Midst Toil And Tribulation – Snippet 41

Midst Toil And Tribulation – Snippet 41

And you want to join that quest, don’t you? she asked herself, hazel eyes dark as Tellesberg’s morning breeze teased tendrils of silk loose from her braided hair. That’s what truly frightens you, isn’t it? You see that beauty, want to understand that intricacy, and you’re afraid the Inquisition is right after all, that it truly is exactly the same lure Shan-wei and Proctor used to seduce men into damnation when they first rebelled. That’s what Clyntahn’s saying, after all, and he’s not the only one. You want the people who say that to be wrong, but inside you’re afraid they aren’t. That Shan-wei and Proctor are still using that temptation, that hunger to get just a glimpse of the mind of God, to entice men away from the God they think their quest honors.

“Good morning, Your Highness,” a voice said behind her. “May I join you?”

“Of course you may, Your Eminence.” A smile replaced her brooding frown, and she turned from the railing to greet the speaker. “It’s your balcony, after all.”

“True, in a manner of speaking,” Maikel Staynair replied with an answering, gentle smile. “For the moment, anyway. Personally, I prefer to think I’m simply holding it in trust for my eventual successor. Although, actually, you know, I really miss my rather more spartan little palace over there.” The ruby ring on his hand glittered in the sunlight as he indicated the building on the far side of Tellesberg Cathedral which was home to the Bishop of Tellesberg. It was, indeed, smaller than Archbishop’s Palace . . . and still bigger than any other structure in sight. “A humble little hovel, I know, but the truth is that I really don’t need the extra seventeen bed chambers, the second ballroom, or the state dining room,” the Archbishop of Charis continued, his smile turning almost impish. “Fourteen bedrooms and a single dining room — on the large size, admittedly, but only one — were quite sufficient for my needs when I was a simple bishop, and I’m sure I could get along under such straitened conditions even now if I truly had to.”

Irys’ lips quivered at Staynair’s tone, and that, too, was something she wouldn’t have believed was possible as little as two months ago. The archbishop was the very heart of heresy and voice of apostasy, after all. That was what the Inquisition taught, and Staynair’s ability to seduce the Faithful away from Mother Church, even from among her own priesthood, was legendary. She’d read Earl Coris’ reports about Staynair’s visit to Corisande, about the way he’d drawn her father’s subjects towards him, and she hadn’t understood how it could have happened. What sinister gift had Shan-wei bestowed upon him to allow him to so easily beguile the faithful into accepting his words? To bewitch Mother Church’s own bishops and priests into accepting his authority over that of the Grand Vicar himself? Whatever might have been true about Cayleb Ahrmahk’s reaction to the assault upon his kingdom, his father’s death in battle, Maikel Staynair, the fallen bishop and betrayer of Mother Church, bore the true guilt for the schism, for it was he who had led the revolt against the Temple and the Vicarate from inside Mother Church, splitting all the world into warring camps for the first time since Shan-Wei’s Rebellion.

Yet she’d discovered it was impossible to see that monster in the heretical archbishop’s gentle, compassionate eyes . . . or to spend ten minutes in his presence without feeling the way he reached out almost unconsciously to those about him.

Cayleb and Sharleyan had been meticulous about not requiring her and Daivyn to attend mass in Tellesberg Cathedral. They’d even guaranteed them regular access to Father Davys Tyrnyr, an upper-priest who’d fearlessly maintained his loyalty to the Temple and Grand Vicar. They’d allowed him to celebrate mass privately for them in one of Archbishop Palace’s numerous small chapels, and the sanctity of the confessional had been rigorously observed. It was amazing enough, and totally contrary to the Grand Inquisitor’s version of events in Charis, that Temple Loyalists were actually allowed to practice their faith — their adherence to the Grand Vicar and the Group of Four — openly in the very heart of Tellesberg, without fear of suppression from Crown or Church. She knew only too well what had happened to anyone who openly professed Reformism — far less any suggestion of support for the Church of Charis! — in Delferahk or any other mainland realm. How could it possibly be that here, in the very capital of an empire which had no hope of victory, or even survival, without Mother Church’s defeat, those who remained loyal to her were protected by the Crown even while Reformists were savagely persecuted in other lands? It made no sense — none at all — yet the evidence of her own eyes and ears had forced her to recognize that it was true, and Father Davys himself had acknowledged as much.

