more on ACOUP

I know I’ve recommended A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry here before, but I wanted to remind people of its existence, because it continues to be an excellent source of military history of the sort that looks at how military matters interface with culture and society, with a non-trivial overlap into specifically SF/F matters. Most recently that’s shown up in a four-part series on the Dothraki (as depicted in both the books of A Song of Ice and Fire and the TV series Game of Thrones), looking at Martin’s claim that he based them on the Mongols and the Plains Indians. Spoiler: whoa nelly is that not true. Devereaux isn’t an expert in either of those regions, but he’s done enough of his homework to show how they’re not like each other, and furthermore how in most places the only connection they have to the Dothraki is through the worst of racist stereotypes. You may well have already noticed how offensive the depiction of the Dothraki is, in both the books and the show, but . . . folks, it’s even worse than that. And it’s a salutary lesson in how not to do things, because as Devereaux points out, those stereotypes are still used today to justifice the oppression of real-world ethnic groups.

And speaking of real-world relevance . . . back in October, he posted about the Greek concept of stasis (which means not “everything staying the same,” as we use it now, but rather a recognizable cycle of instability). There are pretty clear parallels between the stasis ancient Greek democracies went through and what the U.S. is doing these days — and, though Devereaux doesn’t say it, I think it applies equally well to the Civil War. He followed that up more recently with a piece on insurrections, showing how strongly what happened at the Capitol on January 6th parallels history. The fact that so much of the invasion there looked stupid doesn’t change the fact that it was a real insurrection; some historical ones looked equally stupid, but they still could have overthrown their governments if they’d succeeded.

It’s good, chewy stuff. If you like history and looking at both the parallels and differences between cultures, you really ought to be reading that blog.

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