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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.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 3rd, 2007 02:13 am (UTC)
What the hell? Recognizably nerdy archetypes predate the rise of modern hip-hop culture by decades, as even a casual analysis of pop culture since the end of WWII demonstrates. And what does geek culture have to do with "whiteness", anyway, aside from not generally partaking of inner-city-influenced versions of cool? The most prominent exponents of "white culture" in the past (i.e. Rudyard Kipling and his crowd) weren't exactly geeky.

It's depressing to see this coming out of a linguistics department, too; despite the likes of Noam Chomsky, I usually think of linguistics as one of the few fields in the humanities that still tends to make falsifiable predictions based on empirical evidence.
Aug. 3rd, 2007 02:43 am (UTC)
I think anyone not in uniform (or working for NSA) who advertises themselves as a linguist should be shot for false advertising, but I cheerfully admit I'm coming at this from an odd POV. The whole sad business smells of an appalling ignorance of history and incredible laziness WRT research.
Aug. 3rd, 2007 02:51 am (UTC)
Well, there's the knows-lots-of-languages kind of linguist and then there's the knows-a-lot-about-linguistic-structure kind of linguist. I'm mostly talking about the latter, and their techniques get used a lot in computer science (not a field you can make your name in by waffling about class and gender), so I know there's something there.

Chomsky's actually a brilliant guy in his field. He's just completely nuts outside it.
Aug. 3rd, 2007 02:38 pm (UTC)
You can be a hedgehog or a fox as a military linguist, though the foxes are much rarer in both senses of the word. I keep forgetting that linguistics does have applications in the CS field; I also admit that there is valid scholarship to be done on the non-CS side. Unfortunately it looks to me like Bucholtz wants to play sociologist without actually doing the work required to be a real one.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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