Sunday, 11 May 2014

Who Knows Of Avalon?

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, Friday 20 April 2012


In "The Problem of Pain"

"...intermediate in size between Earth and Ythri, surface gravity 0.8 terrestrial;
"slightly more irradiation, from a somewhat yellower sun, than Earth gets, which simply makes it a little warmer;
"axial tilt, therefore seasonal variations, a bit less than terrestrial;
"length of year about three quarters of ours, length of day a bit under half;
"one small, close in, bright moon;
"biochemistry similar to ours - we could eat most native things, though we'd require imported crops and livestock to supplement the diet.
"All in all, seemingly well-nigh perfect." (1)

South of the largest continent, a great gulf swarms with life. A strong eastward current is deflected north by an archipelago. Monstrous marine creatures graze on floating islands of densely interwoven "atlantis weed" probably also supporting lesser plants and animals. Higher solar energy input and rapid rotation make storms more violent than would be possible on Earth.

On an island in the gulf:

"A mat of mossy, intensely green plants squeezed out any possibility of forest." (2)

Surgeon trees' thin leaf-fringed bows, sharp enough to cut a wing from a swooping Ythrian, whip insanely in the wind which blows gorgeous blossoms torn from vines. Widespread low, russet-leaved, rankly odorous hell shrubs clutch at feet with raking twigs and emit vapours scarcely harming Ythrians but slowly poisoning human beings. Waterfowl fly through a rose, gold and silver-blue sunrise.

In "Wingless"

Ythrians and human beings settle different territories in the Hesperian Islands before jointly colonising the Coronan continent. Nat Falkayn, seventeen Avalonian (twelve Terran) years of age when visiting the Ythrian extended household of Weathermaker Choth,

"...stood on a balcony of that tall stone tower which housed the core families. Below were a paved courtyard and rambling wooden buildings. Meadows where meat animals grazed sloped downhill in Terrestrial grass and clover, Ythrian starbell and rye, Terrestrial oak and pine, Ythrian braidbark and copperwood, until cultivation gave way to the reddish mat of native susin, the scattered intense green of native chasuble bush and delicate blue of janie. The sun Laura stood big and golden-colored at morning, above a distantly glimpsed mercury line of ocean. Elsewhere wandered a few cottony clouds and the pale, sinking ghost of Morgana. A flock of Avalonian draculas passed across view, their leathery wings awkward beside the plumed splendor of Keshchyi's." (3)

Morgana is the moon, brighter and faster than Luna. Keshchyi is a young Ythrian.

Whirlpools around the dark coraloid reefs at a lagoon entrance hold "...thick brown nets of atlantis weed torn loose from a greater mass far out to sea..." (4)

In "Rescue on Avalon"

The highest Avalonian mountains are called the Andromeda Range by human beings and the Weathermother by Ythrians. (Hloch of the Stormgate Choth wrote The Earthbook of Stormgate on the peak of Mount Anrovil in the Weathermother.) Ironleaf trees draw metal from the soil and concentrate pure particles in shining purple leaves which attract pollinating bugs and also absorb radio waves. A hospital window opens on Avalonian king's-crown, Ythrian windnest and Earthly oak.

The Parliament of Man and the Great Kruath of the Ythrians divided continental territory between the species. Human beings need prairies for crops whereas Ythrian hunters occupy the Weathermother.

In The People of the Wind, Chapter One

The city of Gray on Falkayn Bay is surrounded by human-owned grain-fields, Ythrian-owned pastures for maukh and mayaw, forests of oak, pine, windnest or hammerbranch and treeless areas of native susin where some barysauroids survive. Even in Gray, humans, with ample room on Avalon, build low. Highrises are for ornithoids (Ythrians).

