Monday, 22 September 2014
Any sf writer can tell us that an interstellar empire is declining and withdrawing from its periphery but Poul Anderson is also able to present imperial decline in social terms with a hint of the pathetic fallacy to back it up.
First, the pathetic fallacy - Flandry leaves the naval compound:
"Soon after the red-orange sun had set..."
-Poul Anderson, Young Flandry (New York, 2010), p. 203.
Anderson gets his readers to imagine sunset colors - not only has the sun just set but it was red-colored to begin with - immediately before he discusses declining empire. I have used the accompanying color illustration, although we have had it recently, because of its appropriate background coloring.
Next, as Flandry walks between the homes and private parks of the wealthy, he reflects that "...they epitomized man's trajectory." (p. 204) When the settlement had been large, prosperous and well inside the Imperial boundaries, it had attracted both mercantile commerce and aristocratic culture but now the mansions are either empty or owned only by those who prey on the declining numbers of spacemen and Navy personnel while, outside the treaty port boundaries, the natives revert to barbarism.
"Tonight Irumclaw lay like a piece of wreckage at the edge of the receding tide of empire." (ibid.)
Here again is the pathetic fallacy. Irumclaw is not in decline only at night! However, it is appropriate that Flandry's somber reflections occur just after night fall. They prefigure the Long Night of Empire that haunts Flandry's life.