I met Myke Cole at Worldcon 2012. I asked him to tell me something interesting about his forthcoming book, FORTRESS FRONTIER (Ace, Jan 2013) and he told me what was at the heart of the book. It makes me that much more interested in the series.
When I was in Baghdad, people kept asking me if I needed anything. There were constant offers of help from friends and family: food, books, movies. Anything I wanted, anything that would get me through the long months.
Honestly? We were covered. Camp Liberty had the equivalent of a Wal-Mart where you could buy everything from flat-screen TVs to survival knives. Heck, you could even order a car, provided you were willing to pick it up once you got back stateside.
Anothing thing we had was a video library on the network, which everyone pulling a late night shift on watch wasn't supposed to be availing themselves of.
It was on just such a late night watch that I . . . ahem . . . accidentally hit up the video library and came across the 1964 film ZULU starring Michael Caine. It's a Hollywood stab at the unlikely battle of Rorke's Drift, where just over 150 British troops (many convalescing from wounds) successfully defended a position against 4,000 Zulu warriors. It had the hopeless odds base covered, which is sort of a staple in all good war films, but the thing that really resonated with me was the portrayal of the hero, Lieutenant John Chard (played by Stanley Baker).
Chard found himself thrust into a situation for which he was completely unprepared. You have to remember, Chard was a Royal Engineer who (at least according to the movie) had been sent to Rorke's Drift to survey for the construction of a bridge. Sure, he wore a uniform. Sure, he was a was a soldier, even an officer. But the truth? He wasn't a commander, wasn't a warrior, wasn't ready not only for a battle, but for a battle with odds that utterly hopeless.
Tom Hanks' character in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN shared the same situation and the same qualities. Utterly unprepared for what faced him, he simply shrugged, kept his fear and doubt to himself, and put one foot in front of the other. In what seems an utterly inadequate response to something as serious as an overwhelming horde of enemies determined to kill you, they fake it 'til they make it.
And make it they do.
That concept fascinates me. It's not a new idea. Heck, it's practically a trope in fantasy and science fiction. But there's something incredibly inspiring about watching the little guy, frightened, unprepared, hopelessly outclassed, just put one foot in front of the other. Not confident, not cocky, just plodding doggedly, because he can't figure out what else to do. You grit your teeth and you bear it.
And sometimes, you win.
That's the heart of FORTRESS FRONTIER. I hope folks find it as inspiring to read it as I did to write it.