"Laura, a G5 star, has only 72 per cent the luminosity of Sol and less ultraviolet light in proportion; but Avalon, orbiting at a mean distance of 0.81 astronomical unit in a period of 0.724 Terran, gets 10 percent more total irradiation than man evolved under." (5)

Christopher Holm, thirty years Avalonian old, has joined Stormgate Choth as Arinninan. The Stormgate compound

"...stood on a plateau of Mount Fairview. At the middle lifted the old stone tower which housed the senior members of the family and their children. Lower wooden structures, on whose sod roofs bloomed amberdragon and starbells, were for the unwed and retainers and their kin. Further down a slope lay sheds, barns, and mews. The whole could not be seen at once from the ground, because Ythrian trees grew among the buildings: braidbark, copperwood, gaunt lightningrod, jewelleaf which sheened beneath the moon and by day would shimmer iridescent. The flowerbeds held natives, more highly evolved than anything from offplanet - sweet small janie, pungent livewell, graceful trefoil and Buddha's cup, a harp vine which the breeze brought ever so faintly to singing. Otherwise the night was quiet and, at this, altitude, cold." (6)

Avalonian constellations include Wheel, Swords, Zirraukh, Ship and Maukh.

Chapter Two

"Avalon rotates in 11 hours, 22 minutes, 12 seconds, on an axis tilted 21 degrees from the normal to the orbital plane. Thus Gray, at about 43 degrees N., knows short nights always; in summer the darkness seems scarcely a blink." (7)

Human fluid balance and kinesthesia have had to readjust to a gravity field only 80 percent Terran. Ythrians shifting their breeding cycle to Avalonian conditions had low fertility in early generations.
Humans who join choths "go bird". Ythrians who leave choths to become atomic individuals within the global community become "Walkers". Mistwood Choth, like the home world Ythri, has successfully adapted Terran technology.

Chapter Three

Equatorial diameter: 11,308 kilometres. Highest Andromedan peak: 4500 metres. Corona, the north polar continent extending past the Tropic of Swords: eight million square kilometres, comparable to Australia. In the Southern hemisphere, Equatoria, New Africa and New Gaiila are small continents or large islands.
2000 kilometres west of Gray, the Oronesian archipelago crosses the Tropic of Spears, separating the Middle Ocean to the West from the Hesperian Sea in the northern hemisphere and the South Ocean beyond the equator. Oronesia supports a distinct ecology. Eccentrics flee there to settle islands and found choths of only a single household. However, the more numerous Highsky Choth occupies much of the archipelago and controls the fisheries around latitude 30 degrees North. Tabitha Falkayn, Hrill of Highsky, is a third generation human member of her choth and was brought up by Ythrians. Western Corona and northern Oronesia must defend the Hesperian Sea against Terrans.

Upper slopes have susin and a few shrubs. Lower, cultivated ground has red Ythrian clustergrain to feed shuas and Terrestrial fruit trees to feed Highsky humans. A herder and his uhoth control flapping shuas while an Ythrian sailor scouts for piscoids and native pteropleuron lumber around.

Chapter Four is about Terrans preparing to attack Avalon from Esperance.

Chapter Five

The main Ythrian language is Planha, the equivalent of Terran Anglic. Kruaths, gatherings open to all free adults in a given territory, have judicial and limited legislative authority. Wyvans, the presiding officers, explain the law and try suits but cannot compel. If non-compliance is deemed sufficiently serious, then the Wyvans cry Oherran, calling on everyone in the territory to attack the offenders. Rejection of the call would be a deathpride matter, with suicide the Wyvans' only option.

Chapter Six

The only other Avalonian city is Centauri at the mouth of the Sagittarius in the Gulf of Centaurs. In the Phoenix House, Tabitha/Hrill orders a catflower cocktail. She and Chris/Arinnian eat piscoid-and-tomato chowder, beef-and-shua pie, salad of clustergrain, leaf and pears and drink coffee spiced with witchroot and a bottle of vintage dago. The Nest, a tavern for ornithoids, is the tallest building in Centauri with a gravshaft to its rooftop for humans who have not brought flying gear. It is unwalled, protected from rain by a vitryl canopy. Insectoids circle fluoroglobes and a service robot serves New African beer.

