FIELDS OF FIRE, Amazon reviews, and gay Russian space marines

FIELDS OF FIRE has been out for not quite a week, and it’s sitting on 54 Amazon reviews and a 4.8 star review average already, which is much better than a sharp kick in the crotch. Thank you to everyone who has bought it, and extra special thanks to those of you who took the time to leave a review.

I don’t usually respond to reviews, especially not on Amazon. Reviews are for other readers, not for me. But one thing caught my eye as I was skimming the reviews—a reader who gave me a favorable review, but felt that I threw in a gay Russian space marine “for diversity”. Truth be told, when I wrote Dmitry, I didn’t know he was gay until I got to the scene in ANGLES OF ATTACK where Dmitry and young master Andrew have a drink together and show each other pictures of their main squeezes, as soldiers do when they have downtime and some alcohol in front of them. I’m not the kind of writer who claims that my characters have their own will—they do what I tell them to, goddammit, because I’m the master of their universe—but that was a moment where a character revealed a little detail that I hadn’t intentionally sketched out, but that felt natural and proper. Dmitry pulled out the picture of his spouse, and my brain just went, “He has a husband. Huh, Of course he does.”

So no, I don’t sit down with a character creation sheet and a checklist for Maximum Diversity(tm) and threw in a gay character to advance an agenda, score Social Justice Warrior brownie points, or engage in virtue-signaling. Dmitry is gay because he is, and with all the crap these soldiers have to deal with in their alien-besieged dystopia, I found it appropriate that at the very least, showing someone else a picture of your same-sex spouse is not worthy of special commentary above and beyond “Nice picture” in that version of the future.

 

21 Comments

  1. As an actual US Marine. I can tell you the only people who truly care a politicians. I really didn’t even think about it until I read your post. when you are in a fox hole fighting for your life the only thing that matters is does the person next to you have your Six. well Dmitry definitely had Andrews on Lanky controlled Mars! they are Soldiers, Friends, and allies that is all that matters. I finished “Fields of Fire” this morning and am already jonesing for the next one keep them coming.

  2. I kind of get where that reviewer might have been coming from. The way some writers have approached the subject is like opening a letter with a chainsaw. It winds up being an unnecessary spectacle that draws attention to the chainsaw instead of the contents of the letter.

    I don’t think Angles of Attack was like that though. I actually really liked it because it precisely because it did *not* feel forced, and your description of writing it matches exactly with the impression I had when reading it. This detail about Dmitry is brought up in a totally natural, believable way. And because of that, it also does not overwhelm the rest of the character. He isn’t just the token gay guy, there’s plenty more to him. His sexuality wasn’t even on my mind as I was following him and Andrew through “Red Beach”. The token character is a pitfall more than a few writers, across all sorts of genres and mediums, have fallen into especially in the last few years. But I’d count Dmitry as an example of the right way to do it.

  3. While the wealth may not exist in the Frontlines future to make it ubiquitous, the tech appears to exist to change the sex, shape and color of a human to any other human sex, shape or color. Past that point, people have about the same reaction to odd sex, shape or color choices as we do to bow ties.

  4. Unless Russia undergoes a rather radical transformation, that’s not gonna happen, dude. It’s sort of like making the “Russian” be a North Korean who emigrated and was joyously accepted by the native sons of the Motherland, or having the Israelis elect Imam Mohammed Hossain as their Prime Minister.

    I mean, I’d believe it more readily if you had a chapter about how Sweden opened immigration to Lankies and declared that anyone who didn’t welcome them was a speciesist who would be imprisoned for wrongthink, and how all news coming out of there showed Lankies living in harmony with the native Swedes, intermarrying, and converting to Islam just like everyone else has. That’s just an update of Current Year.

    But whatever. If you wanna virtue-signal, IDGAF, go wild.

    Real reason I came, I just finished the novel, and why do the characters keep questioning whether the Lankies are intelligent or not? Jesus B. Krishna, they fly around the galaxy in starships and have destroyed every colony they went after — except maybe New Svalbard, and even there, you wrote in the latest about evacuating it, so I’m guessing they won there too. How human-centric do your characters have to be to continue to question their enemy’s intelligence?

    Please, please tell me you’re not going to go down the rabbit hole of the old trope of “they’re mere bioweapons for a more normal species that we’ve never seen”. Ack. Even Ringo gave up on writing himself into a corner with that one.

