Books About War

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Blondie
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Books About War

Post by Blondie » December 10th, 2010, 10:53 am

Howdy friends,

So, I'm working on a new fiction piece revolving around the protagonist's experiences in the Iraq war. Coincidentally, a number of acquaintances who are not aware of my project have been asking me if I care to borrow any of their nonfiction books written by vets of Iraq/Afghanistan, most of which are 1st edition and hardbound. Now, this is interesting to me because it would seem that our "war weary" country -as the talking heads have dubbed us- is not looking for more literature related to the war(s). During a weekend long discussion with a friend in the TV industry, I was informed this kind of stuff won't sell in the current environment as it is still, "too soon/too much". Yet it appears that such material is selling quickly. At least the nonfiction memoir/journalism books are. Thus, I bring a topic of discussion to the group: Is it possible that the public wants more war in print, despite the deluge of war media [general Q], or is there truth that such a book as mine is hopelessly lost in the current environment and will fail like a snowball in Somalia [personal Q]?

My decision to write this, by the way, is not based on $$, but I'm curious just the same since that's what the agent/publisher is likely going to be worried about. Recognizing the market is fickle, cannot be magic-eightballed, and there are other concerns like "is it even well written," I figure there are at least a few adolescent/mid-aged males shelling out pesos somewhere so I should be guaranteed at least *some* sales if I ever get to press...

Cheers,
-B

Down the well
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Re: Books About War

Post by Down the well » December 10th, 2010, 11:49 am

Blondie wrote:During a weekend long discussion with a friend in the TV industry, I was informed this kind of stuff won't sell in the current environment as it is still, "too soon/too much". Yet it appears that such material is selling quickly.

Read this from Miss Snark. Scroll down to the second entry.


http://misssnark.blogspot.com/search/label/craft

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polymath
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Re: Books About War

Post by polymath » December 10th, 2010, 12:03 pm

The novels I'd like to read about recent wars are the ones written by participants, for the sake of ready-made verisimilitude. The ones I've most enjoyed about the Vietnam and Korean conflicts are by participants. I've read a few nonfiction accounts of recent Middle East conflicts. They're heavily oriented around personal journeys where what happened reshaped the participants' lives. There's a heavy to subtle antiwar preaching going on in them too.

My acquaintances who've served over yonder have told me interesting tales that individually might not amount to a novel's worth but nonetheless have been fascinating. Many of them are initially reluctant to talk about their ordeals. A little bit of rapport building and they open up though. And they're not as heavily into the antiwar agenda as propagandists are here at home.

Narrative in my sense of the art is in some sense or another patriotic mythology. What I most am interested in reading though is accounts that get into the nitty-gritty. Personal journeys are okay; however, I want to read like it's happening to me in the here and now. Mythology doesn't do much for me. My sense of patriotism differs markedly from others' ideals. If it's a war story then I want an emerging hero who's up against another emerging hero, both with misguided but credible and opposing ideals. I don't want rabid nemeses or villains who are cardboard cutouts of stereotyped caricatures. I want human beings with weighted self-serving and self-sacrificing agendas and motivations and larger than life purposes with credible outcomes and profound transformations.

Here's questions of my own: What's the agenda of reactionary Islamic fundamentalists? What are they really fighting for? Why are they fighting and not talking to work out their differences? What's at root their issue? I ask those rhetorical questions because knowing what's on the other side's minds shapes antagonism for good dramatic effect. I have opinions based on some facts that are not common in the Western mainstream conscious why Islamist fundamentalists are up to what they're up to. They're not popular opinions though they're simple enough to understand. Foremost among them is a widespread Islamist desire for a new Islamic caliphate (empire) and restoration of the Peacock throne, a publicly stated goal of Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the Iranian ruling ayatollah council.

Getting into the mindset of the villains of the piece would go a long way toward writing a novel I'd like to read about any Middle Eastern war. I know the Western mindset. I'd like to read modern-day Persian ones.
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steve
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Re: Books About War

Post by steve » December 10th, 2010, 12:20 pm

Writing fiction about war without having served in the military never works out; never, never, never, never.

If you haven't served, best make your wars between orcs and elves. Nerds won't know the difference.
Read one of the best stories by Borges.

