Sunday, 14 October 2012

One Past And Two Futures

Because Poul Anderson's The Golden Slave (New York, 1980), set during the Roman Republic, is unadorned historical fiction that "...might have happened..." (p. 5), its timeline could incorporate our present and any of Anderson's fictitious futures. In fact, it resonates with two of the latter.

Anderson's first future history begins with a short story called "Marius" that refers to the Roman general Marius' victory over the Cimbrians which is the subject matter of The Golden Slave, Chapter II.

Eodan, a captured Cimbrian, describes enslavement:

" 'Not clean death, but marching in triumph, shown like an animal, while the street-bred rabble pelted us with filth! Chained in a pen, day upon day upon day, lashed and kicked, till we finally went on a block to be auctioned! And afterward shoveling muck, hoeing clods, sleeping in a hogpen barracks with chains on every night!' " (p. 50)

Anderson's second future history describes enslavement in the Terran Empire. In A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows (London, 1987), the law requires slaves to wear a bracelet audiovisually linked to a global monitor net through which direct nerve stimulation to the brain can be administered. Not an auction block but a recording room where an enslaved woman is filmed to a running commentary:

" '...human female, age twenty-five, virgin, athletic, health and intelligence excellent, education good though provincial. Spirited but ought to learn subordination in short order without radical measures...' " (p. 24)

Anderson shows us that even slavery can be modernised and technologised. Eodan's plight does not seem remote.

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