Back to previous post: …And you too, CNN

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Open thread 144

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

July 27, 2010

LINCOLN’S SWORD
Posted by Debra Doyle at 01:28 AM * 191 comments

Guest Blogging by Debra Doyle.

Things writers worry about, number I’ve-lost-track-by-now (because writers worry about everything, all the time): It’s no secret—at least, I certainly hope it’s no secret—that Jim Macdonald and I have a book coming out today: Lincoln’s Sword, from Eos.

Thumbnail image for Lincoln_Sword_med.jpg

This is a book—an alternate-historical fantasy novel—about the Civil War. The opportunities this presents for giving offense to somebody—or somebodies—are manifold, starting with the novel’s genre and going on from there.

Some people dislike alternate history on principle: they feel, so far as I’ve ever been able to follow their arguments, that making counterfactual assumptions about historical events and personages for the purpose of entertainment is disrespectful of something. (I’ve never been clear on whether it’s the dead, or historical truth, or what that’s supposedly being disrespected, but that’s probably because my sensibilities are insufficiently refined.)

Other people consider it unseemly to use fantasy as a vehicle for writing about certain subjects—the logic chain there apparently being that fantasy is inherently trivial, and that therefore to write fantasy about a subject is to trivialize it. It’s probably not necessary to point out that I don’t agree with this assumption, but it never hurts to say so for the record, either. So: I disagree.

Also, the Civil War is a subject about which a great many people feel very possessive. They do not like it when somebody gets it wrong, and “wrong” in this case can mean anything from “she screwed up the uniform flashes and buttons” to “she failed to speak kindly of X/unkindly of Y.”

Furthermore, the Civil War is a subject with an awful lot of there there. Concentrating on any one aspect of it, within the confines of a novel, is inevitably going to mean not dealing with any number of other aspects, and at that point you’re a fit victim for the “there is no mention of Z in this book” line of criticism. For which the only honest answer a writer can give is, “A book about Z would have been a different book, and the book that I wanted to write was this one.”

Why would we—why would any writer—want to open a can of worms like that?

Well, for one thing, those worms come from a rich soil. The Civil War comes as close as anything else does to being the Matter of America, in the way that the Arthurian mythos is the Matter of Britain and the legends of Charlemagne are the Matter of France. A topic like that can generate stories like a garden in summertime generates zucchini. And if not all of those stories are confined to sober historical realism … well, cooks in summertime do some strange things to zucchini, too. Good ideas, like good vegetables, shouldn’t go to waste.

The first seeds that would eventually become our garden full of zucchini alternate-historical Civil War fantasies were planted in a short story about something else altogether. Maybe I’d better let Macdonald explain that part.

JDM here.

The secret origin of both our Civil War fantasies is here: In our short story, “Uncle Joshua and the Grooglemen,” first published in Bruce Coville’s Book of Monsters in 1993, and reprinted in New Skies, (Patrick Nielsen Hayden, ed.) in 2003. The important part was this paragraph:

Uncle Joshua wasn’t anyone’s blood uncle, but a wanderer who’d come by the Henchard farm one day two winters gone, traveling on foot from some place farther north. He wasn’t much of a farmer, but when he went off into the woods for a day or a week at a time with his long flintlock rifle, he always came back with meat. He brought in more than enough food to earn his keep, and in the evenings by the fireside he told marvelous stories of distant lands.

As it happened, those stories were American Civil War/King Arthur crossovers, but I couldn’t say so without giving away the surprise ending.

Back to Doyle:

So we knew that these stories existed, somewhere out there in the story-ether. Then, several years later, Macdonald had a dream:

JDM again: And in this dream I saw a sailing ship with bare spars racing against a steam locomotive on the land, and beating it. And from this I knew that I had the What If of What If the Union had a Pegasus-class patrol hydrofoil during the American Civil War? (But was still using muzzle-loading black-powder cannon, and all other tech was mid-nineteenth century.)

I started writing a novel based on that idea during Viable Paradise II (1997). And in the fullness of time, it became Land of Mist and Snow, a 2007 release from Eos. (Link takes you to the first chapter.)

This left us with another novel in the contract. The idea of the Civil War as America’s answer to King Arthur was still there, and (as noted) had preceded the idea of the magical ship. So that’s what we wrote. Or tried to write.

At first I thought that it was going to be about General Philip Sheridan, and the Quest of the Sank Greal Liberty and Union:

General Philip Sheridan awoke.  He was lying under his coat, his head on his saddle on the ground.  NameOHorse stood nearby, hobbled, cropping the sweet new grass.

Sheridan rolled over, looking across the field to the distant trees, a low mist clinging to the grass.  As in amaze he turned his gaze, he saw that he was utterly surrounded by a ring of mushrooms.  They had not been there the night before, he was certain.  He rose, and donned his coat, pulled his hat low over his eyes, then saddled and mounted.

And as he pricked over the lea he heard a sad voice come to him, a maiden lamenting, saying, “O! who is more sorrowful than I?”

And General Sheridan rode to where the sound was issuing, and there he saw a beautiful maiden lying on the ground, her clothing in disarray about her, and her hair pinned to the ground with seven iron spikes.

“Who art thou, and who hath used thee so cruelly?” mathelode bold Philip Sheridan.

“Alas,” quoth she, “It was a catiff General who used me so, and I am Liberty hight, who thou seekest.”

“Alas, then,” quod General Sheridan, “For thou art mistaken.  I do not seek Liberty, but rather another. Yet I am loathe to see a maiden, widow or wife mistreated, and will rescue you if I can.”

And even as he spoke he looked about, and there he espied a General clad all in gray, sitting easily on a horse just beyond a stream.

“There,” quod the maiden, “Even there is the man who did use me thus.” And thus she made her woe.

“Say then,” quote bold General Sheridan, and turned his horse toward the strange General, “who art thou, and who dost thou serve?”

“I am Nathan Forrest hight,” quod the unco General, “and Braxton Bragg is my master. Here I stand and thou shalt not pass.”

“Then have at thee,” said General Sheridan, drawing his sword and spurring across the leven.

And even then did General Forrest draw and cantered forward until he stood on the near side of the ford, where sweet water flowed from a spring. And such a pass at arms few had ever seen than General Sheridan and the Grey General by the ford, for each turned as quick as thought, and the clashing of their swords was like unto the sillibance of serpents, or the wind in the pines, that thicks man’s blood with cold.  But even as they fought, first on one side then the other of the stream, and stirred to mud the sweet waters, yet neither could touch the other.  They fought together thus, and the sweat ran down their brows, as the sun rose and the mist vanished.

Then of a sudden, without a word, the Gray General did turn and vanish, as if he had been a sprite.  Then did General Sheridan return to where he had left the maiden with her hair pinned to the ground, but no matter how he sought, he could not find trace of her.

“This is wonder strange,” then quoth the General, and with that he did decide to return to Washington to tell President Lincoln of the ferlie he had seen, for that President Lincoln was a man of great wisdom and know thereby what others could not see.

(Actual first draft of first chapter.)

That didn’t last too long, and General Sheridan never shows up in the book as submitted. Instead, the main character turned out to be Cole Younger, of the James/Younger gang of bank robbers. Funny how that all worked out. And this link takes you to the first chapter as submitted, and as you’ll find it when you go to your local bookstore and buy your own copy (for there’s a hard winter coming, and you’ll want to lay in eight to ten cords of this book).

Originally Doyle wanted to call the book To See Beyond the Union, and I wanted to call it No Star Obscured, but the publisher thought Lincoln’s Sword would be a better title, and so, of course, it is.

Back to Doyle.

As it happens, both of the titles that didn’t get used are references to Daniel Webster’s Second Reply to Hayne, the speech that ends with the words “Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable!” Which is, I still think, a good quote to stick onto a diptych of novels about the American Civil War.

I say “a diptych” rather than “a novel and its sequel” because Land of Mist and Snow and Lincoln’s Sword don’t actually take place in the same fictional universe—though there are similarities between the two books that go beyond the presence of sparkles in the cover art. (Sparkles are turning into the go-to signifier for “fantasy elements included here” in the same way that zeppelins stand for “alternate history.”) Exciting battles on sea and land. Guest turns by the fantastical alternate personae of respected—or notorious—historical figures. And sex magic. Macdonald says that I have to blog about the sex magic.

Which, honestly, I didn’t intend to have in the book when we started. But then we were writing the final action sequence of Land of Mist and Snow, in which it became both morally and tactically necessary to break a particular piece of extremely powerful magic, and by the time I’d finished writing that scene I realized that the book’s two main characters had just gone through a sacred marriage. (And believe me, writing a scene like that when both of your first-person narrators insist on maintaining a proper degree of circumspection and formality can be…challenging. You also end up researching a lot of details about Victorian underwear, most of which you don’t actually use.)

Then Lincoln’s Sword came along, and in this book it wasn’t a marriage, it was an initiation, the coming-together of two characters who’ve been playing a mystical game of hide-and-seek (rather like “The Two Magicians”, only different) for most of the book, with the goal being to learn and to impart crucial knowledge.

At least this time I already had the Victorian underwear pages bookmarked.


Lincoln’s Sword. In bookstores everywhere, and on your favorite electronic reading devices, right now.

Comments on LINCOLN'S SWORD:
#1 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 02:06 AM:

There's certainly a lot of creepy American Civil War alternate history, with a feel of slave-owning Mary Sue-ism.

There is, I think, some plausible possibility of a working secession.

It's around 1500 years, and a Dark Age, since any plausible reality of an Arthur. Call it a thousand years before Malory fixed the story's core.

It would be a different Matter of England if Mordred had won. But it might not be so different an England now. I'm not sure you could say the same about the Matter of America. Even with the Once and Future President, the reality came so close to collapsing back into darkness.

70 years ago, the threat was a Nazi invasion of England. I know enough of the real history to know how unlikely that was to succeed, even if the RAF had been defeated. And so the Alternate Histories, even the plausible ones such as Farthing, feel somehow safe.

