The Ashes Series

The author William W. Johnstone created the Ashes series of postapocalyptic books, made at the height of the 80s survivalist craze.

These are almost worthy of a Bad Fiction Spotlight, but they’re too conventionally bad.

Here’s how every single Ashes book goes. Mary Sue extraordinare Ben Raines (who is supposed to be head commander but leads from the front way too often-don’t worry, he’s safe) and his super-army of “Rebel Tri-Staters” see the creep of the week and kill him in a brief battle. Or fight the strawman armies of the creep of the arc in a brief battle. If Ben Raines falls in love with a woman, she gets killed. Oh, and there’s rants about types of people Johnstone-I mean Raines, doesn’t like. The end.

(The battles are very, very brief.)

I think the biggest problems are the really easy logistics (hero and villain alike can move everything they want overseas, including armored formations(!)), and the fact that there’s thirty five of those things made.

Plus, they’re so stupid, vile, and cliche that they become fun. And not in a “pick everything apart” way, a normal reading way.

Bad Fiction Spotlight: Victoria

Now, a little under two years ago, I found a book by the defense commentator and author William S. Lind. The book was called “Victoria: A Novel Of Fourth Generation War”.

I was expecting, at best, a book that would be illuminated by its author’s genuine fame as a military expert and advisor to Gary Hart, and at worst a conventional crazy right wing novel. What I got was -something else.

I had to mock it. So mock it at Spacebattles I did. (As with everything I’ve written a long time ago, I feel a little embarassed by it and wish I’d done some things better. Oh well.) It was written right after Lind fell from grace dramatically in the wake of the Gulf War, and his bitterness shows. Boy, does it show.

 

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. I figured a pair of pictures would be worth two thousand words. These are shots from the bloodiest battles in American history.

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American artillery position, Battle of the Bulge, 1944.

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Union burial crew, Antietam, 1862.

The Dead Generals Chronicles is Out

So, I’ve decided to take the plunge into Kindle publishing. My first foray into the world of self/e-publishing is The Dead Generals Chronicles, a brief work of “psuedo-history” that “analyzes” the deaths of fictional generals in fictional conflicts. Anything more would be a spoiler.

It is my first such book published, and I do not intend for it to be the last. This is my first toe in the pool, so to speak.

You can get it here.

Generals KIA

The subject of generals killed in action post-1900 holds a bizarre and somewhat morbid interest for me. It’s a period where personal presence on the battlefield was theoretically less important thanks to the use of the telephone and later radio. It’s also a period where fighting formations became exponentially more powerful.

Not surprisingly, the World War II Eastern Front takes the cake. Although there were exceptions, American general officer casualties were surprisingly low-they were comparable in both World War II and Vietnam despite the lower casualties of the latter war.

For a later period hypothetical WWIII/high intensity peer war, I have a tentative list of dead generals that mainly includes air/missile strikes (including a corps commander and some of his high-end staff taken out by a hit on their badly sited HQ). Besides those and maybe a few shot-down ones, there’s an example I made of the commander of an airborne division killed by a tank raid on a forward helicopter base he’s visiting.

Earlier, I have considerably higher casualties among general officers. This is because there’s often more divisions and because worse C3 means the generals have to be at the front more often.

 

Grand Colonels And Naming Conventions

So, for one of my innumerable exercises, I created a military rank called “Grand Colonel”. Much as how “Lt. Colonel” is a step down from “colonel”,  “Grand Colonel” is a step above. While some research did find that some countries do use the rank senior colonel, it doesn’t quite match my use of it.

My “Grand Colonels” command divisions, putting them in the same spot as a major general. I still haven’t come up with a better name for higher-rank generals that doesn’t use the exact term. Maybe I’d fall back on it, or use something like ‘corpsmaster’. However, I imagined how weird and different the term “major general” might sound if across the English speaking world, we were used to going from colonel to grand colonel.

Or forget colonels altogether. Since “Colonel” comes from the Italian word for “column”, someone commanding a similarly sized unit could get a vastly different name. I don’t have the linguistic skill to say what it would be without resorting to a robotic-sounding compound name, but still. Language development is full of weird quirks that get accepted as being totally normal. They’re interesting to study.

I once saw a conlang rank of “sub-general”-is it between colonel and general, or is it something equivalent to Lieutenant General? Could two countries with the same language family have one ‘sub-general as the former’ and one as the latter? Why not?

(Also,  while the officers are fairly consistent, I have the enlisted ranks in the same organization have a weird sort of craftsman like rank, with ‘private’ becoming ‘novice’ and higher enlisted ranks becoming ‘apprentices’ and ‘stewards’. So a sergeant major becomes a ‘Grand Steward’, linking it back to the ‘Grand _____’ precedent established by the grand colonel.)

Rivet Counting Addiction

Help, my rivet counting addiction has been triggered yet again. The culprit this time is the Micromark Army Lists, a very large list of orders of battle that range from the historical to the purely theoretical, from the musket age to the present. On Wargamevault (great site), they’re cheap, and I’ve been snapping them up en masse.

Weird how my cautious mentality gives way. I’ll waffle and hesitate over a cheap e-book, but have been wolfing down these dry lists like crazy. I’ve tried to get novel ones, but there have been a few duds I probably should have seen coming (You mean an unreformed ex-Soviet republic is going to organize its military on gasp-Soviet lines [that I already know a lot about]? .) In spite of that, the novel ones have been pretty informative…

Which is a big problem. I’m worried I’ll get too bogged down in rivet-counting minutia. In my Command scens, I’ve never been shy about brushing aside a specific unit’s availability by giving it a fictional name, and I’ve become even more inclined since writing that post. In other words, I might make a fictional aircraft carrier too.

But somehow I’m struggling mightily to translate that pragmatism to prose fiction.  But I’m still trying, and I still have hope I can use the informative quality of stuff like the lists to my advantage while not turning into either an infodump fest (“oooh, X has two battalions of ___ per division, unlike Y who only has one, improving its firepower but also hurting it logistically….) or just stalling out.

There is such a thing as too much research, after all, especially if it’s misdirected research.