Friday, 5 May 2017

The Night Face

In The Night Face, a novel by Poul Anderson, complex religious symbolism conceals periodic mass insanity.

In SM Stirling's The Sky People, a black woman is called "Night Face." See here.

In Stirling's The Sunrise Lands (New York, 2008), Chapter Eleven, when a priestess smears the Chief's tanist with a murdered woman's blood and tells him to avenge her, it is said:

"'The Night Face has her. The Dark Mother.'" (p. 287)

This is not a blessing on the tanist but a curse on the murderers. "'...the Devouring Shadow...'" (p. 288) is loose.

Thus, three meanings of the phrase, "Night Face."

11 comments:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And I'm 100 percent sure Stirling meant this use of "Night Face" to be another homage to or allusion to the works of Poul Anderson.

I think I like best "A Tragedy Of Errors," of the four works Anderson set in the post Imperial ages. Because it seemed more fully realized, more "connected" to the past, even if set in the anarchic, chaotic age of the Long Night after the Empire had fallen. But I certainly did enjoy reading the other three stories as well.

THE NIGHT FACE, the only post Imperial novel written by Anderson, does raise some questions or speculations. Can the population of a long isolated planet become genetically pre-disposed to being addicted to a toxic plant, balefire, which causes them to go periodically mad? I don't know, but I'm willing to think it might be possible. This tragedy might have been averted if Gwydion had not become isolated from the rest of the human race. Contact with the Polesotechnic League and the Empire might have led to measures being taken to prevent this addiction.

While I appreciated "Starfog" and the Commonalty we see in that story, it was still only one story. We don't truly get to know much about the Commonalty and its Ranger Service to truly ENGAGE with them. Altho Daven Lauren is a well developed character.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
And the Commonalty is not an entire civilization but a service organization in one spiral arm with humanity developing in different directions elsewhere - so there is a great deal that we do not know.
Paul.

S.M. Stirling said...

Incidentally, genetic drift in a small population is probably why simians (like us) can't synthesize their own vitamin C. In a "state of nature", apes and monkeys rarely lack dietary Vitamin C, so a mutation like that it's not immediately selected out of the population. Humans can maintain an acceptable level of it in the blood with a far smaller dietary intake than other simians, though -- probably a development that occurred when our ancestors switched to a meat-heavy diet.

S.M. Stirling said...

And you would be 100% right about that. Poul had an unerring sense for the -resonance- of words. "Night Face" vibrates below the conscious level for an English-speaker.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

I absolutely agree with you about Poul Amderson's poetic skill with and use of the English language. He really should have won a Nobel Prize for literature!

Sean

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Hmmm, I'm not sure the Commonalty extended over SEVERAL spiral arms of the Galaxy. What I recall mention of was mankind spreading thru out those arms.

Yes, there is so much we don't know about the Commonalty. We only see it once, in "Starfog," when it was still approaching its apogee. Anderson being Anderson, if he had written more Commonalty stories we would have seen it being forced to grapple with problems and crises. There would have been disappointments and failures, as well as triumphs.

Sean

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

And something analogous might have been what happened on Gwydion? Or more directly, on Lokon, in "The Sharing Of Flesh."

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
That was what I meant. Commonalty in one spiral arm. Humanity spread through several.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Thanks! That clarifies matters.

Sean

Anonymous said...

Kaor, Sean!

I share your view that Poul Anderson should have been awarded the Nobel Prize.

Best Regards,
Nicholas D. Rosen

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Nicholas!

And one of the editors of the collections of Anderson's shorter works being pub. by NESFA mentioned how one of PA's editors even tried to get him nominated for the Nobel Prize.

Sean