Archive for the ‘World Affairs and Other Rants’ Category

AN AUTHOR’S SPECIAL THANK YOU TO SOME SPECIAL PEOPLE WHO MADE OVERKILL POSSIBLE, AND WHO HAVE DONE SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT

March 24, 2011
If you’ve read Overkill, you know that an Abrams tank figures in the story. If you haven’t read Overkill, then you should, so you’ll know what you’ve been missing, because it’s pretty cool. 

 

If you’ve read all of Overkill you also know that fitting an Abrams into a story set  light years in distance and a hundred years in time from here and now, and doing it accurately, requires more than an author’s vivid imagination.

So, I want to say thanks, again, to all the soldiers of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, the Sledgehammer of the Rock of the Marne, who took time out from preparation for deployment to the Republic of Iraq, to bring this last-century intel puke and tanker’s son up to date on what makes a modern tank, like the 3rd HBCT Abrams shown below right, thundering across the red clay of Ft. Benning, Georgia.

Even more special thanks to my host, 3rd HBCT’s Cpt. Charlie Barrett, at left (looking even spiffier in his Class A uniform than in pixillated camo).



Also thanks to SFC. Stephen Burden (above) and Staff Sgt. Joseph Maughon who showed me how an Abrams gets prepped for a long journey.  Although Iraq is closer – a lot closer – than where Overkill’s Abrams winds up.

Thanks also to Harry Sarles and Brenda Donnell of the Department of the Army Office of the Chief of Public Affairs, and to MAJ Lon Widdicombe, USA, for making it all possible.

Any errors regarding tanks and tankers are mine, not any of theirs.

But I, and all Americans, owe 3rd HBCT, and all those who serve, thanks for far more than that. Not just for their courage in navigating the fog of war, though certainly for that.

But also for the way they represent our better nature to the world, like this 3rd HBCT soldier.

The Re-enchanted Man, Revisited

November 10, 2010

This post restates on this Veteran’s Day, 2010, my post for Veteran’s Day, 2008:

Most Americans know C.S. Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia.  Fewer know that in the late 1930s he wrote science fiction set on Mars and Venus.

More to the point, on this Veterans Day, C.S. Lewis served as an infantry officer wounded at the Battle of Arras in 1917.

I am indebted to Baen books’ publisher Toni Weisskopf for recently pointing me to Lewis’ 1946 essay, Talking about Bicycles, which, as you may suspect, talks not so much about bicycles as about the four ways in which authors think – and write – about war.

“The Unenchanted man sees (quite correctly) the waste and cruelty and sees nothing else…the Enchanted man  – he’s thinking of glory and battle-poetry and forlorn hopes and last stands and chivalry.  Then comes the Disenchanted Age…But there is also a fourth stage, though few people in modern [1946] England dare to talk about it.  You know quite well what I mean.  One is not in the least deceived:  we remember the trenches too well.  We know how much of the reality the romantic view left out.  But we also know that heroism is a real thing, that all the plumes and flags and trumpets of the tradition were not there for nothing.  They were an attempt to honour what is truly honourable: what was first perceived to be honourable precisely because everyone knew how horrible war is.

“The war poetry of Homer…for example, is Re-Enchantment.  You see in every line that the poet knows, quite as well as any modern, the horrible thing he is writing about.  He celebrates heroism but he has paid the proper price for doing so.

“You read an author in whom love is treated as lust and all war as murder – and so forth.  But are you reading a Disenchanted man or only an Unenchanted man?  Has the writer been through the Enchantment and come out on to the bleak highlands, or is he simply a subman who is free from love mirage as a dog is free, and free from the heroic mirage as a coward is free?  If Disenchanted, he may have something worth hearing to say, though less than a Re-enchanted man.  If Unenchanted, into the fire with his book.  He is talking of what he doesn’t understand.  But the great danger we have to guard against in this age is the Unenchanted man, mistaking himself for, and mistaken by others for, the Disenchanted man.”

To serve is to leave forever the ranks of the Unenchanted, and of the Enchanted.  Whether you have emerged Disenchanted or Re-enchanted, thanks.

Veterans Day, 2008, and C.S. Lewis’ Re-enchanted man

November 11, 2008

Most Americans know C.S. Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia.  Fewer know that in the late 1930s he wrote science fiction set on Mars and Venus.

More to the point, on this Veterans Day, 2008, C.S. Lewis served as an infantry officer wounded at the Battle of Arras in 1917.

