Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Slaves And Immortals

Recurrent themes on the blog include:

slavery in the Roman Empire, the Terran Empire, the Confederate States and the Draka Domination;
parallels with Neil Gaiman;
quotations from James Elroy Flecker.

One work, The Sandman: The Wake, unites these themes:

it is written by Gaiman;
it begins by quoting Flecker and draws imagery from this poem;
in its Epilogue, a black American woman does not understand why her British boyfriend continually apologizes to her for the slave trade - she does not know that he is an immortal and was a slaver.

Immortals interact with Southern States slavery in Poul Anderson's The Boat Of A Million Years. Boat is historical and speculative sf prose whereas Sandman is graphic fantasy. The Egyptian sun god is real in Sandman. Anderson's few immortals are mutants whereas Gaiman's single immortal has made a one-sided deal with Death just as Death's younger brother, Dream, has made a fairer deal with another Englishman, William Shakespeare, who wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest for Dream. Anderson wrote A Midsummer Tempest.

There are two kinds of fictional immortals: those who must move and change their identity every few decades to conceal their immortality (vampires are a sub-set) and those who can live openly in the future. Needless to say, the works of Robert Heinlein and Poul Anderson include both kinds.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

You listed four places, real and fictional, where slavery existed. The slavery we see in Anderson's Terran Empire was by far the mildest, being used largely as a punishment for crime. And it was to last for a convicted person only for as long as the penalty laid down for his crime. True, the very worse crimes, such as murder and treason, was penalized with life enslavement. But most convicts were not guilty of those crimes!

I also remember you characterizing the slavery seen in the Empire as a form of community service. I hope the Empire had inspectors to investigate and indict persons guilty of abusing slaves. Readers might be interested in how I discussed this at greater length in my article "Crime and Punishment in the Terran Empire."

You already know I'm skeptical of Anderson's speculations about the kind of "immortality" we see in WORLD WITHOUT STARS and FOR LOVE AND GLORY (and in THE BOAT OF A MILLION YEARS). But it might someday be possible to extend human lifespans.