War Stories, People Stories

My family doesn’t share stories. When I sat down to write this piece, the opening line was. “I don’t come from a military family.”

Then I went and asked my grandparents, and, well, yes, I do. My great, great uncle Chuck was a Fire Control Officer on the USS Pennsylvania during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but was in the sick bay that day. Gordon and Bob, twins, were Army medics in Okinawa, Wayne and Dale were in the Philippines. Bob (different Bob!) and Harold enlisted in the Marines and were on Iwo Jima. My great-uncle Chuck (we’re also not very good at name diversity, apparently) was also in the Army during Vietnam, although no one seems to know where. His father, Charles W. Thomas, was a Rear Admiral in the Coast Guard. I found all of this out because I needed to write this piece about War Stories.

I was a teenager on September 11, 2001, old enough to know America before, and after. My favorite cousin joined the military, went to Ranger School, and then deployed. Although I didn’t know it then, the guy I’m dating now had just finished Ranger School, and deployed. Over a dozen of the kids I went to school with ended up in the military.

My first boyfriend was active-duty Army, my second boyfriend was an Army veteran with severe PTSD. Most of my close male friends were vets, too. I didn’t seek any of them out, they were just the people I got along with. The people I knew taught me about honor, responsibility, loyalty.

And as I got more involved in the SF community, I got to know people who are from war-torn countries, and my worldview shifted again.

The military and its history, culture, and legacy have been quietly around me my entire life. My perspective is that of someone half in, half out. People I love have been changed by war, thereby changing me, but I have not been directly subject to it myself.

My co-editor, Andrew Liptak, and I wanted their stories to be told. The history, the technology, the political and social triggers, all those elements of war are fascinating, and could fill endless books. But what does it look like from the ground? What are the stories from the front lines, the aftermath, the hospital? What does war do to the internal landscape of soldiers and civilians? How do we, as humans, survive, recover, move on, break, adapt to the unique and awful stress of conflict?

War Stories is a project that keeps surprising me. It’s brought me closer to my family, my boyfriend, my heritage, and my community. The stories we’ve seen so far are wonderfully diverse: a disabled veteran helping an A.I. deal with guilt; a little South African ghost girl protected by the downloaded consciousness of her rebel father; a commanding officer making an awful decision in defense of his troops; a field officer struggling to save one of her soldiers from suicidal penance; a soldier giving all to save civilians; a civilian contractor learning the cost of teaching machines to judge; a civilian activist, and more.

On-planet, off-planet. Near-future, far-future, alternate-future. Human, alien, robot, A.I.

These are the stories you find out when you ask your grandparents if anyone else in your family served in the military; that a soldier tells her wife when she can finally talk about what happened; that get told to boost courage before a first battle, or a twentieth.

These are stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

War Stories is an upcoming anthology of military science fiction from Apex Publications, edited by Jaym Gates and Andrew Liptak. Come check us out on the War Stories Kickstarter.

Win Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction

As a writer, your journey to the end of the story is a long, tortuous one, fraught with problems—procrastination, distractions, self doubt. These dangers are countless, and unimaginable.

That is, until now.

Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction shows you all of that and more, through the use of wonderful, whimsical, and sometimes just plain weird imagery. In partnership with Jeff VanderMeer, we at BookLife Now are offering an exclusive look from Wonderbook: a map of this journey. So we ask you—where are YOU on the journey to the end of the story? Look at the image below and tell us where you fall. Answer in the comments area and you’ll be registered to win print copies of both Wonderbook and Booklifenow – three winners will be selected randomly, just add your comment below.*


Of course we’re all writers here, too, and a few of us (unable to join in on this contest), offer our own glimpses:

Caroline Ratajski: I’ve emerged from the Plains of False Inspiration and I am currently stumbling along the border of Desert of Pointless Writing and Encounter With Self-Doubt.

Jaym Gates: I’m somewhere between the Oasis of Malaise and the Fortress of Distractions. I have the book, and it’s probably a decent book, but I have too many other things that need to be done, and no real energy to get back into momentum.

Bear Weiter: With my current novel, I really wallowed in the Plains of False Inspiration for a long time—everything and anything that came to me that seemed special, unique, was considered and explored. It took more time than I had expected to wade through there and get past it. Now I’m mostly working around the Fortress of Distractions, but that’s pretty standard for me—that one I know well, and battle often enough that we’ve almost become friends. Not quite, but almost.

Update: Jeff says “I’ll throw in a couple of extra things into the winner’s packages.” He has refused to elaborate, but free books, free postage, and extra stuff?! You definitely want this.

*Because this is a contest, a few quick notes. You must be 18 or older to enter—I know, that sucks, but it simplifies things legally. If you’re under 18, get one of your parents to enter for you. Three winners will be selected at random from all of the posted comments—we reserve the right to not approve your comment for spamming or inappropriateness (rudeness, tastelessness, and excessive profanity all fit in here). If you post a comment and use a bogus email address (yeah, I said bogus), you get nothing! No purchase is necessary to win—and we’re not selling anything anyway. Postage will be taken care of, but it may take a while for the books to arrive should you live outside of the US. The contest is open through October.