Saturday, 12 December 2015

Scene-Setting

"That morning it rained..."
-Poul Anderson, "Flight To Forever" IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 207-288 AT p. 207. (See here.)

"It was raining again..."
-Poul Anderson, "Marius" IN Anderson, The Psychotechnic League (New York, 1981), pp. 13-28 AT p. 13.

These are the opening four words of two fictional narratives. Rain prepares us for a bleak time for the characters. Additionally, "That morning it rained..." prepares us for an important event that day whereas "It was raining again..." implies that times are already bleak. As the opening paragraph of "Marius" continues, it more than confirms this expectation:

the air is cold;
winter is approaching;
the street lights have not been restored - so they have been out for a while;
dusk comes early;
walls are ruined;
tattered people live in caves of rubble;
Etienne Fourre is a Maquisard chief;
he represents France in United Free Europe - so Europe has been unfree?;
he stubs his toe on a cobblestone;
this is painful through his worn-out boot;
he is used to swearing;
his fifty guards wear looted, patchwork uniforms;
their own insignia is a hand-sewn Tricolor;
one has lost an eye;
they are hungry;
food barges may be attacked by river pirates.

Fourre appeals to their national history:

"'Perhaps Rouget de l'Isle stumbled on the same rock while composing the "Marseillaise."'" (ibid.)

1 comment:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I have learned from you that it is desirable to pay attention to such opening words as "It was raining again." They were designed by Poul Anderson to alert readers to watch for important events, good or bad.

    As, of course you know, Poul Anderson hypothesized World War III breaking out not that many years after WW II. Europe was unfree because the USSR invaded and overran weatern Europe for a short time. And both the invasion and the struggle to defeat and drive out the Soviets was crushingly devastating.

    Sean

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