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Fork your own Broncs

(This morning, we welcome a new member to the Mad Genius Club. Not only is Jonathan LaForce one of the best “new” writers I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, he is a devoted husband and loving father to two of the most adorable kids ever. Jonathan is a veteran of Afghanistan and a Corporal of Marines, formerly with Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment. He also wrote one of my favorite pieces, something I shared on my blog last Memorial Day and will again this year. Perhaps if we ask him nicely enough, he will share something from his current WIP. For now, let’s give him a warm welcome — ASG)

This spring semester has been a hellish period of time. Between caring for a pregnant wife, two children, keeping up grades in my upper division classes, and working as a tutor for the Veteran’s Center on my university campus, I’ve been busy. Free time to read has been severely lacking.

A friend however, mentioned that David Drake had a new novel out, at which point the gift card to Barnes & Noble I had burning a hole in my wallet grabbed ahold of my ass, pushed me out the door and said “drive faster Clyde!” I read it all in one evening too. Because it’s just that well-written. Indeed, one could use it as a primer for how to write in the first-person perspective. Because it’s just that well-written.

I’ve read Drake for years, and he’s the last of my favorite authors whom I still haven’t met. LibertyCon 2016, I met John Ringo and shared barbecued spareribs with him. The man likes his barbecue. That was fun, educational and enlightening. Same with Tom Kratman (he is an absolute gentleman). The autographed copy of Watch on the Rhine I own is a genuinely prized possession of mine . I first met Larry Correia Halloween of 2013 at a book signing in Utah, and now I consider him one of my very dearest friends.

When I first picked up a copy of Monster Hunter International, I was looking for something fun to read. I found it in spades. The only book in that series which I haven’t purchased is Siege and that’s because I got it at a Baen Roadshow during Fyrecon. I started reading Ringo’s Posleen series in the days before and immediately after 9/11. It became my escape from the anger I felt at some religious whackjobs attacking my country just because they didn’t like how we lived our lives. Drake’s “Hammer’s Slammers” came around for much the same reason. Kratman’s “A Desert Called Peace” was a joy to obtain because I’m a groundpounder- I prefer Ringo and Weber’s March to the Sea over Weber’s Honor Harrington.

Throughout them all, I have found stories, some harsh, some poignant, some beautiful, some who are all three, and some who are extremely educational in a hard, violent manner. Go read “But Loyal To His Own” and think very hard on what tribalism means in that context.

A story should stand on its own merits. No matter the skin color of the author or their station in life, the story should matter. There shouldn’t be cultural or social pressure to buy a book just because the author checks off so many boxes on the diversity quota checklist. Frankly such quotas are every bit as bigoted as a Klansman’s burning cross. I want nothing to do with them.

“Jon, why don’t you like quotas?” I’m a minority. Feel free to go see how few Polynesians there are in the overall percentage of Americans. I’ll wait.

0.2% of the US population is Polynesian. There’s a greater percentage of blacks where I live in Utah than there are Polynesian in the US overall.

But I don’t write books with the belief that people will read what I put out for my skin color. Far from it. In the words of Louis L’Amour “a man forks his own broncs.” I read that at the age of 11, and it’s stuck in my mind ever since. Especially for those of us who live in these United States, is the ability and means to make our own way in life. There is neither king nor feudal warlord to dictate what we can do with our lives.

Certainly we shall hear others opinions. Such is life. Since Og first told Mog that bows and wheels were a stupid idea, we have heard opinions. Bureaucrats will hedge up every day living in an effort to more fully entrench themselves. One may look to the VA for how well that works. But we still have the freedom to be. Which brings me full circle back to the original question: why doesn’t Jon like quotas?

A quota, especially one regarding skin color or ethnicity, is a backhanded slap in the face from well-intentioned progressives. “Come here Mr. Brown Man, you’re too downtrodden to get ahead so we’re going to force people to buy your books.” Translation: you’re too piss-poor of a writer to succeed on your own. You suck so badly people won’t buy your books unless we hold a (hopefully metaphorical) gun to their heads.

Do we see how this might be a problem? Do we understand how insulting such statements are? I don’t need a John Brown Do-gooder dictating my life. Or anybody else’s for that matter. You see, I’ve read enough history to understand that if a single group of people can be targeted prejudicially, I can be targeted prejudicially as well. Oh sure it might be whites today, tomorrow who will it be? Blacks? Hispanics? FDR already went after the Japanese. You’ll never see me support a ban on Muslims in America for the same reason: as a Christian I have no interest in becoming the target of government pogroms. The states of Illinois and Missouri already proved they would go to that length. Bearing such in mind, it helps if I don’t set precedent ya know?

John Scalzi has loudly, repeatedly proclaimed that his life is spent on the easiest difficulty setting. I’d like to think he’s kidding, but no, Shoeless John isn’t. It’s a shame facts don’t back him up. His newest series through Tor is a train wreck. Given how badly it continues to fail in sales, and how poorly written the book is overall, I have to wonder: when the system is (supposedly) geared for you to win, how do you still manage to lose?

