Traveller’s Literary Antecedents in Poul Anderson’s “The Game of Glory”
July 22, 2013
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In his essay “Deciphering the Text Foundations of Traveller,” Michael Andre-Driussi writes that “GDW clearly did not want to be bound to reproducing the entirety of an author’s universe: they just wanted to take what they considered to be the best bits of a few and make a new, organic whole of it. Call it the Frankenstein approach, where a new creature is made from parts taken from anonymous donors.” Poul Anderson’s Flandry stories clearly made a contribution to that monster. While the civil servant’s dreams of knighthood (page 10) and the sunburst of Empire (page 15) are striking to the longtime Traveller fan, the moral ambiguity and the impending implosion of this Imperium capture the imagination and shed new light on the nature of Traveller’s default setting. While not a perfect fit for the Third Imperium, it perhaps perhaps express the tone of what a Rule of Man era campaign could evoke. I think, however, that it does capture the gritty, brazen feel of the earliest Traveller adventures and scenarios. For referees that want a darker, less shiny take on the Imperium, these passages from “The Game of Glory” should be inspirational.
- Surprisingly, the extremely spare world descriptions of classic Traveller’s backwater worlds is consistent with this story: “The planet was five parsecs from Brae. It was the third of an otherwise uninteresting F5 dwarf, its official name was Nyanza, it had been colonized some 500 years back during the breakup of the Commonwealth. It had been made an imperial client about a century ago, a few abortive revolts were crushed, now there was only a resident– which meant a trouble-free but unimportant and little visited world. That was all the microfiles had to say about Nyanza.” — page 5
- “If only there were a faster-than-light equivalent of radio. Instant communications unified planets; but the days and weeks and months between stars let their systems drift culturally apart– let hell brew for years, unnoticed till it boiled over– made a slow growth of fedalism, within the Imperial structure itself, inevitable. Of course, that would give civilization something to fall back on the the Long Night finally came.” — page 7
- “The Empire tries to respect local law and custom. Only the most uncivilized practices are not tolerated.” — page 15
- “The Terran Empire established itself in this region first. The Merseian Empure would be a rather more demanding master– if only because it’s still vigorous, expansive, virtuous, and generally uncorrupted, while Terra is the easygoing opposite.” — page 17
- “The Empire is… less perfect than myself. True. But what would replace it is a great deal worse.” — page 29
- “What was the use of this struggle to keep a decaying civilization from being eaten alive, if you never got a chance at any of the decadence yourself?” — page 32
- “When the Long Night comes for Terra, somebody will have to carry on. It might as well be you.” — page 42
Page numbers are from the first edition of the “Flandry of Terra” collection.