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polymath
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Re: Books About War

Post by polymath » December 10th, 2010, 12:37 pm

Absolutes are made to be questioned, challenged, refuted. Postmodernism: self-aware questioning and challenging of absolutes and entrenched purported authorities. The answer to Postmodernism's questions; think consciously, conscientiously, critically for one's self, especially in the face of naysaying, self's or otherwise.
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J. T. SHEA
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Re: Books About War

Post by J. T. SHEA » December 10th, 2010, 2:25 pm

Steve is right! Noncombatants should never write war fiction. Never, never, never, never, never, never. That would be like a blind poet writing about the Siege of Troy, or a sixteenth century English playwright writing about the wars of the kings of England. Oh, wait...

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Re: Books About War

Post by Watcher55 » December 10th, 2010, 3:13 pm

Perhaps I’m just complicating the issue but the question, “what do people want?” is a little tricky in this case because I wonder if there is a measure of “what people need” contained in the answer. It’s a long road between flashpoint and catharsis and we can only hope we’re closer to the latter than the former, and I wonder if it’s time, if we need, lit that examines the dynamic between enemies. I’m not trying to usurp polymaths point, or speak for polymath, but his (her? Forgive me) response conjured images of Akhilleus vs. Hektor on the ground and the Greek kings Menelaos and Agamemnon vs. Priam behind the lines. I agree it’s not time to mythologize or romanticize the war. What I’m talking about here are the dynamics of clash and comrade-ship in frank, honest terms.

A tall order I know, but I think it's doable.

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polymath
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Re: Books About War

Post by polymath » December 10th, 2010, 3:37 pm

Watcher55 wrote:What I’m talking about here are the dynamics of clash and comrade-ship in frank, honest terms.
Hear, hear!
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Blondie
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Re: Books About War

Post by Blondie » December 10th, 2010, 10:24 pm

Down the well wrote:
Blondie wrote:During a weekend long discussion with a friend in the TV industry, I was informed this kind of stuff won't sell in the current environment as it is still, "too soon/too much". Yet it appears that such material is selling quickly.

Read this from Miss Snark. Scroll down to the second entry.


http://misssnark.blogspot.com/search/label/craft
Thanks! Much appreciated!

-B

Blondie
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Re: Books About War

Post by Blondie » December 10th, 2010, 10:27 pm

Watcher55 wrote:Perhaps I’m just complicating the issue but the question, “what do people want?” is a little tricky in this case because I wonder if there is a measure of “what people need” contained in the answer. It’s a long road between flashpoint and catharsis and we can only hope we’re closer to the latter than the former, and I wonder if it’s time, if we need, lit that examines the dynamic between enemies. I’m not trying to usurp polymaths point, or speak for polymath, but his (her? Forgive me) response conjured images of Akhilleus vs. Hektor on the ground and the Greek kings Menelaos and Agamemnon vs. Priam behind the lines. I agree it’s not time to mythologize or romanticize the war. What I’m talking about here are the dynamics of clash and comrade-ship in frank, honest terms.

A tall order I know, but I think it's doable.
Agreed, and I hope I can do just that. I'm not arrogant enough to think I will, but I am confident enough to try. I think the beauty of literature is that it allows people to process things they may have never experienced; to reflect on thoughts they may not have had on their own. Fiction, more so than nonfiction, can allow for the review of opposing ideas in a non-purely intellectual manner which too often becomes a "me vs. you" discourse.

-B
Last edited by Blondie on December 10th, 2010, 10:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Blondie
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Re: Books About War

Post by Blondie » December 10th, 2010, 10:35 pm

polymath wrote:The novels I'd like to read about recent wars are the ones written by participants, for the sake of ready-made verisimilitude. The ones I've most enjoyed about the Vietnam and Korean conflicts are by participants. I've read a few nonfiction accounts of recent Middle East conflicts. They're heavily oriented around personal journeys where what happened reshaped the participants' lives. There's a heavy to subtle antiwar preaching going on in them too.

My acquaintances who've served over yonder have told me interesting tales that individually might not amount to a novel's worth but nonetheless have been fascinating. Many of them are initially reluctant to talk about their ordeals. A little bit of rapport building and they open up though. And they're not as heavily into the antiwar agenda as propagandists are here at home.

Narrative in my sense of the art is in some sense or another patriotic mythology. What I most am interested in reading though is accounts that get into the nitty-gritty. Personal journeys are okay; however, I want to read like it's happening to me in the here and now. Mythology doesn't do much for me. My sense of patriotism differs markedly from others' ideals. If it's a war story then I want an emerging hero who's up against another emerging hero, both with misguided but credible and opposing ideals. I don't want rabid nemeses or villains who are cardboard cutouts of stereotyped caricatures. I want human beings with weighted self-serving and self-sacrificing agendas and motivations and larger than life purposes with credible outcomes and profound transformations.

