Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Anderson’s Technic History

A Chronology of the Writing of the Technic History
Jan 51
“Tiger by the Tail”
3032
May 51
“Honorable Enemies”
3033
Jan 52
“Sargasso of Lost Starships”
28th C
Sep 52
“The Star Plunderer”
c2700
Summer 54
“The Warriors from Nowhere”
3042
Sep 56
“Margin of Profit”
2416
Feb-Apr 58
The Man Who Counts
2420s
Mar 58
“The Game of Glory”
3025
59
“Hunters of the Sky Cave”
3040
Mar 61
“Hiding Place”
2420s
61
“A Message in Secret”
3037
61
“The Plague of Masters”
3038
Jun 63
“Territory”
2430s
63
The Night Face
3900
Apr 66
“The Three-Cornered Wheel”
2423
Apr 66
“A Sun Invisible”
2420s
66
Ensign Flandry
3019
Jan 67
“Day of Burning”
2430s
Aug 67
“Starfog”
7100
Dec 67
“Outpost of Empire”
3027
Feb 68
“A Tragedy of Errors”
3600
May-Aug 68
Satan’s World
2430s
Dec 68
“The Sharing of Flesh”
4000
69
The Rebel Worlds
3025
Feb 70
“Esau”
2420s
70
A Circus of Hells
3021
Jul-Aug 71
“The Trouble Twisters”
2430s
Aug 71
“The Master Key”
2430s
Aug 71
“A Little Knowledge”
2430s
Apr 72
“Wings of Victory”
2150
Feb 73
“The Problem of Pain”
24th C
Feb-Apr 73
The People of the Wind
29th C
Jul 73
“Wingless”
26th C
73
“Rescue on Avalon”
26th C
73
“Lodestar”
2446
73
The Day of Their Return
3028
Dec 73
“The Season of Forgiveness”
2420s
74
“How To Be Ethnic In One Easy Lesson”
2416
Sep-Dec 74
A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows
3047
77
Mirkheim
2456
79
A Stone in Heaven
3061
Feb 81
“The Saturn Game”
c2055
85
The Game of Empire
3064
Sandra Miesel compiled the “Chronology [which is also a bibliography] of Technic Civilization.” (1) From this Chronology/bibliography, I have abstracted the above chronology of the writing of the Technic History from 1951 to 1985.

The History comprises two complete narrative cycles. The first begins in 2150 with human-Ythrian first contact on the planet Ythri and ends, seven centuries later, when the human-Ythrian joint colony on the planet Avalon successfully resists Terran Imperial annexation. The second cycle begins in 3019 with Dominic Flandry defending the Terran Empire and ends, four millennia later, when descendants of rebels exiled by Flandry contact a post-Imperial civilization. “The Saturn Game,” preceding the first cycle, introduces the Jerusalem Catholic Church and thus anticipates both The People of the Wind, the last volume of the first cycle, and The Game of Empire, the last volume of the Imperial period, because members of that Church play important roles in both of these works.

The Game of Empire, set in the Empire, “A Tragedy of Errors," set during the Long Night between the Empire and the Commonalty, and “Starfog,” set in the Commonalty period, are potential series. Each introduces a character who could have become central to later works but Anderson had more to write than this one series.

In “Hunters of the Sky Cave,” Flandry reveals that the Empire he has defended in “Tiger by the Tail,” “Honorable Enemies,” “The Warriors from Nowhere” and “The Game of Glory” is the same Empire that the leader of a slave rebellion, Manuel Argos, had founded in “The Star Plunderer.” In “A Plague of Masters,” Flandry reveals that Manuel’s Empire was preceded by the Polesotechnic League of Nicholas van Rijn’s period as described in “Margin of Profit” and The Man Who Counts. Since mercantile expansion was later followed by imperial decline, the combined series is about social change.

Mirkheim, a good political novel, shows how the League had declined and sympathetically treats a revolutionary character despite Anderson’s conservatism. Van Rijn, old but not pathetic and still energetic, makes an anti-cartels speech into the sunset.

“Day of Burning” reveals that the Merseians from whom Flandry defended the Empire had owed their earlier survival to van Rijn’s protégé, David Falkayn. “Lodestar” shows why inequities within the League made Falkayn break his oath of fealty to old van Rijn.
When the League declines, van Rijn leads an expedition outside known space but Falkayn leads the colonization of Avalon. Works set after The Game of Empire show us what happened after the Empire fell. Flandry, an Intelligence officer, worked hard to prolong the Empire so that he could continue to enjoy its decadence while he lived. Near the end of A Stone in Heaven, the reader is led to believe that Flandry will die in space but his faithful retainer rescues him and he is last seen, in this book, in an autumnal scene. He cameos in The Game of Empire, about his daughter who is embarking on a new series of adventures.

(Added later: on re-reading A Stone in Heaven, I realize that I had misremembered one scene. Chives does not rescue Flandry. Instead, Miriam Abrams rescues both Chives and Flandry. But I prefer my memory. Flandry should have been alone when reminiscing before an expected death in space.)

