Friday, 27 November 2015

"Merseian bastards..."

"'Merseian bastards,' growled the marine."
-Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), p. 198.

Why do I quote this unmemorable and indeed somewhat distasteful phrase? In fact, the two words growled by the marine serve three literary functions.

(i) For those in the know, they confirm that this novel, The Game Of Empire, is part of Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization where the Terran Empire and the Merseian Roidhunate have often clashed.

(ii) In any case, this reference to a hostile green-skinned alien provides that note of the colorful and exotic that we seek in any sf future history series.

(iii) But at the same time the fact that the marine refers to a recent military/naval skirmish with these "bastards" provides that contrasting note of plausibility that we also welcome. The fictional reality differs in interesting ways from the world familiar to us from newspapers and television but also parallels it in other ways that make sense. We can simultaneously enjoy the differences and appreciate the credibility.

(ii) and (iii) are the two points that I made here at the beginning of the previous post.

Exotica And Mirrors

We enjoy a work of fiction like a future history series for two contradictory reasons:

(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.

My friend has also seen Krishna devotees on the street. A bus bound for "Druids Heath" brought us to Birmingham Buddhist Centre, its building a former synagogue, just as a Sikh courier, identifiable by his turban and kara, delivered a parcel.

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.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Day After Tomorrow

Futuristic sf includes "day after tomorrow" scenarios where everything is as it is now but then one thing changes. CS Lewis' That Hideous Strength, published 1945 but set "after the War," is in this category as is Poul Anderson's Brain Wave. HG Wells' Time Traveler tells his dinner guests that that morning he had set off on his Time Machine and passed through "tomorrow." Despite spending several days in the future, he has returned to the day of his departure so that he still has the same "tomorrow."

I mention all this here because today and tomorrow I will be visiting a friend in Birmingham (see image) and will be away from my lap top. Thank you all for over 320 page views so far today with the best part of an hour still to go. I managed to post a lot about Anderson's The People Of The Wind yesterday. A return to that fictitious world, and in such detail, was completely unplanned and unpredicted. Anderson's texts are inexhaustible. All that is exhausted, temporarily, is my ability to focus on new aspects of a particular text.

I do not know what will come next but something will.

Addendum: 330 page views by the end of the day.

Poul Anderson And Alan Moore

I am reading a biography of Alan Moore with an Introduction by Michael Moorcock: from the sublime to the sublimer. What do Poul Anderson and Alan Moore have in common?

(i) Although primarily a graphic novelist and comic strip script writer, Alan has also written prose fiction: some short stories, a novel, Voice Of The Fire, and a second novel, Jerusalem, to be published in Spring 2016.

(ii) Alan has written historical fiction (Voice Of The Fire) fantasy (Promethea) and sf (Halo Jones; Skizz). Voice Of The Fire features Romans ("Men of Roma") in Britain.

(iii) He received a Hugo award for Watchmen.

Differences
(i) PA and AM are at opposite ends of the political spectrum.
(ii) Whereas Anderson seemed sympathetic to the monotheist faiths, Alan practices magical rituals and worships the Roman snake god, Glycon. (He doesn't want his fans to copy his religion and I don't!)
(iii) Whereas I saw Anderson at a couple of sf cons, I have met Alan briefly a few times. (In fact, following clues in his published works, I found my way to his front door.)
(iv) Alan taught comic script writing to Neil Gaiman and I have found several parallels between Anderson and Gaiman, less between Anderson and Alan. Nevertheless, these three men are major modern imaginative writers.

Esperance

Nicholas van Rijn works with an Esperancian on the planet t'Kela in "Territory" and Philippe Rochefort visits Esperance in The People Of The Wind. Instead of maintaining armed forces, the utopian Esperancians in van Rijn's time helped other races in order to gain their goodwill. Unfortunately for this optimistic view, the t'Kelans understand profit but not charity.

Van Rijn can induce this race to become civilized by giving them opportunities to make profits in ways that are also profitable to himself, of course, but, on this planet, no other approach is practicable - and, indeed, the Esperancians are able to accept that this is the case.

Rochefort informs us that goodwill generated by Esperancian good works did not outlast the Troubles. However, a strong pacifist tradition remains and there are demonstrations against the planned attack on the Domain of Ythri. Esperance, like Avalon, Hermes, Dennitza etc is a well realized colony planet in the Technic History. Bells ring from the cathedral and from other churches in Fleurville when it is thought that the war is ended.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Philippe Rochefort

Father a minor functionary in the Sociodynamic Service;
Philippe born in Selenopolis, a spaceport and manufacturing center;
family moved a lot because of father's work;
Philippe spent several impressionable years among the crime and poverty of Venus, which had never been satisfactorily terraformed;
he joined the Navy not from chauvinism (no?) but to see the universe;
saw several planets for two or three years before commencing pilot training;
commanded a Meteor in the attack on Avalon;
lost his ship and crew and was captured but escaped but only as an unwitting pawn in an Avalonian maneuver;
was hospitalized during the disastrous landing on Avalon;
hoped to settle on Avalon with Tabitha Falkayn but their relationship did not last and she married Chris Holm.

Observations
I would like to know more about the Sociodynamic Service.
Selenopolis must be on the Moon?
Philippe recalls Dominic Flandry in that he "...stretched to the limit the tolerance granted officers as regards their dress uniforms - rakishly tilted bonnet..." etc (Rise Of The Terran Empire, p. 487).
Flandry also lost his first command.
However, Flandry always turned the tables on his enemies and did not disapprove of mixed colonies.

Causes Of The Terran War

(i) Violent border incidents mostly started by Ythrians, who are natural predators and have no central government to restrain them so that it is difficult to reach an accomodation.

(ii) With the capacity of space fleets to destroy planets, it is necessary to prepare for the worst contingencies.

(iii) It is unwise to let spheres interpenetrate when both species want the same planets.

(iv) The conflict is not only commercial but also political and military.

(v) The Ythrians have already gained Dathyna and either the Empire or the Domain must absorb the Antoranite-Kraokan complex at Beta Centauri.

(vi) Rectifying this frontier will armor the Empire against a Merseian attack - the Roidhunate is aggressively acquisitive and growing fast.

(vii) Avalon, a unique case, does not prove that Terrans and Ythrians can be trusted to coexist.

The History Of Avalon

The Governor of Sector Pacis summarizes the history of Avalon:

five hundred years ago, a Grand Survey ship discovered inhabited Ythri and uninhabited Avalon, the latter not yet given that name;

Avalon was a potential colony but too far away at the time;

Ythri, forty light years further, was good for trade;

the Polesotechnic League collapsed three hundred years ago but, fifty years before that, many could see what was coming;

at that time, a human company led by an old trade pioneer approached Ythri with a proposal - let us colonize remote Avalon under your (uncorrupted, un-Terra-like) protection;

the Ythrians accepted and some joined the colony;

Terra responded to the Troubles by imposing the Empire whereas Ythri built the (smaller) Domain of colonies and allies;

the Avalonians, as some human beings and Ythrians had become, stood together, survived the Troubles, joined the Domain and now resist annexation by the Empire.

