A decade of war has finally delivered a few noble attempts at capturing Iraq Freedom in fiction. Last year's "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" was published in paperback earlier this fall. Think of it as a modern update to the themes of military sacrifice and media celebrity you saw in the movie version of "Flags of Our Fathers" (2006).
Iraq veteran Kevin Powers wrote "The Yellow Birds," a fictional tale of two buddies struggling to survive the distance between Basic Training and Al Tafar. The book takes its title from the cadence you probably learned at Boot Camp. Finally, Iraq veteran David Abrams wrote "Fobbit," which is purported to be in the absurdist vein of Catch-22 and M*A*S*H. (A Red Bull Rising review of the latter is forthcoming, but unfortunately not in time for Christmas.)
As noted previously in the Red Bull Rising blog, 2012 was also a great year for anthologies of military fiction, non-fiction, poetry and essay. In addition to mainstays such as The Journal of Military Experience, there was "Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors", "Remembrances of Wars Past: A War Veterans Anthology", and "How to Not Tell a War Story." The latter, much like memoirist Dale Keuter's chapter on peacetime service, explores what it means to be a veteran who did not go to war. Or, at least, went to war but returned without stories to tell.
The Veterans Writing Project published its inaugural issue of "O-Dark-Thirty," a literary journal of military fiction, non-fiction, and more. Individual issues are $10; give a year's subscription (5 issues) for $30. Click here for details.
If you want to expand someone's desert-sand horizons beyond the dusty and prosaic, give them "Red Fields," Iraq veteran Jason Poudrier's collection of poetry. Given his occasional cartoon allusions, I'll leave it at that. 'Nuff said.
Speaking of cartoons, a few military-themed comic series are now available as trade paperbacks, including Top Cow's "Think Tank" Vol. 1; Image Comics' "The Activity" Vol. 1; and the now-defunct series "Men of War" Vol. 1 from DC Comics.
Red Bull Rising readers will remember my penchant for pithy and punchy military epigrams. I'm pleased to report that Howard Tayler has delivered a second set of his "70 Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries" in the form of a 2013 calendar featuring characters from his Schlock Mercenary universe. The calendar comes with a download code, so that you can plaster each month's maxim on your computer. You can also order PDFs alone, so that you can wallpaper your work cubicle, sleeping bay, or Tactical Operations Center. For the 2012 set of maxims Nos. 1-12, click here. For the 2013 set of Nos. 13-24, click here. Remember Maxim No. 13 and the Golden Rule of Firepower: "Do unto others ..."
There's even a Schlock Mercenary board game called "Capital Offensive." Order on or before Dec. 31, 2012, and receive free a $10 set of Tagon's Toughs and Partnership Collective dice! (Click here for details.)
Doctrine Man!! mug, calendar, coin, or matching Reflective Safety Belt and shower shoes?
Or a CD-ROM full of PowerPoint Ranger goodness that's sure to shake up your next briefing marathon?