Monday, 25 April 2016

Haven

Haven is the second moon of Cat's Eye, which is a gas giant of 1.3 Jovian masses and the fourth planet in the system of the G2 star, Byers. Radiation from Cat's Eye, not from Byers, makes Haven marginally habitable.

Haven:

is tidally locked but on the Mercurian, not the Lunar, model;

is smaller than Earth with a thinner atmosphere;

has -

great seismic activity because of its proximity to Cat's Eye,
high rocky mountains,
deep valleys,
one almost comfortable valley, Shangri-La, near the equator,
terrestroid biochemistries but dangerous native organisms,
been inhospitable to seeded Terrestrial organisms;

was created by Jerry Pournelle but Poul Anderson wrote one story set there.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Aeneas

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 6 Mar 2016:

The text of this post is copied from here.

..a complicated colonial society. Seven centuries earlier, scientists wanting to study the unusual natives of the planet Dido which is unsuitable for human habitation colonized another planet in the same system, Aeneas, where they established a University that attracts human and non-human students from other systems. Survival in the sparse Aenean environment required cultivation of large land areas with both native and imported plants and animals. Horses and green six-legged stathas were imported as transport animals. During the Troubles, “Landfolk” relationships became semi-feudal and the University incorporated military training into its curriculum. Near the main University campus is a statue of Brian McCormac who cast out nonhuman invaders.

Later immigrants seeking a refuge or a new start are excluded from the tri-cameral legislature by a property qualification for the franchise but form subcultures: tinerans, Riverfolk, Orcans and highlanders. Orcans guard ruins left by space-traveling “Ancients.” “Lucks,” small pets kept in Tinerans’ caravans, are telepathic parasites left by the Ancients. Most Townfolk, belonging to ancient guilds, identify with scientists and squires. However, industrialization in the urban area known as the Web has produced manufacturers, merchants and managers whose interests are closer to those of the Empire which forcibly annexed Aeneas after the Troubles and re-occupied it after Hugh McCormac’s rebellion. Chunderban Desai, High Commissioner of the Virgilian system, consults Thane of the University and Jowett of the Web about McCormac’s Landfolk nephew who will inherit tri-cameral Speakership but meanwhile attacks Imperial troops, then hides among tinerans before traveling with Riverfolk to meet the new Orcan prophet.

I summarize Aenean society in order to convey the richness of detail in Anderson’s fictitious planets.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Imhotep

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 7 Feb '15.

Diana Crowfeather is "...everybody's friend..." (Flandry's Legacy, p. 196) just as Kim is "'...The Friend of all the World...'" (Kim, p. 6).

The city of Olga's Landing on the planet Imhotep in the Patrician System began as an exploration base. Guns in the tower of St Barbara provided defense against stampeding ice bull herds and later against human beings during the Troubles but now the disarmed tower, sunseeker vine clambering up its crumbling yellow stone, stands in the middle of a market square in the old quarter.

From the tower, Diana sees the new sector with industries, hotels, apartments, the Institute and the Pyramid housing Imperial offices but she prefers the old quarter with its:

"...brawling, polyglot, multiracial population, much of it transient, drifting in and out on the tides of space." (ibid.)

Imhotep seems as real as Kipling's India.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

At Mirkheim And Its Sun

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 13 Jan '15:

What sun? It exploded. Yes. However, a nova or supernova always leaves a remnant. Mirkheim is the remnant, the blasted core, of a companion planet too large to have been entirely vaporized or disintegrated by the stellar explosion. Similarly, the supernova itself left a remnant, imperceptibly shrinking towards black hole status. Thus, two unusual heavenly bodies still orbit in close proximity. Coya Conyon says that they had originated as a double stellar system, not as a star with a planetary system.

The stellar remnant is six Solar masses compressed into one Terrestrial volume. Therefore, it "...has stupendous gravitational power..." (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 676) which warps space so that "...the laws of nature take on an eerie aspect." (ibid.) Anderson does not elaborate although readers of popular science and science fiction have learned that spatial distortions affect time and matter in counter-intuitive ways described by Einstein, not by Newton or by common sense. (Common sense generalizes our experience on a macroscopic scale but at sub-relativistic velocities.)

Secondly, the fantastically rapid spin of a dwarf star also "...generates relativistic forces, describable only if you have determined the precise quantities involved." (ibid.) Thirdly (I think that this is a separate point), pulsations usually found only inside atomic nuclei stretch across interplanetary distances. Fourthly, as with any star, there is radiation although this is comparatively easy to guard against, dim visible light but lurid gamma and X-rays.

