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DTFIII By Other Means reviews

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Robert E. Waters

Robert E. Waters
 Devil Dancers

05-11-2011: interviews author Robert E. Waters, contributor to the anthology, By Other Means, book three in the Defending The Future series.

MilSciFi: "Welcome. Please tell us about your story, and what was the inspiration for it?

Waters: "'Devil Dancers' is about a squadron of Native American pilots (primarily Apaches) fighting in an war against the Gulo, a wolverine-like alien race that have nearly split the known universe in two with a sneak attack against an ill-prepared Federated Union. As the story opens, Captain Victorio Nantan's Devil Dancers squadron has an opportunity to meet its arch-nemesis, Gulo ace pilot Gingu-Sha, in a battle that may determine the outcome of the war. But Victorio and his brother, Naiche "Blackclaw" Nantan, have a love-hate relationship that may prove fatal to themselves and to The Union at large.

The inspiration for 'Devil Dancers' began well over 13 years ago, when I just happened to be researching Native American warfare and specifically, Apache warfare. My minor in college was Anthropology, and so I often study past cultures for self-improvement or for projects I'm working on in the gaming business. So I picked up the Osprey Men-at-Arms book The Apaches by Jason Hook and read it cover to cover. The idea for the story began then, but I never felt confident enough to write it. So it simmered in my mind for years, with the main premise changing several times. I even tried to write it thrice, but could never get past a few paragraphs. Then about five years ago, I worked with a game designer friend of mine on a 'trick-taking' card-game pitting the Federated Union against the Gulo. The game was set aside for a number of reasons (and we may pick it up and finish it at some point) but that work allowed me to flesh out a lot of the universe in which the story is based. During that time, the idea began to really take hold, and when Mike and Danielle McPhail invited me to contribute to their mil-sf anthology series, I got serious."

MilSciFi: "Is it a part of a larger universe?"

Waters: "Yes, the Federated Union, a league of human-controlled planets and star systems spanning the known universe of human kind."

MilSciFi: "Any plans to continue with this storyline?"

Waters: "Absolutely. In fact, I have another Devil Dancers story scheduled for release later this year called 'The Sorrow Sea.' It will appear in the Dragon Moon Press anthology, Spells and Swashbucklers. In this one, Victorio Nantan and his pilots are in hot pursuit of some very nasty pirates who are attacking a key Federated Union supply line."

MilSciFi: "Each story is accompanied by a unique icon, can you tell us something about the relevance behind your own?"

Waters: "I named my fighter squadron the Devil Dancers. In Apache culture, Devil Dancers are derived from a dancing troupe called Gahn Dancers, or Gahn Mountain Spirits. A good example of a headdress worn by these dancers can be found here:

The icon depiction for my story is modeled from this kind of headdress, which is worn by the dancers during their ceremonies. By tradition, Gahn Mountain Spirits were sent to the Apache by Yusn Life-Giver, to teach them how to live a fruitful, honest, and respectful life. The headdress itself is made from leather, feathers, bits of bone and wood shaped as long teeth that reach into the sky to connect human flesh with the great cosmos. The term 'Devil Dancers' was given to the troupe by a white man who considered their dancing erratic, evil, and devilish, and although the term is (in a sense) insulting and racist, Victorio understands that even in the cold vacuum of space, perception is important. A 'devil' garners respect from friend and foe alike."

MilSciFi: "How did you become involved with the By Other Means project?"

Waters: "I had met Mike and Danielle McPhail at various local conventions, and I also had contacts with Bruce Gehweiler from Marietta Press, who was (at the time) the publisher of the DTF series. He recommended that I contact Mike and see if they might need stories for upcoming volumes, and so I did. The story flowed from that discussion."

MilSciFi: "What tips would you give an aspiring military science fiction author?"

Waters: "Do your research, and if you do not follow the letter of the law on any particular military element/facet, at least capture the spirit of such. What I mean by this is that, for example, when a captain gives an order on his ship in the Navy, the person relaying that order has to rigidly repeat the order back to the captain before giving it. This is to ensure that the order was received correctly and no mistakes are made in translation. But, for fiction, having to repeat that kind of conversation over and over again, is boring and a waste of space. At least I think so anyway. Thus, having the receiver of such an order do it once, or perhaps once in a while, is perfectly acceptable to capture the 'spirit' of the concept, without annoying your readership with unnecessary redundancy."

MilSciFi: "Is military accuracy important to you, or can one simply 'fake' it?"

Waters: "Both. As stated above, it's important to capture the spirit of something but not necessarily the overly exhaustive particulars. You don't want your weapon systems doing something totally out of kilter (a hand gun firing a round that eliminates an entire planet, without effectively explaining how and why), but this being science fiction, we are dealing with technology that may (to the observer) look more like magic than science. So, do your research to understand the basic functions of weapons and warfare, and then "tweak" these elements to provide a fun and convincing narrative."

MilSciFi: "Have you been involved with any similar projects outside the series?"

Waters: "No, 'Devil Dancers' is my first serious foray into military SF. I have written a lot of military fantasy, however, which also borrows from alternate history. For instance, I have an on-going series that features a war-pixie named Lubbick who has fought battles from Gaugamela to Gettysburg (Bad-Ass Faeries 3: In all Their Glory and in the upcoming Jinn Rummy anthology from Marietta Press). All of these stories are steeped in military history, which makes me have to spend an enormous amount of time researching human conflict."

MilSciFi: "Are there any upcoming projects you would like to tell us about?"

Waters: "Yes. I have a story appearing in the Marietta anthology, Hellfire Lounge 2, scheduled for late summer, early fall 2011. My next Lubbick War-Pixie story, 'In the House of Wisdom,' will appear in the anthology Jinn Rummy, Spring 2012. And if all goes according to plan, I have 4 other stories scheduled for publication later this year and early next year, in various anthologies and/or on-line magazines."

MilSciFi: "And what events do you have in the months ahead?"

Waters: "The only event I have coming up real soon is BaltiCon, May 27-30, 2012."

MilSciFi: "How can our readers find out more about your work?"

Waters: "Any and all can visit my website, A full list of my stories published and 'coming soons' can be found there."

MilSciFi: "Thank you for your time."


Robert E. Waters' website is:

Dark Quest Books' website is:


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Copyright 2011 Mike McPhail, All Rights Reserved


The views contained in this interview are those of the author, and
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