Author's note: I wrote this piece in 2016 for Tor.com, and revisited it this morning. Loss, death, and tragedy have been on my mind. Considering the news from Florida, how could it be otherwise? So, I decided it was time to pull this over to my blog, and share with you today.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? At best that was a hollowed-out truth. What failed to kill you still exacted its own pound of flesh, and not even sleep offered an escape. The nightmares were definitely getting worse.
Surely there was a gaping hole in her heart that must have turned black by now. Perhaps all that remained of it was a deathly hollow, carved out by the worst kind of flesh eater. Survivor’s guilt."
Death and Mechsuited Marines. Nothing wreaks havoc like them. Indomitable is as much about the one as it is the other. My protagonist, a young Marine named Promise, has a habit of storming into trouble. With the help of a plucky AI assist, she cuts a wide swath. Death’s her second shadow. But the fallout haunts her. And the pain slowly fades.
Charles Dickens christened death “Our Mutual Friend.” It has certainly been for me. I’ve buried a sister and a daughter, all the grands, and a cousin of mine named Jack. Death reaped each of them at inconvenient times. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Absence has made a poor bedfellow.
Promise is no stranger to loss either. Her full name suggests as much and, for good or bad, it’s a bit on-the-nose. Promise. Paen. I’ve caught flak for her name. Flak flak (like the shells thrown by the German Flugabwehrkanone, or anti-aircraft cannon). When I named her I was playing with words, sure. But I also meant to convey something deeper…that life is dualistic…both tragic and hope-filled, like yin and yang. We will all be wounded by something and probably by many somethings in this life. Many someones too. Loss is unavoidable. Death has a habit of being on the nose. But life is always ahead. Hope is out front, out there. It has to be.
Promise first came to me at age seventeen. Orphaned. Jaded. Congenial like a rusty bayonet. She was mad at the universe. She enlisted to start over, to slake the pain, and to maybe dish out some cold-served retribution as a mechsuited Marine. But war had other plans. It kept taking the people she loved from her. The pain only grew worse and to continue she had to turn and face it. What Promise didn’t anticipate was that she’d learn, while pivoting toward mortality, to care again and to let the women and men she served with scale her walls. Turns out death’s sting is not something to be shouldered like a rucksack, on a solitary march through life’s tempest. Death is our mutual friend. We’re meant to greet the reaper together.
Sometimes we write for our lives. For me that’s involved marring my love (truth be told my guilty pleasure) for military fiction and mil-speced battle scenes with a need to draw out the deep waters of my soul. I had to crank the well-wheel to find out what was down there. Up came a traumatized character who talked with her deceased mother on a regular basis, a centuries-old, semi-automatic GLOCK named Janie, a suit of interlocking armor that begs for a 3D printed cosplay, and a veritable band and of sisters and brothers as real as any family.
Up came the reaper too. He likes to howl and gnash his teeth. But I’ve seen the fear in his hollow point eyes. He has a spot at the table, over there, where he sulks while I share a meal with friends. The food is good. The company, better. Reap sulks because death doesn’t frighten me so much anymore.
(article originally posted at Tor.com, July 25th 2016)
I try not to be political on this blog. That said, a few thoughts on the matter of the KKK, #Charlottesville, #Nazis, #monuments, and #racism.
1. The United States of America has a storied history with race and equality. These 50 states have not always been on the same page about the matter, or the history of the matter, and I daresay, they aren't now. It should come as no surprise, to anyone, that some US monuments are controversial in nature. Let's be honest about the past while advancing liberty and justice for all. We should defend freedom of speech while condemning the doctrine of #whitesupremacy in the strongest, clearest terms. I pray that one day and soon, the vile notion that one skin color is better than another will at last be buried in history's grave of forgotten lies.
2. The offending monuments in question are older than I am. Why are they so controversial now, and not two years ago? Or twelve years ago? I suppose we could say that things change, culture changes, causes mature. A car-turned-weapon, a deplorable rally, and a tragic death raised a national outcry and rightly so. But is that the whole story? Maybe. I wonder. It's a question worth serious consideration. This issue is far more important than anything Trump did or didn't say. Trump needs to be clear about his position. The "both sides" comment is repugnant and beneath the office of the Presidency. Trump needs to remove all ambiguity about where he stands. Trump needs to get his act together. Trump, let's face it, is way in over his head. Most importantly, we should not trivialize the issue of race and equality by making it about one man. This issue deserves better than Donald Trump.
