A short text, just to share some great links. Not random links, mind you. There is a recurring theme in my posts, and that is historical realism. And there is something many of the books reviewed here share – war as a topic.
People I admire enough to recommend their creations today, approach the crossroads of genre fiction and history/theory of warfare from two different angles. The first one is more serious, and fairly common. History buffs judging the realism of various novels or movies are using tools like YouTube to spread the good word. Some of them are really good, and entertaining. The other one… here represented by one blog I lately read religiously, is even more entertaining, gives the appearance of fanfiction, but for an attentive reader provides a great learning opportunity.
So lets start with The Angry Staff Officer, a blog by a genuine active duty officer (US Army) with a penchant for history. And genre fiction. He wrote a series of Star Wars posts, but does not limit himself to science fiction. He retells our beloved stories as Stormtrooper’s officer’s reports, or describes the action of Wind in the Willows as an example of small unit warfare as seen by US Army doctrine. Sweet. It’s a joy for people like me, who know a little about it, but for newcomers it’s also a very educational. I wonder, how many of us thought about the logistic and maintenance problems of space warfare? Very cool stuff.
I don’t really care which universe stories I follow happen in. But I do care about realism. Sociology, or art of war, are the same, in Middle-Earth or Los Angeles, only some peripheral variables differ a bit.
And many books of fantasy take part in societies vaguely (or unabashedly) medieval. With a little drop of magic, or gods actually influencing the world, or some other departure from our reality, but with knights (or samurai), and kings, and toiling peasantry. To judge how good the authors are it helps to have some background in history, but the alternative is to follow some good youtubers.
Shad from Shadiversity has vast knowledge of medieval castles and weaponry and applies it directly to games and shows he reviews. Is Stark’s sword from GoT a longsword or a greatsword? How good is Kaer Morhen from Witcher as a piece of defensive architecture? What are major design flaws in major Skyrim fortresses? Very interesting, and probably should be obligatory viewing for computer game and tv creators.
Other channels I like are concentrated on the history, only occasionally mentioning genre fiction. Matt Easton’s Schola Gladiatoria is a great introduction to HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts), but occasionally plays computer games or comments on famous movie duels. HEMA is a very important movement established to practice traditional European ways of fighting, quite popular among serious fantasy writers. Like Neal Stephenson, recently mentioned here, himself an enthusiast. It’s about realism, but also simple appreciation, the fact that modern warfare was invented here does not mean we weren’t any good before, and in a fight between knights and samurai the latter would not necessarily win. And the common perceptions of both are similarly distorted by popular fiction.
Skallagrim is ready to test any real or fantasy sword, and play some computer games to test their claims of historical realism. Knyght Errant has some very detailed, and practical, comments of medieval fighters’ kit, but also collaborated in a very interesting review of Excalibur, one of more interesting cinematic interpretations of King Arthur’s tale.
There are many more, but this is a good start. I believe some context enriches ones reception of our favourite genre fiction and, well, why not start with war? It is, after all, quite an important topic, both in history and genre fiction…