Saturday, 28 June 2014

Ruins Of Empire

The planet in Poul Anderson's "The Sharing of Flesh" is not called Lokon, as I said in the previous post. Lokon is the capital town. The people of the town and their language are "Lokonese." The language is remotely descended from Anglic, thus from English. The planet has no name except World because the descendants of the original colonists have forgotten what stars and planets are.

When the Empire fell, a missile destroyed the single town and most of its inhabitants. A very small population barely survived with the help of some imported species in a local ecology that was "...often poisonous, always nutritonally deficient."
-Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), p. 667.

The only human beings on the planet are on a single island. The one town has a population of several thousand and there are a few scattered villages. Members of the large slave class mine or cultivate fields and orchards with neolithic tools, guarded by "...soldiers whose spearheads and swords were of ancient Imperial metal." (p. 674) Other slaves are kept to be eaten by young boys who, because of a mutation, would not otherwise physically mature.

The forest-dwelling lowlanders, speaking a debased dialect of Lokonese, have no agriculture and are savages, continually in danger of being killed by each other. Despite noticeable differences in their height and health, highlanders and lowlanders resemble each other because of their common descent from a very few surviving settlers.

Thursday, 26 June 2014


The human colony planet, Lokon, after the Long Night:

a large island is the only inhabitable area;
native psuedo-grasses are red;
a plant with green trilobate leaves is descended from Terrestrial clover;
the isolated colony has sunk to highland barbarism or jungle savagery;
the lowland dialect is a debased form of Lokonese, which is remotely descended from Anglic;
the crew of the Allied Planets ship, New Dawn, must recommend whether a civilizing mission should be sent;
the New Dawn crew includes a Krakenite Militech who guards the expedition's compound in the highlands while her Atheian husband explores the lowlands. (They had met when his spaceship crew incorporated Kraken into the Allied Planets.)

There's more to write but not tonight.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Scothani Empire

The Scothani Empire:

about 100 planetary systems;
tribute in raw materials, manufactured goods or specialized labor;
client states helped towards industrial revolution and planetary unification;
planning war on the Terran Empire;
objectives - plunder and planets already made habitable;
nobles need war for personal glory;
commons cannot prosper at home under anti-commercial aristocracy;
holy racial destiny unites nobles and commons;
will attack during next Imperial internal crisis;
might then win major concessions;
three billion Scothani, two thirds in artificial environments or on conquered planets.


turbulent seas under three small moons;
united by the Frithian kings a century ago;
pollution avoided by moving industry into space;
contraception free;
children taxed or enslaved, which favors the wealthier Frisians;
the capital, Iuthagaar, has sprawled down from a mountain stronghold into a kilometers-wide metal city.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014


Alfzar is the main planet of the Betelgeusian System. Dank red mist smelling of wet iron drifts through an open bedroom window at Betelgeuse-rise. A horn blows, reminding readers of the Terrestrial past as they try to imagine an interstellar future.

Alfzarians and their Terran and Merseian guests, each seated in a one-person airjet armed with a needle beam energy projector in the nose, hunt ten meter long, leather-winged Borthudian dragons with light bodies, high-energy metabolisms and steel-rending teeth that can open an airjet's fuselage.

The landscape below is unearthly and mountainous with gaunt peaks, canyons and snow reddened by the sun but is not described in as much detail as we would have liked.


The red giant star, Betelgeuse, is Alpha Orionis.

In Poul Anderson's Technic Civilization History, Betelgeuse has forty seven planets, six bearing life. The star's total radiation is great enough that its liquid water zone includes that many planetary orbits; however, not long enough for life, let alone intelligence, to develop. Because Betelgeuse is much more massive than Sol, it has spent only a short time on the main sequence and is dying.

