Friday, September 17, 2010

Poul Anderson

Many years ago I attended a Science Fiction convention and was touring the art show. There were few people around as I stopped in front of a particular painting that caught my eye. Moments later, a man stood next to me telling me his opinion of the art work. I turned to give him my opinion and saw the name on his badge. It was the author Poul Anderson. We chatted a few minutes, then moved on our separate ways. Sadly, Mr. Anderson passed away last week, leaving two literary genres bereft of a talented, imaginative author. Though primarily a Science Fiction writer, Poul Anderson made several contributions to the Fantasy genre too. He created many vivid Fantasy worlds with memorable characters and themes.

Mr. Anderson used Norse mythology for some of his Fantasy books. It is prevalent in The Broken Sword. A human is taken by the elves and replaced by a changeling of half elven and half troll heritage. The human is brought up to handle iron which the elves can’t handle. His changeling counterpart longs to be human. Both are betrayed by their respective worlds that sets a battle in motion which will destroy worlds and the gods. Into this mix comes Scafloc, the hero with a sword that demands blood. This is a bloody story that reads like the old sagas. It is a classic, but reads fast and does have some minor flaws since this is one of the author’s earlier books.

Three Heart and Three Lions is another of Mr. Anderson’s stories with Norse elements. Holger Carlson is an engineer from our world. After a bullet grazes his skull, he wakes up in a Fantasy world where he is expected to be a hero of prophecy to stop the forces of Chaos. Holger is helped by a swan maiden and Hugi the dwarf. Holger must figure out what his part is in this this world of Charlemagne’s paladins. It is a light Fantasy with likable characters and the usual themes of honor that appear in many of this author’s works.

In A Midsummer’s Tempest, Mr. Anderson used Shakespearean and Arthurian elements. Shakespeare’s plays a re historical chronicles of fact in this Fantasy world. Railroads have been built two hundred years earlier than in our reality. Oberon and Titania of Fairy become involved in the war between the Royals and Roundheads to help the King. Along with the Fairy folk, denizens from Arthurian legend get involved too. This book is full of a lot of action and humor that readers can enjoy.

The Merman’s Children is a serious tale about the Merfolk and humanity. It revolves around the themes of Paganism, Christi anity, having a soul and the conflicts of these issues. Four children, half human and half Merfolk, must grapple with their heritage while searching for their Merman father. This is one of Mr. Anderson’s most poignant books. It is filled with descriptive images of life in the sea. Characters must answer the question: Is it worth giving up the sea in order to gain an immortal soul?

Poul Anderson is gone, but he left many entertaining good books for readers to enjoy. He wrote many adventure Fantasy stories with a strong sense of honor and compassion. His characters have many touches that make them human, memorable and likable. Readers have a lot to mourn in the loss of this talented author that wrote in two genres. For me, I will always remember a quiet gentleman that shared his opinions and conversation with me one afternoon at an SF convention art show.

NOTE: Many of these books are out of print, but should be available at used bookstores.

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