Friday, 28 February 2014

West, Space And Time

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation:

This is one of those posts that starts somewhere else but works its way back to Poul Anderson.

In the early 1950's, I got the weekly British comic strip paper, The Eagle, even before I could read it. This comic featured "Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future" and "Riders of the Range," a Western series that had a fictitious central character but that also incorporated historical figures and events. I realized even then that, although I loved Westerns, I preferred pictures of men in spacesuits to pictures of cowboys on horseback, thus sf to Westerns.

Many of my contemporaries had the same enthusiasm for football that I had for Westerns and sf. Why do people have such strong, and different, interests from such an early age? I don't know.

Dare's main adversaries, the Treens, were bald, green, hostile, humanoid extraterrestrials, thus similar to Dominic Flandry's opponents, the Merseians. Dare was a preparation for Poul Anderson's Flandry - who sometimes also wears a spacesuit. Despite his mastery of many genres, Anderson never wrote Westerns, except a joke Hoka story with Gordon R Dickson. ER Burroughs, who is also relevant here, did write four Western novels. ERB wrote comic book type characters but in prose fiction, including sf.

In addition to a fascination with space travel, I also acquired slightly later on a very great fascination with two other sf ideas, time travel and future histories. Flandry, of course, is a major figure in a long future history series. My introduction to time travel was another comic strip, the Classics Illustrated adaptation of HG Wells' The Time Machine. And Wells' novel was a precursor to Anderson's Time Patrol.

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