Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Past Times

In James Blish's historical novel, Doctor Mirabilis, Roger Bacon invents and demonstrates gunpowder. Science fiction?

Poul Anderson's Time Patrolmen and SM Stirling's Nantucketers demonstrate firearms by killing an animal. One Nantucketer explains:

"'...the bullets would strike through any armor a man could carry, and send his spirit to the realm of Nergal.'" (Against The Tide Of Years, Chapter Eight, p. 135)

(Incidentally, Mike Carey, writing John Constantine: Hellblazer, reveals that the demon Nergal's full name is Nergal Draanu Veiatroformis Memoth Asrokhel.)

The Nantucketers have traveled to a time before standing to attention had been invented (see here):

"'Close-order drill and standing to attention hadn't been invented here yet; the king's guards were alert, but there was little formality to their postures." (p. 134)

Reading modern military precision back into ancient periods would be an easy mistake to make in historical, or prehistorical, fiction.

3 comments:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Is Friar Roger Bacon truly credited by some with inventing gunpowder? I thought gunpowder was invented in CHINA when the Chinese of the late Sung Dynasty were desperately struggling to fight off the invading Mongols. And then gunpowder spread westwards along the trade routes.

    Sean

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    Replies
    1. Sean,
      Blish, of course, is writing fiction. I think there may be some idea that Bacon did discover gunpowder but, if he did, its secret died with him.
      Paul.

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    2. Kaor, Paul!

      True, what you said about Blish writing a historical novel. But, a good historical novel respects known facts about the persons and places described. So, I did wonder if gunpowder was independently discovered by Roger Bacon.

      Sean

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