Poul Anderson (1926—2001) was an American writer of Speculative Fiction
, who was also involved in the founding of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Apart from J. R. R. Tolkien
, probably the writer most involved in doing the research
when it came to fantasy. A major source for Dungeons & Dragons
.The Other Wiki
lists recurring themes in his work
as (among others) "larger-than-life characters
who succeed gleefully or fail heroically," the folly of underestimating "primitive" cultures
, and "tragic conflict...with no villains at all
." His most famous essay is "On Thud and Blunder,"
where he takes potshots at those who fail to use basic research, or at least common sense when writing Heroic Fantasy
, and is the Trope Namer
for Thud and Blunder
Works of Poul Anderson having their own pages:
His other works provides examples of:
- Amnesiac Resonance: "A World Called Maanerek" entirely turns on a character having this.
- The Beautiful Elite: The aliens in Sargasso of Lost Starships
- Betty and Veronica: Played Up to Eleven in Sargasso of Lost Starships, where Helena is attractive and military, and Valduma is inhuman, possessed of great powers, superhumanly beautiful, sadistic, and completely mad.
- Bittersweet Ending: Lots.
- Blithe Spirit: Caitlín Mulryan, the eponymous character of The Avatar.
- But What About the Astronauts?: After Doomsday
- The Captain: Mostly in space
- Cold-Blooded Torture: In "A World Called Maanerek"
- Combat Pragmatist: Poul Anderson is fond of these characters. In his Wing Alek series of short stories the main character is forbidden from ever using killing to win a conflict (luckily the villains don't know that) so he uses underhanded methods to get the villains to defeat themselves.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: In "Holmgang", Johnny's murderer. Or so he poses as.
- Crush Blush: In "Virgin Planet", the hero blushes when the heroines dice to decide who gets him.
- Cultured Badass: In "A Little Knowledge"
- Curious Qualms of Conscience: Waren in "A World Called Maanerek"
- Damsel in Distress: Sonna in "A World Called Maanerek", captured by the dystopia's spaceship
- "Dear John" Letter: In the Back Story of "The Corkscrew Of Space"
- Defector from Decadence: Horlam in "A World Called Maanerek"
- Did Not Get the Girl: Common. In "Star Fog" for instance, Laure learns that the ship's crew are no longer able to interbreed with standard humanity, and their compulsive need to have children means he can not marry the one of them he has fallen in love with.
- Dirty Business: The aliens' view, in "No Truce with Kings"
- Divided States of America: In "No Truce With Kings"
- Dreaming The Truth: Wanen in "A World Called Maanerek". Or so he is told.
- Duel to the Death: In "Holmgang" the plot rises to this.
- Dystopia: The Hegemony in "A World Called Maanerek"
- Dystopia Is Hard: In both "Sam Hall" and "A World Called Maanerek"
- The Fair Folk: Appear in many Anderson stories, often with some kind of twist. Examples include The Queen of Air and Darkness.
- Feminine Women Can Cook: In "Break", a woman, the sole surviving passenger, helps by cooking the meals while the men of the crew frantically work at saving the ship.
- Feudal Future: Many
- In Corridors of Time, the hero realizes that the futuristic society that recruited him to fight a dystopia is rather dystopian itself when he is dropped in it and learns that the queen has high tech medical treatment while the poor woman he meets looks ancient at forty because of her lack of it.
- In Sargasso of Lost Starships, Donovan still has local authority despite the conquest because of their feudal loyalties.
- First Contact: The novelette The Enemy Stars deals with an accidental First Contact between a human and the aliens that save his life, and the sequel The Ways of Love deals with how humans handle the first alien beings on Earth (not well, in some cases).
- Flower Motifs: The aliens loved this in "The Pirate"
- A Friend in Need: Smit in "A World Called Maanerek". Or so he thinks.
- Gods Need Prayer Badly: Averted in the short story The Food of the Gods. A being or concept needs some initial worship to achieve Godhood, but after that are relatively self-sustaining. (If a bit hungry . . . )
- Good People Have Good Sex: A way of distinguishing the natural and unnatural in "A World Called Maanerek"
- Government Drug Enforcement: IN "A World Called Maanerek", "units" have to take many drugs to fit into their unnatural culture.
- Grey and Gray Morality
- Historical Fantasy: Mother of Kings is based on the Norse sagas with a low-fantastic element.
- Home Sweet Home: Why they stopped looking for Earth in "Gypsy"
- Hope Is Scary: In After Doomsday, an alien does not understand this.
- Humanoid Aliens
- Humanity Is Advanced
- Human Popsicle: Used in "The Burning Bridge" for interstellar colonization.
- I Did What I Had to Do: In "The Burning Bridge", the captain fakes a message to persuade them to go on.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Central to all of a planet's cultures in "Sharing of Flesh"
- Immortal Procreation Clause: A Boat of Million Years has fertile immortals. Unfortunately, the children are mortal.
- Important Haircut: Threatened in "A World Called Maanerek"
- Improbably High IQ: In "Turning Point," invoked to be averted; it's meaningless to talk of how high an average IQ the planet of geniuses has, because the scale realy doesn't work past 180.
- Inn Between the Worlds: The Old Phoenix Tavern, which appears in several works.
