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, the Yildivians 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


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, 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:

Terrestrial gravity;
breathable air;
a ball court;
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.

The Mystery Of Mirkheim

The following propositions are facts within Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization:

planetary systems do not condense around giant stars;

Beta Centauri is a giant star with planets because, while it was condensing, its nebula retarded, then captured, a group of rogue planets;

van Rijn says somewhere that scientists are still trying to figure out how the red giant Betelgeuse has planets;

Mirkheim was a planet of fifteen hundred Terrestrial masses orbiting a star as bright as a hundred Sols.

So how did Mirkheim exist? We are told how it was found:

"From the known distribution of former supernovae, together with data on other star types, dust, gas, radiation, magnetism, present location and concentrations, the time derivatives of these quantities: using well-established theories of galactic development, it is possible to compute with reasonable probability the distribution of undiscovered dark giants within a radius of a few hundred parsecs....The most you can learn is the likelihood (not the certainty) of a given type of object existing within such-and-such a distance of yourself, and the likeliest (not the indubitable) direction."
-Poul Anderson, David Falkayn: Star Trader (New York, 2010), p. 653.

But the "...given type of object..." has to be possible, however improbable, in the first place. Surely Astrocenter would not have been able to compute the probability of a condensing giant star capturing several rogue planets? So how was Mirkheim's probability computed?

Monday, 22 December 2014

A Few More Details About Hermes

(This may be the last post for December although I am not sure yet. We have just returned from a solstice ritual.)

Hermetian trees include stonebark and rainroof.
Ornithoids and buzzbugs fly between them.
One flying predator is called a steelwing.
Athena Falkayn wears "...a necklace of fallaron amber." (Rise Of The Terran Empire, p. 216)
The Falkayn manor house derives its name from the nearby Hornbeck brook.
Wyvernflies fly above the brook.
Terrestrial food and drink taste odd to Hermetians so no doubt the reverse would be true.

Sandra Tamarin flies near the Palomino River as it crosses an agrarian property of the Runeberg domain. She sees red-tiled houses of Follower families and the Runeberg mansion which, she knows, contains ancestral portraits and long tradition.

The Insignia Room, its walls decorated only by the colorful devices of the thousand Kindred, is on a high floor with  a view of sky and distant ocean. Grand Duchess Sandra sits at her desk before a three dimensional communication screen occupying half a wall and displaying the image of a hydrogen-breathing Baburite conqueror in his ship in synchronous orbit above Starfall.

The theme of Mirkheim is that times change. They can hardly change more than this.

Friday, 19 December 2014


Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 19 Dec 2014:

The terrestroid planet Valya, close to its dwarf sun, Elena, has:

a forty plus hour day;
a calm ocean;
land covered by russet shrubs and turf;
tiny flyers, not insects;
long-limbed, spindly, blue-furred, mountain-dwelling, dancing, bronze-age natives with antennae on pointed heads and a strange grammar of personal pronouns;
a rich deposit of gold.

Gold attracts Stellar Metals. Bronze age natives cannot resist them. Like Tametha, another atrocity committed by a League company.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Sky Cave As Seen From Within

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, Fri 12 Dec 2014.

I wrote in the previous post that there is not much more to be said but, of course, I cannot do better than to quote directly from Poul Anderson's own description of the nebula where a star and its planetary system are condensing:

"Flandry himself saw sinister grandeur: great blanks and clouds of blackness, looming in utter silence on every side of him, gulfs and canyons and steeps, picked out by the central red glow. He knew, objectively, that the nebula was near-vacuum even in its densest portions: only size and distance created that picture of caverns beyond caverns. But his eyes told him that he sailed into Shadow Land, under walls and roofs larger than planetary systems, and his own tininess shook him."
-Poul Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (New York, 2012), p. 284.

- as when, millennia later, Daven Laure sails into the Cloud Universe nebula, except that that one is many times bigger, containing millions of stars, some condensing, some going nova, others at every intermediate stage.

It is the "...walls and roofs larger than planetary systems..." that are truly awesome, generating the impression that this is not interstellar space but a vast three-dimensional material structure, like a cathedral explored by a fly.

To its credit, the very first Star Trek feature film showed the Enterprise dwarfed by some sort of interstellar cloud that it had to pass through.

Friday, 5 December 2014


Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 28 Nov 2014:

On Earth, the World Ocean covers two thirds of the planetary surface.

On Poul Anderson's fictitious planet, Nyanza, a single ocean covers everything except one island and some tidal reefs.

Anderson's fictitious planet, Kraken, is also described as oceanic so it is appropriate that, late in the Flandry period of the Technic History, a Krakener man is married to a Nyanzan woman.

By coincidence, I have interrupted rereading Anderson's "The Game of Glory," set on Nyanza, to start reading China Mieville's The Scar, only to discover that this fantasy novel begins with a four page section describing a sea, the life in the sea and an event affecting one specimen of that life. This section has no speech, just sights, sounds and sensations of the sea.

I am getting the message that the sea is important. One of Anderson's Time Patrol stories hauntingly links the deaths of seafarers, spacefarers, timefarers...

Exploring The Center Of The Cloud Universe

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 26 Nov 2014.

Jaccavrie identifies and approaches a star of a particular type;

Laure descends in his sled to the surface of an orbiting airless body while Jaccavrie hovers directly above;

Laure takes analytical readings and mineral samples and observes the larger bodies from a distance;

they repeat this procedure for different stellar types;

because of the radiation levels, he finds no life;

next, he plans to measure element distribution on the surface of a planet with an atmosphere even though the air will impede visual contact and the charged ionosphere will prevent radio contact;

spectra, spots, flares, prominences and coronas indicate surface turbulence on the stars in the Cloud Universe;

however, infalling matter continually changing their already unusual compositions makes their cores also violently variable;

a nova-like outburst from the sun "...might be akin to the Wolf-Rayet phenomenon..." (Flandry's Legacy, p. 781);

either the increased irradiation triggers a cyclone or the conductive dust transfers energy into a vortex or something else happens;

the sudden wind wrecks Laure's sled.

Flandry's Deductions About Nyanza

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 28 Nov 2014:

Dominic Flandry:

travels five parsecs from Brae to Nyanza in a high-speed flitter;

lands at a spaceport of grav-grid, field and buildings with forest to west and south, a small ancient city to the east and a cloudless sky above blue ocean to the north;

is flown to the resident's mansion in an aircar by the Portmaster;

from the air, sees steep narrow streets of native stone with many pedestrians but few vehicles and busy modern docks where -

- a majority of sailing ships implies a leisurely, aesthetic life-style;
but their hydrodynamic design implies appreciation of efficiency;
sea-water processors, factories and sea weed delivered to a plastics plant imply that most Nyanzans harvest the ocean and trade with this one island for industrial products and technology.

The widow of the murdered resident is an Ayres of Antarctica. Thus, that Terrestrial continent is occupied in the Imperial period. I seem to remember something about the urbanization of Antarctica in the Psychotechnic History? 

Details On Nyanza

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 29 July 2014:

(This is the 150th post this month so possibly the last until next month.)

I missed certain details on previous readings of "The Game of Glory" by Poul Anderson.