Yet it had taken Irys over three five-days to discover that the person who’d actually made certain she and Daivyn had access to Father Davys had been Maikel Staynair himself. She had no doubt — now — that Cayleb and Sharleyan would have granted that access anyway, but it was Staynair who’d made it explicit, ordered his personal guardsmen to admit a known Temple Loyalist and his acolytes to Archbishop’s Palace without even having them searched for weapons, despite at least two Temple Loyalist attempts, one on the floor of his own cathedral, to assassinate him. And he’d insisted upon that because he truly did believe human beings had both the right and the responsibility to decide for themselves where their spiritual loyalties lay. That the human soul was too precious for anyone but its owner to endanger or constrain it, and that no political purpose, however vital, could be allowed to trump that fundamental, essential article of faith.

She’d been stunned by that discovery. She’d grown up a princess. She knew how political reality sometimes had no choice but to transgress even against the letter of the Writ. Mother Church herself acknowledged that, made provision for rulers to confess their transgressions, do penance for the times they’d been forced by necessity to compromise the Writ‘s full rigor. Her own father had paid thousands of marks to Mother Church and the Office of Inquisition for dispensations and absolution under exactly those provisions, and Irys Daykyn knew every other ruler, upon occasion, had found himself or herself forced to do the same.

Yet where personal faith and obedience to God were concerned, Maikel Staynair flatly rejected that concept. He would not compromise his own faith, and he refused to force anyone else to compromise his, and that, Irys had realized, almost against her will, was the true secret of his ability to “seduce” the faithful. The reason even many of the Temple Loyalists here in Old Charis respected him as a true son of God, however mistaken he might be in what he believed God and his own faith required of him.

She’d attended mass in the cathedral three times now, although she’d insisted Daivyn not do so, and she’d heard Staynair preach. And as she’d listened to him speaking from the pulpit, seen the joy bright in his eyes, heard it in his voice, she’d recognized the proof of what she’d already come to suspect. He was, quite simply, the gentlest, most devout, most compassionate and loving man she’d ever met. It might be true, as the Temple Loyalists insisted, that he was doing Shan-wei’s work in the world, but if he was, it was never because he’d knowingly given his allegiance to the Dark.

“I’m sure you could survive even under such atrocious conditions, Your Eminence,” she said now. “Personally, however, I’m much more comfortable here in the ostentatious luxury of your current domicile. I suspect the same is true of Daivyn, as well, although it’s hard to be certain what he thinks when I so seldom have a chance to speak to him. I’m afraid he spends too much time playing basketball on your private court with Haarahld Breygart and Prince Zhan for any long and meaningful conversations with a mere sister. When he’s not swimming with them in the Royal Palace’s pool, that is. Or running madly about the baseball diamond in Queen Mairah’s Court with them, for that matter.”

“It does the boy — I mean, His Highness — good, Your Highness.” Staynair’s smile broadened, then softened. “Forgive me, but it seems to me your brother’s had very little opportunity to simply be a boy since your exile from Corisande. I think it’s important we give some of that boyhood back to him, don’t you?”


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57 Responses to Midst Toil And Tribulation – Snippet 41

  1. Nico de Lange says:

    And yet another example of Mr Weber’s talent for writing utterly human, utterly realistic narrative. Fantastic.

  2. Kari says:

    These are the scenes I frequently prefer, where someone gives us insight to the world and people that they live in. It helps bring more color and life to the story. While frequently interesting and help me learn more about the technology that makes up our world, I sometimes find those sections tiresome.

