Saturday, 10 May 2014

Sandra Miesel's Technic Civilization Chronology by Sean M Brooks

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, Wed 23 April 2014.

Prefatory Note.  Dr. Shackley kindly published on his blog (April 26, 2012) an earlier version of this essay written by me.  Since then, I decided it needed to be revised, mostly from dating the birth of Nicholas van Rijn to 2421 instead of my earlier suggestion he was born in 2424.  And that made it necessary to revise my suggested dates for the birth of David Falkayn and many of the stories set during the Polesotechnic League.  I remained largely satisfied with the dates I proposed for the stories set in the Imperial era and made only minor changes to that part of the Chronology.

Several editions of the Technic Civilization stories of Poul Anderson (Gregg Press, Ace Books, Baen Books) have attached to them a chronology compiled by Sandra Miesel, an excellent commentator on the works of Anderson.  This chronology lists in internal chronological order all the stories and novels of the Technic Civilization series through periods like that of the Polesotechnic League and the Terran Empire.  Miesel also added many annalistic notes to her chronology.

For those who wish to read the Technic Civilization stories in chronological order, or merely to have a list of the stories in a correct temporal sequence, Sandra Miesel has done readers of Anderson's works a real favor.  However, commentators like Dr. Paul Shackley have discovered inconsistencies in some of Miesel's proposed dates which contradicts what the texts says.

For example, Miesel dates the birth of Nicholas van Rijn to AD 2376 and the crucial Polesotechnic League's Council of Hiawatha to 2400.  However, as discussed by Dr. Shackley in his note "Inconsistencies II," Nicholas van Rijn was born too late to have attended that council.  The section of Chapter IX of MIRKHEIM which discussed the Council of Hiawatha ended with "But when a century had passed--".  Nicholas van Rijn could not have attended that council because he was 80 years old at the time of the Mirkheim/Baburite crisis.  He would need to have been, implausibly, well over a century in age.

I have no objection to keeping Miesel's dating of the Council of Hiawatha to 2400, but I believe dating van Rijn's birth to 2421 is more accurate.  And since the Mirkheim/Baburite war came when van Rijn was 80 years old, that means it should be dated 2501 (not in 2456, Miesel's date).  This has the advantage of not contradicting what Chapter IX of MIRKHEIM said about "But when a century had passed."

Another error in Miesel's chronology contradicting what the texts say are her dates for "Lodestar" and MIRKHEIM.  She dates the events in "Lodestar" and MIRKHEIM to 2446 and 2456.  However, the Prologue to MIRKHIEIM clearly dates the events in that book to EIGHTEEN, not 10, years after "Lodestar."  My revision of her chronology dates those stories to 2483 and 2501.

The next major inconsistency in Miesel's chronology contradicting what the texts say came from her dating the foundation of the Terran Empire to the 28th century and the birth of Dominic Flandry to AD 3000.  These dates clash with what Chapter 10 of ENSIGN FLANDRY says, as the Merseian prime minister Brechdan Ironrede was going to the Imperial embassy for an official reception: "His destination was another offense, a compound of residences and offices in the garish bubble style of the Imperium four hundred years ago."  This indicates the Empire had existed for over four centuries by the time of ENSIGN FLANDRY (because it is reasonable to think schools of architecture needed some time after the Empire arose to become popular).

"Day of Burning" gives us some idea of how long the Merseian year was when it says: "The time unit Falkayn actually used was Merseian, a trifle greater than Earth's." My guess is the Merseian year was longer than our Earth's year by three per cent or less, since it was only a "trifle" longer. This supports my argument that the Empire was older than the three centuries or so that Sandra Miesel proposes in her chronology at the time of ENSIGN FLANDRY.

Moreover, Miesel herself contradicts her chronology when she wrote in her "Introduction" for THE PEOPLE OF THE WIND (Gregg Press: 1977): "The Empire is its third century when it moves against the Domain in its first aggressive campaign against a civilized foe."  Another chronological indication can be found in Chapter 8 of Anderson's THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN, as Ivar Frederiksen briefly summarized the history of relations between the Empire and the Domain of Ythri: "Still, it [the Domain] grew.  So did Empire, Terra's, that is, till they met and clashed.  Couple centuries ago, they fought."  Now, if the Empire had existed a little over two centuries by the time of the Ythrian War and then that conflict was at least two centuries in the past by the time of THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN, that can only mean it had lasted more than four centuries by then.

Therefore, I would argue for dating the birth of Dominic Flandry to AD 3100, not 3000 (the year Miesel chose).  The later date better fits the chronological evidence I collected from the texts.  I am still puzzled how Miesel could have missed, for example, such crucial indications as the Prologue of MIRKHEIM saying the Baburite war occurred 18 years after "Lodestar."

In addition, I suggested below that Josip died in 3142 rather than in 3141 (Miesel's date was 3041) because a slightly longer reign for that Emperor fitted better the background of the stories.  That is, it gives more time for the events recorded in those stories to take place without being crowded together too tightly.

