Category Archives: War

Soldiers Aren’t Angels

Breakfast With The Dirt Cult

My review of Samuel Finlay’s gritty and gut-busting war novel Breakfast With The Dirt Cult is featured today at the Abbeville Review blog.

An excerpt:

Finlay’s fictionalized account of his tour of duty in Afghanistan, Breakfast with the Dirt Cult, is hard to classify. It isn’t a red-white-and-blue “Support our Boys!” kind of tale, nor is it an expose of imperialistic brutes in uniform wielding high-tech machines to murder and subjugate noble savages. So one should not expect this war novel to be “The Green Berets” or “Apocalypse Now.” It is instead a tale that bristles with humor, honesty, and has an edge to it that will alternately have you chuckling or holding your breath.

Read the rest at the Abbeville Review.

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Cthulhu in Foxholes?

My wife and I went to the Sensoria Celebration of the Arts Festival at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte yesterday. We thoroughly enjoyed Molly Manning’s presentation on her latest book, When Books Went to War, which tells the story of the massive and successful effort to provide desperately needed books to America’s fighting men during WW II.

In 1943, the War Department and the publishing industry devised a simple and brilliant plan to provide reading material to millions of men in the U.S. armed forces. The first step was to study standard issue military uniforms and determine the appropriate size for a book that would be easy to carry yet still readable. The end result was the Armed Services Edition book, which was smaller and much lighter than a standard hardbound book. Here’s a picture of some on display at the CPCC library:

ASEBooks
Click to enlarge

Funny thing, I noticed a copy of Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror, and decided I had to sneak a picture. But while I was there, I did not notice the letter beside it. I was delighted when I downloaded the picture to my laptop and read it. Here’s my transcription:


2-16-46

Gentlemen,

My brother, now serving in the occupational army in Germany, asked me to see if I could secure for him through you the following special editions for soldiers:

Max Beerbohm “Seven Men”
H.P. Lovecraft Anthology
Algernon Blackwood Anthology

He writes that these small volumes have been published by you and he is extremely interested in them but cannot locate them in the vicinity; if possible he would like to own them. He says I couldn’t send a nicer gift as far as books are concerned than those three little books.

Your help would be much appreciated. I would be happy to cover expenses.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. A.C. Klay

That gives you an idea of just how important great stories are to morale. And it suggests the depth of Lovecraft’s appeal.

120 million of these little books went to both the European and Pacific theaters, where they were devoured by eager, grateful GIs. These books introduced a lot of young men to literature, and boosted the careers of Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. They also made possible the paperback book industry that followed the war. Paperbacks were revolutionary. They were the eBooks of their time. (And I like eBooks!)

Wouldn’t you love to have a copy of that ASE edition of the Lovecraft anthology? Wow.

Science Fiction for the Fourth Generation

There will be no more Gettysburgs; there will be no more Stalingrads. Gettysburg, the biggest battle to take place in North America, pitted the largest army in the world at that time against the world’s second largest. A massive and prolonged artillery bombardment — what Robert E. Lee hoped would create a Napoleonic “feu d’enfer” or “Hell’s Fire”– combined with a direct charge at entrenched infantry (Pickett’s Charge), and a total lack of appreciation for the implications of the rifled Minie ball made horrendous casualties inevitable. 50,000 soldiers would be killed or wounded.

And despite all that, the rules of engagement limited civilian casualties to one. Yes, you read that right — only one civilian died at Gettysburg.

Nor will there be another Stalingrad. The era of industrialized armies trying to grind each other into submission, resulting in a clear winner and loser, is also a thing of the past. We are now in the age of Fourth-Generation Warfare (4GW), characterized by non-State combatants fighting as much for hearts and minds as for battlefields — and “battlefields” are no longer places where tanks can maneuver; instead, they are chosen more for their public relations significance than military expedience. There will be no innocent bystanders in a guerilla/public relations battle for hearts and minds. Understanding the new way of war will be essential for policy planners, military strategists, and, yes, for writers.

So Vox Day’s latest venture, Riding the Red Horse, guarantees to be fascination reading. It combines sci-fi tales of future warfare with non-fiction essays on emerging trends in warfare, including work by William Lind, a leading scholar on 4GW. This review in TakiMag provides a good introduction:

Riding the Red Horse, edited by fantasy star Vox Day and Army Ranger vet Tom Kratman for Castalia House, is a tailor-made compromise for those time-pressed souls who find the consumption of unalloyed fiction to be too useless a practice in which to indulge. It’s also a treat for sci-fi readers who retain an interest in the world around them—and the two groups’ overlap is large enough to make it a very good idea indeed.

If you want to write realistic future battle scenes, this volume will be essential. I know what I want for my birthday.