Sunday, 12 March 2017

After Twilight

Pete Pinto once remarked that, if the Commonalty came out of the Long Night, then the people of the Commonalty would not call that post-Imperial period "the Long Night." But we do look back at a period that we call "the Dark Ages."

The theme of this post is how bad periods are perceived in retrospect. We will quote James Blish, Poul Anderson and SM Stirling.

"'If an Englishman of around 1600 had found out about the American Revolution, he probably would have thought it a tragedy; an Englishman of 1950 would have had a very different view of it. We're in the same spot. The messages we get from the really far future have no contexts yet.'"
-James Blish, The Quincunx Of Time (New York, 1983), Epilogue, pp. 109-110.

"'The trend of events must ever seem toward the best, since it is toward the one observing the trend.'"
-Poul Anderson, Twilight World (London, 1983), Epilogue, p. 179.

"'I'd undo the Change if I could, of course, but otherwise...I like this better. It's more the way human beings were meant to live.'"
-SM Stirling, The Protector's War (New York, 2006), Chapter Thirteen, p. 348.

They are not all saying the same thing but they are all reflecting on time and change.

Tempora mutantur nos et mutamur in illis. (Times change and we change with them.)


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I think the Commonalty arose too far away from where the Empire once ruled and too long after it fell for its immediate past to be considered part of the Long Night. I would date the Long Night from when the Empire collapsed to the era of the United Planets (in "The Sharing of Flesh), one of the successor civilizations rebuilding an interstellar society. My guess is the Long Night lasted about 500 to 1000 years.

Our only real glimpse of the anarchy and chaos of the Long Night is seen in "A Tragedy Of Errors."


Sean M. Brooks said...

Correction, I should have said ALLIED Planets, not "United" Planets in my first note above.


S.M. Stirling said...

In the "Change" books there's also a strong selective factor: people who adjust psychologically to the Changed world are more likely to survive in it than those who rage against fate or spend their mental energy in constant regrets.

Paul Shackley said...

Mr Stirling,
Which is good advice in our unChanged but always changing world.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

I agree with both you and Paul. But your Emberverse books mention another category of persons: those who were mentally DAMAGED by the shock and horror of the Change. Most of them died, of course, but some survived. And a few of them rose to positions where they caused harm. Think of Norman Arminger's puppet, the anti-Pope "Leo XIV." The Change DERANGED this formerly once rational and devout priest.