This summary clarifies, first, that the Avalonian colony was under Ythrian protection from the beginning, from before the Troubles and the Domain, and, secondly, that some Ythrians joined the colony because Ythri had been asked to give its protection. Thus, Falkayn's aim was freedom, not a biracial culture, but the former allows for the latter.

Ythrians

Philippe Rochefort watches a recorded lecture about the current enemy. Since, despite reading Poul Anderson's descriptions, I never retain any mental image of an Ythrian, let us paraphrase:

warm blooded;
feathered;
flying;
not birds;
young born viviparously;
four and a half months gestation;
females cannot fly far with a heavy pregnancy;
lips and teeth, not beaks (despite the attached image);
not mammals;
no hair or milk;
infants fed by regurgitation;
walking awkwardly on feet that have grown from wings;
standing on hands to lift wings;
flapping of wings pumps oxygen through gill-like antlibranchs into bloodstream, enabling a body heavy enough for intelligence to fly in terrestroid conditions;
large energy intake needed;
some sweet fruits eaten;
otherwise carnivorous;
therefore, living in small groups, each defending a wide territory;
evolved not from reptiloids but from amphibians;
primitive land animals retained a kind of gill;
small swamp-dwellers climbed into trees and developed a membrane for gliding;
membrane became wings as gills became superchargers;
internal water-hoarding system;
light but strong bones;
tiny, helpless cubs cling to either parent with elaborate digits retained on wings;
young also evade predators by climbing trees;
feet seized prey and manipulated objects;
rapid metabolism of flight prevents young from being born with undeveloped nervous systems;
parents cooperate to care for and carry young;
sexual equality;
females ovulate only once per Ythrian year (half Terran) and not for two years after giving birth;
Ythrians sexually active only at these times;
grief causes ovulation;
occasional females able to ovulate at will were killed, now shunned;
drought forced ornithoids onto savannahs where they evolved from carrion eaters into hunters;
feet became hands and made tools;
elbow claws became feet;
wings became convertible to legs;
hunters strike from above with spears, arrows or axes;
less need for cooperation than among proto-men;
beaked hawk-like uhoths used like dogs;
Stone Age ended not by agriculture but by herding and domestication of animals, encouraging invention of wheels for land vehicles;
agriculture an ancillary, providing fodder;
no cities;
flight, so no need for crowding;
sedentary centers for mining etc small with floating populations and wing-clipped slaves, the latter now being replaced by machines.

As on Diomedes, Poul Anderson has imagined not only a non-humanoid intelligent species but also its evolution.

A Mixed Colony

Robert Heinlein wrote several short stories with a common future background, then compiled a Time Chart to keep the stories consistent. His editor, John W Campbell, published the Time Chart. Imitating Heinlein, Poul Anderson compiled a (different) Time Chart and set some stories in successive periods of it. Later, Anderson wrote several initially unconnected works that converged to form a third future history. Each installment in this "Technic History" is a substantial novel or short story. They are clearly not written to any formula despite what seems, when analyzed, to be a systematic approach to their subject-matters, e.g.:

Ythri discovered by human explorers;
Ythrians learning from humanity, going into space, later transporting van Rijn;
Gray, later renamed Avalon, explored by Ythrians and human beings;
Avalonian islands colonized by Ythrians and human beings;
an Avalonian continent colonized by Ythrians and human beings;
Avalonian Ythrians and human beings successfully resisting Terran imperialism;
much later, an Avalonian Ythrian spying for Ythri and Terra against a common enemy;
Dominic Flandry predicting that mixed species cultures like Avalon will build fascinating new civilizations.

Philippe Rochefort, a Lieutenant in the Terran Space Navy that attacks Avalon, disapproves of mixed colonies on the grounds that people should be what they are and stand by their own. Be what we are? But what can we become? On Avalon, Christopher Holm becomes, then is, Arinnian of Stormgate Choth - although he does experience some problems in making the transition. Tabitha Falkayn/Hrill, a third generation member of Highsky Choth brought up by Ythrians, has no problem about identifying with Ythri while acknowledging her humanity. She advises Arinnian:

"'...a man or woman who tries to be an Ythrian is a rattlewing.'"
-Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011), p. 502.

"'Can't have it on both wings, son.'" (p. 504)

I dislike Rochefort's idea of standing by your own. This seems to assume a conflict of interests with other groups. His ancestors on Terra suffered because of this attitude. He acknowledges that he is a human supremacist because mankind leads Technic civilization.

"'...my sort of people are the xenosophont's best friend. We simply don't want to imitate him.'" (p. 489)

What sort of people? Rochefort is under no obligation to imitate anyone but, if we makes it his business to disapprove of cultural mixing, then he is not the xenosophont's friend.

Many Transitions

Baen Books' Poul Anderson The Technic Civilization Saga, Vol III, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011; compiled by Hank Davis) is a paradigmatic transitional volume. It collects:

the end of the van Rijn series;
the end of The Earth Book Of Stormgate;
two early pulp stories introducing the Terran Empire;
the novel that provides the background for the Earth Book.

In that latter novel, the Terran Empire has grown to its maximum volume whereas its future antagonist, the Merseian Roidhunate, is still small but growing... We await only the debut of Dominic Flandry in Vol IV.

Tabitha Falkayn/Hrill of Highsky Choth says of herself and her chothmates:

"'Most of us keep to the Old Faith...'" (p. 502)

but also:

"'God stoop on me if I ever make use of him...'" (p. 600)

The Old Faith is polytheistic whereas the New Faith is of God the Hunter. But religious phrases permeate language whatever individuals believe. Avalonians are in long-term transition to a single biracial culture:

"'...this thing of ours, winged and wingless together...'" (p. 662)

Even Daniel Holm, who opposed his son joining a choth, invokes "'Deathpride...'" (p. 566), draws strength from a New Faith funeral rite and describes Admiral Cajal contemptuously as "'...that Terran...'" (p. 560)

One cultural difference is discernible during negotiations. Cajal notices that Holm is:

"...haggard, unkempt, stubbly, grimy, no hint of Imperial neatness about him..." (p. 552)

Holm bluntly tells the Admiral that he does not believe anything he says whereas the Admiral preserves the diplomatic niceties while learning that the colony on Avalon has indeed become an alien culture.

Civil And Military Authorities

The Avalonian civil and military authorities are:

the High Wyvan of the Great Khruath of Avalon;
the President of the Parliament of Man;
the First and Second Marchwardens of the Lauran System.

Although Avalon is part of the Domain of Ythri, the High Wyvan of Ythri has no authority to order the Avalonians to cease resistance to the Terran Empire. The Avalonian High Wyvan advises a Terran Admiral:

"'Ythrian practice is not Terran...The worlds of the Domain are tied to each other principally by vows of mutual fidelity. That our fellows are no longer able to help us does not give them the right to order that we cease defending ourselves. If anything, deathpride requires that we continue to fight for what help it might afford them.'"
-Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011), p. 582.

