Monday, 25 November 2013

Anderson And Wellsianity

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation:

Associative processes are spiral, not linear. Setting out to reread The War Of Two Worlds by Poul Anderson, I instead began to read for the first time Threshold Of Eternity by John Brunner, published in the same Ace Double volume. Noticing, so to say, the obvious "Wellsianity" of both novels, I then reflected more generally on Wells and his successors.

Thus, this post belongs more appropriately on the Science Fiction blog and will be copied there. However, most page viewers visit Poul Anderson Appreciation. Further, Wells and other sf writers are discussed here not in their own right but to compare them with Anderson.

CS Lewis referred to:

"...what we may loosely call the Scientific Outlook, the picture of Mr. Wells and the rest." ("Is Theology Poetry?" IN Lewis, Screwtape Proposes A Toast and Other Pieces (London, 1965), pp. 41-58 AT pp. 45-46)

Lewis acknowledges that practicing scientists as a whole do not accept this "Scientific Outlook" and concedes that "...the delightful name 'Wellsianity'...", (p. 46) suggested by another member of the Socratic Club, would have been more appropriate.

Wells' works, both fiction and non-fiction, express Wellsianity as Lewis' express Christianity. Wells' science fiction pioneers four themes:

space travel;
time travel;
interplanetary invasion;
future history.

Wells has many successors, including Anderson and Brunner, and one main opponent. I have argued on the Science Fiction blog that Lewis' Ransom novels are a systematic reply to the four Wellsian themes.

Wells is content to describe:

a single journey to the Moon in the Cavorite sphere, which is lost at the end of the novel;
a single journey to the future on the Time Machine, which is lost at the end of the novel;
a single attack by Martians, who are killed by Terrestrial microbes;
a single historical turning point in the next two hundred years - although, as against this, the Time Traveler's journey to the further future shows him the devolution of mankind and the end of life on Earth.

Wells' successors describe regular space travel, time travel and alien contact and write longer future histories. Anderson's The War Of Two Worlds, like Wells' The War Of The Worlds, describes a war between Earth and Mars and Anderson went on to write many other accounts of interplanetary conflicts. Brunner's Threshold Of Eternity, like Wells' The Time Machine, describes time travel but, in this case, such travel has become routine and indeed a means of conflict.

I have argued previously that Olaf Stapledon and Poul Anderson are major successors of Wells.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Concerning Stories Never Written II

In his "Postscript: Concerning Stories Never Written," Robert Heinlein says that the unwritten story, "Eclipse," would have dealt with the Martian and Venerian colonies becoming independent. He adds that this story will probably never be written because:

"...I have dealt with the themes involved at greater length in two novels which were not bound by the Procrustean Bed of a fictional chart; it would be tedious for both you and me to deal with the same themes again."

Which two novels? I know of three possible candidates:

Red Planet, a Scribner Juvenile and a volume of the Juvenile Future History;
Between Planets, a Scribner Juvenile, not part of the Juvenile Future History, e. g., different races of Martians and Venerians;
The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, an adult novel which, like both Future Histories, has a family called Stone on the Moon.

It would be possible to extend Heinlein's Future History Time Chart by adding a column for parallel timelines. Several works have features in common with the Future History although they do not fit into that History. Podkayne Of Mars has a Venusburg on Venus but its Martians and Venerians are different again from those in the two Future Histories. The Postscript bestows on the readers auctorial permission to read at least two (or three?) of those works with the knowledge that events like these, the gaining of colonial independence, also occurred within the Future History.

Thus, read the History, then read the supplementary volumes.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Fahrenheit 451

A neat gift pack would be:

the novel, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury;
a DVD of Francois Truffaut's film of the novel;
a video of Bradbury's stage adaptation of the novel;
the comic strip adaptation by Tim Hamilton, introduced by Bradbury.

Truffaut changed the character Clarisse from a sixteen year old high school dropout killed by a hit and run car driver to a twenty year old primary school teacher who survives with the hero Montag at the end of the film.

Apparently, Bradbury preferred Truffaut's ending for Clarisse so he incorporated it into his play. Thus, the story exists in four media and Bradbury incorporates an input from Truffaut.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Concerning Stories Never Written

I have read Robert Heinlein's post-script to some editions of Revolt In 2100, "Concerning Stories Never Written," for the very first time. Heinlein neatly summarizes the first three volumes of the Future History and the first three unwritten stories, that might have comprised a volume between Vols II and III:

The Man Who Sold The Moon covers the second half of the twentieth century and ends with very early space travel;
The Green Hills Of Earth describes the exploration of the Solar System in the early twenty first century and "...end[s] with the United States a leading power in a systemwide imperialism embracing all the habitable planets";
Revolt In 2100 begins with the US under an isolationist Theocracy;

"The Sound Of His Wings" would have described the rise of the First Prophet;
"Eclipse" would have described Martian and Venerian independence;
"The Stone Pillow" would have described the growth of the anti-Theocratic underground.

(Heinlein does not mention that the contents of Vols I and II overlap.)

He was right that:

space travel might be marginal, subsidized for military reasons, then die out;
anti-scientific televangelization could, maybe in an economic depression, lead to a dictatorship.

This post-script gives a considerable insight into Heinlein and his series. It is an important part of the History and should be included in any future edition.