Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Time Out

I have just taken time out from Poul Anderson to reread "The Ethics of Madness" by Larry Niven, an early short story in the Known Space future history, published in 1967. It seems to come from a more innocent age:

technology, including medical technology, would continue to improve;
people would live longer and age less;
work would become easier and working hours less;
the economy would remain peaceful and prosperous throughout the many decades of a large population's extended lifespans.

Poul Anderson always recognised more sharply than Niven that life is not always easy and comfortable.

"The Ethics of Madness" comes from a time when the Known Space history was new and, like Anderson's History of Technic Civilisation, was a worthy successor to Robert Heinlein's seminal Future History. The idea of setting several short stories and novels with or without continuing characters within successive periods of a projected history of the future several centuries or more in length was a genuine innovation. It is fitting that two major sf writers, Anderson and Niven, have  presented versions of the future different from each others' and from that of their inspirer, Heinlein.