Human explorers found an interplanetary civilization with vague traditions, although no extant records, of ancestors arriving from elsewhere and seeding lifeless planets:

engineered microorganisms can generate a breathable atmosphere in decades;
automated processes can produce soil;
plants and animals grown from cells can then be released.


have hereditary rulers called Sartazes;
now have the hyperdrive;
rule a few nearby stars;
will evacuate their system when necessary;
play potential enemies, like Terra and Merseia, off against each other;
are treated as a buffer state between imperia and barbarians;
have human citizens, some in key positions;
are short, stocky, bald and blue with large yellow eyes in round blunt faces;
trade with the human colonies, Altai and Unan Besar;
thus were, indirectly, the means by which Dominic Flandry ended Merseian subversion on the former and a dictatorship on the latter.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Unan Besar II

Kompong Timur, capital city of the planet Unan Besar, is:

two thousand kilometers south of the nearly extinct volcano, Gunung Utara, where a mining town occupies natural tunnels and artificial caves linked by mountain-side ledges and trails, volcanic heat is used for energy and lava is channeled away from the inhabited areas;

one thousand kilometers south west of Ranau, where each two hundred meter high Tree is inhabited by a single clan using parasitic grasses to build dwellings, storehouses etc on the road-like branches and harvesting smaller plants that grow on the big one.

Thus, Poul Anderson imagines three distinct human societies on a single colonized planet.

Unan Besar

Malayans colonized New Djawa. After a war with Gorrazan, some New Djawans colonized Unan Besar, where they have remained isolated for three centuries. Their ruling group, Biocontrol, trades with Betelgeuse, exchanging hides, fibers and fruits for technology, books and newstapes, but keeps its population ignorant of galactic affairs. Unan Besarians speak Pulaoic.

Unan Besar is:

one AU from its sun, which is more massive than Sol;
warmer than Earth.

It has:

no moons;
a small axial tilt;
0.8 gravity;
heavy clouds;
few uplands;
small continents;
shallow seas;
many islands, swamps and jungles;
a nine month year;
a ten hour rotation period;
an estimated population of 100,000,000;
a germ that enters human blood and excretes acetylcholine which destroys the nervous system unless Biocontrol sells each individual their laboriously brewed and carefully monopolized antitoxin.

Modern laboratories can synthesize the antitoxin and distribute it cheap or free but Biocontrol does not want that. The capital Kompong Timur, beside a lake, has many canals, tall well lit buildings, including the Biocontrol Pagoda, at the center and the dark unpoliced slum of Swamp Town beyond.

Early during colonization, Biocontrol scientists, by threatening to destroy their vats, replaced the government in order to reform society but of course became a self-perpetuating oligarchy. Flandry, usually against revolutions, tries to ask two commoners why they have not thought of revolution but cannot find that word in his implanted Pulaoic vocabulary.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Nyanza IV

At low tide people swim through Jairnovaunt on the surface, guided by marked buoys. A captain's house contains models, scrimshaw, stuffed fish and a couch covered with the hide of a large sea animal killed by the captain.

We learn the names of three Nyanzan nations:

The Kraal;
Rossala, which is ruled by a Sheikh.

Uhunhu is a million-year old ruined sunken pre-human city of dolmens and menhirs, used as a base by A'u, a fifteen-meter-long, whale-mouthed, talon-legged amphibian with hands on boneless arms who, like Aycharaych, is not Merseian but serves Merseia and has fought Flandry before although "The Game of Glory" is the only story featuring this particular adversary.

Flandry first meets Aycharaych between chasing A'u out of Spica and catching him on Nyanza. Aycharaych later tells Flandry that his side will miss A'u. We are to understand that Flandry and Aycharaych have clashed between their first meeting and the occasion when the latter mentions A'u. However, we read of Flandry-Aycharaych encounters only in "Honorable Enemies" (the first meeting), "Hunters of the Sky Cave" (mention of A'u) and A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows (the last meeting). Despite his massive output, Anderson was a restrained author who never overdid anything and later launched new series instead of merely rehashing the Technic History.

In the Kith History, human colonists of a planet with a large ocean became aquatic. Maybe some Nyanzans will do likewise?

Nyanza III

Most parts of Nyanza are permanently underwater, like Uhunhu. However, many of the populated areas are tidal. The domes and towers of Jairnovaunt stand on rocks that are above water at low tide but meters under at high tide. At the latter times, an approaching ship must steer between buoys to an anchored floating dock from which those visiting or returning to the city swim down with aqualungs. On the dock, fish are unloaded, sails are repaired and engines are overhauled while sailors not otherwise engaged make music and dance.

Members of the Jairnovaunt House of Men and Congress of Women are not professional politicians but aristocrats and ship owners with some ship's officers elected to represent the commons. Aristocrats inherit responsibilities. For example, the Lightmistress of Little Skua must maintain lightships and communications around the reef of Skua.

The inner moon raises tides up to nine times a Terran high and orbits five times in sixty hours, thus causing a rapid ebb when water roars and tumbles from rock. The outer moon has a weaker effect without dangerous whirlpools but nevertheless also submerges the city.

