Friday, 15 April 2016

Action And Military Hardware

Someone once described Poul Anderson to me as a pulp writer with literary pretensions. I think that it is the other way around: Anderson is a quality writer who likes his action fiction sometimes too much. In The Boat Of A Million Years, the rescue of an immortal from a hospital could have happened off stage if it even had to happen.

Anderson, Pournelle and Stirling excel at military sf which, of course, has to include much action but does it need lists of military hardware? In Pournelle and Stirling's Go Tell The Spartans, we are told that the Spartan First Royal Infantry as yet lacks:

battle computers;
secure communications gear;
nightfighting equipment;
range finders;
modern artillery;
antiaircraft capacity;
antitank capacity;
organic air transport;
adequate combat engineering equipment.

Long and lovingly listed! But might it have been better in an Appendix? We await the decisive showdown between the mercs, who are training the Royals, and their adversaries. See image.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

One of the things which most interested me about Anderson's THE DEVIL'S GAME and THE BOAT OF A MILLIONS YEARS was how the former and parts of the latter were set in our then contemporary 1970's and 1980's. It greatly interested me to know PA was fully capable of writing stories in contemporaneous times.

I think you made a good point about GO TELL THE SPARTANS: it would have been better if lists of military equipment had been placed in an Appendix. Sometimes such information can needlessly slow down a story. After all, S.M. Stiring used A Appendices in his four Draka books to provide extra information.


David Birr said...

Paul and Sean:
A description of what equipment a military unit lacks can, however, be a plot point. "We didn't have nightfighting equipment -- so we were all but helpless for X many hours each day." The Spartan First Royal Infantry is plainly a unit that will be in a seriously bad situation unless its adversary is even more deficient. Efforts to get or improvise what is needed, or stratagems for working around those needs, could make interesting reading in their own right.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, David!

I have to agree, not all lists of equipment are out of place in a story. And being ex Army yourself, you speak from hard, real experience of what military units need and sometimes lack.


S.M. Stirling said...

BTW, they sprang that cover on Jerry and I without warning and before the book was finished. So we just wrote a scene that fit it into the book.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

So that's how you and Dr. Pournelle wrote the incident where Skilly and her terrorists attacked the restaurant/hotel where the Spartan co-Kings were giving the recently arrived officers from Falkenberg's Legion a welcoming dinner. Neatly done!


Paul Shackley said...

Mr Stirling and Sean,
I have read of cases of sf stories being written around magazine covers.