‘Where Silverberg goes today, the rest of science fiction will follow tomorrow’
This month, a fascinating column from the very month SF Gateway launched, three years ago: The Reign of the Retired Emperor
A few years ago I went to Japan to attend the World Science Fiction Convention in Yokohama, and, on the same trip, visiting a museum in Kyoto, I came upon a collection of artifacts that were described as dating “from the time of the reign of the retired Emperor Go-Saga.” Dating an era from the time of a retired emperor seemed to me an odd thing to do, and I filed the notion away in my mind as one of the many unusual aspects of the culture of that far-off island nation. Last month I was reminded of it while writing a new short story – more about that below – and I consulted Sir George Sansom’s classic and estimable three-volume history of Japan to see if I could find out what was so important about the Emperor Go-Saga that caused such chronological emphasis to be placed on him, thus discovering one of the most curious monarchical systems human beings have ever devised. It was a system, I learned, in which the emperor became more important by retiring from the throne than he had ever been while possessing it.
You can read the rest of the column here, and find Robert Silverberg’s eBooks here – including Reflections and Refractions, a collection of his non-fiction columns. Please note: each column will remain on the site for one month only.