Nyanza II


the third planet of a dwarf star;
colonized during the breakup of the Solar Commonwealth, five centuries before Flandry;
incorporated into the Empire a century before Flandry;
a few revolts crushed;
estimated population 10,000,000;
air smells of salt because of the planet-wide ocean and of ozone because of the strongly ultraviolet sun;
an Imperial resident, a Portmaster, a City Warden and sea chiefs;
most planetography is oceanography, e.g., the Zurian Current turns north beyond Iron Shoals and continues past the Reefs of Sorrow;
plankton-like organisms in the Current change the water from blue to deep purple;
decapus eat oilfish which eat quasi-plankton;
Nyanzans use decapus and oilfish;
the Prince of Aquant's fishing boats, and no doubt others, are identified by their distinctive flags;
sailing boats use engines when the wind drops;
because light is more actinic than on Earth and is everywhere reflected from water, natural selection favors the black skin of the African colonists although facial features may vary;
Nyanzans often go naked;
when the original colonists overflowed the single island, Altla, they began to range the sea and found this lifestyle preferable;
thus, positions newly available on Altla were filled by pinkskins, mostly from Deutshwelt;
this second wave of immigrants could not work at sea where they would get skin sicknesses and cannot be allowed to overpopulate Altla so immigration was halted;
the Nyanzan nations own Altla, employ the Technicians/Lubbers and bar them from owning ships;
Jairnovaunt is a submerged city of domes and towers where a cargo submarine discharges kelpite bails, children with aqualungs play in a coraloid park, an old man feeds fish (not birds) and the hall of the hereditary Commander, Inyanduma III, is surrounded by formal gardens and entered by an airlock after which visitors are dried by an airblast;
Tessa Hoorn, Lightmistress of Skua, reports to the Commander on returning from The Kraal;
when the resident is assassinated and an Imperial investigator is expected, the Commander gathers his chiefs of council from the House of Men and the Congress of Women.


Nyanza is a humanly colonized terrestroid planet with:

two moons;
one ocean;
no continents;
one medium-sized, forested island, Altla;
on Altla, one ancient city with a spaceport, sea docks and an Imperial resident housed in a mansion surrounded by tenements;
many rocks and reefs submerged by high tides;
regularly submerged buildings with airlocks;
an advanced model aqualung with a transparent helmet and a battery electrolyzing oxygen from water and diluting it with compressed helium;
large submarines;
radically hydrodynamic sailing craft;
African-descended Nyanzans fishing, hunting or ranching the ocean; 
caucausoid "Technicians" on Altla processing sea water, sea weed, sea food etc in exchange for metal, fuel, synthetics and engines;
a complex Nyanzan society that will have to be summarized in another post.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Unborn Planets

(This cover looks directly relevant to "Hunters of the Sky Cave.")

Long before a newly condensing star has ignited, one of its planets is already forming. Gravity, magnetism and spin pull together a belt of stones which neither shatter nor bounce but unite because the cold has caused ice and hydrocarbons to condense on solid particles. The planetary embryo is a cratered, icy, spinning asteroid bombarded by meteors from mountainous to minute.

Instruments detect dust on every wavelength. Surface gravity is almost nonexistent and the nebula hides the stars although light from the proto-sun faintly reddens the dust clouds and illuminates meteors. When the proto-sun, resembling not a fire but a firecoal, rises, it climbs visibly.

Whereas the Time Traveler visiting Earth near its death saw a swollen red sun, Flandry visiting a terrestroid planet before its birth sees a vague ember-like red proto-sun. The planet's future inhabitants will never suspect that someone called Dominic Flandry led men, four-armed Gorzuni, a quadrupedal Donarrian and a horned Scothanian (that last fighting with a wrecking bar) against green, tailed Merseians and avian-descended Aycharaych on their proto-planet. What might have happened on proto-Terra?

The Sky Cave

Yet another volume of space ceases to be a mere void to be traversed and becomes instead a space-scape with interesting features to be observed and approached. Flandry knows that, although the nebula where a star is condensing is a near-vacuum, size and distance make its dust and gas resemble receding caverns with "...walls and roofs larger than planetary systems..."
-Poul Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (New York, 2012), p. 284.

