Saturday, 30 April 2016

Ys Old Town

In Old Town:

the streets are twisting lanes;
upper storeys overhang them;
cobblestones are lumpy;
people are more numerous;
their garments are cheap;
they bear marks of work and sometimes of ill health;
but there is no hunger or poverty;
no smell of refuse or unwashed bodies;
sea air, smelling of salt and kelp, blows here as throughout the city;
there are gulls overhead;
the area is compared favorably to Londinium (the capital of a later Empire);
ancient Shrines and a pre-Ysan Menhir are respected and preserved;
there are cheap hospitable taverns.

An ideal city where even the slum does not sound so bad.

Hivernian Soldiers

Gratillonius' first sight of the High King Niall:

"There was no mistaking the enemy chief, a tall, golden-haired man, like some pagan God of war." (Roma Mater, pp. 282-283)

Gratillonius means to eliminate the enemy chief first but the chaos of battle and something more keep them apart. The Morrigu intervenes. On the human level, this means that the Scoti kill many and escape. Gratillonius reflects:

"If Rome had civilized Hivernia, long ago when that was possible, what soldiers for her its sons would be!" (p. 284)

Here is another parallel between the Roman and British Empires. In 1914-1918, many Irishmen fought for Britain. In 1916, some Irishmen rose against Britain.

"'Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky
"Than at Sulva or Sud El Bar..." (See here and here)

The point of these lines is that it would be better to die at home fighting against the Empire than abroad fighting for it. Gratillonius' regret that the Hivernians are not fighting for Rome reminded me of the ballad-singer's regret that many Irishmen did fight for Britain. History resonates.

Rain, Twilight, Odours And Bird Calls

Many Andersonian descriptive passages appeal to at least three of the senses. Here we have four:

"Weather had brought rainshowers, through free of the cold east wind or frost that would have boded ill for the coming season. Now clouds drifted low and leaden beneath an overcast that quite hid the sun and laid an early twilight in the valley. Breezes plucked fitfully at grass and leaves. Odours of growth had given way to dankness. Homebound rooks cawed afar, otherwise silence abided the night."
-Poul and Karen Anderson, Roma Mater (New York, 1989), pp. 241-242.

We can usually rely on the concluding sentences of such a paragraph to gather together some odors and sounds! All that remains is for the characters to eat or drink something.

Niall the High King walks in the twilight with his chief advisers because he is uncertain about taking his fourteen year old son, Breccan, to war as well he might be. The son will die and Niall will blame anyone but himself. What can Breccan want but to go to war? This is the example set by his father. To the Goddess, Niall says:

"'I promise You many slain...but this You know I have given and will give.'" (p. 256)

"They agreed that the raven had been a marvellous vision, a holy vision, foretelling slaughtered foes, plundered lands, and return to fame. Breccan was so rapt in dreams of it..." (p. 259)

What an upbringing! And when the Ysan defense of Armorica wrecks Niall's fleet and kills Breccan, Niall can blame no one but Ys! Later, Niall will die in the same way as Breccan. Those who live by the sword...

Threats To Ys

(i) Although the Roman Empire has become Christian, both the decline of the Empire and the advances made by Christian missionaries threaten Ys.

(ii) Niall's renewed onslaught will also threaten Ys although we do not know that yet. In fact, it will be the beginning of the end. By protecting not itself but the rest of Armorica, Ys will earn his undying hatred.

(iii) The previous post cited two instances of "England's disadvantage" (Roman civil war, World War I) becoming "Ireland's advantage" (Niall's renewed onslaught, the Easter Rising).

We have compared Gratillonius refusing to wear a crown with Cromwell refusing the kingship. Now we compare Niall's assault on the Roman Empire with the Irish rebels' assault on the British Empire.

Gratillonius is the second Roman soldier to become King of Ys:

the Ysans helped Caesar to defeat another Armorican tribe;
Caesar visited Ys;
he appointed a soldier to kill and become the King;
Ys became a Roman foederate;
Augustus sent engineers to erect the sea wall and the gate;
Ys was effectively ruled by Queen Brennilis whose vision had told her that the sea would rise.

Thus, there is a Roman King of Ys both at the beginning and at the end of the Age of Brennilis. The perpetual threat to Ys is from its God, Lir - "'May His wrath not be upon us...'" (Roma Mater, p. 191), - Who insists on a dry-laid wall that He will be able to destroy.

Queen Forsquilis shows Gratillonius her arcane objects:

a Tyrian figurine;
inscribed bones;
dried herbs;
flints -

- and comments:

"'These things are not needful in themselves... They are but teachers and helps.'" (p. 201)

That reminds me of something that a Merseian says in A Circus Of Hells but I will be unable to access that novel until tomorrow evening.

The following evening -

Ydwyr's arcane objects are:

two mounted animal skulls;
convoluted tubes and flasks;
a large carved monolith;
a large, beaked, leathery, winged, perched "thing" - alive or stuffed?

He describes them as:

"'...symbols...certain objects, certain rites, which different thinking species have found will help raise buried parts of the soul.'"
-Poul Anderson, Young Flandry (New York, 2010), p. 301)

Places Of Worship In Birmingham And Ys

In Birmingham, we visited the Central Mosque, where we watched an imam leading prayers, and St Martin's Church (see image and here), where we ate in the cafe and I meditated in a side chapel. On the street, I heard a Christian preacher and received a free Koran from a Muslim propagandist - but, when I sat on a bench to read it, a passerby advised me to read the Bible! Like Poul and Karen Anderson's King of Ys Tetralogy, these are books in which God(s) are active. In fact, here is a centuries-spanning scriptural sequence:

a Torah scroll in a synagogue;
a Bible on an eagle lectern in a church;
a Koran in a mosque;
a Granth at the highest point of a Gurdwara.

And what a seemingly endless historical succession: the Granth includes hymns written by Muslims who accepted the Koran which repeats stories from the Bible which incorporates the Torah which is the only scripture accepted by Samaritans. Other hymns in the Granth were written by Hindus who accepted the Veda and its many sequels. These are the works of millennia, not of any single author or even of a husband-wife team... Nevertheless, the Andersons present an impressive four-volume account of changes among Europeans and their Gods.

If I were able to visit Ys, both backwards and sideways in time, I would:

visit the various Temples and Shrines;
ask whether it was permissible to meditate in one of them;
in any case, meditate in lodgings in Old Town or high in one of the towers surrounded by seagulls.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Places Of Worship In Ys

At the Forum: the Temples of Taranis and Mars.
At Elven Gardens: the Temple of Belisama.
In Old Town, near the harbor: Menhir place and the Shrines of Lir, Melquart and Ishtar.

Taranis, Belisama and Lir are the Three of Ys.
Melquart and Ishtar were the earlier names of Taranis and Belisama, respectively.
The former Temple of Mars is now a church.
The Menhir is a megalith that was raised to an unknown God before the city was built.

Thus, seven places but only six deities and only four of them currently active: the Three and Christ.

