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Behind Mitch's Story

Usually when people ask me about research they mean what books I used on the Napoleonic Wars, or which of the ancient sources I prefer on Alexander. Usually when people ask where I get my ideas they assume it's something obscure and unusual. Often my ideas and my research both come from contemporary events, from things that are happening in our world here and now.

I've had such a wonderful response to the character of Mitch in the Order of the Air that I wanted to share two of the pieces that were really instrumental to me in writing him. The issue of genital injuries in war is as taboo a subject today as it was seventy years ago, and as pressing for our modern veterans as it was for those of the Great War. These two articles, one focusing on the human side of the story and one on the medical side give a very brief look at the challenges involved in living with these traumatic injuries. When I read the first one back in the spring of 2012 while we were working on Steel Blues, I knew this had to be something that was part and parcel of Mitch's character. I wanted to write a hero who is struggling through this in the days before hormone replacement therapy existed -- and who is absolutely a hero and a man. It's true, as he says to Stasi at the end of Steel Blues, that there are wounds that never heal. But he is no way lessened by what he's lost. He is no less manly, admirable, or strong. I thought that was something very important to say, now as much as it was in the 1930s.

Your thoughts, my friends?


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 3rd, 2013 01:25 am (UTC)
... well I've completely missed an important detail in the books.
Oct. 4th, 2013 08:29 am (UTC)
Did you think Jeff Lanier was lying in Steel Blues? I thought that it was likely some people wouldn't believe him at all.
Oct. 3rd, 2013 03:12 am (UTC)
I love what you've done with Mitch. I think it's a very important this to be discussing, and it is definitely relevant now! I love also what you do with Stasi, and with the ways everyone else treats the issue. It's rough and no one knows exactly what to do, and that's why it needs to be talked about.

This second paragraph might want to be under a spoiler cut for people who haven't yet read Silver Bullet, which I think is where it is made clear? I know it's hinted at but not stated outright in Lost Things.
Oct. 4th, 2013 08:49 am (UTC)
Steel Blues, you mean? Not Silver Bullet.

It is rough and everyone is very hesitant to talk about it, even Alma who is usually very upfront. Jerry and Alma are Mitch's friends and are very protective of him. At the end of Steel Blues nobody has said a word to Lewis about it.
Oct. 4th, 2013 05:47 am (UTC)
I think it's great that you have a character dealing with this, and yet not being defined by it.

re: genital injury in warfare, ironically enough, there is an extensively judical discussed case in Germany in the 18th century which pretended to be that and wasn't. The relevant authories in Leipzig were asked to grant permission to marry in the following scenario: the man was thus injured in battle, fell subsequently in love with a girl who was fully informed of his condition and yet willing to marry him. She was a half orphan, and her mother agreed as well, but her other relations protested. The commission found in favour of the wounded battle hero - who then turned out to be not a soldier but a castrato (an Italian singer who sung at the Dresden opera), who 'd gone through the pretense in order to establish judical precedent. The authories THEN said that while a wounded battle hero could be granted permission to marry despite no longer being able to procreate and thus fulfilling the Christian purpose of marriage, a castrato could not, and the castrato and his lover went through two more years of judical hell until they were granted permisson to stay together, with the caveat that the castrato had to swear to have no sexual relationships with the girl whatsoever.
Oct. 4th, 2013 08:54 am (UTC)
I'm glad you think so! I love Mitch so much and his plot arc is so important to this series.

That's fascinating. Huh. Mitch has given up completely on the idea of marriage. He figures he could court a nice girl and not tell her, but she'd find out as soon as they were married and then there would be a bloody annulment and disgrace, or he could tell her before they get married and watch her change her mind. After all, no girl could want him this way! And no nice girl could understand or cope with it. So he figures that part of his life is just over.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )