My Favorite Bit: Myke Cole talks about FORTRESS FRONTIER
Myke Cole’s second novel, Fortress Frontier, is out today and it’s the book that makes you fall in love with military fiction, even if you don’t normally like it. It’s military fantasy — you know, like military SF only with magic. And really good writing.
It helps that Myke is actually in the military so the books feel grounded in real society. So what’s his Favorite Bit?
There’s a reason folks want to work for big bureaucracies, whether corporations or government agencies. They’re famous for job security, stability, weathering storms be they political, social or economic. Especially these days, with the economy in a trough, folks speak wistfully about a ‘government job,’ an office where you can get your tasks done in four hours, and then spend the next four checking twitter.
Within the conformity, there’s a certain freedom from supervision (which might be why more than one writer cut their teeth banging out manuscripts when they were supposed to be reviewing spreadsheets).
The secret here is anonymity. A drone in a bureaucracy is a needle in a haystack. Cause no trouble, and trouble will leave you be. Smooth sailing until retirement and then summers in a conversion van cruising the national parks with Dylan screeching on the radio.
There is no organization where this is truer than the US military. Want to fly below the radar? Ride the easy wave until you do your twenty and get out? You can absolutely do that in the US military. Lot’s of folks do. Keep your head down, do your job and don’t make waves.
But here’s the thing. As with all bureaucracies, there’s the risk that the organization’s mission will fall on you. You can do your best to keep your nose in the books and your mouth shut, and fortune and circumstance will find you anyway, single you out, and shine the spotlight on you. All you wanted was anonymity, and suddenly your name is on everyone’s lips. It’s down to you. A packed house of thousands, and everyone is watching.
Then there’s the big question. You didn’t want the spotlight, but you got it anyway.
Now, what do you do with it?
And that’s my favorite bit in FORTRESS FRONTIER.
Colonel Alan Bookbinder is an army bureaucrat. He wears a soldier’s uniform and has risen to a high rank. But he’s a paper-pusher who’s never seen combat. Bookbinder knows that they need people like him, knows that he fills an important role, knows that the army couldn’t put warheads on foreheads without his help.
But, in his heart of hearts, he wonders. There is a nagging voice that reminds him that the primary purpose of a military is to kill people and destroy property. Can a man who has never done either call himself a soldier?
He has quietly advanced, earned the Colonel’s rank that has all and sundry tugging forelocks and stepping aside. He looks at these men and women who render him salutes and call him ‘sir,’ he knows that many of them have grappled with the enemy, firing rounds in anger, sheltering in place as the mortar fire came raining down. Is he worthy of the respect? Has he truly earned it?
The rank fades into the background as he does his daily work, until one day, when the commander of his besieged installation is murdered.
Chaos erupts around him. Fights break out, people run pell-mell, the efficient and disciplined organization that the army depends on goes to pieces. Bookbinder may be a bureaucrat, but he’s still a Colonel. He knows the importance of order in a crisis.
So, he shouts to have it restored. “God damn it! Who the hell is in command here?”
Stunned eyes turn toward him, foreheads crease in relief as they see the eagles on his shoulders.
He asked who was in command.
“You are, sir,” they say, waiting for instructions, “You are.”
As a security contractor, government civilian and military officer, Myke Cole’s career has run the gamut from Counterterrorism to Cyber Warfare to Federal Law Enforcement. He’s done three tours in Iraq and was recalled to serve during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. All that conflict can wear a guy out. Thank goodness for fantasy novels, comic books, late night games of Dungeons and Dragons and lots of angst fueled writing.