Do the same sort of change to the American Civil War, and you can't avoid remembering that losing that war didn't stop the way that Southern trees bore strange fruit, even into my lifetime.

#2 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 03:27 AM:

Oh, good. Another Doyle/Macdonald book to pick up, next time I'm doing a book run.

#3 ::: Darryl Rosin ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 08:23 AM:

"The Civil War comes as close as anything else does to being the Matter of America, in the way that the Arthurian mythos is the Matter of Britain and the legends of Charlemagne are the Matter of France."

ooh, that's a thing you said there. I'm Australian. What is the Matter of Australia? (are there any other Australians out there? I'm going to Aussiecon, maybe I'll see you there :^)

Is there a Matter of Australia? Who gets a say in what it is?

d

#4 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 08:32 AM:

As a Southerner born and bred, and the descendant both of slaveowners and of a physician who (according to family legend) pretended not to see an Andersonville escapee hiding in a ditch, I can testify that Faulkner was right. "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

I live near the site of "the last lynching in America" (good God, how I wish that were true). The killing of George and Mae Murray Dorsey and Roger and Dorothy Malcolm is still being re-enacted annually. An investigation into the killings has been re-opened, and might actually find out something if all the participants haven't died of old age.

#5 ::: David Bishop ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 08:43 AM:

This reads very much like a Big Idea post on Whatever. You should be cross-posting there, if you haven't thought about that already.

#6 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 08:48 AM:

darryl @ 3--

"I'm Australian. What is the Matter of Australia?"

myxomatosis.

#7 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 09:06 AM:

Darryl Rosin @3: Read an interesting article about Ned Land in the Smithsonian magazine years ago. The details of the event for which he had become famous was told in a straight forward manner, but much of the article was how the story resonated in Australian culture (one example: a contemporary painter made frequent use of an armored Ned Land as an iconic image).

#8 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 09:14 AM:

Oddly enough, the one kind of Civil War alternate history we never even considered writing was a "the South wins" variant. It's already been done enough times, both well and poorly, that we didn't feel we needed to bother.

#9 ::: Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 09:17 AM:

"At least this time I already had the Victorian underwear pages bookmarked."

I know a number of people who do.

#10 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 09:58 AM:

The Civil War comes as close as anything else does to being the Matter of America

Anybody else remembers that John Carter was a Southern Gent who drifted West after the Civil War before winding up on Mars?

#11 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 10:03 AM:

I just had to pop in and say that I am affinally relatede to Cole Younger (my father's mother's sister married a child of one of the Younger brothers: that branch of the family is wealthy and kind of bats). But I don't, of course, identify with that except as an illustration of the kind of irony that you get from being a Californian.

I want to read these. I've been wanting an alternate history that wasn't "the South wins." My biggest turnoff for alternate history has been the lack of imagination in the premises that I run into, and the frequent tacit or explicit embrace of the worst possible outcome.

Thank you, Debra, for writing about the book here.

#12 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 10:10 AM:

People should read Gardner Dozois's short story "Counterfactual", in which the North won, all told from the point-of-view of Clifford Simak.

#13 ::: Darryl Rosin ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 10:13 AM:

Rob Rusick@7

You mean Ned Kelly I think. The painter would be Sydney Nolan.

http://melbourneblogger.blogspot.com/2009/03/ned-kelly-sidney-nolan-and-australian.html

d

#14 ::: Ian M. Ireland ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 10:30 AM:

I've been reading, very gradually and over the course of about the last two years, Kevin Phillips' _The Cousins' Wars_. It's interesting. He puts forward the theory (as I understand it) that The English Civil War, the American Revolutionary War, and the (US) Civil War are very much expressions of the same conflict, and in some ways, The Matter of the English Speaking World. And responsible in some ways for the global success of that English Speaking World.

I think I'd like to read both _Land of Mist and Snow_ and _Lincoln's Sword_, and I'd like to read them on my iDevice which is not the big reader-style device but rather the smaller telecommunications-focused device. (And why am I reluctant to say "iPhone"?) But I've found that if I want to read that way, I Really Have To Want To Read That Way, whereas if I want to read it as a paper book, I just have to fall over it in a bookstore, and money magically flies out of my wallet and I go home with a book. I'm not sure why this is.

#15 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 10:37 AM:

This one is far more sympathetic to the South than was Land of Mist and Snow. (Comes of having Cole Younger as a sympathetic protagonist.)

Cole wound up spending most of his life in Stillwater Prison in Minnesota (where he founded America's longest-running prison newspaper), which allowed him the luxury of writing his memoirs. He talks of reading Freud, Darwin, and Marx. He's a fascinating man, which is what led us to appropriate his character. Both the historical and the fictional Cole Younger are the sort of person who dominates any scene just by being in it.

The current novel runs, timewise, from St. Clair's Defeat up to WWI. And you can see me doing the research here on Making Light.

#16 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 10:40 AM:

How lovely! Coincidentally, I'm in a large city with bookstores that might actually have it in stock, and a plane trip this afternoon.

#17 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 10:50 AM:

kid bitzer @ 6 -- I am very tired. This tends to make me do weird associational stuff. Now you've got me thinking about a Civil War story about rabbits, something like an alternate Watership Down. I dare say that Robert Lawson could have handled it well.

(And, wandering further afield from there... a cross between Watership Down and Battlefield Earth, in which the rabbits steal and learn to use the humans' technology to drive them away from the meadow. Arrgh.)

#18 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 10:55 AM:

Darryl Rosin @3--That's a problem for Australians to work out.

Maybe it's Gallipoli. Maybe it's Ned Kelly. Maybe it's something else altogether. Only Australians can figure that out, and a large opart of the process isn't consciously directed.

#19 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 11:11 AM:

fidelio@18: Only Australians can figure that out, and a large part of the process isn't consciously directed.

I think that what's needed is something that's at the confluence of a big subject that everybody keeps coming back to and talking about, and a big subject that nobody likes to talk about (the classic elephant in the living room), and a big subject that's mutable enough to work in all sorts of different modes and genres, and able to change its shape to fit whatever unmentionable elephant is being written around at a particular time.†

What those subjects might be for Australia -- you're right that only the Australians themselves are likely to know.

†Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Marion Zimmer Bradley both wrote Arthurian epics, but I suspect that their living rooms had very different elephants in them.

#20 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 11:13 AM:

Thinking about the Civil War as "the Matter of America" seriously squicks me out. I tend to see present-day America's relationship to the Civil War as being similar to Benjamin Sisko's relationship to Wolf 359: we're unhealthily obsessed with it, we're mentally stuck there, and we won't be able to move forward until we let go. This comes of having lived in the South for the last 36 years or so, and of having had to establish a moratorium on Civil War arguments discussions in my living room at parties... the ONLY topic I've ever had to rule off-limits.

#21 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 11:21 AM:

In gatherings of my friends, the topic of hovercrafts is off limits. I swear I'm not making this up, and that there are good reasons for it.

#22 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 11:28 AM:

Lee@21: we're unhealthily obsessed with it, we're mentally stuck there, and we won't be able to move forward until we let go.

Which is why, I think, we keep working on processing it through art. (Not all of it good art, to be sure. But even failed art is the product of an artist working at something. It's a sad fact that the Muse doesn't love all of her lovers equally in return.)

#23 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 12:21 PM:

I don't think being drawn to the Civil War is an unhealthy thing for Americans at all. The events leading up to and resulting from the Civil War are just about the whole of American history (especially when you trace out to matters like the effects of the slavery/free labor struggle to westward expansion, immigration, class struggle, gender issues).

I do think that way too many Americans have bought the revisionist (revanchist) version of the Reconstruction and do not know or value the tremendous opportunity that was lost at that time, and that arguments about the Civil War usually miss all of the truly wonderful achievements of that time (including the first generally available free public education for anybody, white or black or other, in many regions of the South).

#24 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 12:36 PM:

I have been saying for decades now that the U.S. equivalent for the Matter of Britain is the Matter of Africa, i.e. that the cultures of Africa are what made the distinctive differences between the two. Slavery, in other words. Africa certainly made popular culture of the American century, which spread around the world.

It happened in 'high art' too, with Picasso and so on.

Love, C.

#25 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 12:41 PM:

I'm not a fan of Civil War history in either real or alternate versions, but The Land of Mist and Snow got past my resistance, and I expect this one will too. My pre-ordered copy was shipped from B&N yesterday. ;-)

#26 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 12:48 PM:

I've been through the desert on a horse named NameOHorse.

#27 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 12:49 PM:

Additionally, the same passionate advocates for slavery who got their way for nullification and secession and war keep rising from defeat over and over, with the same arguments, the same objectives and goals, and the same sympathizers (copperheads).

With the histories we write, then, what we read and research, shows this process over and over, throughout the national history.

We're in the midst of a process now that mirrors in devasting clarity the leadup to the Civil War through the administrations of Polk, Pierce and Buchanan.

Much of this has been enabled by Hollywood, populated by descendants such as D.W. Griffith and pretend-descendants of the confederacy. I've done a study of the Western; almost all the 'heroes' are Southerners who fought for the confederacy -- see in particular John Wayne's role in The Searchers. Sometimes it seems part of the hostility that Hollywood felt for Dances With Wolves was provoked by Costner being a Federal rather than a confederate (and no, his character did NOT save either the tribe or the day). Even Joss Whedon is part of this.

One cannot undervalue the propaganda effects of movies upon the national imagination -- or even national awareness of historical facts.

No, not an accident at all that John Carter of Mars was a confederate.

Love, C.

#28 ::: Ian Tregillis ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 12:53 PM:

The opportunities this presents for giving offense to somebody—or somebodies—are manifold, starting with the novel’s genre and going on from there.

Yes, yes, and yes to everything Debra said about the potential pitfalls of writing fantasy alt-history. All true, and true of many historical periods.

#29 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 01:26 PM:

As no horse lovers (or Breyer collectors) have chimed in:

Re: NameOHorse -- "Winchester" a black Morgan(?) stallion.

