Guest Post: The Virtues of Quiet Heroism

14 Apr

Barb Caffrey

In some ways, I’m an accidental writer. Especially when it comes to the military science fiction genre, as originally, I had no intentions of writing milSF because that was my late husband Michael’s bailiwick. Not mine, as I wrote fantasy, and mostly humorous fantasy at that.

However, I decided to write milSF after my husband’s sudden death in 2004. My husband had left behind a number of great characters and an excellent universe in the Atlantean Union to play around with, and I just couldn’t abide seeing that universe die out. (Bad enough my husband had passed on, but did his writing have to die, too?)

So I quickly managed to get his novella "A Dark and Stormy Night" published in 2005 at the Written Word Online Magazine, then wrote a frame story around the first chapter of his unfinished novel, MAVERICK, LIEUTENANT, selling that as "Joey Maverick: On Westmount Station" to e-Quill Publishing in Australia in 2011. (Both are now available directly at Amazon as e-books, by the way.)

Now, what was so intriguing about Joey that I couldn’t just let this character die out? Well, it’s simple: Joey is a quiet hero, who reminds me of many of the military guys I’ve known. Most members of the military, be they enlisted or officers, just go and do their jobs quietly. No muss, no fuss.

And Michael’s first story, "A Dark and Story Night," reflected that in abundance. Joey has to take command of a sailing vessel during a low-tech future regatta that may remind many of 20th and 21st Century regattas. There’s a terrible storm coming, and many of the other ships in the regatta have capsized; worse yet, Joey’s original commander, George Shearwell, is too injured to help Joey in any way.

So what does Joey do with his staff of four? He first repairs his ship, then goes and rescues a whole lot of other people, that’s what. And while he does, he meets the love of his life, Belinda Simpson – but he’s actually attracted to her despite himself, as she’s clearly not at her best and mostly spends her time annoying him and everyone else around her.

Michael’s conceit, originally, was that Joey’s rescue mission was going to be Joey’s one and only splashy encounter. (Pardon the pun.) Everything else Joey ever did was going to be something that military members didn’t talk about.

That doesn’t preclude heroism, mind you, but it means that the heroic efforts of Joey and those he works with would be quiet. Things most people take for granted, like disaster relief, scouting new worlds (which is fun, granted, and very enjoyable, but unless you’re another scout, most people probably wouldn’t care – sad but true), and, as in the case with "On Westmount Station," keeping a bomb on a space station from exploding in such a way that no one outside of Joey and his immediate superiors officially finds out about it . . . because that’s what military members do.

The military keeps people safe and secure by doing their jobs. That way, the civilians around them rarely have to worry about their safety.

At any rate, I felt Michael’s premise was realistic, which is why I picked that particular scenario – a bomb made by a most unusual and unexpected eco-terrorist – for Joey’s second adventure. Joey’s original mission when he got to Westmount Royal Naval Station was very simple: he was to get all the people in his draft quietly and competently to their ships. It was a temporary command, but he took it seriously, and he got it done with an ease that impressed his superiors.

Now, why didn’t I leave that alone? Because there’s nothing to help a reader along there, that’s why. And because Michael himself was trying to add action due to the rather querulous advice of Jim Baen, who actually told Michael a long time ago, "Where is your plot, sir?" (That was something that annoyed Michael until the end of his life, and contributed greatly to Michael’s enthusiasm in helping me plot my novel AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE . . . but I digress.)

But it didn’t matter how the advice had been given. Michael took it to heart. And he was trying to figure out exactly how he could add action when his whole premise was that Joey was a quiet hero. We were still trying to game that out when he passed away suddenly of several heart attacks in September of 2004.

So, what does a quiet hero do? He can certainly take part in rescues, though of the type that the powers that be, whatever and whoever they are, don’t want to be known (so the word never gets out). He can help keep a bomb from going off, as that, too, would never be leaked to the civilians as that would worry them too much. He can take part in disaster relief, including famines (which is where Joey’s going to go next, as the planet Bubastis is in a major drought), and all the skullduggery there as people try to get rescue supplies to the worst afflicted without too much of it falling into the hands of the black market . . . and, eventually, Joey will become a space scout, as that’s what Michael had intended all along, but do so in such a way that he’ll never be a household name.

Because most military men and women are not household names. But they’re important, all the same.

That premise of quiet heroism is undervalued in today’s world, but it rings true to anyone who’s ever been a member of the military or a military spouse (as I was, once upon a time). And it’s the main reason why I’ve kept Joey Maverick and his universe alive, because I think Michael’s conception still has life and value . . . and while I’m more natural at writing comic fantasy (take a look at my character Bruno the Elfy from AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE if you don’t believe me), that doesn’t mean I can’t do this.

So I might be an accidental writer of milSF, no lie. But like Joey Maverick, I get the job done. No muss. No fuss.

7 Responses to “Guest Post: The Virtues of Quiet Heroism”

  1. lamparty April 14, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

    This sounds like the start of a great series, I’m going to have to look into getting my hands on them!

    • Barb Caffrey April 14, 2014 at 10:57 pm #

      Thank you so much, lamparty! I hope you will enjoy reading them. The third story — it’ll probably turn out to be either a novella or a short novel — is in the works.

      And thank you, Chris, for allowing me to write something for your blog. I truly appreciate it.

  2. Cat Kimbriel April 16, 2014 at 1:43 am #

    Looking forward to more about Joey Maverick’s universe!


  1. Guest Blog about the Virtues of Quiet Heroism is Up at Chris Nuttall’s “Chrishanger” | Barb Caffrey's Blog - April 14, 2014

    […] when writer Chris Nuttall agreed to allow me to write a guest blog for him on the virtues of quiet heroism, I was extremely […]

  2. Two More Guest Blogs Up Promoting My Writing and “An Elfy on the Loose” | Barb Caffrey's Blog - April 15, 2014

    […] writing three different blogs — one about the virtues of quiet heroism, the next about the differences between the quiet Joey Maverick and the exuberant Bruno the Elfy, […]

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