Friday, May 7, 2010

Book Review: The High Crusade by Poul Anderson

The High Crusade
Poul Anderson
192 pages
Science Fiction

In reading The High Crusade I returned to my first love—science fiction by one of my favorite sci-fi authors, Poul Anderson. To my absolute delight and surprise, this book satisfied a very recent love—historical fiction. Although the characters and settings are fictitious, Anderson captured the sense of the English medieval culture of the pre-plague, mid-fourteenth-century.

The highly advanced, interstellar Wersgorix send a scout ship to Earth to assess its suitability for a Wersgorix settlement. They would search out planets where they, the Wersgorix had superior technology and would quickly subjugate the natives, killing all who dared challenge them and enslaving the rest.

The Wersgorix had not counted on was to land on a planet so far removed from their sophisticated weaponry that they effectively had no defenses. They landed smack in the middle of war preparations for Edward III’s campaign against the French in the little English village of Ansby, led by Sir Roger, Baron de Tourneville. The English, armed and ready for war investigate the massive ship that lands in their midst. The alien defenses—effective against energy weapons similar to their own—are next to useless against arrows and steel. In short shrift, the English knights and yeomen penetrate the energy shields and kill all but one Wersgoran technician, suffering but a few killed and wounded themselves.

What follows is a wonderful romp where the entire town of Ansby, human and animal, take over the space ship intending to go to France to support King Edward III, but instead get transported to the last planet the Wersgorix had conquered.

Anderson seamlessly weaves the medieval culture, feudal system and warfare with a sci-fi setting for an altogether enjoyable read.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Are you a Dord?

Typos—we all make them, but some are more spectacular than others. Take dord—it’s supposed to mean density. Dord first appeared in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary for nearly all of the 1930s until an editor found it in February, 1939. It was supposed to be “D or d” but when it first went in, no one noticed there were supposed to be spaces separating the "d"s from the "or" (see The 7 Most Disastrous Typos of All Time article in

My friend told one of my favorite typo stories to me about a mechanically introduced typo that nearly cost her doctorate in psychology. This was pre-word processing and my friend hired someone to type her thesis on a typewriter that she rented. What she didn’t know was that the typewriter introduced a half space after every “e” in the text. The most egregious change was to transform “therapist” into “the rapist.”

“Unfortunately,” my friend had said, “that was often the truth.”