Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Year 2018!

We have just received Radio Times, 6-12 January 2018, with 2018 in large numbers on the front cover but I can only find this film guide on google.

Year 2018! was the title of a paperback edition of James Blish's Cities In Flight, Volume I, discussed in:

Cities In Flight, Volume I
Bliss Wagoner
The Structure Of They Shall Have Stars

We have passed 1984, 2000 A.D. and 2001 and are about to enter 2018, a big year for fans of James Blish.

The Haertel Scholium Connections

A Martian Diptych
Welcome To Mars and "No Jokes on Mars" have a common setting.

The Galactic Cluster Trilogy
"This Earth of Hours" refers back to "Nor Iron Bars" which refers back to "Common Time."

The Heart Stars Trilogy
Both Mission To The Heart Stars and "A Dusk of Idols" refer back to The Star Dwellers.

The Quincunx Trilogy
Midsummer Century refers back to The Quincunx Of Time which refers forward to "A Style In Treason" and to Midsummer Century.

Adolph Haertel is in Welcome To Mars and "Common Time."
Jack Loftus is in The Star Dwellers and Mission To The Heart Stars.
Thor Wald is in The Quincunx Of Time and mentioned in Midsummer Century.
In Quincunx, Wald invents the Dirac transmitter which exists in a different form in Cities In Flight.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Written Wisdom

During their long journey to the galactic Heart Stars, Jack Loftus, Sandbag Stevens and their mentor, Dr Langer, have a lot of time to think and talk. They discuss a Biblical passage which Sandbag renders as:

"'He who darkens counsel without knowledge isn't earning his keep.'"
-James Blish, Mission To The Heart Stars (London, 1980), Chapter Eight, p. 91.

When Jack asks what good is written wisdom when we cannot understand it until we have experienced it for ourselves, Langer replies:

"'Not very much good, in my opinion...Written wisdom, it has always seemed to me, is like an algebraic formula: it states the general case as elegantly as possible, but all the terms in the equation are parameters which you must fill specifically in terms of your own experience. You need to have led a rich and thoughtful life before the formula becomes applicable to you. If you are, in addition, especially thoughtful, you may in the long run be able to refine the formula itself. But that doesn't happen very often. It's a noble ambition, though, I think.'" (ibid.)

Interesting. But how many people can refine proverbs? Blish usually discusses and dramatizes the acquisition of new knowledge through science, not the formulation of timeless wisdom.

When I was at University, a fellow undergraduate made an interesting distinction between proverbs and slogans. Proverbs are relatively changeless and timeless whereas slogans focus the need for immediate action to change something:

"No taxation without representation!"
"Liberty, equality, fraternity - or death!"
"Land, peace and bread!"
"All power to the soviets!" (When those were still popular, democratic institutions, of course.)

I looked up Blish's discussion of experiential knowledge because I had read:

"'Training does only so much. Experience you have to get the hard way.'"
-SM Stirling. The Tears Of The Sun (New York, 2012), Chapter Fifteen, p. 465 -

- which in turn reminded me of some reflections on Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series. See More On Everard and The Quotable Time Patrol.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Magic And Entropy

In James Blish's Black Easter and The Day After Judgment, magic is control of demons, which are fallen angels, and is practised in the twentieth century although most people do not believe in it. It is theorized that stable negative entropy would be eternal life. See here.

In Poul Anderson's Operation Otherworld, set on a parallel Earth, magic, practised in earler centuries, was protogoetics whereas goetics is a new energy source. See here. Demons are inhabitants of Hell, a chaotic, entropic universe.

Thus, Blish and Anderson present alternative imaginative takes on magic, demons and entropy.

Friday, 27 January 2017

They Shall Have Stars

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead man naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
-copied from here.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Falling One By One

Copied from here.

"'What was it Mephistopheles said? "Why, this is Hell, nor am I out of it." The totems are falling all around us as we sit here. One by one, Rosenbaum; one by one.'"
-James Blish, "A Dusk of Idols" IN Blish, Anywhen (New York, 1970) , pp. 105-135 AT p. 135.

"Ideas of self, ideas of world and family and nation, articles of scientific or religious faith, your creeds and currencies: one by one, the beloved structures falling.



-Alan Moore, "Clouds Unfold" IN Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), pp. 757-775 AT p. 775.

Blish ends a short story by telling us that our totems are falling. Moore ends a chapter by telling us what those totems are: ideas, faiths, creeds and currencies. Moore also provides sound effects.

An uncanny textual parallelism.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The Haertel Scholium

A recent reference to Dirac made me think about and rethink James Blish's Haertel Scholium. An omnibus collection of the Scholium would comprise eleven works, a two part prequel/prologue/prelude, Welcome To Mars and "No Jokes On Mars," followed by three trilogies:

The Galactic Cluster Trilogy
"Common Time"
"Nor Iron Bars"
"This Earth Of Hours"

The Heart Stars Trilogy
The Star Dwellers
Mission To The Heart Stars
"A Dusk Of Idols"

The Quincunx Trilogy
The Quincunx Of Time
"A Style In Treason"
Midsummer Century

In "This Earth Of Hours," the Terrestrial Matriarchy must contend with the Central Empire of the galaxy;
in the Heart Stars trilogy, the UN and the star-dwelling Angels must contend with the Heart Stars federation;
in "A Style In Treason," High Earth must contend with the Green Exarchy;
in The Quincunx Of Time, Earth, armed with the Dirac transmitter, builds its own intergalactic civilization;
in a twelfth Haertel Scholium work, A Case Of Conscience, which is Volume III of the After Such Knowledge Trilogy, the UN must cope with the planet Lithia which, in accordance with this novel's place in the ASK Trilogy, is a third historical example of the question whether the quest for secular knowledge is evil.