Friday, 20 May 2016

Great Changes

Fiction is exciting when it conveys the sense that its characters are living through times of great change. Virgil's Aeneid celebrates the dawn of the Augustan Age by recounting a mythical turning point in Roman prehistory. Poul Anderson evokes times of change in the Polesotechnic League period of his History of Technic Civilization. Poul and Karen Anderson evoke world historical changes in Volume III of their King of Ys Tetralogy. To consider the second example first:

"'They talk of a new Age, when Ys shall become glorious, aye, mayhap succeed Rome, as mistress of the world.'"
-Dahut, Chapter IX, section 5, p. 199.

"'...this is a seaport. Under Grallon, 'tis become a busy seaport, strangers arriving from everywhere, with ways and Gods that are not those of our fathers, back when Ys lay for hundreds of years drawn into its shell. More and more of us fare abroad, and carry home not just goods but ideas. Aye, change is in the air, you can smell it like the sharpness before a lightning storm.'" (ibid.)

Ways, Gods, goods, ideas and change. The seaport was drawn into its shell like a sea creature. Now a storm is coming but that can be destructive. Ysans know that they are going somewhere but not where.

"'The world's great age begins anew...'
"We do not know where we are going. Nor do most of us care. For us it is enough that we are on our way."
-Poul Anderson, The Technic Civilization Saga: The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), pp. 555-556.

All history is change:

prehistorical turning points;
the Augustan Age;
the end of the Ysan Age of Brennilis;
the world's great age beginning anew...

The air is different both before and after a storm:

"The light and shade are still everywhere about us...only the conflict between them has altered...
"Everything's sharper, more distinct, like the air after a storm...
"A storm that has been brewing since the universe was formed."
-Alan Moore, Swamp Thing: A Murder Of Crows (New York, 2001), p. 201.

The Original Darkness, conjured from Chaos, has advanced through Hell towards Heaven but has clasped hands with the Light instead of attacking it. Moore wrote in a fictional universe where cosmic crises are annual events but good writers can do something with them. In Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: Worlds' End, an event of great moment reverberates across space, time and myth, causing a "reality storm." Travelers from different periods and realms shelter in the Inn of the Worlds' End. In The Day After Judgment, James Blish conveys the fundamental nature of a theological revolution by changing his text from ordinary prose to indented prose to Miltonic verse to drama.

Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis. Times change and we change with them.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And the tragedy for Ys and Dahut was her refusal to accept change if it came in ways she did not like. As a result Ys was destroyed and Dahut became a monstrous "Siren."