Technic History

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The Technic History is a Space Opera setting featured in many short stories and novels written by Poul Anderson from the 1950s through to the 1980s.

It spans many centuries of future history, but most of the stories are set in one of two periods:

  1. The Polesotechnic League period (25th century). Most of the stories set in this period feature Intrepid Merchant Nicholas van Rijn, and/or his protege David Falkayn.
  2. The Terran Empire period (31st century). Most of the stories set in this period feature Imperial Intelligence agent Dominic Flandry.

Not to be confused with Anderson's Psychotechnic League series, an entirely separate future history deliberately named in a parallel fashion.

Tropes used in Technic History include:
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Dominic Flandry is kidnapped by an alien race, who assert that they are far more civilized than the Terran Empire, as they would never betray an oath or otherwise be dishonest (except to other, lesser, races, like humans). He soon has the entire leadership of the planet backstabbing each other, noting that their refusal to admit that they, too, can betray each other if the price is right, is what enabled him to succeed in destroying them.
  • Badass Israeli: Sort of. Flandry's first mentor is a badass Jewish spymaster named Max. Max's daughter, Miriam, finally ends up as Flandry's wife in old age after they have an adventure as a Battle Couple. Incidently Miriam's homeworld is named Dayan
  • Big Badass Bird of Prey: The Ythrians dominate a large part of the series. They are not exactly avian but they look avian and Anderson considered making a winged creature that could carry a brain capable of sapience in normal gravity to be an interesting puzzle. Ythrian's hat, to some degree is being Warrior Poets. While massive wars are not as much a part of their history as among Terrans, they have their own heritage of violence and feuding, and they have a code of honor or "Deathpride" and an ethic of heroism. In many ways they are a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Medieval Iceland.
  • Big Fun: Despite being a tough fellow, Van Rjn is chubby and enjoys life.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Lots. Especially the Dominic Flandry stories; Flandry succeeds, but loses any woman he truly loves, feels guilt at hurting the feelings of the others, and in one story is troubled by the contrast between several honest, decent rebels, who are at best going to be locked up for the rest of their lives, and the decadent, despicable Emperor. The prequel novel had a back-cover blurb which summed up:

Though through this and his succeeding adventures he will struggle gloriously and win (usually) mighty victories, Dominic Flandry is essentially a tragic figure: a man who knows too much, who knows that battle, scheme, and even betray as he will, in the end it will mean nothing. For with the relentlessness of physical law the Long Night approaches. The Terran Empire is dying...

