Since 1987, Jody Lynn Nye has published 45 novels and more than 100 short stories. She has collaborated with some of the best in the business, including Anne McCaffrey and Piers Anthony. With those marvelous mentors, Jody became one of the best in the business as well. She often writes humorous fantasy or science fiction, the kind that most of the insiders in sf/f ignore. She writes in several series. She gives us the genesis of one of those series here.
Jody Lynn Nye
“So, what don’t you have in your book line that you’d like to have?” I asked Meisha Merlin publisher Stephen Pagel, trying to figure out what I could sell him for his new house.
“A military SF series,” he said.
“How would you feel if it was humorous?” I asked.
“That would be great,” he said.
And so began the Wolfe Pack.
If military humor sounds like an oxymoron to you, you probably don’t know too many service members. To cope with a lifestyle in which you can be sent into a dangerous and potentially fatal situation at any time at the behest of someone who will not face the same perils as you and may not even care, military folk have developed a sense of humor that will seem dark, maybe even sick, to civilians. They have to find a way to lighten their mood, or they risk falling into non-functional depression. They play tricks on each other. They have absurd jokes. They bend rules. They make fun of their commanding officers behind their backs. They find things funny that would horrify you or me. (Ask me some time about the Unluckiest Man in Iraq.) They find a way to deal. Some of their stories make great retelling and/or adaptation to fiction.
If military humor sounds like an oxymoron to you, you probably don’t know too many service members.
I had already written some military-oriented SF short stories for The Fleet shared world anthologies and some other projects. I was shopping two proposals, one that would eventually be published by Baen Books as the Lord Thomas Kinago series (aka ‘Jeeves and Wooster in space’), but Stephe wanted the Wolfe Pack. I had been inspired partly by Bob Asprin’s Phule’s Company books, in which a charismatic leader took a band of misfits and made them into an elite but irregular force, and partly by stories from friends who had served in the military.
In the Wolfe Pack series, the main character, Lt. Daivid Wolfe, is the son of an interplanetary mob boss who wants an honorable career, away from his father’s Family. As a political hot potato whom no one wants to send into danger, he’s assigned to the punishment detail, X-ray Platoon, otherwise known as the Cockroaches. The mission in Strong Arm Tactics sees Daivid and the Cockroaches shipping out to a planet-sized amusement park, which is not as much fun as it sounds out of season. Unable to access a personal fortune in times of need like Willard Phule, Daivid Wolfe uses his intelligence and determination to pull a good outcome from a bad situation. Where those aren’t enough to get what his company needs, he reluctantly makes use of one final resource: a microdatabase containing all the favors that are owed to his Family, some dating back centuries.
The Cockroaches are as much survivors as their namesake bug. They know how little the brass cares for them. The only reason they’re still in uniform is that no one can find a good reason to discharge them. They’ve created their own little culture. Daivid is a decent, sincere guy, but no pushover. He has to find a way to get through to the Cockroaches that maintains his authority while showing respect for them. He makes good use of their unorthodox talents.
I had enormous fun creating the characters and developing the interactions in the company. What would a future military force look like? I worked from three premises: first, all genders would be able to serve. There have been studies suggesting that women would make better astronauts than men because they have better small motor control. When technology and genetics compensate for vast upper body strength, the old argument for keeping women out of the front line would be pointless. Second, technology and superior materials will protect service members far better than body armor does today, sustaining life, even giving first aid and physical therapy along the way. Third, other intelligent species would be allowed to join the military if they want to serve. Each of these gave me plenty of scope for humor.
One of my favorite characters is Emmy “Ammo” Lin (all the characters have noms de guerre), one of the senior noncoms. She calls herself a Seventh Day Varietist, because she changes her religion every week. Her powers of observation and quick wits keep Daivid on his toes. I also enjoyed Jones, an avuncular Welshman, hailing from a planet where everyone’s surname is Jones, regardless of planetary, national or racial origin, who is the brewmaster for the platoon and is the reigning champion of ad hoc limericks, an X-ray Platoon custom.
No one is a figure of fun; each of them has a serious or poignant story behind him, her or it (of the nonhumans, there are shrimplike beings called corlists). Adri’Leta is the 16th clone of a long-dead human, brought back from sometimes catastrophic injuries because the family of the donor whose DNA created her can’t bear to let the last remnants of their loved one go. All of them have ways of dealing with the pressures of the task at hand and also with the knowledge that the brass doesn’t believe they’re capable of any job more complicated than licking envelopes.
Their mission has plenty of absurd elements, but it’s serious to the company. They face down the situations in a way that is all their own. I hope that readers of Strong Arm Tactics will enjoy where they go and how they get there.
To find out more about Jody, go to her website. If you want to try her work, she has a novel in the Storybundle that runs until the end of August. If you’re reading this after August, you can buy the novel and all her other works from your favorite retailer.