Thursday, 3 January 2019

4004 Or 4104

In successive versions of the Chronology of Cities in Flight:

John Amalfi died in a hunting accident in 4004;

the universe ended in 4004;

the universe ended in 4104.

That last event and date remained in the text but the Chronology was left out of the omnibus edition.

The hunting accident, appearing in the Chronology but not in any text, was just meant as a reminder that even people with antiagathics will eventually die by accident or violence. When Blish did come to right an ending, he had his characters living until the end of the universe which, however, was brought unexpectedly close to the present for narrative purposes.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Two Boxed Sets?

Three Future Histories
Cities In Flight
The Seedling Stars
The Haertel History

Three Trilogies
Heart Stars
Quincunx
After Such Knowledge

You might have to read or reread previous posts to see what I am getting at here.

The future histories culminate respectively in:

Volume IV, The Triumph Of Time;
Book Four, "Watershed";
"This Earth of Hours."

Citiess In Flight, Volume III, is Earthman, Come Home, a title that could be applicable in different ways to both "Watershed" and "This Earth of Hours."

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

And After Such Knowledge

I should have said six volumes here. After Such Knowledge, which has been collected in a single volume (see image), begins with the discovery of scientific method by Roger Bacon in Doctor Mirabilis and climaxes with an unexpected outcome of the supernatural conflict of Armageddon in The Day After Judgment.

Schematically, Black Easter and its sequel, The Day After Judgment, considered as a single work, comprise Volume II of the After Such Knowledge Trilogy with A Case Of Conscience as Volume III. In this order, the three volumes correspond to past, present and future, respectively, and also form a Hegelian triad of historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction, sf synthesizing the realism of historical fiction with the counter-factuality of fantasy.

However, Volume II, written last, is surely a dramatic climax, realizing the apocalyptic apprehensions of Volumes I and III?

"This Earth Of Hours"

James Blish's "This Earth of Hours," ending with the beginning of an interstellar conflict between the telepathic, unitive civilizations of Population I stars and the brained, warring civilizations of Population II stars, should not be just another short story in a collection. Coming, as it does, after:

"Nor Iron Bars," which introduces telepathy;

before that, "Common Time," which introduces interstellar travel, initially with the Haertel overdrive;

before that, Welcome To Mars, about Haertel on Mars, and "No Jokes on Mars," about later events on Mars -

- "This Earth of Hours" is a culmination no less than Book Four of The Seedling Stars or Volume IV of Cities In Flight and should be published at the end of a volume containing the five relevant works in the appropriate order with the divergent branches of the Haertel Scholium in separate volumes.

Thus, five volumes (correction: six; see here) would each begin with an important discovery or discoveries, then progress towards a climax galactic, intergalactic or even cosmic in scope.

Monday, 1 October 2018

"How Beautiful With Banners"

Whereas James Blish's "Nor Iron Bars" is a direct, linear sequel to his "Common Time," his "How Beautiful With Banners" is a conceptual sequel to that same story because symbolism that had been unconscious, although later recognized as such, in "Common Time" was consciously written into "Banners."

In "Common Time," Garrard, alone in a Haertel overdrive spaceship, endures "psuedo-death," then communicates incomprehensibly with incomprehensible Centaurians:

Ransom en route to Mars experiences space as filled with a life-giving radiance whereas Haertel on the same journey knows that cosmic radiation is lethal. Later, Ransom experiences “trans-sensuous life” while approaching Venus in an angelically propelled coffin whereas Haertel’s successor, Garrard, endures psychophysical “psuedo-death” while enclosed in the rigid, monotonous environment of an interstellar spaceship.14, 15
-copied from here.

In "Banners," Ulla Hillstrom is alone in her transparent film wrap on Titan when a Titanian "flying cloak" organism fuses with this artificial large protein molecule, then abandons Ulla to her inevitable death when it rises to join another flying cloak. Ulla has unknowingly introduced heterosexuality to Titan, thereby starting a sixty million year evolution the end of which no human being will see. Thus, this single story surpasses any of Blish's series in the length of time that it addresses.

The Callean

I have remarked, e.g., here, on the ability of Poul Anderson's characters to deal in a matter-of-fact way with non-humanoid aliens of any size or shape. No doubt they would be equally well equipped to cope with James Blish's Callean in "This Earth of Hours":

too big to enter a spaceship compartment so that the Terrestrial representative must go out to meet him;

apparently, a mixture of several different phyla;

a 25-foot long segmented tube, as wide as a barrel;

no head, just a front end raised ten feet above the ground;

two large faceted eyes and three simple eyes, the latter usually closed;

six squid-like tentacles;

able to move quickly in a straight line across the planet;

telepathically linked so that the entire planetary population has a single identity ("I" means not "this organism" but all of them and one can be killed without retaliation);

forms unaccustomed human speech by emitting from many spiracles single tones that inter-modulate as words with intonations.

(Similarly, in The Seedling Stars, the telepathic microscopic aquatic organisms address men by vibrating their cilia to produce inter-modulating sound waves.)

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Six Narratives

James Blish's future historical and other related writings present six long narratives:

from the discovery of anti-agathics and antigravity to the creation of new universes;

from the development of pantropy to Adapted Men throughout the galaxy;

from Haertel's tree hut to first contact with the telepathic Central Empire;

from first contact with the Angels to long term dealings with the Heart Stars;

from Martels' radio telescope and Wald's invention of the Dirac transmitter to an expanding intergalactic civilization and mystical immortality;

from Roger Bacon in the thirteenth century to contact with Lithia in the mid-twenty-first century.

Bacon and Einstein are in many timelines, Haertel in four, the Dirac transmitter in two and Lithia in two.