3. #Nazis are bad. Evil. Wicked. (And virtually all of them, except for a few very old men in hiding, are now dead) Nazis butchered seven million Jews. Nazis should be called Nazis. What we see today are pathetic imitators of bygone fascist mass murderers. Today's white supremacists have said and done vile things, evil things, and a young woman lost her life. I hope justice is served, hard and cold. But Nazis? Today's culture has too little regard for that word. By the way, the father of the woman that died has chosen to forgive her killers. We should follow his example.
A bit of context about this...a fraction of a friend's family escaped Nazi Germany. Most of his ancestors were killed by the Third Reich. His family lost generations to the Nazis. Decades later they saw some small measure of compensation from the German government for the horrors inflicted by the Nazis. His family's wealth was confiscated, dozens were killed, and for that some recompense was given. This story is by no means unique. Money for shed blood is an insult, part of the murderous legacy of the Nazis. The term "Nazi" should be applied only with great fear and trembling. To label today's white supremacists as Nazis is to do the real Nazis of the 1930s and 1940s a favor. I will not diminish the evil perpetrated by the Nazis by equating them to today's white-first thugs.
4. Part of me would like to break a few jaws. I'd enjoy it. A lot. My family is multi-cultural: all manner of European ancestry, and Korean and Latino heritages swirled together. My nephew is half Korean, half white, with a Latino last name. My nephew's daddy, my BIL, was adopted by a beautiful man named Jesus (hay-zoos). Solomon Garcia is my nephew, my guy. (Jewish first name, Hispanic last name, half Korean - I love that) He's MINE. So, yes, I'd like to break some jaws. But my Christian faith dictates otherwise. So, I'll break bread instead and say this: I will pray for the racist/KKK/angry-white-men to become overwhelmed by the enormity of their sins, repent, and find Jesus. After all, the Bible is clear on the matter of human fallibility. "All have sinned." It also says that God is not a respecter of persons...in other words, all are created equal in the eyes of the creator. So says the good book and that's good enough for me. I won't start a fist fight with a racist. But I'll finish it if necessary. Remember, soft targets and open palms: groin; nose, throat; ears; eyes; joints. Smile.
5. Hate is not righteous indignation. Righteousness indignation should not lead to hate. I fear the two are being confused and that doesn't bode well for the future of this country. This country needs to think a second time.
I'm at Denver Comic Con 2017 this coming Saturday, July 1st.
My friend and fellow science fiction author, Jason Kent, put together a fabulous DCC17 panel about happy endings in Science Fiction. Frankly, I'm tired of the dystopian mire the genre has fallen into. Why can't our favorite characters win in the end? (without killing them off in the process...well, at least not all of them).
Let the Wookiee Win should be a blazing good time, and a healthy dose of literary optimism. Stop by and sell hello.
- W. C.
More about the panel:
Location: DCC17 Panel, Keystone City Room, Saturday July 1st
Panel: Let the Wookiee Win
Summary: Save our favorite characters! No one else needs to die! Have we seen the end of the happy ending?
In a world where every other author and screen-writer feels the need to kill off our favorite characters, is there still a place for the happy ending? Explore this and other plot choices in your favorite science fiction stories. Can you still have a good story if the main character survives? Does culture require a tragic story and ending to be considered a success? Show of hands, who wants to see a happy ending and who wants to watch an unavoidable plunge into dystopian chaos? Writers will share the driving forces behind their stories. See what influences tales across the spectrum as authors explore their own nightmares or seek to inspire their readers to a brighter future. Even when facing the demons conjured up late at night, just remember, sometimes it's okay to have a positive, uplifting ending. Sometimes, you need to let the Wookiee live...er, win!
INDOMITABLE is finally out in paperback! It's a new book for new readers.
The ebook is under $10. It's a new price point for budget-conscious buyers.
Easter is this Sunday. Its a new beginning for weary souls.
My lawn is green. The eggs are coming. It's a new season.
It's a new day folks. I'm excited.
When you order your copy of INDOMITABLE (or UNBREAKABLE if you need to catch up), or if you already have, please tell your friends. When you do, whether it's a purchase or a post, email me at write(dot)wcbauers@gmail(dot)com with the subject line "RELEASE DAY!" and I'll throw your name in the hat for one of five Starbucks gift cards...so you can drink hot caf while you join Promise in her next adventure.
This month passed as a blur of spinning kicks and late-night writing sessions, the sudden cancellation of a book contract, selling other author's books by day, travel to Boston (my largest sales account is just outside of "Beantown"), and too much hot caf. (more on the caffeine addicts survival guide below)
Nathaniel earned his Blue Belt in Taekwondo and the award for best poomsae (form).
