Sep. 28th, 2010

ursula: (Default)
Blackout, Connie Willis.

"Historians" travel in time to World War II. They get stuck.

I put historians in quotation marks because my sense is that the student time-travelers profiled aren't very good historians, in the traditional sense. They're feckless undergraduates (or is it graduate students?) Their projects all boil down to "I want to observe how people feel about being in a war zone." Michael, whose project is "I want to talk to everyday heroes", is perhaps the worst case. He seems to have no sense at all that the concept of "hero" might be socially constructed or change over time, and no particular thesis that on-the-spot observation might support or falsify. If all you want to do is talk to somebody YOU consider heroic, you can spend a couple of weeks shadowing members of your local fire department. If that isn't exotic enough for you, get a grant of a couple of thousand pounds to visit people fighting wildfires in Northern California, or to talk to survivors of a hurricane or an earthquake, or to visit a U.N. refugee camp. It must cost more than a few thousand pounds to send someone back in time, just based on the energy demands of RIPPING A HOLE IN SPACE-TIME, to say nothing of the expense of maintaining a full wardrobe and props department. I want to see the story where a new Dean tries to shut down Oxford's time machine because of its contribution to global warming!

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