Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

‘Ranks Of Bronze’ by David Drake

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Can you set a space opera entirely within a sword and sandal Roman legion battle? No, obviously not. In an inversion of the previous story, here we have a story that is the genesis of a space opera novel but not itself space opera. For some reason, science fiction writers love Rome (although they have little interest in Italy) and here Drake provides a conclusion for Horace’s ‘Roman Odes’ in which Crassus’s lost legion turn out to have been press-ganged by aliens to serve as inter-galactic mercenaries.

H&C make much of the fact that this all occurs in a vacuum. “This is military SF with the contemporary politics stripped off, and removed from the level of policy decisions… There is no access to those who make policy in Drake’s military fiction. All in all it is a fairly dark vision of human life.” This is completely wrong. ‘Ranks Of Bronze’ isn’t dark at all, a band of noble, decent Romans put the anonymously massed Johnny Otherworlder to the blade for their contemptible alien commander. Jettisoning “policy” means jettisoning any context or nuance; war is turned to sport.

Quality: **
Operacity: *

Written by Martin

18 September 2012 at 06:41

One Response

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  1. […] But let’s move on to their factual claims about American space opera. The third section of The Space Opera Renaissance is entitled “Transitions/Redefiners [Late 1970s To Late 1980s]” and notionally covers half the period of evolution they are talking about (the other half truly is ignored because Hartwell and Cramer don’t include a single story from the Seventies in their anthology – those in glass houses, etc, etc). This section contains only four stories, one of which is by Iain M Banks who was known to Greenland but not a direct influence. The remaining three stories are by American writers but only one is actually published in the relevant time period: David Drake’s story was published in 1986 whereas Lois McMaster Bujold’s story was published in 1990 (the same year as Take Back Plenty) and David Brin’s story most of a decade later in 1999. So in defence of their nonsensical assertion of MacLeod’s ignorance, the editors can only muster a solitary story and it goes without it isn’t bloody space opera. […]

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