reciprocity of tears

Image of Wilfred Owen

Less Deadly Than The Air goes live on Monday, which is both awesome and terrifying. I wrote this story a few years ago, and it is one of the few that I go back to on a fairly regular basis. It is about a group of soldiers cut off from their support network on an enemy planet. A winter the likes of which they’ve never experienced has taken hold, bringing all battles to a sudden halt. The main character, the Commander, is struggling to make sense of what is happening, and… well, I’ll let you read it for yourself to find the rest out.

what I can say, though, is that the story is about trench warfare. The story itself was inspired by the poetry of Wilfred Owen, and fans of that great war poet will see that influence all over the story. It is very loosely based on the experiences Owen describes in Exposure – and indeed, the title of the story is a line from that poem. I have a voracious appetite for learning about the past, and Owen’s poetry opens a window into a world long gone. Trench warfare isn’t common in our age of nukes and guided missiles, and one of the most surreal experiences of my life was walking through WW1 trenches in the middle of pretty, summer French fields.

However, the possibility of trench warfare as a tool of interplanetary combat has led to many an interesting debate (see: argument) over a couple of vodkas. I’m firmly in the camp that believes trench warfare is a possible outcome where two equally-matched forces are battling for control of a resource, place or location that must, for what ever reason, be preserved in its current state. Science and technology will provide adequate protection for most non-destructive weapons over time (gas, sonic, light, for example), and while robots may be used in place of troops in some wars, I suspect they will often be more expensive and harder to replace than humans, who like to breed.

That’s the thing about war, though, isn’t it? The methods change, but at the heart, it remains the same. The military tactics of the ancient world are still effective now, and I see little reason to expect that to evolve much in the next 5,000 years. Interplanetary conflict at the end of the day is just a bigger version of intercontinental warfare – and we’ve been doing that shit for centuries. I’m not a soldier nor have I ever been one, but I hope that in my writing I cover the range of reactions, emotions and attitudes that make up any group of people brought together in hard circumstances. I’ve long observed that the range of attitudes and opinions expressed by my military friends and acquaintances mirrors those expressed by our military ancestors in their writings, art and remembrances. It stands to reason – at least to me – that the same diversity of thought will be reflected by our descendants as well. Hence the Commander and the soldiers serving under him react to their situation in much the same way that Owen describes in his poetry. Some retain hope, some give up, some question everything.

Less Deadly than the Air is the first story set in the Praetorian Worlds that I have published, but there are a lot more coming. When I have a chance I’ll update this page here to explain more about this system, but for now, I can sum it up as an interplanetary Empire that has grown too large for its logistics to keep up with. Think the Roman Empire in Space (with late 18th century European style) and you’re basically there. I hope you enjoy your first foray into this System and leave it wanting to come back for more. Less Deadly Than The Air is available for pre-order now, and is released on August 14th. I hope you enjoy!

All the best,
Gemma