Friday, 17 May 2013

High Treason

In 1965, the Impulse science fiction magazine published stories by five authors (see image) on the theme of sacrifice. Anderson's and Blish's contributions are almost companion pieces. Blish's story, "A Hero's Life," about the Traitor-in-Chief of High Earth, was later expanded and re-entitled "A Style In Treason" whereas Anderson's story about a convicted traitor is called "High Treason."

In both stories, Earth faces a powerful alien enemy against a colorful interstellar background. However, Anderson describes a straightforward military conflict whereas Blish presents espionage and intrigue in a baffling, not fully explained, context of institutionalized treason.

I felt that "High Treason" presented a World War II-like scenario because:

an early passage describes the death in combat of a Japanese character;
a Morwa who conversed with the narrator before hostilities had commenced spoke with Asiatic politeness;
we see the American narrator in exotic locations far from home.

The entire story is reminiscent of the opening passage of Anderson's Rebel Worlds: a space navy officer in a cell in orbit, but this one is not rescued. The narration is his technologically recorded thoughts so it is not linear. We know that he has been convicted of treason long before we know what he did - disobeyed the order to bombard a planet.

Like a character in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, he quotes James Elroy Flecker's "Golden Road to Samarkand." I compared Anderson and Gaiman in a couple of earlier posts.

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