Saturday, 27 February 2016

Verisimilitude And Humor

Poul Anderson describes as if from experience combat between fleets of faster than light interstellar spaceships, e.g., when the Terrans attack Avalon in The People Of The Wind or clash with Merseians in Ensign Flandry. See here and here.

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle display the same apparent familiarity with interstellar warships:

"'Morning' on a warship is a relative thing. The morning watch is from 0400 to 0800, a time when the human species would normally sleep; but space knows nothing of this. A full crew is needed on the bridge and in the engine room no matter what the time."
-The Mote In God's Eye (London, 1959), p. 140.

Of course it is. We knew that, didn't we? - or realize that we should have done.

Although Anderson occasionally deploys humor, sometimes to good effect, Niven and Pournelle maybe surpass him in this respect:

"[Sally's] face and voice as she said, 'Yes, Mr. Renner?' somehow informed Renner that he looked like a cross between a man and a mole - a remarkable feat of nonverbal communication." (pp. 139-140)


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And, of course, Niven and Pournelle would know of how SEA navies on our Earth keep full watches in bridges, engine rooms, and other key locations. So it was natural to carry this over to a space navy. Which is probably exactly what will happen when real space navies eventually form.

Yes, I agree, Niven and Pournelles knew how to be funny in THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE. I can't recall similar to the ones you quoted from Anderson's works. But I thought "Bicycle Built For Brew" was funny. And so were many of the Hoka stories co-written by Anderson and Dickson.


David Birr said...

Paul and Sean:
I've mentioned the military sf works of John Hemry aka Jack Campbell. Hemry was a US Navy officer, and it SHOWS in his descriptions of life aboard ship, even when they're spaceships.

He can be humorous, too; much of it, though not all, pokes fun at the often low quality of shipboard food. In *The Lost Fleet*, there's a scene noting that someone has taste-tested captured enemy rations. He reports that the only good thing about the enemy food is that it makes the worst of their own seem tasty by comparison. In the first of the *Paul Sinclair* books, a fruitcake is ceremoniously fired out into deep space, as a New Year's celebration and "a warning to all the universe of the awful culinary weapons available to the human race."

In the third book of the *Stark's War* trilogy, the US Army mutineers are declared outlaw by the United Nations. One soldier points out that this means "...we're now at war with every country on Earth. That must be some kind of record."
Another replies, "I for one am proud. And with Ethan Stark leading us, this might just be the beginning. We may yet encounter an alien species and end up at war with them, too."

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, David!

I'm not surprised at how Jack Campbell's stories of a space navy drew upon his experiences as a US Navy officer. You know my view, space navies will be much like our sea navies in organization, terminology, lousy food, etc.

There's an amusing scene in Anderson's WE CLAIM THESE STARS when Dominic Flandry thought it necessary to keep Chives on the bridge of his speedster with him as a co-pilot, and accept eating Navy cuisine for a while.

However bland or even bad military style MREs are, I hope army and navy people no longer have to gag down hardtack infested with worms! (Smiles)