#30 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 01:29 PM:

We're in the midst of a process now that mirrors in devasting clarity the leadup to the Civil War through the administrations of Polk, Pierce and Buchanan.

I've noticed it.
I know, from reading my great-grandfather's letters, that the copperheads were extremely unpopular with at least some of their neighbors, and that the men who enlisted felt that the secessionists were traitors, at least in the first year or so.

#31 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 01:59 PM:

Meanwhile, perhaps the stupidest essay of modern times was this one at CNN: Were Confederate soldiers terrorists? by Roland Martin.

Secessionists, by definition. Rebels, yes. Traitors, I can go with that. But terrorists? Only if you expand the definition of terrorism so far that it loses all meaning.

By the time you have defined borders, an elected legislature, a uniformed army with a posted chain of command, collect taxes, and administer justice, you may be many things, but 'terrorist' isn't one of them.

Some within the Confederacy were terrorists -- Charley Quantrill, for one. But the rank-and-file soldiers of Cleburne's Division, Hardee's Corps, Army of Tennessee were terrorists? Can't see it.

The meat of Martin's argument is this:

If a Confederate soldier was merely doing his job in defending his homeland, honor and heritage, what are we to say about young Muslim radicals who say the exact same thing as their rationale for strapping bombs on their bodies and blowing up cafes and buildings?

Therefore, Martin argues, since the young Muslim radicals are terrorists, Confederate soldiers must also have been terrorists.

It is the flimsiest kind of reasoning by analogy, yet that is what he advances.

#32 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 02:20 PM:

Serge @10, it was the first thing I thought of when Nancy Hanger told me she was related to the Virginia Carters.

Joel @17, is it possible that the Civil War/rabbits thing has already been done? I'm fairly sure I remember a photo of a couple of homeschooled girls who'd built an enormous diorama of some major Civil War battle, including thousands of handmade uniformed figures. The part of the memory I'm uncertain about is that all the figures were some kind of animal; might have been rabbits.

My immediate problem with the idea of recasting the entire war with rabbits is that Wilderness I & II and Franklin stop working.

(And what kind of mental filing system do I have that can't remember numbers, but apparently has no trouble running instant cross-referenced searches on Civil War events that would be significantly affected if all the participants were turned into rabbits?)

#33 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 02:25 PM:

31
I'd say that some Confederate soldiers were terrorists, but that's because one of my ancestors was killed by some, while he was out in a field working. (His gun was on the other side of the field at the time, so, yeah, they shot an unarmed man. So they could take the horse he was working with.)

#34 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 02:31 PM:

Doyle: so, what are *your* victorian underwear bookmarks?

#35 ::: romsfuulynn ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 02:36 PM:

"Lincoln’s Sword. In bookstores everywhere, and on your favorite electronic reading devices, right now."

Alas - Barnes & Noble is of the opinion that your book is being released August 1, so my Nook will not yet download it, but merely sneers at me. (It is already purchased and sitting in my library. Otherwise I would purchase elsewhere.)

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?ean=9780062005397

Amazon appears to have the correct date as does Books on Board.

#36 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 02:36 PM:

#33

And by that standard so were some Federal troopers, and some soldiers in any war in any time or place. Again, that expands the definition of "terrorist" beyond any use.

#37 ::: Dave Robinson ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 02:39 PM:

Very interesting discussion - and despite currently being surrounded by Civil War battlefields (there's one less than a hundred yards away) - I don't have anything to add to the primary discussion at the moment.

However, I do have something very serious to bring up: A search for "Lincoln's Sword" brought up another book first.

Bad Google!
Fierce Bad Google!

(At least I managed the now obligatory rabbit reference.)

Sadly, I probably won't be able to pick the book up until next week. :(

#38 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 02:40 PM:

Sisuile@34: Doyle: so, what are *your* victorian underwear bookmarks?

Alas, I lost them when I upgraded my operating system to Windows 7 (pure lack of forethought on my part; I remembered to back up everything else), which I did after we got the on-acceptance money for the novel.

At a certain point, the main question that was exercising my mind -- and that sent me rummaging around the web -- was, drawstrings or buttons?

#39 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 02:45 PM:

jim @31--

yeah, that martin paragraph is pretty stupid, esp. when you think about replacing "confederate" with e.g. "wehrmacht", a group not known for its loose organization and irregular methods. there are lots of bad people who do bad things in the name of homeland, honor and heritage. not all bad people are terrorists.

that said, i think that nearly all of the violence committed by former secessionists post-appomattox does fit into the category of terrorism, and certainly the violence aimed at reconstruction-era blacks and elected officials who wanted to make good on the results of the war and the new amendments.

they really were straight forward baathist dead-enders.

#40 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 02:52 PM:

kid bitzer@39: that said, i think that nearly all of the violence committed by former secessionists post-appomattox does fit into the category of terrorism, and certainly the violence aimed at reconstruction-era blacks and elected officials who wanted to make good on the results of the war and the new amendments.

You certainly won't get any disagreement on that from me.

#41 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 02:52 PM:

#39

No doubt Nathan Forrest's post-war activities were terrorist. As were many others; irregular warfare is often terrorist in nature as well as name.

But that isn't Martin's argument. He's talking about regular enlisted men during the years 1861-64.

In part or in whole, his essay is unsupported and unsupportable.

#42 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 02:57 PM:

It may be worth mentioning that while Cole Younger considered himself to be a prisoner of war during his time at Stillwater, the state of Minnesota considered him a common criminal and treated him as such.

And the state of Minnesota was right.

#43 ::: Dr. Psycho ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 02:59 PM:

The Civil War comes as close as anything else does to being the Matter of America

Yes. Dang, that is what made that alleged comedy CSA [http://www.csathemovie.com/] so deeply horrifying: it depicted the victorious Confederacy not simply as the South's wet dream of itself, but as the USA's evil twin.

#44 ::: Dr. Psycho ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 02:59 PM:

The Civil War comes as close as anything else does to being the Matter of America

Yes. Dang, that is what made that alleged comedy CSA [http://www.csathemovie.com/] so deeply horrifying: it depicted the victorious Confederacy not simply as the South's wet dream of itself, but as the USA's evil twin.

#45 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 03:04 PM:

Teresa @ 32... Jimmy Carter will return in Edgar Rice Burroughs's "The President of Mars".

#46 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 03:13 PM:

Re Confederate soldiers as terrorists - this is reminding me of C. S. Lewis's discussion in Mere Christianity about making the word "Christian" useless by fuzzing its boundaries. He said it's true that someone who is not a believer in the Christian religion can often behave in what might be called a "Christian" fashion, and someone who is a believer might not. But when you go down that road, pretty soon you've made "Christian" mean "someone I approve of," or "nice." And we already have the word "nice."

Analogously, this is headed down the road of making "terrorist" mean "someone I disapprove of who does bad things." Soldiers fighting for a wrong cause, or exercise violence against civilians in criminal ways, but that doesn't equate with terrorism.

#47 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 03:18 PM:

The official reports of the incident begin here; the Union reports minimize eveything, the Confederate reports make it sound like a more-or-less organized affair, and the version in my family has raiders coming through stealing horses (the rest of the family was up at the house and saw what happened, or so I understand).

#48 ::: Per Chr. J. ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 03:32 PM:

As to feeling that to use counterfactual assumptions about historical events and personages for the purpose of entertainment is disrespectful, I remember that a respected reviewer in my country reacting rather strongly against some of the backstory of Foucault's Pendulum when the translation of Eco's novel came out. He felt that mentioning the holocaust in connection with the background of conspiracies in the novel was disrespectful towards victims and survivors (of course, Foucault's Pendulum is secret history and not alternate history, so it is not quite parallel). I remember being a bit puzzled at the time, but then I realised that the reviewer was a kind of high culture only sort of person - rather unlike most of us SF fans - and it seemed that he hadn't heard of conspiracy theories and speculation about the occult side of nazism before, and thought that Eco had made it all up, in bad taste, instead on drawing on a lot of sources.

#49 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 03:42 PM:

Ian Tregillis @ 28... I've heard of those pitfalls, but I think they betray the reviewer's bias rather than a problem with the genre, but, hey, what do I know?
("Nothink!")

#50 ::: Per Chr. J. ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 03:56 PM:

One view of the civil war that I have often seen in a conservative European context is that the South had quite a lot of decent people fighting for a horrible cause, and the North had quite a lot of horrible people fighting for a good cause. I believe that in one of the thrillers of Anthony Price, Sion Crossing, one of the characters thinks so about the subject of the Civil War (of course, this is not one of the main characters of the series, and even if he were, this might not be the thoughts of the author on the US Civil War).

#51 ::: 47ronin ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 04:24 PM:

Re: #17 and Watership Down and the Civil War. If anyone's interested, Richard Adams, author of WD wrote an interesting novel about the American Civil War from the point of view of Robert E. Lee's horse, Traveller.

#52 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 04:24 PM:

Doyle: What did you decide? I know what I prefer, but I think I can document both options.

#53 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 04:25 PM:

I think the Matter of America is broader than just the Civil War: it has to include the Revolution and the Constitution, and its core is the question "Can humans truly govern themselves, or must they be governed by others?" Hence the question of slavery, and of representative government, and of what you do when an election goes against you (or goes toxic), are all grain for the mill.

But certainly the Civil War is a vast part of it.
(Insert my semi-annual plug for Stephen Vincent Benet as the Poet of the Matter of America, with "John Brown's Body" and "Western Star" and "Listen to the People" and quite a few small poems and plays and scripts thrown into the mix.)

The South, by the way, is the counter-example to "the victors write the history"; in this case the losers wrote the history and were very successful for decades. (Try reading Winston Churchill's section on the Civil War in his History of the English-Speaking Peoples; it's quite an eye-opener as to just how much the Lost Cause mythology had penetrated across the world.)

#54 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 04:27 PM:

Dr. Psycho @44: I'm pretty sure, having watched the trailer on that site, that it's intended as a satire, not a comedy.

