Poul Anderson and Techic History (Flandry)

Al Jackson

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#1
Space Opera evolved out of Buck Rogers , Flash Gordon and Doc Smith (there are others), it was transformed by Asimov (Foundation) and Heinlein (lots of others) (under the tutelage of John Campbell) into a more ‘domesticated’ form of adventure that engaged the mind at a higher level of entertainment. In the 1950s Poul Anderson returned to Old Space Opera and polished off the pulp edges, added layers , fast unpredictable exotic worlds with the “Technic History” series (a large amount of Future History set in the Milky Way Galaxy).

The Terran Empire (I like Terran so much better than the awkward “Earthers”) is in conflict with the Merseian Empire.. The stories are complex and Anderson deftly weaves layers of intrigue and politics into the plots.

Anderson creates a spacefaring version of James Bond and analog of C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower. Flandry advance through the ranks of Imperial Navy’s Intelligence Corps. These are ripping yarns of nuanced space opera. (Anderson had a degree in physics and his extrapolated technologies have a viability spin on them that one does not see in movie and TV space opera).

Anderson wrote better fiction before, during and after the Techinc Histories, but this is my favorite space opera series.

A subset of ‘Techinc’ with Flandry set is :

Novels
Ensign Flandry (1966)
A Circus of Hells (1970)
The Rebel Worlds (1969)
A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows (1974)
A Stone in Heaven (1979)
The Game of Empire (1985) (consciously modeled on Kipling's Kim)

Collections
Agent of the Terran Empire (1965) consisting of the short stories "Tiger by the Tail", "The Warriors from Nowhere",[1] "Honorable Enemies" and "Hunters of the Sky Cave".
Flandry of Terra (1965) containing "The Game of Glory", "A Message in Secret" and "The Plague of Masters".

Omnibus editions
Young Flandry (2009), combining the novels Ensign Flandry, A Circus of Hells and The Rebel Worlds.[2]
Captain Flandry: Defender of the Terran Empire (2010), combining the short stories "Outpost of Empire", "The Day of Their Return", "Tiger by the Tail", "Honorable Enemies", "The Game of Glory" and "A Message in Secret".
Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight of Terra (2010), combining the short stories "The Plague of Masters", "Hunters of the Sky Cave", "The Warriors from Nowhere" and the novel A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows.
Flandry's Legacy (2011), combining the novels A Stone in Heaven' and 'The Game of Empire.


flandry.jpg
flandry2.jpg
 

BAYLOR

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#2
I haven't read Flandry

But ive one story I think has link to the Technic history . The Star Plunderers.:unsure:
 

Nozzle Velocity

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#3
I also picked up on the Bond aspect when I read these long ago. This is the side of Poul Anderson I enjoy the most - that pulpy, fantasy-tinged adventure style. I've been intending to read these again in the order they were published, along with returning to Brackett's Stark trilogy, Hamilton's Star Wolves, etc. There's some well written pulp/adventure stories in early Silverberg and Brunner too. Love it.

flandry.jpg
 

Al Jackson

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#4
I also picked up on the Bond aspect when I read these long ago. This is the side of Poul Anderson I enjoy the most - that pulpy, fantasy-tinged adventure style. I've been intending to read these again in the order they were published, along with returning to Brackett's Stark trilogy, Hamilton's Star Wolves, etc. There's some well written pulp/adventure stories in early Silverberg and Brunner too. Love it.

View attachment 46448
If Anderson's Flandry is pulp it is pulp with class. Anderson's stories are 100 times more nuanced than Doc Smith*. Characters more dimensional. And the physics and extrapolated physics is correct. Anderson showed how to write sophisticated space opera as long set of stories. (Tho this kind of space opera was perfected under John Campbell starting in 1938, by many authors).
There is more than Flandry in the Technic series:
The sequence is
Polesotechnic League
Terran Empire (mostly Flandry)
The Long Night
(A lot of novels and stories in this Future History)


*This is the charm of The Expanse , which is essentially Campbellian space opera.
 

Vince W

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#9
The thing about Anderson, and indeed most 'classic' science fiction authors, is he knew how to write without belabouring a point just to up the word count. Publishers were not interested in 1,000 page books that were 900 pages of filler.

Anderson got to the heart of the matter and stayed there. Science fiction needs to return to this type of writing where a fantastic story is told between 200 and 300 pages.
 

