And more Robert Silverberg, this time a sequel to C. L. Moore’s “Vintage Season” from 1946.
Raw Feed (1992): “In Another Country”, Robert Silverberg/”Vintage Season”, C. L. Moore, 1990.
“Introduction”, Robert Silverberg — Account of Silverberg’s respect for C.L. Moore’s “Vintage Season” and why he wrote his sequel, “In Another Country”, the way he did.
“Vintage Season”, C.L. Moore — I knew the ending to this generally acknowledged classic, so that element of horror and shock, that emotion of the final revelation was denied to me. Of course, the ending seems obvious once you know it and read the story. Still, this story did generate some ominous, creepy feelings. There are the disturbingly immaculate visitors from some mysterious country. They’re time travelers, of course and are given to making disturbingly cryptic remarks that seem — in retrospect I would assume if I came to this story cold — to foreshadow a coming cataclysm. Moore does a nice job of not really describing the artifacts the time travelers have brought to our time but conveying the emotions of their art and artifacts. And she does a nice job showing the dreamy, strange relationship between Oliver Wilson and weak, too sensitive, patronizing, addict Kleph. The time travelers agenda, a tour of perfect seasons with seemingly great events in them, is a neat idea with a logical appeal to an aesthetic society of spectators. To Oliver Wilson, they seem horrible in their pursuit of disaster as an aesthetic experience. Yet, he realizes time has isolated them so far from him there can be no real emotional connection between them and him. The ultimate horror is represented by Cenbe, brilliant symphonia composer who, unlike his time traveling peers, is fascinated by the aftermath of disaster, the emotions of survivors and dying. To him, Oliver Wilson’s world is merely one of the “building blocks” that lead to Cenbe’s world, a source of artistic inspiration. When Oliver begs Cenbe to change history, Cenbe replies to do so would eliminate his “time-world” which is entirely to his liking. Wilson pleads he can change history, wipe out pain, suffering and tragedy. Cenbe, in effect, says this current horror will pass away like all the rest that makes up Cenbe’s history. Wilson has the fact unpleasantly driven home that we all exist (we hope) in someone’s distant past. But are we really that much different from Cenbe and his peers? We often view history and its horrors (and joys) as entertainments. The time travelers, of course, differ in that they can change history. But would we completely alter our world to help temporal strangers we can never fully know or understand? This story is one of those classic stories that start out on a human scale and end by showing humanity horrifically dwarfed by spatial and temporal vastness. Sometimes it’s the inhuman, dead universe that dwarfs us. Here it is our descendants.
“In Another Country”, Robert Silverberg — This story is, of course, a sequel to C.L. Moore’s “Vintage Season”. It’s set in the same time, same place, and has some of the same people (as minor characters) as “Vintage Season”, so it’s hard not to compare the two. I found Silverberg’s the more romantic (in both senses of the word). Moore’s plot is more concerned with exoticness, mystery, and unease than the romance between Oliver Wilson and Kleph. Silverberg’s story, by its nature of setting, is deprived of all mystery. The exception are the bits when Christine Rawlins feels she’s met Thimiroi before and the latter feels he was a 20th Century man. I thought Silverberg was going to do a time travel paradox, but he didn’t. Christine’s feelings of recognition could be some effect of the vaguely described time travel process, but I doubt that interpretation is intended. The counter-intervention only wipes out her memories and meeting with Thimiroi. Silverberg’s story is more emotional too (in the sense of poignancy and tragedy) with its doomed romance and Laliene’s futile efforts to spare Thimiroi the agony of frustrated, impossible love. Silverberg also does a nice job of showing how alien the visitors are (with women who don’t sweat or menstruate and a general intolerance for seafood) and how wonderful this vintage season and time are (with Thimiroi reveling in the primitive vitality of our world and suddenly chafing at the planned aesthetic perfection of his). But why did Silverberg see fit to date this story with a reference to Iranian politics? It spoils the timelessness (in a loose sense) of Moore’s vision. Silverberg in this story explains why Rome of 19 BC and Charlemagne’s coronation are on the itinerary. The travelers look for vintage seasons culminated with disaster of a natural or political nature though in Augustus’ and Charlemagne’s case the years chosen seem to be their best. Silverberg’s story does not have the creepiness and moral questions of history (however horrible) as entertainment that Moore’s does. Still, a worthwhile story.