Rather a sharp-edged one, too. Which should surprise nobody, as it's (a) about race and (b) by Spike Lee.

#55 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 04:36 PM:

Tony 53: "Can humans truly govern themselves, or must they be governed by others?"

I for one welcome our non-human overlords.

#56 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 04:42 PM:

Sisuile@52: What did you decide? I know what I prefer, but I think I can document both options.

I went with buttons, as I recall, after a certain amount of delving into the arcana of Naval uniforms of the era.

Tony@53:
The South, by the way, is the counter-example to "the victors write the history"; in this case the losers wrote the history and were very successful for decades.

I think a part of what was going on was also the same kind of romanticization of the losing side that occurred in Victorian England with regard to the Scots Jacobites. But I could be wrong.

#57 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 04:50 PM:

Doyle, #22: OTOH, a wound will never heal if people keep picking at it.

#58 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 05:06 PM:

Lee @57--There's a world of difference between picking at it and draining an abcess. One is helpful, the other one isn't.

Of course, people are more inclined to pick the scab than drain the abcess. The former can be a nearly-unconscious exercise, the latter requires intent, is messy, and can be painful.

#59 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 05:18 PM:

Tony Zbaraschuk @53--OK, I'll give you Benet--where does Faulkner come into it?

(The link leads to several quotations from Absalom, Absalom, which is about the problems with the Southern Heritage, and having to come to terms with it--and why people so often fail to do so.)

#60 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 05:40 PM:

Benet is the Poet of the Matter of America.

Faulkner, presumably, would be the Novelist of the Matter. Never having read any of his books, I can't say much more than that.

#61 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 07:45 PM:

I live on the Manassas battlefields (the park covers part of them -- there were already lots of roads and cities before the park was made) and I have neighbors who are Sons of Confederate Veterans. When Virginia is very conservative, like it is now, they have influenced the legislature and governor. The Civil War is definitely not over.

#62 ::: Alberto ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 08:28 PM:

Perhaps it's because I'm a Californian and grew up on John Wayne movies, but as I see it, one of the central themes of the Matter of America is the expansion across the continent, the "settling" of the West.

It's not just the colonies, the Founders, and the Civil War that are prominent--it's the drive West, Manifest Destiny, the nearly successful extirpation of the Indians and their cultures, the idea of this being the Promised Land for all...

That drive across the land--ultimately, I find that theme to be the one that resounds loudest.

Of course, the Matter is still being written, and as a mestizo, it's in the theme of the expansion that I can most find myself, where I most have a place in the story. I certainly don't in the theme of the Civil War, and although the West is strongly shaped by the fallout of it as alluded to in posts above, it's not part of the landscape here--literal or cultural--as it is Back East/Down South.

I also think that perhaps we're at a point in time when there's change in the salience of that theme: for more and more Americans, the Civil War is something that happened in other people's histories... even as we contend daily with its legacy.

#63 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 09:15 PM:

Darryl Rosin @13: You mean Ned Kelly I think. The painter would be Sydney Nolan.

Thank you.

Apparently, Ned Land is a character from 'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea'. Which might make him appropriate for The Matter of Atlantis.

#64 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 10:07 PM:

Alberto #62:

There's a very real extent to which the westward expansion was driven by the struggle over slavery in the pre-war period.

#65 ::: Diana ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 10:28 PM:

can't resist commenting on this: "It would be a different Matter of England if Mordred had won."
Modred did win, that's why Malory called it "Le morte d'Arthur." All the stories, however picturesque, lead up to the fact that Arthur is killed and Excalibur returned to the water.

#66 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 10:36 PM:

Alberto, as a fellow Californian born and raised, I want to point out how much the expansion that shaped the places we grew up in was itself shaped by the slavery struggle. The routes, the places people stayed and the places they didn't, who profited when from what activities where, a whole lot of this exists the way it does because of parallel slaveholding and free pushes into the West.

And California in particular is the state it is because of the Mexican-American War, which was very much a big thing for the slave power, and then for the anti-slavery drive of folks like Fremont to keep slavery from getting its hold on the Pacific lands they'd just taken from Mexico.

We are part of this story too.

#67 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 10:58 PM:

Constance @27: Much of this has been enabled by Hollywood, populated by descendants such as D.W. Griffith and pretend-descendants of the confederacy. I've done a study of the Western; almost all the 'heroes' are Southerners who fought for the confederacy -- see in particular John Wayne's role in The Searchers.

John Wayne's character in The Searchers requires more than just one level of quotation marks around the adjective "hero", I think. While I'm sure some people saw the movie and thought Ethan an unalloyed good guy (or thought he was supposed to be read as such), I think the movie doesn't really support that reading. The Searchers is much more a turning point in the history of the Hollywood Western -- the end of the era of the expansionist Western and the beginning of the era of the revisionist Western.

#68 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 11:02 PM:

Speaking of John Wayne, his character Rooster Cogburn in True Grit had, in his backstory, that he rode with Charley Quantrill.

#69 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 11:09 PM:

Xopher@21: Okay, fine. No hovercraft, should we ever meet.


What about eels?

#70 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 11:39 PM:

Jim, as much as I don't want to , I hear the name Quantrell and spit on the floor. Him and his minions did eeeeeevil things in the mixed up state of the territories of Missouri and Kansas.

I have a friend who's house survived the burning of Lawrence because it was mostly stone and brick. Though their porch fell off in the early 70s, helped by vines and etc. And the second floor was a great place for my friend, who was about five foot tall, I visited and I'm 5'4", and found her living area daunting and SHORT.

#71 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2010, 11:48 PM:

Alberto, #62: the nearly successful extirpation of the Indians and their cultures, the idea of this being the Promised Land for all...

All the People Who Mattered, that is. Clearly not for those who were here first. (Note: I am not accusing you personally of taking that position; you were just listing some of the memes involved, but the self-contradiction inherent in those two clauses rather jumped out at me.)

#72 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 12:12 AM:

Patrick, eels are fine, but they might tend to bring up the topic of hovercrafts.

But the restriction applies only to the gatherings of my old friends from school. I'm perfectly willing to discuss hovercrafts in other contexts.

#73 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 12:14 AM:

I don't know why other people are often leery of alternate history, but I do know why I am: For most subjects that historical fiction covers, my personal knowledge is adequate but not good, which is to say that I know enough to understand what someone is talking about, but not enough to talk about it myself.

The reason that this is an issue is that reading alternate histories can pollute my knowledge, leaving me subconsciously tying true facts to fictional facts. Suddenly, I might recall that a particular battle was lost, when before hand I at least knew for certain that I didn't know much about that battle.

Some alternate histories are closer to reality than others (and better written; bad writing completely avoids this problem), but I don't know enough to know how close something is to reality (well, aside from the truly fantastic elements).

If I know a lot about a subject, this doesn't happen, but when my knowledge is much more vague I can sometimes have the real and the unreal slip together, giving me a patchwork knowledge of a subject that is less useful than the blatantly incomplete knowledge I once had. At least right now I am confident about what I do not know.

(Not to say I never read them or that they are in any way deserving of disrespect, just stating my issues.)

#74 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 12:34 AM:

Micah@73: The reason that this is an issue is that reading alternate histories can pollute my knowledge, leaving me subconsciously tying true facts to fictional facts.

This is a risk that comes with reading fiction, period -- the knowledge that the writer is making stuff up, and at any point could be wrong, or lying. Some people dislike and distrust fiction in general on just those grounds. Of course, a writer of nonfiction could just as easily be wrong, or an outright liar, but for some reason people prefer to save their paranoia for the writer who admits up front that he or she is telling outrageous fibs.

("All Cretans are liars," said Epimenides the Cretan. Just so.)

#75 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 12:56 AM:

A useful alternate history: "This would never have happened during President Bartlet's administration." heh.

#76 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 01:03 AM:

Ned Kelly in an Australian headache medicine commercial.

(The music at the end is "The King of the Fairies," if anyone's interested.)

#77 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 01:41 AM:

Would an alternate Civil War story featuring horrid hares on hoverskirts be considered steampunk, or just plain silly?

#78 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 01:54 AM:

OOO! Steambunnies!

...I'd read that.

#79 ::: Alberto ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 02:17 AM:

Lucy @64, Bruce @64: I don't disagree that the issues of the East contributed to push West, particularly vis a vis the Civil War--that's why I said that "the West is strongly shaped by the fallout of [the Civil War]." And I agree with your points as re: the pre-War period. However, the Civil War is not as profound an influence here as it is in, say, Georgia. It isn't part of the literal landscape, and although I saw more than enough Confederate flags growing up (and lived just down the hill from what was a very high concentration of KKK membership), most of those folks were relative newcomers, and sad sacks who had bought into that pernicious narrative. And even so, by and large, the Civil War isn't part of how most Californians imagine California, and less so each day... I wouldn't call it integral to the Matter of California (and yes, I think California, land of dreams, gold, and earthquake, has its own Matter).

Lee @71: the juxtaposition was intentional. I can say, and have said, a lot about the purposeful erasure of the native peoples of the Americas, and I strongly feel that it is one of the central themes of the Matter of America.

