Inspiration From the Darkest Places

A quick note about this post: Andrew Liptak and I just announced an anthology of military SF, to be published by Apex Publishing in April, 2014. One of the things that can’t really be explored in press releases is, “Where did this idea come from? What are you trying to accomplish?” And because this is something very personal and dear to me, I asked if I could post it here.

More info on the anthology can be found at War Stories Anthology.

Last year, one of my friends said ‘I love George R. R. Martin because he’s pretty much the only SF writer I’ve seen who really understands what war and its effects are really like’. While I was quick to inundate him with suggestions about other writers who have actual military background, the statement stuck with me.

My friend is a former Army Ranger. He’s done six tours throughout the Middle East, was a staff sergeant, and spent long periods of time imbedded with the local fighters. He will talk for hours about how wonderful the Kurds are, how the generals of the Afghani army have ours beaten in terms of knowledge, and then go off on a rant about the cultural destruction that’s been perpetrated by both sides. Another quote of his: “I wish that my war was the last one, but I know it won’t be.”

He’s the reason I started thinking about an anthology of military SF stories that wasn’t just about war, but about the people touched by war.

I went out to get Greek food with my mom last year, in North Carolina, and we struck up a conversation with one of the owner’s daughters. She told us about how hard it was to get back to Greece, how the current political system affected them, even in America.

I have a friend in Israel right now, who told me last night about seeing troop transports moving north, toward Syria. I have friends in Istanbul, too, and still harbor a deep hope that I’ll be able to travel there some day. I know a couple of people who have been involved in South and Central America…and some who were involved in the Waco and Ruby Ridge conflicts.

I have listened to a Palestinian friend talk about what it’s like to watch your birth country support the destruction of your ancestral home.

We live in a world of war.

I have been so very, very fortunate, because war has never impacted me directly. I’ve never lost a loved one to war, or been forced out of my home, or had to live on wartime rations. I know how much worse things could be.

But I’ve seen what war does. My cousin advocates for soldiers with PTSD. I’ve dated active-service military, and lived in fear of the news. I have friends who are at severe risk of suicide from untreated PTSD. Many of them talk to me when it gets too bad, because they don’t have anyone else who will listen. Many members of my family have served, in various conflicts, in different ways.

The conflict doesn’t end when the guns go silent. Our entire history is marred and shaped by war, by defeat and victory, conflict and pacification. We are all affected and marked by it, whether we realize it or not. We may go a generation or two without being directly involved in a war, but that doesn’t mean we escape it.

No country escapes it, either. Invader or invaded, it changes us, and seldom for the better. The casualties aren’t just measured in bodies.

In War Stories, we want to bring to light those far-reaching ripples, and the dark things beneath the surface. We want to see men and women of all cultures, dealing with the most enduring legacy of humanity: conflict. Civil, religious, global. We want to see people rising above the blood and loss to change things in the most difficult of situations.

This isn’t an anthology about US soldiers, or Middle Eastern wars. It is about the future, and how we will process and come to terms with something that shows no signs of dying out. It’s about the bonds of friendship, cultural evolution, survival, and personal triumph.

The wars of today are where we found the building blocks of this collection, but they are not what we’re looking for. War has evolved constantly, but in leaps and bounds over the last century. What will it be like a century from now? Who will we be fighting? Why? How? What will change?

Those are the stories we’re looking for. It won’t be a pretty, comfortable collection of stories. But hopefully it will be a transformative one.