interviews Marshall S. Thomas, author of Secret of the Legion, Book 4 of
the six-book military science fiction series, Soldier of the Legion.
MilSciFi: "Welcome. Please tell us a little
something about your novel."
Marshall: "Thank you. I'll be happy to,
and I welcome the opportunity. Secret of the Legion is Book 4 of
the 'Soldier of the Legion' military sci-fi series. The series
consists of six books: Soldier of the Legion, The Black March, Slave of the
Legion, Secret of the Legion, Cross of the Legion, and Curse of the
Legion. The first four are now in print, and the last two are
already written. Book 5 comes out in January 2010 and Book 6 in January
2011. There is also a full-cast, unabridged audio CD of the first book,
produced by Timberwolf Press. The dialogue is read by 22 voice actors amidst
wild sound effects and distant spooky music. It's quite a production, and
is regularly broadcast over XM Radio.
the Legion, my latest
book, challenges the protagonist to recover his memory and discover the secret
of his past after release from a psymed facility on an unfamiliar
world. Once recovered, he is forced to pursue an alien artifact that he
wants to destroy but he knows must be preserved. The Star holds the secrets
of the past and the future, but he fears it will ultimately terminate his
civilization. Destroy the Star? No – he doesn't care about the
future. After all the fighting, after all the hate and death and
sacrifice, he only cares about those he loves. They are in the past, and
it is only with the Star that he can reach them. He knows that the Star
is not evil. It's completely neutral. It's mankind that is evil,
not the Star. Is he evil? He doesn't know, but he's already made
MilSciFi: "Is this part of a large series or
Marshall: "Yes, this is Book 4 of the Soldier
of the Legion series. The series tells the story of a group of ten
young recruits who enlist in the ConFree Legion to serve the people of the
Confederation of Free Worlds, earn their citizenship and seek their future in
the stars. They’re not superheroes or stock one-dimensional cardboard
cut-outs, they're just normal people and they’re all different. The
Confederation is located in the Crista Cluster, 1,400 light years from the
inner planets of the totalitarian United System Alliance. All ConFree
nationals are rendered immortal upon coming of age, but immortality won't ward
off bullets and there is a long list of dead immortals on the Legion's Monument
to the Dead. ConFree has a lot of formidable and merciless enemies, both
human and alien, and as Squad Beta faces the shock and terror of combat the
dead begin to outnumber the living. As they venture further into the
dark, the young troopers realize that all they really have is each other.
As the series continues, all the surviving characters change profoundly, until
none of them are recognizable as the idealistic volunteers of their
MilSciFi: "What inspired you to write this
Marshall: "The series came from my original
desire to write a science fiction novel. I discovered science fiction as
a teenager in the late 1950's and in between combing my hair and worrying about
girls I started reading all the SF I could get my hands on. I still
remember the first science fiction I ever read – Star Bridge, by Jack Williamson and James
Gunn. What a high! I had never even imagined anything like that
before. Within a few years I was writing my own glorious science fiction
epic. Fortunately that has never been inflicted on the world since at
that time I did not have the writing skills or the patience to produce anything
later I decided to follow up on my teenage dream and finally write a real SF
novel. I remembered how excited I had been reading military SF as a kid
and I wanted to see if I could produce something with lots of action, memorable
characters, sudden romantic entanglements and realistic scientific and military
premises. My first novel, Soldier of the Legion, was the
result. I was so excited about finishing that one that I continued
the theme and produced the whole series."
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?"
Marshall: "Science and technology is critical
because without it you just have space opera. Although I am not a
professional scientist I am fascinated by science and my library is overflowing
with science books, all focused on the future. I keep current on
scientific advances with magazines like Science News, Scientific American,
Astronomy, etc, and I have file folders full of interesting articles. The
future is coming at us so fast it's hard to keep track, but I have a clear
vision of what the future may bring. The trick to putting convincing
science into your science fiction is to provide enough details about the
technology in question so that your knowledgeable readers will think 'yes, that
sounds possible,' but not in such detail that somebody will say "Hold
it! That's not possible!
Now, is S&T
secondary to the story? It's necessary and critical for SF. However
it doesn't trump the story and the characters. Story-telling is about
people. Without people you have nothing. This series is about those
ten young people, those who survive, those who die in combat and those other
characters who replace them. It's about their struggles and triumphs and
failures. That's what the reader is going to care about."
MilSciFi: "Do you have plans to expand upon,
or write other works based on this novel?"
Marshall: "Book 5, Cross of the Legion,
is coming in January 2010 and Book 6, Curse of the Legion, is due out in
January 2011. That will end the series, just before we are all destroyed
in 2012, right?"