More about Nate:
Unexpectedly, my German publisher decided to exercise the "Kill Clause." That makes for a great title (it's mine - you may NOT have it). But, KC's don't work out so well for author royalties. Okay, so Unverwüstlich underperformed. It happens. Publishing is a tough business. That said, publishers have teeny tiny attention spans and even shorter time horizons. Publishing the translation of a book in September (in paper only), in a market where no one yet knows me, without publishing the e-book simultaneously, only to kill it five months later, seems ill-thought. Well, Auf Wiedersehen! Now I have the German rights back, which means I can sell them again. Time to make more schnitzel!
Many of you have asked about future books. Thank you for your enthusiasm and support. You're a small cadre of Promise Paen evangelists...or literary shocktroopers. I thank God for you. The plan for now is as follows:
Picture Books? Yes, picture books. I'm developing two different series of books for young readers ages 0 - 5. The first series is of a religious nature. THE TINY BIBLE TALES feature Bible heroes in their littlest form. Three stories are written and five are under development. (more on those soonish) The second series focuses upon our solar system. I don't have a perfect series name, but "PLANETS" will do for now. Written with Dr. Deborah Bauers (mom), SUN AND MOON and RED AND BLUE (Earth and Mars) are done and being shopped.
As for more Science Fiction, yes, absolutely. SF is in my soul. Admittedly, the timing of the next novel is a bit up in the ether. I've made peace with W.C.'s production schedule. He may not write a novel a year. Some author's do. Some author's don't. With a busy, full-time job in publishing, and three young boys who need present, quantity time, I've had to reset my goals and expectations. Frankly, I'm happier for it.
Now, as promised, the caffeine addict's survival guide:
- W. C.
Two nights ago I saw Rogue One, a logic-defying adventure to be sure (never assault a planetary defensive grid without a sound plan), a western space opera with one of the grandest shoot-outs in cinematic history (the AT-AT Walkers against ground troops was an obvious and welcome nod to EMPIRE STRIKES BACK), a movie that at its core explores the concept of war. It's the perfect holiday film.
Actually, it's the perfect Christmas film. Really. In the Christian tradition, Christmas, specifically the birth of Christ, is at its core an act of war. The Christmas story shows us God as never before. God closes the unfathomable divide between the eternal and the mortal, draws close, puts on flesh, and rolls in the mire. Here comes the Lord of Hosts, the Full Metal Savior.
Saviors show up when saving needs doing, and saving typically involves combat. According to the Bible, the incarnate god/man - AKA Jesus the Christ - grew up, learned the family trade in his dad's carpentry shop, and then, in his 30th year, chose twelve novices to start a planet-wide insurgency. They wore swords and sandals and preached a revolutionary faith built upon twin pillars of grace and truth. Enemy number one: a fallen messenger named Lucifer. Jesus' infant cries were in actuality an epochal calling-out. As if to say, "I've come. What's Hell going do about it?" Christ the cosmic rebel. That's worth thinking about a second time.
ROGUE ONE'S Jyn Erso and a band of freedom fighters face seemingly insurmountable odds during the entire film and without a sound battle plan, and that's where the analogy between it and Christmas obviously breaks down. God's son came with the greatest ground game possible. In contrast, Erso and her rogue crew shoot from the hip the entire movie. Imperial walkers against ground troops should be a no-win situation. But bad odds are the rebel's currency and the director's calling card. Spend me some impossible, please. ROGUE ONE does that and more. Rebels do what seems impossible. They assault the unbeatable behemoth, the empire of injustice, evil incarnate. That's what Christ did, and guess what? He won.
So, yes, serve me up some war. After all, it's Christmas time.
December 7th will forever be marked on my calendar. I think of my grandfather, Chief Petty Officer William Coates, who endured horrors in the Pacific. I bear his name. I miss his war stores...about bad coffee and bawdy Naval tunes. If Grandpa took his sense of humor to Heaven, he's likely dancing down streets of gold to the Benny Hill theme song. Now that's a word picture.
Not many WWII vets among us. They are a rare breed. Thank you one and all. FBNF. Miss you, grandpa. You were (and are) a great man. Until we meet again.
"They say that in the Navy
The coffee's mighty fine
It's good for cuts and bruises,
But tastes like iodine!
I don't want no more Navy
Gee Ma, I wanna go home!"