Thursday, 30 August 2012

A Midsummer (Night's Dream And The) Tempest

After rereading Poul Anderson's Three Hearts And Three Lions, the logical next step is to reread his A Midsummer Tempest (London, 1975). Both are alternative history fantasies and the hero of the former cameos in the latter.

Chapter i of A Midsummer Tempest reads like historical fiction because it describes a battle in the English Civil War. Chapter ii reads like science fiction (sf) because it presents anachronistic technological advances, a railway and semaphores near industrialised Leeds and Bradford, in the seventeenth century. Chapter vi reveals that we are reading a fantasy because Oberon calls forth the Faerie folk and they refer to both Titania and Puck.

  Chapter xii reveals the basis of the fantasy, or are we back to sf? This seventeenth century occurs on a parallel Earth, an idea that can be rationalised scientifically. What differentiates this parallel is that Shakespeare was a historian, not a playwright. Thus, Faeries exist and there were clocks in Caesar's time and cannon in Hamlet's. Therefore, their world was technologically ahead of ours from an early date so that their Industrial Revolution was able to start in the seventeenth century. That single premise explains all the discrepancies. There are either infinite or factorial N universes but, in this and the related volumes, we learn of six:

the Shakespearean history;

the Carolingian romantic history where Holger Danske originated;

our history where Holger, in a different identity, saved Niels Bohr from the Nazis;

an Aztec pantheon history from which Holger barely escapes while trying to return from our world to his Carolingian history;

a history in which the effects of cold iron were degaussed about 1900, thus magical/"paraphysical" forces were technologised, World War II was against the Saracen Caliphate and inter-cosmic travel has begun;

the pocket universe or interuniversal nexus containing the Old Phoenix where Shakespeareans, a Carolingian and a "paraphysicist" meet.

A Midsummer Tempest is to be recommended both for creative imagination and for literary style, with verse and poetry disguised as prose:

" 'Mesim 'twar wise we haul our skins from heare,' panted the dragoon, 'while still they may hold wine.'
" 'And while I yet may hope to bring together men enough that they can cover their retreat...and mine,' Rupert said." (p. 6)

Rearranged as dramatic verse, that becomes:

Dragoon: Mesim 'twar wise we haul our skins from heare
While still they may hold wine.
Rupert: And while I yet may hope to bring together men
Enough that they can cover their retreat...and mine.    

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