On Avalon itself, Khruath and Parliament vote to continue resistance after the defeat of the rest of the Domain. Somewhere in the text, although I can't find it right now, the High Wyvan of Ythri calls on Avalon to yield for the good of the Domain but that is all that he can do. Avalon is better equipped to resist because some of its human citizens apply the Terran principle of centralized military command but Marchwarden Daniel Holm also invokes the Ythrian concept of "'Deathpride...'" (p. 566)

The novel ends with the Terran War over and Avalon still in the Domain:

"Snowpeaks flamed. The sun stood up in a shout of light.
"High is heaven and holy." (p. 662)

More Plants On Avalon

"...plants whose ancestral seeds arrived with the pioneers had here long ceased to be foreign."
-Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011), p. 659.

Anderson goes on to mention:

grasses;
trefoil;
sword-of-sorrow (see In The People Of The Wind, Chapter Nineteen here);
pine;
harp vine (see In The People Of The Wind, Chapter One here);
jewelleafs (same link as for "harp vine").

Of these, only grasses and pine are imports. Harp vine and jewelleafs have been described before but this might be the only reference to sword-of-sorrow.

Companion Volumes

Before Baen Books collected Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization as The Technic Civilization Saga, compiled by Hank Davis:

the van Rijn series ended with Mirkheim and the Flandry series began with Ensign Flandry;

between Mirkheim and Ensign Flandry were two companion volumes, The People Of The Wind and The Earth Book Of Stormgate;

the Earth Book contained twelve previously published works with twelve newly written introductions and one newly written conclusion;

the twelve previously published works are set earlier than The People Of The Wind whereas the thirteen newly published passages are a sequel to that novel;

eight of the twelve previously published works complete the history of the van Rijn period;

of the remaining four, two are set earlier than van Rijn and two later.

The Technic Civilization Saga presents the entire Technic History in chronological order of fictitious events although this means that twelve later written introductions and one later written conclusion are presented before the novel to which they are an extended sequel. The best way to read the History is to refer to the seven volumes of the Saga together with the Earth Book as a separate volume. The compilation and publication of the Earth Book by Hloch on Avalon is itself an event in the History occurring after the Terran War described in The People Of The Wind. Thus, "Margin of Profit," the earliest van Rijn story, can be read both as an earlier installment of the Technic History series and as a later disclosure presented by Hloch centuries after van Rijn's death.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Livewell On The Wind

"Where [Tabitha] stood, a hillside sloped downward, decked with smaragdine susin, starred with chasuble bush and Buddha's cup, to the strewn and begardened city, the huge curve of uprising shoreline, the glitter on Falkayn Bay. Small cottony clouds sauntered before the wind, which murmured and smelled of livewell."
-Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011), p. 647.

Three senses: colorful flowers and glittering bay; murmuring wind smelling of livewell.

These might be the only sauntering clouds anywhere in literature?

The extraterrestrial plants named in this passage are:

susin;
chasuble bush (see "In 'Wingless'" here);
Buddha's cup (see "In The People Of The Wind, Chapter One" here);
livewell.

In particular, Avalonian livewell weaves in and out of the narrative and I have tried to chart the references to this flower in earlier posts. "Buddha's cup" is obviously an evocative and colorful name bestowed on another native flower by human colonists of Avalon.

Reflections On Avalon

"Rochefort...and his hastily assembled crew...ran interference for the lumbering gunships till these were below the dangerous altitude. En route, they stopped a pair of enemy missiles. Though no spacecraft was really good in atmosphere, a torpedo boat combined acceptable maneuverability, ample firepower, and more than ample wits aboard. Machines guided by simple robots were no match."
-Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011), p. 630.

Hold that thought. It is a plausible hypothesis that "...no spaceship was really good in atmosphere...," but Anderson seems to write with the confidence of experience - and makes us feel that we also know it from experience. A small torpedo boat with a live crew of three has just the right combination of maneuverability and firepower for atmospheric combat. Of course it does. Larger craft, like "...the lumbering guns...," are obviously unsuitable. We knew that before we read this passage, didn't we?

"...the glitter on Falkayn Bay." (p. 647)

Remember that young Polesotechnic League apprentice from Hermes that we met on Ivanhoe? Centuries later, there is a Bay named after him on the planet that calls him Founder. Details like that firmly establish that we are reading a History. Still later, there is an Adzel Square on Aeneas.

Munteanu And Ozumi

Who?

Munteanu and Ozumi appear on just over one page of Poul Anderson's The People Of The Wind, on pp. 627-628 of Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011). Munteanu's sole literary role is to explain something to Ozumi and thus to the reader.

Captain Ion Munteanu, commanding fire control on HMS Phobos, while attacking Avalon, briefs his officers, including Ensign Ozumi. To paraphrase dramatically:

Munteanu: Our mission is to attack a city.
Ozumi: When we bombard a military target with enough torpedoes, a few bypass the negafields but surely cities are better protected?
Munteanu: Yes, cities have powerful, complicated defense systems, including surface-to-space launchers. We will fire our largest missiles, programmed to detonate at substratospheric altitude. At least one should reach that altitude before interception but, if not, we will try again.
Ozumi: Not a continent buster?
Munteanu: No. Heavy missiles, clean, discharging output, mainly radiation, directly ahead. Blast would not penetrate negafields. We will hit the town center and its fringes are flammable.
Ozumi: Why do it?
Munteanu: Centauri, their chief seaport and industrial capital, would be able to attack our landing force.
Ozumi: "'Women and children -'" (p. 628)
Munteanu: The enemy should have evacuated nonessential personnel. I lost a brother here last time.

The Avalonians killed Munteanu's brother because he was attacking them. A pacifist, when asked, "What would you do if you saw an enemy soldier raping your sister?," replied, "Whatever else I did, I would not send my son to kill his cousin." Munteanu sounds as if he would send his son to kill someone's cousin - an attitude that would prolong war indefinitely.

Anderson has already shown us the vigorous life of Centauri. Now, because of the Terran attack, we see the Ythrian Quenna, with burning feathers, melting eyeballs, ruptured eardrums and smashed capillaries, falling into a blazing house beside a boiling canal.

A Change Of Scene

"'Phil!' she shouted. Ah, Arinnian thought. Indeed. The next betrayal.


"'At ease, Lieutenant. Sit down.'"
 -Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011), p. 618.

What a marvelous device in drama and prose fiction is the change of scene. Hrill shouts "Phil!" and Arinnian thinks, "...betrayal," because they have just heard Philippe Rochefort escaping from Avalon in a stolen spaceship. Admiral Cajal says, "At ease..." because, hours later, Rochefort stands before him. A double space between paragraphs informs the reader that there has been what we have come to know and recognize as "a change of scene."