  • Because I'm Good At It Both Flandry and Aycharach have a little of this in them though that is not their whole motivation.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Aycharach actually does have a cause beyond his own amusement which is not revealed until Knight of Ghosts and Shadows. However while it is vaguely comprehensible to a human, it hardly seems worth the suffering he is willing to cause for it.
  • Blue Blood: There are a lot of titled characters in the Flandry stories. He's an aristocrat himself.
    • Falkayn is a prince from Hermes. He spends more time as a trader by preference, though once or twice he is required to use his political contacts.
  • Canon Welding: The Nicholas van Rijn stories and Dominic Flandry stories weren't, originally, part of the same universe. But a bit of prodding by fans, and he wrote some bridging so that now they are.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Nicholas van Rijn. If you are an attractive woman, expect to have him make constant references to your looks as well as many passes. But should danger appear, you couldn't have anyone better at your side.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Nicholas van Rijn frequently uses sneaky methods. On one occasion, he taunts an alien prince into biting his behind; the alien prince realizes too late that human biochemistry is toxic to his people.
  • Crapsack World: Flandry lives in an empire that is slowly decaying at the borders while most of it's rulers wile away their time in luxury and he knows disaster is coming in a few generations.
  • Even Mooks Have Loved Ones: One of the Dominic Flandry stories ended with Flandry successfully killing a Merseian agent who'd been stirring up rebellion on a Terran world. Then Flandry wondered if the agent had some children who couldn't understand why their father hadn't come home.
  • Feudal Future: The Terran Empire is more recognisable as using this trope, but the late Polesotechnic league is more literally feudal. Van Rijn at one point speaks of getting an "oath of fealty" from an employee before giving the young fellow a major promotion.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • Dennitza is an amalgamation. It is primarily based on Serbia to the point of having a descendant of Orthodox Christianity as their chief religion, and Serbian aristocratic titles. Its military has militia-like aspects and it has a cultural as well as defensive role in society (such as being the focus of clubs and fellowships and youth groups), rather like in Switzerland or Israel. And its politics is something more like British politics with parliamentary democracy and limited aristocracy and representation for commoners. It also has a custom of ritual protest demonstration which may be more an American tradition (Flandry uses this last custom to get a hearing in Parliament just as they are about to declare rebellion against the Terran Empire because of Aycharach's schemes).
    • The Polesotechnic League has some likeness to the Hanseatic League.
    • The Ythrians are like Medieval Icelanders in their resistance to the idea of a bureaucratic state. Or indeed any state other then the minimum for them which is far below what humans would consider minimum.
    • The 'Tinerants on the planet of Aeneas are like Roma to the point of having totem pets (much like hunting hounds were once the symbol of a clan chief among some Roma). However, in this case the "pets" are part of a sort of psionic-bioattack by Aycharach and the 'Tinerents are unwitting victims.
  • Floating Water: Justified in one of the Flandry novels, with an artificial zero-g environment.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Nicholas van Rijn from the Polesotechnic League novels is a greedy, sloppy, cynical, womanizing corporate executive. He also constantly saves his employees from death and disaster, often with an elaborate Batman Gambit that involves using evolutionary psychology to psychoanalyze whatever alien race is giving their interstellar trading company trouble. He is also merciful towards his enemies and tries to create win-win situations for them.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: Regular comments in the introductions of chapters are given by Ythrians.
  • Humans Are Warriors: "That race still bears the chromosomes of conquerors. There are still brave men in the Empire, devoted men, shrewd men ... with the experience of a history longer than ours to guide them. If they see doom before them, they'll fight like demons."
  • Insufficiently Advanced Alien: The Dominic Flandry series has many examples of "barbarians" -- primitive alien species given spaceships and high-tech weaponry by more a advanced civilization, generally for use as expendable mercenaries and deniable proxies.
  • Intrepid Merchant: Nicholas van Rijn, and his protege David Falkayn.
  • I Owe You My Life: A boy rescues a Ythrian chief in "Rescue on Avalon"(written for Boy's Life) and is given leave to visit the clan's turf at will in return.
  • It Is Beyond Saving: Dominic Flandry has noted that he's just doing his best to stave off the inevitable collapse of the Empire.
  • The Jeeves: Dominic Flandry's valet, Chives.
  • Klingons Love Shakespeare: The alien Adzel (who looks like a large centauroid dragon) is a Buddhist (which naturally he learned about from humans). He spent some time on Earth studying human culture.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Flandry