If the argument I gave above is correct, then that means many, not all, of the dates given by Miesel in her chronology needs to be changed.  Mostly by proposing dates later than the ones she chose.  In the chronology given by me below, the dates I advocate are given first while Miesel's dates are given in square brackets.  For the most part I used the "Chronology of Technic Civilization" to be found in the Gregg Press edition of ENSIGN FLANDRY.  I also thought it best, for simplicity's sake, to omit many of the annalistic notes added by Sandra Miesel.  I omitted many bibliographical details for similar reasons.

In my proposed revision of Sandra Miesel's Chronology I preferred to list the stories by their first magazine or book publication dates.  To be strictly accurate I should say that Poul Anderson revised a few of these stories: "Margin of Profit," "The White King's War," "Tiger by the Tail," "Honorable Enemies," and "Warriors from Nowhere."  These later versions should be considered canonical and first appeared in THE EARTHBOOK OF STORMGATE ("Margin of Profit") and in the Ace Books and Gregg Press editions of the Dominic Flandry stories ("The White King's War," GALAXY, October 1969, was incorporated in A CIRCUS OF HELLS).

The Breakup and the Polesotechnic League

2055  "The Saturn Game," ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION (cited as ASF), February, 1981
2150  "Wings of Victory," ASF, April, 1972
24th century  "The Problem of Pain," FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, February, 1973
2400  The Council of Hiawatha
2421 [2376]  Birth of Nicholas van Rijn
2451 [2406]  Birth of David Falkayn
2461 [2416]  "Margin of Profit," ASF, September, 1956
2461 [2416]  "How to be Ethnic in One Easy Lesson," FUTURE QUEST, ed. Roger Elwood, Avon Books, 1974
2468 [2416]  "The Three Cornered Wheel," ASF, October, 1963
2471 [2426]  WAR OF THE WING MEN, Ace Books, 1958
2471 [2426]  "Esau," ASF, February, 1970
2471             "A Sun Invisible," ASF, April, 1966
2472 [2427]  "Hiding Place," ASF, March, 1961
2472 [2427]  "Territory," ASF, June, 1963
2476 [2427]  "The Trouble Twisters," as "Trader Team," ASF, July-August, 1965
2478 [2433]  "Day of Burning," as "Supernova," ASF, January, 1967
3478 [2433]  "The Master Key," ASF, July, 1964
2482 [2437]  SATAN'S WORLD, Doubleday, 1969
2482 [2437]  "A Little Knowledge," ASF, August 1971
2482 [2437]  "The Season of Forgiveness," BOY'S LIFE, December, 1973
2483 [2446]  "Lodestar," ASTOUNDING: THE JOHN W. CAMBPBELL MEMORIAL ANTHOLOGY, ed. by Harry Harrison, Random House, 1973
2501 [2456]  MIRKHEIM, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1977
Early 26th century [late 25th century], settlement of Avalon
26th century, "Wingless on Avalon," BOY'S LIFE, July, 1973
26th century, "Rescue on Avalon," in CHILDREN OF INFINITY, ed. Roger Elwood, Franklin Watts, 1973
26th  centruy, dissolution of the Polesotechnic League

The Time of Troubles and the Terran Empire

2600-2700 [27th century]  The Time of Troubles
Late 27th century, "The Star Plunderer," PLANET STORIES (cited as PS), September, 1952
2700  Manuel Argos founds the Terran Empire, Principate phase begins
28th century, "Sargasso of Lost Starships," PS, January, 1952
29th century [30th C], Covenant of Alfzar
2925 [29th century], THE PEOPLE OF THE WIND, New American Library, 1973
3100 [3000]  Birth of Dominic Flandry
Circa 3112 Battle of Mirzan, Alarri invasion crushed by the Navy
3119 [3019]  ENSIGN FLANDRY, Chilton, 1966
3121 [3021]  A CIRCUS OF HELLS, New American Library, 1971
3122 [3022]  Josip succeeds Georgios as Emperor
3125 [3025]  THE REBEL WORLDS, New American Library,1969
3127 [3027]  "Outpost of Empire," GALAXY, December, 1967
3128 [3028]  THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN, Doubleday, 1973
3132 [3032]  "Tiger by the Tail," PS, January, 1951
3133 [3033]  "Honorable Enemies," FUTURE COMBINED WITH SCIENCE FICTION STORIES, May, 1951
3135 [3035]  "The Game of Glory," VENTURE, March, 1958
3137 [3037]  "A Message in Secret," as MAYDAY ORBIT, Ace Books, 1961
3138 [3038]  "A  Plague of Masters," as EARTHMAN, GO HOME, Ace Books, 1961
3140 [3040]  WE CLAIM THESE STARS! (also HUNTERS OF THE SKY CAVE), Ace Books, 1959
3042 [3041]  Hans Molitor succeeds Josip as Emperor after brief civil war, supplants short lived Imperial relative as Emperor.
3143 [3042]  "Warriors from Nowhere," as "Ambassadors of Flesh," PS, Summer, 1954
3148 [3047]  A KNIGHT OF GHOSTS AND SHADOWS, New American Library, 1975
3155  Dietrich succeeds Hans as Emperor
3157  Gerhart succeeds Dietrich as Emperor
3162 [3061]  A STONE IN HEAVEN, Ace Books, 1979
3167 [3064]  THE GAME OF EMPIRE, Baen Books, 1985
Early fourth millennium, the Empire enters its Dominate phase
Circa AD 3500, Fall of the Terran Empire, the Long Night begins.  War, piracy, anarchy, economic collapse, and isolation devastate countless worlds.