#80 ::: Neil in Chicago ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 03:08 AM:

re: using mythology in historical fiction
One of the most stunning novels I've ever read is Last of the Just by Andre Schwarz-Bart. He takes a long run-up to the Shoah starting with the Massacre of York:

“To understand this metamorphosis, one must be aware of the ancient Jewish tradition of the Lamed-Vov, a tradition that certain Talmudists trace back to the source of the centuries, to the mysterious time of the prophet Isaiah.
“Rivers of blood have flowed, columns of smoke have obscured the sky, but surviving all these dooms, the tradition has remained inviolate down to our own time. According to it, the world reposes upon thirty-six Just Men, the Lamed-Vov, indistinguishable from simple mortals; often they are unaware of their station. But if just one of them were lacking, the sufferings of mankind would poison even the souls of the newborn, and humanity would suffocate with a single cry. For the Lamed-Vov are the hearts of the world multiplied, and into them, as into one receptacle, pour all our griefs.
“Thousands of popular stories take note of them. Their presence is attested to everywhere. A very old text of the Haggadah tells us that the most pitiable are the Lamed-Vov who remain unknown to themselves. For those the spectacle of the world is an unspeakable hell.
“In the seventh century, Andalusian Jews venerated a rock shaped like a teardrop, which they believed to be the soul, petrified by suffering, of an 'unknown' Lamed-Vovnik. Other Lamed-Vov, like Hecuba shrieking at the death of her sons, are said to have been transformed into dogs.
When an unknown Just rises to Heaven , a Hasidic story goes, he is so frozen that God must warm him for a thousand years between His fingers before his soul can open itself to Paradise. And it is known that some remain forever inconsolable at human woe, so that God Himself cannot warm them. So from time to time the Creator, blessed be His Name, sets forward the clock of the Last Judgment by one minute.

#81 ::: Neil in Chicago ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 03:17 AM:

Per Chr. J. @ 48
. . . some of the backstory of Foucault's Pendulum . . . . (of course, Foucault's Pendulum is secret history and not alternate history,
I dunno.  Foucault's Pendulum impressed me as an alternate version of Illuminatus! without as much sex and politics.


Tony Zbaraschuk @ 53
The South, by the way, is the counter-example to "the victors write the history"
Hmm . . .  Palestinians as Confederates? Confederates as Palestinians? There may be something there, if one can find a market non-PC enough.  (alas John Callahan!)


Alberto @ 62
That drive across the land
Bruce Baugh @ 66
. . . the anti-slavery drive of folks like Fremont to keep slavery from getting its hold on the Pacific lands they'd just taken from Mexico.
So California sort of balanced Texas, which was stolen from Mexico in large part to re-establish slavery there after Mexico outlawed it. Even if it's not part of California's adopted mythos.

#82 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 03:21 AM:

I moved to Seattle in 1981. Raised in Ohio. Had a couple of relatives there who were very interested in the Civil War because some of our forbears were involved, plus my Ohio history was also big into it. It wasn't until I read"Lincoln's Dreams by Connie Willis that I realized that to those who grew up in the Pacific NW, the Civil War is no big deal.

#83 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 04:05 AM:

@53, 81, I offer you the closing paragraph of Pencak, William (2002) 'The American Civil War Did Not Take Place: with apologies to Baudrillard', Rethinking History, 6: 2, 217 — 221:


What order the South enjoyed between the final withdrawal of Union troops in 1877 and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was imposed via
lynching, chain gangs, segregation, union-busting and disfranchisement (Woodward 1953; Trelease 1971). Would it be too much to say that the South
won, not the Civil War – which did not take place – but an ‘Era of Racial Violence’ which extended – to be arbitrary – from ‘Bleeding Kansas’ in 1854
(Goodrich 1998) to the End of Reconstruction in 1877? At issue is which periodization is most useful for understanding the America that emerged in the twentieth century. In the long run, the Confederacy not only won the right to control its own racial affairs, it also triumphed in the popular imagination as a legitimate and heroic cause, largely because scholars and popular culture have abstracted the relatively civilized violence of the years 1861 to 1865 – symbolized by the noble figure of General Lee – from the at least equally consequential but far more repugnant era in which future Southern troops fought a guerrilla war for slavery in Kansas and ex-Confederates turned terrorist finally drove the Union forces out of the South. To conclude paradoxically: the Civil War did not take place, and the South won it.

#84 ::: Idgecat ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 04:17 AM:

moe99 @ 82

Current Seattlite and 5th generation Western Washington native delurking -- the big issue here at the time of the Civil War was the boundary with what is now Canada, it wasn't finally settled until 1872. So yes, the US Civil War was a side issue to a large portion of the northwest, paling in comparison to the conflict with the British right here.

#85 ::: jane yolen ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 04:56 AM:

Hey you two, if you think a lot of oxes get gored with fantasy novels about the Civil War, try writing (as I did twice) fantasy/fairy tale novels about the Holocaust.

Jane

#86 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 05:59 AM:

The historical Cole Younger spent the last part of the Civil War recruiting in California. When the war ended he was in Seattle, trying to commission a couple of ironclads to operate in the Pacific.

Also: He counted the Civil War as starting in 1856. About that, I can't say that he was wrong.

#87 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 07:21 AM:

Xopher @ #72

Does that include "The Hovercraft Act 1968" and possibly "The Hovercraft (Births, Deaths and Missing Persons) Regulations 1972"?

IM[1]WLTK

I have no eels (jellied or otherwise) or hovercraft in my possession at this time.

[1] Moose, of course.

#88 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 07:35 AM:

Jane Yolen@85: Hey you two, if you think a lot of oxes get gored with fantasy novels about the Civil War, try writing (as I did twice) fantasy/fairy tale novels about the Holocaust.

Believe me, the vivid memory of your hassles with regard to those two books had a prominent place in my occasional attacks of paranoia about our own project.

#89 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 08:29 AM:

Cadbury Moose #87: I have no eels (jellied or otherwise) or hovercraft in my possession at this time.

Ah, but do you have a red pencil box?

#90 ::: Darryl Rosin ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 08:59 AM:

Hello again.

Sorry if my 'Matter of Australia' question came off badly. In response to those who wrote, sensibly, that this is something for Australian's to decide, I really don't know how correct that is, what with the problem of unreliable narrators and all. I don't know anything about Debra's background, she may be a cosmopolitan type, with roots in the USA, Britain and France so she can talk about the Matters of Those Places with authority. Those three are all Great White Powers, so I kind of feel like I can have an 'somewhat informed point of view' on the question (thank-you Eurocentrism :^)

I totally get the idea that the Civil War is the Matter of America. I'm not a scholar, but the US is my second favourite country on Earth and I know a lot of American stories. But when I read the original post, my first thought was "I wonder if Indigenous Americans agree that the Matter of America is the Civil War." I expect not, which is probably my personal 'Matter of Australia' biases showing.

It's also kind of odd to match up stories of a war fought 150 years ago, a King from 1200 years ago and a fictional king from lord knows when. Isn;t John Bunyan a better match for King Arthur? Or George Washington and the Cherry Tree a better match for Carolus Magnus?

Sorry if I'm coming off as argumentative. This post moved something in me and I'm not quite sure what, so youse is now all on the receiving end of my half-baked thoughts and tortured prose. :^)

d

#91 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 09:27 AM:

Darryl@90: But when I read the original post, my first thought was "I wonder if Indigenous Americans agree that the Matter of America is the Civil War."

Believe me, the Civil War touches that part of the story, too. Among other things, the Cherokee fought in the Civil War on the Confederate side, presumably because they had, or at least thought that they had, an "enemy of my enemy" thing going on there.

As far as personal connections go, I'm a Southerner by birth (related to both the Taylors -- as in Zachary Taylor and Varina Taylor Davis -- and to Peter O'Doyle, an Irishman from County Wicklow who fought as a private in the Union army) and a medievalist by training.

#92 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 09:27 AM:

Daryl Rosin @90--It didn't hit me badly--it's just that, as someone in the US, with only slightly more than a minimal knowledge of Australian history and mythos, I'm in no position to even begin to guess where you all would find the matter of Australia. Hence my response. As for the rest of your latest--I'm not sure; all I know is that these aren't logical things, with reasons that can be sensibly mapped out.

I suspect you are right on target with this: "I wonder if Indigenous Americans agree that the Matter of America is the Civil War."

#94 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 09:47 AM:

And for a medievalist (such as myself and Doyle), the Nine Worthies map onto the Civil War too.

#95 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 12:05 PM:

It's a mistake to think of California's place in the pre-Civil War struggle as a simple piece in the side of anti-slavery.Although it was admitted as a free state -- after a desperate race among different factions who variously wanted the astate to go one way or the other (like Bleeding Kansas, though the drama was at least on the surface pointed in tangential directions), it was also a wide-open place and there was considerable unofficial slavery going on.

And also official slavery. Native californians were enslaved in two ways: first, by the Spanish, at the Missions and also to a lesser degree at the ranchos, and second, by the Americans, insitutionalized in the Apprentice Law, which ironically was supposedlyauthored in order to protect Native Californians from the predations of the sociopathic 49ers and their ilk but almost immediately became the basis for widespread slaughter of adult Native Californians and the wholesale auction of their children.

The second city of my county, by the way, Watsonville, was founded by a man named Watson who moved here with his slave who was not automatically freed by moving to a free state -- that, too, was the law.

#96 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 01:02 PM:

#62 Alberto

Yes. Ultimately the Civil War was about two conflicting views as to which economic system would rule Manifest Destiny: the slaveholders' view vs. the industrialists view. In that sense and that sense alone the Union won the Civil War, as they did hold the Union, and the foundation economy was industrial capitalism, from sea to shining sea.

California was very much part of the lead-up to the Civil War, as part of the battle over Texas -- Texas as separate nation, or Texas as annexed into the United States. If Texas remained an independent Republic, it would have an entirely slaveholding nation on the borders of the Union. Texas was ruled by the sons of Jackson and other true blue southern believers in slavery, who would also have their own dreams of border expansion by conquest of territory.

This meant not only into Mexico on the south, New Orleans and Cuba to the east, but California to the west.

Thus the United States couldn't allow Texas to remain an independent Republic. The battles to make this not be so were not only poltical. It took Andrew Jackson in his final days to pull Houston into line with annexation.

Love, C.

#97 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 01:05 PM:

#67 Kevin Riggle

Well, yes. That's what makes The Searchers an interesting film even today as a character study, as well as the cinematography and composition of shots.

Love, C.

#98 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 01:27 PM:

Joel @93:

Ded! (Thnx muchly!)

#99 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 02:09 PM:

Idgecat @84: Have you read Boneshaker by Cherie Priest? It's Seattle steampunk alternative history. Recommended.

#100 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 02:10 PM:

Jim, 94: the Nine Worthies map onto the Civil War too.

...