The Ythrian spaceship, Dewfall, chartered by Nicholas van Rijn, finds the sun - so small as to be undetectable except within a few parsecs but van Rijn had known where to look. Maximum photoamplification reveals a white spark but makes other stars painfully brilliant. Expensive equipment installed by van Rijn detects the light-bending due to a sub-stellar object between forty and fifty astronomical units from the star. To establish its position, they need a long baseline which would take weeks at sublight speeds. However, Dewfall's engines are well-tuned enough to use hyperdrive even this deep in a gravity well.

As Dewfall approaches Mirkheim, three Supermetals warships move to intercept and block escape. The Ythrian ship's approach has been observed. Relative speeds and distances are such that one ship can engage until the others arrive. They intend to detain crew and passengers but will fire if Dewfall attempts to escape. Having come prepared, van Rijn takes charge and accelerates on negagrav back towards the sun. No enemy missiles can accelerate fast enough "...to get past defensive fire..." (p. 675) Dewfall goes hyper, though not at full speed, and reverts to normal state when nearly at the sun but still continues toward, then around, it. Prior computations ordered by van Rijn and readings taken by Coya as they approached the sun are in the data banks. Now Coya inserts current data that enable van Rijn and Hirharouk to steer. Commodore Nadi of Supermetals can neither pursue nor predict where his enemy will emerge.

The Ythrian beats his wings while the man kneels in prayer. They must cope with a meteoroid swarm and a plasma cloud but:

"They won past reef and riptide..." (p. 677)

I have found it rewarding to summarize other battles in space. See here and here.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

On Cain

On Cain, why did the dominant species, the Yildivans, suddenly attack van Rijn's traders, then back off?

Per's and Yuschenkoff's Theory
The Yildivans feared that the traders were the spearhead of an invasion. However, when the traders treated prisoners decently and used stunners instead of blasters, they realized that they had been mistaken.

Manuel's Theory
Because the Yildivans must struggle to survive, they value courage and combat skills above anything else. Therefore, they despised human beings who used machines and weapons that killed at a distance. However, they changed their minds when they had experienced how terrible human beings are in warfare.

Van Rijn's Explanation
The Yildivans are intelligent wild animals with no idea of a tribe or an army, therefore no fear of invasion. They accepted human beings as their equals until they saw other traders taking orders from Per Stenvik, then concluded that all but Per were equivalents of their Lugals, intelligent domesticated animals. Then Per introduced the idea of God, a master above Per, making Per also a Lugal. Finally, he denied that he took orders from God or from anyone else, making him a wild Lugal, the equivalent of a wild dog.

They changed their minds because they saw Per's men disobey an order, which no Lugal would have been able to do, and also act with restraint, which no wild Lugal would be able to do.

Corollary About Religion
Yildivans have no gods because, as wild animals, they acknowledge no masters.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Pharaoh

Benoni Strang's workers on Babur have a secret base on a Baburite moon. The Baburites' oxygen-breathing mercenary army get a whole planet which they know as Pharaoh.

About a million human, Gorzuni, Merseian and Donarrian mercenaries occupy Hermes with a comparable number held in reserve. Recruited in many places on dozens of planets, either they did not register on anyone's statistics or, if some League company did notice, it did not inform anyone else.

"Space is too big, and we too divided."
-Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011), p. 220.

Isolated for years of training and preparation on Pharaoh, the soldiers have accumulating pay, beer halls, brothels, a multi-sensory library and a hot, wet, barely terrestroid, permanently clouded, planetary environment to explore. The clouds prevent them from learning where Pharaoh is. Falkayn thinks that it is more likely to be inside known space. Outside, it could be discovered by explorers, who continually expand known space. Inside, it might already have been explored once but dismissed as of no interest.

Learning that they are working for Babur against the Solar Commonwealth does not demoralize highly disciplined mercs who were recruited precisely because they were already alienated from Technic civilization.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Ayisha

Ayisha, a Luna-sized Baburite moon, has a dimly lit, airless, cratered, stone surface and a black sky showing unwinking stars and the amber planet with its bands of white, ocher and cinnabar clouds.

On Ayisha's surface, the domes of a secret project hold:

heat;
Terrestrial gravity;
breathable air;
grass;
bushes;
flowers;
a ball court;
fountains;
a swimming pool;
good food and wine;
a handicraft shop;
an amateur theater;
a vice section.

Staff spend a significant part of their lives in the system, have no leaves and receive no visitors and their mail is censored although good pay accumulates at home. Anyone who resigns has their memory wiped. What this shows is that people with technology can master hostile environments while retaining discreditable motives. The motto of Lancaster University is patet veritas omnibus, "truth lies open to all." However, in the future of the Technic History, scientific accomplishment is still accompanied by commercial and political secrecy.