Thursday, 20 August 2015

Real War

Although I enjoyed Poul Anderson's exciting descriptions of battles in space, Anderson always shows us the physical reality of war for the combatants:

"War was always the same: not a neat affair of lines across maps, nor a hallooing gallantry, but men who gasped and sweated and bled in bewilderment.

"A slight, dark-faced youth squirmed nearby, trying feebly to pull out the javelin that had pierced his stomach. He was a slinger from Carthage but the burly Italian peasant who sat next to him, staring without belief at the stump of an arm, paid no attention.

"A flight of crows hovered overhead, riding the wind and waiting."
-Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), p. 223.

I was reminded of this passage by one phrase in SM Stirling's Marching Through Georgia (New York, 1991):

" in shock staring with unbelief at the wreck of selves that had been whole fractions of a second before..." (p. 206).

How many characters in war fiction stare without belief at newly acquired wounds or injuries? Maybe quite a lot? There is also the effect on minds. I quoted here a description of some horrible injuries to German soldiers but left out the response of one of their Draka antagonists:

"'Ya! Ya! Beautiful, fuckin' beautiful!' he shouted."
-Stirling, op. cit., p. 201.

Yes, and we love you too, comrade! Some things I honestly would not wish on the worst criminal in human history. War leaves us not only the dead and the badly injured but also those who exult that all this was visited on their enemies.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Besides callous brutes like the one you quoted, we do see some Draka, both here in MARCHING and in the other Draka books, who have only weary disgust for all this pain and agony. So not all the Draka were totally corrupted, even if they were unwilling or unable to reflect more deeply on how their own beliefs and institutions led to such things.