Tuesday, 8 August 2017
Futuristic And Contemporary Fiction
"Beyond the compound walls, the homes of the wealthy loomed amidst grandly downsweeping private parks."
-Poul Anderson, A Circus Of Hells IN Anderson, Young Flandry (Riverdale, NY, 2010), pp. 193-365 AT p. 204 -
- we understand and appreciate that the author has created and is presenting to his readers a fictional extrasolar colony planet, Irumclaw. Anderson's character, Dominic Flandry, reflects that these homes "...epitomized man's trajectory." (ibid.) Once the settlement had been prosperous but now:
"Tonight Irumclaw lay like a piece of wreckage at the edge of the receding tide of empire. What mansions were not standing hollow had become the property of oafs, and showed it." (ibid.)
The passage rings true and is authentic to this extent: we know that such declines have happened to more than one empire. Nevertheless, the Terran Empire and its Irumclagian colony exist in a speculative future and of necessity are entirely fictional.
By contrast, when Ian Fleming tells us that:
"Richmond Road is the 'best' road in all Jamaica...The 'best' people live in its big old-fashioned houses..."
-Ian Fleming, Doctor No (London, 1989), Chapter I, p.5 -
- we believe him. Fleming wrote about the world he knew and he certainly knew who the 'best'/wealthiest/most respectable people were. Even if he fictionalizes some of the details, he nevertheless presents an informed and accurate account of social strata and divisions in Jamaica, where he wrote this series of novels. And he knew that the tide of empire was receding:
"Such stubborn retreats will not long survive in modern Jamaica. One day Queen's Club [on Richmond Road] will have its windows smashed and perhaps be burned to the ground, but for the time being it is a useful place to find in a sub-tropical island - well run, well staffed and with the finest cuisine and cellar in the Caribbean." (pp. 5-6)
"Useful" to the "best" people, of course. Commander Fleming knew this from experience.
In his last novel, Bond visits the independent Jamaica.