There’s been a lot of talk lately about “subverting expectations” in storytelling, due to the recent ending of Game of Thrones. So, since I’m a storyteller, let’s take a bit of an aside to discuss it. Much of the praise that George R. R. Martin’s book series, A Song of Ice and Fire received was about how it didn’t play it safe. It “subverted” the old fantasy tropes (which, admittedly, had been largely done to death by Tolkien copycats who didn’t understand Tolkien). Unexpected things happened. The good guys didn’t win just because they were the good guys. (It was sometimes hard to tell who the good guys were.) Now, some of this was simply marketing. To listen to some people, you’d think that George Martin invented moral shades of gray in fantasy fiction. David Gemmell, Glen Cook, and a host of others beat him to it by decades. Full disclosure: I read the first three books, the year that the TV show started. I quit after A Storm of Swords. And a great deal of that decision was based on the nature of this “subverting expectations” model of storytelling.
As the 21st Century has matured, the divide in the United States has gotten more and more pronounced. While in many ways it is tribal (simply look at what either major political faction will scream bloody murder about when they are the opposition, and then look the other way when it is done while their people are in office), there is a fundamental fracture in the fabric of American society. And that fissure is deepening. More and more voices call for the utter destruction of anyone who disagrees with them, no matter how petty or nonsensical the disagreement is. A side with more and more power is demanding that things that are more and more demonstrably false and counter-factual be held up as right, true, and good, and threaten the livelihoods, or the lives, of anyone who refuses. The fracture appears to be largely along political lines. But it has become much deeper than that, a cultural divide between people who assume the worst of each other, in some cases simply because of the color of skin. And the politicians and tech giants who make their millions use that divide more and more, stoking the fires of the mob for
By the beginning of the Maelstrom Rising series, the global order as it has existed since shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact is disintegrating. This is happening for reasons cultural, political, and economic. Culturally, the European Union is already fracturing as this is written. There is no “European Identity,” no matter how hard the EU Parliament has attempted to enforce it, and the influx of immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa has been a source of friction in France for decades, even before the more recent push to accept hundreds of thousands from Syria, which has resulted in an uptick of terror attacks, to include truck attacks on Christmas markets and other crowds in Germany. An increasingly large segment of the populace of Western Europe is beginning to resent the imposition of the will of the elites, most evident in the Yellow Vest protests in France, which began over gas taxes, but became much wider in scope, including over President Macron’s signing of the UN resolution declaring unfettered migration as a fundamental human right, despite the majority of Frenchmen opposing such a treaty.
While the first-person narrative of the Maelstrom Rising series will limit each book or phase to a particular theater, the events of the series will have global scope. The interconnectedness of current global politics and economics mean that when the order breaks down in one place, there will be ripples elsewhere. And multiple simultaneous such breakdowns lead to the perfect storm that is Maelstrom Rising. The events in East Asia and the Western Pacific during this series will be rooted in current trends already happening over the last ten years or more. While most open focus has been on China and North Korea (which will be dealt with in later installments of this article series), this article will look at the near future of Japan. Specifically, the near future of Japan as a military power.
The idea for my current work in progress came a couple years back. It involved a complete breakdown in what we have come to consider the “global world order” since the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the paradigm shift represented by Operation Desert Storm (though the whirlwind victory and subsequent return to the status quo represented by that short-lived war turned out to be more of a fluke than a lasting reality, despite it forming the basis for most of Tom Clancy’s post-Cold-War fiction). While the American Praetorian series had already represented some of a similar model of breakdown, it was largely focused on the continuing war against jihadism, and that war’s unintended consequences. This is something different.
I’ve had to do some research into possible near-future weapons systems for a couple of series, now. If you’ve read The Colonel Has A Plan, you might have noticed that the Marines under Colonel John Brannigan are using M27s and LSAT machineguns instead of the current M4s and M249s or M240s. Similarly, the Marines at Camp David in Lex Talionis are armed with M27s. Now, arming Marines with M27s is an easy choice, since the Marine Corps recently announced a wider deployment of the glorified HK 416s, but it touches on a common theme when writing near-future military fiction. Including new weapons and gear that isn’t necessarily in common use yet helps to establish your setting.
It’s been a slow couple of weeks, because that’s how outlining goes. I’d hoped to speed that process up, but the Cogitation Engine only seems to work so fast, and outlining a book still takes the better part of a week. A week for less than 5k words (Grumble, growl), but those 5k – are necessary to get the machine running when it comes to hammering out the draft. In the meantime, however, the aforementioned updates to the American Praetorian series have begun. Task Force Desperate has been reformatted, bringing the front and back matter (and the rest of the interior formatting) more in line with later stuff. Applying the lessons of the last six years, you might say (yes, it has been six years since TFD first was published). There’s also a new cover. Over the five years of the series, the style was developed to a sharp point, and so we’re going back and touching up the first couple to match. Feast your eyes: Hunting in the Shadows will be getting a similar update soon; I’ve just got to figure out what reference photos to send Derrick for him to work the silhouettes. Currently, the Kindle edition has
Dave Reeder, from Breach-Bang-Clear (which I’ve written some articles for in the past), is a bit of a fan of the American Praetorians series. So much so, in fact, that he commissioned an American Praetorians Radical Firearms RF-15 for me. Haven’t had a chance to shoot it yet, but it feels good, and it looks badass. Consider this your official Thank You, Dave.
I’m reading Chris Fox’s book, Relaunch Your Novel: Breathe Life into Your Backlist. With The Unity Wars launched, and so far doing just about as well as Brannigan’s Blackhearts (rather than exponentially better, as I’d hoped), I’ve started thinking about the fact that my backlist isn’t quite earning as much as it should be. I’ve already done a little bit along these lines, with the new cover for Kill Yuan. Reading Chris’ work, however, it could probably use some more tweaking, mainly in the blurb, keywords, and marketing aspect. American Praetorians and Jed Horn get a bit thornier. At this point, I think that a full relaunch of both series would be in order. Jed Horn hasn’t ever done as well as the Praetorian books, in no small part because I simply marketed it to my fans, such as there are, and they were looking for military action. It didn’t really make it in front of the more MHI/Repairman Jack sort of audience. So, in addition to new covers for the first two at least (and probably new type for all four), it would benefit from a full relaunch. The Praetorian books get a little more complicated. Task Force Desperate
That’s Mickey Spillane, not me. But that’s a manly writer photo, right there. Seemed fitting. So, I’ve been busy. Really busy. Too busy to do much blogging, either here or over on The Unity Wars. Going to try to start picking up the slack on that soon, once I get draft writing somewhat stabilized. Given some market research, and seeing how the last book has done, The Unity Wars is moving somewhat to the forefront for the moment. That doesn’t mean that Brannigan’s Blackhearts is going away anytime soon; it is, however, going to slow down just a bit. Probably going to be four books per year, rather than six. I’ve barely scratched the surface on High Desert Vengeance, Brannigan’s Blackhearts #5, but I should be able to hit it hard after the next couple of weeks. Look for it in August. I’m also working on a pitch for another project that hopefully I’ll be doing with another author and good friend of mine. Can’t say much about it yet; we’re still hashing out the details, and he’s got to sell it to his publisher. Keep your fingers crossed. And with that, back to the word mines with me.