Sunday, 11 May 2014


Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 21 April 2012.

The planet Hermes:

is in the system of the star Maia in Sector Antares;
has 97% G;
has two moons, Caduceus and Sandalion;
has one large continent, Greatland, with an arid interior;
was colonized early mainly by northern Europeans;
was developed by private corporations which became the basis of the Hermetian state;
began as a Grand Duchy with a stratified society;
gained stewardship of the industrially valuable planet Mirkheim after the Babur War;
at that time also became an ordinary crowned republic while remaining nominally a Grand Duchy;
during the Troubles, developed a military-oriented society with authority concentrated in the executive and rule by whoever commanded the greatest armed force;
lost Mirkheim when Hans Molitor became Emperor;
rioted against forced demilitarization under Molitor and was pacified by the Marines;
prospered under Grand Duke Edwin Cairncross who reclaimed the interior with canals, landscaping, imported species, urbanization, commerce and a castle on an extinct volcano.

Greatland divides the Auroral Ocean to the east from the Corybantic Ocean to the west. The city of Starfall is on the east coast where the Palomino River flows into Daybreak Bay. Tilirras sing from millionleafs and there are colourfully winged, trilling nidifexes.

When Hermes declared independence from Terra, its new constitution recognized the Kindred as the Thousand Families controlling the "domains": either landed estates or corporations. The presidents of the domains elect the Duke or Duchess of Hermes from the Tamarin family which must not own a domain. Ancestors of Kindred and Tamarins were the first to arrive from Earth but, instead of founding a corporation, the Tamarins free lanced as scientists etc. "Followers," holding entailed shares, are junior partners in domains, each holding a single vote in domain affairs whereas Kindred have ten. "Travers," hirelings or unaffiliated business people, descended from latecomers, are not taxed and have no vote. The Liberation Front demands full rights for Travers who, as a result of "Libby" campaigns, gain a vote in choosing municipal officers. Travers bow to the Duchess, Followers salute, Kindred shake hands.

The Asmundsens, Followers of the Runebergs and tenants on the Brightwater estate, manage the Runeberg's copper industry. A younger Asmundsen, who explores and develops other planets in the Maian system, is obliged by custom to give preferential promotions to fellow Followers but acknowledges that his strike-threatening Traver employees have legitimate grievances which he tries to address by negotiating in person with their leaders and offering compensations like extra vacations. Hornbeck, the estate of the Falkayn domain, is on a plateau jutting from Mount Nevis in the Thunderhead Mountains. Sam Romney, independent ship-owner, fisherman and loyal Traver, does most of his business with the Falkayns. 

Baburite invaders appoint Benoni Strang, an embittered Traver, as High Commissioner for Hermes. Strang, as Bayard Story of the Galactic Developments company and the Seven in Space cartel, had secretly armed Babur. As Commissioner, he intends to impose a social revolution, democratizing the domains and obliging them to conduct all operations through a central trade authority. Through Duchess Sandra Tamarin-Asmundsen, he announces that a Grand Assembly to draft a new constitution, as provided for in the existing constitution, will be held when procedures for the election of delegates are in place. Christa Broderick, the Liberation Front leader welcomes Strang's proposed social reforms but Strang bypasses the Front, many of whom oppose the invasion, and his Traver supporters form a new party.

Broderick's city and farming Followers snipe and sabotage while guerrillas operate in the Arcadian Hills and the Thunderheads. Both groups attack Starfall while the returned Ducal Space Navy engages orbiting Baburite craft. After the liberation, the Duchess receives a petition. Revolutionary terror has weakened the domains and the Liberation Front has gained confidence. It is agreed that a constitutional convention must await a firm peace but then Hermes, while remaining nominally a duchy, will become in practice a republic. Later, Cairncross is not a Tamarin though he is remotely descended from the Founder of the Empire, Manuel Argos.

Hermes, like Avalon, Aeneas and Vixen, is an entire inhabited planet imagined in detail by Poul Anderson.

Sources: Mirkheim and A Stone In Heaven.

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