Vertigo

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#10
I did start working through the Flandry series a few years ago and, though I'm certain I would have loved them as a teenager, I'm afraid I only managed about four books before I just couldn't take any more of the ridiculous plots and, more than anything else, the major misogyny. Now I know that's a sign of it's times but that doesn't make it any easier for me to tolerate. I know they're often compared to James Bond in space but, whilst I'm no expert on 007, I'm pretty sure they were nowhere near as pulpy as these books.

But then repeated attempts to go back and read old classic SF books have shown that with most of them my tolerance for the writing styles and social mores of those times is very very limited.

I can still read and enjoy Anderson's more serious work like Tau Zero or The Boat of a Million Years but sadly I just cannot deal with the more pulpy stuff any longer. And that goes for any of the classic authors from Anderson to Asimov to Heinlein to Le Guin.
 

Al Jackson

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#12
I did start working through the Flandry series a few years ago and, though I'm certain I would have loved them as a teenager, I'm afraid I only managed about four books before I just couldn't take any more of the ridiculous plots and, more than anything else, the major misogyny. Now I know that's a sign of it's times but that doesn't make it any easier for me to tolerate. I know they're often compared to James Bond in space but, whilst I'm no expert on 007, I'm pretty sure they were nowhere near as pulpy as these books.

But then repeated attempts to go back and read old classic SF books have shown that with most of them my tolerance for the writing styles and social mores of those times is very very limited.

I can still read and enjoy Anderson's more serious work like Tau Zero or The Boat of a Million Years but sadly I just cannot deal with the more pulpy stuff any longer. And that goes for any of the classic authors from Anderson to Asimov to Heinlein to Le Guin.
What is your definition of 'pulp'? You sure you have read Le Guin? I know of nothing Le Guin wrote that was pulp SF! Anderson did write a lot better SF outside the Technic series , Brain Wave (1954), The Enemy Stars , High Crusade, lots of great short stories. Neither Asimov or Heinlein wrote pulp SF like Doc Smith or Edgar Rice Burroughs! Find anything pulpy in Ted Sturgeon, Phil Dick or Cordwainer Smith?
 

Nozzle Velocity

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#13
What is your definition of 'pulp'? ... I know of nothing Le Guin wrote that was pulp SF!
This question wasn't directed at me, but I used "pulpy" in a non-derisive way upthread. I'm not equating Le Guin with Burroughs, but there's a strong element of planetary adventure in The Left Hand of Darkness despite the fact that it's referred to as "anthropological science fiction". Poul Anderson often had this same quality along with Brunner and Silverberg as I mentioned earlier.
 
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Robert Zwilling

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#14
For me, Pulp ranges from what was that to the fantastic. Sometimes it's just a description of how something was published. Does having a dozen books rotating around the same scenery qualify something as pulp. Might be a word that needs some kind of classifier to go along with it, like Defcon 5, which indicates time for high anxiety in WarGames. My first science fiction stories included Tom Swift, The Lensman, Jules Verne and Lovecraft. I found them to be excellent place to start exercising my imagination. Ian Fleming didn't hit the mark every time the way James Bond did. The Spy Who Loved Me is the kind of pulp that gets thrown out.
 

Vertigo

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#15
What is your definition of 'pulp'? You sure you have read Le Guin? I know of nothing Le Guin wrote that was pulp SF! Anderson did write a lot better SF outside the Technic series , Brain Wave (1954), The Enemy Stars , High Crusade, lots of great short stories. Neither Asimov or Heinlein wrote pulp SF like Doc Smith or Edgar Rice Burroughs! Find anything pulpy in Ted Sturgeon, Phil Dick or Cordwainer Smith?
I consider pulp SF to be light adventure sf with elements of the fantastic, little attempt at realism and frequently (though not always) focused on one heroic character who singlehandedly saves the day. I stand by my claim that all of those authors wrote pulp, as well, of course, as writing other much more serious SF. I also don't condemn pulp as being necessarily bad, I have loved an awful lot of pulp in my time, I just find it much harder to love now. And there is, in my opinion, still plenty of it around today. In fact looking at a lot (note again I say a lot which doesn't even mean the same as most) of the self published SF out there today I'd say it has an above average quantity of pulp in amongst it. Again this is not necessarily a bad thing; an awful lot of people love it. I would say, however, that some of the more common characteristics of early pulp have morphed somewhat with maybe less misogyny and other features common for those times and societal norms but they still tend to focus on one person saving the planet/empire/galaxy in, usually, highly improbable, though very heroic, ways.

