I meant to post this earlier. I sat on this post for a while. I still struggle with putting my feelings forward into words. It’s what an author is supposed to do really, but I just don’t believe I’m that good. Hopefully one day I’ll be good enough to write words that move people.
The past couple of weeks in my life have been the definition of chaotic. An emotional roller coaster peaking and dipping day by day. In the past 2 weeks I’ve had the death of a family member, a 50th wedding anniversary celebration, a departure meeting for the exchange students I’ve worked with this year, an ongoing issue at work involving a substantial amount of money, my daughters spring band concert and the funeral for the relative we lost. Oh and right at the start of all that one of the exchange students suddenly living with us for a little while after she was asked to leave the house she was staying in (surprise!).
Some of these things were one day after the next – a couple of them were on the same day. It’s been… I don’t even know what it’s been. I’m exhausted. Wrung out and done.
Perhaps it’s this state of mind that has brought on my choice of examining these things in the context of the military and particularly the military in science fiction and fantasy.
There’s a lot of debate out there about the best way to handle the military, it’s role and the soldier’s place in it all when writing. There are those that ignore introspection and go for action. There are those that take on the story from a commander’s point of view and those that take it all from the grunt’s point of view. Ethics, sanity, the physical toll and the reasons behind it all. I have spent some time attempting to review military science fiction over at milscifi.com and spent more time considering how it is I feel about all these stories.
At their heart military stories are about the people involved and what war does to them. The soldiers and their families are the ones that pay the price of war. There are stories out there that show the trauma and mental damage soldiers end up with as a result of having everything stripped away to the core of their self and being forced to face that. Some people make it, some people don’t. Some are broken and spend the rest of their lives living with the broken parts. That is the reality we live with, every day.
I have come to learn that what I prefer are the stories where there is a level of heroism. The main character should be someone I can empathize with. He or she needs to be somebody that faces down very real dilemmas, struggles through and ultimately comes out with a positive result, even if not the initially intended result. I struggle with and generally don’t like stories where the mental damage wins. I dislike the characters that don’t make the heroic choice. I want the sacrifice to mean something. I want the positive result, perhaps as a direct reaction to the real world.
I like the fiction. The reality is much more difficult to manage. The death in our family was my father-in-law. He was a veteran of 2 wars and was laid to rest this past week with full military honors. Flag ceremony, rifle salute, taps and a direct punch in the heart for me. I didn’t expect it to hit so hard. I’m not going to lionize the man now that he’s gone. He wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but I suspect that some part of that imperfection might be that damage seeping through. I wept when it was time to say good bye – and I haven’t wept in many, many years.
I wanted to have some grand, sweeping point here but it’s just not coming to me. Maybe one day I will master the words, but today is not that day.
Rest In Peace.