Thursday, 11 October 2012


On page 120 of Poul Anderson's Conan The Rebel (New York, 1981), Conan and his companions enter the city of Luxur. They take half a page to do so because, as he often does, Anderson describes the scene graphically with lists of details, appealing to several of the senses. In fact here there are four lists:

kinds of traffic (foot, cart, litter, chariot, horse, ox, donkey, camel);
kinds of traveler (laborers, drovers, nomads, merchants, courtesans, soldiers, hawkers, performers, housewives, children, foreigners);
travelers' activities (crowded, jostled, chattered...);
street smells (grease, dung, roast meat, oils, perfumes, drugs, humankind, beastkind).

As always, Anderson celebrates human vivacity and diversity.

He similarly describes the two cities on the colonised planet Avalon in The People Of The Wind, the town of Portolondon in "The Queen of Air and Darkness" and the lairs of the Lunarians in his Harvest of Stars tetralogy. One difference is that the Luxurian state is a static despotism whereas the Avalonians, the Lunarians and the people of Portolondon are politically and individually free and socio-economically dynamic so that in those cases there is more diversity to enumerate and celebrate. But Anderson appreciates basic humanity, whatever its context.

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