...oh my gawd, they do.

#101 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 03:35 PM:

#74 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 12:34 AM:

Debra Doyle @74: This is a risk that comes with reading fiction, period -- the knowledge that the writer is making stuff up, and at any point could be wrong, or lying.

Sure, that's true, but it's on an entirely different scale when a story is intentionally close to the facts. An alternative history might, for example, include the Battle of Hancock. I don't know anything about the Battle of Hancock, except that one occurred. If I then read a fictional account that varies wildly from the facts, when next that battle is mentioned to me, I could easily misremember something as true.

By contrast, there are tons of battles in The Lord of the Rings, but there's no risk that I'll suddenly get a few of those confused with actual battles. Acting as if the two situations are comparable simply because both are fictional is simply incorrect.

#102 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 03:55 PM:

Micah@101: I agree one is unlikely to confuse actual battles out of Tolkien with real battles. On the other hand, one might confuse details of weapons handling or small-unit tactics from Tolkien with real information.

I cetainly worry about such confusions; I have to be pretty careful about things I think I know about post-WWII history of the US military, and the 1970s Philadelphia police department, because of W.E.B. Griffin books.

#103 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 04:44 PM:

Jane Yolen @ #85: having just re-read Briar Rose, may I say how very grateful I am that you were willing to suffer the consequences of writing it?

WRT the danger of confusing fictional "information" with actual knowledge--see the "drowning doesn't look like drowning" sidelight. It needn't be historical fiction to have dangerous consequences.

#104 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 04:59 PM:

Earl Cooley III :@ #79

Ah, but do you have a red pencil box?

Of course! I tend not to use it much because it plays Yakety Sax at high volume when opened. Nobody is quite sure why.

#105 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 05:38 PM:

OK, I vaguely remember the Nine Worthies, but how do they map on to the Civil War?

#106 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 05:47 PM:

P.J. Evans: What they did might have been criminal, but it wasn't terrorist. I very much misdoubt the purpose was to influence by terror, the actions of anyone.

It was a foraging raid, and they killed people. This wasn't completely beyond the laws of war at the time, so the criminality of the event isn't clear.

Given that living off the land was accepted, and a large part of the purpose of Sherman's March to the Sea was to make the burdens of rebellion too heavy at home (and so demoralise the troops in the field, as well as break the will of the folks at home), it's a bit of a reach to label a small group of soldiers as terrorists for being casual in the killing of civilians who possessed what was, actually, war materiel.

#107 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 06:04 PM:

As far as Hollywood's Civil-War epics go, I've always preferred "Raintree County" to jerk-filled "Gone with the Wind".

#108 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 06:19 PM:

I wasn't able to get through the book of GWTW, largely because I couldn't find a reason to care about those thoroughly dislikeable characters, and have never watched the movie.

#109 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 06:24 PM:

Darryl Rosin @90 It's also kind of odd to match up stories of a war fought 150 years ago, a King from 1200 years ago and a fictional king from lord knows when.

Legendary king from c. 500 AD.

The difference between legendary and fictional is something along the lines of we don't know if the original author was an historian or an entertainer; indeed the author may not have been aware of the distinction themselves.

This apart from the fiction that made up most of the original Matter of Britain.

#110 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 06:37 PM:

Terry @106, you prompted me to check the dates.

Battle of Solferino: 1860

First Geneva Convention, setting up the basics of the Red Cross: 1864

First Hague Convention: 1899

So all that affected the American Civil War would be the previous customary rules. By then, there was quite a lot. Andersonville clearly went beyond the limits.

#111 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 06:59 PM:

And the "previous customary rules" tended to have a difference between what you could do to someone else's territory, and what you could do to territory of your own that was in rebellion. Since the Civil War was about which of those the South was, one can see that there were difficulties. (Sherman's March to the Sea basically treated Georgia as a "rebellious province" under the then-extant laws of war.)

Grant had a similar experience in 1862 after Confederate cavalry destroyed his depot at Holly Springs and he had to live off the land. From his Memoirs:

"The news of the capture of Holly Springs and the destruction of our supplies caused much rejoicing among the people remaining in Oxford. They came with broad smiles on their faces, indicating intense joy, to ask what I was going to do now without anything for my soldiers to eat. I told them that I was not disturbed; that I had already sent troops and wagons to collect all the food and forage they could find for fifteen miles on each side of the road. Countenances soon changed, and so did the inquiry. The next was, "What are WE to do?" My response was that we had endeavored to feed ourselves from our own northern resources while visiting them; but their friends in gray had been uncivil enough to destroy what we had brought along, and it could not be expected that men, with arms in their hands, would starve in the midst of plenty. I advised them to emigrate east, or west, fifteen miles and assist in eating up what we left."

#112 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 07:46 PM:

Terry Karney @106:

I'm interested in an edge case here. Is it possible to behave in a terroristic fashion to people on one's own side? The incident I'm thinking of was a case of George Armstrong Custer vs. deserting volunteer soldiers.

It was July, 1865, and about 3000 cavalry were gathered at Alexandria, Louisiana, with some preparing to escort Custer to Austin, Texas. The war had essentially ended, and many of gathered regiments were mustering out some or all of their men. There were lots of desertions, particularly among volunteers, who resented being told to continue in uniform. Two men, one a sergeant of the 2nd Wisconsin and the other a private of the 5th Illinois Cavalry, were caught and sentenced to be shot for desertion by Custer. He commuted one sentence, but didn't tell the recipient; he made both men sit on coffins before the firing squad. When the provost marshall clapped the lucky man on the shoulder to lead him away, just before the execution, that man fainted, and died a couple of days later (presumeably of a heart attack.) The other man was duly shot, falling back into his coffin as Custer desired. This occured in front of every man Custer could bring to witness it.

This is narrated in Thomas Sydenham Cogley's history of the Indiana 7th Calvary (it's on Google books if you want to look up the original). He makes it clear that he believes Custer's intent was cruelty, first to last, and that this was in keeping with Custer's character; he gives several other examples. Looking at it, I have to agree that the purpose of this act, including the frills like commuting the one man's sentence without telling him until the last minute, was to instill terror in the rest of the men gathered in Alexandria. But can one really call 'making an example' of deserters 'terrorism'? Even though Cogley, who was a lawyer in civilian life, cited chapter and verse why Custer's actions were both unethical and illegal under the code of the army in place at that time?

If Custer's actions were illegal, it doesn't appear that anyone did anything about them. I should mention that he appears to have been the ranking officer in Alexandria at that time, which might explain why the execution happened without apparent consequence to him.

I've seen the words 'terrorism' and 'terrorist' thrown around so much lately, it's hard to get a bead on exactly what those words mean. I'd appreciate your opinion on this situation.

Cheers,

Renee.

#113 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 08:34 PM:

Xopher @ 108... I remember in the early 1990s when Margaret Mitchell's Estate authorized the writing of a sequel to the book, and contracted various writers to take a crack at it. The main restrictions were 'no homosexuality' and 'no miscegenation of the races'. Of course one writer sent them an opening scene where Rhett and Ashley are together in bed, and one confesses to the other that his mother was black.

#114 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 08:36 PM:

Renee@112: But can one really call 'making an example' of deserters 'terrorism'? Even though Cogley, who was a lawyer in civilian life, cited chapter and verse why Custer's actions were both unethical and illegal under the code of the army in place at that time?

It's possible for an action to be unethical and illegal -- not to mention cruel -- without being terroristic.

#115 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 08:42 PM:

Serge: wow, Ashley/Rhett slash. I'm not sure I want to read it, but I'm glad it exists.

#116 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 08:43 PM:

Indeed, calling all unethical, unjust, illegal, and/or cruel actions "terrorism" dilutes the term beyond any usefulness.

Which was part of the point of my #31, above.

#117 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 09:08 PM:

Gone With the Wind, as film, was consciously a re-make for the contemporary market of Griffith's Birth of a Nation, again, deliberately softening or eliminating all together the episodes that since 1915 had gathered the most opprobrium from critics, audiences, the NAACP and historians.

Love, C.

#118 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 10:10 PM:

If I may recommend a post-Civil War film... 1951's The Tall Target, directed by Anthony Mann, in which a detective tries to foil an assassination attempt against Lincoln. The detective's name? John Kennedy.

#119 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 11:15 PM:

And needless to say, I will be buying this book when I have the dough. I really liked Land of Mist and Snow. A lot. Like reading twice in about.... urm, three or maybe four sittings....

#120 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 11:26 PM:

Xopher, #108: My mother dragged me to see that movie when I was 14, and that's 2 hours of my life I'll never get back. Plus I spent the whole movie waiting for The Line (which is at least of genuine historical interest), and then it went by so fast I almost missed it. Feh.

#121 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2010, 11:45 PM:

Lee, AMEN! My father decided we should all see it despite 'the controversial line' on the Big Screen when they did a revival of it in..... I'm thinking the 60s, in big theater houses. We saw it at the late, lamented Glenwood, so we were at least comfortable while we watched it.

I remember being vaguely bored, and my parents, despite knowing about it, being somewhat offended.

The only other total family outing to a movie (usually mom took me and sis to a movie, or dropped us both off for a movie and went shopping) was the Sound of Music. Same theater, first run of the movie. Pretty cool before it became trite as I got older.

#122 ::: edward oleander ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2010, 12:00 AM:

Renee @112 - "I've seen the words 'terrorism' and 'terrorist' thrown around so much lately, it's hard to get a bead on exactly what those words mean. I'd appreciate your opinion on this situation."

I've had that same frustration for years. The terms are so overused...
[SNIP]
[SNIP]
[SNIPPITY]
[SNIP!]

Shorter me: I can disprove ANY definition of "terrorism" or "terrorist," even my own... sigh...

#123 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2010, 12:30 AM:

Paula, did you hear about the time Mr. and Mrs. Hill were driving through Transylvania, and got in a car crash? Unfortunately they were both killed, but then Dr. Frankenstein found them and took them back to his castle, where he played his Reanimation Organ. They began to stir, and then they got up.

