Sunday, 31 July 2016

Priests And Good Societies

Although it would be distasteful to read a detailed description of torture, an author is at liberty to treat his characters in any way that is appropriate to the story that he is telling. Alan Moore, in particular, is merciless to his fictional characters.

In this respect, SM Stirling makes a point that I touched on here when discussing a virtual reality of primitive deities in Poul Anderson's The Boat Of A Million Years. Religion and morality exist independently and are not always synthesized. It follows that a society ruled by "priests" is nor necessarily a good society.

Many of Stirling's readers might be glad to see his environmentalist character, Lisketter, come to grief. However, she suffers considerably more than anyone ought to. She says:

"'From what I've read, the Olmecs had a deep spiritual relationship with nature, so [their leadership]'ll probably be priests or priestesses of some sort.'" (Island In The Sea Of Time, p. 316)

It is indeed priests of some sort and the priest-king has such a deep physical relationship with nature that he rapes Lisketter after causing something even worse, but also arguably "natural," to happen.

Readers should not overlook that Stirling does not write off all environmentalists:

"'The other environmentalists are treating [Lisketter] like a leper...'
"'Yeah, but they're the sensible ones. Hell, they're some of our most useful people. They know things - marine biology, handicrafts, stuff like that. And they know I'll listen to them. But Lisketter...she's a True Believer." (pp. 279-280)

We should end this post with Manse Everard's take on Lisketter types:

"The old man was bald except for white remnants of beard, toothless, half deaf, gnarled and crippled by arthritis, eyes turned milky by cataracts. (His chronological age must be about sixty. So much for the back-to-nature crowd in twentieth-century America.)" (Time Patrol, p. 300)

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And I agree with the contempt Poul Anderson and S.M. Stirling had for "True Believing" environmentalist crazies! And I also admit others are not like poor Pamela Lisketer (much as I dislike her, I would not wish on her the awful fate she suffered).