Saturday, 16 April 2016

Writing And Experience

An Irish novelist, Maeve Binchy, did not write about sex because, if she wrote from experience, she would be betraying a confidence and, if she wrote about sexual practices of which she had no experience, she would get it wrong.

"I've never been in a war, nor in any of the armed forces. Wars have happened and may happen again in most of my series universes, including known space, but you'll never see them. I lack the experience. Here are a couple of centuries of known space that are dark to me."
-Larry Niven, Introduction IN Niven, The Man-Kzin Wars (London, 1989), pp. 1-3 AT p. 2.

Any author rightly avoids writing about a subject that s/he knows s/he cannot get right. However, lack of experience is not necessarily a disqualification. Have Garth Ennis, Jerry Pournelle or SM Stirling experienced land warfare? Well, maybe they have but, in any case, it seems that they can study warfare well enough to write about it authentically. And Poul Anderson cannot possibly have experienced space combat but describes it as if from experience in several novels.

In Pournelle and Stirling's Go Tell The Spartans, the mercs begin to turn the tide of battle by acquiring intelligence during the battle. The guerilla leader thinks that she must have been betrayed... Yes, this psychology is authentic. A battle is two things: explosions and people.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Some sexual practices, such as male/female homosexuality, are so revolting I would really rather not know the details. If I have any real criticism to make of S.M. Stirling, it's the rather frequent and detailed lesbian sub plots we see in some of his books. But, I can see how such depravity made sense when it involved characters as villainous as his Draka.

I agree, Jerry Pournelle and S.M. Stirling wrote about war so convincing that they must have studied it with great care. And Poul Anderson was very impressive and convincing in describing how battles in space are likely to be fought (e.g., ENSIGN FLANDRY, Chapter 17).