And he sang: Gur Uvyyf ner nyvir...jvgu gur Fbhaq bs Zhfvp!

#124 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2010, 04:00 AM:

Oh well, even Homer nods.

#125 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2010, 06:07 AM:

jim @116--

"Indeed, calling all unethical, unjust, illegal, and/or cruel actions "terrorism" dilutes the term beyond any usefulness."

agreed. i hate that kind of abuse of usage. it's not just linguistic sloppiness: it's terrorism!

also, putting sweet corn on pizzas. terrorism!

renee @112--

weird case, but i don't think that is terrorism. among other things, it is not directed against a civilian population. military discipline is a strange topic itself, but better left distinct, i think. (not every act of inducing terror counts as terrorism in the relevant sense, either.)

i am reminded of an anecdote of lincoln's pardoning some deserters who were sentenced to be shot--"the sound of the gunshots would frighten the poor devils!"

#126 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2010, 07:23 AM:

See also (from WWI): Shot at Dawn

#127 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2010, 09:13 AM:

Serge, Xopher:

The author that was involved was Pat Conroy. He came up with a very interesting idea for a book focused on Rhett (with the wonderful first line, "In Atlanta, most people remember me because of my wife."), but after almost three years of negotiations he decided he'd had enough of the estate and gave up, saying that his version would actually have started "After they made love, Rhett turned to Ashley Wilkes and said, 'Ashley, have I ever told you that my grandmother was black?'"

So, Xopher, there may be Ashley/Rhett slash out there, but Pat Conroy didn't produce it. Sorry...

#128 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2010, 01:19 PM:

Bruce E Durocher... Right. Now I remember. So, Xopher, no Rhett/Ashley slash, no Bun With the Wind...

#129 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2010, 05:54 PM:

Less than one hour ago, we finally got the signoff on our merger's biggest projects. As soon as I've left the office, I'll be treating myself with a trip to the bookstore, to acquire "Lincoln's Sword".

#130 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2010, 06:09 PM:

Serge@10 :
Anybody else remembers that John Carter was a Southern Gent who drifted West after the Civil War before winding up on Mars?

Indeed. One of the things I'm curious about is how the new movie based on John Carter of Mars will handle this. (Swap his colors from gray to blue? Change his background altogether? Play it straight?)

The other things I'm curious about that film: how they'll handle the well-worn and mostly discredited white man saves the savage natives form themselves plot, how they will choose to clothe a planet full of people who walked around naked but for leather harnesses and how they'll make an eight legged horse-beast gallop in a plausible way.

#131 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2010, 08:00 PM:

Besides soft-pedaling the racism, Gone with the Wind also has a She-Says-No-But-Means-Yes problem.

#132 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2010, 08:16 PM:

Keith Kisser @ 130... how they will choose to clothe a planet full of people who walked around naked

I've long wondered if not-wearing-one-stitch really is what Burroughs meant. After all, he wrote the first story in 1912(?) Would a man wearing speedos have been considered naked? No matter what was intended, I hope we're not inflicted the sight of Willem Dafoe in leather straps.

#133 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2010, 09:55 PM:

Forrest calling Bragg master? They did not get along, to the point of Forrest threatening to kill Bragg, after which Forrest was prudently assigned elsewhere.

#134 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2010, 10:10 PM:

Sheridan's horse was named "Rienzi" (was Sheridan a Wagner fan?), and was somewhat celebrated:

"With foam and with dust the black charger was gray;
By the flash of his eye, and his red nostril's play,
He seemed to the whole great army to say:
"I have brought you Sheridan all the way
From Winchester down to save the day."

http://www.bartleby.com/102/150.html

#135 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2010, 12:00 AM:

Serge, #132: Speak for yourself. I'd consider Dafoe in leather straps to be tasty, tasty eye candy.

#136 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2010, 12:08 AM:

Lee @135: Seconded!

#137 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2010, 12:47 AM:

The same Willem Dafoe who played the Green Goblin in the "Spiderman" movies? How about James Purefoy in leather straps?

#138 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2010, 02:16 AM:

Serge: The same Willem Dafoe who played the heroic figure in Platoon and the evil bad guy in Streets of Fire

re the executions by Custer: I'd have to look at the law/regulations on desertion at the time, but it was a capital offense in most of the world; not needing the circumstance of, "in the face of the enemy", though most commanders admitted that men would run, when in the mouth of the guns.

From a purely administrative point of view, Custer had a more legitimate worry; since the war was over, but the need for soldiers was not, he had the question of how he should, encourager les autres. That, more than any illegality, is why he wasn't sanctioned (imo). The people above him looked at it and said, it serves our ends, and there's no way to deal with it, which doesn't undermine them.

I'd say it was reprehensible, but this was an age of relatively summary justice, in a lot of ways.

That said, I don't think, in the meaning of the act, that terrorism applies in this case. There is governmental terrorism, but it depends on the sense of whim. Since everyone was probably certain Custer would do the same again, it doesn't rise to that, and his aim (no matter his means) seems legitimate.

#139 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2010, 04:57 AM:

#126 Jim Macdonald: No Australian was subject to the death sentence in the Great War, no matter what a British court-martial decided, because the Australian Defence Act of 1903 specifically prohibited it.

Haig did his very best to overturn this, but he was informed that his overall command of Australian troops did not extend to judicial powers of life or death over them, and alas, Australia was now a sovereign nation. He sulked about it, but brightened when he realised that he could get them killed in other ways.

When I go to Hell, I think they'll probably put me in the opposite wing from Haig, simply because watching that bastard roast would be a comfort to my mind.

#140 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2010, 12:52 PM:

#130 Keith Kisser

As Hollywood is still confederate in its heart and sympathies why would it change that?

Also, have you seen Avatar when it comes to clothing natives and more than six-legged beasties galloping, and white man saving the day?

We won't even begin with The Last Airbender turning all the Asian characters white.

Or leaving women out of important protagonist roles (there Avatar did better).

None of this is discredited in the mind of Hollywood. Or even much of science fiction.

Love, C.

#141 ::: Suzanne F. ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2010, 01:27 PM:

Per Chr. J. @48

That distinction between "secret history" and "alternate history" as related but distinct genres is very useful.

As a historian, I find that "secret history" books are more confusing to people who aren't familiar with the historical context. John Crowley's Aegypt books, for instance, might confuse the hell out of you unless you have some kind of background in Bruno and the Scientific Revolution. (And the Baroque Cycle too! Early modern Europe is full of secret histories.) The idea of a shadow story underlying the story you know works differently, and maybe more bewilderingly, than a (shall we say) perpendicular story.

But certainly, as Doyle says @74, this is the lovely risk of reading fiction. It just requires another level of parsing and looking for the ways in which art makes things truthful.

#142 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2010, 02:33 PM:

James #31:

ISTM that the writer of that essay was basically trolling.

That said, our use of the terrorist label for everyone who dares shoot back when we invade or occupy a country is pure propaganda, useful for justifying whatever murder, kidnapping, torture, and other mayhem we choose to inflict wherever we choose to inflict it. Like most propaganda I've seen, the purpose isn't to make any kind of logical argument or to encourage thought in some particular direction, it's to give people an excuse to stop thinking. Are we kidnapping, tortuing, and murdering people in our attempts to hold down Afghanistan and Iraq? That might not feel very good to think about, if you're patriotic. But don't worry, we're just doing it to terrorists, so it's okay.

#143 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2010, 04:55 PM:

Constance @140: It's all discredited in my mind, which is why I never saw those movies. I'm hoping that, because the John Carter movie is being made by Andrew Stanton of Toy Story 3 and Wall-E fame, he'll sort out some of these lingering dreads. My worst fear is that it will end up as Avatar with confederates.

#144 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2010, 06:17 PM:

Keith@143, so it's Willem DaFoe with dreads as well as leather harness now? It's been a while since I've seen him in a movie, but he's in his mid-50s, and may not be as much eye-candy as 20 years ago.

#145 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2010, 07:51 PM:

Constance #140: Did you see where Scalzi tried the Bechdel test on a bunch of recent SF movies? They didn't come off too well....

#146 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2010, 08:41 PM:

kid bitzer @125: also, putting sweet corn on pizzas. terrorism!

Mmm. Tasty, tasty terrorism.

#147 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2010, 09:18 PM:

I checked IMDB, and our Willem is billed as Tars Tarkas. So he'll be at least 10 feet tall, very, very green, and sport an extra pair of arms, as well as serious toothiness. I believe his jaw is up for that, but altogether it may serve to draw attention from how scantily clad he may be. For at least the first minute or two.

#148 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2010, 10:27 PM:

Bill Stewart @ 144... he's in his mid-50s, and may not be as much eye-candy

Humph.

#149 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2010, 01:02 AM:

Keith Kisser @ 144... Avatar with confederates

I thought the story had ended with his riding off with Elinore and the two of them were going to be busy... ah... rebuilding the world.

#150 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2010, 01:09 AM:

Bill, #144: Again, speak for yourself. The Spider-Man movies aren't all that old, and Norman Osborne was HOT.

#151 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2010, 01:30 AM:

I'm not too sure about Wolverine's Dominic West in leather straps, but the same movie's Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris has... ah.. possibilities.

#152 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2010, 01:09 PM:


#149 Serge

It would be far more accurate to how these capitalist-corporate-colonialist events work if the sequel to Avatar concludes as Dances With Wolves concludes: a massacre of the natives and their adopted white member.

Dances With Wolves is absolutely the wrong film to equate with Avatar: there is no white savior here. It is a solitary man, a man very damaged physicially and psychically by war, who respects animals as themselves, who finds healing first in landscape, and then in a new community, that also finds something of interest to them in him, not least that he can make them laugh, that he amuses them. Even though they are all murdered in the end, this film is about the healing qualities of community at least as much as it is about other things.

No saving, no superiority of anything is exhibited in this movie by white guy with Native Americans. What we have is the healing power of Nature, which is celebrated by people globally, from Chinese poets to Edwin Muir.

