Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Anonymous Historical Characters IV

See here.

The Winston Churchill whom we see in the Old Phoenix refers to "'...the Great War...'" (All One Universe, p. 119), thus confirming my suspicion that this Churchill has entered the inn from some time in the period between the Wars. When we contemplate a meeting in the Old Phoenix, it does not matter if one of the participants is known to be dead because he can have entered the inn either from a time before he died or from a timeline in which he died later. On the other hand, if we imagine an encounter as occurring not in an inter-cosmic inn but in one of the hereafters, then all the participants must be dead - unless they can emulate Orpheus.

Who is next?

"...the cadaverous Spaniard who had patched together a ridiculous armor..." (ibid.)
Don Quixote?;

"...the stunningly beautiful, imperially garbed Chinese lady..." (ibid.);

a white couple "...dressed like subjects of the Ottoman Empire..." (ibid.);

a Tudor woman clutching a crucifix;

Jack Wilson.

Villon asks in song:

"'Since naught can remain for posterity
"'But a name all honor and none abuse,
"'Who was the victor, Grant of Lee?
"'Even the dead have much to lose.'" (p. 121)

The fate of the dead is a manifest theme even if the clientele of the inn are still living when they enter the Old Phoenix.

The Taverners must observe restrictions or lose their license - which is not from God.

Villon addresses Christ as "'...Prince of losers...'" (p. 123) and mentions the mass murder of Jews. Our twentieth century narrator thinks that Villon is referring to the Middle Ages until he remembers the world to which Churchill returns - between the Wars.

I have not read this story properly before.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I've wondered if "...the stunningly beautiful, imperially garbed Chinese lady" was Empress Dowager Wu, who pushed aside her son to usurp the throne as "Emperor of China" in AD 690. Or was she Empress Dowager Tzu-hsi who dominated China during the waning years of the Ch'ing Dynasty in 1861-1908?

    And my view is that the Tudor woman clutching a crucifix was Queen Mary I of England.


  2. Sean and Paul:
    Another possibility for the Chinese lady is Yang Yuhuan, usually known as Yang Guifei (or Kuei-fei): Guifei was the highest rank title of imperial consorts, only an actual empress ranking higher.

    The first reference I ever saw to Lady Yang used a phrasing along the lines of "the Chinese Cleopatra." She's listed among the four most beautiful women of Chinese history/legend, with a comment that her face put all flowers to shame.

    In the middle Eighth Century AD, she became the favorite of the Tang Emperor Xuanzong (AFTER having been his daughter-in-law; the emperor in essence compelled his son to divorce the dazzling young woman so HE could have her). She was 26 and the emperor 60 when he took her as his consort in AD 745.

    In 756, though, imperial guards who blamed the An Lushan Rebellion on her family's corruption forced the emperor to have her strangled. Making her a "loser." Accounts disagree as to whether she was a genuine femme fatale or a scapegoat.

    1. Hi, David!

      Dang! I should have included Lady Yang among the possibilities of who the "stunningly beautiful, imperially garbed Chinese lady" was. I actually have read about the An Lushan Rebellion and how Lady Yang's influence over Emperor Xuanzong was blamed, rightly or wrongly, for that disaster, at least in part.

      A pet gripe of mine is the now dominant use of Pin Yin for transliterating Chinese names into Roman characters. I don't like it, it looks ugly and clunky. I far prefer the older Wade-Giles system.


  3. Replies
    1. Kaor, Paul!

      Many thanks for the kind words! But I wouldn't call myself learned in any deep or true sense. What Dominic Flandry said to Aycharaych in Chapter IX of A KNIGHT OF GHOSTS AND SHADOWS applies to me: "And I can make more cultured noises than the average Navy man. But I'm no scholar, no aesthete--a dilettante; you can do better than me."

      And while I was never in the US Navy, my father was a Navy officer, which gives me a tenuous "Naval" connection! (Smiles)


    2. Paul:
      My response has to echo Sean's. Though I appreciate your praise, I'm not truly learned; I've just picked up lots of bits and pieces. Almost all the details I cited for Lady Yang were what a quick glance at Wikipedia told me -- before that, I was merely "learned" enough to know that she'd existed.

      And Sean, MY father was US Navy enlisted for a few years, so I, too, have a tenuous naval connection. But I spent 23 years in the Army, and that's where my loyalties lie.

    3. Hi, David!

      I have a fair number of books dealing with Chinese history--one or two of them might mention Lady Yang. So, I'll be looking them up.

      Army man with a Navy father? I'm not surprised! Some of your other comments in the blog certainly indicated you had Army experience, probably as an officer.

      In Poul Anderson's Terran Empire stories there does not seem to be an "army" as such. The impression I got was that for campaigning on planets the Marines did most of whatever ground side fighting was necessary.

      That does not seem surprising on reflection. The Imperial Navy would have to TRANSPORT and give support to any ground forces fighting on planets. Those forces would naturally tend to be the Marines, which more and more took over the functions of an army for the Empire.


    4. Sean,
      It is an interesting point that there is no "Terran Army." But then the word "Navy" is used only in an extended sense. A Space Force might more logically be regarded as an extension of an Air Force?

    5. Kaor, Paul!

      True, it could be easily argued that a Space Force is more logically "descended" from an Air Force. And, in the US, many astronauts were or are Air Force officers. But, some astronauts were, I believe also Navy officers.

      But, a hypothetical Space Force, whether STL or FTL is used, would have to use SHIPS, and small or large groups of such ships would naturally be called squadrons, flotillas, fleets, etc. And the crewing and commanding of them would, IMO, tend to use Naval terminology and ranks. Including such naval ranks as petty officers, chief petty officers, commodores, and admirals, etc. Hence we would see space navies of the kind seen in the works of Poul Anderson and Jerry Pournelle.

      Maybe it could be argued that human beings shouldn't carry over into space such "archaic" terms and ranks derived from sea navies. But I would argue that future generations might think it only natural, convenient, and even RIGHT to use such terminology.

      And we DO see the Terran Empire using an AIR Force, even if only as a branch of the space navy. We first see Dominic Flandry in ENSIGN FLANDRY as a 19 years ensign in the Imperial Naval Flight Corps.

      However, there is at least one exception to this tendency to use Naval terminology for military space forces. Isaac Asimov's Galactic Empire has fleets of space warships commanded by Generals, not Admirals. Think of Bel Riose, whom we see in FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE as a general serving the last great Emperor of the First Empire, Cleon II.