wombat_socho (wombat_socho) wrote,

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no sleep for you

Woke up about 0400 and couldn't get back to sleep, so I read for a while, had pizza for breakfast, and now that the coffee has taken effect, I have a little catching up to do.

Tom Maguire (among others) points and laughs at Mary Bucholtz, a UC Berkeley linguist who wastedspent the last 12 years researching the nature of nerds, somehow managing to avoid attending any SF conventions in the process or even crossing the campus to meet the archetypal nerds in the engineering school. Anyway, what inspires all the hilarity is Bucholtz' insistence that nerdiness is a reaction to the "dominant" whigger culture, an expression of "hyperwhiteness". This will no doubt come as a shock to all the black, Chinese, Hmong, Indian, Korean, Latino, Singaporean and Vietnamese nerds out there who thought they were just being good students with a preference for different literature genres. Once again I am reminded of Camille Paglia's comment that most feminist seem hell-bent on proving the old slur that women can neither think nor write - nor, apparently, do serious research. Fortunately, this study is likely to be taken seriously only by that dwindling tribe that still pays attention to what the New York Times has to say...(Instapundit)

On a less (bitterly) amusing but more instructive note, Rachel keys off a post by Our Girl in Chicago and offers a list of five fictional series.

OGIC and Rachel both listed mainstream series, but since most of what I read is SF/fantasy, that's mostly what you're going to get here.
1. Alistair Horne's history of the Franco-Prussian Wars. Germany unified under Bismarck and the Hohenzollern king of Prussia in 1871, and for the next century Germany would be at the epicenter of three world wars. Horne's three magisterial volumes (The Fall of Paris, The Price of Glory and To Lose A Battle) examine French, British, and German society in detail and yet are extremely compelling and readable. I've read a fair amount of history covering this period, and nobody else -particularly the overrated Barbara Tuchman - comes close to giving you the emotional feel of the times that Horne does.

2. David Drake's Hammer's Slammers. Yeah, it's the 11th ACR in Vietnam, but this time with powerguns, fusion powerplants, and a totally hardnosed pragmatism about the mission that makes some people write off the series as "carnography". There's a lot more to it than that. Drake moved the portrayal of future soldiers forward from the black and white of Gordon Dickson's Dorsai and the helpless victims of Joe Haldeman's Forever War into a brutal reality a lot of people weren't comfortable with. If you define heroes as ordinary people rising to the occasion and doing extraordinary things, Hammer's regiment is full of heroes - but they're far from stainless.

3. John Ringo's Legacy of the Alldenata. Ringo is arguably one of the heirs to Drake's legacy in the combat SF subgenre, and the series that begins with A Hymn Before Battle shows its bloodline rather strongly. Ringo's books lean more toward the technothriller side, with their equal stress on politics, the secret war behind the shooting war, and the actual combat itself against the all-conquering, all-eating Posleen that resembles nothing so much as World War I's Western Front on a global scale. Not for the weak of liver, as our Klingon friends would say.

4. The Raj Whitehall novels by David Drake and S.M. Stirling. This recounting of the adventures of Belisarius on a distant planet where riding dogs have replaced horses and people worship the Spirit of Man eleven centuries after the legendary Fall of civilization is full of sly digs at traditional fantasy tropes and odd bits of military lore ("Every river in this fukkin' country is named Wolturno") woven into the tale of how Heneralissimo Raj Whitehall conquers the world of Bellevue for the increasingly paranoid Barholm Clerett and the Gubierno Civil. It's full of win and awesome, as is the one good sequel, The Chosen, which pits Raj, Center, and their agents against an enemy very reminiscent of Stirling's Draka.

5. I came across Jerry Pournelle's stories of the CoDominium and Falkenberg's Legion when I was making the jump from juvenile and Golden Age SF to the more contemporary stuff in the 1970s, and it made quite an impression on me. People have criticized Jerry for a number of things, but it seems very clear to me that with these novels he is in many ways Heinlein's true philosophical heir. Prince of Mercenaries is a worthy sequel to the original fix-up novel, and the Helot War novels (Go Tell The Spartans and Prince of Sparta), co-written with S. M. Stirling, are likewise outstanding.
Tags: books, culture w/o politics, the bush of fandom

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