Sunday, 30 November 2014

Cairncross

I would not have believed it possible but Poul Anderson's character, Edwin Cairncross, led to a lengthy digression through several posts to Anderson's fictional planet, Nyanza. But what of Cairncross himself?

I will shortly reread some passages featuring Cairncross solo, then Cairncross in dialogue first with Dominic Flandry, then with Emperor Gerhart. I expect, therefore, to have more to post about Edwin Cairncross. Meanwhile, however, a certain amount has already been posted. See here.

Cairncross' ambitions are cosmic in scope and could have been pursued without contemplating illegality. He had ordered the building of an ornamental battlement:

"...because he wanted to feel his kinship to Shi Huang Ti, Charlemagne, Suleiman the Magnificent, Pyotr the Great, every man who had ever been dominant on Terra."
-Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), p. 26.

Bad news. Less thought of self-glorification would have made Cairncross a far greater ruler. The model of a selfless ruler in Poul and Karen Anderson's works is Gratillonius, the last King of Ys.

(Coincidence: while posting about the oceanic planet, Nyanza, I have meanwhile read about a submerged city inhabited by amphibians in China Mieville's The Scar.)

4 comments:

  1. Hi, Paul!

    I agree! Edwin Cairncross should have been content with Duke of Hermes, and work to strengthening sector defenses, reforming or correcting abuses, encourage policies that would improve the economy. A more modest Cairncross might very well have subsidized the project for reversing the glaciation of Ramnu, using the plans worked out by Miriam Abrams (altho that meant she probably would never met Flandry and married him).

    Sean

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      If C. Valerius Gratillonius, the last king of Ys, was the model of a conscientious and selfless ruler to be found in the works of Poul Anderson, what is your opinion of Manuel Argos? In some ways, he was comparable to Cairncross; and in others not. After all, Manuel Argos wanted to seize power in the ruins of a state, the Commonwealth, which had fallen, in order to restore order and end chaos and anarchy. Cairncross' ambitions were far more self serving, alas.

      Sean

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  2. Sean,
    Argos. Don't know. The Roman ideal was a man who accepted the duties of command when he was appointed to a leadership role but who then returned to his previous occupation whereas Argos went out and made himself Imperator. I do approve of his treatment of the Gorzuni, though.
    Paul.

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      I understand your point. What Manuel Argos did looked a lot what any of the numerous military usurpers we have seen in Latin America or Africa have done: violently seizing power. I suggest, howerver, that was not really the case circa AD 2690 (using my revised version of Miesel's Chronology) because by then the Commonwealth had irretrievably fallen and been utterly discredited--hence losing its legitimacy. Manuel Argos did not so much overthrow the Commonwealth as to sweep away its ruins so he could build a new structure in its place.

      Sean

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