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MilSciFi.com interviews Raymund Eich, author of Take The Shilling

Raymund Eich
TAKE THE SHILLING


10-15-2014: MilSciFi.com interviews
Raymund Eich, author of the military science fiction novel, Take the Shilling.

MilSciFi: Welcome. Please tell us a little something about your novel.

Eich: Take the Shilling is about a young man's coming of age during wartime. Tomas Neumann enlists in the Confederated Worlds Ground Force to escape his widowed mother's strict religious household. Implanted skills ready him for combat against the Unity forces on New Liberty, but leave him unprepared for scornful comrades, inept leaders, and interservice rivalries. Guerrilla resistance sparks a spiral of atrocities, wounding him in body and in spirit. To survive the war and pursue his destiny, Tomas must learn the toughest lesson of all.

MilSciFi: Is this part of a large series or universe?

Eich: It's the first novel set in this universe. It won't be the last.

MilSciFi: What inspired you to write this story?

Eich: I've been a long-time reader of both sf and history, especially military history, so the urge to write a military sf novel has been with me for a long time.

Against that backdrop, the birth of my son got me thinking deeply about the journey to manhood. To became a man, each of us needs to learn from a mentor, preferably a father; needs to find a place among our peers; and when the time comes, needs to lead. A healthy society needs men who apply masculine energy toward both their own fulfillment and the good of others, and contemporary American society does a poor job teaching boys how to do that.

Those thoughts led me to a lot of characters and situations in the book. Tomas, certainly, who starts as a fatherless outsider on a planet not of his birth. Marchbanks, who mentors him. His rivals in his hometown and in his armored grenadier unit. The women he encounters, from his mother through the Daughters of Astarte and beyond.

Lastly, I placed those characters and situations in a universe colored by some big ideas.

There are no intelligent aliens, because both the likelihood of intelligence arising and the likelihood of intelligent life building a high-tech civilization are very low. (If you like the Drake Equation, fi and fc are both very close to zero).

Second, because space colonies will never pay for themselves, the only motivation for space settlement is religious. That doesn't mean space colonies will all have a religion found on Earth today. It doesn't even mean space colonies will each have a core belief in a highest power, a god or gods. An ethnicity, culture, or ideology would do.

It also doesn't mean the colonists will remain as devout as their founding fathers.

Lastly, there's a Scott Adams quote that "holodeck will be society's last invention." By the time of Take the Shilling, two human worlds, Earth and Heinlein's World, an early colony, have already entered "virtual fugue." That's all background, but its impact on interstellar society, and Tomas' life, runs throughout the novel.

MilSciFi: Does science and technology play an important role in this story (or in your work in general), or is it secondary to the story telling and characterization?

Eich: I tend to agree with Gregory Benford's view, that soft sf is, like free verse, playing tennis with the net down. I don't hold that view out of any macho, "I can do math and think about complex subjects" posturing, but simply because stories need constraints. If the character faces no limits, there is no story, and what better set of limits than the laws of nature?

I don't read stories for explanations of how fictional gadgets work, and I don't write any, either. The core of fiction, even the hardest sf, is capable characters pursuing important goals. The science and technology behind those characters, their goals, and their pursuits has to matter, with enough details so the reader can figure out why it matters, but beyond that, it belongs in the background.

The ultimate example of what I'm talking about, keeping the net up but in the background, is the story of Robert Heinlein spending two days with a slide rule to figure out the details of a space journey that took a sentence in the book he was writing.

MilSciFi: Do you have plans to expand upon, or write other works based on this novel?

Eich: I do plan more works in this setting. A war between three great powers can't end with everyone getting what they want. Once big conflicts arise, it takes more than a few signatures on paper to resolve them. Plus, there are more forces in this universe than just the Confederated Worlds, the Unity, and the Progressive Republic.

MilSciFi: What advice would you give the aspiring military science fiction writer?

Eich: Read a lot, especially nonfiction, about war and about combat. If you just copy Starship Troopers, and Heinlein's treatment of Mobile Infantry as essentially paratroopers, you can create an unbelievable world with massive interstellar transports delivering foot soldiers to the battlefield. (Seriously, if you can harness the vast energies required to get soldiers to another star system before they die of old age, you'll have enough joules left to ship tanks and AFVs with them, or nanotechnologically fab their fighting vehicles at the destination).

Not only will reading about war and combat prevent the blurry-photocopy effect, it will open the writer's mind to nuances of human behavior in wartime that can make a story more real. Plus, you might encounter some incidents you could readily adapt to your story.

Finally, search the internet for "Murphy's Laws of Combat." There are several different lists floating around, it doesn't matter which one you find. If you don't apply at least one item from the list to each combat scene you write, you're writing it wrong.

MilSciFi: Who is your single-most influence in science fiction and what impact have they had on our own work?

Eich: That's a heck of a question. Over the years, my favorite sf writer has been Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Niven, Roger Zelazny, Robert Silverberg, or Greg Bear.

As far as influences go, my writing style is closest to Clarke or Niven's. I admire Bear's reach across the various subgenres of sf. However, I've read so much sf, across so many subgenres, that I have trouble pointing to any individual writer's particular impact on my work.

MilSciFi: What is the one thing you find the most difficult about writing military science fiction?

Eich: Hitting the sweet spot between being gritty enough and being overwhelmingly bleak.

War isn't about men dying painlessly with nice neat bullet holes, and the survivors thinking nothing of fighting, killing, and watching comrades die. Real combat is more damaging, physically and mentally, than Rambo war-porn depicts it.

On the other hand, no one wants to read a story in which everyone suffers and dies without reason and purpose. Nevermind how many times that's happened in real warfare! We read war stories to read about how people face those dangers and become better (or worse) in the process.

MilSciFi: Is military science fiction the only thing you write, or is there something else out there we should be looking for?

Eich: I have three other published novels, all now out in ebook editions from CV-2 Books. The Blank Slate is a near-future thriller about one man's struggle against a conspiracy to control the United States. The Sirens of Bangalore explores the "holodeck as society's last invention" theme through the actions of an American expat technology entrepreneur in India. New California features the founding of a new, secular religion on a Chinese-dominated colony world settled by wealthy American refugees. I also have ten short stories, ranging from hard sf, to a 21st century folktale, to a WWII vampire story, available in ebook editions.

MilSciFi: Do you have any other projects in the works?

Eich: I'm working on a swashbuckling fantasy novel right now. Along the way, I'm jotting notes for a followup to Take the Shilling, to take place immediately after the war, in the hot peace between the end of hostilities and the signing of a peace treaty.

MilSciFi: Do you have a website?

Eich: My website is raymundeich.com. My publisher's website is cv2books.com. You can also find me on Twitter (twitter.com/raymund_e) and Facebook (facebook.com/raymund.eich)

MilSciFi: Thank you, for your time.
 


Raymund Eich's website is:
 
raymundeich.com

Publishing's website is:
cv2books.com


 

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Solicited by Author / MilSciFi.com with no compensation.

 

Copyright 2014 Mike McPhail, All Rights Reserved

 

The views contained in this interview are those of the author, and
do not necessarily represent the views of MilSciFi.com.