I've been asked why I don't like writing Military Fiction by both LBB and now Ryan so I guess I need to explain. Understand, I have no problem with other military fiction, I've enjoyed many books (Hey, Scalzi and Tobias), SF and otherwise (yes, I've read most of Tom Clancy, at least all of his early stuff). It's my writing military fiction I have a problem with.
First thing, I can't be truthful with this. There are standing orders that prevent my full disclosure and while those orders are two decades old I'm still upholding my oath.
I have a long history with the military. My name isn't German, it is Salvic, and it's meaning implies my ancestors were swordsmen (not everybody in medieval Europe were permitted to own or carry swords). My Great Uncles fought in WWII. My Dad helped install the first missile defense system our country had (it was intended to shoot down hyper-sonic bombers). My brother loved (notice past tense) the Navy. And that's where I come in. My brother was very involved in JROTC and Reserves. My mother was a Warrant Officer in the Reserves to support her oldest son. And I went along as well. That's where I learned protocol, marching, military this and that. But I never liked the military. In fact, I hated it. My Mom and brother were willing to overlook things that drove me batty. My brother joined the Navy and got a cryptography slot. That's when I went to college.
My background is working class poor. We weren't always that way, but after my parent's divorce, that's what we were at the time. I qualified for a conditional Honor's Scholarship at Akron U, the school I choose (MIT couldn't offer the financial support I needed). My High School grades weren't good (2.6gpa), that's another long story. However, my SAT and ACT scores were excellent, and every other test score I had showed that I wasn't applying myself in school. Then, the Air Force also offered a scholarship, full ride. After they saw my grades, though, they asked to see one semester of college first. So I went to Akron and joined the AF ROTC program. A four-year hitch in return for both college and job skills. This was the mid 80's and those things were a definite plus at the time.
I blew the doors off my first semester. I lit a fire in the ROTC program, and I took the OCT (Officer Candidacy Test). My score was so high that my commander (a full-bird Colonel) told me if I hadn't had shitty eyes the AF not only would have guaranteed (that's the word) my pilot slot, they would have paid for my civilian flight training (you learn to fly jets in the Air Force, you don't learn to fly). I was in like Flynn. And they had other uses for smart, angry young men like myself. He made some recommendations. My scholarship was approved for the next semester. Since the AF Scholarship had lower requirements than the Honor's Scholarship, and paid more, I signed on the dotted line and allowed some of the recommendations to go forward.
That spring semester I failed Calculus II. Things were happening fast. I was going here and there, and I was starting to have difficulty with college. I retook the class in the summer and got an A, but since it wasn't a full load in the summer (as I was working, etc) I was still on probation.
Life went to hell that August. My brother had washed out of the Navy on a medical. My Mom had cancer, my Grandma went into the hospital, and my fiancée (high-school sweethearts) broke off our engagement and moved to California with her family instead of coming to college. Other things with my Reserve status kept getting in the way, and I had a lousy Fall Semester. I failed most of my classes and I was failing at life. I was insubordinate and vocal about my feeling regarding orders, my Reserve Commanders and the AF Cadet Commanders. I lost my scholarship.
I was court marshaled. Failure to follow the direct orders of my superior officer, insubordination, and a few other things. I was eventually (half a year later) found guilty of Failure to follow.
At this time, the world was strange. The military had reformed itself after Vietnam, but was still haunted by it's ghost. Grenada hadn't happened yet (Hey, Tobias, I wasn't there). Many of my friends who were also AF Scholarship recipients were being denied commissions on graduation and forced to pay back their scholarships. The AF was intentionally loosing personnel. Everyone (including my commander) expected I would be asked to pay back my scholarship money, nothing else.
My sentence? I was stripped of rank and privilege. My record was altered. I was given an involuntary call to active duty for two-years (longer than I had been in already), no rank or chance of promotion, no slot or choice of assignment, no chance of re-upping, no joining another branch, etc. ad nausem.
My commander helped me get an academic deferral. After six letters, and a call from my State Senators, I was allowed to change that sentence to repayment of scholarship monies (effected a year later). Which I did.
I have an honorable discharge. Not a general or dishonorable. There's a lot I can't talk about. All those privileges are gone (so, no VA Loan for me), it was a fair deal.
I changed my personality, I'm no longer that angry young man. I gained weight. I avoided military types of activities. But the body doesn't forget.
While I was forbidden any other military service, this is the first war since then that I'm not afraid I will walk out of my house to find a Humvee with two MPs waiting for me.
I am afraid because the body doesn't forget. Many years ago I accepted an invite to play paintball (they needed more guys from work so I was asked, I was overweight and I don't talk about my service). I was put on the side that was intended to lose. I freaked people out. I made one guy scream like a little girl because he never saw me coming across 100-yards of grass field until I popped up 5-yards away from him and splatted him. We didn't win, but the other side didn't have the cake-walk they expected, and it was a very low scoring day. I also displayed my command capabilities directing fire and ordering people about.
I don’t like it because I know what I was and I am no longer that person. It was a horrible time in my life and I don't want to go back there ever again.
And some of those moments back then were when I felt most alive. Standing in a forest and feeling the leaves turn with the coming rain. Hunting by smell and sound. Alive with every sense and fiber of being. And I enjoyed it. I'm wearing an inner smile as I type this remembering that. And I don't like that feeling. There's a black wind blowing there. I was good at it. I don't want to be good at it. I don’t want to enjoy it.
And that's why I don't want my only success to be for writing Military SF. I would like to have those stories be successful. But it's not what I want to write for the rest of my life.