Saturday, 21 January 2017

Falling One By One

Copied from here.

"'What was it Mephistopheles said? "Why, this is Hell, nor am I out of it." The totems are falling all around us as we sit here. One by one, Rosenbaum; one by one.'"
-James Blish, "A Dusk of Idols" IN Blish, Anywhen (New York, 1970) , pp. 105-135 AT p. 135.

"Ideas of self, ideas of world and family and nation, articles of scientific or religious faith, your creeds and currencies: one by one, the beloved structures falling.

"Whooomff.

"Whooomff.

"Whooomff."
-Alan Moore, "Clouds Unfold" IN Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), pp. 757-775 AT p. 775.

Blish ends a short story by telling us that our totems are falling. Moore ends a chapter by telling us what those totems are: ideas, faiths, creeds and currencies. Moore also provides sound effects.

An uncanny textual parallelism.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The Haertel Scholium

A recent reference to Dirac made me think about and rethink James Blish's Haertel Scholium. An omnibus collection of the Scholium would comprise eleven works, a two part prequel/prologue/prelude, Welcome To Mars and "No Jokes On Mars," followed by three trilogies:

The Galactic Cluster Trilogy
"Common Time"
"Nor Iron Bars"
"This Earth Of Hours"

The Heart Stars Trilogy
The Star Dwellers
Mission To The Heart Stars
"A Dusk Of Idols"

The Quincunx Trilogy
The Quincunx Of Time
"A Style In Treason"
Midsummer Century

In "This Earth Of Hours," the Terrestrial Matriarchy must contend with the Central Empire of the galaxy;
in the Heart Stars trilogy, the UN and the star-dwelling Angels must contend with the Heart Stars federation;
in "A Style In Treason," High Earth must contend with the Green Exarchy;
in The Quincunx Of Time, Earth, armed with the Dirac transmitter, builds its own intergalactic civilization;
in a twelfth Haertel Scholium work, A Case Of Conscience, which is Volume III of the After Such Knowledge Trilogy, the UN must cope with the planet Lithia which, in accordance with this novel's place in the ASK Trilogy, is a third historical example of the question whether the quest for secular knowledge is evil.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Armageddon

"Armageddon Artaheer!"

At a Memorial Evening for James Blish, Bob Shaw said that, when he first met Blish, he expected him to be a very serious person on all levels. He had noticed that Armageddon came up quite frequently in Blish's works and, presuming to advise such a man, he said, "Jim, don't worry so much about Armageddon. It's not the end of the world!"

A demon tells a black magician:

"'...YOU ARE THE AGENT OF ARMAGEDDON.'"
-James Blish, Black Easter and The Day After Judgement (London, 1981), p. 110.

One human being tells another:

"'...what name will this battle be given?...
"'We will name it from the hill that overlooks the battlefield...Har-Megiddo. Armageddon, in our tongue.'"
-SM Stirling, On The Oceans Of Eternity (New York, 2000), Chapter Thirty-One, p. 616.

(An appropriate page number: "616" is an alternative to "666.")

In Black Easter, a supernatural conflict between angels and demons has occurred off-stage. However, Stirling that a human battle literally at Armageddon is also possible.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

James Blish And The Antichrist

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation:

Recently we mentioned a reference to Antichrist in Poul and Karen Anderson's historical tetralogy and compared that tetralogy to James Blish's theological trilogy. For completeness, we should also mention the Antichrist in the trilogy which is thematic, not linear, and need not be read in numerical order.

In Volume III, the main protagonist imminently expects the Antichrist.

In Volume I, Roger Bacon sees the Antichrist - in a drug-induced vision.

In Volume IIa, Armageddon happens without the Antichrist. When the black magician complains that this breaks the Law, a major demon retorts:

"WE WILL DO WITHOUT THE ANTICHRIST. HE WAS NEVER NECESSARY. MEN HAVE ALWAYS LED THEMSELVES UNTO ME."
-ASK (London, 1991), p. 423.

In Volume IIb, the white magician thinks that a newly elected demon Pope is the Antichrist whereas instead he is the Vicar of the new God.

Some Christians have put the Antichrist into novels but have failed to make their good side remotely appealing.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Platonism

"...Platonic word..."

I wanted to check, as far as possible, whether this phrase in James Blish's Doctor Mirabilis was a misprint for "...Platonic world..." However, it is "...Platonic word..." in both of the editions that are in my possession.

The references are:

-James Blish, Doctor Mirabilis (New York, 1971), p. 37.

-James Blish, After Such Knowledge (London, 1991), p. 49.

The phrase is in Chapter II, "Northover."

However, I think that "world" would have fitted the context better. See here.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

After Such Knowledge In One Volume

My Christmas presents included the one-volume  After Such Knowledge (London, 1991) (see image).

pp. 521-522 are printed in the wrong order.

When The Day After Judgment was originally published in a single volume, it had a four page Prologue which began:

"The events leading up to the disaster were as follows:..."
-James Blish, The Day After Judgment (New York, 1971), p. 9 -

- and which then summarized the plot of Black Easter. This Prologue, presumably regarded as no longer necessary, was omitted when The Day After Judgment was published in a single volume with Black Easter and then here in the one-volume After Such Knowledge. However, I think that this impersonal summary adds to the work and should be retained.

For a discussion of ASK, Vol I, Doctor Mirabilis, on the Poul Anderson Appreciation blog, see here.

Monday, 26 October 2015

One Story Grows Into An Exotic Future History

Perhaps the most exotic fictitious future in sf was created by James Blish: a timeline extending from Haertel surviving on Mars to Martels' disembodied consciousness surviving inside a computer. Between these two end points is Thor Wald, revering Haertel and receiving a Dirac message (and see here) sent to Martels' computer. The timeline contains quite a few other exotica, including a High Earth/Traitors' Guild/Green Exarchy period (and see here) and a world-line cruiser traveling for 8873 to 8704 along the world-line of a planet on the rim of a galaxy eleven million light years away.

This bizarre future history grew in two stages. First, the single story, "Beep," featuring Thor Wald, set in our future, includes messages from several further futures. Secondly, when "Beep" was expanded as The Quincunx Of Time, connections were added to three other works:

Welcome To Mars (Haertel);
"A Style in Treason" (The Traitors' Guild etc);
Midsummer Century (Martels).

Since Midsummer Century was being written while "Beep" was being expanded, a reference to Wald was included in ...Century.

The result is neither a pyramidal future history like those of Heinlein and Anderson nor a more linear sequence like Blish's own Cities In Flight or The Seedling Stars. Instead, several otherwise independent works have been interestingly connected.