Friday, 27 November 2015
Exotica And Mirrors
(i) exotic settings sharply contrasting with familiar environments;
(ii) reflections of reality in the mirror of fiction, e.g., recognizable kinds of social problems and political conflicts within the exotic settings of Poul Anderson's Solar Commonwealth or Terran Empire.
We can get a taste of (i) by visiting another country or city. Birmingham is not a multi-species community like Anderson's Imhotep (!) but is multi-racial, soon to be majority non-white. In its pedestrianized city center yesterday:
a lone black man preached Christianity;
opposite him, a man with a megaphone preached Islam while his companion distributed religious leaflets;
further down the same street, another Muslim group did a PR job, answering questions and explaining that "jihad" means just wars waged by legitimate governments respecting non-combatants, not mass murder committed by unauthorized fanatics;
stalls sold German food.
We ate in a palatial Indian restaurant with some white waiters and mostly Asian clientele. Apparently, some Indian restaurants in Nottingham promote themselves as authentic Birmingham Indian restaurants!
I have referred to two cuisines and to seven religious traditions; only one, perhaps, originated on this island. We rival the diversity of Anderson's Terran Empire and his Domain of Ythri where, on a vibrant street:
"...a man gaunt and hairy and ragged...stood on a corner and shouted of some obscure salvation..."
-Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011), pp. 500-501.
Why obscure? Is it a religion from Terra that we would recognize but that has become obscure in subsequent centuries? Or is it new and alien? Anderson rightly leaves that question unanswered.
We must hope that our future will be as diverse as that of the Terran Empire and not like that of SM Stirling's Draka. I have just received The Stone Dogs, Draka Vol III...
Traveling by train, I continued to read about Alan Moore and disagreed with him about one of his works.