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.