Adminius, a Christian:

"'...know[s] when somewhere is 'aunted...'" (Roma Mater, p. 180)

The Three are real and have not yet withdrawn but:

"'...we live in such an age of breakup -'" (p. 200)

"' this age when the very Gods are troubled and faltering...'" (p. 201)

"...the Gods of Ys...would not demean Themselves to plead for worshippers against a new God Who was to come..." (p. 215)

The Empire declines, trade shrinks, raiders harry, barbarians invade, evangelists proselytise and:

"Among the Gallicenae arose a feeling that they had come to the end of still another age. What would the new one bring? None could foreknow. Like a creature of the sea, Ys drew into its shell and waited." (p. 216)

There is an old saying that England's disadvantage is Ireland's advantage. When Niall's spy tells him that the Romans are again at civil war, he plans to re-attack their territory. The Dublin Easter Rising took place in 1916.

Romans In Ys

What do Roman soldiers do in Ys?

(i) They are barracked in Warriors' House.

(ii) On a rota, they guard the palace with Ysan marines because their centurion is now King.

(iii) The catechumen Budic visits the church where he finds the chorepiscopus entertaining his good friend, Queen Bodilis. She has ensured that the clergyman is well treated and has tried to get him elected to the Symposium because he and she:

"'...share love of books, art the wonders of earth and sea and heaven.'" (Roma Mater, p. 172)

This is a good example of a fruitful inter-faith exchange. (Someone from our meditation group occasionally attends a gathering of local Christians, Muslims etc. On such occasions, we learn to eat not sandwiches but samosas.)

(iv) Guided by a deckhand in the Ysan navy, Cynan and Arminius set off to walk by Aurochs Gate and Goose Fair to the inns in the Fishtail slum -

- interrupted!

The Forum

Roman engineers rebuilt much of Ys while building its sea wall. They called its central square the Forum although it was never a market place. At this Forum, Lir and Taranis Ways cross and there are several Roman-style public buildings:

the temple of Taranis;
basilica for Imperial officials when present;
the temple of Mars, now a church.

The Council of Suffetes meets in a chamber in the basilica. At the centre of the Forum is a triple-basined fountain with mosaics of dolphins and sea horses. At festivals, oil is pumped through and set alight. The Mars temple faced south so the Christians have made a new entrance in the western side. Why? From the Andersons' notes, it seems that Christianity then functioned more like a mystery religion:

clergy lower than bishops could not baptise or consecrate bread and wine;
baptism was done only once or twice a year;
children were not usually baptised;
believers not yet baptised could enter a church only as far as the vestibule;
they were dismissed before Communion began.

The single priest has a supply of consecrated bread and few believers, most not yet baptised.

Gratillonius is the new Roman prefect but has also become the King so he resides in the palace or the King's House, not in the basilica or a house near it.

Gratillonius and Dahilis

The Ysans' difficulty with Gratillonius' name continues. Dahilis says:

'''...Gra- Gratillonius.'
"Her Latin weak, she occasionally had trouble keeping the syllables of his name in place." (Roma Mater, p. 166)

Gratillonius takes the opportunity to practise his Ysan. Poul Anderson's fiction refers to several languages that we would like to hear:

League Latin (surely a simplified form).

In Star Trek films, Vulcan and Klingon are spoken with subtitles. If Anderson's works were to be adapted, then a script writer might devise a few sentences in some of his fictional languages. Manse Everard of the Time Patrol once says in Temporal: "'Everard Unattached. Come immediately. Combat.'" That should be spoken too fast for us to discern the syllables but subtitled in English.

The seventeen year old Dahilis must advise Gratillonius that he is obliged to give attention to all his wives who are her Sisters in the Mystery. She prays to Belisama that Gratillonius live for many years and that she die before him. She promises to return in the sea.

Dahilis' prayers will be answered. She will die before him and will return in the sea.

The Ysan Palace

A building with outbuildings;
small but ample and pleasant;
surrounded by a walled, intricate garden of hedges, bowers, topiaries, flowers and paths;
vigorous images of wild beasts in a forest on the northern and southern walls;
boar and bear sculptures flanking the stair to the portico;
a bronze main door, decorated with human figures;
domed upper storey set back on a green copper roof;
on the dome, a gilt eagle with outstretched wings;
inside, luxurious chambers off a hall and an atrium floored with a mosaic of charioteers;
brow-touching servants, not slaves;
on a spring day, dew, blossoms, every kind of bird song and storks overhead.

It has been worthwhile to pause and appreciate this description. The palace and its garden are the setting of a serious conversation between the new King, Gratillonius, and his youngest Queen. On a first reading, we race ahead to find out what troubles Queen Dahilis. The authors have given us all this detail that we probably miss but it is there to be reread. A large format edition of The King Of Ys illustrated in color would be a good idea.

"What Else Is There...?"

In Poul and Karen Anderson's Roma Mater (London, 1989), the Speaker for Taranis speaks of winning concessions from the Roman Empire, then adds:

"'I seek the welfare of my city, my House, my sons, and myself... What else is there to strive for?'" (p. 159)

That question almost answers itself. Other cities? Other families? The Empire? Civilisation? Mankind? The world? But that would be asking rather a lot of an Ysan. His Gods have a covenant only with his city, not with the world. They are the sorts of Gods that you make deals with out of expediency, not as a result of any higher moral obligations.

So perhaps there are two moral levels higher than that of the Speaker? -

devotion to a truly universal deity who is served only because of His goodness, not because of any specific deal that He might have made with the founders of a single city;

dedication to the welfare of humanity whether or not this has been ordered by any deity.

Polytheism, monotheism and atheism: from our historical perspective, we are able to assess these three world views.

The Ysan Queens' Homes

Grallon is the legendary last King of Ys. Gaius Valerius Gratillonius is a fictional character created by Poul and Karen Anderson. This fictional character will fulfil the legendary role of Grallon and, as part of this process, his name will change because the Ysans find it difficult to pronounce his polysyllabic surname. The changing of the name begins on p. 158 of Roma Mater (London, 1989) when Queen Lanarvilis says:

"'This Gra - Gra-lo - Gratillonius has met the leaders of Ys...'"

The legend bears two versions of the name, Grallon and Gradlon. The Andersons are careful to account for both versions in the course of Ysan mispronunciations.

Lanarvilis discusses the new King with the Speaker for Taranis in the privacy of her own home and thus we learn more about the Queens' homes. They were built nearly four hundred years previously, plain outside but Roman inside. Thus, there is an "atrium." (p. 157) All are in the neighbourhood of Elven Gardens and the temple of Belisama. They descend from Queen to Queen and each occupant leaves her mark. The knocker on Lanarvalis' door, smoothed by generations of use, is in the shape of a serpent biting its tail. This symbolizes eternal recurrence. The symbolism will soon be rendered false.

Beyond an inner door, the Speaker finds dark windows but soft lamps, blue carpet, crimson drapes, fine furniture, walrus ivory, crystal flagons, cheeses, spiced mussels and Lanarvilis rising from a settee. We vicariously enjoy the wealth of Ys and the secrecy of their conversation as the steward, a well-paid servant, not a slave, leaves them alone.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Foreign Kings

The King of Ys:

"...must always be a foreigner, lest grudges fester and feuds flame in Ys." (Roma Mater, p. 152)

That principle sounds familiar. In Britain, the new Headteacher of a school never rises to that position from within the school but is always appointed from outside. That has a unifying effect on the staff. All the staff-room factions, from the National Union of Teachers to the Christian Union, can agree in criticizing the Head. I knew one guy who spent his entire working life within a single school where he rose to the position of Deputy Head but could only have become a Headmaster by moving to another school and was happy where he was. I think that the same principle is applied to captains of ships? We see Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry, as part of his training in Naval Intelligence, taking command of a spaceship and having to prove himself to the men which he does despite losing the ship. They capture a rebel ship with its codes and thus abruptly end a civil war.