I am indebted to Baen books’ publisher Toni Weisskopf for recently pointing me to Lewis’ 1946 essay, Talking about Bicycles, which, as you may suspect, talks not so much about bicycles as about the four ways in which authors think – and write – about war.

“The Unenchanted man sees (quite correctly) the waste and cruelty and sees nothing else…the Enchanted man  – he’s thinking of glory and battle-poetry and forlorn hopes and last stands and chivalry.  Then comes the Disenchanted Age…But there is also a fourth stage, though few people in modern [1946] England dare to talk about it.  You know quite well what I mean.  One is not in the least deceived:  we remember the trenches too well.  We know how much of the reality the romantic view left out.  But we also know that heroism is a real thing, that all the plumes and flags and trumpets of the tradition were not there for nothing.  They were an attempt to honour what is truly honourable: what was first perceived to be honourable precisely because everyone knew how horrible war is.

“The war poetry of Homer…for example, is Re-Enchantment.  You see in every line that the poet knows, quite as well as any modern, the horrible thing he is writing about.  He celebrates heroism but he has paid the proper price for doing so.

“You read an author in whom love is treated as lust and all war as murder – and so forth.  But are you reading a Disenchanted man or only an Unenchanted man?  Has the writer been through the Enchantment and come out on to the bleak highlands, or is he simply a subman who is free from love mirage as a dog is free, and free from the heroic mirage as a coward is free?  If Disenchanted, he may have something worth hearing to say, though less than a Re-enchanted man.  If Unenchanted, into the fire with his book.  He is talking of what he doesn’t understand.  But the great danger we have to guard against in this age is the Unenchanted man, mistaking himself for, and mistaken by others for, the Disenchanted man.”

To serve is to leave forever the ranks of the Unenchanted, and of the Enchanted.  Whether you have emerged Disenchanted or Re-enchanted, thanks.

Happy Birthday, America

July 4, 2008

According to my email, many of you who enjoy the Jason Wander books either now serve, or have served, America in uniform.  A couple of you have even written that you chose that service because of the books.  

Now, if you’re celebrating this Fourth in service abroad, you may be hearing that, as the comic strip Doonesbury chooses to report in so many words today, on America’s birthday, the country you’re defending has gone to hell in a handbasket.

Let me put that view in perspective for you.  The Atlanta Journal Constitution ran the strip one day after its front-page news story exposing the terrifying depth and shocking breadth of the handbasket in which America has careened to hell.  The story – I am not making this up – was about Starbucks closing some locations because they were cannibalizing business from other Starbucks locations.  The Journal Constitution’s investigative reporting included an interview with a couple at a Starbucks who had cut back to sharing one $5 latte (vanilla, two straws), not their usual one apiece, because things had gotten so bad for them.

Don’t get me wrong.  America has problems.  Big ones.  Always has.  Often worse than today’s crop.  But most nations on this planet and, one presumes, others would still love to stick a straw in our latte.

Churchill said that democracy is the worst form of government ever invented, except for every other one that’s been tried.

That’s as true today as it was in 1776, and on this Fourth of July, 2008, most of us here thank you for helping to keep it that way.

Q&A about Today’s Tibetan Unrest and Orphan’s Journey

March 17, 2008

News reports leaking from Tibet this morning tell of rebels in Lhasa suppressed by Chinese tanks.  Coincidentally, Orphan’s Journey begins with Tibetan rebels battling Chinese tanks.  Orphanage, the story of an invasion that responded to city-destroying surprise attacks, appeared a few months after the invasion of Iraq, and one reviewer called Orphan’s Destiny “positively prophetic,” because it treated government reponse to disasters, just as the Hurricane Katrina debacle unfolded.  So, were the Jason Wander books designed in advance to be contemporaneously relevant on their release dates?

Do I look like Nostradamus?  No.

So what were the books designed to do?

Tell a story.  By happy coincidence, an early reader’s brief review of Orphan’s Journey just posted at SFFWORLD.com summarized the Jason Wander series to date, so I don’t have to.  Read the whole thing at http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?p=454368 

Bottom line: 

“the [first] book [is] fast, funny but sometimes tragic…in the second book, Jason…gets in trouble again…in the third book…Jason is still in trouble…surprising things happen and strange secrets are revealed that carry this series to another level.  Highly recommended for anyone who likes mil-sf, or adventure sf for that matter. And some say that people do not write sf as in the so called Golden Age.”