Incidentally the last three authors you mentioned - Sturgeon, Dick and Smith - I did not in any way describe as pulp (I didn't even mention them); though even there some might argue that some of Dick's work was pulp. He churned out an awful lot of dross as well as his undisputed masterpieces.
 

Al Jackson

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#16
I consider pulp SF to be light adventure sf with elements of the fantastic, little attempt at realism and frequently (though not always) focused on one heroic character who singlehandedly saves the day. I stand by my claim that all of those authors wrote pulp, as well, of course, as writing other much more serious SF. I also don't condemn pulp as being necessarily bad, I have loved an awful lot of pulp in my time, I just find it much harder to love now. And there is, in my opinion, still plenty of it around today. In fact looking at a lot (note again I say a lot which doesn't even mean the same as most) of the self published SF out there today I'd say it has an above average quantity of pulp in amongst it. Again this is not necessarily a bad thing; an awful lot of people love it. I would say, however, that some of the more common characteristics of early pulp have morphed somewhat with maybe less misogyny and other features common for those times and societal norms but they still tend to focus on one person saving the planet/empire/galaxy in, usually, highly improbable, though very heroic, ways.

Incidentally the last three authors you mentioned - Sturgeon, Dick and Smith - I did not in any way describe as pulp (I didn't even mention them); though even there some might argue that some of Dick's work was pulp. He churned out an awful lot of dross as well as his undisputed masterpieces.

Can you name any science fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin that is “be light adventure sf with elements of the fantastic, little attempt at realism and frequently (though not always) focused on one heroic character”? Left Hand of Darkness or The Dispossessed? ( I know of no Le Geuin science fiction that can be characterized as light adventure!)


Asimov, Foundation, Caves of Steel, The End of Eternity , many others…


Heinlein, Double Star or Door Into Summer, or Starship Troopers or Moon is a Harsh Mistress? others.....
 

Vertigo

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#17
I may have been glib including Le Guin there though I would agree with @Nozzle Velocity there are elements in her work. Anne McCaffrey might have been a more representative example of someone who has written good solid SF as well as pulp (The Rowan, Powers that Be). However I do not want to get into an argument about what is or is not pulp; it would be pointless as all such descriptions inevitably end up being subjective. Just look at the arguments that run on in Chrons on what is hard SF, or space opera, or science fantasy.

I'm not sure what you are suggesting with the list of Asimov and Heinlein books but I did say "...as well, of course, as writing other much more serious SF" so reeling off a load of examples that are not pulp doesn't really say anything. I'd be the first to agree that most/all of the authors mentioned have written excellent non pulp stuff. However I'm afraid after a recent reread of the Foundation trilogy I'd have to say pulp is correct for them, good pulp maybe, but pulp all the same; just look at the influence of individuals in each of the books; each of Seldon's major tipping points are achieved almost exclusively by the actions of individuals (in frankly some pretty unlikely sequences of events) whilst only with the Mule does Asimov state that the actions of individuals such as the Mule can mess up Seldon's predictions. I could give a complete breakdown of all the pulp elements in the books but it wouldn't really achieve anything.

And again pulp does not have to be a criticism. Pulp dominated much of the SF genre for a long time and included some excellent stories. I could even argue that Bester's The Stars My Destination is essentially pulp. A great story but little of it is really very plausible.

However I will not be drawn further into an argument of what is or is not pulp. With respect to this thread I'm afraid that, despite my loving many of Poul Anderson's books I consider his Flandry books to definitely fall into that category.
 

Brian G Turner

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#18
Back on topic...

I have a hand-me-down copy of Poul Anderson's Three Worlds to Conquer - I was going to send it to the charity shop, but as I really liked Tau Zero I thought I might try it.

Is Three Worlds to Conquer part of the Techic series? IF so, is it going to be a bad book to start with, or doesn't it matter - if that question even applies at all?
 

Vertigo

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#19
Back on topic...

I have a hand-me-down copy of Poul Anderson's Three Worlds to Conquer - I was going to send it to the charity shop, but as I really liked Tau Zero I thought I might try it.

Is Three Worlds to Conquer part of the Techic series? IF so, is it going to be a bad book to start with, or doesn't it matter - if that question even applies at all?
I've not read that one, but I don't think it falls into any of Anderson's future civilisations. Rather I think it's a stand alone but I've not idea of its relative quality.
 

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