Flandry's space operatic predecessors include a certain Flash Gordon whose adventures make an interesting political point. Ming the Merciless rules Mongo by divide and rule. The various oppressed humanoid species cannot unite against Ming because none of their factions can accept leadership from within any other faction - but they can accept the leadership of a hero from off-planet... And, on Barsoom, John Carter alone was able to unite Thark, Warhoon and lesser green hordes against Zodanga, the enemy of Helium.

So we can make some comparisons between these disparate characters:

John Carter;
Flash Gordon;
Dominic Flandry;
the King of Ys;
British Headteachers.

A Queen's House

The King of Ys is married to the Nine Witch Queens/Gallicenae although he lives either in the palace within the city or in the King's House in the Sacred Wood at the end of Processional Way outside the city and each of the Queens has her own house in the city. The oldest Queen, Quinipilis, lives in a rectangular house of sandstone blocks and a red-tiled roof. It opens directly onto a wealthy residential street and has only a small garden of flowers at the back. Most neighbouring houses are larger with two or three floors. They are decorated with colourful scenes, spirals, keys or geometrical shapes. Ys fulfils its reputation as a city of wonders.

The street is narrow but paved and clean. Rubbish is removed unlike in later medieval cities. Sewage goes not into the sea, which would anger Lir, but into tanks of earth where it becomes manure. Thus, where we would say, "Do not pollute" and "Recycle," the Ysans say, "Do not offend the sea god." Foot traffic is:

menials in vivid liveries en route to the markets;
tool-carrying artisans;
children too young for school;
the elderly;
leisured youths.

Draught animals are used only on the major routes. Households have pet birds, cats or ferrets. Elsewhere in the city, gulls fly around the brightly coloured wooden upper stories of towers where the lower levels are of stone. Quinipilis' rich neighbours run businesses if male or their households if female. The city is peaceful, safe, well-governed and not in want although less prosperous than before. Its income is maritime from fishers, merchants and a few raiders. Internal exchange is mainly by barter. Imported raw materials make goods that are sold elsewhere as are salt, preserved fish, whale oil, tusks etc. "'...Ys endures."" (Roma Mater, p. 142)

But it won't.

Lir Way

(Today, we visited Birmingham Central Mosque.)

According to pp. 137, 144 of Roma Mater (London, 1989) by Poul and Karen Anderson, Lir Way, the main east-west avenue of Ys, stretches from an arch by Skipper's Market to High Gate which opens onto Aquilonian Way. However, the map of Ys on p. 11 shows Taranis Way in this position and Lir Way crossing it at right angles in the Forum at the city centre, thus stretching from north to south.

According to the text, Gratillonius and Quinipilis, one of his Nine Queens, leave Quinipilis's house, which opens directly onto a street, and walk along the street until it joins Lir Way. Near the end of the street, they can see Elven Gardens and the adjoining temple of Belisama. Lir Way (or maybe it is Taranis Way) brings them to High Gate, Warriors' House and Dragon House. There they climb the stairs to the top of the city wall and to the tower called the Gaul. Walking south, they pass the Roman tower. They see Point Vanis to the north, Cape Rach to the south, many rooftop catch basins, a storage tower for water from the canal and buildings of as many as fifteen stories.

Taranis Way is said to run from Aurochs Gate to Northbridge Gate whereas the map shows Lir Way doing this. Gratillonius and Quinipilis pass Goose Fair by Aurochs Gate. The description gives us two other senses:

"Savouriness drifted in smoke from foodstuffs, merchants cried their wares from booths." (p. 141)

From the Raven Tower, they see bastions and the sea portal. They descend and pass the shipyard. p. 149 says that they turn left towards the temple of Lir although the map suggests that they would turn right at this point. They climb back up by the Gull Tower and continue to walk around the city wall, passing Northbridge Gate, Star House and the Water Tower that is used as an observatory. They reenter the city at the Gaul.

"In Ys the idea was current that consciousness resided in the head." (p. 151)

Where else would consciousness reside except behind the eyes, nose and palate and between the ears. Animal life might be located in the stomach but surely not awareness and thought? - although I have read that the Biblical phrase "hardness of heart" means lack of understanding, not lack of compassion.

Recent Blogging

Recent associative thought processes on this blog:

Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium future history;
within that, Prince Of Sparta by Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling;
within that, tumultuous events in the Spartan Senate;
by association, tumultuous events in the World Federation Parliament of Poul Anderson's The Star Fox;
also, the Council of Suffetes in Poul and Karen Anderson's King of Ys Tetralogy;
by extension, the entire Tetralogy;
by comparison, other works by Anderson.

I am now well into rereading The King of Ys. The moral of the story: blogging is both endless and unpredictable.

Different Kinds Of Beings

Poul Anderson's fiction presents:

time travelers;
immortal time time travelers, i.e., the Time Patrol members;
Danellians, who founded the Time Patrol;

In fantasy, it is unnecessary and probably wrong to explain the powers of the gods because any explanation or rationale transforms fantasy into sf. Danellians are the next stage of evolution after humanity. Immortals are ordinary human beings who merely live longer. Time travelers are ordinary human beings with access to time machines - usually, although, in There Will Be Time, they are mutants and I have tried to show that the Time Patrollers surely transcend any ordinary perception of time. Also, on several occasions, they are perceived as gods or angels by people in the past and, to the Patrollers themselves, Danellians are god-like. However, real "gods" are those whose powers are a mythical or fictional premise not requiring any explanation.

Time, Space And History

Two further considerations differentiate a Time Patrolman's perception of time from ours. First, his time jumps are subjectively instantaneous. Thus, he does not perceive, e.g., the tenth century as any further away from 2016 than the twentieth. All are equidistant. Secondly, after any futureward jump, he might arrive in an altered timeline and might then be unable to return to his preferred timeline. This ineradicable element of uncertainty has got to add the final touch of unreality to any familiar concepts of temporal sequence.

There are two moments when the historical fantasy of the King of Ys Tetralogy touches on science fictional issues. First, a clairvoyant priestess says:

"'The stars are more far away than ever we knew; the cold of those vastnesses comes seeping down over the world, through and through me.'" (Roma Mater, p. 90)

Can she sense interstellar distances?


"'...his destiny has reached out of the future and touched him.
''He feels it.'" (p. 91)

Can the future affect the past, as in time travel?

Lastly for now, an event in Ys prefigures a similar occasion in seventeenth century England. Gratillonius, Mithraist, cannot accept the crown ''...for the God alone is Lord.'" (p. 126) Oliver Cromwell, Puritan, cannot accept the crown of England because Christ, not man, is King.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

History As Time And Place

(I am operating away from home with an unfamiliar computer. Images and links will be added when I am back home on the laptop.)

