MilSciFi Logo




Marshall S. Thomas' Secret of the Legion
Marshall S. Thomas' Soldiers of the Legion
Marshall S. Thomas' The Black March

Marshall S. Thomas' Slave of the Legion

Author Marshall S. Thomas

Marshall S. Thomas

Biography of Marshall S. Thomas

2009-06-01: 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.

Secret of 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 his choice."

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

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 youth."

MilSciFi: "What inspired you to write this story?"

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 readable.

Many years 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 challenge?

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 details.

Second, third, 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 Heinlein."

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.

What’s 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 for?"

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 I have a site 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 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 the works?"

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 events?"

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 –  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 series."

Marshall S. Thomas' website is:

E-Mail the Webmaster


Copyright ©2009 Mike McPhail, All Rights Reserved.


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