[PW] Request help tracing Poul Anderson quotation

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Sun Jun 14 13:26:06 PDT 2015


A humorous quotation about complexity has been attributed to the
prominent science fiction author Poul Anderson, and I was sent a
request to investigate its provenance. Maybe the science fiction
enthusiasts on this list can help.

Some important reference works listed the following version:

[Begin excerpt]
I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you
looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated.
[End excerpt]

These references did not list a citation for a story by Anderson;
instead, a "New Scientist" article from 1969 written by William Thorpe
was listed. Also, I think that the phrasing of the quotation in the
references was slightly inaccurate. The quotation given by Thorpe was
probably based on a flawed memory. The contractions in the original
were different and the word "in" was inserted in the later version.

Using data from Google Books, Amazon Look Inside, and The Internet
Speculative Fiction Database I've assembled the following tentative
citation and text. Perhaps someone has access to this 1957 issue of
"Astounding Science Fiction"? The goal is to obtain a complete and
accurate citation, and determine the exact text (especially the second
paragraph).

This tale has been reprinted often, and I have been able to check the
text using recent reprints, but it is desirable to check the earliest
published instances on paper or with scans because text in reprints is
sometimes altered / revised.

If you are unable to check this perhaps you can help with the 1962 or
1969 cites further below.

Date: April 1957
Periodical: Astounding Science Fiction
Editor: John W. Campbell, Jr.
Story Title: Call Me Joe
Story Author: Poul Anderson
Publisher: Street & Smith Publications, New York
Start Page 8
Quote Page 12

https://books.google.com/books?id=dZQnAQAAIAAJ

[Begin extracted text]
Cornelius followed, wallowing
awkwardly. "It is very interesting,
no doubt," he puffed. "Fascinating.
But really, Dr. Viken, to drag me
way out here and make me spend
a year-plus waiting for the next ship
. . . to do a job which may take me
a few weeks--"

"Are you sure it's that simple?"
asked Viken gently. His face
swiveled around, and there was
something in his eyes that silenced
Cornelius. "After all my time here,
I've yet to see any problem, how-
ever complicated, which when you
looked at it the right way didn't
become still more complicated."
[End extracted text]

The Internet Speculative Fiction Database lists some of the places
where the story has been reprinted. Perhaps someone can check the 1962
reprint given below. The quotation should be present about three to
five pages into the story. Please double check the metadata.

http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?55693

Year: 1962
Title: A Century of Science Fiction
Editor: Damon Knight
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, New York
Story Title: Call Me Joe
Story Author: Poul Anderson
Quote Page 281 (probably)

Finally, if you have access to old 1969 issues of "New Scientist" on
paper or microfilm perhaps you could determine the context of the
quotation given by Thorpe. I'd like to know the sentences before and
after the quotation. Scans of the article would be very helpful.

Date: September 25, 1969
Periodical: New Scientist
Volume 43
Article Title: Reductionism v. Organicism
Article Author: William Thorpe
Quote Page 638

[Begin excerpt]
I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you
looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated.
[End excerpt]

Thanks for any help you can provide.
Garson O'Toole


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