The Long Night

3600  "A Tragedy of Errors," GALAXY, February, 1968
3900  THE NIGHT FACE, Ace Books, 1978
4000  "The Sharing of Flesh," GALAXY, December, 1968
7100  "Starfog," ASF, August, 1967


  1. Sean,
    "Day of Burning" says that the Merseian year is "...a trifle greater than Earth's."

  2. Hi, Paul!

    Drat! Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I know I should have reread "Day of Burning" as I was working on both the original and revised versions of this essay. Now I'm going to have to revise or replace the paragraph where I mistakenly said we did not know how long the Merseian was compared to our Terra's year. I would guess the Merseian year was somewhere around three percent longer than Earth's year (since it was only a "trifle" longer.

    With your consent I'll send you a replacement paragraph correcting what I had said this weekend.

    Thanks! Sean

  3. Sean,
    Of course. And I look forward to reading about MULTIVERSE.

    1. Hi, Paul!

      I sent you a proposed replacement pargraph. If you think I need to revise it, don't hesitate to say so!

      I'm about half way thru MULTIVERSE. High time I started compiling some notes about the stories I read in it. I'm not as fast a reader or writer as you are, I fear!


  4. Hi, Paul!

    I'm adopting your suggestion about the Battle of Mirzan. Could you include, after the entry noting Dominic Flandry's birth, this addition: "Circa 3112 Battle of Mirzan, Alarri invasion crushed by the Navy."


  5. Hi, Paul!

    Many thanks for including my suggested addtion to the Chronology. Which YOU in turn, had been the first to suggest. (Smiles)


  6. Sorry, wish I had run across this first. I had just started to reread the Polesotechnic books after many (many) years.

    1. Hi, SpeakNoEvil!

      No problem! I'm simply glad my little effort was of some interest. I hope to see more of your comments on this blog, discussing both what Paul has written and, perhaps, my own notes in the comboxes and essays.

      I'll be very interested in any comments you care to make about Poul Anderson's Polesotechnic League stories. Or any others of his works.


  7. Sean,
    David Falkayn is 20 in "A Sun Invisible". [p 59 of "The Trouble Twisters"]

    1. Hi, SpeakNoEvil!

      I checked, and you are right! Page 63 of my hardback edition of THE TROUBLETWISTERS, "A Sun Invisible," mentions Falkayn as being 20 years. I goofed in my revision of Sandra Miesel's Chronology in having Falkayn being aged 22. Thanks for pointing out my mistake.

      Paul: could you correct my mistake and place my entry for "A Sun Invisible" after "Esau" for the year 2471?
      Like this: "2471 "A Sun Invisible," ASF, April 1966." And to eliminate the year 2473 from the Chronology?

      Thanks to both of you! Sean

    2. Kaor, Paul!

      You did succeed in making the revision I requested. Many thanks! And thanks again to SpeakNoEvil.

      I'm STILL chagrined at the mistake I made about Falkayn's age and the proper locating of "A Sun Invisible" in any chronological listing of the Technic Civilization stories.


  8. Hi guys, more on the timeline.
    David Falkayn is 33 in "Lodestar" [p315 HB]. This puts "Lodestar" in 2484.
    P318 of same story states that "Satan's World" was 10 yrs earlier. This puts "Satan's World" in 2474.
    Finally, the y-18 entry of the prologue of "Mirkheim" refers to the discovery of Mirkheim by Falkayn. In "Lodestar" van Rijn says that the metals have been on the market for 3 yrs. So the minimum time between stories is 15 yrs and certainly less given startup time for the mining company on Mirkheim.

    1. Hi, SpeakNoEvil!

      Many thanks for the flattering and detailed attention you have been giving my proposed revisal of Sandra Miesel's Chronology. I'm chagrined at the mistakes I seemed to have made myself! (Smiles)

      If I agree with your suggestion about "Lodestar," it will be easy to correct. Simply change 2483 to 2484.

      The dating for SATAN'S WORLD, however, will be more difficult, requiring careful thinking. My first reaction was that 2474 is far too early in Falkayn's life. It leads to complications like Poul Anderson possibly slipping up here or even to how that might justify something like my 18 years between "Lodestar" and MIRKHEIM.

      I dunno, given the secrecy with which Falkayn set up the Supermetals Company and all the other arrangements necessary for doing things "under the radar," my suggested 18 years just might make sense. The need for arranging the setting up, staffing, buying of ships, equipment, etc., secretly, rather than openly, might have prolonged matters. If so, that could still mean 18 rather than 15 years is more accurate.

      But your comments about the dating of SATAN'S WORLD seems to be the biggest problem you discovered. Something I'll have to think hard about.

      Many thanks for your interest in my revisal of Miesel's Chronology!