  • Last of His Kind: The character Aycharaych, recurring archvillain of the Dominic Flandry stories, is the last survivor of his long-lived, telepathic species. But he keeps it a secret for a long time.
  • Meaningful Name : David Falkayn founds a colony with the help of the bird-of-prey-like Ythrians. He is also a trader and explorer and his homeworld is Hermes, the Greek god of travelers.
  • Mixed Metaphor: Nicholas van Rijn, along with malapropisms, often mixed metaphors. Particularly appealing was his reference to forcefully seeking something he wanted "like a bulldozer going after a cowdozer."
  • Not So Different: It is several times commented that Humans and Merseians share a lot of similarities. That was part of the problem, since one of the resemblances was that both species wanted the same kind of planet to live on.
    • Aycharach often teases Flandry with this claim when they meet. And in some ways they are not so different.
  • My Master Right Or Wrong: Flandry is a subversion. He obeys whoever holds the Imperial throne. But not so much because he is loyal to the Imperium as because he is a Civilization loyalist and the Imperium is the least bad guarantee of civilization.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Drastically averted; religion plays a substantial part of the setting, and often the characters as well as sometimes affecting the plot. Recognizable adaptations of religions from the reader's time are observed by humans and sometimes by aliens and Ythrians have a fairly well designed religion of their own that seems suited to them.
    • The Ythrian religion is a stark and rather alien religion as is not surprising them being aliens. But the author does a splendid job making the reader empathize with it's devotees.
  • Patron Saint: Nicholas van Rijn swears by Saint Dismas (the Good Thief, appropriately), and has expressed the intention of burning candles in offering (to which another character responded "The Saint had best get it in writing").
  • Planet Terra: The Dominic Flandry stories refer to Terra and the Terran Empire.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Invoked by Van Rjn. He says that the reason he doesn't let his employees take unfair advantage of natives is that it would be bad policy. For whatever reason, he is not going to claim that he really wants to wield power in a decent and restrained manner.
    • In general he is suspicious of altruistic motives in himself or anyone else. He is a great believer in the bottom line. It just so happens that he is clever enough to arrange that his concept of the bottom line is beneficial to as many concerned in the matter as possible.
  • Proof I Am Not Bluffing: In A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows The Gospodar (king) of a border planet leads his fleet on a raid into Mereseian space to remind the Merseians not to bother his planet.
  • Proxy War: Flandry spends much of his time dealing with these.
  • Public Secret Message: The Mongol-descended people of the planet Altai didn't know what it meant when Flandry, stranded there by their ruler's treachery, "vandalized" a monument with paint. But the paint spelled out "Mayday," and when mention of that got to Terran Intelligence, agents knew to come looking for more information....
  • Screw the War, We're Partying: In Terra The Beautiful People spend their time idling at fancy parties while the Empire collapses.
    • Several times Terrans and Merseians are seen at the same party together, either taking a break from war or carrying it on by other means.
    • Flandry himself is a great believer in this and when he is not spying(and sometimes when he is)he is making life one big party.
  • Self-Made Man: Van Rjn was a grubby prospector, trader, and spacer.
  • Space Cold War: The Empire and Mereseia
  • Space Opera
  • Space Police: The Polesotechnic League's armed ships are best described as this rather then a navy.
  • Spice of Life: Nicholas van Rijn, something of a throwback to the spice traders of the Dutch East India days, is president of the Solar Spice And Liquors Company.
  • Standard Sci Fi History: With an emphasis on Step 3, "Interstellar exploration and colonization", and Step 5.3, "Decline and Fall of the Empire".
  • Stout Strength: Nicholas van Rijn.
  • Talking Your Way Out: Dominic Flandry. Kidnapped by an alien prince with dreams of conquest, who assumes he's just a decadent worthless low-level agent, he soon has the entire leadership of the planet backstabbing each other.
  • Truce Zone: There are several places like this along the frontier. Sometimes they are for crises management and other times they are just for taking time off from the war to get drunk together.
  • We Have Reserves: Zig-zagged in Margin of Profit. An ambitious native prince starts capturing and brainwashing the crews of the Polesotechnic League in the hope that by using League slaves he can crew his fleet without having his culture infected by League Spacers. The spacers are afraid enough to be almost provoked to declare a strike to avoid the territory. Furthermore none of the companies is willing to put down the capital for a warfleet and Van Rjn thinks a bloody campaign of revenge to be unchristian and uneconomical in reverse order of importance. So Van Rjn arranges to have one in four ships equipped with a tractor beam to capture a raider calculating the odds that in a war of attrition the enemy would run out of crewmen first at a tolerable expense.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The Game of Empire is, as acknowledged in the Author's Note, a Gender Flipped, space opera version of Kim.