Monday, 31 December 2018

Lignin Degrader

Julian May, Intervention, 12.

Sf covers every kind of scientific advance, not just spaceships, aircars or superior weapons. James Blish's They Shall Have Stars goes into technical details about the discovery of anti-gravity and of antiagathic drugs. In Intervention:

"One of my nephew's underhanded acquisitions was a small genetic-engineering firm in Burlington, Vermont. This outfit had perfected and patented a bacterial organism called a lignin degrader, that broke down (i.e., 'ate') a common waste product of the pulpwood industry, converting it into a host of valuable chemicals that had heretofore been obtained from increasingly scarce petroleum." (p. 507)

Technology involves economics which involves business (and other) arrangements between human beings. Thus, the narrator's nephew, needing additional capitalization, approaches an even bigger crook to proposed a merger sealed by two Mafia-style arranged marriages.

An sf novelist combines scientific speculations with character interactions. 

The Disintegartion Of The Soviet Union

"In those dark days, when even persons of goodwill were soul-burdened with the malign aetheric resonances of hatred, fear and suffering, there were many people in the United States who watched the disintegration of the Soviet Union with righteous triumphalism: the godless Commies had finally got what was coming to them."
-Julian May, Intervention (London, 1988), 17, p. 549.

Intervention is copyright Julian May 1987. Chapter 17 is set in 2007.

Robert Heinlein had the first rocket to the Moon in 1978 as far as I can remember without going upstairs to check. Fortunately, World War III did not happen in the twentieth century but all those weapons still exist. Current affairs and future histories interpenetrate.


Contrast the medieval Catholicism of Poul Anderson's The High Crusade (see here) with the modern and future Catholicism of Julian May's Pliocene/Intervention/Galactic series.

Denis Remillard, while confessing to a Jesuit priest in 1995, mentions that he values highly the opinions of two colleagues, a Neo-Marxist and a Tibetan lama turned idealistic humanist. The priest comments that, in both of those faiths, the good of society is paramount over that of the individual whereas Christianity and Western civilization give the individual sovereignty in reproductive matters, which is the issue that they are discussing. Thus, a reasoned exchange between alternative world views is possible.

Later in May's series, a woman Jesuit priest officiates at a same sex marriage. That will not happen in our timeline.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

The St. Francis Hotel In Two Timelines

"The speech ended to applause and the split screen showed pan shots as the network cameras swept over Baumgartner's campaign workers, who packed the ballroom of the famous old St Francis Hotel."
-Julian May, Intervention (London, 1988), 9, p. 474.

"They met downtown next morning, in the anachronistic opulence of the St. Francis Hotel lobby."
-Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), PART SIX, 1990 A.D., p. 430.

Baumgartner's campaign is in 1996 but these are different timelines.

For earlier blog references to the St. Francis Hotel, see here.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Four More Future Histories

Back To Methuselah by George Bernard Shaw.
The Galactic Center Saga by Gregory Benford.
A Short History of the Future by W. Warren Wagar.
The Third Millennium: A History Of The World: AD 2000-3000 by Brian Stableford and David Langford.

OK. I read Back To Methuselah once decades ago, have read perhaps two Galactic Center volumes and had not heard of the other two works until they appeared on recent Internet searches.

Blog readers will see that I have not kept up with contemporary sf and are invited to comment to that effect.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Future Histories II

Although it is interesting to compare future histories, I focus more on some than on others.

According to RC Churchill's A Short History Of The Future, Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles and George Orwell's 1984 are contemporaneous, then the nuclear war at the end of the two Bradbury works is followed by Aldous Huxley's Ape And Essence (not his Brave New World) and later by several other authors' narratives set in successive future periods.

I have read Churchill's book but do not possess a copy. It might be possible to find more information about its contents on the Internet. One of Churchill's discoveries was that the future is very different from the past, containing as it does many arbitrary and alarming events. 1949 was a turning point year and is also the year in which I was born.

Googling reveals that there are more recent relevant works that I am unfamiliar with.

Future Histories

Wells, The Shape Of Things To Come
Stapledon, Last And First Men
Aldiss, Galaxies Like Grains Of Sand
RC Churchill, A Short History Of The Future

Burroughs, The Moon Trilogy
Heinlein, The Future History
Asimov, Robots and Empire
Blish, three including one that branches
Anderson, eight or nine
Niven, Known Space
Pournelle, CoDominium
Piper, Terrohuman
Bradley, Darkover
Simak, City
Le Guin, Hainish
Cordwainer Smith, The Instrumentality