Marker lights were:

"...color-coded for depth so that all Jairnovaunt was one great jewelbox..."
-Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 326.

This is both neat and plausible: not only marker lights above tidally submerged buildings but also color-coding for depth and the visual impression that this would generate.

Air-locked buildings are alternately below or just above the ocean surface. At low tide, Nyanzans swim, guided by buoys, between buildings on rocks. At high tide, they swim down to, up from or between submerged buildings wearing aqualungs. Between cities and countries, they travel in sail boats and also have submarines. Thus, their entire lives are spent in, on, above or under water. We knew that but what does it imply about their deaths? When Dominic Flandry tells John Umbolu that his son, Tom, died in combat on another planet:

"'Drowning is the single decent death,' whispered the Nyanzan. 'My other children, all but Derek, had that much luck.'" (p. 325)

How many Nyanzans die by drowning? How many children has John Umbolu lost? A warrior culture would see death in combat as the best. Since drowning is the single greatest hazard to Nyanzans, they accept it and regard it as "...the single decent death..." We are not told whether they have their equivalent of Fiddler's Green or Aegir's Hall.

On Kirkasant

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 25 Nov 2014.

The Kirkasanter crew are of the Hoborkan clan and speak its tongue. Reyad is the need to search, to hunt, to find the new or to be alone in wild places. The crew are fifteen men and five women. Women are included because they are better at some jobs but every woman is accompanied by an older male relative!

Kirkasanters are instinctively, not culturally, motivated to have children and will not limit their population in any circumstances. With an initially small population in a hostile, radioactive environment, the race survived only by reproducing as much as possible, helped by mutations. The Hoborkans initially refuse to give cell samples for chromosome analysis because this would violate the body which is the citadel of the ego. This attitude hinders medicine but encourages dignity and self-reliance.

Graydal tells Laure that, on Kirkasant, they will:

watch the sunset in the Rainbow Desert, followed by the bright night with auroras;
see flying flocks rise from dawn mists over salt marshes;
stand on the battlements of Ey beneath the banners of knights who "'...rid the land of firearms...'" (Flandry's Legacy, p. 748);
watch dances welcoming the new year.

I am not sure what is meant by ridding the land of firearms - Graydal carries a gun - and, of course, I do not remember noticing this phrase before I started to summarize information about Kirkasant. Graydal also wears a uniform, a practice that has become obsolete in the Commonalty civilization.

Serieve II

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 25 Nov 2014:

In the region of space where the planet Serieve has been colonized, stars are an average of four parsecs apart whereas Sol and Proxima Centauri are about 4.24 light years apart. Since one parsec is about 3.26 light years, this is a big difference. In the Serievan region, stars are just over 13 light years apart.

The thin interstellar medium has not been greatly enriched by earlier stellar generations. Local systems, including that of Serieve's sun, are poor in heavy metals. Hence, the extraction of minerals from ocean currents in the arctic waters around Pelogard.

Laure, who feels young and awkward, just as Falkayn had been conscious of still being only a journeyman, is annoyed when Vandage patronizingly lectures him about:

"'The interstellar medium from which stars form...'" (Flandry's Legacy, p. 720) -

- but, of course, what is really happening here is that the author is ensuring that his readers understand the cosmological context. It is not possible to tell Laure that.

Imagine living not in the northern hemisphere of Earth but near the northern verge of another spiral arm with only the galactic halo beyond; also working in an office high in a tower of Pelogard with automated extractor plants visible down at the waterfront; and knowing that, beyond the nearby Dragon's Head Nebula where human beings are barely beginning to explore, lies the unknown.


Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 25 Nov 2014:

When human beings colonize a planet, they spread across its surface and therefore build low. When the planetary population has become considerably larger, then they:

build higher;
preserve wilderness areas;
discourage procreation;
encourage emigration.

At least, these generalizations apply to the civilization served by the Commonalty - although they seem to make sense for most interstellar colonists? (We were told earlier in Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization that the Gorzuni spread their dwellings underground, regarding the planet as a Mother.)

The narrator of Anderson's "Starfog" refers to "...our race..." and to "...our own culture..." and mentions something of what "We know..." about "...other branches of humanity..." (Flandry's Legacy, p. 718). Thus, this narrator is not able to give us an overview of the two or three spiral arms that have been humanly colonized. Maybe Donvar Ayeghen, President of the Galactic Archaeological Society, who commented on the much earlier Terran Empire, would have been able to do so.

Despite the usual practice of building low, the Serievan city, Pelograd, is on an island where minerals can be extracted from sea water and is therefore built high. From an office high in a tower, Laure looks down across metal, concrete, glass and plastic buildings linked by trafficways and freight cables to the automated extractor plants, warehouses, sky-docks and cargo craft at the waterfront.

Serieve is near the northern edge of the spiral arm and the galactic halo of thin dust and widely scattered ancient globular clusters. Do any explorers venture out into intergalactic space?

Wednesday, 3 December 2014


Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 13 Nov 2014:

In Lenidel, the principal nation on the planet Trillia, most cities are spread through a large forest and park. The city of Annanna has two million busy inhabitants, with perhaps three aircraft visible at once. Pedestrians and cyclists proceed along The Pathway Of The Beautiful Blossoms And The Bridge That Arches Like A Note Of Music.

Number 1337 on The Pathway Of The Beautiful Blossoms And The Bridge That Arches Like A Note Of Music has, over an otherwise doorless entrance, spicy-smelling, sunlight-trapping flowering vines. The interior has a wooden floor, stools and an intricately faceted rock crystal. The occupant, Witweet, reads poetry and addresses a visitor with endearments, offering Lapsang Souchong and sweet cakes. There is occasional trade with the Polesotechnic League and the Trillians, like the Merseians, have bought tea. Trillians can sell arts and crafts but, lacking the means to buy modern technology, are developing it themselves. I do not think that Trillia will need to join the Supermetals Company.

Around number 1337 are colorful flowers, red tree trunks, bright fluttering wings and the distant sound of The Waterfall That Rings Like Glass Bells. An armed Terran whose vocalizer transforms his speech into song knows that to omit honorifics and circumlocutions without apology is to issue a deadly insult.

Avalon appears in three short stories and one novel whereas Trillia is mentioned and described in just this single short story, "A Little Knowledge." Nevertheless, it is yet another colorful alien environment imagined in detail by Poul Anderson.

Livewell And Tempests

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 12 Nov 2014:

A few posts ago, I highlighted a fictitious place, Livewell Street, in Poul Anderson's The People Of The Wind. Now, rereading "Rescue on Avalon," I am reminded of what "livewell" is:

"After the wind-howl, this stillness felt almost holy. The air was chill but carried odors of plant life, sharp trefoil, sweet livewell, and janie."
-Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011), p. 312.

Every detail of an Andersonian environment connects with some other detail, here the name of a street in a novel with the scent of a plant in a short story. "The wind-howl..." is another aspect of the Avalonian environment:

"...sudden tempests. The rapidly spinning globe was always breeding them." (p. 310)

The colonists have settled some of the Hesperian Islands and, from there, have moved to the Coronan continent and even begun to divide it between their two species. However, their ability to cope with or even to forecast the violent weather is as yet grossly inadequate. Thus, here is another story premise: how does a man who is allergic to Ythrians cope when he alone is close enough to rescue the Wyvan of Stormgate who has been injured in a storm?

