Monday, 3 October 2016

Kashtiliash And Brann

The Time Patrol recruits a few ancient Babylonians and even has a base in a secret vault under their city. However, the organization necessarily conceals its very existence from most Babylonians and cannot in any circumstances share future technology with them - whereas, in their entirely different circumstances, SM Stirling's Nantucketers have no alternative but to operate openly in the ancient world.

And we are shown some ancient rulers who have the resilience to cope with the unprecedented and the incomprehensible. The Hittite King stands his ground when a dirigible passes above his city and he is addressed through a loudspeaker. We must hope that the President of the United States will do this if he is addressed from a descending interstellar vehicle.

King Kashtiliash of Babylon acknowledges that:

the Nantucketers can cure many illnesses;
none of them is hungry;
even their peasants live like nobles;
they have arts that make his people's seem like fumbling;
they can destroy proud cities like reed huts.

(That is us that he is talking about.) How does Kashtiliash respond to the Nantucketers' superiority?

"'I swear by my father, and by the gods of the land, that I will not leave my kingdom and people poor and ignorant and powerless, not while there is strength in my hands.'"
-SM Stirling, Against The Tide Of Years (New York, 1999), Chapter Twenty-Four, p. 412.

His concern is for his people, not for his own power. He might remind Poul Anderson fans of Brann the Ranger who, when warned of an attack on his city, says:

"'Oh, no...The final thrust. Firebolts loosed on my people.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Corridors Of Time (London, 1969), Chapter Fifteen, p. 149.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Good points! I too remember how King Tudhaliyas (hope I spelled it right) when the Nantucketer dirigible hovered over his capital. It was his steadfastness which encouraged his frightened courtiers not to panic.

And, yes, I admire as much as you how King Kashtiliash thought only of the welfare of his people when he vowed that by the time he died they would not be as poor, ignorant, disease ridden, and powerless as they were at the time he became king.

And, yes, the way Brann the Ranger first thought was for the welfare and safety of his people helped to incline me to think the Rangers were better than the Wardens.