Welcome to the “Fantasy Literature” blog series. I teach. I write. And now I blog. First up, a quick look at three novels by S. M. Stirling: Island in the Sea of Time (1998), Against the Tide of Years (1999), and On the Oceans of Eternity (2000).
These novels follow the circumstances consequent to the “event” of 9:15 in the evening, March 17, 1998. The island of Nantucket and nearby waters (including the Coast Guard cutter Eagle) become englobed by flashing lightning, described by Captain Alston of the Eagle as “Like being under the biggest, gaudiest salad bowl in the world.”
The shimmering dome of light persists for some time, then vanishes. The crew and officers of the Eagle, and the inhabitants of Nantucket, soon discover they now exist in 1250 BC. While they have modern conveniences, such as guns and engines, the technology (bullets and fuel) on the island now represents all of the high technology on the entire planet.
The event calls leadership to the fore. The islanders will soon starve, for example, cut off as they are from regular grocery deliveries from the mainland. The novel’s protagonist Captain Marian Alston and other leading lights guide the islanders through the first years of their temporal stranding, facing not only the many emergencies related to basic survival but also the defection of a junior Coast Guard officer, who heads off to establish himself as a Wizard (remember your Arthur C. Clarke?) King, and not a nice one at that.
Black Gate readers may wonder at the inclusion of such technology-driven novels here at this haven for all things Swords & Sorcery. Fear not. There is plenty of swash to buckle in these novels. Plenty of battles. While firearms do come into play, much combat is that of old — muscle-powered weapons, armor, sweat, and blood.