Saturday, 16 April 2016
Writing And Experience
"I've never been in a war, nor in any of the armed forces. Wars have happened and may happen again in most of my series universes, including known space, but you'll never see them. I lack the experience. Here are a couple of centuries of known space that are dark to me."
-Larry Niven, Introduction IN Niven, The Man-Kzin Wars (London, 1989), pp. 1-3 AT p. 2.
Any author rightly avoids writing about a subject that s/he knows s/he cannot get right. However, lack of experience is not necessarily a disqualification. Have Garth Ennis, Jerry Pournelle or SM Stirling experienced land warfare? Well, maybe they have but, in any case, it seems that they can study warfare well enough to write about it authentically. And Poul Anderson cannot possibly have experienced space combat but describes it as if from experience in several novels.
In Pournelle and Stirling's Go Tell The Spartans, the mercs begin to turn the tide of battle by acquiring intelligence during the battle. The guerilla leader thinks that she must have been betrayed... Yes, this psychology is authentic. A battle is two things: explosions and people.