    • Bob G says:

      I’m very interested in the evolution of technology, and I found the previous chapter tedious. But you are right, it is this chapter and those like it that show DW’s true strength as an author.

      As for Irys, I think the word for her in this chapter is “conflicted”. Where it goes from here is another question. And I bet Earl Coris isn’t going to the Temple Loyalists.

      And a point about DW’s leanings as a citizen of the United States: we know about the overwhelming popularity of Baseball, and the existence of Basketball. What about Soccer, which is probably the most popular sport in the world, but not in the U.S.?

      • Knoche says:

        Football, football, not soccer, maybe is not important in the US because you people don’t use the right name :P

        • JimHacker says:

          but look at how popular what they call ‘football’ is – obviously the popularity of football does not lie in the actual sport but in its name.

        • Nico de Lange says:

          And what about cricket, rugby & tennis, which are all of them more popular than American football, basketball or baseball.

          I love Mr Weber’s work. Really, I do. But I have said this over on the Bar before, he has a definite bias towards North American culture, which is just a bit odd, since the original Safeh0ldian colony was supposed to consist of people from all over Earth.

          • JimHacker says:

            Weber has a very strong North American bias (with bits of British Imperialism and RN thrown in) in all his books which I suppose is understandable. I think it might make a little more sense in the Safehold books than his others though, as it’s in the Safehold books that human dispersal through space happens closest to our present time, making an American cultural prevalence more plausible.

            • ElimGarak says:

              It is indeed understandable, but IMHO it would be refreshing to see other perspectives and directions. Like somebody said, even just adding cricket would be nice. Something that’s other than plain vanilla, plain vanilla, plain vanilla, and some more plain vanilla with a scoop of plain vanilla on top. For example, what about rocky road, chocolate chip, pistachio, etc.?

            • Alan says:

              Cricket is an English, not a British, thing. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland did not have teams at the last world cup. Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Canada, Kenya, India, South Africa, England, West Indies, Bangladesh, Ireland, and the Netherlands did. It’s hard to imagine the Terran Federation escape fleet included no-one from any of those nations or that if it did they meekly abandoned the national passion in favour of North American football. (I accept cricket is not necessarily the national sport in Canada or the Netherlands)

              • JimHacker says:

                I’m the one who brought up cricket originally, but I’m not sure how its relevant that its english not british. Unless that is just for people’s general info. And by World cup yu’re talking about the T20 – but its the tests which matter! And that’s even more exlcusive.

              • jfenton says:

                Please try to remember that when the colonists woke up they DID NOT REMEMBER THEIR FORMER LIVES!! It matters not at all what places or cultures they came from because when they woke up on Safehold they had an artificially uniform culture. The only reason that cricket or other such sports would be preserved would be if the Command Crew (e.g. Langhorn & Bedard and their cronies) wanted to preserve the sport.

              • JimHacker says:

                jfenton: yes, but the command crew should have been diverse. If you want to say that the reason for emphasis on North American culture is that that was where Longhorne was from then that is a plausible in-book explanation. Its just that this is a trend in all of Webers works – including other places where it isn’t quite so plausible.

              • Peter2 says:

                Cricket is played in both Scotland and Ireland, although I accept that it’s a minority sport. Scotland at least fields a team in the minor counties competition, and IIRC they each take part in one of the competitions – the T20, I think

          • KenJ says:

            As it is NoAm culture he is familiar with and most comfortable with… of COURSE that will be what he writes about. If nothing else, it doesn’t require as much research as a totally unfamiliar or at a minimum less familiar culture and its bias sets.

            When you get down to cases, an author writes about what he is familiar with, or what he can imagine. Some will do more extensive research than others and expand their knowledge so they can write about more but even then it is what interests them Personally I would rather have DW’s writing as it is and not have him need to add another 6-mos to a year just to research the history of cricket.

            And just as a side note; he has written a bit (at least in passing) about soccer/football in the HH series. I know at least that it was mentioned as the “national sport” of Manticore when Honor and Mike were discussing Grayson baseball and comparing it to Manticore sports.