He sees great black clouds with gulfs, canyons and steeps redly illuminated by the infra-star. His ship passes between the walls and under the roofs of the caverns. The haze and light thicken until he sees the sable-spotted crimson disc edged with "...coronal arabesques...," shining as yet only by gravitational energy because its core has not yet condensed enough to start the nuclear fusion that will ignite a new star, a "nova stella" in the literal sense. A few more million years are necessary. Meanwhile, Terra and Merseia contend for what they call the "Imperial Stars," to quote the excellent title of one Flandry omnibus volume.


When Dominic Flandry escaped from the Ardazirho (see here), he brought with him a copy of their navigator's manual, which should reveal crucial military intelligence, the coordinates of the enemy's planetary system. This is comparable to the occasion when he captured a spaceship of the McCormac rebels and thus acquired their codes, ending the rebellion at a single stroke.

Meanwhile, he makes deductions about Ardazir:

warmer than Terra, though not excessively;
its hot star, emitting strongly in the ultraviolet wavelengths, splits water molecules and sends hydrogen atoms into space;
the ozone layer gives insufficient protection to the hydrosphere;
a dry planetary surface with seas but not oceans;
surface gravity about 1.5, retaining a terrestroid atmosphere;
the Urdahu conquered other cultures very recently;
their discordant uniforms reflect local parochialisms;
Flandry knows how to split such an empire, as he did on Scotia.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Altai VII

Some mutant ostriches escaped from the herds, went wild and are hunted.

Rats from the colonists' ships went onto the Terrestrialized steppes where they were selected for size, which kept them warm and enabled them to prey on the herds. Selection plus short generations and genetic drift have made them as large as police dogs and camouflage makes them white although otherwise they remain recognizably rats.

A dozen gurchaku, rats, attack a man but, when his friend starts shooting them, the largest whistles the retreat. They become more dangerous each year and will have to be stopped.

Life on Altai comprises:

native life, including intelligence, on the ice;
imported terrestrial grass on the steppes;
herds of grazing cow-sized rabbits and mutated ostriches;
wild ostriches and rats;
human beings in nomadic tribes and one small city;
recently, some Merseians secretly in the city.

Altai VI

The native Altaians, like the Chereionites, might be masters of mental science and potential leaders of the galaxy, Second Foundation types, but this is only hinted at.

The Ice Folk:

had built a great civilization;
but do not feel loss because it is in ruins;
have found a way to live without buildings or engines;
have been free to think for many ages;
do not fear extinction;
know that everything ends although nothing really ends;
want their lesser brethren to have time to evolve;
are possibly a single organism with the forests and the lakes;
are aware when friends come to Ghost Lake;
possibly respond to the Shaman's chanting;
somehow destroyed approaching hostile aircraft at a distance;
will become clients of the Empire although to them it means nothing;
can reach Terra but only through - dreams?

My point as ever is that Anderson incorporates so much background information so effortlessly into the story that we might be surprised at how much there is when it is summarized separately.

Altai V

Altaian protoplasm adapted to increasing cold by synthesizing methanol. A fifty-fifty methanol-water mix remains fluid below minus forty and, when it freezes, does not expand into cell-destroying ice crystals. Lower organisms become dormant at minus seventy. Higher animals, homeothermic, become dormant at minus a hundred.

Biologically accumulated alcohol keeps polar lakes fluid until midwinter. White trees have icicle-like branches and blue leaves. Low gray plants carpet the snow. Animals, using chitinous and cartilaginous materials instead of bones, lick minerals from rocks and deposit heavy atoms in the forests when they die. Bacteria bring some minerals from below but generally life manages without them.

The Ice Folk have domesticated aeromedusae: tentacled flying white spheres of different sizes, with sense organs and brains, inflating themselves by metabolically electrolyzing hydrogen, breathing backward for propulsion, eating small animals after shocking them unconscious, able to see and avoid radar.

The Ice Folk resemble squat white-furred dwarfs with:

rubbery limbs;
long, webbed feet, both expandable and foldable;
three fingers opposing a thumb in the middle of the wrist;
feathery tufts for ears;
fine tendrils waving above each round black eye;
body temperature below zero Celsius.

Juchi, who is Shaman because he can master the Ice Folk's language, thus enabling inter-species trade, thinks that intelligence evolved to cope with what, for Altaian life, was a worsening condition, the warming of Krasna. The Dwellers built a civilization which collapsed, leaving ruins, because of the shortage of metals and the shrinking of the ice.

