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Jessie Tharp's Timeline


Subject: Books and the timeline
From: ops@ncsc.ARPA
Date: 1 Apr 87 00:49:08 GMT
C.J. Cherryh has indicated in interviews and articles that her "future history", set partly in the Union-Alliance universe of DOWNBELOW STATION is something that she has planned in great detail. Many of her science fiction novels are set in this future, which is so intricately detailed "in hundreds of spiral notebooks" that she knows what ships arrived at which planets or stations when, what cargo they were carrying and who was on them. I am reminded of Agatha Christie's method of keeping track of the characters in her mysteries by plotting their movements on the blackboards that covered three walls of her workroom.

I do not have a complete chronology, though there is a partial timeline line published in ANGEL WITH A SWORD. I haven't read WAVE WITHOUT A SHORE or VOYAGER IN NIGHT, so I do not know where or if they fit into Cherryh's timeline. I haven't read all of Cherryh's books nor am I privy to any privileged information, save what can be gleaned from the books themselves, so the following placement and discussion is simply what I have learned. I am always ready to learn more, especially about Ms. Cherryh's work.
   HESTIA                  occurs during Sol's expansion, after the
   CUCKOO'S EGG            discovery of Pell but before the discovery
                           of jump

   DOWNBELOW STATION       occurs during the Union-Sol hostilities,
   MECHANTER'S LUCK        before the founding of the Alliance by
                           Signy Mallory and Konstantin

   40,000 IN GEHENNA       begins during Union's experiments with
                           lab-born humans (azi) and ends after the
                           Union and Alliance have reached "detente"

   THE PRIDE OF CHANUR     occurrs simultaneously with the events of
   CHANUR'S VENTURE        40,000 IN GEHENNA, according to the Author's
   THE KIF STRIKE BACK     Note at the end of THE KIF STRIKE BACK, but
   CHANUR'S HOMECOMING     whether near the beginning or the end is not
                           clear

   THE FADED SUN: KESRITH  occurs at the end of Alliance-Sharrh conflict
   THE FADED SUN: SHON'JIR
   THE FADED SUN: KUTATH

   PORT ETERNITY           an unlinked novel occurring in Unionside
                           space

   SERPENT'S REACH         occurs in Unionside space after after the
                           Union and Alliance have reached "detente"
                           and before the Alliance-Hanan conflicts

   BROTHERS OF EARTH       occurs during the Alliance-Hanan conflict,
                           possibly near the end of the thousand-year
                           war

   ANGEL WITH A SWORD      occurs during the thousand-year Alliance-
                           Hanan conflict, on a planet which was
                           settled and abandoned by Union and ceded
                           to the Sharrh during the Alliance-Sharrh
                           wars

   SUNFALL                 occurs near the end of the future history
CUCKOO'S EGG takes place early in the expansion. The human crew of the ship, possibly early explorers, had little or no experience in meeting alien species, yet retaliated only in self- defense. The impassable distances of light space play an important role in the book, indicating that jump was not yet in use by humans. It is concievable that the human ship was lost, as there is no mention of Duun's race in novels taking place later in Cherryh's timeline.

HESTIA was settled early in Sol's expansion, apparently after the discovery of indigenous life on Pell, as the the discovery of Hestian natives did not appear to be momentous. Again, the vast distances of light space play an important role in the book, indicating that jump was not yet in use by humans.

At the time of DOWNBELOW STATION and MERCHANTER'S LUCK, rebel merchanter's had expanded further from Earth, founding unauthorized stations and colonies. The Earth Company, withdrawing from the Beyond, alienated and abandoned her stations and colonies and turned her once proud exploration forces into a police force to keep the colonies and stations in line. Some of the colonies rebelled and organized, became the Union, and expanded further into the Beyond, using humans (azi) grown in labs and nurtured from birth in vast government nurseries to force population growth. A society evolved "whose way of life was stars, infinities, unlimited growth, and time which looked to forever. Earth did not understand them." When hostilites finally broke out, it was a bitter confrontation between two alien societies who had little or no understanding for one another.

40,000 IN GEHENNA begins in Unionside space. The Gehennan colony, an experimental settlement composed of Union military, Union citizens and the "non-citizen" lab-bred azi was purposely abandoned by Unionside. The azi developed a symbiotic relationship with the intellegent indigenous species, the calaban. Generations later, Gehenna was recontacted by the Alliance. The Gehennan policy, which set guidelines for human settlement on inhabited planets, resulted from this.

The Chanur series takes place in Compact Space, which lies opposite Sol from Alliance and Union space, simultaneously with the events in occurring, I believe, near the end of 40,000 IN GEHENNA. Though Alliance and Union are cooperative, somewhat like current superpowers, there is still enough conflict for Tully to warn Pyanfar against possible human treachery. (I believe Tully is Alliance, based on what is known about the the psychological conditioning of azi and Unionside citizens.)

The FADED SUN trilogy takes place after the Alliance-Sharrh wars. Union figures only slightly in this war as the area of conflict lay on the Alliance border away from Unionside.

In SERPENT'S REACH, merchanter families from Unionside established a symbiotic relationship with an insect-like society, the majat, which refused to allow further human colonization in Hydra space. Lab-bred humans, alpha and beta azi, were used by the families to expand while excluding Unionside and Alliance. When society broke down, hostilites kept the Union and Alliance from moving in and allowed time to rebuild the majat hives and human society.

BROTHERS OF EARTH takes place on a nearly forgotten Hanan colony during the thousand-year Alliance-Hanan conflict when a disillusioned Hanan officer and an Alliance officer become stranded.

MEROVINGAN NIGHTS: ANGEL WITH A SWORD is a shared-world and may not conform to Cherryh's timeline as more writers contribute to the series. The first novel contains an extensive appendix which details Merovingan's history. Familiarity with Cherryh's universe may add some understanding of the Merovingan mythos and culture. On the timeline, ANGEL WITH A SWORD occurs during the thousand-year Alliance-Hanan conflict, on a planet which was settled and abandoned by Union and ceded to the Sharrh during the Alliance-Sharrh wars.

SUNFALL occurs near the end of the future history on the third planet of the star Sol.

One thing that binds Cherryh's novels together is her use of "jump" as the transport between stars. Most of the star-faring races in Cherryh's books use jump and either developed it independently or recieved it from a more advanced race. Again, most of the star-faring races using jump experience some disorientation throughout it. Humans face extreme psychological distress, even madness, when faced with jump without drugs to temper the process. It has been noted that the more alien (to humans) the race, the less distress is experienced. Note the difference in reaction between the Hani and the Kif. The Mri of the FADED SUN trilogy do not experience this disorientation and teach Sten Duncan to go through jump. This indicates to me that human reaction to jump is a matter of perception and philosophy, rather than biology. In PORT ETERNITY, though the crew are lab- born and considered somewhat less that human, they experience difficulty with jump until they alter their perception of reality and learn to cope with the disorientation of jump, after the ship becomes lost within a jump. The two non-lab-bred humans also learn to alter their perceptions to cope with jump.

I would like to continue this posting later and talk about Cherryh's alien societies, perceptions, and philosophies. I would also like to talk about her archtypical charactors, typified by Melein, Morgaine and Pyanfar, by Niun, Vanye, and Pyanfar's husband, and by Sten Duncan, Vanye's cousin, and Tully.

Thank you. Interested and interesting responses anticipated with pleasure. Flames and nit-picking take up disk space.

   Jessie Tharp ops@ncsc

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14.3.96, Louis Perrochon