            • JimHacker says:

              I’m pretty sure we’re all mostly jesting about sport. But its not just sport, from religion to art, political systems to entertainment all of Weber’s future cultures have a North-American or imperial Britain leaning. Even when the inhabitants/colonists supposedly have a different background. And while it’s certainly understandable for him to do this (and usually in-book plausible), 6 months to research the history of cricket would be ridiculous.

              • Cobbler says:

                How about one week researching the history of cricket and six months trying to figure the game out? Not even the Brits are sure what the rules are and how to interpret them.

    • JimHacker says:

      I think that any scenes, whether about technology, battles, politics, intrigue or the human condition can become tedious if it goes on long enough. There have also been a couple of scenes about spirituality or ideas where I thought that Weber was belabouring the point slightly. The thing is that Weber changes topic relatively often so it it doesn’t happen much. I think we probably notice it more reading snippets because we think this topic has gone on for 4 snippets rather than this topic has gone on for half a chapter.

    • ElimGarak says:

      I don’t know. I found this description rather preachy. It may be fascinating to the Irys, but I don’t think it is that interesting to us. Or at least to me. I comprehend the concept of religious freedom quite well, and don’t need to hear for the umpteenth time how awesome Staynair is. We get it, just about everyone in Charis is awesome in almost every way imaginable. Or at least just about every major character. That perfection gets quite old after a while.

      • JimHacker says:

        I would agree with you, but is that just because we’re fans who hjave no problem recalling all this from the previous book? Perhaps a ‘normal reader’ would be thankful for the reminder?

  3. Nimitz13 says:

    Wow, basketball survived, although why the Archbishop has a private basketball court is beyond me. I can imagine all the high church authorities playing in their vestments. Does the guy with the tallest hat play center?

    When the Imperial Guards play, does Merlin get to play center because of his height? And can a PICA actually miss a shot unless it intentionally wants to?

    In the back of Merlin’s mind, Nimue is laughing her head off! Bleek!

    • JimHacker says:

      It just goes to show how foolish Langhorne was, going to all that trouble to preserve first baseball and then basketball. His failure to preserve cricket demonstrates just how insane the poor man really was.

      • Robert H. Woodman says:

        Perhaps what Weber is subtly telling us in showing that basketball and baseball were preserved and cricket was not is that USA American culture came to dominate Terra by the time that humankind started venturing into the stars. If that’s what he is telling us, then surely that will cheer some folks and cause others to shudder. :-)

        • JimHacker says:

          Not exactly subtle – and that is certainly a possible rationale. Probably a more likely reason in the Safehold universe than the Honorvere judging from what he’s revealed of history in each. I think it’s more likely however that Weber just really likes baseball.

        • Nico de Lange says:

          And soccer died out? Nah.

          I would hope that Mr Weber is aware of what is happening in the global village of today’s real world.

          For a long time commentators & academics have expressed concern that one of the most insidious dangers of globalisation was that local cultures around the globe were in danger of completely disappearing under the onslaught of American popular culture. Yet over the last decade it has become quite clear, in my opinion, that what has actually happened, is that instead of simply adopting American popular culture en masse, people everywhere have reacted to it in a more selective way – choosing those elements they wanted & fitting it into their own local socio-cultural framework.

          One example that comes strongly to mind is the popularity of mobile phone banking throughout Africa, where the lack of a fully-developed Western-style infrastructure is very much a reality of most Africans’ lives. So what Africans have done, was to adopt two central elements of modern Western/American culture (banking & mobile phone communication) & find a way to integrate those into their local reality & still reap the benefits thereof – & in the process Africans have created something that is, if not uniquely then definitely predominantly, African in nature.

