Thursday, January 24, 2013

War, Huh, Good God, Y'all

So the type of character set up guaranteed to least engage my sympathy is this: two people are married, but they don't like each other. They neither deal with their problems nor leave the relationship, but instead play the victim in mostly passive aggressive silence. I have read exactly one story with a premise anything like this that I enjoyed. This story is at its worst when the author transparently sympathizes with one party, and seems to expect the reader to do the same even though that person is at least as culpable as the other. There's a really easy fix for a marriage that brings zero happiness to either party.

Lately I've been finding I have a similar relationship with war fiction.

I get that a lot of people really love this stuff, but I'm finding myself at a loss as to why. Over the past week I've been reading a novel and several short stories wherein people aren't clear on their objectives, they know they can't win, their command is stupid but people follow their orders anyway, people freeze up and die, people spend a lot of time lying about what happened in war so that people are able to think war is great, and so on. Layered onto this in varying degrees seem to be the competing concepts of "this is stupid and terrible" and "this is the greatest thing that men an ever be called upon to do". I look back over what I've written above, and it sounds like great fiction on the page. Dramatic tension, loads of waste and tragedy. But the more I read of it, the more it just makes me tired and depressed, and I find myself thinking, like the marriage example above, dude, just leave. Put your gun/sword/space gun away, gather whatever family you might have left and go live somewhere else. Unless you're fighting some cartoon race of bugs/orcs, really, your side doesn't look any better than the other (and even then, many times). Life is already too short. Run away, little fictional character, and avoid dying by the faceless thousands, often of dysentery, while you wait for mediocre commanders to squander your life on objectives you don't understand and which have negligible relevance to you.    

Go be part of a happier story. 

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