Saturday, 17 June 2017

Prevented Futures

SM Stirling, The Sword Of The Lady (New York, 2009), Chapter Four, pp. 99-100.

Rudi Mackenzie helps the Southsiders by making better bows and "arrers" for them. Momentarily, Rudi sees the Southsider chief tied above a fire as ragged figures dance around him. He thinks that this is a vision of what would happen if he did not help the Southsiders: a prevented future. In another sf novel, aliens showed the human characters moving pictures of themselves experiencing events that had not happened and that were not going to happen.

A friend said that he sometimes dreamed of future events and, forewarned, could alter the course of a conversation. Once, in a London cafe, I said, "'I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet' has posters of the Apollo IX mission," and he responded, "I dreamed of you saying that while I watched that bus turn round that corner three weeks ago."


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    While it was of course good of Rudi and his friends to help prevent the Southsiders from being wiped out by a more aggressive band of savages, I would not have thought it necessary for him to have any "visions" about them.

    I recall how one thing that interested me a bout the Southsiders was how the argot of debased English they spoke was evolving into a different language. Words were taking on different meanings among the Southsiders than they do among us. Which is an idea touched on by Poul Anderson in "A Tragedy Of Errors."


  2. Paul:
    I'm reminded of the extrapolation audio-visuals the computer called Center would show Raj Whitehall in *The General* series by Mr. Stirling (from an outline by David Drake). Sometimes Center showed Raj things he COULDN'T do anything about, apparently just to rub in how bad the consequences might be if he disregarded its advice. Often these were particularly ugly things, such as a formerly-prosperous family being enslaved because a corrupt official forced them into debt ... and the slavers raping the family's thirteen-year-old daughter.

    1. Kaor, DAVID!

      Cool! I see you too have read Drake/Stirling's THE GENERAL series, books I love!

      I remember some of the scenarios shown by Center to Raj, but not exactly the one you cited above. Yes, Center did advise Raj that sometimes there was nothing he could do about an ugly situation, that any efforts at correction would backfire and make the long term consequences worse.

      I do recall an ugly incident where Raj, while marching with his force to campaign on the eastern frontier of the Civil Government, could only partially rectify matters when one of his nominally subordinate officers and his goons killed a farmer and were busy raping his daughter and son (or grandson?). Altho infuriated, Raj had to be content with crucifying his too politically well connected officer's servants and expelling form his protection the camp followers he found at the scene. He turned over the jewels confiscated from the camp followers to this brutalized family.

      Whitehall could not punish his "subordinate" because of his powerful connections at the court of the Governor. And also because if he tried to get rid of him by a duel, he would very likely had been either killed or cashiered from the Civil Government's army. With BALEFUL long term consequences.


    2. Sean:
      Chapter 3 of the first book. Center was showing Raj that Barholm Clerett, while vicious, was at least both competent and basically honest. If he'd handled a certain case personally, prosperity would've resulted. Alas, he trusted Chancellor Tzetzas with the matter....

      And I should've looked it up before my earlier post; the girl was fourteen, not thirteen ... not that it makes what was done to her any less evil.

    3. Kaor, DAVID!

      Thanks, I will look up Chapter 3 of the first GENERAL book. Yes, at heart, Barholm Clerett was an able and honest man. But, his big flaw, IMO, was not viciousness, but fear and paranoia. He needed able men like Raj Whitehall, but if they proved successful or victorious, then they could aspire for the Governor's chair. And such usurpations had happened too many times in the Civil Government's history. Result, paranoia!

      Chancellor Tzetzas is another interesting characte, being both brave and able. Alas, his flaw was greed and corruption, with no regard for others or the long term consequences.

      And, as I'm sure we both know, Drake/Stirling based THE GENERAL series on the Eastern Roman Empire of the reign of Justinian and his famous general Belisarius. Albeit, with very interesting science fictional differences.