Wednesday, 2 March 2016

From The Serious To The Humorous


We see Poul Anderson's Terran Empire annexing planets and suppressing rebellions but not on the scale of Larry Niven's and Jerry Pournelle's Second Empire of Man:

"...the Navy and Parliament officially approved of Kutozov's action in oredering the destruction of a rebel planet - the Imperial Council had determined that the drastic measure had prevented the revolt of an entire sector -..."
-Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, The Mote In God's Eye (London, 1979), p. 92.

Personally, if I knew that a sector, i.e., a number of inhabited planetary systems, wanted to rebel, then I would grant them independence, not destroy a planet. There seems to be a circular argument here:

"Humanity must be reunited into one government, by persuasion or force, so that the hundreds of years of Secession Wars could never happen again." (pp. 4-5)

But surely, if the Secession Wars resume, then they will have been caused by forcible reunification? Why are so many planets keen to rebel?

"A holdout rebel planet might be reduced to glittering lava fields..." (p. 4)

In Anderson's Technic History, the benefits of Imperial rule and protection are such that no planets are shown as rebelling even under the threat of reduction to lava.

From these serious issues, we proceed to some humor concerning Admiral Kutuzov:

"Rod and Sally were at the moment in conference with the Admiral. They met on the bridge: to the best of Rod's knowledge, no one but the Admiral and his steward had ever seen the inside of Kutuzov's cabin. Possibly not even the Admiral, as he seemed always to be on the bridge..." (p. 425)

"As Rod and Sally left the bridge, Commander Borman looked curiously at his Admiral. He wondered if he saw a grin. No, of course not. It simply wasn't possible." (p. 427)

Kutuzov always behaves correctly:

"If there had been an officer of higher rank than [Rod] present at the time, Kutuzov might have explained, but he would not discuss a captain - and future marquis - with Borman." (ibid.)

Of course not! Next, the omniscient narrator tells us what the Admiral "...might have said..." Rather than seeming like an awkward change of pov, this interruption kind of adds to the humor.

6 comments:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    You make interesting and serious points here. Commenting on your third paragraph: rightly or wrongly most large and powerful realms do NOT willingly break up. I only need to cite how the US fought a long and bloody civil war in the 1860's to prevent the secessionist Southern states from breaking away. Following the logic of your comments you would not have opposed the Confederate States attempt to secede. Which means I can understand why Niven/Pournelle's Second Empire took such a strong view against secession.

    As for Poul Anderson's Terran Empire, I would argue that a huge reason why most planets in the Empire were happy to be part of that realm were memories of the Time of Troubles. I think many planets were so traumatized by the wars, barbarian invasions, and sheer anarchy of the Troubles that they not only were eager to join the Empire but CLUNG to it desperately. The Troubles had shown them just how big and dangerous the universe was. The conviction spread that only by unity under the Empire could they survive.

    And I would argue that a similar psychology can be seen among the Imperial administrators and military personnel of Niven/Pournele's Second Empire. But I do agree many in the Second Empire were too willing to use the most extreme measures.

    Yes, I remember the humorous bits about Admiral Kutuzov. They help to show how even that grim and seemingly humorless man had his human side!

    Sean

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    1. Sean,
      In the case of the American Civil War, of course, my main concern would have been to end slavery.
      Paul.

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    2. Kaor, Paul!

      End slavery HOW? By peaceful or violent means? And while slavery was one factor inflaming the quarrels between the states of the US in the 1850's, it was not the only one. And many pro-Unionists didn't care about slavery, it was the unity of the US they cared about. It was only after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, after the Battle of Antietam, that abolition of slavery became more and more of a factor.

      I have wondered what might have happened if the Confederates had had the wit not to attack Ft. Sumter in April 1861. Given the stunned paralysis of the US at the time, the longer a de fact Confederacy existed without any effective response from the Northern States, it's possible the Unionists would have agreed to letting the Confederates go. It was the attack on Ft. Sumter, an attack on the UNITED STATES, which galvanized the North into resolving not to tolerate treason and rebellion.

      Sean

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  2. Paul and Sean:
    H. Beam Piper's future history included a secession attempt called the System States War. The Terran Federation "destroyed" at least three of the System States Alliance worlds, pounding them with what a character refers to as "genocidal weapons of mass destruction."

    One conversation describes the war as:
    "...The Alliance planets took themselves outside the Federation economic orbit and the Federation crushed them."
    Conn swore impatiently. "You've been listening to old Klem Zareff ranting about the Lost Cause and the greedy Terran robber barons holding the Galaxy in economic serfdom while they piled up profits. The Federation didn't fight that war for profits; there weren't any profits to fight for. They fought it because if the System States had won, half of them would be at war among themselves now...."

    Piper stated that divided sovereignty WILL bring conflict. A representative of his (First) Galactic Empire told people on a planet the Empire was annexing:
    "The Terran Federation ... failed and vanished; you know what followed. Darkness and anarchy. We are clawing our way up out of that darkness. We will not fail. We will create a peaceful and unified Galaxy.... But we will not again permit the plague of competing sovereignties, the condition under which war is inevitable."

    Sounds rather like the Second Empire of Man, doesn't it? Pournelle was a friend of Piper....

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    1. Hi, David!

      I agree, your quote from H. Beam Piper's works certainly resembles much of what Jerry Pournelle believes or has written about. It's a hard question: use some force NOW to avoid having to use far more later, with orders of magnitude worse casualties?

      Sean

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  3. David,
    Yes and I obviously need to include Piper in my list of interconnected future historians.
    Paul.

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