Saturday, 10 May 2014

Sector Governors in the Terran Empire by Sean M Brooks

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, Thurs 4 July 2013.

I recall seeing speculation by fans of Poul Anderson who wondered how much "territory" was covered by a sector governor's "province" in Anderson's Terran Empire tales. And while recently rereading THE REBEL WORLDS I came across a few texts which gives us some information on that point.

Poul Anderson likes to give readers some idea of the over all size of the Terran Empire in many of his stories.  Because he believed it gives us some idea of the sheer vastness of the background setting before he focuses on "smaller" scenes.  THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN was no exception and this is what I found in Chapter 3: "The vaguely defined, roughly spherical volume over which Terra claimed suzerainty had a diameter of some 400 light-years; it held an estimated four million stars, whereof half were believed to have been visited at least once; approximately 100,000 planets had formalized relations with the Imperium, but for most of them it amounted to no more than acknowledgment of subordination and modest taxes, or merely the obligation to make labor and resources available should the Empire ever have need."

A sector governor ruled regions of the Empire analogous to the jurisdictions held by the viceroys and governor generals of the former Spanish and British Empires on Earth.  On an interstellar scale, the territory over which he held authority was almost inconceivably vast, as this quote from the opening paragraph of Chapter III of THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN indicates: "A sector governor oversaw such vastness that to him it became a set of abstractions."  And I found a rare indication of how large a sector was in THE REBEL WORLDS, Chapter I: "...a sector governor, viceroy for His Majesty throughout some 50,000 cubic light years surrounding Alpha Crucis."  I am sure this is the only text in the stories where a specific figure was given indicating the SIZE of a sector.

As we already know, there were 100,000 planets owning formal allegiance to the Imperium.  These planets included both worlds colonized by humans and planets inhabited by non human rational beings.  It is my guess that, on average, a sector had 1000 of these planets.  The evidence on which I based this is the following quote from Chapter II of THE REBEL WORLDS, from the passages describing Admiralty Center: "Crowds moved by and overflowed the offices.  Their members ranged from junior technicians to admirals on whose heads might rest the security of a thousand worlds.."  I understood this to mean that the military defense of the border sectors of the Empire entrusted to these admirals averaged a thousand worlds.  And it is reasonable to think the sectors of the inner Empire also averaged a thousand planets.  Therefore, I argue the Empire was divided into 100 sectors for administrative purposes.

How important were sector governorships?  Important enough that the persons chosen for them were matters of intense interest to the Throne and the Policy Board.  Here's a bit from Admiral Kheraskov's briefing of Dominic Flandry in Chapter II of THE REBEL WORLDS: "Elevation [of Aaron Snelund] to a higher rank would have kicked up a storm, but viscounts are a millo a thousand.  However, it's sufficient for a major governorship.  Many sectors would be too rich, powerful, close to home, or otherwise important.  The Policy Board would not tolerate a man in charge of them who couldn't be trusted."

Moreover, to do their jobs, sector governors HAD to have wide powers, despite this also allowing the risk of abuse of those powers occurring.  As Flandry said in Chapter III of THE REBEL WORLDS: "We have *got *to give our proconsuls wide discretion.  We've *got *to let them recruit auxiliaries, and hope those auxiliaries will know the local scene better than Imperial regulars."  THE REBEL WORLDS takes its plot from a bad governor's abuse of his office and powers.

In his Terran Empire stories Poul Anderson named the sectors not after planets but for either astronomically prominent stars or stars orbited by politically influential planets.  Examples being Sector Aldebaran, Sector Alpha Crucis, Sector Pacis, Sector Spica, etc.

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