Friday, 14 June 2013
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 life-times...so 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.