Thursday, 20 August 2015
"War was always the same: not a neat affair of lines across maps, nor a hallooing gallantry, but men who gasped and sweated and bled in bewilderment.
"A slight, dark-faced youth squirmed nearby, trying feebly to pull out the javelin that had pierced his stomach. He was a slinger from Carthage but the burly Italian peasant who sat next to him, staring without belief at the stump of an arm, paid no attention.
"A flight of crows hovered overhead, riding the wind and waiting."
-Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), p. 223.
I was reminded of this passage by one phrase in SM Stirling's Marching Through Georgia (New York, 1991):
"...men in shock staring with unbelief at the wreck of selves that had been whole fractions of a second before..." (p. 206).
How many characters in war fiction stare without belief at newly acquired wounds or injuries? Maybe quite a lot? There is also the effect on minds. I quoted here a description of some horrible injuries to German soldiers but left out the response of one of their Draka antagonists:
"'Ya! Ya! Beautiful, fuckin' beautiful!' he shouted."
-Stirling, op. cit., p. 201.
Yes, and we love you too, comrade! Some things I honestly would not wish on the worst criminal in human history. War leaves us not only the dead and the badly injured but also those who exult that all this was visited on their enemies.