ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Weston Ochse is a former intelligence officer and special operations soldier who has engaged enemy combatants, terrorists, narco smugglers, and human traffickers. His personal war stories include performing humanitarian operations over Bangladesh, being deployed to Afghanistan, and a near miss being cannibalized in Papua New Guinea. His fiction and non-fiction has been praised by USA Today, The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Financial Times of London, and Publishers Weekly. The American Library Association labeled him one of the Major Horror Authors of the 21st Century. His work has also won the Bram Stoker Award, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and won multiple New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. A writer of more than 26 books in multiple genres, his military supernatural series SEAL Team 666 has been optioned to be a movie starring Dwayne Johnson. His military sci fi series, which starts with Grunt Life, has been praised for its PTSD-positive depiction of soldiers at peace and at war. Weston likes to be called a chaotic good paladin and challenges anyone to disagree. After all, no one can really stand a goody two-shoes lawful good character. They can be so annoying. It's so much more fun to be chaotic, even when you're striving to save the world. You can argue with him about this and other things online at Living Dangerously or on Facebook at Badasswriter. All content of this blog is copywrited by Weston Ochse.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

42 Days of 666 - Day 18 with Michael Huyck


For the next 42 days we're going to be counting down to the release of SEAL Team 666. Why 42? Because it's the answer to the universal question.

R-L: Mikey Huyck, Brian Keene, Mike Oliver, GAK (2002)
Today we have Michael T. Huyck, Jr., or Mikey to me. I've know Mikey for as long as I've been writing. An original member of the cabal, we used to pass nights in the Horror-Net chatroom, waiting for F. Paul Wilson, Doug Clegg, Ray Garton, or Tom Picirilli to stop by and lay upon us their great and grand wisdom for the genre. In addition to being a fantastic writer, Mikey was also a fiction editor for Carpe Noctem magazine (one of the five magazines I have managed to kill). A veteran like me, and much smarter than I am, I looked forward to Mikey's answer to my questions.

1. What’s your favorite military movie, book or television show?

For me choosing between a favorite movie, television show, and book is like choosing between a banana, a tennis shoe, and the theory of relativity. Each of these ain't like the other, so I need an approach option. Choose one of each? Nope, that violates the rules. Everyone knows I'm a sheep and don't violate the rules. Variation on a theme - how about I write a narrative where I weave one of each into a homogeneous answer? That sounds like mucho work. Nope. So fine, by default I'm going to invoke the "books are always better" rule and just not think about movies or television.

In the book category the nominees are FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS by Ernest Hemingway, WAR AND PEACE by Leo Tolstoy, THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE by Stephen Crane, THE CAINE MUTINY by Herman Wouk, FAIL-SAFE by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler, and my eventual winner: ON THE BEACH by Nevil Shute.

2. Why is it your favorite? Here’s where you can ramble a bit.

 If you're not familiar with the novel, please become so. It's Nevil's best (IMO, of course.) If you are, you might be crying foul right now. For those not in the know, ON THE BEACH is, on its face, more a post-apocalyptic novel than anything. I say "on its face" because ON THE BEACH avoids all the cold war-centric apocalyptic themes except for the USA and USSR largely being responsible for the end of the world. That part's consistent. For the record, two European countries start the war. Bulgaria and Italy, if I remember (I'm in a plane right now and can't look it up.)  Egypt bombs the USA and we blame the USSR and the USSR retaliates and decides to toss in some other attacks as well. The world's now a zombie, still grinding away and not aware it's already dead. Of course that's one of the military angles. The other is that a good portion of the story is told from the perspective of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589) and some of its crew. They undertake a mission from Australia to Washington (the state, not the district) to look for survivors inferred by a regular Morse signal. A few disparate details have always made this navy sinking more interesting to me than others - 1) I was a US Navy submariner in the nuclear power program, (2) I used to work for a guy who went to sea on the USS Snook (the Scorpion's sister boat) for sea trials at the same time the Scorpion went on its last mission, and 3) the Scorpion sank on my 4th birthday. No, I don't remember it, I just find it...interesting. The Scorpion is one of only two US nuclear submarines (trivia: we sub sailors call submarines "boats" and surface ships "targets") lost at sea, with the other being the USS Thresher (SSN-593.)

I digress, but it's an informative digression. Something about this history helped me connect to ON THE BEACH in a way lacking in similar books from the era (such as Mordecai Roshwald's LEVEL 7.)

Was that all it took to make this beat out THE CAINE MUTINY (a fantastic story) or FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS (one of the best books written - ever)? No. What made it best was Nevil Shute's writing. Clean and clear and pointed. He develops his work like a wicker basket, its plots and devices set inside and its characters woven to carry them. While not all that emotional, they are true to the common motivations of man: survival, love, duty, sympathy, pride, all the things that separate us a few degrees from the crocodiles and dust bunnies. The story has legs, alternately on land in two different continents (that I remember, don't hold me to that) and, of course, at sea. It's stark, really. And sad. Sad isn't one of my favorite threads in fiction. In fact, it's the principle reason I don't care for drama in television or movies. There's enough real life in life for me to regularly avoid the fair in my fiction. For reasons I really don't understand myself, it works in ON THE BEACH. Perhaps because of the writing, perhaps because of the story, or perhaps because of where I was at mentally when I read it. I really don't know. But I do know that I'll never forget it.

3. What themes are overused? And is it overused, or just truthful observation?

A consistent failure of the era's fiction regarding the cold war was the beating of the "what we're doing is insanity" drumbeat. Yes, that's true, what we did during the era was insanity. It was two of the school's largest bullies in a staring contest and everyone's ass would be beat when someone blinked. Thematics such as this work as a thesis, but they're not adequate for good story. In ON THE BEACH the cold war and nuclear Armageddon aren't the story, they're a pretext for the essential human story. Unlike much fiction of the era, Shute doesn't come across as heavy or preachy either. I found it had what a novel needs to work, specifically to reveal the human condition imbued. We all need our war stories pregnant with tension, sure, and we need our loves and losses. But the most important thing is that the human beings in the novel do the things that human beings do. This is what makes ON THE BEACH work, regardless whether you call it a post-Armageddon or military work.

+   +   +

Thanks, Mikey!

And everyone please don't forget to Pre-order SEAL Team 666 from your favorite store:

No comments :

Post a Comment