There is no such phenomenon in reality. I cannot start to walk towards Lancaster railway station, then, by virtue of an instant "change of scene," be greeted by a friend as I arrive at Birmingham railway station. But Rochefort does not experience any instantaneous transportation either. Between departing Avalon and meeting Cajal, he has:

traveled through space;
rejoined the Terran fleet;
been identified, interrogated and hypnoprobed;
made statements that, we learn, have been recorded, transcribed and read by the Admiral;
maybe eaten, slept and waited;
received an unexpected invitation to meet the Admiral.

Cajal refers to statements and hypnoprobing and Rochefort refers to interrogators. Thus, we know some of what has happened. Thus also, the "change of scene" exists neither in our world nor in Rochefort's but only at the narrative interface. The reader alone enjoys this privileged perspective. We skip the tedium, proceeding directly from a dramatic escape to its strategic consequences. And we take this for granted, rarely reflecting that narrative techniques like point of view and change of scene have had to be refined by generations of fiction writers.

Ythrians And The Elements

I said here that Ythrians are less distanced from their natural environment than are human beings. When Arinnian sees Eyath in flight:

"Sunlight from behind turned her wings to a bronze fringed by golden haze."
-Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011), p. 590.

That is a good image but I have fully appreciated it only in the process of quoting it. Arinnian thinks:

"She could be the sun itself...or the wind, or everything wild and beautiful above this ferroconcrete desert." (ibid.)

Descending, "...she braked in a brawl of air..." (ibid.)

Thus, sun, wind ("The People of the Wind") and brawling air.

Eyath's way of mourning is to immerse herself in turbulent Avalonian weather. She perches on a crag in rising wind for hours at night, becoming cold, wet and stiff. The rain is "...slow as tears..." (p. 606), an explicit pathetic fallacy. When Eyath ascends at Laura-rise, air in nostrils and antlibranchs wakens blood, making her muscles throb.

"At your death, Vodan, you too were a sun." (ibid.)

Despair is dispelled by beating wings and buffeting winds and "...washed out by rain..." (ibid.)

Hungered by energy expenditure, she hunts, swoops, grasps a reptiloid, snaps its neck on impact, sits on a sea rock and eats raw meat, surrounded by spouting surf. Poul Anderson has truly imagined an alien intelligence that remains much closer to its animal origins and natural environment.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

High Wyvan Trauvay

The Terran Empire and the Domain of Ythri go to war. We saw Ythri in "Wings of Victory," the opening story of The Earth Book Of Stormgate, and see it again briefly from space in Chapter XII of The People Of The Wind.

We know that the Terran Emperor is the most powerful person in the Terran Empire but who is his opposite number in the Domain? There is no equivalent but the attacking Terran Admiral must speak with High Wyvan Trauvy. A Wyvan is a presiding officer entrusted with the explication of customs, precedents and Khruath decisions and with trying cases. Admiral Cajal understands that "Wyvan" translates as "Judge" or "Lawspeaker."

Ythrian families join together in self-organizing choths. Each choth has a Wyvan. Also, free adults in a territory periodically meet as a regional Khruath which has judicial and some legislative but no administrative powers. Winners of a vote in a Khruath rely on willingness to comply or on their strength to enforce.

Regional Khruaths elect delegates to Year-Khruaths which cover wider territories and which also send representatives to the planetary High Khruath. Wyvans are chosen for each Khruath and any free adult can also attend Khruaths at any level. This works for Ythrians, who are less garrulous than human beings. Avalonian human beings retain a Parliament of Man with a President but many human beings join choths, thus accepting Ythrians laws and customs with the right to attend Khruaths.

High Wyvan Trauvy presides in the High Khruath of Ythri and thus is the opposite number, although not the equivalent, of the Terran Emperor.

Details And Dishonesties

We do not notice as Poul Anderson carefully plants narrative details that will be crucial later. Arinnian and Eyath travel to visit Hrill and Draun in a flitter because it would be too far for his gravbelt or her wings but why does he tell her that, "'The flitter's spaceable -'" (Rise Of The Terran Empire, p. 591)?

Because the reader needs to know. But why do we need to know that? And why should a small vehicle used for atmospheric flight also be capable of interplanetary travel? Because Arinnian plans to feed disinformation to a prisoner, then to let that prisoner escape in the carelessly unguarded flitter and rejoin the Terran fleet. Genuine defectors will also be allowed to leave Avalon with the same misleading intelligence.

I am glad that I am not involved in waging a war. It involves not only death and destruction but also dishonesty, duplicity and double-dealing on an industrial scale.

Another detail: Hrill has sex with the prisoner, who is her house guest, Philippe Rochefort. Arinnian travels happily to visit Hrill, then sees her holding hands with the Terran. Now Arinnian is indeed happy to have Rochefort lied to and induced to leave but Hrill is not. Draun just wants to kill Terrans. ("Terrans," of course, do not include human Avalonians.) Then Rochefort inadvertantly informs Eyath that her fiancee was killed by friendly fire...

And, because of the nature of Ythrian sexuality, that will lead to a situation between Draun and Eyath that will make mortal enemies of Arinnian and Draun. Five characters of two species; endless conflicts and complexities.

Human-Ythrian Cultural Fusion

When I wrote here that Daniel Holm identified with an extraterrestrial tradition, I thought even as I wrote it that I was overstating the case although I was not sure how to rephrase it. Holm, a human being, wants his planet, Avalon, to remain in the Domain of Ythri. To this end, he confers with an Ythrian just returned from Ythri about how to resist encroachments by the human-led Terran Empire. However, this is a matter of present political arrangements, not of any tradition.

But then I reread the account of Ferune of Mistwood's funeral (see here) and Holm's response to it:

"'And that Terran thought we'd surrender.'"
-Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011), p. 560.

Here, Daniel Holm, who resisted his son joining a choth, draws strength from a rite of the two thousand years old Ythrian New Faith and says "'...we...'" All the barriers between himself and the Ythrians are down as he sets himself against those inspired by the Roman Empire.

Holm's other source of inspiration is the Terrestrial literature quoted by his deceased friend, Ferune of Mistwood:

"'...-their finest hour-...'" (p. 567)

Cultural fusion could not be completer.

How Can A Planet Mobilize In Secret?

How can a colony planet of a mere fourteen million, mostly ranchers, secretly build fortifications that significantly damage a Terran fleet? See here.

The electorate authorized the Admiralty to take any necessary action;
the Admiralty constructed facilities in uninhabited regions;
they had abundant nuclear energy, natural resources and automatic technology;
self-reproducing machines use the abundant minerals available in an underpopulated rural environment;
thus, no publically visible existing industry is involved in war production;
it is hard for Terrans to spy on Avalon where the population is either non-humanoid Ythrians or human beings who "'...no longer think, talk, even walk quite like any Imperial humans...'" (Rise Of The Terran Empire, p. 513);
the Second Marchwarden of the Lauran System had traveled through the Empire, had done advanced study at an Imperial academy and is excellent on security.

It is unfortunate that such advanced technology has to be used for such purposes. There must be some parts of the galaxy where this is not the case?

