Thursday, 6 April 2017

Andersonian Themes

The previous two posts -

Two Ways
Believing The Story -

addressed Andersonian themes: how should society be organized and how can it change?

In Poul Anderson's first future history, the Psychotechnic Institute has developed a predictive and practical science both of social interactions and of individual psychology but misuses it, trying to force change by dishonest means. The Institute's clandestine rule is overthrown but society descends into chaos. In Anderson's second future history, there is a dynamic capitalism of which the author would approve but that goes wrong as well. In both histories, there is a later civilization that might at last combine freedom and dynamism with order and stability.

SM Stirling's text addresses another set of Andersonian themes: military technology and strategy. How can a city be fortified against siege and how might its defences be breached? If the Protector sends too many men to conquer one set of enemies, he might be attacked by others or overthrown by his own oppressed subjects. He confines his technology to that of his preferred historical period and is good at drawing arrows and lines on a map but not at leading a campaign. He should be overthrown soon but what a shame that so much effort must be invested in defeating him before something better can be built.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

But, what started going wrong by the time Nicholas van Rijn was an old man was the combination of an increasingly oppressive and centralized Commonwealth alongside the cartelization of most of the major corporations of the Polesotechnic League. Not of free enterprise economics and ideas on the desirability of a limited state themselves.

And I think Poul Anderson would warn us that we have no guarantee that the Commonalty we see in "Starfog" would last in its benign form forever.