Thursday, May 17, 2018

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell” is the pen name of John G. Hemry, a retired naval officer who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis before serving with the surface fleet and in a variety of other assignments. He is the New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Fleet series and The Lost Stars series, as well as the Stark’s War, Paul Sinclair, and Pillars of Reality series. He lives with his indomitable wife and three children in Maryland.

Campbell's new novel is Ascendant.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Campbell's reply:
I've been reading a mix of fiction and non-fiction lately. In non-fiction, I've been going back over Svetlana Alexievich's The Unwomanly Face of War. It's an incredibly powerful book, combining mostly untold history with a bottom up view of major events. For the most part the book consists of short pieces of interviews with Russian women who fought on the Eastern Front in World War Two. Their voices bring out clearly their sacrifices and their achievements without any boasting, just matter-of-fact accounts such as those of then-16-year old combat medics riding on the backs of tanks into battle so they could pull wounded men out of burning tanks and carry them back to safety. There's a bit from the book that sort of sums it up for me, by a member of an infantry battalion that helped capture Berlin. "I wrote my name on the Reichstag…I wrote with charcoal, with what was at hand: 'You were defeated by a Russian girl from Saratov.'" It's an amazing bit of history that is little known.

In terms of fiction, I just finished reading a book by a new author which was sent to me for a possible quote. Michael Mammay is a former US Army officer who has written Planetside. One of the things about what is sometimes called military SF (or just a type of space opera) is that the different "generations" bring perspectives born of their wars to the stories they tell. The WW II generation of writers often wrote of total war. The Vietnam era vets such as Joe Haldeman and David Drake brought their take on war. Cold War vets of the 70s, 80s, and 90s had yet a different "war" to form their tales, and now the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan such as Mammay and Kacey Ezell are telling their stories (which, sadly, bear some of the same marks as those of veterans of Vietnam). These stories show how every war is different and every war is the same. Military SF gives us pictures of personal history that are a step removed from non-fiction accounts, yet allow the varied perspectives created by setting those experiences in different times and places, and against different enemies. There are some truths, I think, that can only be seen by such methods. (Kacey Ezell is, though, an example of how poorly SF has done at predicting the future. If someone had written an SF story in 1967 about a female combat pilot operating UH-1 Hueys in a war set fifty years in the future, it would have been rejected as unbelievable for both the idea of a woman combat pilot and for the idea that we'd still be using UH-1s as front-line combat aircraft half a century later.)
Visit Jack Campbell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue