Sunday, 9 December 2012

Rogue Sword IV

In Poul Anderson's Rogue Sword (New York, 1960), the chase sequence is followed by another Anderson interest, a summary of some quite complicated military history. An historically genuine but perhaps little known military outfit called the Grand Catalan Company has been employed by, but come into conflict with, the Eastern Empire and we are told many of the details, although we would need to study the text to retain them.

Lucas joins the Company but also refers to a more famous organization:

"Lucas reflected that anyone cast out of so notoriously lax, greedy, and violent a brotherhood as the Knights Templar must have been a bandit indeed." (pp. 82-83)

Yet the Catalan Company welcomes this "bandit" into a leading role.

Reading about the Templars, it becomes necessary to check dates. Rogue Sword, Chapter I, begins in April 1306. The Templars were suppressed, in France to start with, on Friday 13th October 1307, an event covered by Anderson's Time Patrol story, "Death And The Knight." (That story deals quite plausibly with the Templars, explaining their secret rituals without transforming them into anything absurd like a branch of the Patrol, yet still writes one Patrolman's intervention into recorded Templar history.)

Like the same author's The Golden Slave and The Last Viking Trilogy, Rogue Sword is pure historical fiction. These five volumes could be read by historical fiction fans without any reference to Anderson's other works but, reading Rogue Sword instead as part of its author's complete works, we notice its resonances with what I call his "historical science fiction":

Crusaders had sacked Constaninople - that happened in the time travel novel, There Will Be Time;
the Templars will be suppressed - that happens in the Time Patrol story, "Death And The Knight."

A (valid) cliche: the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

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