Whereas the immortals in Poul Anderson's The Boat Of A Million Years live through past and future history, just through more of it than the rest of us, his Time Patrolmen live and work in it. For the Patrolmen, history is not only a sequence of past events to be remembered or studied but also a four dimensional panorama to be directly experienced. They can revisit not only the site of the Battle of Hastings but also the Battle of Hastings. And their lifespans are indefinitely extended. Thus, they also are immortals and, if appropriate, could spend several subjective centuries roaming backwards and forwards within a single objective century. Imagine living through the whole twentieth century, first in Britain, then in the United States, then somewhere else. And they can return to their base time, if they have one, a moment after leaving it even if they have meanwhile, in terms of their subjective experience, spent years or decades somewhen else.

That has got to alter their perception and understanding of time, duration, age, everything that defines and limits human existence. How do the Danellians, who are post- or superhuman, perceive time? They preserve past history because it leads to them but they must be able to intervene in their own future history in order to ensure that that future does not include their own extinction?

Anderson's Time Patrol series focuses on several historical turning points but does not begin to address the questions raised in this post but can anyone address them?

Star Of The Sea

The sign of the cross links the Time Patrol to the King of Ys, as also does the Star of the Sea. The dead Ysan King's ashes are strewn at sea:

"...given to Belisama (Ishtar, Ashtoreth, Aphrodite, Venus, Nerthus...), the Star of the Sea." (Roma Mater, p. 121)

Ys is a colony of Carthage which was a colony of Tyre. Time Patrol shows us the Tyrian Temple of Ashtoreth and Nerthus and the process by which the Star of the Sea, Stella Maris, becomes Mary.

When Gratillonius becomes King of Ys, he simultaneously represents three deities because he is:

a servant of Mithras;
the incarnation of the Ysan god, Taranis;
the prefect of Roman, responsible for appointing a Christian chaplain to the city after consultation with the nearest bishop.

Gratillonius also embodies a time of change because:

he is the last King of Ys;
in his lifetime, Mithras and the Ysan Triad will join the Olympians in withdrawing before the new God;
his own daughter will have to be exorcised by a Christian priest after her transformation by the Ysan sea god, Lir;
after the inundation of Ys and the withdrawal of the Empire from Gaul, Gratillonius will oversee new defensive measures that are destined to become medieval feudalism - a necessary historical stage between ancient slave-owning empires and modern society.

Virgil's Aeneid, enjoyed by Gratillonius, shows the mythological origins of Rome and its Empire. The King of Ys Tetralogy shows us the historical decline of the Empire. The Time Patrol series shows us history. Several other series are future histories.

Many Gods

I have heard that there is a very long list of parallels between Christianity and Mithraism but have not been able to confirm all of them. Poul and Karen Anderson mention on p. 78 of Roma Mater (London, 1989) that both had their sabbath on Sunday. Why have a sabbath on a particular day?

Jews: God rested on Saturday;
Christians: Christ rose on Sunday;
Seventh Day Adventists: Christians who revert to Saturday;
Mithraists: Sunday but why?
Muslims: Friday, in order to be different from Jews and Christians (I think);
Sikhs: attend Gurdwara on Sunday in Christian countries.

A slave boy asks:

"'You're not Jesus?...I heard Jesus is the God in the city. I heard He is kind.'" (p. 69)

Gratillomius, a Mithraist, replies:

"'I am not He...but I promise Jesus will always watch over you.'" (ibid.)

What else could he say? My niece suddenly realised an apparent contradiction: her father had gone up to Heaven and down into a grave. How could he do both? I told her that we would find out when it happened to us and she was satisfied with that. (I did not add "if.")

A soldier sneers when he hears that one of his comrades observes Lent but adds:

"'I suppose someone among us may as well get in good with Jesus...'" (p. 75)

He attends Mass sometimes but visits the temple of Nodens when he can.

Thus, a society in which no one god has become dominant yet - and I like it. Buddhism spreads to different countries without disturbing the local gods too much although a Buddhist in Tibet is said to have "tamed" some local gods there.


Marcus tells his son:

"'Sink or swim, you're a Roman!'" (Roma Mater, p. 59)

Usage extends the meanings of words. Gratillonius is not from Rome but is a Romanised Briton. Marcus acknowledges this distinction with his next thought:

"And how many such are left? he did not ask. Men who have hardly a drop of blood in them from Mother Rome, and who will never see her whom they serve. Can she hold their faith, today when new Gods beckon?" (ibid.)

I am not sure which "new Gods" he means. Although Marcus himself is a Mithraist, the Roman Empire has already been Christianised. Thus, the new God of the Piscean Age has already conquered the Empire without deRomanising it. Indeed, many Christians to this day are identified as "Roman" - another extension of the word.

Our uses of words are extremely creative:

one parable extended the meaning of the word "neighbour";
another changed the meaning of the word "Samaritan";
homosexuals, objecting to the word "queer," appropriated the word "gay";
there is a chain of "New York Italian" restaurants in Britain, including some in Old York;
and, of course, - back to where we started - Italians are usually Roman Catholics - all roads lead there etc.

What Do You Know Of Ys?

Gratillonius asks Marcus what he knows of Ys. That is a portentious question and the Andersons will not tell us Marcus' answer without a dramatic build-up. Between question and answer, there is a six sentence paragraph and one further sentence. Let us number these sentences (i)-(vii).

(i) "Wind roared and whistled." (Roma Mater, p. 58)

Wind is a powerful symbol of gods and magic. Later, when a ship's captain realizes that Gratillonius is "pagan" and ejects him from his cabin:

"The centurion did not argue, but rose and went forth onto the deck, into the wind." (p. 66)

(ii) "Clouds were appearing over the horizon."

Clouds appear when the mysterious "Veiled" Ys is mentioned.

(iii) "Their shadows raced across winter-grey hills and the few springtime-wet croplands."

Shadows, winter, greyness and only a hint of spring.

(iv) "A solitary willow nearby lashed its withes around."

Expressive enough.

(v) "At their removes, the manor house and the soldiers' camp looked very small."

Civilization suddenly seems small.

(vi) "The hawk wheeled scornful overhead."

In fact, nature scorns it. Ysan magic controls nature and the Witches send their souls forth as birds.

(vii) "Lines deepened in Marcus' brow and beside his mouth."

At last, Marcus responds but at first non-verbally. Then:

"'I was never there myself,' he said."

We are still not told anything! At last we learn that:

he has spoken with three or four captains, each of whom had called there only once;
the Ysans travel and trade but do not receive traders at their city;
the city is wonderful, ''...of the hundred towers...'" (p. 58);
but there is always "' otherness.'" (ibid.)

The Cross Of Light

"...Harpagus drew the sign of the cross, which was a Mithraic sun-symbol."
-Poul Anderson, "Brave To Be A King" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), pp. 55-112 AT p. 77.

"Marcus drew a sign before him, the Cross of Light that marked the shield of his warrior God."
-Poul and Karen Anderson, The King Of Ys: Roma Mater (New York, 1988), p. 58.

Marcus is a Mithraist. The second quotation informs us that Mithras, like a Crusader, defended himself in battle with a shield that is marked with a cross.

It is good to find this link between the Time Patrol and the King of Ys. These two series are historical science fiction and historical fiction with an element of fantasy, respectively. Uniform editions could be in four volumes each:

The Time Patrol
The Guardians Of Time
The Gods Of Time
The Thieves Of Time
The Shield Of Time

The King Of Ys
Roma Mater
The Dog And The Wolf 

In the Time Patrol series:
time travelers are mistaken for gods;
gods appear in mythological passages;
the meaning of the Patrol is revealed in Volume IV;
a history like ours is preserved, with Cyrus' early life as a legend.