- It Was a Gift: Invoked as an excuse in "A Little Knowledge"
- King in the Mountain: In Orion Shall Rise, the line "Orion shall rise" is used by many citizens of a subjugated land. This trope is invoked to explain their superstition.
- Lady Land: An all-female Lost Colony is discovered in the novel Virgin Planet.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: In "A World Called Maanerek"
- The Leader: After Doomsday
- Lonely Together: In "Losers' Night", the Old Phoenix, the Inn Between the Worlds, has a night where all the guests are failures. Unusually for the inn, this night allows people to magically understand each other — so they can commiserate.
- Loners Are Freaks: Discussed in "A World Called Maanerek"
- Manly Tears: in "A World Called Maanerek"
- Master of Your Domain: A lot of his books e.g. Boat of A Million Years
- Matter of Life and Death: In "Marque and Reprisal"
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The Devil's Game
- Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: In The Man Who Counts
- The Men First: In "Arsenal Port"
- Mind over Matter: In Sargasso of Lost Starships
- More Hero Than Thou: "Sunjammer" — they argue about who will do the dangerous part, based on two of them being young but unmarried, and one being married but old
- The Mutiny: In "Break"
- My Grandson Myself: In The Boat of a Million Years several characters do this.
- Nice to the Waiter: Ganch is repulsed by this in "Inside Straight"
- Non-Human Sidekick: "To Build A World"
- Norse Mythology: Several of Anderson's novels (e.g. War of the Gods, Hrolf Kraki's Saga) are adaptations of old Norse sagas, while several others are loosely based on them (such as The Broken Sword).
- Not a Game: Inverted in "The Un-Man" — a two-year-old needs to think it's a game to avoid being traumatized.
- Old Retainer: Basil's slave in Sargasso of Lost Starships
- Portal Network: In The Enemy Stars (1958), mankind has maintained a program to deploy a portal network for centuries — while civilizations rose and fell on Earth — using STL ships to deliver portals to other solar systems. Aliens have been doing the same thing.
... But still the ships fell upward through the night, and always there were men to stand watch upon them. Sometimes the men wore peaked caps and comets, sometimes steel helmets, sometimes decorous gray cowls, eventually blue berets with winged stars; but always they watched the ships, and more and more often as the decades passed they brought their craft to new harbors.
After ten generations, the Southern Cross was not quite halfway to her own goal, though she was the farthest from Earth of any human work.
- Privateer: The Star Fox
- Room 101: The story "Sam Hall" opens with the protagonist's nephew being arrested and sent to a Room 101; the protagonist must hide that they were related.
- Sacred Hospitality: Iason invokes it by name in "Eutopia."
- Second Love: Proposed but not feasible in "Arsenal Port." In "Admirality" he appears to have recovered enough.
- Sherlock Scan: In "Queen of Air and Darkness."
- Shrouded in Myth: In Virgin Planet, a planet of women, isolated by accident, has legends of these marvelous beings, men. A real, flesh-and-blood man appears, and they initially conclude he's not marvelous enough and must be an alien.
- Space Opera
- Settle for Sibling: Or for your dead husband's clone-brother.
- Species Loyalty: Sonna in "A World Called Maanerek" is impressed by the Hegemony's efforts at this until she realizes what they will do to unite humanity.
- Starfish Aliens: In Starfarers, one of the sentient species is an intelligent layer of star. Not the whole star, just part of its skin.
- Stockholm Syndrome: Wanda reminds herself of this in Year of the Ransom
- Taking the Veil: The end of "Kyrie", and a plot twist in "The Live Coward"
- Talking in Your Sleep: A danger in "The Burning Bridge" — the man must become a Human Popsicle so he will not reveal all
- Talking to the Dead: Evalyn in "Sharing of the Flesh" — she fears it shows how disturbed she is.
- They Call Me Mister Tibbs: In "A Little Knowledge"
- Thicker Than Water:
- In "Say It With Flowers", the main character pleads for news on the grounds that he had a relative on a ship
- Telepathy: Sargasso of Lost Starships — used for psychic attacks.
- Time Travel: Lots of uses, beside the "Time Patrol" series.
- "My Object All Sublime" features far future people who use it for punishment.
- "Flight to Forever" revolves about a time machine in a universe where you can only move forward.
- "The Man who Came Early" moved back in time after a lighning strike.
- Trapped in the Past: In the short story "The Man Who Came Early", an American soldier stationed in Iceland is sent back to the Viking Era after being hit by lightning.
- Traumatic Haircut: In "A World Called Maanerek", the "tension release" using Sonna starts with her lobotomy—the doctor explains that first they will remove her hair, which will be interesting in itself, since many primitive women are proud of their hair. Wanen rescues her first.
- Twice Told Tale: "Goat Song" is Orpheus
- Unable To Support A Wife: In "A Critique of Impure Reason", he rejects the notion of living off his wife's salary.
- Ungovernable Galaxy: His SF stories frequently discuss how difficult it is to govern a planet, let alone more than one.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: In "A World Called Maanerek", the culture justifies its oppression of "units" and its ruthless expansion with extreme cruelty to the planets it finds on the grounds of spreading itself.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Korul Wanen in "A World Called Maanerek".
- When Trees Attack: An alien forest in The Star Fox
- Would Not Hit a Girl: "To Build A World"
- You Are in Command Now: In After Doomsday, the second officer breaks apart when this hits him.