Monday, 18 January 2016

Marya Goes To Church

"Conspirators on church-bearing planets generally tend to think of churches as safe places for quiet plotting. In Amalfi's universe any planet which sponsored churches probably had a revolt coming to it."
-James Blish, Earthman, Come Home (London, 1963), p. 217.

(Blish agreed with me that that second sentence was ambiguous. Does "...Amalfi's universe..." mean "the universe as perceived by Amalfi" or "back in Amalfi's home galaxy"?)

The Shah of Iran was able to ban and exile all opposition parties but not to close the mosques. Consequently, opposition came to be organized in the mosques and led by mullahs. Places of worship can be centers of subversion and resistance. The police recently raided a Lancaster Spiritualist Church!

I was immediately suspicious when, in SM Stirling's The Stone Dogs (New York, 1990), we read that Marya had become a regular church goer. (p. 357)

Yolande Ingolfsson has an American serf, Marya, although Yolande does not know that, before her capture, Marya was an OSS agent. We read fascinating passages from Yolande's point of view - she momentarily notices something strange in Marya's responses and facial expressions...

Sure enough, we read that the OSS is "' contact with Marya again...'" (p. 363) and that "'...Contact's a priest...'" (p. 364) The Draka allow religion to their serfs although they carefully select the priests - but what better way would the OSS have of inserting an agent? And how will Marya's story end?

Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry spent an interesting period as a prisoner of his enemies, the Merseians, but, of course, Flandry covered himself in glory with a dramatic early escape.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

The second sentence of the quote from Blish's EARTHMAN, COME HOME is ambiguous, even confusing, in more ways than one. Why should planets which "sponsors" churches expect a revolt? Isn't it more logical to think that planets which practices freedom of religion to be MORE, not less stable or peaceful?

And I agree it was a bad mistake of the late Shah of Iran to ban all opposition parties. It merely made them more likely than not be ever more radical and uncompromising (with the caveat that SOME political parties would be so implacably hostile that even the gentlest regime would be compelled to ban them).

But, my view is that the worse danger the Shah faced was from fanatical Islamic believers hostile to his hopes for modernizing and reforming Iran.

The thing to remember about Marya is how ADAPTABLE she was. Almost immediately after she was captured by the Draka during the Domination's conquest of India she started thinking of herself as faced with a new assignment from the OSS, to act like a slave so she could gradually collect information useful for the Alliance.

Yes, the Draka tolerated their serfs having religions, as long as that did not affect their quality as workers. But, what I recalled, with interest, was how DRAKA who were religious believers were treated. At or near the beginning of THE STONE DOGS we see a Draka girl coerced by her teachers and fellow students into no longer believing in Christianity. The Draka FEARED Christianity almost more than anything else. And did their best to stamp out Christianity from among the Draka ruling caste. Left unchecked, the beliefs and tenets of Christianity would undermine the Domination.


Sean M. Brooks said...

I forgot to add to my previous note that Marya was not being hypocritical going to the church the Draka grudgingly tolerated. She had been raised as a Christian and was a convinced Catholic.

And I had in mind St.Paul's "Letter to Philemon" as being a part of the NT the Draka would esp. fear and hate. While St. Paul did not advocate the immediate abolition of slavery, he did enunciate principles in the Letter that would gradually undermine slavery if left unchecked.


Paul Shackley said...

Amalfi's thought processes were cynical and devious.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Oops! Meaning I was over thinking the quote from Blish? Yet another sign I need to reread his Flying Cities books!