Sunday, 14 February 2016

Differences IV

SM Stirling, Conquistador (New York, 2004).

See here.

This is not like visiting another planet. It is the same planet in another history. Tom and Roy have to keep adjusting to what is not there:

most of the San Francisco Bay area has virgin woodland instead of towns or buildings;

there are ranches, fields and hamlets in place of Silicon Valley.

On the other hand, scores or even hundreds of humpback whales move along the coast, surfacing, spouting and breaching. Gulls swarm around a beached fifty-foot carcass while half a dozen condors and at least three widely spaced grizzlies also eat. Does this paragraph belong on our food thread?

I can see that Stirling develops alternative histories in far greater detail than Poul Anderson did but I am not well read in this sub-genre. Does any other alternative historian convey the differences and similarities between parallel Earths in such concrete detail?


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor ,Paul!

I can think of four very different writers who wrote stories set in alternate worlds and Earths deserving of being read: Avram Davidson and Harry Turtledove. AND the works Stirling co-authored with David Drake and Jerry Pournelle.

I mentioned Avram Davidson largely because of the "Ruritanian" stories featuring the learned Dr. Engelbert Eszterhazy in the Triune Monarchy of Scythia-Pannonia-Transbalkania, most of them collected in THE ADVENTURES OF DR ESZTERHAZY. And I suggest looking up Turtledoves's HOW FEW REMAIN series or WORLDWAR books. Stirling and Drake co-authored the Raj Whitehall books and then Stirling and Pournelled wrote together GO TELL THE SPARTANS and PRINCE OF MERCENARIES.

All of these writers, in different ways, are very concrete in the alternate worlds they created. I do think Turtledove is just a little bit LESS good a writer than the others.


David Birr said...

Paul and Sean:
Stirling himself had very high praise for at least the first book of the *Destroyermen* series. This is about U.S. Navy personnel aboard two near-obsolete destroyers in early 1942, transposed by an apparently natural phenomenon into an alternate world.

They don't know enough to pin down what caused the change and when, but a number of dinosaur types have survived into the present (an author's note indicates that for some reason the Cretaceous extinction event of 65 million years ago didn't happen), and humans never evolved.

Two different intelligent species are found. One appears to be descended from the lemurs of Madagascar, so the Americans sometimes refer to them as "Lemurians." They're good people, by and large, and form a very close friendship with the destroyer crews. Fairly human-like in body shape, but with fur, tails, and cat-like faces, they're often referred to as "'Cats," short for "monkey-cats."

(Their women are FRUSTRATINGLY human-like in body shape for the destroyermen, who lack human women except for a tiny number of refugees. Even with the fur, those curvaceous Lemurian girls' bodies are starting to look disturbingly good.)

The other species, the Grik, are predators evolved from dinosaurs of the raptor type. They essentially divide the world into "hunters" -- almost exclusively THEM -- and "prey"; asked what humans are like, one of them responds that our meat is tender. Still, it's been shown in later books that the Grik CAN learn such things as friendship and honor. AND there are cultures who are Grik physiologically but not culturally....

It's also clear that OTHER groups of humans have come to this world in the past. In just the first book, the Lemurians have traditions based on contact with three sailing ships of Britain's East India Company, only two or three hundred years previously. Alas, the Grik captured one of those ships, and have built MANY highly successful imitations of its design.

To make matters worse, when the Americans arrived, one of the Japanese warships they were fleeing came, too. A BATTLECRUISER, and its captain hates Americans even more than he despises the Grik....

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, David!

Thanks for your very interesting comments! I actually have the first six volumes of Taylor Anderson's "Destroyermen" series. I agree with your comments about the books, the Lemurians, and the Grik. I really should have included Taylor Anderson in my note to Paul, but I didn't think of it.

I've thought it was as very great pity the Japanese commander of the heavy battle cruiser couldn't have rethought matters and concluded it was foolish to continue regarding the American destroyermen as his enemies. The smart thing to do would have been to arrange a truce and then try to make an alliance with them. The Grik were the enemies (and EATERS) of all humans, after all!

And I certainly do remember how some of the women starved Navy men were casting speculative looks at the VERY attractive Lemurian females. (Smiles)


David Birr said...

Well, Captain Kurokawa is insane. Smart enough -- in fact, given some of what he accomplished with the Grik, he could be called BRILLIANT at least to a degree -- but psycho obsessed. It warped his judgment (to put it mildly).

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Davud!

Your comments about Captain Kurokwawa makes sense, a really brilliant man made irrational by his obsessive hatred of the Americans. A rational captain doesn't HAVE to like the Americans but would have understood that the quarrels between Japan and the US made no sense in alternate world with enemies like the Grik. That the Grik were far worse enemies than the Americans. Conclusion, he would have come to terms with the Americans and made an alliance with them.