new military science fiction anthology takes war seriously | Books | Seven days
Forget about any preconceptions you might have about a sci-fi anthology co-edited by an administrator at the University of Norwich who has a master’s degree in military history and a hobby of dressing up as a Star wars Imperial Stormtrooper.
The 23 short films in War Stories: New Military Science Fiction, published last week by Apex Publications, aren’t lame scams The Clone wars. Nor are these stories of a boy and his robotic mine-sniffing dog or cartoonish shoot-’em-ups of cyborg marines screaming, “Again into the breach!” before jumping into hyperspace at the edges of black holes.
Instead, what Andrew Liptak of the University of Norwich has assembled – along with his co-editor, Jaym Gates – is a collection of light, absorbing, and well-executed texts that have been written, in part, by those who have lived. war firsthand or have a working knowledge. with military life.
Therefore, War stories places less emphasis on alien battlefields and futuristic military gadgets than on the very human, or human-like, soldiers waging war, and the toll that takes on their psyches.
Escape fiction is not.
“The purpose of this anthology was not to defend the war but to take a step back and look at it on a large canvas, and to do it in a way that people find interesting and entertaining,” says Liptak, a graduate. from Norwich in 2007 who is currently working as a student. -service advisor for the online graduate program of the military university.
War stories is divided into four sections: “War systems”, “Combat”, “Armored force” and “Aftermath”. Many of the stories, especially those in the “Continued” section, address the current realities of military life such as post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide, the moral implications of remote murder via drones, and the difficulties of re-acclimating. to civilian life after years. extended deployment.
Liptak and Gates – who both write science fiction themselves, but not for this collection – originally conceived the idea of War stories in 2012. At Readercon, an annual convention held in Burlington, Mass. devoted to sci-fi, fantasy, horror and speculative fiction, they assembled a âwishlistâ of authors whose works they hoped to include. .
Topping their list was Joe Haldeman, an award-winning sci-fi author and Sci-Fi Hall of Fame member who was the guest of honor at the convention that year. Haldeman is a decorated Vietnam War veteran best known for his 1974 novel Eternal war, which has won the top honors in science fiction, the Hugo and Nebula awards. He agreed to contribute to one of his previously published works: “Graves”, about a Vietnamese veterinarian haunted by night terrors years after an assignment that involved investigating the severely mutilated corpse of an officer. With Haldeman on board, Liptak and Gates were inundated with submissions from other acclaimed authors from around the world.
âWe submitted over 200 stories and 900,000 words of fiction, enough to fill nine books,â Liptak recalls. “If we had the money, we could probably put together another whole anthology tomorrow from what we rejected.” (War stories was partially funded by a successful $ 10,000 Kickstarter campaign.)
One of the most impressive aspects of the collection is its wide international representation. The anthology includes works by award-winning authors from the United States, Canada, South Africa, Guyana, Brazil and Australia. Liptak considered it important to include a diversity of voices, he says, in part because war is a product of society and the ways in which nations wage war reflect their unique histories.
Also noteworthy is the abundance of female writers in the book – who, as Liptak points out, often do not receive the respect they deserve in science fiction circles, especially when writing fictions to military vocation.
âThe army is changing. We have women who are now serving on the front lines and going to combat schools, âhe said. “It’s an important story to tell that has yet to be told in science fiction.”
One of Liptak’s favorite sections was âAftermath,â for which he and Gates asked potential contributors to explain how war affects soldiers and the people around them.
âIt was a series of particularly interesting stories to read because of the variety,â he recalls. “The stories we chose were fantastic. Some of them are my favorite out of all the stories I have ever read.”
Among them, “Coming Home”, by Janine K. Spendlove. In the world of sci-fi / fantasy publishing, Spendlove is best known for their hit trilogy. War of the seasons. When not writing, she is an active Marine Corps pilot flying KC-130s, which are large tankers used to refuel other aircraft in flight.
