Friday, 18 August 2017

Kossara Vymezal In St Clement's Cathedral

(St Clement Macedonian Cathedral.)

The four man honor guard stands in the uniform of the Narodna Voyska, heads lowered, rifles reversed;

candles burn in tall holders with lilies, roses and viyrnatz everywhere between;

Flandry smells flowers and incense as he walks across the stone floor;

a priest chants archaic words behind the iconostasis;

the air is cool and dim;

evening light slants between columns;

the domed ceiling shows Christ Lord of All and the Apostles on gold and blue;

Flandry inwardly addresses Kossara but hears only the priest's voice;

searching his languages for the best farewell, he says, "Sayonara. Since it must be so.'" (A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows, Chapter XVIII, p. 577);

he bows and departs -

- but his next step is military action.


Poul Anderson shows us the Merseians as implacable enemies of mankind, then shows us why some human beings might defect to their cause:

Erik Magnusson (see here);
the Zacharians;
Dominic Hazeltine -

"'Yes, then, yes, I've been working for Merseia. Not bought, nothing like that, I thought the future was theirs, not this walking corpse of an Empire - Merciful angels, can't you see their way's the hope of mankind too? -'"
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 339-606 AT Chapter XVIII, p. 568.

And a non-human motivation for supporting Merseia is provided by Aycharaych.

In The Dennizan Parliament

Four hundred armed zmayi, claiming to represent the whole Obala, enter the Shkoptsina chamber where the parliament is in joint session. The Chief Justice, presiding in the absence of the arrested Gospodar, has been informed of their approach.

"On gilt mural panels were painted the saints and heroes of Dennitza."
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 339-606 AT Chapter XVII, p. 559.

Lords wear rainbow robes, Folk tunics or gowns, Zmayi leather and metal. A majority of Zmayi vote to hear the demonstrators' leaders who can be trusted to be good mannered and to speak briefly. Surely impossible in a human gathering.

The Chief Justice greets the demonstrators in Serbic, "Zdravo," and Eriau, "Hydhref." (ibid.) Flandry, concealed among the demonstrators, realizes that the only member of Parliament whom he knows is the Zmayi, Kyrwedhin. History plays strange tricks on its main protagonists. Since the session is televized, Ywodh addresses his audience, "'Worthies and world...'" (p. 560) When Kossara emerges from between the demonstrators, human beings moan and zmayi rumble. We must continually remember that two rational species are represented here.

Then, at last, the shooting starts, not from the demonstrators, and Kossara takes her first step towards canonization - martyrdom.

In Zorkagrad Old Town

Poul Anderson describes this scene only once but nevertheless generates a sense of solidity and history:

many-balconied mansions;
a plateau of Royal Hill;
the broad, slate-flagged Constitution Square with benches, flowers and trees;
in the centre of the Square, a large fountain with a granite catchbasin and bronze statues of Toman Obilich and Vladimir in combat;
a view down to Lake Stoyan stretching beyond the horizon;
the sprawling, porticoed marble mass of the Capitol, an argent star on its gilt dome;
the battlements and banners of the Zamok/Castle above sheer rock;
antiquated dignified buildings of grey stone;
flapping capes and gleaming rifles of a militia squad on the Capitol verandah;
aircraft circling overhead.

A climax approaches.

Next week looks like being busier with less time for blogging. SM Stirling's The Given Sacrifice has been ordered.

After Armageddon

The title character of Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (London, 2008) wears:

"...a T-shirt with the slogan: ARMAGEDDON WAS YESTERDAY - TODAY WE HAVE A SERIOUS PROBLEM." (Part 3, Chapter 18, p. 295)

If "Armageddon" means the destruction of all life on Earth, then this slogan summarizes After Doomsday by Poul Anderson. An American interstellar spaceship with an all male crew returns to the Solar System after aliens have sterilized Earth. Now the Americans must find the all female European ship and must also solve the mystery of who killed Earth...

If "Armageddon" means the final supernatural conflict between Heaven and Hell, then the slogan summarizes The Day After Judgment by James Blish. In the previous volume, many demons were released from Hell, an exorcism of a major demon failed and that demon claimed victory in Armageddon. What happens now?

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is Volume I of Larsson's Millennium Trilogy.
The Day After Judgment is the sequel to Black Easter and the two works comprise Volume II of Blish's After Such Knowledge Trilogy.
After Doomsday is an independent sf novel.

Eight volumes to read or reread, if anyone is interested.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

When Chives Sounds Like Jeeves

Chives reports to Flandry:

"'...I gathered impressions of their individual feelings as respects the present imbroglio.'"
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 339-606, AT Chapter XVII, pp. 555-556.

"Imbroglio" is certainly Jeeves language. But when Chives says:

"'I chaps might pitch in a bit, don't you know.'" (p. 562) -

- he sounds more like Bertie Wooster. This frivolous speech struck me as inappropriate immediately after Kossara had been shot. In this fight, we learn that a Shalmuan's tail can be used to strangle. (The other day, on Lancaster canal, I watched a swan twisting its neck around to clean its feathers and was struck by how the neck resembled an arm. On Larry Niven's Pierrson's Puppeteers, two limbs are both arms and necks.)

