Sunday, 20 July 2014

Historical Science Fiction

Pages 17-25 of Poul Anderson's The Shield of Time (New York, 1991), with the heading "209 B. C.," are a perfect blend of historical fiction and science fiction. The opening paragraph describes a highway beside the River Bactrus where travelers welcome river breezes and shady trees as the cloudless summer heat bleaches wheat, barley, orchards, vineyards, poppies and thistles. At the end of the paragraph, we recognize the name of Manse Everard who, we are told, knows that the long peace of this rich land is about to end. Time travelers know the future.

They also know many current details if they are helped by surveillance from space. That morning, an unmanned spacecraft had tracked Hipponicus' caravan entering Bactra at a time that would suit Everard. Therefore, he had joined the caravan earlier at:

"...Alexandria Eschates on the River Jaxartes, last and loneliest of those cities the Conqueror founded and named for himself..." (p. 19)

Thus, Anderson presents historical information and geography seamlessly blended with the application of future technology by an organization of time travelers who are able to operate in the second century BC completely unsuspected by the merchants with whom Everard travels as Meander the Illyrian.

No comments: