Friday, 31 August 2012

Parallel Passages

" 'Sir, the German delegate is here,'
" '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.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Actually, Manse Everard didn't meet Petillius Cerialis to "negotiate" an end to the Batavian rebellion. Rather, he finessed matters so that Cerealis and the rebel leader would be ABLE to meet and then negotiate. And Dominic Flandry basically blackmailed Hugh McCormac to give up his rebellion against the Terran Empire. Most crucially, by obtaining the code ship computers used for "talking" to each other. Flandry pointed out McCormac would not have the time he needed for creating a new code before the Navy loyal to Emperor Josip would strike.


Paul Shackley said...

Yes, I definitely wrote euphemistically when I said that Flandry "negotiated" with McCormac. (But how many real world "negotiations" are like this?)

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Well, I do agree that real negotiations also have as one factor threats, open or covert, that the parties try to use for obtaining better terms or concessions.