Altai IV

Solar energy collectors on top of nomadic trucks charge accumulator banks. Various trucks contain:

a library with thousands of microprint volumes;
machine tools;
textile and ceramic factories.

The tribe, a single social, economic and miltary unit, every adult armed, also has:

negagrav aircraft;
cars carrying missiles;
light tanks.

Each tribe controls:

grazing lands for herds of mutated cow-sized rabbits and bio-engineered ostriches;
mines for digging and smelting metals;
grain fields;
oil fields -

- or trades with those who do. They also have feasts, games, sports and a great fair. They follow not the Prophet but humanistic pantheism and revere Terra as the Mother of Men. Their Shaman deals with the native Ice Folk.

Altai III

Krasna and its planets, poor in heavy elements, "...drifted from the galactic nucleus into this spiral arm."
-Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 365.

Over a billion years, life evolved in shallow Altaian seas and moved to the land but then the internal planetary heat declined and the dwarf sun was already cool so life had to adapt to an ice-covered planet. One moon spiraled close and disintegrated into rings. The next stage of Krasna's stellar evolution generated more heat so that the ice receded while water evaporated and snowed onto the ice, leaving in the tropics a desert with only sparse, poisonous plants. Other life, adapted to the ice, receded with it.

The colonists mutated and released imported organisms, thus conquering the tropical belt with a terrestroid ecology. They are civilized nomads, like one of the many alien species in Anderson's After Doomsday.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Altai II

When "'...a few shiploads of Central Asians...'" colonized Altai, the planet was too cold and dry for farming but also too low-density - lacking heavy metals, fossil fuels or fissionables - for industrialization so the colonists became nomadic herdsmen without losing scientific knowledge or technology.
- Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 349.

Nomads wearing crash helmets travel on durable motorcycles, handmade with small power tools and powered by energy cells. Against the freezing cold at night, they have motorcycle heaters and well-insulated sleeping bags. They communicate by radio and detect distant enemies or fugitives with telescopes, ferrous detectors and infrared amplifiers.

Ulan Baligh, the only permanent settlement, has a population of 20,000 but is always encircled by encamped tribesmen who have come to trade or attend the Prophet's Tower. The Prophet Subotai codified a Moslem-Buddhist synthesis centuries ago. Thus, Altains retain Terran religious traditions and develop them further.


Altai ("Golden"):

is a planet of the yellow-orange star Krasna ("Red");
is ringed like Saturn;
has two moons;
has three quarters Earth gravity;
has polar ice on most of the northern hemisphere and much of the southern hemisphere and no oceans;
has bronze and gold steppe and tundra with large lakes between the ice;
was humanly colonized seven centuries before Flandry's time;
is ruled, by the Kha Khan of All the Tribes, from Ulan Baligh on Ozero Rurik, a lake formed by the southward flowing rivers, Zeya and Talyma;
rotates in thirty five hours but the adapted colonists eat four or five meals a day;
is both isolated and isolationist;
however, trades with Betelgeuse and receives military hardware from Merseia;
also has aerial, ice-dwelling natives.

There is more information about Altai and this post will be added to.

Sunday, 15 June 2014


On pp. 193-194 of Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), there are six maps of different parts of the Patrician System:

(i) five inner planets with asteroids between the fourth, Imhotep, and the fifth, Archimedes;
(ii) four outer planets;
(iii) Imhotep;
(iv) the third planet, Daedalus;
(v)-(vi) some details on Daedalus.

The central action of the novel occurs on the colonized planets, Imhotep and Daedalus, or briefly in a spaceship between them. Near the end of the novel, one character, Targovi, is said to have gone mining for metals in the asteroids.

The uncolonized planets:

Liang Lin-tsan;
Katsuragi no Kami;
Sennacherib -

- are shown on (i) or (ii) but not named in the text.

The map of Imhotep shows, in the northern hemisphere, Olga's Landing, Toborkozan and the Starboard and Larboard Islands. Olga's Landing has the Imperial offices, the Institute and the old, disarmed, fortress tower of St Barbara. Some Starkadian land dwellers were relocated to Toborkozan. The Islands have Ancient remains. The map also shows, in the southern hemisphere, a continent with two large inlets, the Seas of Yang and Yin, where Starkadian sea dwellers were relocated.

