Friday, 6 September 2013

Interim Report On "No Truce With Kings"

One question has been answered: the Espers are empowered by the aliens. Thus, the story does not arbitrarily assume two unconnected sf cliches. But here is another question: what is the significance of the title?

This story, "No Truce With Kings" (Winners, New York, 1981), makes the same point as the same author's "Details." In both stories, aliens, active on Earth but concealing themselves from humanity, try to direct history by applying to it a mathematically rigorous psychodynamic science (Asimovian "psychohistory"), here also called "'...the Great Science...'" (p. 24) and, also in both stories, the actions of individual human beings upset the apple cart of the aliens' machinations.
Moral: mankind is not manipulable.

Differences between the stories are that:

(i) "Details" deals with twentieth century history whereas "No Truce With Kings" deals with the long aftermath of a nuclear war;
(ii) the aliens of "Details" are humanoid enough to pass as Terrestrials whereas those in "No Truce...," when finally exposed, are not.

Conspiracy theorists present the secret manipulators of global society as virtually omnipotent whereas Anderson's aliens, conferring whenever their plans are thrown off course, reveal their limitations to the reader:

"'...the Great Science is only exact on the broadest scale of history. Individual events are subject to statistical fluctuation.'" (pp. 24-25)

Also, their interstellar travel is limited to below light speed. Thus, this story avoids the further sf cliche of "FTL," faster than light space travel. 


David Birr said...

The title "No Truce With Kings" comes from Kipling's poem "The Old Issue."
"Ancient and Unteachable, abide--abide the Trumpets!
Once again the Trumpets, for the shuddering ground-swell brings
Clamour over ocean of the harsh, pursuing Trumpets--
Trumpets of the Vanguard that have sworn no truce with Kings!"
Although the poem starts off justifying the Boer War as a counter to Afrikaner oppression of the English in South Africa, Anderson wrote (in the anthology of Kipling-influenced SF "A Separate Star") that Kipling quickly shifts focus to opposing all tyranny -- the first two stanzas refer to Runnymede and the execution of Charles I. The final lines sum up:
"Suffer not the old Kings: for we know the breed--
All the right they promise--all the wrong they bring.
Stewards of the Judgment, suffer not this King!"

Paul Shackley said...

Thank you very much!

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Birr:

Darn and drat! I'm very chagrined at not having made the connection of this Kipling poem with Anderson's "No Truce With Kings." After all, I do have a virtually complete collected edition of Kipling's verses. Only goes to show I have been shamefully neglecting the reading of his poetry!

And if you have read Anderson's A MIDSUMMER TEMPEST, then you would see how he does not agree with Kipling's hostile view of Charles I. AT the very least, fair minded man that he was, Anderson would try to understand Charles I's own view point.

Sean M. Brooks

David Birr said...

Well, in a world as different-yet-linked as that of A MIDSUMMER TEMPEST, Charles I might well be a man of somewhat different character from that he had in our own.

Oh, yes, I've read it -- and how I wish there'd been lots and lots more stories of the "Old Phoenix." Oh, and somehow I've had the bad luck to *never* find the story "Loser's Night."

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Birr,

Many thanks, again, for replying!

Yes, I can see how the Charles I of our timeline/universe might be somewhat, if slightly different from the Charles I we see in A MIDSUMMER TEMPEST. The Epilogue of that book has Valeria Matuchek saying: "...THIS Charles I was either a wise man from the beginning, or chastened by experience."

And you can find "Losers' Night" in Anderson's collection ALL ONE UNIVERSE (Tor Books: 1996).