        • SCC says:

          I think it shows more of Longhorne’s megalomania then anything else

    • Et1swaw aka Rob says:

      Basketball survived, but what game are they REALLY playing?
      By textev baseball seems fairly consistent to the modern game (which is not just for North American either though: in South and Central America, and Japan it quite popular; NTM an olympic sport).
      But remember that RUGBY on Safehold has basically seemed to become an offshoot child of Water Polo and Rugby.
      And where was textev for North American football on Safehold?
      Rugby, Soccer, Basketball, and Baseball (even tennis) ARE worldwide sports (basketball and baseball may have started in the US but they HAVE spread), whereas Cricket is pretty much limited to ex-Imperium countries (and not all or a majority of them).
      I just wonder what Basketball has become?

      • JimHacker says:

        Cricket was just an example I plucked out of the air. It goes for all the non-American culture. However, cricket may not end up us obscure as you think. It is pretty much the national sport of India with the IPL being incredibly popular. And India is shaping up to become a super-power in fifty years to a century or so.

        • Alan says:

          Ditto Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Baseball has spread but has not become the dominant sport in an area anywhere near the size of South Asia.

  4. Scenes like this are the real strength of the entire Safehold series, and not the battles, the political machinations, or the budding techno-geekdom. If I may be permitted to quote from two reviews I wrote, the first about “A Mighty Fortress,” the second about “How Firm a Foundation”:
    1) “From the very first book, Weber made it clear that the war on Safehold between Charis and the Church was ultimately a war of ideas, not one merely of weapons. It is those ideas that are at the heart of the entire series, and they begin to come to the forefront in the preceding volume, “By Heresies Distressed,” coming to full fruition in “A Mighty Fortress.” Weber writes passages, nowhere moreso than in “A Mighty Fortress,” that demand a large measure of thought–and possibly personal introspection–on the part of the reader…. Truly GOOD science fiction has always been about ideas. Witness “Frankenstein”–really just a very dark retelling of the creation myth; “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”–a condemnation of the perceived faults of British imperialism; “The War of the Worlds”–a commentary on the fragility (and arrogance) of late Victorian society. Does the Safehold series deserve to be in the same company as these books? Who knows? When they were published those books weren’t regarded as significant works of literature, but rather as mere entertainment. In a generation or two, the Safehold books could well be seen in the same light, however–certainly the potential is there.

    The Safehold series isn’t written for those readers who complain about a lack of “action,” or who gripe that “A Mighty Fortress” reads like a collection of minutes from a series of meetings. Evidently they have never read the first three books (and the best of the series) of Isaac Azimov’s “Foundation” saga. Those books were, almost in their entirety, composed of people sitting around talking about ideas–there are no titanic space battles, no exploding starships, no epic warfare–except what takes place “offstage,” as it were, and are only referred to in passing by the various characters in their dialogues. “A Mighty Fortress” is written in much the same vein: most of the “action” is recounted indirectly, after the fact by the participants, or through the consequences of the events. This is actually Weber’s strength, as he compells the reader to focus on the ideas, the values, the moralities, and the spiritual questions that drive those actions. At the same time, it demands that the reader focus equally on the people involved, who are presented (admittedly in a somewhat stylized fashion) as being flesh-and-blood, and not merely as cannon-fodder, or the operators of machinery, or the occupants spaceship cockpits….”

    2) “What is Weber’s greatest strength, however, is the DEPTH of his writing, not his character development, his multiple plot-lines within larger plot-lines, or the land and sea battles. Using fictitious characters, Weber throws some very bright-and sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes agreeable-light on human nature, and this is what is best about the Safehold series and Weber’s writing. In “A Mighty Fortress” he gave some thought-provoking insights into how religion can be used as a tool for human ambition, even by those with the best intentions. He quietly raised questions in the readers’ minds about the nature of the relationship between God and human beings, as well as if there actually is such a relationship, or even if there should be one. He took the time to examine-and posit for his readers- the moral differences (and consequences of those differences) between a man or woman believing that they personally were accountable to God for their actions, and men or women who believe that by blindly following the orders of other men and woman they themselves are absolved of responsibility before God for their actions. He highlights something that many people in the early 21st Century seem to have forgotten: that good institutions and good intentions can be used and perverted for evil purposes. I suspect that many readers who speak blithely about “skimming” the Safehold novels to avoid Weber’s verbosity are actually doing so to avoid an uncomfortable confrontation with the truths contained within his prose.