  5. I came here to ask when #6 was going to be available for preorder.

    But to respond to a comment about the Lankies and intelligence: All you need to do is look at how humans rationalize killing each other in war to understand why the grunts wouldn’t regard the Lankies as being intelligent. You’re not killing people, you’re shooting Gooks, Krauts, Rebel Scum, Fascists, Imperialists, Commies, Slopes, Nips, Terrorists, Barbarians and so on and so forth. Denigrating the intelligence and humanity of the enemy is what we do.

    So is it any surprise that the soldiers fighting the Second Battle of Mars would regard the Lankies as big insects?

  6. Stephanie, you are very correct short of someone being an actual sociopath killing another person it an act which scars you forever mentally. Through out human history we have decided humanized our enemies to make it easy to kill them. But, I think there is a more complex answer. While the lankies have superior technology in many regards the fighting like they are stepping on ants. Yes they use gas to wipe out the citys but they never use guns or vehicles planetside. I have wondered from the beginning if the weren’t the tools of a true technic species. Perhaps the a a bio construct like their ships. Of a more physically fragile race. Engineered monsters to physically and psychologically defeat their masters enemies. There does seem to be a lack of strategy on their part until the events of fields of fire at least planetside. We can only hope to learn more in the next book. Honestly I wonder if even Marko knows for sure yet as the story is still developing.

  7. ACHTUNG: This response may contain spoilers.

    Troy, you’ve touched on something that I’ve also wondered about. Once they get out of their ships, gas the cites and set up their terraformers (“Lanky-formers”?), the Lankies seem to use no technology. They dug their underground warrens and built their seed ships and yet there’ve been no sightings of identifiable tech anywhere. Possibly all that we’ve seen in the books have been the soldier/worker-drone Lankies. Their society could be a biologically-driven class-based society.

    The Lankies are sensitive to RF energy; I wonder if they communicate amongst themselves via RF. That would explain how they were able to coordinate their tactical maneuvers during the Second Battle of Mars.

  8. Stephanie, I think that’s very possible but I wonder why the human haven’t noticed the signals? Maybe it is outside of the em bands used by humans. Or different altogether and blends into to background radiation. May I recommend the earth rise series by Daniel Arenson I just started it this weekend and am already halfway through book 3 of 6. One of the benefits of Kindle Unlimited I read 3-5 books a week when I can find ones worth reading.

    1. Troy, I’m going to guess nobody noticed for a few reasons. One, they weren’t looking for them. They haven’t seen any evidence of Lanky comm tech. Their ships are very stealthy; it would be reasonable to assume that they run on strict EMCON.

      Second, the Lankies truly are alien. We’re pretty certain that cetaceans communicate, but we haven’t come close to deciphering what they are saying to each other, and we at least know how they do it. The NAC/SRA/EA apparently doesn’t even know that about the Lankies.

      Third, until the raid on Arcadia took place, nobody left in the NAC seemed to have known that the Lankies were homing in on RF. Knowing that they can detect RF would seem to indicate that they can use RF.

      Fourth, the humans are consistently underestimating the Lankies. (The reverse may be true, as well, for until the development of the Orions and the Agincourt-class BBs, about all the humans could do is annoy the Lankies a little.)

      Where does the series go from here? I only wish Marko could write faster. 🙂

      1. Hey Steph, you seem like you’ve put a lot of thought into Marko’s universe. I’m in the middle of reading FOF but I would love to hear your thoughts on what I would consider, not a plot hole, but something not being addressed in the narrative.

        The Lankies are essentially a military machine. So one would assume their tactics and “tech” would’ve had to evolve over time; tactics that would HAVE to have been used against other species not just humans.

        Planetary mine fields – other space faring enemies
        Nerve gas pods – population killers
        RF detection – technologically advanced enemies?

        So my question is the enemy of my enemy is my friend, so where are our good guy and when Ally’s??? they can’t all have been wiped out by the Lankey’s…

          1. The Fermi paradox suggests they are either dead or reduced to a state where they have become isolationist. Or possibly don’t believe in altruism. it is a valid question.

  9. Great series. I sure hope it continues. Need to figure how to get the Lankies off of Mars.

  10. Need to figure how to get the Lankies off of Mars.

    Starve them out, if humans can figure out what Lankies eat. We (the readers) don’t even know that. But on the other hand, why would we? These aren’t xenobio-fiction books.

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