Here's questions of my own: What's the agenda of reactionary Islamic fundamentalists? What are they really fighting for? Why are they fighting and not talking to work out their differences? What's at root their issue? I ask those rhetorical questions because knowing what's on the other side's minds shapes antagonism for good dramatic effect. I have opinions based on some facts that are not common in the Western mainstream conscious why Islamist fundamentalists are up to what they're up to. They're not popular opinions though they're simple enough to understand. Foremost among them is a widespread Islamist desire for a new Islamic caliphate (empire) and restoration of the Peacock throne, a publicly stated goal of Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the Iranian ruling ayatollah council.

Getting into the mindset of the villains of the piece would go a long way toward writing a novel I'd like to read about any Middle Eastern war. I know the Western mindset. I'd like to read modern-day Persian ones.
Thanks Poly! I think the above is what makes any book a rich story. You have helped clarify some of the pieces for me though, and I will refer back to this post as along my writing journey to ensure I have met certain points along the way. Forgive me for not writing more, but I want to save some of it for my work...I will be sure to share.

-B

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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: Books About War

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » December 11th, 2010, 9:01 pm

I have to disagree with Steve. It's certainly harder if you haven't served, but I certainly think it can be done. Isn't that the beauty of the imagination? Isn't that part of why we write? Yes, there's a cathartic element, and a pedantic element (to share what we know), but there's also an exploratory element. We write because we want to know -- we write towards something, trying to understand and come to grips with what we don't know. Writing is as much an act of investigation as anything, and that struggle to see and feel truly is an important one. Will it create a great novel in the end? Who knows. But the endeavor is a worthwhile one.
The Alchemy of Writing at www.alchemyofwriting.blogspot.com

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Re: Books About War

Post by Guardian » December 11th, 2010, 9:12 pm

I agree with Bryan. You don't have to serve to write a good war novel. You must make a good research instead. I also saw the contrary; the writer served, but presented few things wrong, because he didn't look after few elements which changed in the meantime (i.e. in war you see how one side is meditating, you know how one side is working, you see the technology of one side. But you rarely know anything from the other side.).

Best example: I'm from Central Europe, from a country which had eastern block weaponry, mostly Russian technology. And as someone who is... let's say, had some connection to fighter jets, I know few things about Russian and U.S. military equipments. i.e. what on the American side people believes it's cutting edge and high tech, the other side is just smiling on the very same thing. Same goes for the other side. Remember, in the military you usually know what the weakness of the other side and what the strength of your side. But usually your military is forget to tell you, what the strength of the other side and what the weakness of yours. It's only a matter of perspective. And regardless I know these things, I also know my knowledge is a bit outdated as I haven't followed these things in the last five years.

So regardless you served or not, it's all about research. Good research.

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RedBrick
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Re: Books About War

Post by RedBrick » December 19th, 2010, 5:36 am

The best books about the Iraq - Afghanistan wars will start appearing
in 10 or 15 years. Same w/ 9/11.

It takes that long to feel the real psychic damage
and human tragedy of millions of Iraq refugees
raising children in refugee camps all over the Middle East,
suicide bombers murdering innocents daily, and thousands
of US and NATO forces w/ permanent brain damage and lost limbs.

Only those who have experienced the insanity of war can tell the story.

Read Tim O'Brien's GOING AFTER CACCIATO and THE THINGS THEY
CARRIED for starters. O'Brien was an Army grunt.

Then MATTERHORN by Karl Marlantes, a former Marine officer who took
30 years to write about his war. Sebastian Junger's NYT review a while
back is worthwhile reading.

Let others tell this story. They're trying to write about it now, or will when
they return and try to deal with the permanent wrenching in their
lives from what they've witnessed and taken part in.

Jack Erickson
Author of PERFECT CRIME, short mysteries
and suspense novels published at Kindle and other ereaders.
Web site: http://www.jackerickson.com <http://www.jackerickson.com/>

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steve
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Re: Books About War

Post by steve » December 19th, 2010, 12:56 pm

Bryan Russell/Ink wrote:I have to disagree with Steve. It's certainly harder if you haven't served, but I certainly think it can be done.
Got any modern examples?

I've had the Dunkirk chapters from McEwan's ATONEMENT suggested, but I'm not convinced.
Read one of the best stories by Borges.

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