Sunday, 3 April 2016

Rereading "Iron"

Poul Anderson, "Iron" IN Larry Niven, Ed, The Man-Kzin Wars (London, 1989), pp, 27-177.

Ulf Reichstein Markham and Tyra Nordbo first appeared in Man-Kzin Wars stories written by Poul Anderson, then reappeared in the fictionally earlier although later-written Man-Kzin Wars stories of Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling. I thought that Pournelle and Stirling had introduced Markham but that was just me getting confused between the publication history and the fictional chronology.

Markham respects the "'...valiant, loyal, disciplined...'" (p. 44) kzinti. This sounds like Anderson's Olaf Magnusson respecting the Merseians.

Dorcas Saxtorph accuses Markham of uttering "' intolerable racist insult.'" (p. 56) I missed it but maybe his generalization about flatlanders counts. Before that, they had been having an interesting discussion about society. In a healthy society, according to Markham, lesser persons accept guidance from superior persons for the longer term social good. For the leader, power and glory are not ends but means to:

"'...the organic evolution of the society toward its destiny, the full flowering of its soul.'" (p. 55)

Sounds patriarchal? The kzinti are ruled by a Patriarch. Markham uses obscure terminology:

"'...we are replacing living Gemeinschaft with mechanical Gessellschaft.'" (p. 55)

Juan Yoshii of the Rover crew wants "'To be a poet.'" (p. 60)

- like Jesse Nicol in Anderson's Harvest The Fire.

Yoshii asks:

"'In the centuries of spaceflight, how much true poetry has been written?'" (p. 60)

- and Nichol, en route to the outer Solar System, exclaims:

"'The inhuman may be what's mine, stars, comets, hugeness, a universe that doesn't know or care but simply and gloriously is - but humans are there -'" (Harvest The Fire, New York, 1887, p. 190).

Anderson, a novelist of the space age, also recognized the need for poetry.

Just after the purchase of the hyperdrive, mankind is on the verge of "'...great adventures,...the age of discovery that must come...'" (p. 45) This reminds us of:

"The world's great age begins anew...
" is enough that we are on our way." (The Van Rijn Method, New York, 1997, pp. 555, 556)

A red dwarf moving through the galaxy at over a thousand kilometers per second is nearly as old as the universe. (p. 65) Such Andersonian cosmic sf transcends Known Space and the Technic History and is also to be found, e.g., in the "Pride"/Tau Zero diptych.

"'Every explorer is an amateur by definition.'" (p. 46)

This reminds us of the opening and closing chapters of The Boat Of A Million Years, set respectively before Christ and in an indefinite future.

Does anyone do it better than Anderson?

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I think Markham's comments about "...the organic evolution of the society toward its destiny, the full flowering of its soul" reminds me of what Merseians believed of themselves in A CIRCUS OF HELLS. Iow, not truly patriarchal as the Kzinti and most humans would understand the term.