Friday, 27 June 2014

Adapted Men

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation:

Compare and contrast:

James Blish's four "pantropy" stories, collected as The Seedling Stars;
Poul Anderson's four post-Terran Empire stories, collected in The Long Night and again in Flandry's Legacy.

Both these tetralogies are hard sf with interstellar themes:

Blish's theme is artificial adaptation of human beings to extraterrestrial environments;
Anderson's theme is natural adaptations by human beings left isolated in extraterrestrial environments.

When I had explicitated this comparison, I realized why I had been thinking of these two series in parallel.

The pantropy series is a short but complete future history, covering:

an early interplanetary period;
intermediate periods on two extrasolar planets;
longer term galactic hegemony for humanity in its many adapted forms.

The post-Empire stories also cover a future historical period:

post-Imperial anarchy in the mid-fourth millennium;
an intermediate period while the Allied Planets restore interstellar civilization;
longer term, human civilizations have spread through several spiral arms and one is served by the Commonalty.

The main difference is that the post-Empire stories are not complete in themselves but are merely the concluding section of the much longer History of Technic Civilization.  

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