I frequent my local Barnes & Noble rather regularly (Note to B&N corporate, do not get rid of the comfy chairs, they spare me an incredible amount of back pain) and the first time I saw Collapsing Empire on the shelves, it was on the bargain table. Not the “former best-sellers we love” but “here’s something ridiculously cheap and trite, please buy it so we can make room in our inventory for better books.” That was within 3 months of its release.

I did give the book a try. It failed to get my attention, except to highlight how utterly awful that piece of literature was. Likewise, I don’t expect much from an anthology where they don’t select stories on the basis of how good they are, but the skin color of the authors and their sexual preferences. I don’t care if you tell me the whole anthology was written by my brother Marines. I don’t care if it’s written by guys I shared guard duty on post with. If the stories are hot garbage, they’re hot garbage. And no amount of pandering will convince me to buy it. If they ask, I’ll show them how to fix it (that’s what I actually do for a living right now).

Let us cease to pander to a given identity group. Let us cease to exclude on the basis of skin color, creed, or political affiliation. May we all choose to read and purchase literature because it is the very best at telling a damn good story that we personally want to read. So you’re a transgender Pandakin who wants to go read about some dinosaur making love to a gay man? Go on with your bad self, have fun. Same goes for the gun-toting conservative Marine officer that reads Kratman novels religiously- get busy reading and have a great day. Let us cease to make life so damn difficult.

31 Comments
  1. c4c

    May 4, 2018
    • Draven #

      c4c2

      May 6, 2018
  2. BobtheRegisterredFool #

    I’m looking forward to having time to read Though Hell Should Bar the Way.

    What are you studying?

    May 4, 2018
  3. Exactly!

    May 4, 2018
  4. Brett Baker #

    Aren’t Marines required to be illiterate until they reach the rank of Colonel?;)

    May 4, 2018
    • Mike Houst #

      Maybe when you were of enlistment age; not any more. One of the young men I had the pleasure of teaching in Scouts graduated with honors from a private academy here in NH. Only reason he’s not a colonel is he didn’t go straight to college, and instead enlisted in the Marines, did a tour in Afghanistan. He’s now out and running his own successful business.

      May 4, 2018
    • Paul Kelly #

      I wish I remembered where I’d read this (for some reason I think Jerry Pournelle)… reading Mil SF is like masturbation… al Marine officers do it, they just don’t talk about it.

      May 6, 2018
      • I beg to differ. RAH was openly read and discussed even before Starship Troopers was put on the Commandant’s reading list, for example.

        May 7, 2018
  5. Moo!

    May 4, 2018
  6. Welcome! Nice to see another Jarhead here. Nothing screws with stereotypes like discovering not all Marines are illiterate cavemen that voluntarily enlisted because we had no other viable option. Who was it that said that? Kerry? Gore? I forget.

    May 4, 2018
    • It was Kerry *facepaw*. Amazing how that man managed to stay so ignorant for so long, and of his own free will, yet.

      I did have a Marine confide to me that pretending to be illiterate is a protective device to prevent Death By Powerpoint. Sounds good to me.

      May 4, 2018
      • I don’t think he was in the Navy long enough to become intelligent via osmosis. Just long enough to pencil-whip himself up some awards.

        May 4, 2018
      • Dorothy Grant #

        Oooooh, avoiding death by powerpoint! GOOD MARINE! Way to play the enemy (bureaucrat’s) assumptions to your advantage!

        May 4, 2018
      • Alas, that does not spare our soldiers here DownUnder from Death By Powerpoint at least once or twice a year, so I don’t know if things are changing….

        May 4, 2018
        • One of the advantages of having served before Powerpoint was a thing. And before we elected a CinC that was not even eligible to have enlisted in the Marine Corps, but I digress.

          May 4, 2018
  7. Luke #

    Semper Gumby!
    Who were you with? (3/7 Wpns, 81’s here)

    They can keep thinking that. Let them underestimate. Always cheat, always win. A fair fight means your tactics suck.

    I might have once derived the milliradian system from base principles with a stick and a bare spot of ground to settle an argument. (Suck it, FDC.)

    May 4, 2018
    • Luke #

      That was directed at markaomalley. Clicked to reply, but wordpress decided nah.

      May 4, 2018
    • I was a grunt, (0311) but also served time with Recon and an ANGLICO unit. (Naval gunfire team leader) Fired an 81mm exactly ONCE. The round served as a marker to try to simulate anti-battery fire aimed at a CGN (Carolina class, IIRC?) we could barely see. The ship was 7-8 miles offshore, but in range of its twin 5-54s. We were spotting for it at the range at Vieques, PR. The control officer (a salty old CPO) for the range normally fired it, but he agreed to let Marines take over the job while we were there training. Was a thrill for us, as we normally worked much closer to the other end of the round’s trajectory.

      May 4, 2018
      • Luke #

        0341, obviously.
        Recon? Had a couple friends who went that route.
        I… Was not that motivated.
        STA kept trying to recruit me, but spending lunch break putting on gas masks and going on a run, mid-summer, at 29 Palms, just for fun?
        I’ll sit in the shade of the camo netting and play Spades, thanks.

