Combat. There’s nothing I like more – aside from coffee – than reading or writing about combat. I’m not talking about mental-based combat such as psionics or magic, I’m talking about the physical, the visceral, weapons-based and empty-handed combat.
I’ve always enjoyed writing about such things, often to the consternation of my primary school teachers. I even managed to have fairies and elves battling the bears when I wrote about a school trip to Paignton. Much to my mother’s angst, they had a ‘little chat’ with her about how this regularly happened when I wrote a story.
The reason that I love writing such scenes is that not only do I have experience of small-unit tactics due to my university days in the OTC, but I also have 24 years of martial arts experience, with a couple of years as a Special Constable and Doorman under my (numerous) black belts.
This doesn’t mean that I glorify war. I don’t. I’ve lost a friend in Iraq, and I’ve worried every time a friend I view as my little brother was sent to Afghanistan. But, combat is all about people overcoming their fears in order to achieve an objective. The objective itself doesn’t matter, it could be a crate of kittens, but the mental and physical effort to overwhelm the enemy, whilst keeping yourself and your people safe is massive. It’s a fast-moving, real-time game of chess, where skill and training, as well as a bucketload of luck all help.
It’s about men, women and aliens of a gender we don’t yet know about, conquering their fears and putting themselves in mortal danger in order to save the person (or alien) to their left and right. It’s about the bond that takes the most timid person and turns them into a warrior. It’s about the man or woman who gets the job done just because ‘everyone else was too scared’. It’s about pushing your body until you think you’re going to drop, and then still managing to keep going and get the job done.
Many people think that combat is all about pouring on more and more firepower. It’s not. It’s about out-thinking the enemy, flushing them out from cover, flanking them, forcing them to give ground, or bottling them up and then dropping some very, very big bombs on to them.
People often like to write about tanks and how cool they are. Which is true, they are. But for me combat is all about the infantryman, because without infantry, you can’t hold the ground you’ve taken. Without the infantry you can never be sure that the enemy have been totally rooted out. It’s gun versus gun, hand-to-hand, teeth to flesh combat that clears the objective and wins the battle. It’s always down to boots on the ground. Not treads on the ground.
Combat doesn’t have to be restricted to military however. Civilians, police, smugglers, Mafioso, and gang members all have to overcome the same things, achieve the same basic objective of neutralising the enemy and surviving to live another day.
And that people, is why I like writing about combat.