Most of Highsky keeps to the Old Faith, using drugs in sacred revels. Other planets in the Lauran System are Elysium, Camelot, Phaeacia and Utgard.

Chapters Seven and Eight describe a battle in space.

Chapter Nine
Morgana is smaller than Luna but, being close, raises twice the tides. The Avalonian vertebrate design is hexapodal. Winged creatures have four legs. The dense mat of low-growing vegetation prevents native forests and helps to explain why animals remain reptiloid, unable to compete with mammals or birds. Trees are low and thick or slim and supple to survive high winds caused by rapid rotation. Imported domestic animals had to be revamped genetically because local food lacks some vitamins.

In Chapter Ten, the Terran Admiral parleys with Avalonian leaders and a fallen Avalonian, the First Marchwarden, is laid to rest.

Chapter Eleven

High Wyvan Liaw of the Tarns addresses the Great Kruath of Avalon from outside David Falkayn's house on First Island in the Hesperian Sea. On a North Coronan prairie, a flapping youth leads a herd of quadrupedal burden-bearing zirraukhs. South-East from Oronesia are the Brendan's, Fiery and Shielding Islands. Atlantis weed patches are entire ecologies grazed by peaceful but huge kraken. David Falkayn's granddaughter named Avalon. Equatorian centaurs use tools of stone and bone.

Chapters Twelve and Thirteen are mainly about the consequences of the war in space.

Chapter Thirteen

In winter, snow falls in North Corona and in the mountains but not in Gray where "...the susin stayed green on its hills the year around." (8)

Chapter Fourteen

Zirraukhs are warm-blooded quadrupeds smaller than horses and unlike them but used for the same purpose.

Chapter Fifteen

An Ythrian swoops on a pteropleuron that had been hunting piscoids near the surface of the sea.

Chapter Sixteen

Grief causes premature ovulation in a bereaved Ythrian female. A male seeks her out. This is not against choth law and the female's human chothmate, Arinnian, has no cause to challenge so he insults the Ythrian male until the latter challenges him.

Chapter Seventeen

On the Scorpelunan plateau in Equatoria, hexapods graze under their parasol membranes. Packs of dog-sized hexapodal lycosauroids and throngs of twenty centimetre long cockroach-like kakkelaks attack Terran invaders who are being slowly poisoned by hell shrubs. Furious tropical storms caused by high irradiation and fast spin delay evacuation.

Chapter Eighteen

Smaragdine susin, chasuble bush and Buddha's cup grow on a hill above Falkayn Bay.
Chapter Nineteen

Trefoil and sword-of-sorrow grow in the grass. Harp vines ring. Jewelleafs twinkle. Morgana is less bright because scarred by Terran bombardment.

Why Am I Doing This?

I have summarised an alternative reading. We read an Anderson novel to follow the story. We appreciate that there are rich background details but do not usually pause to savour the details. I have noted as many details as I can of the planet Avalon.

(1) Poul Anderson, "The Problem of Pain" IN Anderson, The Earthbook of Stormgate, New York, 1978, pp. 26-48, AT p. 33.
(2) ibid., p. 40.
(3) Poul Anderson, "Wingless" IN The Earthbook of Stormgate, pp. 411-420, AT pp. 413-414.
(4) ibid., p. 417.
(5) Poul Anderson, The People of the Wind, London, 1977, p. 7.
(6) ibid., p. 10.
(7) ibid., p. 18.
(8) ibid., p. 127.


1 comment:

  1. In THE PEOPLE OF THE WIND, Chapter X, "...deeper inland, where Old Avalon remained, a boomer tree frightened beasts that might have grazed on it..." (RISE OF THE TERRAN EMPIRE, New York, 2011, p.558).

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