Livewell Street

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 11 Nov 2014.

Any fictional series can make a fictitious place seem real by presenting it as a constant backdrop of the characters' activities:

Conan Doyle has 221b, Baker St, and Victorian/Edwardian London;

Poul and Karen Anderson have the city of Ys;

Poul Anderson has Manse Everard's New York apartment.

Although Livewell Street appears only twice in a single novel, Poul Anderson's The People Of The Wind, its fictitious ontological status is comparable to that of the other places listed. This street is in the city of Centauri on the Gulf of Centaurs on the planet Avalon in the Domain of Ythri. Christopher Holm and Tabitha Falkayn walk down Livewell Street. They see:

barges on an oily, littered canal;
dingy, ten- or twelve-storied buildings;
glaring signs for drink, food and fun;
ground vehicles and twelve kinds of pedestrians - one of Anderson's descriptive lists.

Sounds and smells are also listed. Chris calls the street a sty; Tabitha calls it fun. She insists that the Founder wanted nothing but freedom, not a purer way of life.

Later, an Ythrian flies above the Livewell Street canal. When the Terrans strike, she burns and falls into a burning house beside the boiling canal.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

A Mixed Ecology

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 11 Nov 2014:

Ferune is an Ythrian:

his ancestor's shields hang in his house;
outside grow Ythrian trees - thick hammerbranch, high lightningrod and water-gathering sword-of-sorrow;
a trumpet calls his sons and chothmates to fly with his litter, led by his widow and torch-bearing daughters.

However, Ferune has lived on Avalon, where his choth is Mistwood:

cold, wet fog blows from the sea;
inland is Old Avalon;
the noise of a boomer tree frightening away animals rolls beneath the house and echoes from the shields;
flying as high as they can, the litter-bearers see on the horizon the sunlit snow peaks of the Weathermother;
at sunrise, the new Wyvan of Mistwood blows the horn, calls the dead and speaks the New Faith;
the litter is tilted above crags, boulders and streams;
Ferune's widow leads a sky dance by a hundred Ythrians watched by hovering human Avalonians.

Life On Avalon

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 9 Nov 2014.

So many extrasolar planets are being discovered, including I believe one thought to be similar to Earth, that I am hopeful that some of them might after all be colonizeable, as in Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization. In the early 1960's, reading comic strip sf and starting to read sf novels, I took extrasolar planets for granted but was then surprised and disappointed to read in a book by British astronomer, Patrick Moore, that no such planets could be detected. If they were there, then they were too small and far away and not luminous so how could they have been detected? How are they detected now? Gravitational perturbation is one answer. One theory of planetary origin, cited by EE Smith, implied that planets were rare, not the norm.

Poul Anderson knew that, even if some planets were terrestroid, it would not be a simple matter to go and live there as if they were previously undiscovered continents on Earth. Space travelers learn to change their circadian rhythms. Human colonists on Avalon adjust their fluid balance and kinesthesia to 80% G. Ythrian colonists shift their breeding cycle to a different day, year, weight, climate and diet and have low fertility in their first generations but survive and then flourish.

When Rochefort and Helu crash land on an Avalonian island, Helu, grateful to be alive, asks how such a planet has a standard Terran atmospheric pressure. Rochefort explains but, for once, I find it difficult to summarize the technical explanation, on p. 540 of Rise Of The Terran Empire. Ironically, Helu's gratitude is premature. He is soon killed by an Ythrian.

Anderson's vocabulary again: on p. 541, the sea is "...syenite..." This is a kind of igneous rock so Anderson's omniscient narrator or his viewpoint character, Rochefort, must be comparing the colors.

Diomedean Evolution II

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 2 Nov 2014.

Intelligence requires a long childhood during which behavior is learned. Therefore, both parents must protect helpless infants and ignorant children. Diomedean adults are kept together not by permanent sexuality but by the need to cooperate to survive migration. The prolonged effort of migration concentrates sex hormones so that arrival in the tropics triggers indiscriminate mating. Children must all be born at about the same time if they and the mothers are to survive the long migration. The family is not a couple and their children but a matrilineal clan. However, Diomedeans living at sea near the equator have continual labor and sexuality and therefore also patriarchal monogamy. Migrators and sea-dwellers see each other as perverse.

A long childhood is our glory and our tragedy. Helpless, ignorant children can be:

educated or indoctrinated;
encouraged or intimidated;
taught how to think or told what to think.

The conflict between these two kinds of upbringing will decide the future of humanity. My upbringing: I was given good advice, which I ignored, and taught nonsense, which I took on board. No good, either way. I should have started zazen twenty years earlier. However, my daughter, now grown up, was not indoctrinated.

A human organism, as soon as it has been activated by social/linguistic interaction, has a unique and distinctive personality from an early age but I think that this comes from genes and environment, not from rebirth as many of my fellow meditators believe. The personality then responds to inputs which, however, can have contrary effects, as suggested above.

A possible future form of the conflict: Poul Anderson's Psychotechnic Institute began well, applying psychology, not imposing an ideology, but went wrong, doing too much too fast and taking disastrous short cuts, thus provoking a "Humanist" backlash. But that is in another future history.

Diomedean Evolution

Copied from Poul Anderson appreciation, 1 Nov 2014.

A small arboreal carnivorous glider inhabited a large forested tropical island far from the extreme polar seasonal changes. Rapid geological changes on the low density planet deflected ocean and air currents which, because of the great axial tilt and large fluid masses, bear considerable heat and cold. Drought reduced the forest to woods scattered across pampas.

The gliders:

developed wings to fly between woods;
grew in size to prey on large grass-eaters;
spread into different environments;
but, because of mobility, remained a single species;
developed intelligence to cope with environmental diversity;
flew north and south from the home continent;
found good hunting territories but could not survive the polar winters;
therefore, returned to the tropics where, however, they could not survive indefinitely;
consequently, learned to migrate regularly.

(To be continued.)

Diomedean Geography II

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 2 Nov 2014:

See here.

A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows presents a little more information about Diomedean geography. Kossara Vymezal and her ychan companion, Trodhwyr, arrived at Thursday Landing for a research project around the Sea of Achan. We already know that Thursday Landing and Achan are separated by the Ocean. We additionally learn that Thursday Landing is on the equator and on the east coast of a continent called Centralia. Originally a Polesotechnic League trading post, Thursday landing is now the seat of the Imperial resident.

Being on the equator, the Thursday Landing area originally had few permanent inhabitants. Instead, migrators annually arrived from north and south and agreed to hunt or harvest in exchange for portable goods. Later, "...a large contingent of [sea-faring] Drak'ho moved to these parts." -Poul Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (New York, 2012), p. 431.

The Drak'ho were on the Sea of Achan so they have subsequently crossed the Ocean, having learned of Thursday Landing from van Rijn.

Like van Rijn before her, Kossara spends some time in mountains near the fortified town of Salmenbrok on the island of Lannach which separates the Sea of Achan from the Ocean. Scenes on Diomedes are scattered through A Knight... so a few more data may emerge.