In The King Of Ys:
gods influence events;
Ys is destroyed in Volume IV;
our history unfolds, with Ys as a legend.

A New Age

Gratillonius' father, Marcus, says:

"'...Rome endures, and that is what matters.'"
-Poul and Karen Anderson, Roma Mater (New York, 1989), p. 52.

It does not. He means the Roman Empire and that has not endured despite attempts to preserve or revive it. The City of Rome has endured so far, acquiring a different significance. But we have just seen that Romano-British society is changing around Marcus - and the Empire will soon withdraw.

Hivernian wisewomen and druids sense change:

"Wisewomen said [shifty weather signs] portended strange doings and great changes..." (pp. 31-32)

A druid says:

"'The signs I have read, in stars and staves and secret pools, are signs of mighty deeds, of a world in travail with a new birth.'" (pp. 35-36)

The new God's Patrician will soon enter Hivernia.

The Ysans also know that there will be a new age although not what will be in it. See here. The Nine know that changes in the heavens mean changes among the Gods. We are the heirs of those anticipated changes.

I am in Birmingham but with access to a computer.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

"A World Forever At War"

A rather obvious idea in science fiction/time travel fiction is for someone to organize combat between soldiers from different times and places. Something like this happened in Doctor Who. Although involving interstellar space travel but no time travel, Jerry Pournelle's War World shared universe is obviously designed for a similar purpose. These are extracts from the blurb on the back cover of the 1988 Baen Books edition:


"Born of rebellion and civil war, Haven is home to diverse races.

"*The Saurons. A race of militaristic supermen...

"*Apaches who are forced into an alliance with sea-faring descendants of the Vikings in a desperate attempt to fend off the Saurons...

"* The last regiment of Imperial Marines."

Of course Poul Anderson is able to contribute to this series and of course his contribution is not what we expect. It is he who writes about the Marines yet his story contains no combat. Instead, it addresses divided loyalties and the effort to get the Marines back into space so that they can defend the Empire or at least what is left of civilization.

Other Fictional Universes

BLOG UPDATE: The previous three posts have been copied from other blogs to give them wider coverage here. The present post is original to this blog.

"'It would be nice to see that man Stephen Byerly someday be coordinator.'"
-Poul Anderson, "Plato's Cave" IN Martin H Greenberg, Ed., Foundation's Friends (London, 1991), pp. 234-277 AT p. 250.

"'The Empire's in upheaval.'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Deserter" IN Jerry Pournelle, John F Carr and Roland Green, Eds., War World: The Burning Eye (New York, 1988), pp. 54-105 AT p. 64.

These two quotations demonstrate that Poul Anderson can be fully at home in other authors' fictional universes. The Empire of the second quotation is neither Isaac Asimov's Galactic Empire nor Anderson's own Terran Empire but Jerry Pournelle's First Empire of Man. But Anderson understands the processes in these two universes as well as in his own.

Here is another reference to the Dog and the Wolf:

"...any flourishing ranch draws wolves, once the watchdogs have departed." (The Burning Eye, p. 67)

- and a parallel with Anderson's Technic History:

"Like a receding tide, the withdrawal of the Empire was slow and fitful." (The Burning Eye, p. 68)

"...Irumclaw lay like a piece of wreckage at the edge of the receding tide of Empire."
-Poul Anderson, A Circus Of Hells IN Anderson, Young Flandry (New York, 2010), pp. 193-365 AT p. 204.

I confess to some uncertainty as to what happens at the conclusion of "The Deserter." The narrator leaves two men in a cave and they are not there when he returns... OK. He has connived at their escape - I think.

A Christain And A Mithraist II

See here.

There is a further issue here. Maximus contemptuously dismisses Gratillonius as "pagan," thus categorizing him alongside worshipers of the Olympian pantheon. Probably Maximus would not have liked it if the boot had been on the other foot: a Mithraist establishment classifying Christians as pagans? Or would Maximus have been a Mithraist if that had been the established religion?

A minimal requirement for mutual respect and understanding is that we describe others in terms acceptable to them:

Muslims should not be called "Mohammadans";
Catholics should not be called "idolators";
social democrats should not be called "communists" (these terms were synonymous but both have changed their meaning).

Are some Catholic practices idolatrous? It is important that we listen to Catholics and understand why they do not accept that description. On the basis of understanding, we might convert to Catholicism or continue to accept some other world-view. How much avoidable ill will is caused by wilful misunderstandings?

A Christian And A Mithraist

Poul and Karen Anderson, The King Of Ys: Roma Mater (London, 1989), p. 23.

Maximus: You are pagan.
Gratillonius: Sir, I do not worship Jupiter, if that's what you mean.
Maximus: But Mithras. Which is forbidden. For your soul's good, understand. You'll burn forever after you die, unless you take the Faith.

Maximus goes on to describe unChristian belief as "obstinate," as if belief were a choice. We still have these problems with many Christians:

(i) belief in the damnation of unbelievers;

(ii) an inability to discuss belief with unbelievers except on the assumption that the belief is true which, of course, an unbeliever does not accept!

(i) Belief becomes the self-referential subject matter of belief: "I believe that it is necessary to believe..." And the motive can be entirely selfish: if you do not believe, then you are damned.

(ii) Three men, A, B and C, are surrounded by an impenetrable fog. A thinks that they are at point X on the map whereas B doubts this and C is convinced that, wherever else they may be, they are not at X. If there were a D, then he might think that they were at point Y; E might think that the map is inaccurate etc. But let's just stay with A, B and C. Instead of first settling the issue of their location, A merely says, "Because we are at X, we must proceed north from here." When he is reminded that he has not yet persuaded either B or C that they are at X, he looks at them without apparent comprehension and then merely repeats, "If we proceed south from X, then we fall into a pit..." Eventually, B and C must strike out on their own.

War World: The Burning Eye

War World, Vol I: The Burning Eye (New York, 1988), created by Jerry Pournelle, "A New Shared Universe," with the editorial assistance of John F Carr and Roland Green, published by Baen Books, dedicated to Jim Baen.

A map of the moon, Haven.

A Chronology from the Moon landing in 1969 to the Great Patriotic Wars, the End of the CoDominium and the Exodus of the Fleet in 2103.

A Table of Contents.

Prolog: "Discovery", unattributed, pp. 1-8.
"Haven": Description; Early History, unattributed, pp. 9-12.
A note on the Bureau of Relocation, unattributed, pp. 13-15.
Nine stories by different authors, each preceded by an unattributed note, the first being the one on BuReloc.
"Discovery," unattributed, pp. 361-362.
An unattributed note, pp. 363-366.

I will at least read the stories by Poul Anderson, SM Stirling and Harry Turtledove and the explanatory notes and check through the rest. I am reminded of Anderson's deposed psychotechnicians exiled on an outer moon in the Solar System.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Changing Times

We live in times of technological innovation, economic change and social upheaval and have been doing so since the agricultural revolution. Gratillonius' father goes into horse breeding for several reasons.

