Monday, 1 February 2016

Camping In New Virginia In 1946

SM Stirling, Conquistador (New York, 2004), Interlude, pp. 25-33.

We have discussed:

(i) descriptive passages that appeal to three or more of the senses;

(ii) vivid descriptions of food.

Of course, (i) and (ii) can be combined. Food is seen, smelled and tasted. It is sometimes heard, bubbling, sizzling, crackling etc, and can even be felt if eaten by hand. Further, it is eaten in settings as diverse as restaurants and campfires that can be described simultaneously with the food.

John Rolfe has taken four other men through the Gate to the Other Side, a North America uninvaded by white men  - until now. Rolfe will call this alternative America the Commonwealth of New Virginia. The men are:

his first cousins, Robert and Alan Fitzmorton;
his former sergeant, Andy O'Brien;
his former radioman, Salvatore Colletta.

Sitting around a campfire, the five men see:

flickering red light;
drifting sparks;
firelight shimmering on the leaves of massive, writhing oak tree branches;
frosty stars.

They hear:

a coffeepot bubbling on stones in the fire;
popping sparks;
a large animal grunting and pushing through a thicket;
their horses snorting, stamping and pulling;
chanting from the nearby Ohlone Indian village.

They smell:

burning oak wood;
grilled tule elk stakes;
brine in the nearby bay.

Brine, not a food smell, nevertheless evokes the fish that may be caught in that bay.

Rolfe has two ways of knowing that the Other Side is not their California of long ago:

he carved numbers on rocks on Other Side but has not found them on First Side;
he will photograph the night sky and have it checked by astronomers.

O'Brien is right to ask. He is wrong to think that they could go pop if they changed the past but they do need to know that they can return to their version of the present.

Colletta has a Chicago typewriter. The men found their new Commonwealth:

the other four agree that Rolfe is their boss or padrone;
O'Brien says that they need to include Sol Pearlmutter, another Army acquaintance;
they will exchange gold from Other Side for money on First Side;
the money will be safely banked abroad;
they will buy the house that contains the Gate and the land around it, rezone the land, start a company and colonize the Other Side;
in the first instance, Rolfe and his cousins will return with gold to First Side while Andy and Salvo stay in New Virginia to work on the Indians.

From this small acorn will grow a massive oak.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I remember this as well. And one point that struck me was the accident of Andy O'Brien starting to come down with a cold. A cold which was unintentionally spread to the local Indians--with calamitous results. Many thousands of years of isolation from the rest of the human race had made Western Hemisphere Indians less resistant to the diseases, even minor ones, plaguing the rest of the planet.