This is an astronomical, not a geographical, datum but it is of interest to note that the two moons of Diomedes are twice the apparent size of Luna. Further, one is swift, the other slow, as on Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars/Barsoom and Anderson's Aeneas.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Deductions About A Planet

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 4 Nov 2014.

The Imperial Solar spaceship, HM Ganymede, remotely controlled by aliens, crashes on a planet in the Black Nebula. Approaching the planet, it is possible to see that its star is an old, burnt-out dwarf. Since planets form at an early stage of stellar evolution, it follows that the planet also is old. On the surface, rocks, vitrified when the star exploded before its collapse, are almost completely eroded, a process that takes millions of years. It follows that rotation has slowed, therefore that the night will be long and cold.

However, there is still a breathable albeit thin atmosphere, frozen water and vegetation. These can have survived only with artificial help. Therefore, the planet is inhabited - by the aliens that wrecked the ship.

Additional information provided by Donovan, who has had previous contact with the aliens:

the star is near the center of the nebula in a hollow where the dust is too thin to force the planet into the star. Further, the star shares the nebula's velocity and therefore remains in the hollow.

Quite an exotic setting, like many others imagined by Poul Anderson, such as the Sky Cave and the Cloud Universe, both encountered in later periods of the Technic History. 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Dido And Aeneas

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 29 Sept 2014.

Dido and Aeneas, the third and fourth planets in the Virgilian system, are like a (barely) habitable Venus and a habitable Mars with no Earth between them. See here and here.

Dido has no moon but its eccentric orbit with average radius of one a.u., extreme axial tilt of 38 degrees and rapid rotation period of 8 hours, 47 minutes, cause turbulent seas and weather. Approaching the planet, Flandry sees dazzling, stormy white clouds on the dayside and aurora and lightning on the night side.

The oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere is unacceptably hot and dense, although breathable, but the tropics are lethal to unprotected human beings. Tectonic activity is intense. Vegetation is brown, red, purple and gold. The ground cover, "carpet weed," resembles small red-brown sponges.

Yet again, Poul Anderson imagines a planetary environment differing in fundamental details from the terrestrial: different colors and ground cover and a much shorter day - also, very dissimilar inhabitants. See here and here

Diomedean Geograpy

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, Wed 29 Oct 2014.

More maps of planets in Technic Civilization would be helpful.

The Holmenach archipelago, stretching north for hundreds of kilometers from the Britain-sized island of Lannach, separates the Sea of Achan from the colder Ocean. The north coast of Lannach slopes in broad valleys from the uplands towards the Sea and Sagna Bay where the Flock of Lannach have several towns:

Yo of the Carpenters.

Fish called trech have changed their habits and moved from Draka waters (where?) to the Sea of Achan.

Well to the north of the archipelago is the ice-covered island of Dawrnach. The Flock of Lannach takes several Earth-days to fly there, resting on skerries usually visited only by birds. Somewhere to the south of Lannach are the jungles of Swampy Kilnu.

Thursday Landing, the League trading post across the Ocean, deals with the Tyrlanian Flock.

There may be a little more geographical information in the text, which I have not yet reread in full.

Thursday, 23 October 2014


Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 18 Sept 2014.

See here.

Large flying animals evolved in the dense Diomedean atmosphere. Flocks of intelligent Diomedeans winter in the tropics. The exertion of a long flight causes hormonal changes so that, upon arrival, there is a mating orgy. Females are pregnant when they return home in spring and give birth before the next migration when parents carry infants who can fly independently the following year.

Towns, vacated every autumn but reoccupied every spring, are centers of stone working, ceramics, carpentry and limited agriculture although the main economic activities are hunting and herding. The Great Flock of Lannach is indolent, artistic, ceremonious and matrilineal whereas Diomedeans of the Fleet of Drak'ho have abandoned annual migration in favor of fishing and seaweed harvesting from large, oceangoing rafts where the exertion of navigational activities exercises the body, maintaining year-round sexuality and reproduction and patriarchal monogamy. The Fleet, able to accumulate stores, machines and books, is richer but authoritarian.

On Starkad (see here), land-dwelling and sea-dwelling intelligent species were natural enemies. On Diomedes, Flock and Fleet are the same species but initially regard each other with mutual horror although extra-planetary traders encourage tolerance and cooperation. In the Imperial period, Drak'ho can adapt to living on land and to engaging in new economic activities whereas the migratory Lannachska culture, used to summer time indolence, cannot survive the introduction of high-energy technology but, without it, must remain poor and powerless.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Two Unusual Planets Early In The Nicholas Van Rijn Series

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 23 Oct 2014.

"Diomedes' poles are in the ecliptic plane. Each spends half the year in winter and night. Intelligent Diomedeans are winged migrators."
-copied from "Unusual Heavenly Bodies" (see here). 

For more information on Diomedes, see here

In the second installment of the Nicholas van Rijn series (see attached image), Old Nick is stranded on Diomedes. The third installment, "Hiding Place," briefly mentions yet another unusual planet:

"'They're under three Gs...Even so, their planet has oxygen and nitrogen rather than hydrogen, under a dozen Earth-atmosphere's pressure. The temperature is rather high, fifty degrees. I imagine their world, though of nearly Jovian mass, is so close to its sun that the hydrogen was boiled off, leaving a clear field for evolution similar to Earth's.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 596.

Large planets made habitable by cosmic accidents are among those listed in "Unusual Heavenly Bodies." Although they begin to sound familiar, each is a unique creation of Anderson's scientifically informed imagination. I may be posting more about events on Diomedes.

Saturday, 18 October 2014


The sub-Jovian planet Babur:

is more than six a.u.'s from its sun, Mogul (more than six times as bright as Sol);
is twelve and a third times as massive as Earth and two and four-fifths times as large;
has -
four moons,
a hydrogen/helium atmosphere,
red clouds in a purple sky,
eight times the Terrestrial surface, most of it land because ammonia is less plentiful than water,
large arid continents,
ice mountains,
melting volcanoes,
black vegetation,
hot underground ice that explodes with changes of pressure, causing some lands to sink beneath the ammonia seas while others emerge as yet lifeless,
a three-sexed, sex-changing, four-eyed, octopedal dominant species, living in buildings of ice.

Each Baburite "Band" is an association of beings united but not subordinated into a single personality by what might be telepathy with traditions neither oral nor written but perceived. Bands recruit by reproduction and adoption. The Imperial Band of Sisema leads a united planet without a government. 

Friday, 17 October 2014


Ivanhoe is not very odd as Andersonian planets go:

in the Pleiades region;
a cold planet of a red dwarf star;
air pressure higher than Terrestrial;
at least two moons;
no food edible by Terrestrials;
used by the Polesotechnic League only as a site for an emergency repair depot until, between stories, a valuable herb is discovered and a trade base established.

The two stories set on Ivanhoe are about interactions with the natives: furred, tailed, three-fingered bipeds with below-jaw breathing apertures instead of noses and leonine manes on males. Like the Merseians and the Ythrians, the Ivanhoans encountered in the first story are monotheists. When their Chief Consecrate bans a new idea that threatens his preferred social structure, he must show from scripture, tradition or reason that this new idea contradicts the Word of God.