Chives continues:

"'They sheltered me only after I had convinced them I was a revolutionary from my own society...'" (p. 556)

When Wooster's friend, Bingo Little, becomes engaged to a revolutionary, Jeeves rescues Bingo from such an ill-advised liaison by attending a rally, posing as a revolutionary and denouncing Bingo as an aristocratic spy!

In Zorkagrad

Streets are lined with mostly Terran trees - oak, elm, beech, maple.

A demonstration of Mersians/ychani/zmayi marches in battle formation, armed with knives, tridents, harpoons and guns. Formidable, indeed. Quiet and unexcited, unlike human demonstrators, they carry two banners:

the white star on blue of Yovan Matavuly, the human founder of the Dennitzan colony;

the red ax on gold of Gwyth, the ychan hero who dared the storms and sea beasts of the Black Ocean.

Merseians walk digitigrade. They pass:

private homes and condominiums unprotected by forcefields and vacated during the emergency;
militia squads patrolling to prevent looting;
older, higher, close-packed buildings on narrow uphill streets;
red tile roofs;
stucco walls;
midget factories;
a bulbous-domed parish church;
a few big stores;
scores of tiny eccentric shops;
detouring groundcars.

A fighter craft passes low. Merseian marchers, unlike their human equivalents, are able to convey information accurately. The word is that the streets are quiet because direct action by Dennitzan citizens has rounded up Terrans and other Imperials into certain buildings in response to the arrest of the Gospodar. The Zamok/Castle/executive centre has denounced the action as illegal and deployed police but has not yet responded with force.

In several novels, including A Knight..., Anderson conveys the sense of "troubled times" extremely effectively.

Meeting In Person

(A sculpture of a religious founder at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.)

Flandry: "God damn it, why does your parliament have to meet in person? You've got holocom systems. Your politicians could send and receive images...and we could've rigged untraceable methods to call them and give them the facts last night.'"
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 339-606 AT Chapter XVII, p. 550.

(Flandry and Kossara risk assassination by attending the Parliament.)

Kossara: "'Hush, darling...You know why. Electronics will do for ornamental relics. The Shkoptsina is alive, it debates and decides real things, the members need intimacies, subtlties, surprises.'" (pp. 550-551)

Recently, an American scientist spoke on climate change in a building at SOAS (see image). He was asked why he had flown to London instead of Skyping. He replied that, if a conference wants him merely to address an audience, then he Skypes but, if there is the possibility of networking and bridge-building, then he flies because it is a long way to walk.

On Avalon And Dennitza

Avalon is an extrasolar planet jointly colonized by human beings and Ythrians. We should not say "Terrans and Ythrians" because the Founder, David Falkayn, was Hermetian and his fellow colonists included children of an Altaian. Dennitza is an extrasolar planet colonized by Serbian Terrans who later welcomed Merseian immigrants.

On Avalon, there is a Parliament of Man and a High Khruath of all the choths. Many human beings join choths and live under Ythrian law and custom. Some Ythrians adopt the human lifestyle of atomic individuals in a global community and, I imagine, are represented in Parliament. A Khruath, i.e., a periodic meeting of all free adults in a given territory, has judicial and limited legislative but no administrative authority. The planetary High Khruath meets every six years or on extraordinary occasions.

On Dennitza, there is a tricameral Parliament, the Shkoptsina, with Houses of the Lords, the Folk and the Zmayi (Merseians) although Mersians also retain their traditional Vachs. A Vach is not ruled by a Head but served by a Hand.

"'The Shkoptsina's no controlled inner-Empire congress. It's about five hundred proud individuals, speaking for as many different proud sections of land or walks of life. It's often turbulent - fights have happened, yes, a few killings - and tomorrow it'll be wild.'"
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominc Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 339-606 AT Chapter XVI, pp. 548-549.

"'Ychani" is the Eriau name for Dennitzan Merseians:

"'Ychani have always been the Peculiar People of Dennitza. The House of the Zmayi has never entirely spoken for them; it's a human invention.'" (p. 550)

Occasionally, hundreds of Merseians have marched into the Chamber and demanded that their leaders be heard. More like a Khruath?

The Obala IV

See The Obala III.

"Clouds and a loud raw wind had blown in across the ocean."
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (Riverdale, NY, 2012), Chapter XVI, pp. 339-606 AT p. 539.

Obalans see clouds move over ocean and hear and feel wind.

"Morning along the Obala, the east coast of Rodna, was winterlike, sky the color of lead, sea the colors of iron and gunmetal. But neither sky nor sea was quiet. Beneath the overcast a thin smoky wrack went flying; surf cannonaded and exploded on reefs and beaches." (pp. 539-540)

There is also a fourth sense:

"The air smelled of salt and distance." (p. 540)

Salt, yes. Distance? The air smelled as if it had blown a long way?

Indoors, there are again four senses:

"Inside the home of Ywodh were warmth, sun-imitating fluorescents, musky odor of bodies, growls to drown out the piping at the windows." (ibid.)

We learn that Obalan fishers sometimes net "'...flailfish.'" (p. 541)

Ywodh is Hand of the Vach Anochrin on the Obala;
Kyrwedhin is Hand of the Vach Mannoch on the Obala and a member of the House of the Zmayi;
Korvash is Hand of the Vach Rueth on Merseia;
Lazar Ristich is voivode of Kom Kutchi and a member of the House of the Lords;
Bodin Miyatovich is Gospodar of Dennitza.

A wealth of details, both geographical and political.