For our very first Blog Tour Hosting Extravaganza, I’d like to welcome talented author and storyteller M. Todd Gallowglas. His newest story, Dead Weight, grabbed my attention because it put artists on the front lines of a war against magical forces that bend men’s minds to breaking. For military folk all across history, war and insanity have gone hand in hand. I asked our guest what his thoughts were on the subject, and how they related to his story. Please enjoy.
First, for those of you following the blog tour, let me apologize for the hiccup/speed bump. The winter death crud descended on the Gallowglas household something fierce. When setting up this blog tour, Setsu offered to host me for a day and asked me to write about something very different than everyone else. She asked about how I went about researching the Military aspects of story. She noticed some parallels between PTSD and fae madness experienced by some of the characters.
When I was in high school, I spent several years in the Marine Corp Junior ROTC program at my school. I think I made it to cadet Gunnery Sargent. Every year I was in the program, I spent my spring break down at Marine Corp Air Station El Toro with the rest of my company. I fired M-16s, M-60s, threw grenades (smoke, not frags) marched around, road in trucks, ate in the mess hall, ran PT, and got a vague sense of what it was like to live as a Marine Corp grunt. During the rest of the year, I learned about military chain of command, history, tactics, went on a bunch of other field trips, and received training as a cadet drill instructor. The foundation of my writing about the military is based on my experiences in JROTC. Aside from my days in JROTC, I have a handful of friends in the military, several who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they have been invaluable, and I’ve also been reading a lot of memoirs of soldiers from Viet Nam to the present. Ultimately, I’m not going for factual accuracy in my depiction of the military, rather, like the rest of DEAD WEIGHT, I’m going for the feeling of a military experiencing a completely surreal conflict like The Faerie War.
As for the “fae” madness that the bards suffer from being similar to PTSD… well… that’s completely coincidental. In DEAD WEIGHT bards get a condition they call the TYS, or thousand year stare. Yeah, I took it from a common phrase that I think came out of Viet Nam, the thousand yard stare. It was a term to describe someone who had been “in the bush” too long and saw threats and danger everywhere. In DEAD WEIGHT bards use artistic creation to learn secret truths of the universe, in doing so, they usually learn secret truths about themselves, and in learning too many truths about the universe and themselves, their minds start to fray at the edges to compensate. Really, I was thinking of a Lovecraftian sort of madness thing going here, not any correlation to PTSD. I was also drawing from old legends like “Thomas the Rhymer,” poems such as “Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti, and even to an extent, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the old tales, dealing with the fair folk usually does not go well for human beings. I imagine channeling faerie energies through the mind in to learn secret truths of the universe is going to have some unpleasant side effects.
So, yeah, it all boils down to telling a modern faerie tale, as opposed to a fairy tale. Only, it’s an epic modern faerie tale, because I got my hands on it, and my brain just works in terms of epic. That’s why DEAD WEIGHT is disjointed and confusing, the magic isn’t really defined well, if at all, and not everything is going to make sense.
“Soldiers are issued armour for their flesh and bones, but they must fashion their own for their souls. Piece by piece.”
― Steven Erikson
“It seemed a waste of time to try to explain that sometimes, on the front lines, there are no great options, jut bad ones and worse ones, so you do what you can with the knowledge that you’re dealing life and death no matter which way the decision swings. Then you live with the results and shut up about the rest.”
M Todd Gallowglas is a professional storyteller (like on a stage with a show in front of real people) and the bestselling author of the Tears of Rage and Halloween Jack series. He wrote his first fantasy story for a creative writing assignment in the third grade. Ever since, he’s loved spinning tales that take the reader off to the far future or away mystical worlds. Todd received a BA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Throughout his time in at SFSU, several teachers tried to steer him away from writing that nasty “genre” stuff. However, they underestimated just how much Todd’s brain is hard-wired for telling tales of the magical and fantastic, and their efforts to turn him to literary fiction came to nothing. He is currently corrupting his children by raising them with a rich education of geek culture. Shiny! Find out more about M Todd Gallowglas, his books, and to read some of his rants, head over to his official website: http://www.mtoddgallowglas.com