Dialogue And Narration

Poul Anderson's omniscient narrator describes a battle in space:

"Hours built into days while the fleets, in their widely scattered divisions, felt for and sought each others throats."
-Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011), p. 519.

But then he directly, conversationally, addresses the reader:

"Consider: at a linear acceleration of one Terran gravity, a vessel can, from a 'standing start,' cover one astronomical unit..." (ibid.)

I think that "Consider:..." is inappropriate. It introduces a paragraph about velocity and distance. This is information that Anderson wanted to convey to the reader but which should have been put into the mouth of a protagonist or fictional observer rather than inserted into the flow of the narrative in a way that makes us aware of being directly addressed. Stylistically, this distracts us from the content of the passage. We ask: "Who is addressing us?" etc.

There is a more effective interaction between dialogue and narration a few pages later, when:

"[The Admiral's] glance traveled from screen to screen on the comboard. Faces looked out, some human, some nonhuman, but each belonging to an officer of Imperial Terra. He found it hard to meet those eyes." (p. 543)

(We wonder about the species of the nonhuman officers and what their eyes looked like.)

Admiral Cajal says:

"'We had no idea what fortifications had been created for Avalon -'" (p. 544)

- and continues without pausing:

"'- and the defenders used our ignorance brilliantly.'" (ibid.)

Cajal's sentence is interrupted for us, although not for his hearers, because the omniscient narrator inserts three paragraphs beginning, "In orbit...," "On the surface..." and "In the air..."

In orbit
Hundreds of automated stations exclusively powering defensive screens and offensive projectors, guarding supply craft shuttling from the surface.

On the surface and on the moon
A grid of negafield-shielded detectors, launch tubes and immense energy weapons, buried, underwater, on the ground or at sea.

In the air
Patrolling pursuit craft.

The Avalonian Admiralty has constructed these fortifications in secret and Cajal goes on to explain how this must have been done...

Sciences In Science Fiction

In The First Nine Installments Of Poul Anderson's History Of Technic Civilization:

human psychology in "The Saturn Game"
Ythrian biology in "Wings Of Victory"
Ythrian theology in "The Problem Of Pain"
cultural exchange in "How To Be Ethnic In One Easy Lesson"
economics in "Margin Of Profit"
geometry in "The Three-Cornered Wheel"
astronomy in "A Sun Invisible"
Ivanhoan theology in "The Season Of Forgiveness"
Diomedean biology in The Man Who Counts

And, in my opinion, those nine works should comprise Volume I of the History of Technic Civilization. Merseians and Ythrians are what the Technic History has instead of Klingons and Vulcans - or maybe Chereionites are closer to Vulcans? Star Trek is sometimes good but the Technic History is always better.

Blog readers might detect that I am currently preoccupied with other activities. Thus, posts are fewer and shorter. But there is no intention for the blog to slow to a halt.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Choths

This is not meant to be a comprehensive account. No doubt, there will be additions.

Wryfields Choth...
...is on Ythri. The chartered ranger, Gaiian (= Dewfall), under Captain Hirharouk Of Wryfields transported Nicholas van Rijn and Coya Conyon to Mirkheim. Hiraharouk saw God's shadow on van Rijn's way of life.

Stormgate Choth...
...occupies the Andromeda Range/the Weathermother on Avalon. Several important figures are of this choth.

Mistwood Choth...
...is one of the most progressive on Avalon, mechanized, large and prosperous.

Highsky Choth...
...occupies a stretch of the Oronesian archipelago on Avalon and controls the fisheries around 30 degrees North.

The Tarns Choth...
...occupies mountainous country on Avalon. High Wyvan Liaw is of The Tarns.

Names of other choths in the text of The People Of The Wind elude me at present.

Hloch

Imagine Hloch's untitled introduction to The Earth Book Of Stormgate as a voice over for a short film preceding dramatizations of the stories. The changing scenes would illustrate the spoken words. At this stage, the film audience would glean some meanings for unfamiliar terms from their contexts:

"...Hloch of the Stormgate Choth...on the peak of Mount Anrovil in the Weathermother."
-Poul Anderson, The Earth Book Of Stormgate (New York, 1979), p. 1.

"Then came the Terran War, and when it had passed by, ruined landscapes lay underneath skies gone strange." (p. 2)

"Hloch, who had served in space, afterward found himself upon Imperial planets, member of a merchant crew, as trade was reborn." (ibid.)

"This is the tale told afresh of how Avalon came to settlement and thus our choth to being..." (ibid.)

The principle invented term, "choth," clearly means some kind of community or tradition.

"This is the tale as told, not by Rennhi and those on whom she drew for the Sky Book, but by Terrans, who walk the earth." (ibid.)

It is about us but from an alien perspective.

At the end of the Earth Book, when Hloch departs, we should hear his wings and:

"Fair winds forever." (p. 434)

Friday, 20 November 2015

A Rustling Voice

Ythrians, intelligent winged hunters and herders, are less distanced from their natural environment than are human beings. They are feathered and unclothed, wearing only a belt and a pouch, at home in flight. Their society, comprising territorial families loosely associated in choths, has no cities, nations or governments.

"Liaw of The Tarns" sounds like an articulate part of nature, like a pagan deity, although he speaks for a choth called "The Tarns," not literally for a group of mountain lakes!

"'The Khruaths did call for a home guard and for giving the Admiralty broad discretion,' Liaw of the Tarns said in his rustling voice."
-Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011), p. 493.

Rustling like dead leaves in an autumn wind?

"He was old, had frost in his feathers; but he sat huge in his castle, and the screen gave a background image of crags and a glacier." (ibid.)

The frost in his feathers matches the glacier outside. Physically huge in a castle among crags and glaciers, he replies quietly but uncompromisingly to a man who doubts the need for war preparations.

"Liaw sat silent for a space, during which the rest of them heard wind whistling behind him and saw a pair of his grandsons fly past. One bore the naked sword which went from house to house as a summons to war, the other a blast rifle." (p. 494)

We have here some material for an alliterative verse:

"Wind whistling;
"War summoning
"Went the grandsons..."

"The High Wyvan said:..." (ibid.)

This is our first indication that Liaw is a presiding officer, let alone a "High" one.

"...'Three choths refused to make their gift. My fellows and I threatened to call Oherran on them. Had they not yielded, we would have done so. We consider the situation to be that grave.'" (ibid.)

That disclosure alters the entire tone of the discussion. The Wyvans would have caused civil war on the eve of international/interstellar war: a deathpride matter. The situation is grave. Doubts are dispelled.

Arinnian's Problem II

Conversing with his superior, Ferune of Mistwood, Daniel Holm hints at a problem that emerges later:

"'Can [Chris/Arinnian] ever make a normal marriage, for instance? Ordinary girls aren't his type any more; and bird girls -'"
-Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011), p. 461.

What about bird girls? This is what Arinnian himself later does when speaking with Tabitha/Hrill, breaks off in mid-sentence. Eventually, we understand but I found it difficult - which makes this discourse authentic.