To this extent at least, the Ivanhoan Sanctuary sounds like the Catholic Church. A wily Jewish trader disrupts Sanctuary theology by introducing the Kabbalah. Later, other traders disarm native hostility by introducing the idea of the Christmas truce. Thus, both stories could be included in an sf anthology on religion, as could the earlier "The Problem of Pain" about the Ythrian New Faith of God the Hunter. (We learn that the word "God" can have different connotations.)

In Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009):

"...a Master Merchant of the Polesotechnic League..." (p. 178);
"...Master Polesotechnician Martin Schuster [on Ivanhoe]..." (p. 204);
"...Master Trader Thomas Overbeck [on Ivanhoe]..." (p. 319)

Are Merchant, Polesotechnician and Trader three ranks or three different translations of a single Anglic term into English?

The first Ivanhoe story serves to introduce the series character, David Falkayn. However, both stories are also rich in other characters like the two named Masters.

Other Environments

Two other Technic History planets meriting discussion and documentation are Ivanhoe and Babur:

"The Three-Cornered Wheel" and "The Season of Forgiveness," both set on Ivanhoe, are collected in the first Technic Civilization Saga volume, The Van Rijn Method;

Mirkheim, with a passage set on Babur, is collected in the third volume, Rise Of The Terran Empire.

My next agendum is to reread these two stories and the relevant passage of the novel, then to summarize details of these planetary environments here on Poul Anderson's Cosmic Environments. Meanwhile, however, blog readers are of course welcome to preempt me with any information on either of these planets?

18 Oct 2014: See Ivanhoe and Babur.

T'Kelan Psychology

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 27 May 2013.

(Please bear with me while I discuss philosophy and religion on a Poul Anderson Appreciation blog. It is relevant.)

Human beings were active social organisms long before they became reflective individual subjects. Motivations precede morality. Immature and insensitive behavior existed long before the ability to feel any guilt about it. I think that this fact is the truth behind the myths of original sin or of karmic consequences from previous lives.

Each of us is born with baggage that is not of our choosing but I think that the baggage comes from biology and society, not from a "soul", whether created bearing original sin or transmigrating with bad karma - although "karma", meaning action and its consequences, certainly operates both in individual lives and in world history. Our origin as a species was a Darwinian ascent from animality, not a Biblical descent from innocence.

I discuss these profound issues here because that famous religious philosopher, Nicholas van Rijn, discusses them profoundly in "Territory", where he points out that our animal ancestors were arboreal herbivores before they became plains carnivores whereas t'Kelan animal ancestry was entirely carnivore. This explains otherwise puzzling t'Kelan behavior. They have more powerful killing instincts and are less gregarious:

"'Carnivores can't be. You get a big concentration of hunters in one spot, and by damn, the game goes away.'" (David Falkayn: Star Trader, New York, 2010, p. 56)

They never built nations. Individuals and small groups fight but larger groups, even when they exist, organize no wars. Prides wage no vendettas because one individual killing another is not regarded as bad. In fact, those who do not fight or own and defend territory for hunting are regarded as odd. Human beings who deny that they come to invade must be either lying or weak so van Rijn must prove his strength and courage before he can even begin to negotiate and trade. (Like PG Wodehouse's Jeeves, although in a completely different context, van Rijn has the knack of doing what looks like precisely the wrong thing, for example insulting a native leader, then turns out to have been precisely the necessary thing to do.)

"'We was animals long before we became thinkers and, uh -' van Rijn's beady eyes rolled piously ceilingward - 'and was given souls. You got to think how a race evolved before you can take them...I mean understand them.'" (p. 55)

But I think the evolution rules out the need to postulate souls. I have come to accept that van Rijn's Catholic faith is sincere - his dickering with St Dismas being merely the humorous expression of his mercantilism - but he thinks about business, leaving theologians to do what, as he says in "The Master Key", they are paid to do, for example to think about whether aliens have souls.

T'Kelan Society

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 27 May 2013.

Right now, I am so immersed in Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization that I feel as if I am living inside it: not a bad place to be but how long can I stay here?

Meanwhile, here we go with t'Kelan society:

the basic social unit everywhere on the planet t'Kela is the pride;

a pride is is the oldest male, his wives (there are about three females to every male), their children and some of the leader's father's widows;

all hunt but only males fight;

the largest pride is about twenty which is "' many as can make a living in an area small enough to cover afoot, on this desert planet...'" (David Falkayn: Star Trader, New York, 2010, p. 32);

savages have no organization beyond the pride;

in the most advanced, Kusulongo, society, covering half the northern hemisphere, ten to twenty prides form a cooperative "clan," claiming a common male ancestor, each following wild herds through its own large territory, with all clans loosely federated into a "Horde," each of which annually meets at a traditional oasis for trade, socializing, marriages and also arbitration or combat because clans often argue over honor or ammonia wells;

Kusulongans nearly always marry within their Horde which is distinguished by dress, customs, gods ("Real Ones") etc;

there are individual clashes and Volkerwanderungs but no organized wars between Hordes (is this for pragmatic economic reasons as Joyce suggests or for deeper psychological reasons as van Rijn suspects?);

the Ancients, survivors of the lost civilization in their mountain city, are paid for their services as record keepers, physicians, metallurgists, weavers, gunpowder manufacturers, magicians and astronomers able to predict solar flares.

The next topic, which will complete the picture, is t'Kelan psychology.

Making Sense Of T'Kela

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 26 May 2013.

Would it really be possible to make a profit selling drink and spices after crossing interstellar distances at super-light speeds and negotiating with alien intelligences? It sounds like an astronomically expensive way to do it.

In "Territory," Nicholas van Rijn visits the planet t'Kela:

t'Kela's sun is a very old type M dwarf with few heavy atoms;

half an AU out, t'Kela is about 40% more massive than Earth with a low specific gravity but some iron and copper;

suns like t'Kela's emit so little ultraviolet that they do not energize "...primordial organic materials..." to interact very fast (David Falkayn: Star Trader, New York, 2010, p. 24);

so life starts slowly in the liquid ammonia oceans;

it usually uses carbon dioxide and ammonia to photosynthesize carbohydrates and nitrogen, the latter breathed by animals;

but, possibly because of some catalytic agent, life sometimes evolves differently, for example on t'Kela and, in another planetary system, Throra;

oceanic ammonia hydroxide contains some liquid water;

t'Kelan and Throran plants use gaseous carbon dioxide and "dissolved" water to photosynthesize carbohydrates and free oxygen;

animals reverse this process but a specialized molecule holds the released water in their tissues so that plants have to retrieve it from decaying organisms;

oxygen from plants attacks ammonia but slowly because solid ammonia sinks to the bottom of lakes and oceans where it is protected from the air;

gradually, "...ammonia and oxygen yield free nitrogen and water..." (p. 25);

water freezes, seas shrink, air loses oxygen, deserts grow;

on Throra, a bigger planet with a denser atmosphere, therefore more heat conservation, nitrogen-fixing bacteria halted the drying-out a billion years ago;

on t'Kela several thousand years ago, so much ammonia was lost that the greenhouse effect, dependent on carbon dioxide and ammonia vapor, was significantly reduced;

increasing quantities of ammonia solidified and fell to the bottom where they were protected from melting;

carbon dioxide seasonally condensed or even solidified;

plants, needing carbon dioxide and ammonia, died and animals with them;

continent-sized areas became barren, agricultural civilization was destroyed and nitrogen-fixing bacteria were annihilated;

higher animals will be extinct within a thousand years, all life in ten thousand;

however, human beings from Esperance will reintroduce nitrogen-fixing bacteria;

a microagricultural program using soil chemistry will produce a suitable ecology;

the Esperancians will also melt and electrolyze water, releasing oxygen both to refresh the air and to burn t'Kelan petroleum, thus generating carbon dioxide to strengthen the greenhouse effect;

released chemical energy will supplement newly installed nuclear power stations "' do the electrolysis and to energize the combination of hydrogen from water with nitrogen from the atmosphere, recreating ammonia.'" (p. 27)

The Esperancian Joyce explains this process, then t'Kelan society, to van Rijn, thus enabling him to deduce why t'Kelan and human psychologies differ. He articulates some basic insights about the evolutionary and biological bases of psychology but these will have to wait until a later post.

