A Midsummer Night’s Flandry

by Astrid Anderson Bear

Doyenne of masquerades and fiber artist extraordinaire, Astrid Anderson Bear is SF grandmaster Poul Anderson’s daughter.
Dominic Flandry was my gateway to the writings of my father, Poul Anderson. One summer when I was about 11, we repainted my bedroom. The jumble of furniture and piles of possessions forced me to sleep on the spare bed in my father’s study for a few days. Needing something to read in bed – I always read before sleep – I turned to the handy shelf of author’s copies and picked out Agent of the Terran Empire. I was a big Man from U.N.C.L.E. fan at the time, so likely the idea of “agent of . . .” caught my eye. Now, I had been reading SF for some years at this time, starting with Space Cat by Ruthven Todd and The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron, and I do recall reading Dune as it came out in Analog, but somehow I hadn’t gotten around to reading any of my father’s work.

So I found myself plunged into the world of the dashing, clever, love-them-and-leave-them Dominic Flandry, determined warrior fighting against the forces of the Long Night. “Wow!” I remember thinking. “This stuff is pretty good!” And so I read all the Flandry there was, that summer, and moved on to such delights as the Hoka stories, the Time Patrol stories, The High Crusade, and so on.

Speculating now about the genesis of Flandry, I wondered if the James Bond novels of Ian Fleming might have been an influence. But no, the first Bond novel, Casino Royale, was published in 1953, and the first Flandry story, “Tiger by the Tail” came out in 1951. Interestingly, Fleming was involved in the creation of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which clearly has roots in the Bond stories. So, while Bond led to Man from U.N.C.L.E, which led me to Flandry, Flandry was there first.

If you are coming to Flandry for the first time, you have a treat in store. Although some of the stories are pure space opera, there is a deeper undercurrent of the rhythms of civilizations, and the problems of being on the downhill side of history, that give the reader more to chew on than the usual popcorn of escapist fiction.

In this Technic Civilization Saga mega-volume finale, agent Dominic Flandry attempts to save a crumbling galactic empire one adventure at a time!
This collection is the last of Baen’s seven volumes of the Technic Civilization Saga, that has taken us from the wily trader Van Rijn, through the teamwork of David Falkayn and friends, and the entire chronicled career of Dominic Flandry, ending with Game of Empire. Flandry strolls onstage mid-way through the journeys taken by his daughter, Diana Crowfeather, and her companions, the fierce Tigery, Targovi, and the gentle Wodenite pilgrim, Axor, and eventually neatly reveals how all the threads of empire, ambition, loyalty, and betrayal tie together. We leave Flandry as he is about to go in to dinner with the three of them, and it’s nice to contemplate the futures that Flandry offers them, no doubt further discussed over fine cognac and cigars at the conclusion of the meal. For extra credit, compare and contrast Game of Empire with Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, and Diana Crowfeather with Kim.

Digging into the shelves to find the texts that are in this volume showed me once again how very strong Jim Baen's support for my father's work was over the many, many years–first at Ace, then Tor, and then at Baen Books, which continues after Jim's untimely death. I remember Jim saying once something to the effect of, "All I have to do is gather up some Poul Anderson stories, slap a cover on them, and we all make money!" Jim Baen's reprint programs at the various houses has kept much of my father's work in print and available for decades.

I thank Baen Books for continuing it, and Hank Davis for compiling the Technic Civilization Saga. I wish you all happy reading!

Astrid Anderson Bear dyes yarn at Martha Lake, Washington, for her business, Damselfly Yarns, and is currently President of the Friends of the University of Washington Libraries. Her first fiction sale, the short story “The Home Front,” co-written with Diane Clark, is in the anthology San Diego Noir, available June 2011 from Akashic Books.

Copyright © 2011 by Astrid Anderson Bear