Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Djana's Curse


"'I guess I can't stop you from having almost any woman who comes by. But I'll wish this, that you never get the one you really want.'"
-Poul Anderson, Young Flandry (New York, 2010), p. 365.

There are two women whom Flandry really wants. Kathryn McCormac refuses to leave her husband. Kossara Vymezal wants marriage before sex but changes her mind twice. The first time, it would be impractical -

Kossara: "'Would it be wrong? Here in these clean spaces, under heaven?'"
Flandry: "'It would not be very practical, I'm afraid. You deserve better.'"
-Poul Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (New York, 2012), pp. 522-523.

The second time:

"'But, uh, your cathedral wedding -'
"'I've come to see how little it matters, how little the universe does, next to having you while I can. Tonight, Dominic. Now.'
"He seized her to him.
"A flash went blue-white in the front windows.
"They sprang up.'" (p. 534)

Kossara's entire family has been slain. From this moment on, he and she are busy and on the run until she too is killed...

Can Djana's curse really cause all that? Of course, the text is ambiguous. But she definitely did have the psychic power to make conscious beings do what she wanted. Her Merseian mentor measured the effect. A Merseian space crew seeking Flandry's inert vessel detected it by radar but dismissed the object as an asteroid because Djana willed it.

Such control over events rivals the luck of Teela Brown in Larry Niven's Known Space future history. Whatever is lucky for Teela Brown happens, even ancient events with beneficial consequences for her remote future - although hindsight is necessary to see what was beneficial. Djana seems to have a similar effect at a distance.

In case the reader has not read or has forgotten the earlier novel, Flandry tells Kossara:

"'...I'd got a different woman angry at me. She had a peculiar psionic power, not telepathy but - beings tended to do what she desired. She wished on me that I never get the one I wanted in my heart. I'm not superstitious, I take no more stock in curses or spooks than I do in the beneficence of governments. Still - an unconscious compulsion - Bah! If there was any such thing, which I positively do not think, then you've lifted it off me, Kossara...'" (p. 524)

An unconscious compulsion on Flandry could not possibly cause a nuclear explosion to kill Kossara's family at the moment when she said, "Now." When Djana delivered the curse:

"He thought little of her remark, then." Young Flandry, p. 365.

We also think little of it. There is simply no indication that Djana's anger might have such major consequences in two later novels.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An unconscious compulsion on Flandry could not have caused all that, but could Djana's curse have extended to influencing someone else to assassinate Kossara's father, with his whole household, at just the right time? Anderson doesn't tell us. Elsewhere (THE SHIELD OF TIME, in another fictional universe), it seems that events can have a spooky kind of interconnectedness.

For that matter, it seems implausible that Djana's curse, from several years before and many lightyears away, could have made Kathryn McCormac a more faithful wife than she would have been otherwise, but how can we be certain?

The Flandry books leave ambiguous what Djana may or may not actually have caused.

Best Regards,
Nicholas Rosen