Martinus Publishing’s latest anthology, VFW: Veterans of theFuture Wars, is coming out in February 2014. To kick off this new book release, I’ll be doing interviews with some of the authors who have stories featured in this collection. Today, I'm interviewing Mary Pletsch, an exceptional author who contributed the story “The Last and the Least.” Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed, Mary.
MTI: Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Mary Pletsch: I joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadets when I was 14 and got my glider pilot’s license at 16 and my private pilot’s license at 17. I love video games like Halo and Mass Effect, and I collect 80’s toys. I don’t collect cats; we just happen to have four of them.
MTI: I know how cats are, more like they collect us. Now, getting down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?
MP: I don’t remember when I first wove fiction, but I know that I was too young to make letters. I’d grab a pen and fill pages and pages with up-and-down zig-zag lines. When asked what I was doing, I said I was writing a story. When asked to read what I’d written, I promptly recited an original story. My ability to read the same story every time improved immensely when I learned to print.
As for what’s my favourite type of story to write, I’d say a story that lets me experience the way the world looks through a character’s eyes. That’s why I write tight third person point of view– the story is told from the character’s point of view, and everything in the descriptions, the events, what’s noticed and what isn’t, is affected by the way that character perceives the world. I don’t want to write characters who think and act just like I do. I want to explore how it feels to live someone else’s experiences.
MTI: Tell me, if you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?
MP: Karen Traviss, author of “City of Pearl.”
MTI: “The Last and the Least” appears in VFW, an anthology of military science fiction stories that honor soldiers and veterans. Was there any particular inspiration for this story?
MP: I was visiting the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbour, standing in front of the shrine where the names of all those killed on the Arizona are inscribed, and I saw a plaque off to the side. The plaque holds the names of Arizona survivors and veterans who’ve chosen to have their ashes interred within the ship (or in the cases of veterans who served on the Arizona but were not posted to her on the day she sank, their ashes are scattered on the water over the ship). I thought about those survivors who went on to fight through the war, lived for decades after the war, and then chose to come back to the ship in death, to join their shipmates. And I hoped those men were able to find something good in those decades, that they didn’t spend their whole lives waiting to go back. “The Last and the Least” ended up being about when your unit becomes your family, and survivor’s guilt, and how heroism sometimes doesn’t feel heroic from the inside, and why veterans need society’s support and understanding.
MTI: Quite profound. Now, if you could go back to any point in history, when would you visit?
MP: I’ve always loved First World War air combat stories. I adored Captain W.E. Johns’ “Biggles” books as a teenager. To get the chance to fly an Albatros D.V. or Sopwith Camel for myself... I couldn’t turn that down.
MTI: If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
MP: Probably Captain W.E. Johns.
MTI: Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?
MP: 2014 is going to be my novel year. I’ve written a lot of short stories and novellas, and this year my main goal is to complete a longer work. That being said, there are a few short story calls for submissions that are very enticing...
MTI: Other than “The Last and the Least”, appearing in VFW, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?
MP: I’ve got a horror story called “Mishipishu: The Ghost Story of Penny Jaye Prufrock” that came out in January 2014, in a collection called “Fossil Lake: An Anthology of the Aberrant” by Daverana Press.
MTI: Your biography says you are a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada. Would you be able to elaborate a little about that experience?
MP: Sure. Mine wasn’t the usual experience, going in as a recruit. I did my undergraduate elsewhere and went to RMC for a master’s degree in War Studies as a civilian student. My thesis was about the ground crew of 6 Group during the Second World War; there’s been a lot of research about the flight crews, but very little about the ground crew, who played such an essential role.
MTI: On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?
MP: I actually don’t watch TV very much. I saw the Doctor Who Christmas Special with my family... yes, I know that was a month ago. I could talk about comic books? I’m reading James Roberts and Alex Milne’s phenomenal Transformers: More than Meets the Eye series. The characterization is absolutely delightful, and the storytelling is top-notch.
MTI: What sort of music do you enjoy?
MP: My music collection’s a strange mix of metal – Sabaton, Iron Maiden; East Coast – Rawlins Cross, Great Big Sea; and 80s classic rock.
MTI: And if you would, name three movies that you could watch over and over again and not be bored.
MP: Top Gun, Memphis Belle and Stalag 17.
MTI: Three excellent choices. Memphis Belle is an underrated classic. You have the attention of potential readers. Are there any great words of wisdom you’d like to share with them? Perhaps something that would persuade them to purchase your work?
MP: I think all I can do is go back to the themes in “The Last and the Least.” If a country asks for volunteers to serve in its military, to fight in its name, I think that country and that society have an obligation to take care of their veterans. Support for those who come home with mental as well as physical injuries has to be there. It’s our responsibility as citizens to demand this of our policy makers.
MTI: Indeed. Readers love free samples, so on that note here is the first paragraphs of “The Last and the Least.”
If we had only known. That’s what all the politicians’ speeches said, and all the calls to arms, and these decades later the holograph documentaries and the history books. If we had only known what the colonials had been planning, we would have been ready. If they’d had any honor, they would have declared war with digital signatures. Instead, their proclamation was written in the wreckage of Her Eminence’s Starship Canada, in the sleepy quiet of a Saturday morning on the Milky Way Hub.
If we had only known, I wouldn’t be lying here now, an old woman who can’t sleep through the night, watching my chronograph glowing softly in the dark and asking myself, what if. It is the same question the holodioramas and webstreams ask, except they ask what might have been if various Terran heroes or key political figures had discovered the Colonial plan before their attack took us all by surprise. I ask what if I—only I—had been granted precognition.
This has been a thoroughly enjoyable interview. I’d like to thank Mary Pletsch for taking the time to answer these questions. Those of you who want to check out some thrilling, insightful, and imaginative military sci-fi, check out VFW: Veterans of the Future Wars today!