Friday, 31 August 2012
" 'Send him in,' rumbled the voice. 'Leave us alone but stand outside, just in case.'
"Everard entered. The door shut behind him. Scant light seeped through a leaded window."
(Anderson, Poul, The Time Patrol, New York, 1991, p. 375)
" 'Commander Flandry, sir.'
" 'Send him in,' replied a deep, toneless voice. "Leave us alone but stay on call.'
" 'Aye, sir.' The lieutenant stood aside. Flandry went by. The door closed with a soft hiss that betokened soundproofing."
(Anderson, Poul, The Rebel Worlds, London, 1973, p. 127)
The first time I read the Time Patrol passage, I thought that I had read it before. A little research uncovered the Rebel Worlds passage. Anderson may have expected readers to notice a faint echo of an earlier work.
Manson Everard of the Time Patrol, in his guise as Everardus the Goth, meets the Roman general Petillius Cerialis to negotiate an end to a Germanic uprising against the Roman Empire. Dominic Flandry of Terran Imperial Naval Intelligence meets Admiral Hugh McCormac to negotiate an end to McCormac's Rebellion against the Terran Empire.
These works represent two different interactions of science fiction with history. The Time Patrol series is historical science fiction. The Dominic Flandry series is part of a science fiction future history. Cerialis and the rebels against whom he fought are historical figures. Cerialis and McCormac exist in the past and the future of different timelines because the timeline guarded by the Time Patrol does not include the Terran Empire defended by Flandry. Thus, despite their uncannily parallel passages, these two scenes are about as far apart spatiotemporally as they could be although Anderson's imagination encompasses both.
In Anderson's fiction, the Roman Empire exists in at least three pasts:
(i) gods exist and magic works;
(ii) the Time Patrol exists with time travellers sometimes mistaken for gods;
(iii) the Roman Empire provides a model for the later Terran Empire.
Alternatively, in The Golden Slave, set during the Roman Republic, we see neither real gods nor time travellers but the human originals of Odin and Thor so that this novel is neither historical fantasy nor historical science fiction but historical fiction and could be set in the past of the Terran Empire.