The map of Daedalus shows the Phosphoric Ocean between two continents. On one continent is the capital, Aurea. The first detail map shows the island Zacharia opposite the mouth of the Highroad River. Along the river are:

a Donarrian settlement, Ghundrung;
the mainly Cynthian town, Lulach;
the human settlement, Paz de la Frontera, at the head of navigation;
just north of Paz, Aurea.

The second detail map shows the northern part of Zacharia.

Targovi and his passengers from Imhotep landed at Aurea. Diana traveled by cable car to Paz although Axor, a large quadruped, would not have fitted into a car and probably walked. From Paz, they traveled upriver to Lulach. Diana and Axor planned to visit possible Ancient ruins in the jungle south of Ghundrung but instead Targovi persuaded them to accept an invitation to fly to Zacharia, where Axor would be able to consult records.

Thus, every detail on maps (v) and (vi) is relevant to the narrative, even the unvisited Ghundrung.

Friday, 13 June 2014

The Planet Without A Horizon

In Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012) -

- the planet Daedalus in the system of the star Patricius is Earth-like except that:

its plants and animals are humanly inedible;
it rotates in fifteen and a half hours;
pressure and temperature gradients refract light around the globe, as they would on Earth if its radius were thirteen kilometers less;
traveling by riverboat, Diana sees the river and its valley dwindle and merge into a still visible "...shining thread between burnished green darknesses..." (p. 297);
on her left, openings in the wood reveal prairie blurring into haziness;
on her right, "...toylike snowpeaks..." (ibid.);
the setting sun gleams on the ocean around the curve of the planet;
the golden-red sun disc softens and spreads into a step pyramid stretching around what would normally be a horizon, safe to look at;
night is "...a glimmering dusk..." (pp. 297-298);
sunlight becomes a ring, broad and bright, orange and white, in the direction of Patricius, narrower and redder in other directions;
above the ring, the sky ascends through blue and purple to violet;
below is the dark mass of the planet;
Diana stands rapt for hours although regular passengers, used to the sight, go below.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

On The Highroad River III

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 1 July 2013.

On the planet Daedalus, the capital city, Aurea, and the colony, Paz, are two very different human institutions. The next stop down the Highroad River, Lulach, is mainly a Cynthian town so is different again.

Cynthians are essentially large - although not human-sized - intelligent squirrels. I think that they are implausible aliens and indeed Poul Anderson went on to write speculative fiction in which there are no such beings on other planets. Harvest Of Stars and Genesis are entire alternative future histories.

In Lulach, houses are under or even in the trees. Branches can support and conceal them because imported Cynthian vegetation often grows enormous. Plants grow on roofs and flowering vines on walls. Dwellers usually travel between branches rather than on the narrow, twisting, turf streets. Whereas northern farms are mechanized, Lulachans use horses and changtus as beasts of burden.

The Lulachan police station is run by Lieutenant Commander Miguel Gomez supported by Lieutenant Rihu An, a Cynthian. Large buildings on the waterfront include "...a rambling timber inn..." called the Inn of Tranquil Slumber (Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy, New York, 2012, pp. 326, 345), yet another Andersonian hostelry. Near the waterfront is the Zacharian dealership. The factor, Pele Zachary speaks accented Anglic because Zacharians, on their island in the Phosphoric Ocean, regularly speak several other languages. In addition to presenting plausible Tigeries, Cynthians, Wodenites, Merseians etc, any screen adaptation of the Technic Civilization History would have to use human actors speaking, if not Anglic with English subtitles, then at least English pronounced with the various different colonial and planetary accents.

On The Highroad River II

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 1 July 2013.

In Aurea, the capital city of the planet Daedalus, the Cynthian, Shan U of Lulach, captain of the riverboat Waterblossom, offers to transport the human Diana Crowfeather and the Wodenite, Francis Xavier Axor, down the Highroad River from the nearby head of navigation, Paz de la Frontera, to the mainly Cynthian town of Lulach, which, according to the map (Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy, New York, 2012, p. 194) is about half way between Aurea and the Phosphoric Ocean.

"The Highroad River has always been a main artery of travel..." (p. 288)

- because roads, where they even exist, are poor.

To check out Waterblossom, Diana travels with Shan U by cable car down to Central Station in Paz de la Frontera, which is a colony for veterans who are helped to establish farms. Clusters of habitation with diverse architectures - facades hiding courtyards; domes and spires; framed vitryl; a wooden stockade guarded by brassarded militiamen armed with knives and staves; etc - are separated by open spaces because veterans who had originated on different colony planets are mutually hostile - and non-humans have learned not to live there. Passing through a lawless area, they are attacked but Diana, who grew up among Tigeries and was trained by Targovi, knows how to handle herself.

