Thoughts on writing the military experience…

At the risk of opening a giant can of worms, dumping it out on my desk, and then accomplishing today’s writing while trying to type around a bunch of the wriggling bastards, I thought I’d dump out a bunch of incoherent thoughts and see if I could wrangle them into some sort of semblance of a blog post.

A couple of days ago, I had a series of moments that came together to provide the impetus to start writing this stuff. First, Charlie Sherpa of The Aiming Circle featured the Crone Girls Press anthology and call for submissions on his page. It got shared among some milwriting sites, and during our conversation about the promotion, Sherpa asked something along the lines if I minded that he emphasized the fact that I was a veteran, or that milwriters should apply. My short answer? Basically, no. I welcome submissions as diverse and unique as I can get them.

Later on, as I was reading through submissions, I was struck by how few stories I received that were written by veterans (or by people who included their service in their biography.) I was also struck by how rare it was to find military characters and situations in the stories I was getting. The one that I had the most hope for, I had to turn down because the inconsistencies and inaccuracies were too pervasive for me to be comfortable with taking the chance on the editing process during our short production schedule. This led me to post on my social media page about really wishing that writers who attempted to write military characters and situations would reach out for beta readers or editors (not submissions editors) who actually had military experience and could let them know beforehand what in their writing did not pass the sniff test. (That’s a technical term.) I’m happy to do this–but not as a submissions editor.

And finally, the Military Writers Guild posted a membership call on Twitter. I reached out to one of their members to get his take on whether it would be worth it, as a genre writer and publisher who doesn’t hang around the typical mil-sci-fi crowd or, as he put it, “earnest O-4’s writing about Clausewitz.” I’ve never read On War, at this point in my career I’m probably a permanent senior O-3, and I love to read military science fiction but I’m more of an urban fantasy and dark speculative fiction writer and likely always will be. HOWEVER. One of my underlying goals in life dates back from when I was a baby specialist sitting in class at the Defense Information School, learning that the job of the military journalist was to “tell the Army story.” I internalized that so hard that one of my abiding goals as a writer and publisher is to take the military experience, filter it through the lens of entertainment fiction, and send it out to a wider civilian audience so as to increase the amount of authentic, lived military experiences available for the casual audience to sample.

This is why, when Sherpa asked if I minded that he promoted the submissions link in the veteran and milwriters community, my answer was a resounding, “No.” In fact, I was glad he did so, and hope that it results in getting more horror from veterans and servicemembers. Even if their stories don’t directly deal with military experiences and settings, I want them. I can only write my own experience (although as a military journalist, I got to observe and share in a number of other people’s experiences), and therefore the more stories I can foster and publish and promote, the better chance I have that those stories will entertain and, perhaps, inform. Especially, and this is key, if those stories can provide a window into narratives that are not already prevalent in the current news and entertainment media frames.

I’m trying to remember as a blogger to include a call to action with every post. So here’s my call: If you are a military writer, or a veteran who writes, and you have a dark fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, grimdark, or whatever tale to tell, check out our submissions page. Check out our Facebook group. Write, edit, and polish your story and send it by January, 6 2020. I look forward to reading it.

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