10-14-2014: MilSciFi.com interviews Vincent H. O'Neil, author of the military science fiction novel
Glory Main (HarperVoyager 2014,
written as Henry V. O'Neil).
Welcome. Please tell us a little something about your novel.
O'Neil: Glory Main is a military science fiction tale of
survival. Here's a brief intro:
For decades, mankind has been locked in a war with an alien
enemy that resembles the human race so closely they are known as the Sims. Both sides battle for control of
habitable planets across the galaxy--often at any cost.
Lieutenant Jander Mortas is fresh out of officer training and new
to the war zone, but eager to prove himself. There's just one problem: disaster
strikes while he's traveling to his first assignment. He wakes to find himself
marooned on an apparently deserted planet, with only three other survivors: a
psychoanalyst, a conscientious objector, and a bitter veteran of a brutal
slave-scout detachment. As the group struggles to reach safety on a nearby
base, Glory Main, they discover a Sim colony--which could mean their salvation,
or their demise.
Is this part of a large series or universe?
O'Neil: Absolutely. Glory Main
starts with a focus on the bare necessities of survival--water, food, and shelter--in
an environment that becomes increasingly hostile as the story progresses.
Because the Sims can't communicate with humans and can't
reproduce, there is strong suspicion that they are a designer enemy. If that's
true, it means an unidentified, highly advanced entity is making the Sims--but how do you fight something you've
never even seen? By the book's end, even larger issues and greater dangers have
The sequel, Orphan Brigade, is scheduled for release by HarperVoyager in
What inspired you to write this story?
O'Neil: I love science fiction. I'm an award-winning mystery
novelist (Murder in Exile, Reduced Circumstances, Exile Trust, Contest of Wills, and Death
Troupe) but I always wanted to write a military science fiction series.
I was also motivated to write this book by
my own experiences. When I graduated from West Point, I was commissioned as an officer in the
US Army Infantry. I attended numerous army schools, but the most challenging
one was a commando-style course called Ranger School. Short rations and sleep deprivation are
a big part of Ranger School, as are long marches with heavy loads. A
good deal of the suffering experienced by the maroons in Glory Main was inspired by my experiences in Ranger School.
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?
O'Neil: The series leans more toward character-driven stories, but
technology plays a big part. The Sim enemy's technology has only improved in
fits and starts, further supporting the theory that they are created and
assisted by a higher intelligence. Humanity has a big edge in technology, but
that's often led to an overdependence on the machines of war. Sim technology
and Sim tactics are very basic, but they seldom fail.
Do you have plans to expand upon, or write other works based on this novel?
O'Neil: I mentioned that Orphan
Brigade, the sequel to Glory Main,
is set for release in January, 2015. Orphan
Brigade picks up right where Glory
Main left off, but the scope of the story is much wider. I'm about to start
writing the third book, and plan for this series to go on for a long time.
While the series focuses on a core group
of characters, readers of Glory Main
have already expressed an interest in spin-offs featuring the unusual military
organizations spawned by the war. One of the maroons in Glory Main is a member of an elite unit known as the Spartacan
Scouts, and through him we discover that the Spartacans are some of the toughest
fighters in the war because of the brutality involved in their training. The
scout is one of the most intriguing characters in the book, and people want to
see more of the Spartacans.
Most authors we encounter write novellas or novels. Do you write short stories,
and if so do you find it a challenge?
O'Neil: I've written many short stories in both mystery and horror,
and I really enjoy them. Writing a full-length novel allows me to use as many
words as I see fit, and to add any subplot I consider interesting, but with a
short story there's no room for that. The science fiction genre contains so
many iconic short stories and novellas that I suspect there is something
complementary about brevity and sci-fi.
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?
O'Neil: I've written short stories in both first- and third-person,
and it's been my experience that using the main character as the narrator can
really save time and space. With that said, another benefit of writing short
stories is that you're forced to make every word and action count. That
approach has helped me to reconsider simple acts by my characters to see if
there was something they could do that would transmit more than one message,
and it's a fun exercise that sometimes yields amazing results.
What advice would you give the aspiring military science fiction writer?
O'Neil: When I decided to try and write science fiction, I picked up
Ben Bova's book Space Travel: A Writer's Guide to the Science of Interplanetary and
Interstellar Travel. I got a lot out of that book, and of course I always
recommend the Complete Idiot's series
of books for research.
I will caveat that last piece of advice
with the admission that I have read The
Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Einstein cover-to-cover, and I am
not smart enough for that book.
Apart from that, one of the best things
about writing science fiction is the need to read lots and lots of science
fiction by other writers.
Who is your single-biggest influence in science fiction and what impact have
they had on your own work?
O'Neil: My biggest influence would be Ben Steakley's book Armor. Armor combines
top-notch battle sequences with excellent dialogue and deeply engaging
characters, all with an economy of words that is simply fascinating. I was
greatly inspired by William Gibson's work, especially Neuromancer, for the way he introduces technology that has not yet
been invented in such a way that the reader instantly understands and accepts
What is the one thing you find the most difficult about writing military
O'Neil: I follow the adage that in sci-fi you can make up anything
you want, as long as you make it seem plausible. With that said, I've tripped
over a couple of allegedly not-believable topics in my sci-fi writing and so I'm
always concerned about doing that again.
Is military science fiction the only thing you write, or is there something
else out there we should be looking for?
O'Neil: I already mentioned my Frank Cole mystery series and the theater-themed
murder mystery Death Troupe, but
there is another work of which I'm very proud. It's a horror novel called Interlands, and it features my first
female protagonist. Here's the logline:
In modern-day Providence, grad student Angie Morse is searching the local forests for a
lost stone obelisk once worshiped by a colonial-era cult that perished at its
Readers really took to Angie, and I was thrilled to write a female
main character who was compelling and real. All of my books are available in
ebook and paperback, by the way.
Do you have any other projects in the works?
O'Neil: When I'm finished writing the third book in the Sim War
series, I'm going to return to the Angie Morse character and write the sequel to Interlands. I absolutely love horror,
and Stephen King's The
Shining was what inspired me to write my first novel. The overlap between
sci-fi and horror is well established, and sometimes it's difficult to say if a
book is one or the other.
Do you have any upcoming author events?
O'Neil: I enjoy going to writing conventions, so I will be at the outstanding
Crimebake mystery convention in Massachusetts this November. Next February I'll be at
my third Boskone sci-fi convention in Boston, which is a whole lot of fun if you
haven't attended. In late February I'll be down near Fort Lauderdale for the wonderful Sleuthfest mystery
convention, and next August we'll be hosting the second Necronomicon horror
convention in Providence.
I'm very interested in expanding my
attendance at sci-fi conventions, so if anybody's got any suggestions I'd love
to hear them.
MilSciFi: Thank you, for your time.