The countryside population declines as small farms, ruined by taxes and weak markets, are abandoned or swallowed by plantations. Competent farm workers are either impossible to find or too expensive to hire whereas veteran cavalrymen from the eastern provinces skilled with horses should be easier to come by.

"'Given the new Asiatic saddles, horsemen are the soldiers of the future. Cataphracts could roll the barbarians back...I expect we'll begin to see more and more cavalry in Gallia, and here I'll be, prepared to export.'" (Roma Mater, p. 51)

"' men everywhere will want fast mounts in case of raiders or uprisings.'" (ibid.)

Some farmers go out of business. Others diversify and, maybe, prosper even out of bad times for the rich.

That will have to be the last post for this month. I will be busy tomorrow and Tuesday and away from home Wednesday till Saturday. And I want a round number: 480 posts for 4 months so far this year. No one can possibly enjoy reading these posts as much as I enjoy writing them. This is the way to appreciate Poul Anderson's works. I learned the economic situation in Britannia by summarizing it in this post. And we see post-Roman Britain in the first Time Patrol story: diversity and unity yet again.

Addendum: However, meanwhile, see here and here.

Echoes Of Time

Gratillonius returns home:

"The atrium was still elegant, peacock mosaic on the floor and Theseus overcoming the Minotaur on a wall."
-Poul and Karen Anderson, Roma Mater (London, 1989), p. 45.

If you read what I call Poul Anderson's Past in the order that I suggest, then the three novels set BC immediately precede the King of Ys Tetralogy co-written by Karen Anderson. Thus, a version of Theseus appears just two volumes before Roma Mater, in The Dancer From Atlantis.

On p. 50, Gratillonius reflects on Time the Hunter and thus echoes the title of a haunting story in Poul Anderson's Kith future history. Anderson's aliens, the Ythrians, refer to "God the Hunter" Who perhaps personifies Time the Hunter. Gratillonius' later references to the Roman general Marius echo the title of the opening installment of Anderson's Psychotechnic History and Marius drives back a barbarian invasion of Italy in The Golden Slave, the volume immediately preceding Roma Mater.

In these and many other ways, Poul Anderson's works display not only diversity but also unity.

The Sun

Gratillonius and his father:

"...went forth together onto the verandah, sought its eastern end, lifted arms and voices to Mithras as the sun rose. It stirred Gaius more than rites in a temple commonly did."
-Poul and Karen Anderson, Roma Mater (London, 1989), p. 48.

I have taken to hailing the Sun in the morning. It is the source of light and life and the agency by which the One knows itself. By "the One," I mean all that is, which knows itself through us. Accordingly, I have devised the mantra: "One Sun Now."

Zen meditation can be combined with any prayer or invocation, not necessarily Buddhist. An Upanishadic verse appropriate in the morning is:

"We meditate on the lovely light of the god, Savitri. May it stimulate our thoughts."

And in the evening, adapted from an Upanishad:

"From delusion, lead us to truth.
"From darkness, lead us to light."

I feel kinship with Gratillonius. Our temple is Earth and sky.

"Somebody Powerful And Shrewd"

Sometimes the defenders of civilization deduce the existence of a mastermind working against them -

M inferred the existence of the criminal genius later identified as Blofeld;

Magnus Clemens Maximus tells Gratillonius:

"'Somebody in Hivernia has been behind the last onslaught, somebody powerful and shrewd.'"
-Poul and Karen Anderson, Roma Mater (London, 1988), p. 22.

And in Hivernia the High King Niall announces:

"'...let us look ahead to a year of revenge and victory!'" (p. 43)

Revenge because his onslaught was repulsed! Why not instead organize peaceful trade and exploration instead of more killing and looting? Why not experiment with more efficient ways to produce and distribute food and wealth? Build better ships? Sail west? Lead civilization instead of raiding and wrecking it? Why not?

In The Beginning...

The Irish god Manannan (see image) is the Son of the Ysan god Lir Who is the Son of Chaos which preceded cosmos. The idea of something before everything is mythologically powerful if logically contradictory:

in Norse mythology, there was a Void but then there were forces and entities in the Void;

the Rig Veda asks whether there was water there;

Genesis says that there was water there;

Milton's Satan flew through Chaos which was the "dark materials" for new creations;

in Narnia, there is Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time and Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time;

in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, magicians conjur the Original Darkness that was before the Creation, hoping that it will destroy Heaven;

in Mike Carey's Lucifer, some demonic alliances go back to the Original Darkness;

in Starfarers, Poul Anderson summarizes scientific cosmogony that does seem to account for the emergence of being from nothing. See here and here.

At The Wall

"Smoke rose from Borcovicium fort..."
-Poul and Karen Anderson, Roma Mater (London, 1989), p. 13.

There was a Mithraeum at Borcovicium and our viewpoint character, Gratillonius, is a Mithraist.

"...paths twisting between houses in the vicus." (p. 14)

" officer...of the Halidom..." (p. 15)

"...that legion was based at Eboracum..." (p. 15)

" to him at once in the praetorium." (p. 16)

"'...not at Vindolanda?'" (p. 16)

Notes from Roma Mater, Chapter I, section 1, pp. 13-16.


Poul and Karen Anderson, Roma Mater (London, 1988), p. 412.

Lir is:

the storm that sinks ships;
the dark depths where men drown;
the waves that throw them onto rocks;
the Son of Chaos;
represented by a kraken.

The Biblical God:

separated the waters to create the world;
undid creation at the Flood;
calms a storm;
walks on water;
will make a new creation where the sea is no more.

Thus, in both pagan and Biblical mythology, the sea represents that primordial chaos that preexisted the cosmos and that still threatens cosmic order.

More From Ys

"Under Dahilis's irenic influence, Innilis willingly became pregnant by [Gratillonius]."
-Poul and Karen Anderson, Gallicenae (London, 1988), p. 18.

Looking through the King of Ys tetralogy for information about the Council of Suffetes, I meanwhile find other information, e.g., I did not recognize the word "irenic" and do not even remember noticing it during previous readings of the series.

It seems that the Ysan Gods allowed first Colconor, then Gratillonius, to become King because they were preparing to end their covenant with the city and to withdraw before the new God of the Piscean Age. Even if the Three did not control who became King, they certainly did choose which of the vestals was to be marked as the new Queen when one of the Nine died. A Christian could not have become King because Christians are monogamous. However, neither a Christian nor a Mithraist could possibly find it acceptable when his own daughter was marked. (Indeed, although I believe the incest taboo to be a social construct, not a divine prohibition, I am happy to remain bound by it.) The rejected Dahut became the instrument for the destruction of the city. But the Gods broke faith with an honest King when they marked her in the first place. Christians would say that such behavior is typical of pagan Gods whereas pagans retort that the Christian God is intolerant of ancient freedoms.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

A Winter Gardens Tempest

We have just returned from The Tempest at Morecambe Winter Gardens Theater. See image. We have previously seen The Tempest on promenade at Williamson Park, Lancaster. We have also seen A Midsummer Night's Dream:

twice on promenade at the Park;
once in the Dell at the Park;
once in the courtyard at Lancaster Castle;
once on television.

These are William Shakespeare's two prequels to Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest. In The Tempest, we recognize the Aldous Huxley title, Brave New World. Nygel, who accompanied us to the Winter Gardens, also recognized the parallels between The Tempest and Forbidden Planet.