In âComing Home,â Spendlove tells the story of Pia, a marine pilot, and her struggle to overcome recurring visions of a mission she commanded that went awry. Some of his fellow Marines were killed and others left behind – the latter being a mortal sin in the philosophy of the Marine Corps.
“I’m still waiting to come back to the old me. The ever more lively and happy me,” Pia tells a chaplain in the story. “So I guess what I want to know is when will this happen? When will I be me again? When will I feel good inside?”
In “The Radio”, author Susan Jane Bigelow tells the story of Kay, a “synthetic” warrior built from the remains of a human soldier killed in action. When Kay is separated from her entire army after a roadside bomb kills everyone else in her unit, she is picked up by a band of human deserters. She must face her sense of abandonment, as well as the loss of identity that strikes a warrior who has no more orders to follow or battles to fight.
Approaching similar themes from a different angle, Karin Lowachee’s “Enemy State” tells the story of a lover awaiting a soldier’s return home after repeated deployments to deep space. When the soldier finally returns, the lover says, “In bed, you told me about all the parts of you that were no longer human.” Lowachee writes, âEvery time you go back to war, they steal another part of you. How many of you are going home? It’s clear that she’s not just talking about the artificial eyes and animatronic limbs of the returning soldier, but the fragments of identity that a combat veteran leaves on the battlefield.
War stories is all the more relevant given that the anthology was assembled, in part, in the country’s oldest private military college, where dozens of Corps cadets will soon join the ranks of active servicemen deployed in war zones to the foreigner.
âThe war is around us. Just look at the past 10 years,â Liptak notes. “Whether you agree or disagree with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have had a tremendous impact on daily life in the United States.”
Despite being a Norwich alumnus, Liptak does not come from a military background himself, nor was he a member of the Corps of Cadets, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) in Norwich. However, through his two uncles who served in World War II – one in the Philippines, another who died in the Battle of the Bulge – Liptak developed an early interest in military history.
The 29-year-old traced his fascination with SF to his elementary school years in the 1990s, when his father took him to see a new Star wars theatrical release. âIt was a light bulb moment for me,â he recalls. “I have never looked back.”
This dual interest in military history and SF inevitably led Liptak to Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein’s Cold War-era novel about interstellar warfare with an arachnoid species, often described as the beginning of modern military science fiction. Another favorite was that of Orson Scott Card Ender’s match. Since then, Liptak has written extensively on what is and what isn’t good military sci-fi.
Liptak, a self-proclaimed “geek” who looks slightly like NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, now writes quarterly book reviews for Speed ââof light, a monthly sci-fi / fantasy magazine, as well as bi-weekly speculative fiction articles for Kirkus Reviews. Through his blog Geek Mountain State, he reported local sci-fi news and hosted a popular read series featuring genre writers from Vermont.
Liptak readily admits that in his spare time he enjoys dressing up in Imperial Stormtrooper costumes, several of which he has purchased and made. More than just a game, it’s a form of community service for Liptak’s New England chapter of an international costume group called the 501st Legion. Members raise funds for local charities such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the American Red Cross, and Walk Now for Autism Speaks.
âIt’s amazing,â Liptak says of autism-related events, âbecause you have kids who don’t usually look people in the eye look you straight in the eye, and you are that character who is. basically come off the screen for them, and they love it. It’s pretty amazing how the kids react – and adults too. “
Liptak cautions against drawing parallels between his fascination with military history and his penchant for disguising himself as an infantryman in a fascist regime. As he draws a line between reality and entertainment, he hopes that some people who don’t see war as a legitimate field of study will consider reading War stories, and not just because it hijacks the fiction.
For sure, War stories includes the requisite dose of plasma weapons, power armor and bloody fight scenes, Liptak admits. “But it’s also a good way to get people to think about why we are fighting and why soldiers are risking their lives.”
The original print version of this article was titled “Psy Fi”