Sunday, March 21, 2010

The flame next time

One of Isaac Asimov's early stories was one he originally called "Pilgrimage" and then "Galactic Crusade", and which was eventually published as "Black Friar of the Flame". As its Wikipedia entry (much of which I wrote) puts it , " 'Black Friar of the Flame' has a reputation as Asimov's worst story, based largely on Planet Stories editor Malcolm Reiss' wretched title. However, it is an obvious precursor to Asimov's more successful venture into future history, the Foundation Series."

As he notes in The Early Asimov, Dr. A. was inspired by Charles R. Tanner's "Tumithak of the Corridors" to write a story which was set in the far future, but which was written from the point of view of someone who regarded the events in it as possibly-legendary ancient history. He also wanted to try his hand at a story on an interstellar scale, since all his previous stories had been confined to the Solar System. The story went through numerous rejections and rewrites over the course of two and a half years before its final acceptance by Planet Stories, which had the effect of souring Asimov on the story, and on multiple rewrites in general.

The story is not available online, and since it is still under copywrite by Asimov's estate, it won't be appearing online anytime soon. So, if you want to read a copy, you're going to have to acquire a copy of The Early Asimov and read it there (assuming you haven't already). Nevertheless, I have a sneaking fondness for this story, which may well be Asimov's closest approach to blood 'n thunder space opera. Since the planets Trantor and Santanni, better known from their later appearances in the Foundation Series, are first mentioned here, BFotF can be thought of as an alternate version of the Foundation universe, one where humanity shares the Galaxy with a single other intelligent spacefaring race.

Since the story's aliens, the Lhasinu, are native to the Vega system, a mere 25 light years from Earth, I got to wondering how they got to the point found in the story of ruling a separate empire that covered a third of the Galaxy. I decided over ten years ago to answer that question by creating a whole timeline leading up to the story's events, and I now propose to share that timeline with my vast hypothetical blogging audience. Here, then, is my version of the six thousand years of history leading up to "Black Friar of the Flame". (BTW, don't be surprised if you see a fanfic prequel to BFotF based on this timeline appearing later on this blog.)

Hyperspacial Jump perfected. Exploration of interstellar space begins.

First colonies established on Alpha Centauri, 61 Cygni and Sirius.

Alien race discovered in the Vega system. The Vegans are militaristic reptiles with a pre-gunpowder Iron Age culture. Contact with the Vegans is restricted to a scientific outpost located in Lhasinu, capital city of an island kingdom on Vega VI.

As Jump technology improves, the cost of interstellar travels falls, bringing colonization within reach of moderately wealthy groups. Older colony worlds begin founding their own colonies.

Over 200 worlds have been colonized. The most distant, Santa Anna, is 500 parsecs from Earth.

Population of colony worlds passes that of Earth.

Colonial Bloc gains a majority in the Terran Parliament. Renamed Stellar Parliament. Alpha Centauri takes over administration of Lhasinu Base on Vega VI.

Growing resentment of outer worlds on Earth. Growing breach between Sirius Bloc and Centauri Bloc in Stellar Parliament.

Centauri-backed coup attempt on Sirius fails. Sirian Alliance secedes from Stellar Parliament.

Earth rebels against Stellar Parliament, sides with Sirian Alliance. Sirians seize Vegan system from Centaurians, begin recruiting soldiers from Lhasinu.

Centauri fleet defeated at Battle of Tau Ceti. Alpha Centauri recognizes independence of Sirian Alliance and Solar Federation.

Breakup of Stellar Parliament. Increasing use of Vegan mercenaries in interstellar wars. Returning Vegan mercenaries with human technical training enable Lhasinuic Kingdom to conquer Vega VI.

Industrial revolution on Vega VI. Vegans begin interstellar colonization.

Humans and Vegans occupy the Galaxy.

Radec Loara of Helicon travels to Earth, experiences epiphany, founds Loarism to restore ancient culture of Earth.

Spread of Loarism among humanity. Earth becomes religious capital of the Galaxy.

Vegan Mutiny. Vegans seize control of one fifth of the Galaxy. Foundation of Lhasinuic Empire. Beginning of Galactic Drive, the Vegan attempt to conquer the Galaxy.

Lhasinu gain control of one third of the Galaxy.

Lhasinu take Earth. Unsuccessful attempt by humans to regain Earth exhausts both sides. End of Galactic Drive. Loarism begins to decline.

Bloody Rebellion on Earth fails to free the planet from Lhasinu rule. Loarists and human worlds fail to support Earth. Loarists reach accommodation with Lhasinu.

"Black Friar of the Flame": Great Rebellion begins on Earth. Loara Filip Sanat unites human worlds against Lhasinu Empire.

Santanni Oligarchy withdraws from Loarist alliance. Battle of Luna. Lhasinu driven from Earth and other human worlds.


Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Hyperspacial Jump perfected. Exploration of interstellar space begins.


The future's not what it used to be.

Johnny Pez said...

Ain't that the truth.