Thursday, 16 October 2014


Osman, a white star twice as bright as Sol, is beyond Antares. Its one inhabited planet, Suleiman, is sub-Jovian with an atmosphere of hydrogen, helium, methane and ammonia and seas of ammonia. Life is based on hydrogen, ammonia and methane. Natives use the plant bluejack as a spice and tonic and collect it for the Solar Spice and Liquor Company which sells it to the hydrogen-breathing Baburites.

A Suleimanite city is built of ice. Suleimanites communicate by sound, gestures, ripples and scents. A Suleimanite has one large eye and two smaller ones for binocular and peripheral vision. (At last another alien without two eyes on the front of its head: the octopedal Baburites have four.)

Suleimanite leaders eat special food said to be poisonous to anyone else and killing a king is unthinkable, possibly because of pheromones. Suleimanites have abundant ceremonies but no discernible animism, magic or religion. The SSL employs trading base staff who double as xenologists and biologists, motivated by the scientific study of Suleimanite life and society.

Source: Poul Anderson, "Esau" IN Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), pp. 519-553.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The Winged Cross

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 19 May 2012.

The Winged Cross, a tower in Chicago Integrate, is connected to other towers by skyways. Aircars fly between them and cabs or flitters land on the roof where there is a garden and a penthouse belonging to Nicholas van Rijn. Several characters visit him there as also in his palatial Djakarta office and in his mansion on Kilimanjaro.

Interesting background details, for example about a character's residence(s), accumulate over the course of a series, possibly the most famous being certain rooms in Baker St. In Poul Anderson's works, another striking example is the New York apartment of Manson Everard of the Time Patrol.

Later in the future history featuring van Rijn, we learn that van Rijn's protege, David Falkayn, had lived with his family in a house on First Island in the Hesperian Sea on the colony planet Avalon but, because Anderson could not possibly write all the details of such a long fictitious history, we learn about this residence only long after Falkayn's death. An interesting exercise for the reader is to reread the van Rijn stories to uncover whatever details are revealed about the Winged Cross.

Addendum, 20 May 2012: Colorful details about the penthouse on the Winged Cross: several sources reveal that it has a live butler, an expanse of trollcat rug and a wall that can be rendered transparent giving a good view of the spires and towers of Chicago Integrate. Van Rijn reclines in a lounger drinking beer and does not stand to greet guests. His height as well as his width would overwhelm them.

Irumclaw II

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 22 Sept 2014.

In the pioneer days on Irumclaw, beehive-shaped native adobes were remodeled for other lifeforms but are now crumbling. As Flandry enters Old Town at night, Poul Anderson as ever addresses three senses. There are glowsigns, noises and smells. The last of these are unpleasant: body odors, garbage and smoke, although there also incense and dope, but why not some cooking smells?

An Irumclagian chanting with a vocalizer advertises games, stakes, food, drink, stimulants, narcotics, hallucinogens, emphasizers and sex with seventeen intelligent species. Thankfully, he does not mention unintelligent species although presumably anything goes.

Flandry seeks to enrich himself and a local vice boss but everything that he does has a purpose. That the Empire will abandon Irumclaw and let the Merseians move nearer has become a self-fulfilling prophecy:

an increasingly incompetent garrison;
able citizens withdrawing themselves and their capital;
defensibility and economic value spiraling downward.

But an enriched local boss with a stake to protect and a reason to stay will lobby and bribe to keep the Empire on Irumclaw.


Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 22 Sept 2014.

In Ensign Flandry, there are Irumclagians and, at the beginning of the following volume, A Circus Of Hells, Flandry is on Irumclaw.

Any sf writer can tell us that an interstellar empire is declining and withdrawing from its periphery but Poul Anderson is also able to present imperial decline in social terms with a hint of the pathetic fallacy to back it up.

First, the pathetic fallacy - Flandry leaves the naval compound:

"Soon after the red-orange sun had set..."
-Poul Anderson, Young Flandry (New York, 2010), p. 203.

Anderson gets his readers to imagine sunset colors - not only has the sun just set but it was red-colored to begin with - immediately before he discusses declining empire. I have used the accompanying color illustration, although we have had it recently, because of its appropriate background coloring.

Next, as Flandry walks between the homes and private parks of the wealthy, he reflects that "...they epitomized man's trajectory." (p. 204) When the settlement had been large, prosperous and well inside the Imperial boundaries, it had attracted both mercantile commerce and aristocratic culture but now the mansions are either empty or owned only by those who prey on the declining numbers of spacemen and Navy personnel while, outside the treaty port boundaries, the natives revert to barbarism.

"Tonight Irumclaw lay like a piece of wreckage at the edge of the receding tide of empire." (ibid.)

Here again is the pathetic fallacy. Irumclaw is not in decline only at night! However, it is appropriate that Flandry's somber reflections occur just after night fall. They prefigure the Long Night of Empire that haunts Flandry's life.

Sunday, 28 September 2014


Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 12 June 2013.

I am trying to imagine being a Didonian:

my "body" comprises three temporarily linked animals, A, B and C, of different species;
I exist as a discrete entity only when A, B and C are temporarily linked;
between them, when they are not linked, these three animals carry all my memories and skills but in latent form;
when A and B instead link with D, it is as if I have come into existence but one third of my memories have been replaced by D's memories of every other three-way linkage that it has been in;
when A links with D and E, it is as if two thirds of my memories have been replaced or as if another entity has had one third of heesh's memories replaced by some of mine;
that other entity could be DEF or DEG etc;
when A dies, B, C, D, E etc retain their memories of linkages with A;
thus, other entities can remember having been me;
when A, B and C are all dead, other entities will remember having been in linkages with them;
thus, memories of an entity persist long after it has ceased to be possible to assemble that entity but the memories of memories fade with time.

I started out by imagining an individual self-consciousness, then trisecting it, but the Didonian starting point is the separate species linking together so that experienced "thirds" can share their experience with new members that have not linked before. These entities directly experience both the gradual fading of a sense of identity based on accumulated memories and the on-going history of their community. Thus, they cannot possibly imagine that each entity corresponds to a discrete soul that preexisted embodiment or reincarnates or survives as a unit in another realm after the cessation of its physical embodiment. Their supreme aim is universal oneness, not individual survival.

