Saturday, 1 June 2013

Imperial Administration

Dominic Flandry's exploits as an Intelligence Officer defending an Empire are similar to the exploits of other fictitious spies or secret agents in earlier historical periods. However, elsewhere in his History of Technic Civilization and particularly in The Day Of Their Return, Poul Anderson shows us the internal workings of the Imperial governmental system that Flandry defends.

There is no faster than light equivalent of radio so Chunderban Desai, High Commissioner of the Virgilian System, awaits the mail from Home. When it arrives, he needs cigarettes, tea, two meals and a midnight snack at his desk to scan the one third of his correspondence that will not be dealt with by his staff:

Lord Advisor Petroff of the Policy Board needs reports and opinions from every commissioner for a proposed reorganization of the occupied zone;

Lord Advisor Chardon relays the Sector Governor's complaints about apparent lack of zeal in reorganization of the Virgilian System;

Naval Intelligence wants to start operations to learn about any Merseain agents in Sector Alpha Crucis;

BuEc wants a survey of mineral resources on barren planets in the sector;

BuSci wants increased research on the inhabitants of the Virgilian planet, Dido;

BuPsy wants Dido evacuated as potentially too useful to guerillas;

the Throne wants advice on consequences if His Majesty tours the subjugated rebel worlds;

Intelligence responds to Desai's inquiry about the alien, Aycharaych...


  1. Hi, Paul!

    I remember how much I read this chapter of THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN, where Desai goes over the mail from Terra, with great interest. As you said, it gave us a glimpse of how the administration of the Empire was carried out. I think this helped inspire me to write a LONG letter to Poul Anderson where I summed up and discussed the administrative structure of the Empire (using bits I gathered from other works as well).


    1. Hi, Paul!

      I should have added a few comments about other, different spy series, such as Ian Fleming's James Bond stories. And, I would include the late William F. Buckley's Blackford Oakes series.

      Regrettably, after a good start, the James Bond series became just a bit silly when the villains Bond struggles to thwart was no longer the USSR's KGB/SMERSH, but Blofeld's SPECTRE. Some might argue that the rise of al Qaeda and its allies does show it is possible for a "private" organization of fanatics can be a danger. But al Qaeda did not arise from nothing, but from a wide base stimulated and trained by the Muslim Brotherhood acting as ideological inspiration. I see nothing like that in SPECTRE.

      And that is why I Buckley's Blackford Oakes stories was more successful, because it did not veer off into implausibilities like SPECTRE.

      And, of course, as a devout fan of Poul Anderson, I thought his Dominic Flandry stories about intrigue and intelligence operations set over a thousand years from now very convincing. For reasons similar to my comments about the Buckley books.


    2. Interesting. I have never heard of Blackford Oakes! There was a joke British spy called Boysie Oakes who had innocent people assassinated so he really wasn't very funny. His author, John Gardner, wrote some interesting Moriarty novels and some terrible James Bond novels.

      I kind of liked the way the Bond books progressed from SMERSH to SPECTRE to Blofeld as an individual villain.

  2. My comments on Bond and some similar fiction are to be found on my "Personal and Literary Reflections" blog.

  3. Hi, Paul!

    No problem! However hard we try, no one man can expect to be WHOLLY familiar with all the works set in a genre, spies in this case. John Gardner seems vaguely familiar, but I don't recall reading any thing by him.

    If you ever have the time, I do recommend reading the first two Blackford Oakes stories: SAVING THE QUEEN and STAINED GLASS. That should be enough to let you know if you would like the series.

    Yes, I did read some of your James Bond notes. Think it's time I looked them up again. But I still found SPECTRE/Blofeld an unconvincing villain for the reasons I've already given.