        Glad you got to enjoy it!
        Most of my stories involve mischief or stupidity, but there were some that were downright cool. One Steel Knight, the BC forgot we existed for three days. (OK, stupidity still shows up.) So there we were, with an amtrack full of ammo, under an hour to blow through it, and a target we could actually see for once, that was only a kick away. To make it even better, the target was in front of a cliff that reflected the sound quite well.

        May 4, 2018
        • Dang, rough duty, that! *tongue firmly planted in cheek*

          May 5, 2018
  8. Progressives claim to mean well, perhaps. But they’re notorious for lying.

    -Albert

    May 4, 2018
  9. Dorothy Grant #

    To be fair, if you tell me an anthology came from a group of marine authors, I would have higher hopes – and higher expectations – on them getting the military right than if the authors were all-civvie or a mix. But that has nothing to do with the author’s skin colour or equipment package, and everything to do with their experience.

    On the gripping hand, I totally agree with you that it always comes down to the stories, and whether or not they entertain me!

    May 4, 2018
    • I totally agree. I feel handicapped because my experience is decades old. I should prolly consult with someone of fresher vintage before I write anything on the tactical level. I cannot imagine a “slimy civilian” would get much, if anything, down in a credible fashion.

      Our combat equipment SUCKED. We can thank Jimmuh for that, and the post-Viet Nam malaise that infected our military. Recruiters were desperate, and several recruits in my platoon were tossed out in boot.

      One guy was a convicted murder, and we found out only because he started crap with a DI. I was a witness at his court martial. Another guy decided Marine life was not to his liking, and started to act up in a manner the would have made Fred Sampson proud. Clutching his chest, falling down, claiming his heart was acting up.

      I was SO glad when Reagan got in. Things started getting better almost immediately.

      May 4, 2018
      • Dorothy Grant #

        You may or may not be handicapped – depending on when and where you’re talking about setting the story. For example, you’re far better versed in the military of your time than a guy who’s just done his first hitch would be. My darling husband is a veteran of African bush wars – his sole relation to Vietnam consists of American soldiers who came over to help fight communists in the proxy wars in Africa.

        He’s written that bush and guerilla warfare into several mil SF novels, as well as a short story in Michael Z Williamson’s Freehold anthology (because Mad Mike said “who do I know that knows wild places, military vets, and vicious animals? Peter!”)

        On the other hand, if he wanted to write something set in today’s American military, you’d bet he’d be finding alpha readers who were currently serving or just freshly out!

        May 4, 2018
  10. I went and read the poem referenced at the beginning of this post and now I can’t stop crying.

    My brother died in the Tet offensive, in February, fifty years ago. He was a green beret, paratrooper, medic, ten years older than me. I have always been proud of him but I learned to keep my mouth shut about him at the time. Last week his high school had arranged to hang a plaque in his honor. (He seems to be the only graduate of that all-boys school that ever died in combat. I’m not sure how to process that little factoid…) I mentioned this event to my seventh graders because I was more upset than I wanted to be and they could tell that my mind was elsewhere. Today the mother of one of my students came to see me. She is from Vietnam and came to say, Thank you. Her father had been in the South Vietnamese army so he was sent to a concentration camp (her words) for five years. Her brother died of some jungle fever and then one way or another what was left of her family fled.

    I have no words.

    May 4, 2018
    • Dorothy Grant #

      *hugs*

      May 5, 2018
  11. Welcome! And for a first article, all I can say is YES, YES AND HELL YES! Thank you!

    Also:

    at which point the gift card to Barnes & Noble I had burning a hole in my wallet grabbed ahold of my ass, pushed me out the door and said “drive faster Clyde!” I read it all in one evening too.

    This was me a couple of days ago; I got my son a book he had told me he would take instead of his allowance, which kicked my accessing my store credit into gear. I walked out of the store with The Martian and the first three volumes of Card Captor Sakura: Clear Card and had paid only 40 AUD for ’em. Yay loyalty credit! It always does my heart good to read about how people excitedly buy books they enjoy and love.

    May 4, 2018
    • This weekend, The Martian is part of a 50% off promotion. So if someone you love avoids ebooks, this might be the day!

      May 5, 2018
      • I got the physical book from a bookstore in the mall; and Rhys has the ebook. Hmm. Might recommend it to my father in law though… Thanks!

        May 5, 2018
      • Don’t know if it was half priced or not, but I ordered the hardcover for $17 CAD. Thanks, it’s been on my TBR list or order list for quite awhile.

        May 5, 2018
  12. Tim McDonald #

    I like this jarhead! Even if he did leave off the last part of the quote. Because a man forks his own broncs…..and shoots his own dog, when necessary. That one is the hard part.

    Totally agree about David Drake as well, if there was any justice in this world his fantasy epic would push WoT and GoT off the best seller lists and have a series made from them. Because they are rich and full of literature and are what heroic fantasy is supposed to be.

    Good luck with the writing, I will be looking for your books!

    May 7, 2018

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