I think that the elderly Flandry should have become Emperor in a palace revolution. A novel called Emperor Flandry could have book-ended the series with Ensign Flandry. Also, as the Lancaster sf book seller Peter Pinto suggested to Anderson, Flandry’s opponent Aycharaych should have returned but in an Aycharaych, not another Flandry, novel. I used dialogue between Flandry and Aycharaych on death when working as an RE Teacher. The aristocratic Flandry thinks that death is “…not quite a gentleman…” whereas the alien Aycharaych sees it as a “...completion.” (2)

Van Rijn stories are curious combinations of frivolous action-adventure fiction and serious scientific speculation. We are supposed to admire and enjoy van Rijn’s profiteering, ostentation, apparent benevolence and confounding of the bureaucrats. At the same time, the canny trader van Rijn survives, prospers and profits only if he continues to understand ever new examples of alien biology and psychology and Anderson can imagine these as genuinely alien by reasoning from the basic premises of different stellar and planetary environments. Van Rijn’s deductive processes resemble Hercules Poirot’s. He works hard at thinking out new situations even while lounging and drinking beer but is physically powerful and skilled enough to handle himself in a fight with an alien warrior if necessary. How would he have coped with a situation where he had to choose between private profit and the greater good? The moral of his stories seems to be that he can always profit from the greater good although he is persuaded to hold his peace at the end of “Lodestar” when Falkayn has become more prominent.

This article is occasioned by the fact that Baen Books are currently issuing the entire Technic series in chronological order of fictitious events for the first time ever. They are therefore having to break up earlier collections including the omnibus The Earth Book of Storm Gate but they are preserving the Earth Book introductions to stories, “written by” an Avalonian Ythrian. The Earth Book about Terrans who walk the Earth is a companion volume to the Sky Book, which we do not see, about winged Ythrians.

This complete publication of the series means that many of us will read for the first time the previously uncollected “Sargasso of Lost Starships” which, I believe, has to be regarded as a slightly inconsistent account of the early Empire. A reference in “The Star Plunderer” to Manuel’s Empire as the First fits with a similar reference in Anderson’s earlier, Psychotechnic, History. Thus, this represents a period in the writing when the Histories had not yet been differentiated.

Disagreeing with Anderson, I would include “Memory” (July 1957) as a post-Empire Long Night story because that is how it reads. If it were included in the Long Night section of the History, I do not think that readers would notice any discrepancy. It may be that the characters anticipate a different subsequent history than the one revealed in later stories but that is what happens in history.

(Added Feb 2012: After carefully re-reading "Memory," I now agree with Anderson that it is not set during the Long Night after the Fall of the Terran Empire.)

The Chronology of Technic Civilization
c2055
“The Saturn Game”
Feb 81
2150
“Wings of Victory”
Apr 72
24th C
“The Problem of Pain”
Feb 73
2416
“Margin of Profit”
Sep 56
2416
“How To Be Ethnic In One Easy Lesson”
74
2423
“The Three-Cornered Wheel”
Apr 66
2420s
“A Sun Invisible”
Apr 66
2420s
“The Season of Forgiveness”
Dec 73
2420s
The Man Who Counts
Feb-Apr 58
2420s
“Esau”
Feb 70
2420s
“Hiding Place”
Mar 61
2430s
“Territory”
Jun 63
2430s
“The Trouble Twisters”
Jul-Aug 71
2430s
“Day of Burning”
Jan 67
2430s
“The Master Key”
Aug 71
2430s
Satan’s World
69
2430s
“A Little Knowledge”
Aug 71
2446
“Lodestar”
73
2456
Mirkheim
77
26th C
“Wingless”
Jul 73
26th C
“Rescue on Avalon”
73
c2700
“The Star Plunderer”
Sep 52
28th C
“Sargasso of Lost Starships”
Jan 52
29th C
The People of the Wind
Feb-Apr 73
3019
Ensign Flandry
66
3021
A Circus of Hells
70
3025
The Rebel Worlds
69
3027
“Outpost of Empire”
Dec 67
3028
The Day of their Return
73
3032
“Tiger by the Tail”
Jan 51
3033
“Honorable Enemies”
May 51
3035
“The Game of Glory”
Mar 58
3037
“A Message in Secret”
61
3038
“The Plague of Masters”
61
3040
“Hunters of the Sky Cave”
Jun 59
3042
“The Warriors from Nowhere”
Summer 54
3047
A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows
Sep-Dec 74
3061
A Stone in Heaven
79
3064
The Game of Empire
85
3600
“A Tragedy of Errors”
Feb 68
3900
The Night Face
63
4000
“The Sharing of Flesh”
Dec 68
7100
“Starfog”
Aug 67
  1. Miesel, Sandra, “Chronology of Technic Civilization” IN Anderson, Poul, The Technic Civilization Saga: The Van Rijn Method, compiled by Hank Davis, 2008, Riverdale NY, pp. 445-450.
  2. Anderson, Poul, Agent of the Terran Empire, 1977, London, p. 93.

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