Waterblossom is made of Terran and Cynthian woods which are immune to Daedalan organisms. Terra is Earth, we know of Cynthia from previous installments of the Technic Civilization History and Daedalus has been introduced in the current novel. Thus, Anderson shows three planets interacting not just by communication between intelligent beings but also on molecular and organic levels.

On The Highroad River I

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 1 July 2013.

A long boat journey down a river offers comfort, in the boat's saloon or a cabin, and adventure as the travelers encounter each new place along the river. Poul Anderson describes two such journeys, the first in The Day Of Their Return, the second in The Game Of Empire. The place names on the maps at the beginning of The Game Of Empire become invested with meaning as the characters travel to and through them.

The relevant map of one part of the surface of the planet Daedalus shows the capital Aurea as just upriver from Paz de la Frontera, which is the head of navigation on the Highroad River. Targovi arrives on Daedalus by landing his ship, Moonjumper, at the spaceport in Aurea. The original town, which had been small because "...colonization was far-flung, enclaves in wilderness..." (Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy, new York, 2012, p. 221) has been mostly demolished or engulfed by sector defense command, civil bureaucracy, private enterprises, towers and industrial plants linked by streets, elways and air-space with round the clock traffic.

Aurea is on a plateau above a steep slope retaining a small part of the old town. Descending from the plateau, Targovi walks along a lane down the side of a cliff with, on his left, time-worn walls and, on his right, beyond the railing, a view of:

ice fields beyond northern mountains;
the headwaters and the river valley;
native growth;
farms and plantations;
southern plains receding to invisibility.

Ju Shao, a Cynthian, runs an inn perched on the cliff.

Hospitable inns are a major feature of Anderson's fictional worlds. There is one between the universes and there are several in the city of Ys as well as others scattered among many times and places. In the Patrician System, Hassan runs the Sign of the Golden Cockbeetle in the old part of Olga's Landing on the planet Imhotep and Ju Shao runs her place in old Aurea on Daedalus.

The Colonization Of Daedalus

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 29 June 2013.

Fully inhabitable terrestroid planets are rare and artificial worlds have obvious limitations so some planets have to be terraformed, for example, Daedalus, discovered by David Jones, which, in its natural state, grows no food edible to human beings or Tigeries. Native soil has to be sterilized to bedrock, then a terrestroid ecology, when introduced, has to be nurtured and protected from the native life which tries to return. Islands are easiest to defend and some baronies were rich enough to buy a non-interference pledge from the Empire.

Light is refracted around the curve of Daedalus so that, instead of a horizon, an endlessly receding landscape is seen with the setting sun perceived as a ring. The Highroad River links the capital Aurea to the Phosphoric Ocean where an autonomous cloned community (but see here) inhabits the island, Zacharia.

The single moon of Daedalus is, appropriately, called Icarus

Admiral Olaf Magnusson, based on Daedalus, is from the harsh planet Kraken which we have not seen (I don't think) whereas his wife, Vida, is from the oceanic world, Nyanza, where Flandry counteracted Merseian subversion. We know from the next installment of the Technic Civilization series that Kraken will be a center of interstellar activity during the Long Night after the Fall of the Terran Empire.


Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, June 2013.

Where the Crystal River enters Dawnside Bay on Imhotep, the Tigeries who had lived in Kursoviki on Starkad have built their new town, Toborkozan:

the gray stone Castle of the Sisterhood - guarded with traditional halberds and firearms - including the Gaarnokh Tower, named after an extinct horned Starkadian species;
most goods manufactured on Imhotep because they had been able to transport very little from Starkad;
Terran mission headquarters;
timber houses with carven totems on the roofs;
cobbled streets;
archaic windjammers, many with auxiliary engines;
modern hovercraft;
a landing field for aircars, gliders and propeller-driven wingboats;
flying snakes above the sea;
out to sea, the Starboard and Larboard Islands that may hold Foredweller ruins.

We do not see anything of the Seafolk on Imhotep because the action moves to Daedalus.

Saturday, 7 June 2014


Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation on 29 June 2013.

