What’s military sci fi without a bit of conflict, eh?
Conflict is drama, and how people deal with conflict
shows you the kind of people they are.
Even if the Taking Shield series wasn’t all about an interstellar war, it would need conflict. If the characters having nothing to fight against, nothing that gets between them and what they want, then a story has no excitement and tension. If there’s no conflict, if the characters have nothing to overcome, then what’s going to make people keep on reading rather than toss the books aside with a complaint about how boring it all is?
Thankfully, I’ve got quite a bit of conflict on offer. Taking Shield is all about it, and on the grandest of scales. Humanity is fighting a war to the death with an alien race it has never even seen. So we have explosions, ships blowing up, handsome young men running around with lasers against fearsome cyborg warriors, colonies being overrun, raids behind enemy lines… for Bennet and Flynn, my heroes, that sort of thing is just the day job.
Now, I know it’s perverse, but as a reader, I soon tire of nothing explosions and lasers, and I want something more engaging than yet another big choreographed space battle.
The trick is to make that huge interstellar conflict more human.
Probably the only people who see the totality of the war with the Maess are sitting back on Albion, moving the forces hither and yon to counter attacks or to spearhead them into enemy territory. For most of the people fighting, that’s too vast a canvas to see, except in the tiny corner where they’re standing. That’s the corner Taking Shield is mostly focused on, showing how Bennet or Flynn deal with it all. The big war goes on around them, with battle and destruction and spaceships going up in a flash of flame, but as a writer I’ve been far more interested who Bennet and Flynn really are, why they’ve ended up as they have, who they love, who they quarrel with, how they grow.
Take Bennet, who’s my main hero (and quite possibly the love of my life, but that’s another story!). Bennet is not only fighting his little corner of a big war, but he’s facing up to a whole host of conflicts in his life. He’s a man who’s been shaped by his family’s long tradition of military service, used to putting duty and service first and his own desires and ambitions second. At the beginning of the series, he’s estranged from his father, and they have to work hard to reach and understanding and mutual forgiveness. He’s been in one emotionally draining, contorted relationship with his lover Joss, and now faces another when Flynn walks into his carefully controlled life when they both know the demands of the war will constantly pull them apart. As well as his day job with the Shield Regiment, he moonlights as an intelligence analyst with the Military Strategy Unit—he know far more about the conduct of the war than most people his rank and seniority, and what he knows horrifies him. He hates politics and politicians with a passion, yet is constantly pulled into the political game just because of that intelligence job. All of that, and how Bennet reacts and deals with it, is what Taking Shield is all about.
Taking Shield isn’t a romance, but it is a love story about two people caught up in something huge and threatening, who have to fight their personal battles as well as the big cyborg warriors, whose lives are all drama and conflict, stress and war. It plays out over several years against that backdrop of war and loss, where service and honour are always in conflict with love and desire. And at the end…
Yes, well. At the end, comes the greatest conflict of all.
Despite the military sci-fi tropes, despite the grand drama, I hope that you’ll give it a chance and see what sort of people Bennet and Flynn are. And that you’ll come to care about what happens to them, and hope, as they do, for a bit of peace and quiet to be together…
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