William C. Dietz is among the few writers who wrote in the Military SF genre during a time when many weren't willing to tackle its particular challenges. As a former combat arms member of the US Army, I have scoured through most of the popular fiction looking for decent Military SF stories to read. Dietz's work has always provided hours of entertainment. Recently I was fortunate to spend an afternoon exchanging emails with Mr. Dietz and he was gracious enough to spare time from his busy schedule to give the following interview...
Q: Why is science fiction important?
WCD: Because science fiction is untethered from our understanding of the past and present, it's the literature of possibilities. How will bio-science change society? What if aliens exist? Do we live parallel lives in other dimensions? No other genre tackle such questions.
That's the serious side of it. But science fiction is, and in my opinion should be, entertainment. And we need that in our lives. A friend once told me that my books are perfect for a flight from Seattle to New York. He made no mention of my plots, of the characterizations in my novels, or the ideas that I put forth. So I could have been offended. But I wasn't. I see entertainment as a noble calling, and the primary purpose of each book I write.
Q: Why do you write in the particular genres you do? Specifically Military SF?
WCD: I was born at the end of WWII, and like little boys of that time, was raised on a diet of black and white war movies featuring the likes of John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Robert Mitchum and so forth. The characters they played were sometimes troubled, but essentially good, and extremely brave. Even then I noticed that by their very nature war stories are about danger, difficult choices, and sacrifice. And real war stories are no different. That makes war worth writing about. Add the freedom to speculate about the future, and voila! My decision was made.
Q: Many of your novels have advanced applications of technology. (Science Fiction right.) But has your writing been informed by the technology available or do you think you have had an impact by writing about it?
WCD: We live in an age where everything, reality and fiction alike, is sloshing about in a sea of data. So it's hard to say what sort of contribution (if any) I've made. Especially since many of the things I've written about (military cyborgs for example) are extrapolations from, and elaborations on ideas put forward by others. All of us are indebted to those who came before us. But I'd like to think that my fiction sparked something for somebody. Or, made their flight to New York more enjoyable.
Q: Which leads me to the next question, are you a gadget geek? Do you have twenty seven different USB cords, data sticks, half a dozen worn out laptops cluttering the closets of the house. Or are you the person who's secret family nickname is "Killer of Cellphones?"
WCD: I'm not a hobbyist, no... But I love my tower style PC, my iphone, my gigantic (Internet connected) TV, my Kindle, and my aging ipad. So I'm a serious user, and wouldn't want to give any of them up. And, because I'm a neat freak, all of my cords are under control:)
Q: What prompted you to write your current work?
WCD: Like most professional authors I'm constantly looking for story ideas. And, when I read an article about U.S. petroleum reserves I noticed something interesting. All of our country's emergency oil supplies are located in the south along the gulf coast. As far as I know this decision was made for purely pragmatic reasons. A lot of oil comes in and goes out through southern seaports, there are underground caverns suitable for storing ore located in that area, and so forth.
But since our country is split into the so-called red and blue states, with all of the oil petroleum reserves being located in red states, I wondered what would happen to them if some sort of cataclysm was to occur? I'm talking about a disruption so serious that the federal government was impaired, there was widespread chaos, and a breakdown in law and order. Some southern states, Texas comes to mind, threaten to secede on a regular basis. Would they? And if they did, who would lead such a movement? And how would the oil in those reserves be used?
That was my initial line of thought. And, after noodling on it, the America Rising trilogy was born. The first book is called Into The Guns. It's available now. Seek And Destroy will be along in June, with Battle Hymn to follow that. From a publishing perspective these would be classified as near future, post apocalyptic, alternate history stories.
Here's how Penguin's cover copy reads:
On May Day, 2018, sixty meteors enter Earth’s atmosphere and each explodes with a force greater than a nuclear blast. Earthquakes and tsunamis follow. Then China attacks Europe, Asia, and the United States in the mistaken belief that the disaster is an act of war.
The United States government is decimated when a meteor strikes Washington D.C. That leaves surviving elements of the armed forces to try and restore order, but they’re badly outnumbered, and some military personnel go rogue.
Now, as civilians battle the military for scarce resources, a group of wealthy individuals attempts to create a self-serving government based on Libertarian principles. They call it The New Confederacy--and that’s when the second Civil War begins.
Q: Adventure stories, be they military sf, or straight up science fiction evolve and they change. I often see the choice of protagonists by authors as an outlier of things to come. Why is your current protagonist, female?
WCD: There are a number of reasons why my last nine books have female protagonists. First, from a purely pragmatic point of view, there are more female readers than male readers! And it makes sense to write for the largest audience possible.
Second, I'm happy to say that most male readers (the ones I have contact with anyway) are no longer resistant to female protagonists as long as they are well written and do interesting things.
Third, I am married to a wonderful woman and have two extremely capable daughters. And they inspire me.
Q: Globally the world is currently undergoing an identity crisis. Our own country is fighting for some sort of new identity or a reestablishment of values which promote a form nationalism. Does your new work explore these topical aspects?
WCD: The America Rising books are primarily intended to be action/adventure style entertainment. But yes, as you can see from the cover copy, I do have a political perspective. And there are conservatives who regularly troll "Into The Guns" in an attempt to suppress it. That surprises me. Apparently they feel their political philosophy is so weak, so fragile, that an action adventure novel might destroy it. And, it appears that the liberty they speak of so frequently, is only meant for them.
On a fundamental level the series suggests that unrestrained self-interest (the fundamental precept of right wing politics) is a threat to democracy which, in my judgement it is. Now that conservative oligarchs are in control of the United States, we'll see how things go. Maybe the Trump administration will surprise me. I hope so.
Q: As an entertainer, how much do you see it is your responsibility if any, to interject your own viewpoints and not necessarily those of a fictional character in a story? Or if you would prefer: How do you separate yourself the writer, from the characters, their motivations and drives?
WCD: I guess the simple answer is that my protagonists generally share my values regarding what's right and wrong. My villains don't.
Q: Is it a big issue for you to have a fan realize what you believe privately as opposed to what a character like Joseph Rodney Spaceman might offer up in a story could be diametrically different?
WCD: My books are entertainment for the most part. Most of them don't have any sort of political bent. And, when there is a secondary political theme as in the America Rising books, I imagine that those who disagree with my perspective look elsewhere for their entertainment. Fortunately, that still leaves more than 150-million people who might buy my books.
Q: On a different slant- How does the process of writing one of your novels work. (Stand alone work, not franchise.) Meaning how long does it normally take you from outline to rough to novel to something your agent can sell. The reason for this question: As soon as I finished reading your last novel I immediately wanted the next iteration of the story. And I know it is rare to have a short turn around time, even for a popular novel.
WCD: As you know there are, generally speaking, two types of writers: Those who write from outlines, and those who are sometimes referred to as "organic" writers. Meaning they make things up as they go along. I am an outline writer. So the process goes like this: Idea, primary research (with just in time research throughout), outline, first draft (with ongoing changes to the outline), edit, second draft, and another edit. Then the manuscript goes to my wife for yet another review.
I would like to thank William C. Dietz for the generous giving of his time.-Thank you sir!
DS Baker editor.
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