Notably this character is one of the few exceptions in Hollywood western protagonists; he's a Union soldier, not a confederate. One of the other few exceptions is James Stewart's character in Broken Arrow (1950). He too found love and acceptance among the enemies, the Native Americans -- the primary characters among them are played by whites, however, not First Peoples. Sort of, maybe, how the Costner character's love interest in Dances is played by a white women also, though the reason for that is she's also been adopted into the tribe, though first she was slave.

Love, c.

#153 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2010, 01:23 PM:

Constance, you must have seen a different version of DWW than I did. I don't remember the tribe all being slaughtered at the end. I remember them fleeing and going into hiding.

I'm sure they were all wiped out later, but I don't remember it being in the film. Are there two versions?

#154 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2010, 01:44 PM:

Serge @132 I've long wondered if not-wearing-one-stitch really is what Burroughs meant. After all, he wrote the first story in 1912(?) Would a man wearing speedos have been considered naked?

I note that Tarzan, written in 1912 by Burroughs, is definitely supposed to be naked. When filmed, he swiftly gained a loincloth. So I would assume that when Burroughs says the Martians, and John Carter, only wear jewlery and harnesses for equipment, that's what he means.

Off the top of my head, equipment for the Green Martians included several swords, a lance, knives, pistols and a rifle, so someone wearing a harness with all of those on wouldn't be very naked.

#155 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2010, 01:51 PM:

Terry Karney @138: Thanks. I figured it would fail the 'Is this terrorism?' test, but wanted to be sure, as I wasn't clear on what legitimate aims Custer might be pursuing in the matter. Cogley is so vehemently against his actions, so intensely negative, that it is hard to separate the rhetorical from the pertinent. He repeats claims I've seen elsewhere as to Custer's showier personality traits and hammers on them as character flaws.

In short, it looked a great deal like 'liberal vs. conservative', 1860's style.

That said, Cogley states that Article 65 of the Articles of War (at that time) state that the results of a court martial should be presented to the President of the United States for his approval, and that this was not done, thereby creating the legal lapse that should have stopped the execution. Now I'm wondering if, in the bureaucratic blizzard aftermath of the war (or at least the major engagements thereof) this requirement was considered an i that could be dotted after the fact.

Thanks for the reply!

#156 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2010, 03:18 PM:

Neil W @ 154... the Martians, and John Carter, only wear jewlery

...thus making studs of all Martian men. Especially with the harnesses.

#157 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2010, 07:13 PM:

#153 Xopher

I re-watched when Avatar kept being compared with it, and I was pretty sure that was wrong. We spent a lot of time with DWW, because the novel's author was an older friend / mentor of the spouse's back when they were in school, and he looked us up during that time, and spent a lot of time with us. I also re-read the novel.

Memory isn't always correct. Mine often isn't, anyway. But it was this time.

Love, C.

#158 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2010, 07:33 PM:

Then there are two versions. That's very odd.

#159 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2010, 08:17 PM:

Hmm. I haven't seen either version of DWW, but could the differences lie between the novel and the film?

#160 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2010, 09:11 PM:

No David, Constance rewatched the movie quite recently.

#161 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2010, 10:04 PM:

OK... hmm! <clickity-rummage>... IMDB says there were at least three versions of the film, including a "television version" with some violence cut out. Xopher, could that account for your missing massacre?

#162 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2010, 10:32 PM:

I saw the version Xopher saw. In the theater(s), at least twice. I read the book, too, but I don't remember how that ended.

#163 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2010, 10:46 PM:

I never saw it on TV at all. I have a copy, but on VHS, and my player is no longer hooked up.

#164 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2010, 11:27 PM:

Come to think of it, I believe there was a massacre in the version I saw, but a few people got away, including Costner's character. They were definitely fleeing the soldiers at the end.

#165 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2010, 11:48 PM:

Yeah, that's what I remember. But Constance said they all get wiped out. And she just watched it.

#166 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 11:19 AM:

I wonder if my 9-year-old nephew will like that copy of "A Princess of Mars" I got him.

#167 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 12:08 PM:

He'll probably think "I don't want to read about princesses. That's girl stuff!"

Maybe you should explain what it's really about.

#168 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 12:58 PM:

Xopher... I didn't consider that. On the other hand, I told his mom what it's about so hopefully he won't go "Yuch! Girls!" By the way, he is very popular with girls, what with his being such a funny storyteller, to the point that he has exclaimed he wishes they'd just leave him alone.

#169 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 03:10 PM:

I think that "of Mars" trumps "A Princess."

#170 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 03:49 PM:

"What these Martians need is a honky"?

#171 ::: Leroy F. Berven ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 04:25 PM:

James D. Macdonald @ 31: "By the time you have defined borders, an elected legislature, a uniformed army with a posted chain of command, collect taxes, and administer justice, you may be many things, but 'terrorist' isn't one of them.

But see the LTTE (aka the Tamil Tigers) at the height of their success, as an interesting edge case. This was also, incidentally, one of the rather few guerilla/insurgent movements of recent decades to field its own air force, navy, armored units complete with heavy main battle tanks, and other accoutrements not generally associated with indigenous insurgent-level military activity.

#172 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 05:45 PM:

The Tamil Tigers were an interesting case. In as far as they fielded a regular army, what they had going was a civil war.

But some of their tactics (e.g. suicide bombing; assassination) were definitely terrorist.

Still, I don't see that John Booth's assassination of Lincoln made the entire Confederacy, retroactively, a terrorist organization.

#173 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 09:40 PM:

Renee (@155): Some things (and among them are summary exections of things like deserters) don't need review. I can't say (esp. as the customs of the regulations in the day are, from this remove completely alien to me), that this was the case, but I suspect there is a case to made for the exigencies of the situation, i.e. waiting for review would have made the desired end (discouragement of desertion) impossible.

#174 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2010, 11:33 PM:

Jim Macdonal @ 169... I think that "of Mars" trumps "A Princess."

I wonder about that. I mean, does Mars evoke anything for kids, or is it just a lifeless rock that we sent a few robots to?

#175 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2010, 10:02 AM:

165: very weird. I haven't seen it in a few years but would have been willing to put money on Costner's character surviving - I think I can even remember the closing scene, with him and his wife trekking away west through the snow up a tree-covered hill. And I think most of the tribe survives too.
Wikipedia seems to agree.

#176 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2010, 01:45 PM:

Serge @132: I hope we're not inflicted the sight of Willem Dafoe in leather straps.

Whatwhatwhat!? Oh, I'll totally sign up for Willem Dafoe in leather straps. <fans face>

#177 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2010, 01:55 PM:

@135, 136: And for those not of a mind to wait, try Ashtanga NY.

#178 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2010, 02:06 PM:

Bill Stewart @144: Dafoe ... It's been a while since I've seen him in a movie, but he's in his mid-50s, and may not be as much eye-candy as 20 years ago.

Um. *cough* I would ever-so-gently beg to differ. Ahem.

#179 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2010, 02:11 PM:

The book is listed as having arrived at Uncle Hugo's (which does mail-order, plus I know ML denizens beyond myself live in Minneapolis).

#180 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2010, 02:37 PM:

The mention of Streets of Fire brought a smile to my face. That's one of my favorite bad movies.

I love its retro style. In fact, it reminds me a bit of the Star Trek episode "A Piece of the Action", only instead of fashioning the society on 30's Chicago, they built it on 50's rock and roll movies. A culture frozen in time.

And Diane Lane....gorgeous! When she sang "Tonight is What It Means to be Young", I loved it! Great heaping gobs of Wagnerian rock!

#181 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2010, 03:04 PM:

Willam Defoe is performing the voice of Tars Tarkis, a giant green skinned Thark, created by the power of mocap. So I don't think he'll be wearing the leather harness himself. Unless he decides to go full Method. But for that, you'll have to wait for the DVD.

#182 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2010, 04:43 PM:

Streets of Fire isn't a bad movie. It's a retelling of Helen of Troy, in rock-n-roll fantasy setting. (Those vehicles aren't any that actually existed in this world, and there's a lot of backstory that doesn't match this world.)

#183 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2010, 06:13 PM:

James Macdonald @ 182... Also, doesn't it have Amy Madigan as a war veteran?

#184 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2010, 11:50 PM:

Streets of Fire is swell. I love the knife fight at the beginning, and the sense of... both sangfroid and bitter desperation which suffuses it.

#185 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2010, 06:21 AM:

It does indeed have Amy Madigan as a war veteran, which isn't our timeline, not from the mid-fifties (when it would seem to be set, with the rockers vs. the rhythm-and-blues guys).

It also has Walter Hill's sense of urban paranoia. (Hill is one of my favorite directors.)

We've owned the soundtrack on every medium. (LP, cassette, CD ....)

#186 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2010, 08:56 AM:

Jim Macdonald @ 185... Walter Hill's sense of urban paranoia

Didn't he also direct Warriors?
(Checking on imdb.com)
Yes he did.

#187 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 03:59 PM:

We're having a sesquicentennial celebration of the Civil War next year and they're already planning it.

#188 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2010, 06:55 PM:

Marilee #187:

I think here's where I came in, I hope it isn't where I get off ... My memories of second grade are irreparably confused by the whole centennial thing. (I remember being asked "Union or Confederate"; the only problem was, I'd never even *heard* of the Civil War. Needless to say, I got educated.)

#189 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2010, 07:11 PM:

I knew about the Civil War generally, but when I moved out here 19 years ago, I learned a lot more.

#190 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2010, 05:39 PM:

Reading and Signing for Lincoln's Sword, 2:00-3:00 PM, September 4th, 2010, at The Village Bookstore, Littleton, New Hampshire. See you there!

#191 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2011, 04:47 PM:

That was quite a coincidence. The spam was deleted while I was posting the pointer. :)

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Jim Macdonald, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

If you are a spammer, your fate is in the hands of Jim Macdonald, and your foot shall slide in due time.

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="http://www.url.com">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.















(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.