    Well, there’s more of the same in “How Firm a Foundation,” although the focus this time is on the political arena, rather than the spiritual realm. This time, while recounting episodes of derring-do and political machination, Weber explores power: the application of power, the will to power, the seductiveness of power, the trap of power. From courtroom judgements to political assassinations to decrees of campaigns of terror and subversion, POWER is what drives this novel. There are men who have crises of conscience in their service to the Church of God Awaiting who decide that they can no longer serve that Church; individual priests who come to a bitter understanding of the differences between power and faith; a decision made by major character that costs him his life, his choice driven by the power of love. And then there is the terrible corruption wrought by power. I’ve read few passages as movingly dark and disturbing as the one where Willem Rayno, playing Martin Bormann to Clyntahn’s Adolf Hitler, begins to realize what a monster his superior is, and yet at the same time understands that without Clyntahn, he, Rayno, is nothing: without saying it in so many words, Rayno realizes that he lacks the moral stature to abandon Clyntahn, let alone strike out at him to stop him-and that his own fate is no longer his to decide, it will be determined by that of Clyntahn. So Rayno realizes that he must continue to be the monster’s instrument-there is no escape for him.

    This is SERIOUS writing, my friends, and it deserves contemplation. This is not a book to be “skimmed,” it must be read-and the more you read it, the more you appreciate it. I would submit that those who skim it, and who derogate the more philosophical aspects of Weber’s story-telling, do so not out of convenience, but because he prods their consciences in ways they don’t wish to be prodded. The books of the Safehold series do something that only the best fiction does: they eventually propel the reader to introspections. And that, my friends, is far more valuable and enduring than any hundred space battles, frigate actions, or cavalry charges.”

    • Nico de Lange says:

      Hallelujah & Amen!!!

    • KenJ says:

      Excellent review!! Glad you found and shared it.

      • KenJ, for the past three years I’ve been telling friends that the Safehold series is something remarkable–science fiction destined to someday be regarded as serious works of literature. Charles Dickens didn’t set out to write “literature,” nor did Verne,or Dumas or Hugo, or nor did Tolkien, they were all writing to tell rousing good stories that would be read by the literate masses (in their day that was not an oxymoron), and at the same time say something significant (I hesitate to say “profound” as that is a word far too often misapplied). Until the second decade or so of the Twentieth Century, few writers ever sat down to write “literature”–it was the intellectually self-conscious, ego-inflated writers of the 1920’s who began to deliberately separate “literature” from popular fiction. Imagining their talents to be greater than they actually were, the only route by which they could gain recognition was to distance themselves from the mainstream, in essence saying “What we are writing is too elevated for the ordinary man or woman to understand–only special people will comprehend us and our work.” At times you can almost hear the disdain dripping from their work.

        Well, TMW has basically reverted to that pre-World War One model with the Safehold series, and to a lesser extent with the Honor Harrington series, whereby intelligent, thought-provoking concepts are introduced and presented with the belief that the “ordinary man or woman” can and will grasp and understand them. THAT is why I’m such a huge fan of the Safehold books.

        • JimHacker says:

          I’m not sure i regard Weber’s books as ‘serious’ literature. By that I don’t mean that elitist definition to which you refer. I regard Terry Pratchett’s or Philip K Dick’s stuff as literature. I’m not quite sure what’s missing. Perhaps its a touch more character complexity?

        • robert says:

          I still do not consider Tolkien’s writings as literature. For those that can wade through them, they are merely an entertainment.

          • JimHacker says:

            Its close, but I do. I think its the final few chapters which make the difference – there is a whole lot of additional depth in them.

