Progress on my military sci-fi novel is going so slowly that I’m quite embarrassed about it. I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m letting my friends down. However any progress however small is still better than no progress at all. The curse right now that of “over worldbuilding” since this is my fifth or sixth attempt of writing a novel in this universe (Martyr’s Shadow from the previous post was I believe the second.) there is a truly autistic amount of backstory and background information that I CANNOT infodump on the reader. Picking and choosing what details to put in and leave out is going to be as much of a struggle as chipping away at what on the surface is a very modest goal.
One side effect of this is that I’ve been reading a lot of WWII and Vietnam War memoirs just trying to get the feel of how men act and think under fire. Brothers in the Dust is first and foremost a test to see how well I can write common soldiers in the line of duty. The big space opera stuff can come later.
The following is transcribed from the Vietnam war memoir Chickenhawk (1983) by helicopter pilot Robert Mason (highly recommended)
Both men had been hit in the head on the last lift. One had been shot from the front and the other from the side. Both were clutching their helmets, pointing at the holes. One guy had had a bullet hit the visor knob on the forehead portion of his flight helmet. The bullter had crushed his helmet and glanced off. His scalp was bleeding.
The other lucky soul walked around holding his helmet with a finger into the holes on each side of it. Dried blood matted his hair on each side of his head. It was a magician’s illusion. The bullet had to have gone through his head, from what we could see. We wanted to know the trick.
“I figured it out on the way back.” he said. “I mean after I stopped feeling for the holes on each side of my head and asking Ernie if I was still alive!” He was still pale, but he laughed. “The bullet hit while we were on short final to X-ray. Luckily Ernie was flying. It felt like somebody had hit me on the head with a bat. It blurred my vision. First I thought that a bullet had hit me on the helmet and somehow bounced off. Ernie first noticed the blood. He turned to tell me about a round going through the canopy in front when he saw it.” I could imagine the guy seeing the jagged hole in the side of his friend’s flying helmet, blood dripping down his neck. “I reached up to feel my helmet and felt the hole on the right side, but Ernie said the blood was coming from the other side. I put my left hand up and felt that hole! I pulled both hands down quickly, and they were both bloody! I felt the helmet again. Two holes all right. One on each side of my head. I couldn’t believe I was still alive1” He passed the helmet around while he continued his story.” See, it hit here.” He pointed in front of his right ear. “The bullet hit this ridge of bone and deflected up between my scalp and inside of the helmet. Then —he shook his head in disbelief— “then it circled around inside the top of the helmet and hit this ridge of bone on my left side.” He pointed. “it was deflected out here, through the helmet and on through the canopy in front of Ernie!” He beamed. I saw the path the bullet made as it tore its way through the padding on the inside of the helmet and the wounds on each side of his head. I shook my head. God again?
Hell of a story isn’t it?
That is the standard I need to be reaching for in my writing. That level of drama and amazement. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intimidated as hell but the world really doesn’t need another werewolf Pegasus knight romance. Besides it’s better to have standards that are too high than no standards at all. Even if I can’t hit such a distant target… at least I’ll be firing in the right direction.