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.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

The Haertel Scholium

James Blish's Haertel Scholium could be published in a single omnibus volume internally divided as follows:

ADOLPH HAERTEL
Welcome To Mars
Galactic Cluster

JACK LOFTUS
The Star Dwellers
Mission To The Heart Stars

THOR WALD
The Quincunx Of Time
A Midsummer Cenury

FIVE OTHERS
"No Jokes on Mars"
"How Beautiful With Banners"
"And Some Were Savages"
"A Dusk Of Idols"
"A Style In Treason"

By Galactic Cluster, I mean only the short trilogy, one story featuring Haertel and two sequels. There are reasons why I think that these works in this order make sense but it would need to be discussed if it ever became a practical proposition! 

Friday, 12 June 2015

Galactic SF III

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation today:

Poul Anderson wrote many works about interstellar travel and three novels about intergalactic travel. James Blish wrote a tetralogy whose volumes are successively interplanetary, interstellar, intergalactic and inter-cosmic. Blish is comparable to Anderson but with a much smaller output.

Since both wrote galactic sf, I wondered how much information either of them imparted about the structure of the galaxy. Blish describes both a photograph and a model. See previous post. He also recounts this exchange over the instantaneous Dirac communicator:

"'EARTH POLICE AA EMERGENCY ACOLYTE CLUSTER CONDENSATION XIII ARM BETA...SYSTEM UNDER ATTACK BY MASS ARMY OF TRAMP CITIES. POLICE AID URGENTLY NEEDED. LERNER LIEUTENANT FORTY-FIFTH BORDER SECURITY GROUP ACTING COMMANDER CLUSTER DEFENSE FORCES. ACKNOWLEDGE.'"
-Cities In Flight (New York, 1981), pp. 394-395.

"'LERNER ACOLYTE DEFENSE FORCES YOUR MESSAGE IN. SQUADRON ASSIGNED YOUR CONDENSATION ON WAY. HANG ON. BETA ARM COMMAND EARTH.'" (p. 395)

This tells us something about police, defense and galactic structures. The Acolyte Cluster is in the thirteenth condensation of the second spiral arm. I know that stars form from condensation of primordial elements but nowhere else have I seen "condensation" used to describe a part of the galaxy. Here, a condensation is intermediate between a cluster and an arm.

Galactic SF II

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation today:

After "galactic sf" would come "inter-" or "trans-galactic." However, there is not a great deal of this and the subject has been addressed in some previous posts. See here.

Regarding the features of this galaxy:

in "Starfog," Earth lies in the spiral arm behind the one containing the interstellar civilization served by the Commonalty, an organization covering an estimated ten million planets;

the human race has occupied two or three spiral arms in total;

the colonized planet Serieve is near the northern edge of the Commonalty's spiral arm;

thus, beyond Serieve is only the galactic halo containing thin gas with little dust and old, widely scattered, globular clusters.

In two different works by James Blish, it seems that random stellar movements have opened a galactic chasm or valley called "the Rift" which is so immense that it is difficult or impossible to traverse it even with the existing faster than light drive. But random movements do not work like that, do they? In conversation, Blish said that he probably had in mind something like the space between two of the spiral arms.

In The Quincunx Of Time (New York, 1983), Blish describes a color-coded photograph, taken from at least ten million light years distance, of the Milky Way and the Magellanic Clouds. A southern area of the disc and the Clouds are colored red and the north is green while gray wanders between them and spreads to the west. The colors are political and need not concern us here but I find it interesting to read of the points of the compass being applied to the galaxy. Earth, in this period called "High Earth," is "...far out on a spiral arm in the red area, near the Clouds..."(p. 95).

In Blish's Mission To The Heart Stars (London, 1980), Jack Loftus views "'...a galactic model or map...'" (pp. 31-32) that appears initially as a glowing sphere, each evenly distributed point of light within it representing a three-hundred-light-year-diametered globular cluster of about a hundred thousand Population One stars. Secondly, the map adds a line representing the galactic equator; thirdly, a central sphere, occupying a fifth of the total and containing individual Population One stars; fourthly, the Heart Stars (a political term), a spindle spreading out along the equator; fifthly, all the remaining Population Two stars, which transform the spindle into a lens stretching across the larger sphere along the equator; sixthly, an equatorial band representing remaining dust from which more Population Two stars may condense.

Rivers of dust run from the rim between the spiral arms towards the Heart Stars. In fact, according to this text, the dark areas between the arms are not empty but are places where the dust conceals the stars. Thus, when that dust has condensed into stars, the Milky Way will join the class of elliptical galaxies.

Poul Anderson's World Without Stars is set in a planetary system in intergalactic space. In Cities In Flight (London, 1981), Blish discloses that it was discovered in 1953 that "...tenuous bridges of stars...connected the galaxies like umbilical chords..." (p. 577). This is mentioned only because at that point in the narrative a planet is flying through intergalactic space. Blish hoped to find a way to incorporate the bridges of stars into an sf story.