Tuesday, 1 April 2014
Not all of the Man-Kzin Wars stories written by guest authors are canonical, i.e., fully consistent with Larry Niven's Known Space future history, although I am sure that the three by Poul Anderson are because Anderson would have ensured that his contributions to the series were both authentic and consistent. I suggest that, in any new editions, the canonical and non-canonical series should be clearly labelled as such so that readers know what they are getting. A divergent series is ok if its installments are individually worth reading but it is not part of the original narrative. (We read about Germany winning World War II in alternative history fiction but not in history text books.)
Anderson's first Man-Kzin War story, "Iron," contains far more than we might expect from such a work, as I tried to show in recent posts, but does not include a kzinti point of view. However, this is more than compensated for by Chapter I of Anderson's second contribution to the series, "Inconstant Star." That entire Chapter is set on Kzin. Anderson characteristically lists sights, sounds and odors as Weoch-Captain, who has earned half a name, goes to visit Ress-Chiuu, High Admiral of Kzin, who possesses both a full name and a "...vast domain..." (p. 169), including a game preserve where a kzin can "'...make a bare-hand kill.'" (p. 173)
We remember Anderson's Ythrians, intelligent winged carnivores, and his Merseians, also descended from hunters. Ress-Chiuu sounds like a Merseian when he says:
"'We go straight to the spoor, then.'" (p. 171)
"'We require an officer...capable of agreeing that the destiny of the race transcends his own...'" (p. 172)
- although I thought that the kzinti focused more on immediate grievances and casus belli than on racial destiny?
To their human antagonists, Merseians are "greenskins" and "gatortails" whereas kzinti are "ratcats."
We soon learn that "Inconstant Star" is a direct sequel to "Iron" because Ress-Chiu discloses the disastrous outcome of "'...Werlith-Commandant's mission on the opposite side of human-hegemony space." (p. 171)
Kzinti led by Werlith established a military base in what they had thought was an obscure planetary system. However, a human expedition was drawn to that very system for purposes of cosmic exploration and pure science, motivations disparaged by the kzinti as "Monkey-curiosity..." (ibid.). The military acumen of Robert and Dorcas Saxtorph enabled them to destroy first the single kzinti warship in the system and secondly the ground base. Weoch must go to investigate and to retrieve any survivors or to kill them if they cannot be rescued from captivity.
We know from Niven's texts that Kzin is a Patriarchy ruled by a single Patriarch - Mad Kdapt-Preacher was killed by the Patriarch in single combat. However, in this story, Weoch refers to the planetary ruling group as "'...the Patriarchs...'" (p. 172).