Friday, 29 January 2016
A Big, Old House
SM Stirling, Conquistador (New York, 2004), Prologue, pp. 1-8.
In 1946, unmarried twenty-four year old John Rolfe, medically discharged from the US Army, rents a big, old house in Oakland, California. After four years in troopships and crowded bases or bivouacs, ending with several months in a crowded hospital, Rolfe wants space and solitude. This is retrospectively symbolic. He will shortly have an uncolonized North America to himself.
Pp. 1-4 and and two thirds of 5 are not yet sf. They describe the world in 1946. The transition to sf is an unashamed cliche but presented well. Improving and tuning a war surplus shortwave radio set opens a Gate to another world on the far wall of the basement...
Like Poul Anderson's Manse Everard, Rolfe is looking for engineering work after the War. Instead, Everard finds the Time Patrol and Rolfe finds an alternative Earth. Rolfe also considers going to university on the G.I. Bill. The first time I read a reference to this Bill was when Everard's colleague, John Sandoval, was said to have gone through College on it.
However, Anderson was writing much closer to the period of WWII, then Korea, veterans. Stirling sets his Prologue half a century in the past because he wants the Commonwealth of New Virginia to have had time to grow before the action of the novel kicks off in 2009.