Thursday, 27 March 2014

Lack Of Knowledge Of Social Complexities

Anderson, Poul, "The Man Who Came Early" IN Knight, Damon, Ed., 100 Years Of Science Fiction (London, 1972), pp. 185-212.

Unable to support himself in tenth century Iceland, Gerald Robbins is insulted and must fight;
he wants to fight with fists but is obliged to fight to the death;
he kills a man with his gun so the Thing must decide between weregild and outlawry;
failing through ignorance to declare a manslaying at the first garth he seeks, he becomes immediately a murderer and an outlaw;
the slain man's father and brothers attack him till his gun gives out.

I would have known even less than Gerald and succumbed even sooner!

Even when dead, he receives some respect:

it is acknowledged that he defended himself well with a dead man's sword when his gun gave out;
for fear of the ghost, since he may have been a warlock, his body and everything that he had owned, even a valuable knife given as a present, are burned and a barrow erected but shunned.

Although Gerald's story of the world a thousand years hence refutes the priest's claim that the world will end soon, it seems that Gerald himself came from a time when the world might indeed end soon. Suddenly the great social differences between the two periods seem insignificant.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I agree, I seriously doubt I would have prospered or even have survived for long if I had been tossed a thousand years back into the past. Altho L. Sprague de Camp does make a pretty good case for thinking SOME modern men might do well if they were thrown into the past. And de Camp was quite right in depicting Martin Padway as first introducting some MINIMAL innovations as he strove to support himself in sixth century AD Italy.