          • Peter2 says:

            By the dictionary definition, it is unquestionably literature, just as Dickens’ “Great Expectations”, Stewart’s “Earth Abides” and Bemelmans’ “Are You Hungry, Are You Cold” are literature. What I suspect you mean is that you do not think it is good literature. That is a matter of opinion based on what you consider important. For what it’s worth, C. S. Lewis would have disagreed with you.

          • robert, that is, of course, your right. And after all, we are talking about something very subjective here. At the same time there are millions of people who do consider Tolkien’s writings to be literature, and not because someone has told them that it is such, but because they have concluded so for themselves. That does not automatically mean they’re right; however, their numbers are such that their conclusion cannot simply be dismissed with a figurative airy wave of the hand. And the point which I am making here, and with which most seem to be agreeing, is that to be entertaining does not automatically preclude a work of fiction from being good literature. Personally, I find the writings of Ayn Rand to be deadly dull and arrantly pedantic, yet at the same time I am prepared to acknowledge them as genuine works of literature–my opinion of the entertainment value of, say, “Atlas Shrugged” does not diminish in any way my recognition of the significance of what Rand is saying; my opinion concerns the manner in which she says it.

            To bring this back on topic, since the initial comment was about Weber’s writing, NOT Tolkien’s (and frankly I’m annoyed at the attempted hijack), I would reassert my conclusion as to the literary merits of not only Weber’s writing, but his message as well. There are far worse ways of spending one’s time than reading a book in the Safehold series and suddenly pausing to reflect, “Hmmmmm, I’d never thought about that before….”

            (The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of the management, but they ought to be!)

        • Cobbler says:

          The writers of the 20s were not alone. They followed modern art there. I don’t really object to your description of some of those “Paris in the Twenties” writers. But a larger context can help.

          Did earlier art works speak only to the high culture, while puzzling plebeians? Take a walk through Chartres or Florence and tell me that.

          It was modern art, growing through the later nineteenth century and burgeoning in the twentieth, that carried high art where few people could follow. That same distinction between popular and high art that you see in those writers, was part of a larger movement.

          At the same time science was pulling the same trick. Classical physics was left behind. Relativity and quantum mechanics described worlds no one could experience. No more than people could experience Dali’s melting watches, or Finnegan’s Wake linguistic donnybrook, in everyday life.

          Those modern artists were prescient. Starting in Victorian stability, they foresaw the cultural balkanization of the twentieth century. The same social movements that have left us without a functioning high culture today. It’s easy to see the Spanish Civil War in Picasso’s Guernica. Try looking at that picture as an exploration of our twenty first century world. A world broken into warring subcultures, rent by shattered certainties.

          I’ve got a lot of respect for those artists and writers and scientists

  5. Jon says:

    Since I didn’t notice anybody do it on the last snippet, I want to make sure to do it now.

    Thanks Drak for increasing the rate of Snippets. I feel my addictions being eased a little :).

  6. Gordon says:

    D-20 and counting!

  7. Mike says:

    I know it’s an unpopular opinion on this website, but scenes like this are why I don’t rank Weber anywhere high up in my own list of favorite writers. He’s very good at plot and action scenes, but when it comes to stuff like this he always ends up only telling us what his characters feel and who they are rather than SHOWING us what they feel and who they are.

    But obviously he has many fans who disagree with me. That’s fine. That’s why we have so many different authors to choose from.

    • JimHacker says:

      I agree with you on the point that Weber has a tendency to sometimes tell rather than show, especially when it comes to the moral and spiritual dimensions of a character. And then tell again. And again.

