Friday, 13 December 2013

A Man To My Wounding

I definitely have not read Poul Anderson's short story, "A Man To My Wounding", before despite having it in a collection. It begins with a quotation:

"I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt." - Genesis, iv, 23.

- quoted in Poul Anderson, The Horn Of Time (New York, 1968), p. 27.

I thought that this meant that the speaker had wounded and hurt himself by killing a young man. However, the Revised Standard Version gives:

"I have slain a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me." Gen. 4. 23.

 - the exact opposite meaning.

The story shows legalized drug use and legal assassinations. One contributor to the SFWA Bulletin advised fellow writers:

think of something that is shocking to us;
then imagine that it has become the social norm;
then deduce its logical implications.

It has been argued that it makes more sense to kill not soldiers or civilians but leaders. One man who wrote a book called Killing No Murder, when interviewed on British television, was asked, "Is there any politician who you think should be assassinated?" and replied, "I cannot answer that question because I have been warned that I could then be charged with incitement to murder."

Anderson imagines declared states of war replaced by declared states of assassination. The Bureau of National Protection (in Britain at present, an unfortunate set of initials) must protect politicians whom it thinks that the declared enemy will try to assassinate.

However, states of assassination escalate. The Chinese try to kill not the present American leaders, who are too well guarded, but potential leaders, like leading members of a party that has just lost an election but might win the next one. This could escalate further to include important leaders in other fields: scientists; writers; even gifted children; also bystanders too close to the targets. All such potential victims in every country must be protected indefinitely so that states of assassination, far from limiting the killing, become as horrific as states of war.

Thus, the story ends:

"'Where is it going to end?'" (p. 43)

5 comments:

  1. Hi, Paul!

    Yes, I agree, "states of assassination" can too easily escalate from trying to kill current leaders to assassinating future or possible leaders in and out of politics. So, an attempt to limit war fails.

    This makes me think the most realitic alternative is for rival powers to agree to fight only for limited gains and off the planet Earth. Which is what we see in "Kings Who Die." I don't think "states of assassination" is ever likely to be tried out.

    Sean

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  2. Sean,
    And "A Man To My Wounding" includes the phrase "...kings who die...", as I should have remembered to point out.
    I am reading "The High Ones" which is fascinating. I will post voluminously when time permits.
    Paul.

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      It's been too long since I last read "A Man to My Wounding." So it fascinates me that Poul Anderson included "...kings who die..." in that story. A subtle hint alluding to another story? Very admirable, that you saw or caught that!

      And I will be very interested to know what you think of "The High Ones." I even devoted one of my letters to Poul Anderson commenting on that story. His reply included a suggestion that I also read "The Pugilist," because it was a later speculation by Anderson on what a Soviet victory in the Cold War might be like for defeated and victors alike.

      Sean

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  3. Sean,
    "The High Ones" is an excellent story which I will discuss at the necessary length. It will be impossible to avoid controversy if the issues are treated seriously but hopefully we can enjoy and learn from disagreement.
    Paul.

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      Ha! I agree. And I look FORWARD to disagreeing with you! (Smiles)

      Sean

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