Daniel has to adjust his human terminology:

"'...when he first started running around, flying around, with Ythrians, why I was glad...'" (p. 460)

The conflict with his father became so intense that Arinnian did for a year what Diana Crowfeather later did permanently, ran/flew away to live with another species.

Two other details in the conversation between Holm and Ferune:

"the yellow light of Laura cast leaf shadows on the floor. They quivered." (p. 456)

A hint of the pathetic fallacy - the man and the Ythrian are restless, as is their environment.

Ferune observes:

"'...we don't catch time in any net.'" (p. 462)

The winged Ythrians hunt with nets. Metaphorically, Ferune applies this practice to life but only in order to say that at that level it is impossible to catch everything that comes our way.

Anomalous Avalon

(It was not my idea to veer back into the Avalonian section of the Technic History. The works already discussed are like a four-dimensional maze. Thinking that we have left the maze, we find ourselves back at its center.)

The planet Avalon in the Lauran System is an anomaly:

the colony was founded by a human being;
it is jointly governed by the Parliament of Man and the Great Khruath of the Ythrians;
centuries later, the planet is still inhabited by more human beings than Ythrians;
however, Avalon is part of the Domain of Ythri, not of the Terran Empire;
many of its human inhabitants join Ythrian choths although some of the ornithoids become "Walkers," atomic individuals in a global community;
the First Marchwarden of the Lauran System is an Ythrian, Ferune of Mistwood, who reads Terran classics in three original languages for pleasure (I wish I could);
the Second Marchwarden, a human being, goes to confer with Ferune when the latter has returned from Ythri - they need to discuss the threat from Terra.

Thus, Second Marchwarden Daniel Holm confers with an Ythrian returned from Ythri about war against Earth. However, Holm is not a traitor to his species as, later in this history, a man who knowingly helped the racist Merseians would be. Fighting to stay out of the Empire is not on a par with helping to enslave or exterminate humanity. Leaving that to one side, it is interesting to note that Daniel Holm, and still more his son, now identifies with a tradition originating not on Earth but elsewhere, even though he is a citizen of a colony founded by a human being. Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.

Ferune's office in the Lauran admiralty, adapted to ornithoid use, has a perch and:

"...a genuine huge window, open on garden-scented breezes and a downhill view of Gray and the waters aglitter beyond."
-Poul Anderson, Rise Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011), p. 454.

Ythrians are the People of the Wind. They must feel moving air and see not walls, pictures or screens but the view down to the sea.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Holms

The Holms came to Avalon with Falkayn.

Ivar Holm worked in an Andromeda Rescue Station during the settlement of the Coronan continent.

Daniel Holm, Second Marchwarden of the Lauran System, becomes First Marchwarden with the death of Ferune of Mistwood Choth.

Despite his unhappiness at his son, Chris, joining Stormgate Choth, Daniel sky-hunts like an Ythrian.

Chris/Arinnian's marriage to Tabitha Falkyan/Hrill of Highsky Choth unites the Falkayn and Holm lines of descent.

Arinnian, able to translate between Planha and Anglic, contributes to The Earth Book Of Stormgate.

Although we want this family and planetary history to continue, we learn little of Avalon after the Terran War.

Garuda And Going Bird

Coincidentally, I posted about Christopher Holm "going bird" just as I began to reread the passage in SM Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers about the airship, the Garuda. I also forgot some details about Chris/Arinninan, who:

has short hair like all gravbelt fliers;
prefers personal flight to an aircar although the latter is much quicker;
of necessity, checks every part of his unit before a flight;
is under Ythrian law and custom, not human law;
tells orthohumans that joining a choth widens and purifies his humanity;
like other human beings, lives at ground level although the city of Gray on Falkayn Bay also has highrises for ornithoids;
flies with other members of Stormgate Choth to a regional Khruath in the Weathermother.

High is heaven and holy.

Going Bird

In his Introduction to The Night Face, Poul Anderson refers to series characters of the Technic History, including Christopher Holm. Chris/Arinnian:

counts as a series character because of his roles in The People Of The Wind and The Earth Book Of Stormgate;

has joined a choth/gone bird;

speaks Planha-influenced Anglic but with a changed accent;

like other "birds," tends to go nude but with skin paint;

but wears a coverall and boots for flight with a gravbelt;

earns an income by herding and hunting with Ythrians;

has fair skin darkened by the light of Laura, less bright than Sol but closer to Avalon;

in flight, wears antigrav cylinders with fully charged accumulators, a leather helmet and goggles;

carries a knife and slugthrower, even when attending a peace-holy Khruath.

From The Angezi Raj To The Terran Empire

I have been rereading the Athelstane King passages of SM Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003) in search of a particular reference to Krishna. Rereading only selected passages generates continuity problems. Warburton is one of those who accompany King on camel-back into the desert (pp. 339, 351), is not one of those who leap onto a train with King (pp. 379-380) but is with King the next time we see him (p. 387)? But such continuity conundra must result from my not reading the text consecutively...

Before retiring, let me commend the smooth transition in Poul Anderson, Rise of The Terran Empire (New York, 2011) from the League period to the Imperial period and, in particular from the concluding van Rijn novel, Mirkheim, to the opening page of the novel, The People Of The Wind. On that page, Daniel Holm converses with his son Chris on Avalon. Avalon was settled in the two stories that followed Mirkheim and there was an Ivar Holm in the second of those stories. Daniel and Chris discuss an imminent war and, a few pages later, we learn that that war will be against the Terran Empire which was introduced in the third and fourth stories separating Mirkheim from The People Of The Wind.

Those opening pages of the second novel also informs us that, for the past hundred years on Avalon, Ythrian choths have been accepting human beings into membership. Thus, Christopher Holm is also Arinnian of Stormgate Choth and, lacking wings, flies with a gravbelt. We have left Nicholas van Rijn far behind. Arinnian will eventually marry Hrill of Highsky Choth who is Tabitha Falkayn, a direct descendant of van Rijn's protege, the Founder of Avalon. That is quite an involved and dense future history - and we are nowhere near Dominic Flandry yet.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Aenean And Indian Deserts

Poul Anderson excels at descriptions of planetary environments where human colonists survive or thrive but not always easily. See the Dreary and Poul Anderson's Cosmic Environments.

SM Stirling describes an Indian desert that should be identical with ours although it is in an alternative timeline. There are:

a large, bright moon;
stars like silver dust in a very black sky;
insects;
large, black, swarming, lethal scorpions;
lions;
gazelles, eaten by the lions;
wild red dogs;
cold air that is "...painfully dry, but...had an exhilarating cleanness."
-SM Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003), Chapter Nineteen, p. 362.

Anderson imagines but, of course, cannot experience Aeneas. Stirling can experience Terrestrial deserts and surely writes from experience when he describes the desert air as painfully dry but exhilaratingly clean? That sounds like the voice of experience, not of imagination. And many of us could have been there but never described it as well as that.

