Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Quincunx Of Time

One of the ideas in James Blish's "Beep," expanded as The Quincunx Of Time, is that future periods will be incomprehensible not only to us but also to each other. Blish wrote several coherent "future history" series in which each new novel or short story followed logically and historically from what had gone before. There was also in each such series a definite beginning, of near future technological advances, and a culmination, galactic or even metagalactic in scope.

By contrast, the characters in "Beep"/Quincunx, living in our future, receive several messages from different periods of their future. There are long unfilled gaps as well as sheer differences and even apparent incompatibilities between the messages received. They include:

a distress call from a ship traveling from 8873 to 8704 in another galaxy;

a description of our galaxy divided between High Earth, served by a Traitors' Guild, and the Green Exarchy;

a message from twenty five thousand years later referring to a Bird King, civilizations called "Rebirths" and the discovery of a personality claiming to have originated in 1955.

Even better for the reader, we can go on to read "A Style In Treason," set in the High Earth/Green Exarchy scenario, and Midsummer Century, whose hero is that personality originating in 1955. Unfortunately, the "world-line cruiser" traveling from 8873 to 8704 remains a mystery although we might have learned more about it if Blish had written his proposed "finite spinning theory of the universe" time travel novel.

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