Saturday, 1 February 2014
The Little Monster
Poul Anderson, "The Little Monster" IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 142-163.
This one-off story, originally published in Way Out, edited by Roger Elwood, 1974, describes a time traveling Boy Scout's encounter with Pithecanthropus. This puts it in the same category as the two Technic History stories in which teenage colonists of an extrasolar planet encounter winged Ythrians.
Jerry Parker is twelve in 1995. The future world of 1995 has:
telecasts from Mars;
Mitsuhito's theory of temporal relativistics;
Antomio Viana's engineering application of Mitsuhito's theory;
thus, the new science of Temporalistics.
Every time travel story must clarify its premises, including any limitations on time travel, which help to avoid paradoxes. In this story:
"time projection" involves n-dimensional forces and the warping of world lines;
Viana's lab is a small part of an international project;
it is not yet possible "'...to enter the past at a later date than about one million B.C.'" (p. 144);
the temporal inertia effect prevents travel either to the recent past or to the future and "'...causes great uncertainty about arrival dates'" (p. 145);
time travelers are projected from, not in, a steel cylinder (whereas, in Anderson's "Flight to Forever", the cylindrical time projector carries the travelers in it while HG Wells' Time Machine carries his Time Traveler on it);
anything sent into the past automatically returns "'...after thirty hours [in the past], because of built-up stresses in the continuum'" (ibid.);
it returns to almost the moment of departure and also to the same place even if it moved elsewhere in the past (again unlike the vehicles in "Flight to Forever" and The Time Machine);
time travelers cannot bring anything back with them, except the matter that they have breathed, eaten or drunk because this is held by intermolecular forces.
There is far more in any Poul Anderson novel or collection than can be realized by anyone who merely reads it through once from cover to cover. This single story presents a time travel scenario to rival that of the Time Patrol series and will require more than one post to discuss it fully.