      On the other, hand he does rank as one of my favourite authors. The reason for this is one of the most distinctive things about his work, but sadly it’s not managed to get so much of a showing in the Safehold series due to the situation Weber has created on Safeholod. For me, the feature which elevates Weber’s work is that, unlike in many works with a military bent, all the people are people – not mindless goons. Tragic villains, and even ambivalent villains are common. Sometimes people on the ‘good guy’ side aren’t so good. And sometimes even the good ‘good guy’ characters whom we liked die. But that’s not so incredibly unusual. What’s unusual is that often the ‘bad guys’ are shown to be good, brave people with honourable motives. War is often shown to be a senseless waste. That just isn’t the kind of thing I usually see in military fiction or any fiction with strong military overtones. Sure, the characters may mope about war being a waste; minor good guy characters are occasionally fleshed out specifically to be killed off; and the protagonist will blame the war on the idiot, corrupt politicians/bureacrats who started it: but that’s what we’re told. Mostly what we’re shown in the genre is war is fun.

      • robert says:

        Mindless goons. Good one!

      • Mike says:

        Jim, I think he has gotten better at this. In his early novels the bad guys are pretty much just cardboard cutouts of evil.

        • JimHacker says:

          I’m not so sure you’re right on that. One of Weber’s very first novels was Insurrection (inthe Starfire universe) which had examples of what i stated above. But then, he was creating the American Civil War In Space, so perhaps that was an exception. I guess you have a point with Dahak. But within a couple of years we start getting what I said above. The most-cutout badguy I’ve seen was the bugs in In Death Ground and The Shiva Option which were 1997/2002 – and I think that was dictated by the pre-existing lore of what he was writing about.

  8. Marion says:

    Weber has got to watch out for some of his cliches/overused images.
    “breeze teased tendrils of silk loose from her braided hair”
    See War Maid’s Choice.
    Doesn’t any heroine/main character have bad hair days?

  9. Frank says:

    Weber walks the razor on too much information and a great story.

  10. George Phillies says:

    Weber is showing, not telling, us what Irys is feeling; the scene is playing inside her mind.

    • JimHacker says:

      No he’s telling through the thoughts of a viewpoint character. Its certainly better than simple explosition, but it is telling rather than showing. Personally, I’m not really bothered by that distinction so much. It’s just that Weber does tend to do this a lot.

  11. The above discussion is very good; kudos to all of you. Daniel Allen Butler made me explicitly aware of part of why DW is my second favorite living SF author. (He used to be first, but he co-authored a book which I bought on the strength of his name, only to find it was a sequel, so I bought the first book and read it first, whereupon DW’s co-author became my #1 favorite living SF-AH author, and 1632 has become the book I have read the most times.

    One habit of DW’s that I particularly enjoy is his sly historical references, e.g. having, for a spaceship owned and crewed by Haven’s State Security, the name “Tepes” (pronounced Teppish). I am sure many who read IN ENEMY HANDS remain totally unaware of the historical reference, but still thoroly enjoy a great story, but those who catch the reference have the added enjoyment of DW’s sly humor.

  12. summertime says:

    David Weber is not alone in using odd spellings to emphasize linguistic drift. The Robert Adams novels about the ‘Horseclans’ from the 1980s, about nomads in a future America after war and disease decimate the population, used much the same device. Some of his pronunciations are about as hard to figure out as Weber’s are.

    • Alan says:

      The Latin pronunciation of ‘Caesar’ has a hard C and the AE-diphthong rhymes with the Y in ‘sky’. To the Romans it would have sounded much more like German ‘kaiser’ than the English pronunciation, although in German the name has remained Caesar and not drifted into Kaiser. Linguistic drift in English has not meant we now spell Caesar with a K. The situation is slightly different in Romance languages but they are directly derived from Latin.

      The real problem is not that the Safeholdian linguistic drift defies the known pattern of sound shifts, although it does. The real problem is that Safehold was designed by an anti-technology psychopath who wanted to prevent any kind of change. Langhorne went to the trouble (for example) of imposing Roman numerals to prevent the development of mathematics, but apparently allowed open slather with spelling changes.

      • justdave says:

        IIRC the ‘spelling’ your referring to is MWW’s attempt to show the shift in the spoken language, it was stated explicitly in OAR the written language hadn’t changed

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