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.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

SEAL Team 666 - Are We Ready for Military Fiction?

The biggest novel of my career thusfar is gathering steam. SEAL Team 666 was recently mentioned in a New York Times article discussing the popularity of new military memoirs:
The offerings go beyond real-life stories. In May, Thomas Dunne Books, part of Macmillan, will release “SEAL Team 666,” a novel about a trainee who has been recruited into an organization that “deals with supernatural threats, just as a powerful and ancient cult makes its final push at destroying the world,” the publisher said.  (Note: The book will be available in November. It is up for pre-order here)

It's sort of funny. I would have thought that these would have been more popular sooner. Was it the readers who demured, or was it the publishers? I've always been under the impression that those who like military fiction like it whenever they can get it. Additionally, I've always thought that supernatural thrillers/horror/dark fantasy is the same way. Fans of the genre read it whenever they can. So it was always strange to see so few military novels during the first eight years (yeah, I said eight...jeese) of our current wars.

Back in 2003, I wrote a novel called Babylon Smiles (now sitting on a shelf gathering dust). It is straight military fiction. Sort of a Kelly's Heroes style novel about a transportation company in Iraq who decide to rob the money train (untraceable and unaccountable money sent over from the U.S. to replenish the banking system in Iraq). Publishers couldn't have been less interested. I'd even proposed more books in the possible series. I think the writing was solid. I also think the story was pretty original. So was it because the publishers took the pulse of the readers and decided that readers weren't ready, or was it what we call in the military a self-fullfilling prophecy. "Readers don't want to read this, therefore I won't give it to them and because they don't have them, that genre is unpopular, therefore it backs up my decision."

The article goes on to say, "The current popularity of military-theme memoirs is reminiscent of the late 1970s and early ’80s, when similar books appeared in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, said Louise Burke, the publisher of Gallery Books. But the newer books hold a special appeal to younger readers whose lives have been filled with news reports of wars in the Middle East, she said."

I read some of those books when I was younger. Although there were many books that were clearly anti-war (aren't we all), there were quite a few that glorified, not the war, but the accomplishments and the heroics of the individuals. We've spent enough time watching the news and seeing through the optic of a reporter about what's going on, there comes a time when readers want a more personal approach. They want to understand on a base human level what goes through the minds of soldiers when they are confronted with a dedicated enemy. I think that's one of my strengths. As a soldier, I understand these things. I can parse through the politics and the insanity, and get to the truth of what it takes to be a soldier and a hero-- merely to dedicate your life to the man or woman next to you.

I also realize that my optic is different than most people. I wake up and go to sleep with the idea that one day I'll go to war for each and every one of you. It's an ideal that I've embraced and live by... confortably. Maybe readers weren't ready for military fiction in the preceding ten years. Maybe, especially those who vividly remember the utter shock of the events of 9/11, spent those years reading works that took them away from any memory of that day. I can understand that. I can absolutely understand that. It's been eleven years, twelve by the publication of SEAL Team 666.

Ray Gustini said in The Atlantic Wire, when addressed the impending SEAL book bubble, Books about Navy SEALs are selling like crazy, which makes sense, consider how much real-life SEALs have been in the news of late. But some of the titles are just using the special operations point as a jump off point for horror novels, like the terrifically titled Seal Team 666, which MacMillan will release in May [November].

So are we ready?

I think so. I think readers don't want politics and don't want preaching. Instead, they want stories of bravery, heroism and selfless service.  Sarah Brown at the most excellent Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix nails it when she says, “You have admiration for these elite soldiers, and they’re doing heroic things, and you don’t have to wade into the politics of anything,” she said. “People feel they’re reading about the war, but it’s not as hard to swallow. How many books can you read about how we shouldn’t be there, or how we got there, or the history of the Taliban?”

Check. Check.Check.
Me in 1994 firing an SA10 in a Papua New Guinea

Both SEAL Team 666 and Babylon Smiles are politics free. They are books about people-- people who place themselves in situations so that you don't have to. SEAL Team 666 is also a book about the possibility of a supernatural darkness that hates us and wants us gone. Yeah, if  I needed someone to protect me from this sort of boogyman, I'd want a U.S. Navy SEAL. And in the case of 666, they are a group of special operators that have been protecting us since before the American Revolution.

Thank gosh they had our backs all this time.

So are you ready for it?

What people are saying about SEAL Team 666:

"SEAL TEAM 666 is like X-Files written by Tom Clancy: ingenious, creepy, and entertaining." -- Kevin J. Anderson, #1 international bestselling author of DEATH WARMED OVER

"SEAL TEAM 666 is a wild blend of nail-biting thriller action and out-of-the shadows horror. This is the supernatural thriller at its most dynamic. Perfect!"
-Jonathan Maberry, NY Times bestselling author of DEAD OF NIGHT and THE KING OF PLAGUES

"The supernatural isn’t just in the old house across the street anymore. Even the supernatural has it’s own division of terrorist. Thank goodness we have our defenders-- SEAL Team 666, a special military unit that protects us from supernatural threats." - Joe R. Lansdale

"Weston Ochse has always been a wised-up, clued-in, completely trustworthy writer of high-action fiction that deserved a wider audience, and SEAL TEAM 666 is his breakthrough book. Here, every story-line is as taut as a gunfighter's nerves, and individual scenes pop like firecrackers. I raced through this novel and when it ended, I wanted more."
- Peter Straub

1 comment :

  1. Bingo. And here's hoping military horror continues its upward trend.