- Pavane (novel)
name = Pavane
genre = Science Fiction
publisher = Ace
pub_date = 1968
media_type = book
pages = 285
oclc = 6754025
Keith Robertsis an alternate history science fiction fix-upnovel first published by Rupert Hart-Davis Ltd in 1968.
Comprising a cycle of linked stories set in
Dorset, England, it depicts a 1968 in which the Roman Catholic Churchstill has supremacy; in its timeline, Protestantismwas destroyed during wars that resulted from the aftermath of the assassinationof Queen Elizabeth in 1588.
Without Protestant England, Spain prevented the Protestant
Netherlandsfrom attaining independence, while the German mercantile city states that financed the Reformationwere also suppressed. As a consequence, while Spanish power eventually wanes, the Roman Catholic Church has no rivals and the Pope becomes the effective secular, as well as spiritual, ruler over Europe. The Church thus also controls the restive "New World" (which approximates the United Statesin our timeline), as well as "Australasia", where James Cookplanted the cobalt flag of the Vatican, instead of the Union Flagin the eighteenth century.
Most of the original stories were published in "Science Fantasy". An additional story, "The White Boat", was added in later editions.The social effects include a continuing
feudalsystem and bans on innovation, particularly electricity, leading to a roughly mid-19th century technologywith steam traction engines and mechanical semaphore telegraphy. Outlying areas are dangerous, with wild animals and occasional manifestations of the 'Old Ones' or 'People of the Hills' (supposed fairies) who leave crab-symbol graffiti. The stories take place at a period when the possibility of revolution is rumoured.
The location and flavour, nostalgic yet tragic in outlook, resemble a science-fictional equivalent of the fictionalized Wessex of
Thomas Hardy(as in the Hardy stories, there are place-name differences; for instance, in "Pavane" Dorchester retains its Roman name, Durnovaria). Real geographical locations play a major role: Golden Capis the site of a semaphore station, and the castle at Corfe is a key presence in the book.
:"Over all, the long arm of the Popes reached out to punish and reward; the Church Militant remained supreme. But by the middle of the twentieth century widespread mutterings were making themselves heard. Rebellion was once more in the air . . ."
The title alludes to the stately and melancholy dance, the
pavane, the book being divided thematically into measures and a coda.After a brief Prologue explaining the back-story, the stories are:
* "The "Lady Margaret" — a lonely steam haulier meets a friend from his past;
* "The Signaller" — an apprentice semaphore operator is assigned to a remote station;
* "The White Boat" (not in all editions) — a discontented fisher girl is obsessed with a mysterious yacht;
* "Brother John" — a monk becomes disaffected by the practices of the
* "Lords and Ladies" — a woman's bitter memories are evoked at the deathbed of the haulier from the first story, who is her uncle;
* "Corfe Gate" — an aristocrat, the daughter of the central female character in "Lords and Ladies", is involved in a regional rebellion.
* The "Coda" is set some years after the events of the final stories, and centres on the son of the seneschal to the female aristocrat from "Corfe Gate".
The notion of using a sophisticated semaphore system to communicate over long distances was later used by
Terry Pratchettin his " Discworld" novels, particularly " Going Postal", in which it is called 'clacks'. The technology described is not very similar, "Pavane" having been written before general use of digital computers, or even facsimile transmission, and using two arms like the Napoleonic War coastal semaphores, whereas the clacks anticipate digital computing, as does "Hex", the amusing computer at Unseen University.The term 'steampunk' could have a root or two in these seminal stories.
There are two different traditions in subsequent
alternate historyfiction that have resulted from the counterfactualvictory of the Spanish Armadaover Elizabethan Englandin 1588. In one strand, Spanish domination is emphasised, and Spain survives an imperial power and retardant on much technological progress. Two examples of such fiction are John Brunner's " Times Without Number" and Harry Turtledove's " Ruled Britannia".
In the other strand of alternate history fiction, it is Catholic ideological and institutional domination over England and Western Europe which is the chief beneficiary from the suppression of the Protestant Reformation.
Kingsley Amis' " The Alteration" and John Whitbourn's " A Dangerous Energy" (1991) and " To Build Jerusalem" (1995) both share this central premise with "Pavane", with the effects of technological retardation also apparent. However, these novels depict such worlds divergence pointfrom our own as being attributable to earlier sixteenth century events than the arrival of the Spanish Armada, and their specific contingencies are described below.
Of the two Spanish hegemony novels, Brunner's book was written at the same time as Roberts' and shares its historical divergence point, positing a successful Spanish Armada, which invaded Elizabethan England in 1588. However, Brunners' alternate history is Spanish-dominated, rather than Catholic-dominated, as Roberts' is.
time travelexists in its alternate universe, and the Time Society, of which one Don Alvarado is a member, strives to protect the integrity of its version of alternate history, and there are no supernatural elements within its storyline, as there are within Roberts'. Ultimately, the Time Society fails, due to the disappearance of the English Catholic "Earl of Barton" who insured the success of the Armada in their world.
Turtledove's later book can be characterised as being written in an opposite vein, being set in an alternate 1598, and depicting an England which within a decade of being defeated and occupied is already rebounding and plotting to throw off the Spanish yoke.
Kingsley Amis' "The Alteration" fits into the second cited tradition of alternate history fiction related to Catholic hegemony, although its divergence point occurs earlier in the sixteenth century, when
Catherine of Aragonand Arthur Tudorhave a child, later "Stephen II", from their short-lived marriage, precipitating a usurpation attempt from Henry the Abominable (otherwise known as Henry VIII, and a "Holy Victory" that led to Catholic theocratic ascendancy within the contemporary "Emglish Isles" in 1976. There is even an alternate "Pavane" entitled "Galliard" mentioned in the novel, where "Schismatics abducted Elizabeth Tudor and raised her as one of their own."
In his two novels, "A Dangerous Energy" (1991) and "To Build Jerusalem" (1996), John Whitbourn depicts another Catholic-dominated, technologically retrograde England, although, as with The Alteration, the sixteenth century divergence point from our own world occurs somewhat earlier than the arrival of the Spanish Armada, in 1562. In our world,
Elizabeth Irecovered from a severe bout of smallpoxthat almost killed her. In the above novels, she died from that same infection, and her feckless cousin Mary Queen of Scotstook over her throne as "Mary II", which meant that England reverted to Catholicism, this time permanently in Whitbourn's timeline. In this world, psionicabilities are possible, and the Catholic Church is far more benign and well-intentioned than it is within the worlds of "Pavane" and "The Alteration".
* [http://www.randomhouse.com/delrey/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780345440914&view=excerpt Pavane] "Del Rey Online" excerpt, "Prologue" and part of "The Lady Margaret".
* [http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/nonfiction/pavane.htm Pavane] "Infinity Plus" review.
* [http://www.uchronia.net/bib.cgi/label.html?id=robepavane Pavane] "Uchronia: The Alternate History List" detailed summary and international bibliography.
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