The Worst And The Best

Religion evokes the worst and the best in humanity. SM Stirling's Count Ignatieff believes that he will enter Hell but as one of the torturers! Further, people have tortured in the name of religion and I have encountered Evangelicals who openly gloated at the expected damnation of those who disagreed with them. But let us ascend from the demonic to the sublime, starting with Indian religious diversity.

Poul Anderson's fiction addresses the profoundest of theological questions. See "The Gwydiona Experience" and "The Problem Of Pain."

A short post this morning but I think that its links are worth checking.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Viking Era

Poul Anderson, "THE NORSE" IN Poul Anderson & Mildred Downey Broxon, The Demon Of Scattery (New York, 1980), pp. 200-207.

(The title page of this edition says "SF ace books," which is inaccurate.)

According to Anderson's historical note:

The "Vikings" were not a people and the word should not be capitalized. The earliest recorded viking raids on England and Ireland occurred in the late eighth century. (Thus, Hrolf Kraki, in the mid-sixth century, was much earlier. See "The History of Hrolf Kraki: a Foreword by Poul Anderson" IN Poul Anderson, Hrolf Kraki's Saga (New York, 1973), pp. xvii-xxi AT p. xviii.)

The viking period lasted for about three centuries:

England, Ireland, France, Germany and the Low Countries were attacked repeatedly;
in 845, Paris and Hamburg were captured;
at least one expedition plundered in the Mediterranean;
Finns, Lapps and Balts were attacked but had no one to record it;
the attackers were from Scandinavia or from their colonies, including Iceland;
the probable causes were population pressure, ambition and greed;
some bands would sow, go in viking and return for harvest;
"viking" is probably derived from "...'vik,' meaning a narrow bay..." (p. 202), because raiders would wait in such a bay to attack passing cargo ships;
"viking" rhymed with "seeking";
kings and jarls discouraged such attacks at home but did not object to attacks on foreign countries;
some huge fleets wintered abroad, then colonized in England, Ireland, Normandy etc.

Aycharaych And Ignatieff

Two Science Fiction Villains

(i) Aycharaych is a humanoid from an extrasolar planet whereas Ignatieff is a human being in an alternative history.

(ii) Aycharaych is a universal telepath whereas Ignatieff is served by a timelines-discerning clairvoyant.

(iii) Aycharaych preserves his Chereionite heritage whereas Ignatieff wants the destruction of life.

(iv) For Aycharaych, conflict and unrest are means whereas, for Ignatieff, the infliction of pain is a pleasure.

(v) Aycharaych's commitment is to his heritage, not to the Roidhun, while Ignatieff's commitment is to the Peacock Angel, not to the Czar.

(vi) Aycharaych and Flandry enjoy their conversations whereas Ignatieff and King fight to the death from their very first meeting.

(vii) Aycharaych subverts Flandry's son whereas Ignatieff had killed King's father.

(viii) Ignatieff unequivocally died whereas we can never be sure with Aycharaych...

Action And Adventure In The Angrezi Raj

(Sikh symbol.)

SM Stirling's English prose is excellent. If I find an occasional anomaly, this is only because I am rereading very closely and carefully, noticing details missed on two previous readings.

"The woman looked around the room. Even hanging from the chains, Narayan felt a slight tingling chill as he met them. They saw more than human beings were meant to see..."
-SM Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003), Chapter Fifteen, p. 285.

What are "...them..." in the second sentence and "They..." in the third? Clearly, from the context, they are the woman's eyes. However, grammatically, these plural pronouns do not refer back to any plural noun in the first sentence. That sentence needs to read something like: "The woman cast her eyes around the room."

But how many readers are going to notice that in this action-packed adventure sequence? Imperials raid a traitor's house to rescue Athelstane King while Athelstane King leads a raid to rescue Narayan Singh! King's men, who have scaled a tower, hear the front door being blown in by they do not know who! King has his second confrontation with the dreadful Ignatieff whose robe is caked with "...dried and rotting blood." (p. 282) Evil personified and incarnated.

"Homo Sum"

"Homo sum" is Latin for "I am a man." (Two words instead of four: no article and an inflected verb, not requiring a pronoun.)

After quoting this Latin phrase, Poul Anderson rightly celebrates the diversity of humanity. He lists, and says that he can learn from:

a Navajo herdsman;
an Australian bushman;
a Yankee capitalist;
a European socialist;
a Confucian scholar;
an Islamic warrior -

- so diverse that they seem to be of different species!

I was reminded of this Andersonian list when I reread SM Stirling's account of three caravan guards from "...some very rough places indeed."
-SM Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003), Chapter Fourteen, p. 248:

"...a thick-shouldered, bandy-legged Mongol with a quiver and recurved bow over his shoulder...";
"...a very black African with no tongue and hideous scars on his back...";
"...a man with tattooed cheeks and red hair who was of no race or tribe King could recognize and who carried what looked like a jointed iron flail." (ibid.)

Thus, Mongol, African and unrecognizable-despite-red-hair! I like that third guy. Stirling's shorter list of diverse human beings reminds us of what people do to each other (tongueless; scarred back) and to themselves (tattooed cheeks) and there is plenty of violent intent (bow and arrow; iron flail). We may add that these three serve a Jewish man who is loyal to the Angrezi Raj.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Blog Maintenance And Future Reading

Despite the mysterious disappearance of some posts from the Blog Archive, I have been in my opinion improving the blog by scanning earlier posts not only to make minor corrections but also to link to still earlier posts, where I had previously only referred to them, if I am able to locate the post in question. Sometimes, a link is not to a single post but to a search result which thus can include later posts.

Such "blog maintenance" does not increase the number of posts. However, I will:

continue to reread at least some passages of SM Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers;
reread The Demon Of Scattery by Poul Anderson and Mildred Downey Broxon;
read for the first time Stirling's The Stone Dogs when I at last receive a copy of this novel.

This reading and rereading will in due course generate material for new posts.

Meanwhile, is anyone able to identify the ten volumes by Poul Anderson whose covers are shown in the attached image? (Perhaps three of the titles are legible.) Also, the fifteen covers on the "Disappearing Posts" post. See link above.

Karma Yoga In The Bhagavad Gita

Athelstane King, conversing with a sannyassin, chants:

"'Action rightly renounced brings freedom:
"'Action rightly performed brings freedom:
"'Both are better
"'Than mere shunning of action.'"
-SM Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003), Chapter Ten, p. 166.

He continues:

"'We are men who act, holy one; better to act as our karman in this turn of the Wheel demands, than to try a path beyond our merit, and fail. Bless us!'" (ibid.)

The omniscient narrator comments:

"...King's theology was exceedingly weak, if you knew the next section of that gita..." (ibid.)

I could try to find out which section of the Bhagavad Gita King chants, then read the next section. But is his theology weak? Surely he quotes the essence of the Gita? See here. One way to avoid suffering is to avoid acting but some actions, preformed rightly, might be lesser evils.

Poul Anderson always shows respect for religious philosophies but maybe does not often discuss them with the depth of insight that Stirling displays here? The religious synthesis of the Angrezi Raj is both profound and plausible.

