Sunday, 13 August 2017

Describing War

Writers of war fiction describe human devastation that some might like to read about but that no one would want to experience. In SM Stirling, Lord Of Mountains (New York, 2013), Chapter Nine, cast steel globes whistle through the air:

"Where they struck men and horses splashed, and the metal globes went bounding and tumbling along the ground for scores of yards, breaking legs like matchsticks." (p. 187)

We appreciate Stirling's descriptive skills if not also the kind of event described here. Another example:

"Close up [the napalm] would be clinging fire spattering in all directions, horses with their manes on fire, burning gobbets taking off a man's face or running down under his armor while he rolled and screamed and beat at himself with blackened hands." (p. 189)

Poul Anderson made clear that war was horrific but spared us this kind of intense detail, I think. See Experience Of War and Real War.

Two points of linguistic interest in this chapter:

a new coinage, "...bossmandoms...," (p. 191);
"...switch-hitters..." (p. 193) apparently means bisexuals.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I agree with what you said about how Anderson and Stirling handled war. Yes, while sometimes gives us grisly details about what war DOES he did not feel the need to go into as much detail as did Stirling. But I do appreciate Stirling's descriptions of war.

And "bossmandom" is plainly meant to be analogous to "kingdom." Albeit I do recall how the Bossman of Iowa grumbled about how RUSTIC "bossman" sounded.


S.M. Stirling said...

Switch-hitter is slang dating back to the 1920's, as far as I know. Still current in some rural areas in the 1990's, which is how it survives in the post-Change dialects.