Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Wider Perspectives

Pulling back from a single volume by Poul Anderson presents an amazing perspective.

The single novel, Rogue Sword (New York, 1960), shows us imperial and military changes in the early fourteenth century.

" '...the Pope has summoned their Grand Master to reply to certain grave charges...' " (pp. 228-229)

That is the Grand Master of the Knights Templar but the reader might not realise that this is the prelude to the suppression of the Templars the following year. This Order, which had pioneered banking, was to be suppressed by a centralised state that wanted its wealth so these events were the modern age in the making.

Meanwhile, the rival military Order, the Hospitallers, plans to take possession of Rhodes, a step towards, centuries later, becoming the still extant Knights of Malta. At the same time, the once mighty Eastern Empire can no longer defend itself against rebelling mercenaries and its enemies include Muslims. This is either the end of civilisation or the beginning of a new one.

The novel shows us all this while, quite properly, remaining within the bounds of historical fiction. But also set in the fourteenth century are a historical fantasy novel showing us the end of Faerie and a science fiction novel showing us the beginning of interstellar contact. Receding away into earlier periods are several novels about Faerie, four other volumes of historical fiction, a tetralogy about the Fall of the Western Roman Empire, a time travel novel set in Atlantis and a heroic fantasy about a character not created by Anderson.

Moving the other way, into the future, we find many works featuring interstellar travel and several about the Fall of the Terran Empire. All these works cannot fit into a single timeline but we also find four volumes and some short stories acknowledging the existence of multiple timelines! Can we ask for more? (There is a more, one contemporary fantasy novel, three mystery novels and many contributions to other writers' science fiction series.)

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