Although Wodenites are prominent in the Technic Civilization History, we do not see any action on the surface of the planet Woden. We are told that, although its gravity is two and a half times that of Earth, Woden's sun is so energetic that animals can grow to gigantic size.

Father Francis Xavier Axor, the Wodenite who has converted to Jerusalem Catholicism and has been ordained in the Galilean Order, gives us some details. His haizark, still comparatively primitive, are nomads in the Morning Land, across the Sea of Truth from the Glimmering Realm where the Terrans are based. In the Ascetic Hills, erosion has revealed Foredweller ruins. Such remains are eventually destroyed by micrometeoroids on airless planets or by weather and geology in atmospheres but, on Woden, they were fossilized by petrifying ash or mud.

Axor gained a merit scholarship from the University of the Galilean Order at Port Campbell in the Glimmering Realm where Fr Jaspers suggested that Foredweller ruins might provide evidence for the Universal Incarnation. Hence, Axor's search through space, eventually arriving on Imhotep in the Patrician System. Later, Dominic Flandry obtains funding for Axor's research. I would agree that the Foredwellers should be researched whether or not for Axor's reason.

The Patrician System

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation on 28 June 2013.

When I was commenting on the fifth paragraph in Poul Anderson's The Game Of Empire (IN Flandry's Legacy, New York, 2012), I skipped over an exotic place name because I had already quoted it in a much earlier post but it is worth repeating here. The aquatic vaz-Siravo from the doomed planet Starkad had been settled on Imhotep in "...the Seas of Yang and Yin..." (p. 197). This Chinese reference adds an Oriental touch to the British Raj ambiance that has already been established by the title and the opening sentence.

I should also mention five visual aids on pp. 193-194:

(i) a diagram of the Patrician System, showing the six inner planets, including the two scenes of the action, Imhotep and Daedalus, the asteroid belt and the four outer planets;

(ii) a map of Imhotep, showing Olga's Landing on a northern continent and the Seas of Yang and Yin, which are two inlets on a southern continent;

(iii) a map of Daedalus;

(iv) and (v) maps of two parts of Daedalus where events occur in the novel.

I have skipped past the diagrams and maps on previous readings but this time will refer to them as appropriate. Anderson's Introduction explains that the Patrician planets are named after "...great engineers of legend and history...although just two of them got into the story." (p. 192) We recognize Archimedes and Leonardo if not any of the others.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Ramnuan Miscellania

Before disappearing to Scotland for a week, let me note some more details about Ramnu.

The meter-high Ramnuans' rigid torso and high pelvic circle make them squat rather than bend in their planet's high gravity, seven Terrestrials. Consequently, gestation is short and the young, born small, are carried in pouches by adults of either sex.

A Ramnuan's vanes are muscular tissue with sensory input and a rippling body language mostly incomprehensible to human beings, like an Ythrian's feathers. When Yewwl and her companions spy in Dukeston, they are suspected and arrested because they cannot conceal their tension.

Ramnuans around Wainwright Station live in the large, shared territory of a clan whereas those around Dukeston live in families, each with a surname and a single patch of land. Thus, Yewwl's band meets a prospector called Ayon Orresa'ul.

As on Merseia, Anderson imagines not only an alien biology but also cultural differences within the alien species. 

The Ramnuan System

A nearby supernova destroyed an entire planetary system except for the dwarf primary, the core of a superjovian and fragments of its three largest moons, now called Fathermoon, Mothermoon and Childmoon by dwellers on the solid surface of the former superjovian.

innermost moon;
featureless metal (no meteors left in the system);
Port Luang, scientific base comprising domes, hemicylinders, masts, dishes and a spacefield.

middle moon;
massive enough for mountain-formation.

outermost moon;
sharp-edged mountains;
Port Asmundsen, industrial base, mining metal from the exposed core.

the planet;
inhabited (see previous posts);
Dukeston, Hermetian commercial base run by General Enterprises, extracting hardwood and an antibiotic from a sulfur-rich marsh and mining palladium and other minerals in the Chromatic Hills;
five thousand kilometers away, Wainwright Station, run for several centuries by the Ramnu Research Foundation, for studying the Ramnuans, including by several full sensory links.

Making Oneness
Ramnuans lose themselves in dance, music and chant until they and the world no longer have names, then sleep to wake renewed, comforted, strengthened and inwardly peaceful. Is this sub- or supra-rational? It sounds like the former to me.