Thursday, 24 May 2012

Longer Term Questions

A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows is a pivotal novel for two main characters in Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization. Flandry of Terra loses his son and his fiancee. Aycharaych of Chereion loses his planet and his heritage. Flandry carries on. We do not know what happens to Aycharaych. Two volumes later there is a hint that he might have survived but that is all.

Was Aycharaych killed in the bombardment of Chereion? He could have escaped but might not have wanted to. If he did escape, he would have had no reason to continue working either for Merseia or against Terra. Might he instead have worked against Merseia? Could that be why, when the Empire falls, its space is not filled by an expanded Rhoidunate?

How could the Ancients/Chereionites have become extinct? If they are not, then where are they and could Aycharaych have joined them (although his anguish in the face of Flandry's questions does strongly suggest that he is indeed the last Chereionite)? (1) Another science fiction writer might have planned and presented a multi-volume series raising, then answering, these questions. Instead, Anderson wrote a long sequence of stories and novels about various characters living and working in many different well conceived planetary environments.

Longer term questions about history and the Ancients form the background for these works but do not become the prime subject matter. Thus, we get an approximation to real history. What is the later course of the career of Flandry's daughter? What will Fr Axor discover when he continues to examine Ancient ruins? Since the League and the Empire fell, will the Commonalty fall also? Such questions could have been answered if Anderson had just written this one series and had not devoted such attention to details in individual works but had instead concentrated on an Asimovian perspective of big galactic events. However, I think we should be very grateful that Anderson followed the course that he did.

(1) Anderson, Poul, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows, London, 1978, p. 215.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

You have speculated on whether or not Aycharaych survived the Dennitzan bombardment of Chereion. And cited a hint found in THE GAME OF EMPIRE that he might have. Altho I think it's more likely Aycharaych might not have wanted to survive.

But I do have strong doubts over your suggestion that, assuming Aycharaych survived, he turned against Merseia and worked to undermine the Roidhunate. Anderson himself was more inclined to think the long struggle with the Empire so wore out the Roidhunate that it too fell.

A historical analogy seems apt here. Think of the long war between the Eastern Roman Empire and Sassanian Persia during the reigns of Phocas and Heraclius in the 600s. Persia's attempt to conquer the Eastern Empire was thwarted and she herself was broken by Heraclius. Persia was left so badly weakened that she soon fell to the Arab Muslim invasions of the 640s.


Paul Shackley said...

Your knowledge of terrestrial history is better than mine! (But I hope to become an expert in Technic history.)