I started Devil’s Gambit twenty years ago. I was a young writer, very sure of myself. The internet was still in its infancy and most of your info on all things military came out of white papers and the “Jane’s Group” one of the largest public disseminators of semi classified information (for a price) available. For a rather steep fee I could subscribe to Jane’s Defence Weekly and get the inside track on the military procurement practices of every country in the world. Go a little deeper and subscribe to Jane’s “Sentinel” and now you’re reading the same articles that the military planners are reading. How do I know this? I asked every one of them I talked to point blank and they all gave the same answer. Who was their best source? Janes. If you were writing military fiction or technothrillers as they were known, Janes was the best way to make sure your info was accurate. To nail the dialogue and syntax, you need to talk to people who are active in that world. Which means you need to also get in there and get dirty too.
Of course reading the same stuff as the planners can get to you. You start to realize just how thin the skin of civilization is on the face of the planet, something we’ve all become far too familiar with these days. Your paranoia quotient increases as well. You see an outbreak of something and part of you wonders, was it a test of a bioweapon, or maybe an accident with a weaponized version of something the government was cooking up off the books so to speak. Why does mainland China need sixteen roll on roll off military transports, you ask yourself and so on and so forth and the world becomes just a bit darker.
Of course I never did publish Devil’s Gambit back then. I’d pissed off a certain editor at one of the big publishing houses and my chances of getting it to print were slim to none in a best case scenario. Ereaders were a thing of fantasy and many years over the horizon. So I turned to screenwriting and when I did that I decided to go for a more human approach and leave all or at least most of the world’s problems behind. I cancelled my subscription to all of my Jane’s publications and unsubscribed from a bunch of think tank mailing lists. Of course, they don’t want you to go just yet, so I endured another few months of gentle persuasion… “Look BTR-60s hull down on the Syrian border, want to know what we think?” That sort of thing.
But I was done and going to start a new chapter in my writing life. Which as anyone who has been reading this blog for a while, knows had it ups and its downs and its complete shit kickings of the soul.
When I came back to writing long form fiction, I took a good long hard look at what I had to offer as a writer and what was going to be the best way to get that work out there? The Kindle and the various Apple “i” products were obviously a game changer. But the real question really was, can my work be relevant, could it be good? I went through all of my back catalogue of story ideas and completed works and Devil’s Gambit popped up almost immediately. It’s a weird thing to read something you started twenty years ago. To see the you as you were before the time in the forge that has made you what you are today. But the most terrifying thing was the core precepts of the book had not changed, including a great part of the technology and weapons. The fighter wings at Kadena were still F-15s and 16s. North Korea was still crazy and even Russia had backslid into some of it’s old ways. In twenty years, stuff was still pretty much as it ever was.
That was pretty chilling.
I gave Devil’s Gambit a thorough rewrite – well a few really and with the help of my Editor Isaac Sweeney, I bashed it into the book it is today. The world has changed in twenty years in many many ways and in many others it has remained the same. What does that say about us?
I’m not too sure.
But I do know that I want to write about people, not just the tech of the battlefield or the conflict. The guts of the thing and how it effects my characters, that’s the thing I want to write about these days. That’s the thing that gets my motor running.