Literary Techniques

As in most of his fiction, de Camp entertains with humor as well as adventure. He invites his readers to laugh at themselves and uses his humor to comment on human relationships. For instance, Barbe Dulac remarks to Iroedh, "It is a curious feature of Terran culture that when the men do something of a stupidity they always blame their wives." Humor and swift, violent action in exotic locales make Rogue Queen a good read.

Some fastidious readers would object to the novel's technical flaws. For example, de Camp ignores the problem a newly created host of fertile females would create if they had the reproductive capacity of queens, who must lay hundreds of eggs during their lives in order to maintain Communities the size of Elham. The planet Ormazd would be overpopulated in just a few generations unless the reproductive capacity of the Avtini is significantly curbed. Small problems such as this are raced over without explanation.

Ideas for Group Discussions

No writer knows better than de Camp how to show a reader a good time, and Rogue Queen is a good example of the mixture of ideas and adventure that makes his fiction appealing. At one time, the novel's allegorical portrait of the evils of communism might have been the best place to begin a discussion, but with the end of the Cold War, discussion members may find the topic less urgent than it was when the novel was written. Thus a discussion might best begin with other themes such as the relationship between the sexes, the value of literature as an educational tool (A Girl of the Limberlost), the dangers of giving to technologically primitive cultures technology far in advance of their own, and the challenges in space exploration created by a strict adherence to Einsteinian physical laws such as the speed of light being the ultimate speed for movement in the universe.

1. How odd do human beings appear to the Avtini?

2. What about human beings most alarms the Avtini?

3. Why would introducing something as simple as the machete be dangerous for the Avtini? Try to find all the aspects of the machete that would be new to the Avtini (for instance, the metal alloy) and examine how they could change Avtini life for good or ill.

4. Why is romantic passion both seductive and frightening in the novel?

5. Are the Avtini too much like human beings? How much of the humanness is dictated by the novel's themes (if the author wishes to use Avtini society to comment on an aspect of human affairs, he almost certainly has to make them at least a little humanlike or his audience might miss the commentary)?

6. How does Elham society resemble communism? Does de Camp devote too much space to condemning communism?

7. What are the adjustments space farers have to make because of the speed limit of light? Can you think of adjustments that would need to be made in addition to those mentioned in the novel?

8. Why would de Camp choose to make Brazil the dominant future culture on earth? Is he extrapolating from twentieth-century trends?

9. Is the rediscovery of romantic love good for the Avtini? By reintroducing romantic love, have the human beings wrongfully altered the balance of the Avtini culture? Why would the Avtini females have fought a war to eliminate romantic relationships and nearly exterminate all males?

10. How could a book such as Girl of the Limberlost change a culture? Besides passion, what else might Avtini readers learn from the book?

Social Concerns

The social themes of Rogue Queen are subordinate to its love theme. "We once had a sect or cult on Terra called Communists, who believed as you do that love of the Community should take precedence over all other," says the character Winston Bloch to the main character Iroedh. "But their collectivistic love seemed to involve such fanatical hatred of everybody else and such implacable determination to impose their system on the world that we had to exterminate them." Iroedh's communistic society oppresses the spirit, fights pointless wars, condones murder for the sake of social stability, and has been in a cultural decline ever since an ancient queen established the dietary laws and the beehivelike social structure that requires citizens to love the Community above all else. As in Lest Darkness Fall (1941), Rogue Queen emphasizes the importance to social progress of the free spirit.

Literary Precedents

Earthmen have been meeting almost-human beings on faraway planets at least since Edgar Rice Burroughs's "Barsoom" novels of adventures on Mars began appearing in 1912. Rogue Queen also owes much to the "sword-and-sorcery" subgenre of fantasy, typified by the Conan tales of Robert E. Howard, written in the 1930s. De Camp has written a biography, The Misfit Barbarian, about Howard and has written some Conan stories of his own.

Related Titles

Although Rogue Queen is the only story that takes place on Ormazd, the various tales are united by the theme of technologically advanced Earthmen visiting planets whose cultures approximate the technology of Earth's Bronze Age. Visitors to such planets are forbidden to introduce advanced technology into the backward cultures but nearly always do anyway, just as the machete is introduced to the Avtini. The books are brimful of unusual social customs and excitement. Other tides are: The Continent Makers and Other Tales of the Viagens (1953), short stories; Cosmic Manhunt(1954), novel (also published as A Planet Called Krishna and as The Queen of Zamba); The Tower of Zanid (1958), novel; The Search for Zei (1962), novel (also published as The Floating Continent); The Hand of Zei (1963), novel; and The Hostage of Zir (1977) novel.