Sunday, 28 June 2015

Conquistador, Prologue II

SM Stirling, Conquistador (New York, 2004).

After decades of science fiction publishing, past and future exchange places:

Conquistador is copyright 2003;
its Prologue is set in 1946;
Chapter One is set in 2009;
I am reading it in 2015.

When I started to read sf in the 1960's, year dates like 2003 or 2004 could all too readily appear in a text but never in a publishing history! Such years were, and sometimes felt as if they always would be, "the Future." And do not be fooled into thinking that "2009" is in the past. When this novel was published, it was in the near future. Thus, the characters could, for example, refer to a President of the United States who is not the man that we remember as holding office in that year. If the author wants to prevent his text from becoming dated too quickly, then he will avoid any such references so that later readers might not notice that 2009 was then a near future, not a recent past.

The Prologue is headed First Side/New Virginia. We are to learn what "First Side" means. "Virginia" might make some of us think of John Carter. I gather that New Virginia is in Iowa. The viewpoint character, John Rolfe VI, was wounded by a Nambu machine gun and received a Silver Star. His grandfather, John Rolfe III "...lost a leg at Second Manassas, leading a regiment of the Stonewall Brigade..." (p. 2).

John Rolfe VI trained at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and endured Beast Barracks.  He served in Baker Company and used a Garand rifle. As a Democrat, he "...hadn't forgotten whose idea Reconstruction was or who went around waving the Bloody Shirt afterward..." (p.4) He had a "...Tidewater childhood..." (p. 5)

Our Rolfe (VI) finds his equivalent of Alice's rabbit hole or the Narnian wardrobe in his basement when a silver sheet replaces one of the walls. On the other side of the sheet, he sees an unfamiliar landscape which includes:

"A grizzly. Old Eph himself, a big silvertip male..." (p. 7)

Finally, John Rolfe I had waded onto the Virginia shore carrying a rapier. He sounds like an ERBian hero and a worthy ancestor of Johns III and VI.

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