Friday, 14 June 2013

Indian Summer

A passage from Poul Anderson's "Hunters of the Sky Cave" is worth quoting at length for two reasons: first, for its beauty; secondly, because it shows Dominic Flandry already displaying an intuitive grasp of the theory of history that Chunderban Desai would later expound to him in A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows and that he himself would have accepted by the time of A Stone In Heaven.

Speaking of a social group that he identifies as "...we aristocrats of Terra...," he says:

"'The measure of our damnation is that every one of us with any intelligence - and there are some - every one sees the Long Night coming. We've grown too wise; we've studied a little psychodynamics, or perhaps only read a lot of history, and we can see that Manuel's Empire was not a glorious resurgence. It was the Indian summer of Terran civilization. (But you've never seen Indian summer, I suppose. A pity: no planet has anything more beautiful and full of old magics.) Now even that short season is past. Autumn is far along; the nights are cold and the leaves are fallen and the last escaping birds call through a sky which has lost all colour. And yet, we who see winter coming can also see it won't be here till after our we shiver a bit, and swear a bit, and go back to playing with a few bright dead leaves.'" (Agent Of The Terran Empire, London, 1977, p. 125)

We do not expect such a speech from a space opera hero setting off to fight alien invaders. His extended metaphor mixes time frames. Imagine if seasons really were so long or human life-times so short that, literally, the winter would not come until after our life-times.

Flandry has already grasped both that the Empire represented a late stage of the decline of a civilization and that its Fall is, he thinks, inevitable. The theory says that it becomes increasingly likely with the passage of time.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Yes, I agree that was a beautiful and elegiac passage you quoted from WE CLAIM THESE STARS. And I also see how it fits in with the Hordian theory of history later expounded by Chunderban Desai to Flandry in A KNIGHT OF GHOSTS AND SHADOWS. I would merely say that an "Indian Summer" which had lasted for about 400 years by the time we first see Flandry in ENSIGN FLANDRY was no mean achievement, nothing to scorn.

Here's another bit of prose from Chapter VI of WE CLAIM THESE STARS which I thought beautiful (AND very Hordian): "Admiralty Center gleamed, slim faerie spires in soft colors, reaching for the bright spring time sky of Terra. You couln't mount guard across 400 light years without millions of ships; and that meant millions of policy makers, scientists, strategists, tacticians, co-ordinators, clerks...and they had families, which needed food, clothing, houses, schools, the heart of the Imperial Navy became a city in its own right 'Damn company town,' thought Flandry. And yet, when the bombs finally roared out of space, when the barbarians howled among smashed buildings and the smoke of burning books hid dead men in tattered bright uniforms--when the Long Night came, as it would a century or a millennium hence, what diference?--something of beauty and gallantry would have departed the universe."


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

The bit about Flandry saying those who knew the "winter" of Terra would not come till after their lifetimes reminded me of this remark by Aycharaych in Chapter II of WE CLAIM THESE STARS/HUNTERS OF THE SKY CAVE: "If we possessed Syrax," said Aycharaych, "it would, with 71 percent probability, hasten the collapse of the Terran hegemony by a hundred years, plus or minus ten. That is the verdict of our military computers--though I myself feel the faith our High Command has in them naive and rather touching. However, the predicted date of Terra's fall would still lie 150 years hence. So I wonder why your government cares."

Note the skepticism Aycharaych has in the accuracy of these computer projections. Also, the mere fact Terra was opposing the Merseian seizure of the Syrax cluster shows not all in the Empire were willing to go gently to death and ruin. Last, this too is a very Hordian touch, making me think Aycharaych and the Merseians knew of Hord's theory of history.


ndrosen said...

"Last, this too is a very Hordian touch, making me think Aycharaych and the Merseians knew of Hord's theory of history."

From a Watsonian perspective, this is quite likely true; from a Doylist perspective, I don't think that Anderson had heard of Hord or this theories until much later. Of course, Anderson on his own had surely noted that there are cycles in history, and thought about how they might play out in the future.

Regards, Nicholas

Paul Shackley said...

Sure, Anderson realized retrospectively that what he had already written fitted well into Hord's perspective.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul and Nicholas!

Exactly as Paul said, this should be understood, on Anderson's part, as being only retrospectively understood as being very Hordian, the passages quoted by myself and Paul. Anderson mentioned being influenced in his earlier years by Spengler's theories of historical cycles.