Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Haertel History

One novel (Welcome To Mars) and three short stories ("Common Time," "Nor Iron Bars" and "This Earth Of Hours") generate a long sequence of fictitious historical events in a galactic context.

Cosmic Setting And Galactic Context

"Parapsychological fields" are part of the fine structure of subatomic space as electromagnetic fields are part of the fine structure of cosmic space. Therefore, telepathy is too weak to be detected, except fleetingly, by brains evolved to function on planetary surfaces. However, stellar radiation affects biological evolution. Any sentient organism that has evolved on a planet of a Population I star thinks not with a single brain but with multiple ganglia which are able to detect the weak field.

Such organisms communicate telepathically so that (i) a planetary population has a single identity and (ii) instantaneous telepathic communication unites the crowded galactic center into a "Central Empire" - although this terminology might be inappropriate both because there cannot be any individual Emperor and because military conquest of colony planets is unnecessary. (American sf authors became used to writing about interstellar "empires.")

Telepaths regard brained inhabitants of Population II planets, who fight, and eventually exterminate, each other, as diseased. The Central Empire, expanding along the spiral arms, finds natural allies in the clusters, where all the stars are Population I. Thus, mutually hostile Population II civilizations, will be outnumbered and surrounded by a united opponent...

The Future History

By the late 1980's, NASA has not yet landed anyone on the Moon;
Adolph "Dolph" Haertel discovers anti-gravity and flies a tree hut to Mars;
Nanette Ford follows Haertel to Mars;
knowledge of Haertel's discovery inspires the development of an ion drive;
a UN fleet reaches Mars by ion drive;
Dolph and Nanette meet an intelligent dune-cat and a last, dying member of the dominant Martian race;
("No Jokes On Mars" presents essentially the same vision of Mars differing in a few details);
in 2011, Haertel's theory, superseding Einstein's and Milne's relativity, allows faster than light (FTL) travel;
Brown in the Haertel overdrive spaceship DFC-1 leaves for Alpha Centauri but fails to return;
Cellini in DFC-2 suffers the same unknown fate as Brown;
Garrard in DFC-3, on the first round trip to Alpha Centauri, experiences problematic subjective effects of the overdrive and communicates incomprehensibly with indescribable Centaurians called "beadmungen," then, after returning home, discusses his experiences with Haertel;
ferries transport passengers between Satellite Vehicle 1 and larger, orbiting spacecraft;
3V comedienne Celia Gospardi regularly travels to shows on the Moon;
a spaceman named Oestreicher is captain of passenger ships to Mars for ten years;
Daryon Hammersmith "conquers Titan," according to newslines;
the Flyaway I takes twelve years to reach Alpha Centauri by ion drive;
Gordon Arpe invents a new FTL drive that involves giving a spaceship negative mass;
negative mass cannot exist in the macrocosm so Flyaway II (with Arpe as captain, Oestreicher as first officer and Gospardi and Hammersmith among its passengers) collapses into the microcosm where everyone on board becomes telepathic;
Arpe and Gospardi land on an electron;
a subatomic negative mass has to be echoed by an electron elsewhere so the ship occupies two locations simultaneously and, when the Arpe drive is switched off, returns to the macrocosm in the other location, eight hundred light years away from Sol and Alpha Centauri;
after a second microcosmic jump, the ship, no longer useable because its hull, expanded by each jump, now leaks badly, reaches Alpha Centauri;
the colonists retreat in confusion from the incomprehensible beadmungen;
an FTL drive called the Standing Wave replaces the Haertel and Arpe drives;
sperm electrophoresis enables parents to predetermine a child's sex, thus causing a glut of males;
Earth becomes a Matriarchy;
the Matriarchy becomes an interstellar military and colonial power;
Calle and Xixobrax, two planets of the Central Empire, destroy a large Matriarchy invasion fleet;
a small group of Earthmen begins a long journey home to warn about the threat from the Central Empire...

Blish leaves the issue there. Further comments to follow. (See here.)

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