nostrils with dampness. His tread muffled and upborne by the springy growth, his companions unspeaking and half blurred in the mist, Flandry moved through silence like a dream." (p. 120) (For full reference, see here.)

We often learn what other planets use for grass. (Scroll down.)

How many senses do we have here? Wet, soft, green, sparkling, coolness, dampness, silence.

Flandry and his companions walk to the Trees of Ranau. There are over a thousand enormous "Trees," growing a kilometer or more apart.

The Trees Of Ranau

The image shows a Terrestrial redwood. In the lower gravity of Unan Besar, the ten thousand year old Trees of Ranau (scroll down) grow much bigger:

"The slim higher boughs would each have made a Terran oak; the lowest were forests in themselves..."
-Poul Anderson, "The Plague of Masters" IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 1-147 AT p. 121.

The huge branches can support their own weight because their cores are nearly as strong as steel whereas most of their thickness is as light as balsa, protected by hard gray bark. Bright, mirror-like upper leaves reflect light down to lower foliage which otherwise would be fatally enshadowed. The planet has only one grove of these Trees because they are succumbing to faster evolving parasites. The Ranauans preserve their grove by living in symbiosis with it.

Monday, 12 March 2018

On Nyanza

One kind of Nyanzan ship is called a "...kraken-chaser..." ("The Game of Glory," p. 321) (For full reference, see here.) And see Kraken.

Is it feasible that people would colonize a planet where a town or city is submerged at high tide so that buildings would have to be watertight with air locks? Nyanzans live by fishing, hunting kraken, collecting shells at low tide or diving for them at high tide. They work and travel in ships and swim short distances wearing transparent helmets and aqualungs that electrolyze oxygen from water. Thus, they are always on or under the water except on the rare occasions when they visit the single island on the planet for trade or diplomacy. (The Imperial Resident resides there.)

"Sunset blazed across violet waters. The white spume of the breakers was turned an incredible gold; tide pools on the naked black skerry were like molten copper. The sky was deep blue in the east, still pale overhead, shading to a clear cloudless green where the sun drowned. Through the surf's huge hollow crashing and grinding, Flandry heard bells from one of the many rose-red spires...or did a ship's bell ring among raking spars, or was it something he had heard in a dream once? Beneath all the noise, it was unutterably peaceful." (p. 323)

The sights and sounds merge with Flandry's imaginings. The sound of a bell from a sunken city recalls Ys. This sunset is simply the end of a day, not a symbol for the decline of Empire or the descent of man.

Approaching Nyanza

"The Game of Glory" (for reference, see here) tells us another of Flandry's hobbies. When he establishes radio contact with Nyanza:

"Most of him was listening to the fellow's accent. The inexhaustible variations on Anglic were a hobby of his." (p. 308)

How many planets does Poul Anderson describe as seen from space? Is this the best way to see a planet? Here is Nyanza:

"Nyanza shone before him, the clearest and most beautiful blue of his life, streaked with white cloud-belts and shuddering with great auroral streamers." (p. 307)

There are two moons. The fellow on the radio explains that there are:

no continents;
a medium-sized island, Altla;
rocks and reefs, "...submerged at double high tide, or even at Loa high." (p. 308)

Is Loa one of the moons? Is it named after the Loa? How many planets in the Technic History are mostly covered with water?