Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Cross-Temporal Diplomacy

SM Stirling, Against The Tide Of Years (New York, 1999), Chapter Eight.

In Poul Anderson's "The Nest," naive time travelers go straight to the court of a medieval Duke and introduce themselves. They are tortured and killed and their time vehicle is used for raiding through history. In Anderson's Time Patrol series, Patrol agents are present in King Hiram's Tyre and deal with the king when necessary but only in the guise of contemporary traders.

In Against The Tide..., the Nantucketers cannot return to the twentieth century but also need not conceal their superior technology. The Babylonians must find the answers to certain questions:

Why do the Nan-tu'kht-ars not conquer us with their superior weapons?
Because they are so few.

Why are their women not primarily engaged in child-bearing?
Because they can counteract child mortality.

Why do they exchange coins instead of ingots?
Because coins make trade easier and commerce swifter.

Do the "'...curious maces of wood and metal...'" (p. 133) throw thunderbolts?
No, it is explained that a fast-burning powder creates "'...a hot swift wind that pushes the lead shot out of the iron tube...,'" (p. 135) invisibly fast.

Has Yhared-Koff'in sent his own son to greet the King of Babylon?
No, he has sent his councilor for foreign affairs. His sons are too young. (And elective government can be explained later.)

Are the Marines eunuchs?
No, some Nantucketers shave their chins. Customs differ.

How will the Babylonian king save face by giving royal gifts of equivalent value?
(I am not sure of the answer to this one yet - but a favorable treaty is signed.)

What can the diviners say about the strangers?
" ' "Great opportunity, but great danger." '" (p. 136) That is obvious!

Can the Nantukhtar tell the future?
They present Assyrian chronicles about the defeat of the present Babylonian king's son. And this is plausible.

Should Babylon ally with the Hittites or with the Nantukhtar?
With the latter because they bring a new age:

"' in which those who learn their arts will prosper and those who do not will be ground like grain between millstones and blown about by the wind.'" (p. 139)

These guys talk like the Bible. The king, realizing that the Nantukhtar will need interpreters, decrees that a hundred young scribes should learn their language, writing and other arts.

Manse Everard recruits a single young Tyrian into the Patrol and sends him to the Academy. Of necessity, the Nantucketers recruit all of Babylon into their new civilization. 

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Commenting on the questions the anxious Babylonians had about the Nantucketers.

Agree, the Nantucketers were too few to try any large scale conquering.

Women and childbearing: agree, knowing how to use antisepsis in childbirth would ENORMOUSLY deaths of both mothers and children.

Coins and guns: agree.

One thing I don't think all readers of AGAINST THE TIDE OF YEARS has noticed is how LONG "Yhared-Koff'in" has held office as Chief Executive Officer of Nantucket (9-10 years in the book). It seems to have become settled precedent for the CEO of Nantucket to govern either as long as he wishes or as long as the Town Meeting (or the House of Delegates, after it took over from the Meeting) agreed to that. At any rate I see no mention, so far, of the Nantucket CEO holding office for a fixed term of years.

I remember the irritation King Shagarakti-Shuriash had for the tritely obvious advice of the diviners! It was wasting a good sheep if all he got was that!

And the bit quoted from Assyrian annals about the king's son Kashtiliash was not only plausible, it was true! I looked up both Tukulti-Ninurtat I of Assyria and Kashtiliash IV and read exactly the same thing (allowing for differences in translations) about how Tukulti-Ninurta overran Babylon and humbled her king.

Re with whom the Babylonians should ally, the Hittites or Nantucket. I agree allying with Nantucket was more to Babylon's longer term good. And it's no surprise the Babylonians talked like the people of the Old Testament! Semitic languages and cultures like the Akkadian, Aramaean, and Hebrew would share many of the same customs, metaphors, figures of speech, etc.