Saturday, 22 June 2013

War And Peace

Poul Anderson excels at descriptions of nature and of seasonal changes. Throughout Mirkheim (London, 1978), he continually contrasts the peaceful natural beauty of the planet Hermes with the threatened technological warfare to be waged from space.

The Duchess and her son discuss the approaching invaders in a low lit room with three sources of illumination visible through the open French window to the balcony:

the nearby city, hidden by the garden wall, lights the sky and a few steeples;
dew reflects both moons, nearly full;
air car lamps resemble "...many-colored glowflies." (p.113)

There are two other reasons to leave the window open:

"...the odor of daleflower and the trills of a tilirra." (ibid.)

The two moons, the daleflower and the tilirra remind us that the setting is an exotic planet. The air cars remind us that the period is an advanced technological future. Preoccupied Hermetians would take for granted the spectacular sight of a night sky illuminated by multi-colored air car lights whereas the ruling family hopefully has sufficient leisure to appreciate it - except when threatened by imminent invasion and occupation.

We would like to be able to look up at night to see direct evidence of human activity in space even if for many of us it soon became all too familiar and taken for granted.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Your comments about futuristic air cars, FTL, and the settling of other worlds reminds me of one bit of technology Poul Anderson never "foretold" in his Technic History: cell phones. We both know how unbiquitous cell phones are now. Alas, Anderson neve thought of a device like that for his "future history." The closest I've seen SF writers get to any kind of device resembling cell phones before the mid Nineties was Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's pocket computers in THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE.

On the other hand, it was while first reading ENSIGN FLANDRY in 1971 that I first came across the concept of cloning, even tho that word was not used in the book. To say nothing, of course, of the already mentioned air cars, which we still DON'T have.


Paul Shackley said...

SF did have mobile phones. In Heinlein's "We Also Walk Dogs...", a character's phone buzzes so she takes it out of her handbag and in MIRKHEIM, Chapter X, "The portable phone at her belt buzzed." But you mean hand held computer links?

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Dang! I had reread MIRKHEIM not that long ago, and I still forgot about the portable phone in Chapter X of that book. I am glad Poul Anderson thought of analogs of cell phones before they became so common in the Nineties. But I don't remember the Heinlein story you cited.

And, yes, I think what we see in THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE are better called "hand held computer links."

Finished rereading A CIRCUS OF HELLS, and I agree with earlier comments by you that we see a still very young Dominic Flandry making mistakes he would not make later. But he was still learning the craft of Intelligence work, both "hands on" and in academic studies. Chapter II of THE REBELS has Admiral Kheraskov mentioning how Flandry returned to Terra for advanced training.

One fairly serious mistake Flandry made was in not pretending to know of Aycharaych when the Merseian xenologist Ydwyr the Seeker mentioned him to Flandry on Talwin. If he hadn't, Flandry might have learned something useful about Aycharaych long before they crossed paths.

A serious mistake Flandry made was at the very end of A CIRCUS OF HELLS, in Chapter XX, with his too impulsive suggestion to Djana that she too might work for Terra as an intelligence agent. Flandry should have kept it brief and tentative, a suggestion for Djana to think about over a period of time. And, above all, I think it was very clumsy of Flandry to suggest to her it would not be too hard for Djana to convince Ydwyr he had "zigzagged" back to being pro Merseian (as a double agent working for Terra). A bad mistake of Flandry, pushing too hard!