Friday, 12 August 2016

Matuchek Escapes

Poul Anderson, Operation Chaos (New York, 1995), pp. 27-33.

The next thing that happens to Steve Matuchek, after he opens his eyes, is that he is interrogated by an enemy leader but then makes a break for it, fights his way out of a room full of armed guards, jumps through a window and escapes. That sort of thing happens quite frequently - implausibly frequently? - in Poul Anderson's fiction, action-adventure being one of his sub-genres. An Anderson hero, if held at gun point, has to be able to grab the gun, knock out the guard and run.

Action-adventure fiction can have almost any setting - sf, fantasy, historical, Western etc. Some of Anderson's sf was written for magazines that specialized in "blood and thunder." Thus, we inherit his excellent "The Star Plunderer" about the escaped slave who founded the Terran Empire.

The Dominic Flandry series began as action-adventure, even rationalizing sword fights in a future age, but became an analysis of imperial decline. The Time Patrol presents living history and when, in less than half the stories, the Patrolmen must fight against time criminals with either swords or blasters, they do it very well.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

When sternly examined, I can see why some might regard Steven Matuchek's escape as implausible. But Poul Anderson manages to make it seemed convincing to me. Perhaps it depends on the skill of a writer to make them work.

I don't understand why you seem to find sword fighting a thousand years from now so unconvincing. After all, as Dominic Flandry said in "Tiger By The Tail": "My friend, you didn't study our decadence as thoroughly as you should have. Archaism accompanies it. SCIENTIFIC fencing is quite popular among us." And I'm sure Lancaster also has fencing enthusiasts!