The Curious Case Of The Disappearing Posts

If you click on this link, it will take you to the post, "Appreciating Fiction," dated Sunday, 9 November 2014. However, if you then scroll down the Blog Archive on the right of the screen, it will inform you that the earliest post for that month is "Settling Avalon," dated Tuesday, 11 November 2014.

So why have posts dated 1-10 November 2014, by my count sixty five of them, disappeared from the Blog Archive? Does anyone out there know the answer to this technical query? Blog Central is baffled.

I found "Appreciating Fiction" by searching for it. Thus, random thematic searches would eventually find other missing posts but this would take a very long time and in any case should not be necessary. We are trying to find somewhere online to report this as a problem.

The rest of today will be a medical appointment, a visit to the gym/swimming pool, preparation for a Latin class tomorrow afternoon and meditation group. Thus, maybe not much blogging. But I think we are finding that the blog never dies. Over 100 page views by 9.30 this morning.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Heroes And Villains

Four classic pairs:

Holmes and Moriarty;
Bond and Blofeld; (and here)
Dominic Flandry and Aycharaych;
Athelstane King and Count Ignatieff.

Holmes, Moriarty, Bond and Blofeld are universally known, the two sf pairs less so. My point is that King and Ignatieff are worthy of inclusion on this list.

King gradually learns that he has a major adversary:

Ibrahim Khan reveals that a tall white fakir wearing an eye-patch paid him to kill King;
King learns that, a generation earlier, a fakir with one blue eye and one brown eye had preached jihad and killed his, King's, father;
when King meets an adversary with an eye-patch turned up above a blue left eye, that man introduces himself as Count Vladimir Obromovich Ignatieff and they immediately try to kill each other;
Ignatieff is indeed evil, a Devil-worshiping cannibal.

Pride, Pomp, Priesthood And Power

(Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi.)

"...Cyrus the Great King rode past with his chief courtiers Kobold, Croesus, and Harpagus, and the pride and pomp and priesthood of Persia followed."
-Poul Anderson, "Brave To Be A King" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), pp. 55-112 AT p. 110.

"......the pride and pomp and power of the Mughals was the wonder of the world..."
-SM Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003), Chapter Ten, p. 168.

A phrase in ...Lancers rang a bell although it turns out not to be identical.

Dare I say that I prefer Stirling's description of multi-ethnic Indian street life in ...Lancers to Kipling's in Kim? For page after page, Athelstane King and his companions ride through the outskirts and into the center of Old Delhi where Chandi Chowk, the Square of Silver Moonlight:

"...was a shoving, chattering mass of folk on foot, riders or rickshaws, oxcarts..." (ibid.)

Anderson's description of a multi-species market on an extra-solar planet in The Game Of Empire is comparable.

When Stirling refers to "...the First Men and the Tree of Life...," (p. 164) I think that that is a homage to Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Gods Of Mars?

Many Monotheisms

(The Sikh Golden Temple at Amritsar - at least that is what it looks like.)

Logically, there should be many groups of polytheists but only one group of monotheists, right? Well, no. Even when agreed on a unitary principle, people always find plenty to disagree about. In SM Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003), a Muslim ignorantly describes a Sikh, in his presence, as "'...this Hindu idol worshiper.'" (Chapter Six, p. 92)

The first step toward mutual comprehension and respect is to describe another man's beliefs in terms acceptable to him. Thus, we do not call Muslims "Mohammedans," although the phrase, "Mohammedan fanatic," is inscribed in stone, under a memorial to a British soldier killed by a..., in Canterbury Cathedral.

"The Sikh growled; his faith was an offshoot of the Hindu stock, but ostentatiously monotheistic." (ibid.)

I would go further and say that Sikhism is a Hindu-Muslim synthesis. Its scripture, the Granth, is a collection of hymns written by Hindus, Muslims and Sikh Gurus. And, of course, it is a pure monotheism, in no way idolatrous.

In Imperial service during Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, we see Jerusalem Catholics and a Muslim, a Jew and a Sikh. The Empire also encounters mutually incompatible alien monotheisms among Ythrians and Merseians.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Between Books II

(The Peshawar Club.)

I have been doing "blog maintenance," which improves earlier posts but does not add any new ones. It will also take some time to complete the job.

Meanwhile, maybe the next Poul Anderson volume to be reread should be The Demon Of Scattery? It describes events post-Mother Of Kings and is narrated during The Broken Sword. Thus, these three Viking volumes are set centuries after War Of The Gods and Hrolf Kraki's Saga but before The Last Viking Trilogy.

SM Stirling's The Stone Dogs cannot arrive tomorrow because there is no post on Sunday. Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers is extremely enjoyable to reread but I am determined not to google every unfamiliar word like sambhur. There are too many of them, in any case.

In ...Lancers, the King estate has a church, a temple, a mosque and a gurdwara and the Kings' business agent in Delhi is a Jew. Admirable pluralism, also to be found in Anderson's Terran Empire although not in its rival imperium, the Merseian Roidhunate. In Europe right now, terrorist fanatics are trying to destroy our pluralism and start a race war. These are bad times.

Between Books

Today I have been otherwise engaged. I have finished rereading Poul Anderson's Mother Of Kings and have not yet received SM Stirling's The Stone Dogs. As noted here, I am rereading certain passages of Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2002) in search of a reference to Krishna.

I note Stirling's rich vocabulary, e.g.:

"...the shade [the trees] cast was densely umbrageous..."
-Chapter Seven, p. 109.

I have read this novel twice before but do not remember noticing this word. But I do remember that I had to stop googling unfamiliar terminology because that was interfering with reading the text.

I also notice a slight contradiction? Narayan Singh tells his father, Ranjit, that Athelstane King is well, then whispers:

"And he is with me, disguised..." (p. 112)

At the bottom of the following page, Ranjit responds:

"'I will say that two friends of yours have come to visit...'" (p. 113)

King and Narayan are indeed accompanied by one other man but Narayan had not yet told Ranjit that.

It is a pleasure to reread this novel, a summit of alternative history fiction.

Taking Stock

Eirik Blood-ax and Gunnhild had eight sons and one daughter. By the end of Poul Anderson's Mother Of Kings, of these eleven family members, only three survive: sons, Ragnford and Gudrod, and daughter, Ragnhild. Eirik and six sons have died in fruitless violence. Gunnhild has expended all her energy trying to help Eirik, then their sons, to conquer and keep a kingdom.

Ragnhild has murdered two husbands and outlived a third and is shunned. According to the author's Afterword, Ragnford is not heard of again after a battle described in the book and Gudrod was later killed trying to reconquer Norway.

"'Now they were all dead, the sons of Eirik and Gunnhild,' wrote Snorri."
-Poul Anderson, Mother Of Kings (New York, 2003), Afterword, pp. 593-597 AT p. 597.

They not only set out to kill, conquer and rule but also did it in a way that made them few friends and many enemies, almost guaranteeing their failure, and also failed to learn anything from this experience - an object lesson in futility.