Tag Archives: Poul Anderson

A Look at Poul Anderson’s “To Outlive Eternity”

anderson-to-outlive-eternityTo Outlive Eternity
Poul Anderson
mass market paperback $7.99
ebook $6.99

This post isn’t about the entire collection, but the title story.  “To Outlive Eternity” was serialized in Galaxy in 1967.  An expanded version was published in 1970 as the novel Tau Zero.  I read the novel approximately 25 years ago.  Today being Anderson’s birthday, I wanted to read something of his that was longer than a short story, but not too long.  “To Outlive Eternity” was perfect.

Anderson was a master at many forms of science fiction and fantasy.  He had a degree in physics; not surprisingly, much of his hard science stories revolve around physics and astronomy concepts, one of the many reasons I like his work.  “To Outlive Eternity” falls into this category. Continue reading

Celebrating “The Season of Forgiveness”

9781451638622“The Season of Forgiveness”
Poul Anderson
A Cosmic Christmas
Hank Davis, ed.
Baen Books
paper $12.00
ebook $8.99 Baen  Kindle Nook Kobo

Poul Anderson has always been one of my favorite writers. I’m going to be starting a project involving a number of his works next month, so watch for a formal announcement soon.

I first read “The Season of Forgiveness” when I was in high school or the first year or so of college. It’s part of Anderson’s epic future history. This story takes place fairly early in the series, during the first major series-within-a-series, that of the Polesotechnic League. (The other major sub-series is that of Dominic Flandry.)

The story concerns Juan Hernandez, an apprentice at a trading post on a planet orbiting a red dwarf near the Pleiades. A plant that produces a valuable substance has been discovered on the planet, negotiations with the indigenous aliens are underway, and a ship carrying a contingent of new workers and their families is due to arrive soon. In fact, it should land just before Christmas.

The post commander isn’t thrilled with the thought of having children underfoot, so when Juan requests permission to set up a Christmas display to make the kids feel more at home, he reluctantly grants it. During the preparations, hostilities break out among rival factions of the indigenous people.

Juan is out gathering crystals for the final touch of the Christmas decorations when he finds himself surrounded by a group of natives, and they aren’t friendly. He manages to escape, and in the process he has the opportunity to kill the natives. Instead he flees back to his skimmer, literally closing the door on a volley of spears.

When the natives ask why he didn’t kill them, he explains that in his culture, it is the season of forgiveness. That opens a dialogue with leads to a resolution of the conflict between the two groups of natives.

The resolution to the problem is a little simplistic, but this story was first published in Boy’s Life, the magazine of the Boy Scouts of America.  As such, it’s appropriate for its audience.

It’s popular in some circles to rant about how science fiction has always been about white men. Usually those doing the ranting haven’t read as much science fiction as they like to pretend.  The protagonist isn’t white; he’s Hispanic.  There are several other apprentices in the story.  They’re not white either.  And while there are no female characters, this story was written for a boy’s magazine, so I don’t see much of a problem there, {although I’m sure someone would).

I was reminded when reading “The Season of Forgiveness” of what it was I liked about Poul Anderson’s work, and what especially drew me to this particular future history.  In addition to using science to make the story work (length of planetary day, spectral classification of star, type of creatures adapted to that environment), he was able to communicate the vastness of space in just a few lines.

This isn’t one of Anderson’s major works, but it’s a solid piece of Christmas themed science fiction that works for its intended audience.  Check it out.

A Cosmic Christmas is a mix of fantasy and science fiction, all with a Christmas theme.  One of my favorite stories is included.  That would be Seabury Quinn’s “Roads”.  I looked at it in depth a few years ago.  Here’s the link to that post.