MilSciFi: "Most authors we encounter write
novellas/novels, do you write short stories, and if so do you find it a
Marshall: "I've only written a few short
stories. I had fun creating them, but I have not published any, for a
variety of reasons. I may do so some day. Some of these stories are
taken from real life which I always find more interesting than fiction.
Some are too personal or focused on family, some post-Vietnam meanderings are
too bitter and some are too politically incorrect and might lead to accusations
of thought crime, coerced public confessions and mandatory thought reform – all
of which I would like to avoid."
MilSciFi: "Since time is of the essence for
getting a reader up to speed in a short story, do you have a strategy, or preferred
method for doing this?"
Marshall: "Whether a short story or a novel,
I like to drop the reader right into the action as soon as possible, preferably
right at the start of the chapter. I try to avoid telling the
reader anything, but instead I have the reader experience it personally. If
dialogue is involved, that's a fast way of starting off a story: dialogue,
action – and the reader are suddenly in the midst of it."
MilSciFi: "What advice would you give the
aspiring military science fiction writer?"
Marshall: "First, you have to love to
write. You have to love to create. Science fiction can be difficult
to write, military or not, because you have to not only invent your characters,
you have to invent the entire galaxy in which they reside, complete with stars,
planets, governments, peoples, competing ideologies, methods of transportation,
advanced science, future weaponry, history… it's practically endless. My
first book had an anthology that included science definitions and Fleetcom,
Legion, DefCorps and Omni weapons systems. So, love what you do, and be
thorough and keep track of it as you write, or you'll lose yourself in the
fourth and fifth: NEVER GIVE UP! Sooner or later you'll seek a
publisher, and start collecting rejection letters. Don't worry about that
at all. Just keep improving your writing, and sooner or later you'll get
that acceptance letter. That's when the rejection letters will
stop. And that one acceptance letter is all you need."
MilSciFi: "Who is your single-most influence
in science fiction and what impact have they had on your own work?"
Marshall: "Well, I loved Robert Heinlein. He
really opened up the stars for me. To me, he was the great communicator.
My stories are my own, but it’s not hard to see that I was influenced by
MilSciFi: "What is the one thing you find the
most difficult about writing military science fiction?"
Marshall: "I've never found writing military
SF to be particularly difficult. If you love what you're doing it's a
pleasure and not a task. However you must be prepared. You must
have prepared the background that surrounds your characters. That may be
considered difficult, but for me even doing a lot of research is a labor of
love if it's for a good cause.
difficult for me is not the writing; it's the initial search for a publisher
and the endless search for effective advertising and publicity to acquaint
people with my product."
MilSciFi: "Is military science fiction the
only thing you write, or is there something else out there we should be looking
Marshall: "My military SF series is all that
I have published so far in book form. However I do have other interests
including photography. In addition to my website www.soldierofthelegion.com
I have a site www.msthomas.com
that has a travel gallery of photos I took overseas. Also, I am a Board
member and photographer for the St. Andrew's Society of Williamsburg, Virginia.
I designed their website www.scotsofwmbg.org and I write and edit their
quarterly on-line newsletter The Spectator, and take photos at all their
functions and put them on line. As to what the future holds, all
that is certain is that I will never stop writing."
MilSciFi: "Do you have any other projects in
Marshall: "Once the last two books of the
series are published (see above) I plan an anthology describing the Soldier
of the Legion series with information on each book, book reviews, detailed
character studies, star charts from each period, lists of inhabited worlds,
science and technical directories, excerpts from Legion training manuals,
historical summaries for each book to give a galactic overview, and lots of
color portraits, illustrations, organizational charts and propaganda brochures
from both the United System Alliance and the Confederation of Free Worlds.
Much of this is already on my website and I'm working on the rest.
I have plenty of background information that I created while writing the
series. This should be a fun project which might be of interest to
readers of the series."
MilSciFi: "Do you have any upcoming author
Marshall: "Earlier this year I attended
MarsCon (Williamsburg, VA), RavenCon (Richmond, VA) and BaltiCon
(Maryland). I will probably do those cons again next year, although I
have nothing else planned at present."
MilSciFi: "Do you have a website?"
Marshall: "Yes – www.soldierofthelegion.com
This extensive site will acquaint the reader with the series. It contains
book reviews and gives choices about where to buy. The site also contains
artwork by yours truly illustrating characters and scenes from the
series. Maps, starcharts, propaganda brochures and excerpts from Legion
field manuals can also be found there."
MilSciFi: "Thank you, for your time."
Marshall: "Thank you so much! I'm always happy to talk about my