I will be away from a computer from Wednesday until Saturday and must therefore complete the posts for this month before the end of Tuesday. The remaining posts for April will probably be about Ys and maybe also about Poul Anderson's War World story if War World Vol I arrives on Monday or Tuesday.

The Council Of Suffetes

Poul and Karen Anderson, Roma Mater (London, 1989).

In Ys, the Council of Suffetes meets in a chamber in the basilica. The chamber is ornamented in stone:

onyx -

- and has good acoustics. Tiered, padded benches on two sides of a central passage face a daised throne at the far end. Behind the throne are ten-foot statues of the Triad:

Taranis, male;
Belisama, female;
Lir, a kraken staring from a mosaic slab.

The robed King enters, wearing the Key and carrying the Hammer. Standing before the Throne and raising the Hammer, he says:

"'In the name of Taranis, peace. May His protection be on us.'" (p. 190)

The Nine Queens/priestesses sit on the left at the front. Their leader for the day rises, spreads her arms with palms down and says:

"'In the name of Belisama, peace. May Her blessing be on us.'" (p. 191)

On the right, Lir Captain, in a green and white robe, rises and says:

"'In the name of Lir, peace. May His wrath not be on us.'" (p. 191) -

- and strikes the floor with his trident.

Thus, the Triad personify protection, blessing, wrath and peace.

Apart from the Nine, the Council comprises thirty three men from the thirteen Suffete clans. Entry to the clans is by birth or by marriage for women and adoption for children. Also present is the Speaker for Taranis who, at least when Gratillonius becomes King, also represents the Great House of Timbermen. The Sea Lord, the Lord of Works and the Lord of Gold are ex officio members. There are also guild delegates. The Council meets at equinox and solstice and the King can order a special assembly. At his first meeting, Gratillonius must speak in Latin while others use Latin or Ysan with interpretation as necessary by Queen Bodilis.

There will probably be further posts about the Council and Ys.

Literary Wealth

The blogging process is associative, not linear. I have read to the end of The Prince by Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling, not having started from the beginning. However, I do not want to turn back and read more Pournellean military sf right now. My attention is drawn outwards across the universe, not inwards down the barrel of a gun.

Reading about Pournelle's and Stirling's Spartan Senate recalled Poul Anderson's World Federation Parliament, which in turn has recalled Poul and Karen Anderson's Ysan political assembly. Opening Roma Mater (London, 1989) in search of information on this august body, I find on pp. 296-297 several Andersonian hallmarks:

a three senses description of nature;
rich vocabulary;
a Latin phrase;
sympathetic treatment of Christianity and Mithraism.

"Sunset cast scarlet and gold over the half of heaven that reached above Ocean. Water glimmered and glowed beneath the cliffs. Sounds of surf came muted. A breeze ruffled the grass on Point Vanis. It came from the north, cooling the day's warmth, bringing a smell of salt and maybe, maybe, of fields in Britannia." (p. 296)

This is colorful and sensual indeed:

sunset, scarlet, gold, heaven and Ocean in a single sentence;
water glimmering and glowing and cliffs in the second sentence;
sounds of surf;
a breeze in the grass;
warmth and coolness;
smells from the sea and from Gratillonius' home.

Legionaries bear and lower a coffin, salute, turn and march away:

"As Christians, they could give no more honours to their officer." (ibid.)

That is honor enough from Christians to a Mithraist. His co-religionists stay:

"...the Mithraists in their vexillation." (ibid.)

"STTL...Sit tibi terra levis - May the earth lie light upon you." (p. 297)

The Mithraist soul embarks on a Dantean journey, leaving:

its vitality to the Moon;
its voracity to Mercurius;
its carnality to Venus;
its intellectuality to the Sun;
its militancy to Mars;
its pride to Jupiter;
its selfhood to Saturn -

- then entering the Light and eternal Oneness with Ahura-Mazda. See also here.

More colors:

"Colours died in the sky. It shaded from silvery in the west to royal blue in the east. The earliest stars trembled forth.
"'Let us go back,' said Gratillonius." (p. 297)

Now I must try to learn about Ysan politics. 

Plausible Politics

In The Star Fox, Poul Anderson presents plausible political turmoil in the World Federation Parliament when the French delegate unexpectedly backs a space privateer who is at that moment departing the Solar System. In Prince Of Sparta, Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling describe extraordinary procedures in the Spartan Senate. It is known that the Leader of a small opposition party is up to his neck in terrorism - he has even been seen to socialize with a terrorist commander - although he carefully avoids allowing any legal proof to be found.

His legal rights are removed by the declaration of martial law, he is physically restrained, the sf device of an infallible lie detector is used to extract the truth and he disappears from the narrative. The atrocities that this man has ordered are so sickening that many readers probably enjoy reading about the measures taken against him. While agreeing that, in such circumstances, the measures would be necessary, I nevertheless found the account distasteful, anti-climactic and somewhat implausible. I would expect less unanimity in a political assembly. There would be oppositionists who were not involved with terrorism. Of those, some would back the emergency measures while others would not. Senators would, with equal confidence and appeals to evidence, argue for flatly contradictory versions of the facts in the case. Politics is like that: complicated and uncertain. In emergencies, it is necessary to cut through a great deal of confusion but the confusion would exist in the first place.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Dissolutions And Transitions

In Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, the Solar Commonwealth dissolves off-stage, between stories. A new installment, really an earlier-written short story incorporated into the future history, begins with Earth regularly raided by alien slavers and ends when an escaped slave proclaims the Terran Empire.

By contrast, in Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium future history, the CoDominium disintegrates before our eyes. The Grand Senate dissolves with many areas too unstable to appoint new Senators. However, a small group of Senators reconvenes in the Chamber, declares the adjournment invalid and passes partisan resolutions that are successfully resisted. On Sparta, Lysander is proclaimed commander, in Latin imperator, which also means "Emperor."

Thus, we have here two transitions to interstellar imperialism. In the CoDominium History, I was glad when Niles resigned from the murderous rebel cause, but apart from this, I felt that the protracted struggle had become too protracted and I finally did lose interest in the ultimate fates of the principal characters. The rebel commander will still be tracked down, I think?

That Senatorial Rump reconvening and claiming to be a legitimate Senate has a fine fin de siecle feel, like James Blish's demons winning Armageddon and not yet realizing that their very victory has changed all the rules. I look forward to reading Poul Anderson's and SM Stirling's solo contributions to the next era of the history, War World.

War World Vol I

War World I: The Burning Eye, which contains stories by Poul Anderson, SM Stirling and Harry Turtledove, has been ordered and should arrive soon.

Anderson's Technic History has:

civil wars in the Polesotechnic League and the Terran Empire;
a war between the Terran Empire and the Domain of Ythri;
several battles between Terrans and Merseians;
but a lot more going on than wars and battles.

Larry Niven's Known Space future history has a period of wars between men and kzinti but a lot more going on. Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium future history is a succession of war periods diversified only by alien contact in two novels co-written by Niven.

Poul Anderson contributes three works to the Man-Kzin Wars period and one work to one of Pournelle's war periods. Because of its emphasis on wars, the Codominium History seems to me to be a slightly lesser partner when compared with the longer, more broadly based future histories, like, e.g., a TV mini-series as against a series of feature films. Nevertheless, these are three American future histories in the Heinlein tradition.