In The Rebel Worlds as in several other works, Poul Anderson has successfully imagined a genuinely alien mode of consciousness.


Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 22 May 2014.

Let's try to get a better grasp of what Didonians looks like. Flandry sees what initially resemble rhinoceroses but, on closer examination:

each of these "nogas" does have the size, general build and horned nose of a rhino;
but their skin is nearly hairless, slate-blue and smooth;
they have no tails;
their ears are big and fan-like;
the shoulders extend sideways as small platforms;
when a goose-like "krippo" and an ape-like "ruka" sit on the platforms and join their "tongues" to the noga's extensible "tentacles," then and only then is a rational Didonian present.

As with other complicated situations described by Anderson, I had remembered in a general way how tripartite Didonian consciousness works; however, the details have become clearer through writing an account of them. Each complete Didonian has partial memories of experiences of other such entities that its members have temporarily participated in. Thus, their concept of self cannot possibly be anything like ours and they say things like:

"Make oneness.
"I/we: Feet belonging to Guardian of North Gate and others who can be, to Raft Farer and Woe who will no longer be..."
-Poul Anderson, Young Flandry (New York, 2010), p. 369.

The novel begins like that without any explanation but it all makes sense if we persevere.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014


Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 9 June 2013.

The planet Shalmu is thrice important:

it is mentioned in the very early "Sargasso of Lost Starships";
Dominic Flandry visits it in The Rebel Worlds;
it is where his servant, Chives, is from.

The Shalmuan slave trade and crucifixions in The Rebel Worlds remind us that we are reading about a future version of the Roman Empire.

Why do Shalmuans and Merseians look so similar when they are products of unrelated evolutions?

Chives is elderly in A Stone In Heaven and I suspect that he has died by the time of The Game Of Empire because he is not mentioned in that concluding Flandry novel.

When not coerced to enslave their fellows by a corrupt sector governor:

"...Shalmuans were less ferocious, less able to treat their fellow beings like vermin or machinery, than humankind is." (Poul Anderson, The Rebel Worlds, London, 1973, p. 24)

- with the consequence that the global hegemony of a technological culture spreads more slowly. If only human history had been like that.

In The Rebel Worlds, Flandry's first officer, Rovian, like an ERBian green Martian, has two arms, two legs and intermediate limbs that can be used as either. He asks why oppression on Shalmu is bad unless it provokes rebellion. As Spock lacks emotions, Rovian lacks morality but he obeys orders, abides by his Oath and is loyal to his captain. Another interesting character, too soon killed in combat.


Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 22 May 2014.

Fans of Poul Anderson's History Of Technic Civilization know somewhat of the major planets such as Terra, Hermes, Merseia and Avalon but what do we know of Llynathawr apart from its name (which we do not know how to spell)? Yet another entire planet sketched briefly by Anderson, Llynathawr was discovered by Cynthians and bought by the Terran Empire, has good climate and scenery and rich natural resources, is close to Sector Naval HQ on Ifri and has trade opportunities with both Imperial and barbarian planets.

Llynathawr's single (?) city, Catawrayannis (population: two million), on the Luana River, houses the hill top palace of the Governor of Sector Alpha Crucis. This frontier Sector also contains the Virgilian System, with inhabited Dido and colonized Aeneas, and the industrial rogue planet Satan which, at the time of the McCormac Rebellion, was an ancient possession of the Duke of Hermes, a colony planet in Sector Antares.

In the previous volume, the planet Irumclaw, with its empty suburban mansions, was described as:

" a piece of wreckage at the edge of the receding tide of empire."
 -Poul Anderson, Young Flandry (New York, 2010), p. 204.

Llynthawr has seen not a receding tide but a false dawn. The planet was bought in order to "...strengthen this frontier by attracting settlers." (p. 400) However, few people any longer leave comfortable environments for new beginnings in remote places and those few prefer town to country. Also, nearer colonials like Aeneans are already settled and unwilling to move. Thus, Catawrayannis is surrounded by sparsely lit wilderness.

The new Governor's audience chamber has a gold and black " carpet..." (p. 402). A living surface, like grass underfoot? It also has many moving lights and dynasculps, incense, low music, an animated Imperial court masquerade covering one wall and an enormous inscribed portrait of the Emperor behind the chair of state. Subtle bad taste, reflecting Governor Snelund's personality.

An interesting place: we see too little of Llynathawr - although we are learning to spell it.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Venus And Prosperity

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 16 July 2014.

Many fictional Venuses, including Burroughs', Kline's, Heinlein's and Lewis', are humanly habitable;

in Poul Anderson's "Delenda Est," Venus, presumably habitable, has been colonized;

in Anderson's "The Big Rain," a desert Venus has been colonized but has yet to be terraformed;

in his "Sister Planet," an oceanic Venus has yet to be terraformed and colonized;

in his Technic History, Venus has been colonized despite incomplete terraforming;

in SM Stirling's "A Slip in Time," we retroactively learn that the colonized Venus of "Delenda Est" had been paradisally terraformed - lawns, gardens, vines, flowers, trees, a canal, bioengineered colorful singing birds and a cat-dog-chimp hybrid companion-nurse.

Surely a civilization with the power and wealth to effect this transformation would be able to solve all socioeconomic problems? Despite this, conflicts and wars continue for many millennia - although not indefinitely.

In "Ivory, and Apes, and Peacocks," we learn that the Time Patrol suppresses the Trazon matter transmuter, able to transform any material object into any other...

Wings Of Victory

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 5 July 2014.

From orbit around a newly discovered terrestroid planet, Vaughn Webner, chief xenologist on the Olga, a spaceship of the Grand Survey, detects:

Stone Age cultures, probably based on hunting-gathering-fishing by carnivores;
Iron Age cultures, probably based on herding of meat animals with cultivation for fodder but not agriculture.

Webner wonders how the Iron Agers maintain their metallurgic culture with so little trade and communication:

a few clusters of buildings, without defensive walls or streets, near primitive mines;
a few dirt tracks between buildings, mines and docks;
otherwise, only small isolated settlements or single buildings;
immense unpopulated areas.

This kind of hard sf story about a spaceship crew exploring a new planet is like a (much better) Star Trek episode and also a detective story:

 the characters and the readers receive clues in the shape of discrete data about a planetary environment;
a single explanation, when discovered or disclosed, integrates disparate data;
sometimes, as in this particular story, it is not initially obvious which species is dominant.

When it is revealed that the planet is called Ythri by its most advanced culture, regular readers will understand that:

the dominant species is indeed carnivorous;
each Ythrian needs a lot of territory;
Ythrians do not need roads for rapid communication.

Because "Wings of Victory" is a story, not a speculative essay, there are not only mysteries about the xenosophonts but also conflicts between the human beings but I am not going to post about those at 2.10 AM. 

The Exploration Of Gray IV

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 4 July 2014.

See previous posts.

Like some later Terran invaders of Avalon, Olga Berg is dying of hell shrub poisoning, although Pete and his Ythrian companions do not yet know the cause. Pete leaves the camp so that he can be alone when he screams at heaven:

"'Why did You do this to her, why did You do it?'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Problem of Pain" IN Anderson, The Earth Book Of Stormgate (New York, 1979), pp. 26-48 AT p. 44.

