Tuesday, 1 December 2015


Poul Anderson's Operation... series and SM Stirling's Draka series each feature an alternative version of World War II. However, these are different kinds of alternatives because Operation... is a "fantastic alternative history" whereas the Draka inhabit a "realistic alternative history." (See here.) The dystopian Drakan Domination could have emerged in our timeline, requiring only an alternative course of events in recent world history, whereas the magical technology of Operation... would have required different laws of physics.

In our timeline, my parents' generation lived through World War II into the Cold War which involved a nuclear arms race that also incorporated a space race. In the Draka timeline, Eric von Shrakenberg and his contemporaries live through the Eurasian War into the Protracted Struggle that involves different kinds of arms and space races.

In Draka Vol III, The Stone Dogs, we appreciate seeing Eric again. We also unexpectedly see the inside of a Draka Citizen girls' boarding school. However, earlier volumes had informed us about the educational system so it makes sense that, as the series proceeds, we are shown a school as perceived by a pupil, in this case Eric's niece.

The Damnation of the Draka continues.

I have frequently mentioned aircars and now learn that the Draka had them in 1969. Their versions of the Alice books have slightly different titles. Do they have some writers of fiction that we do not? Do we have a Lalique, Halgelstein or Dobson? Conversational use of prepositions is arbitrary and changeable over time. Thus, the Draka have come say "to home" where we say, "at home." Their horrible society is convincingly detailed. Might it really exist in a parallel universe? It is good when at last we hear some anti-Draka sentiment from a serf, even though he is immediately killed.

Another serf who accepts her servitude nevertheless observes that the Draka are arrogant and cruel without realizing it. She takes pride in the fact that it is the serfs, not their masters, who build everything, also that the serfs will survive whether or not the Draka win against the Alliance. She likes some individual Draka but is not a Draka-lover. This favored serf and her Landholder "owner" agree that the serf's son is sullen and difficult but we learn that he is anti-Draka. Point of view matters.

As in Stirling's Conquistador, dangerous animals have been imported into conquered territories. While hunting and killing a large leopard in Italy, some Draka disregard the nearby cave that must be its lair. Is it not obvious that the leopard's mate will emerge from the cave?

A Draka landholder heir says:

"'The Race makes possible the only way of life I know, the only world I feel at home in, the only contentment I can ever have.'"
-SM Stirling, The Stone Dogs (New York, 1990), p. 92.

We really do need to see the Draka lose everything but I suspect that the series remains consistently dystopian. Still reading, I have yet to learn the significance of the title.

We vicariously enjoy Drakan luxury and must remind ourselves that it is built on slavery. The Draka do not need to remind themselves. They glory in it.

I have just reached a point where the viewpoint character not only has finished school but also has completed pilot training. I feel a distaste for continuing to read not because of any defect in the writing but only because the dreaded Draka are described so vividly.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Dang! I did not think of comparing Poul Anderson's two OPERATION books as a fantastic alternate universe vis a vis the more realistic alternative we see in Stirling's Draka books. But I agree it's a legitimate comparison.

I'm tempted to explain what "The Stone Dogs" means, as a phrase, esp. since I think it's also sometimes seen in either MARCHING THROUGH GEORGIA or UNDER THE YOKE. But I'll refrain!

Eric von Shrakenberg interests me. He loves his people but also, in his heart, despises them. Or at least hates their cruelty and enslaving of all non Draka.

I just wish OUR timeline/alternate world had taken space as seriously as does the Alliance and the Domination in the Draka books! It's so frustrating how LITTLE has been done since men last walked on the Moon in 1973. NO colonies on the Moon or Mars, no mining of the asteroid belt, no ships being built to reach the nearer stars--even if by STL means. Not even the aircars I first saw in Anderson's ENSIGN FLANDRY (even tho some fairly primitive prototypes are being built).

No offense is meant, but I think your last sentence above needs rewriting. You wrote: "On the contrary: such vivid descriptions of the Draka." It's plainly incomplete and needs expansion.


Paul Shackley said...

I meant something like, "I have a distaste for continuing to read not because of any defect in the writing but only because the (dreadful) Draka are described so vividly." But obviously it is unclear so I will consider rephrasing it. (At school, I had it drilled in to me always to write in complete sentences each with a subject and a predicate but lately I have occasionally expressed myself more loosely.)

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And all GOOD schools drill into their students the need to write complete sentences containing a subject and a predicate. The problem with "loose writing" is how it is so often unclear and causes confusion.

One of the interesting things about Stirling's Draka books is how most of the chapters begins with extracts from fictional "non fictional" sources giving us interesting and useful additional information. It reminds me of the extracts from the ENCYCLOPEDIA GALACTICA we see prefacing the chapters of Asimov's FOUNDATION series.