The Immediate Future On Earth Real

Tomorrow, we will visit the nearby City of Preston, which I have mentioned before. While my daughter shops, I might:

meditate in a city center church;
visit the Hindu Temple (see image);
read sf while eating lunch;
walk in a park by the river.

Unfortunately, the Temple is closed in the afternoon when we are likely to be there. The sf being read is still The Prince by Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling. I continue to be less interested in all the details of the civil war while remaining very interested in the ultimate fates of the major characters. One guy had seemed to be learning the error of his ways but meanwhile remains involved in this ghastly, merely destructive, "Revolution."

Also of interest are the underlying issues and the many parallels with other American future histories including, of course, those written by Poul Anderson. It is as if we perceive a future that has width as well as length.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

An Indefinite Number Of Earths

(What is wrong on this cover?)

The human mind has the extraordinary ability to attend to events on an indefinite number of Earths, only one of them real.

On Earth Real:

we celebrate the Easter Rising of 1916;
Britain debates its membership of the European Union;
the Queen of England celebrates her 90th birthday;
she is visited by the President of the United States;
I blog about Poul Anderson.

In two fictional timelines:

Manuel I proclaims the Terran Empire;
Lysander I is hailed, "Imperator."

How does Lysander compare with Manuel? I have yet to finish reading Prince Of Sparta by Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling which ends when Lysander becomes Emperor. Lysander appears in a series of novels whereas Manuel appears in just one short story. Both futures histories show us pre-Imperial conflicts, the First Emperor and the later Empire. We expect continued global conflicts in our immediate future but not that they will be ended by an Empire.

Poul Anderson shows us events long after the Terran Empire and there is still time for Jerry Pournelle to show us events long after the Second Empire of Man. Will the Moties escape from their system? Will other intelligences be discovered? What other forms of interstellar organization will human beings devise? More importantly, what might happen that is completely unexpected? Poul Anderson shows us humanity spreading, diversifying, evolving and encountering new astronomical objects, including an unprecedented source of new wealth. A new history begins just as his Technic History ends.

Loaded Dice

A politician espouses:

"'...the cause of democracy, of universal suffrage and human equality.'"
-Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling, The Prince (New York, 2002), p. 989.

This is a cause that I support. However, I am reliably informed that this politician is dishonest and covertly organizes terrorism. What am I to think? If I was on Sparta and did not know Croser's secret, then I might be supporting him - after checking out other political options first. If I did know his secret, then I would be trying to expose him and to organize a democratic movement untainted by terrorism. But, in a fictional text, the authors dictate the options. In this sense, the dice are loaded.

In the Technic History, Poul Anderson makes clear that it is folly to think that there might be a pacifist party within the Merseian Roidhunate. But, in a later volume, we are inspired when we read of beings who are Merseian by species but resident on Dennitza and loyal to the Emperor, not to the Roidhun. Long live the diversity of rational beings.

More War II

See More War.

Pournelle and Stirling quote:

"Further, war, which is simply the subjection of all life and property to one momentary aim, is morally vastly superior to the mere violent egoism of the individual; it develops power in the service of a supreme general idea and under a discipline which nevertheless permits supreme heroic virtue to unfold. Indeed, war alone grants to mankind the magnificent spectacle of a general submission to a general aim.
"-Jakob Burkhardt, Reflections on History."
-Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling, The Prince (New York, 2002), p. 986.

Burkhardt fails to mention either that war is violent or that other momentary aims, general ideas, disciplines and general aims are possible. He mentions violence only in relation to the individual whose capacity for violence is much lower than that of the state. I think that it is a mistake to see individuals primarily in terms of egoism. If that were so, then no society would ever have been formed. Some societies encourage egoism whereas others are more cooperative but, without some cooperation, there would be no society. "...war alone..."? No.

Falkenberg's Legion has a much less elevated view of war:

"Armed force was a blunt instrument in politics, liable to do more harm than good unless aimed with extreme precision. At best, it bought time and space for the political leaders to repair the political mistakes that had left no choice but violence in the first place." (pp. 981-982)

That is worth analyzing:

a blunt instrument;
liable to do more harm than good;
requiring extreme precision;
at best buying time;
resulting from mistakes.

But that makes it sound as if we can get rid of war! Indeed, it is now unthinkable that Germany and France would settle their differences by going to war because Europe has been organized on a different basis. Can this be extended to the planet?

More War

Poul Anderson's fiction emphasizes the human (and alien) cost of war.

"War was always the same: not a neat affair of lines across maps, not a hallooing gallantry, but men who gasped and sweated and bled in bewilderment.
"A slight, dark-faced youth squirmed nearby, trying feebly to pull out the javelin which had pierced his stomach. He was a slinger from Carthage, but the burly Italian peasant who sat next to him, staring without belief at the stump of an arm, paid no attention."
-Poul Anderson, "Delenda Est" IN Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), pp. 173-228 AT p. 223.

"'...a fleet can incinerate a world...'"
-Poul Anderson, A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows IN Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (New York, 2012), pp. 339-606 AT p. 354.

"'I'm no sentimentalist, but I've witnessed wars. I don't relish the idea of sentient beings with their skins burnt off and their eyeballs melted, but not yet able to die.'"
-Poul Anderson, A Stone In Heaven IN Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), pp. 1-188 AT p. 91.

"Big and shaggy, a Gorrazanian female sat beneath the remnant of a wall. In her four arms she rocked her dead child. In her rough voice she sang it a lullaby that it had always liked."
-Poul Anderson, The Game Of Empire IN Flandry's Legacy, pp. 189-453 AT p. 315.

"KILLED IN ACTION: Lt Cmdr Jan H. Barneveldt, Ens. Donald R. Conway, Ens. James L. Kamekona. ...
"MOURN FOR: Keh't'hiw-a-Suq od Dzuag, Whiccor the Bold, Nowa Rachari's Son. ..."
-Poul Anderson, Fire Time (St Albans, Herts, 1974), p. 174.

And where does Flandry say that every would-be conqueror should contemplate an image of a child at ground zero?

I quote these passages in order to contrast them with an alternative perspective on war that I will quote in a later post.


What motivates fictional villains? Aycharaych tells Flandry that he serves the Merseians in order to prevent them from ransacking Chereion, destroying his heritage and directly using Chereionite instrumentalities:

"'...would you let your war lords turn these instruments to their own vile ends? No!'
"And Flandry understood."
-Poul Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry:The Last Knight Of Terra (New York, 2012), p. 600.

However, there is ample evidence that Aycharaych enjoys what he does. He even acknowledges but tries to make light of this:

"'Oh, true, an art, a sport - yours too...'" (ibid.)

- condemned out of his own mouth.

There are too many other great villains to list here. James Blish's Theron Ware conjures and controls demons in order to gain knowledge whereas his client, Baines, the arms merchant, is an aesthete of destruction. Two compelling demonolators are CS Lewis' Frost and Wither. Hannibal Lecter is intelligent, perceptive, charming and resourceful, qualities that would be good in anyone else. Anthony Hopkins has played both Lewis and Lecter!

SM Stirling's Count Ignatieff is another cannibal and believes that he will go to Hell - as one of the torturers.