After kneeling for an hour, he is able to say, "Your will be done," (p. 45) and return. Like an Ythrian, he has fought with and honored God, although Pete would not see it like that.

"Israel" means "he struggled with God"?

"Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
"to mould me man? Did I solicit thee
"From darkness to promote me? -"
(Adam in Paradise Lost, quoted by Frankenstein's Monster.)

"Lord who made me as I am,
"Would it upset some divine plan,
"If I were a wealthy man?"
(Fiddler On The Roof, from memory.)

I ask similar questions although I cannot address them to a personal Creator.

After the death of Arrach, the crippling of Enherrian and Olga's mortal illness, the climax of "The Problem of Pain" is reached when Pete returns to the camp. He had sedated Olga so that she would sleep peacefully till death. Instead, he finds her awake and in extreme pain and a second injection has little effect. He must hold her till she dies:

" was like seeing a light blown out." (p. 45)

Enherrian says it is well that she is fallen. Thinking that Pete had miscalculated, he gave her a stim shot. Enherrian honors both Pete and Olga too much to deny Olga her deathpride. Did Pete not want her "' give God a battle?'" (p. 46)

Sunday, 14 September 2014

A Mixed Ecology

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 3 July 2014.

Poul Anderson conveys the richness of the Avalonian environment with detailed descriptions of what can be seen from particular vantage points. From a balcony of the tower of the Weathermaker Choth, Nat Falkayn sees, first, the imported organisms:

meadows full of grazing meat animals brought from Ythri;
Terrestrial grass, clover, oak and pine;
Ythrian starbell, wry, braidbark and copperwood -

- then, beyond the cultivated area, native Avalonian organisms:

the red mat of susin;
intensely green chasuble bushes;
delicately blue janie;
a flock of leather-winged draculas.

Susin must be the local equivalent of grass, surface-covering vegetation that can be cropped down to ground level without being killed. Anderson always describes this on each colonized planet.

Again, the view from a hospital window displays the mixed ecology:

"...a lawn and tall trees - Avalonian king's-crown, Ythrian windnest, Earthly oak - and a distant view of snowpeaks. Light spilled from heaven. The air sang."
-Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2012), p. 321.

These are the moments to be savored in Anderson's works. There are many such passages, to be found when rereading since they are usually forgotten soon after a single reading.

(Ythrian hammerbranch has found its way to Aeneas: see here.)

Yhtrian Society Is Not A Civilization

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 30 June 2014.

Ythrians are winged carnivores but intelligent. The flapping of their wings pumps enough oxygen into their veins to generate the energy needed to lift bodies capable of intelligence in Earth-like gravity. Each Ythrian family needs territory for hunting or herding. The sexes are equal. Parents are bonded by care of children who cling to them in flight, not by sex, which is only when they are in heat.

Their Stone Age was ended not by agriculture but by herding and domestication. Agriculture developed later for fodder. Later, larger, more complex social units are not civilizations because winged Ythrians have never needed cities. Sedentary centers for specific purposes, like mining, industry, trade or religion, are small with floating populations. Since contact with Terrans, machines have mostly replaced wing-clipped slaves while, simultaneously, the Empire reintroduces slavery.

Families are grouped in "choths", diverse in size, organization and tradition. All free adults can participate in democratic meetings called "Khruaths" but the only way to enforce a Khruath decision, if enforcement becomes necessary, is for the presiding officers, the Wyvans, to cry Oherran, calling on everyone in the territory to attack the defiers of the decision. Oherran is a deathpride matter. Wyvans whose call of Oherran is rejected have no honorable course but suicide.

Aeneas And Barsoom

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 26 May 2013.

Poul Anderson's fictional planet, Aeneas, has some features in common with Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom:

a breathable atmosphere, even though Barsoom is the ERBian Mars;
dead sea bottoms;
thus, a wharf now on dry land;
military traditions, defensive on Aeneas but barbaric on Barsoom;
buildings of an ancient race used by a current race;
custodians (therns, Companions) of a mystery (the Valley Dor, the Ancients);
knowledge of the next Sunward planet (Barsoomians observe Earth, Aeneans study Didonians);
a visibly moving moon;
six-legged green draft animals, although the Aenean stathas are imports.

When I seek parallels, I find more than I expect. However, the differences are greater. No one in his right mind would think that Aeneas was a copy of Barsoom - although Anderson could have written a good Barsoom novel (Sword and Science), just as he contributed to the Conan series (Sword and Sorcery), but I do not think that the Burroughs Estate commissions continuations? (Later: It has done.)

One Fictional Planet

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 25 May 2014.

For many of his fictional planets, Poul Anderson seriously considers:

the astrophysical conditions of the condensation of this planetary system from the primordial gas and dust;
the current planetary environment and climate;
every facet of the social life of the inhabitants;
their galacto-political relations to other planets during a changing history.

In the case of Dennitza, there was no astrophysical accident - no nearby supernova or passing neutron star etc. However, there was a more recent collision with "...a shower of giant meteoroids..." -Poul Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (New York, 2012), p. 498. Results: craters, extinctions, tsunamis, clouds, an Ice Age and, at the time of human colonization six hundred years ago, a Great Spring, now submerging coastal towns. The Kazan or Cauldron is a huge astrobleme containing woods, farms, rivers and the capital city.

Four hundred years ago, immigrants fleeing the modernization of Merseia, and better adapted to cold environments, provided labor during industrialization and now do most of the fishing and pelagriculture. They retain Vach organization and are represented in a third House of the Parliament. Anderson demonstrates that both species have developed new legends and traditions during their centuries on Dennitza.

Two Cosmic Accidents And Some Other Details

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation, 24 May 2014.

I discussed the freak planet Diomedes before but did not mention one detail - two cosmic accidents caused the planet's unusual features.

(i) The electromagnetic activity of a passing neutron star chemically fractionated a cloud of gas and dust which therefore condensed into a metal-poor system. Consequently, Diomedes, compared with Terra, has 4.75 mass and 2.00 diameter but only 1.10 gravity. Such a large planet generates a dense atmosphere supporting many large flying organisms, including one intelligent species with a sophisticated Stone Age technology, trading their organic substances for off-world metals.  

(ii) Some other unspecified accident placed the poles at the equator. Therefore, each hemisphere has an annual sunless season and most organisms either hibernate or migrate.

I am rereading A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows, a novel rich in details, many of which I have already discussed. Because this novel falls so late in the Technic History series, it incorporates many already established background details, including Diomedes. While Dominic Flandry is on that planet, he recalls a meeting with two opponents on Talwin where he claimed to be dressed in a style from Ramanujan. All these entities and planets have appeared or been mentioned earlier in the series.

Four works are set during the Molitor dynasty and all four could be collected under the title "Children of Empire" since they feature:

for Molitor - two sons and one granddaughter plus mention of a grandson;
for Flandry - one son and one daughter plus mention of a few other children;
for Max Abrams - one daughter;
for the Starkadian Dragoika  - one son.

James Bond-like, Flandry really does combine sex with espionage. He gathers intelligence by sleeping with the Diomedean resident's wife. Currently, each British town has a Mayor and some also have a Duke. In Flandry's time, Britain has a Mayor Palatine and Mars has a Duke!