Like most drones surviving deep in the bowels of the demented bureaucracy, I’ve had my share of bosses and leaders.  After years of getting mostly the latter, I’m now facing much more of the former, with all the attendant rise in stress, and as fate would have it, this little gem appeared in my facebook feed today…


I don’t know who put the list together, but he or she speaks the complete and unvarnished truth.  It’s sad to say that even in my Army days, even in an Army that spent almost fourteen years chasing the Taliban across the Afghan mountains, I’ve encountered enough ‘bosses’ to make me wonder how the various officer schools could fail to produce a full 100% output of ‘leaders’, but fail they did. Happily, ‘bosses’ make for excellent military science-fiction fodder as antagonists against our protagonist ‘leaders’.  The trick is to avoid turning the ‘bosses’ into caricatures. Even the few genuine sociopaths among the civilian or military brass aren’t one dimensional villains, but complex people whose psychological makeup and experiences have made them the folks they are.  I remember years ago (probably verging on two decades) reading a mil sci-fi series that started off well.  It was written by two veterans of the US military and they had a certain style that appealed to me, until that is, they created a villainous ‘boss’ that defied believability.  I stopped reading the book in question – number five or six in the series – right there and never touched anything by those authors again.

It’s hard to resist putting your own prejudices, dislikes and sometimes outright hates on paper, but as an author, I have to remember that they’re mine, and likely won’t resonate with the majority of readers who haven’t lived through my eyes.  Hence, even the bad guys and gals need to be believable in their own way and since no one is fully good or evil, the best characters remain somewhat ambiguous in their motivations and psychological traits.  It’s a tall order, and one that I struggled with while writing The Path of Duty.  Happily my editor liked my characterization of Dunmoore’s antagonist.  There’s a series I’ve been reading and for which I’m currently awaiting the next installment, where the author delights in his depiction of the villains in the most caricature-like way.  The story is good enough to carry one through the broader strokes (and I’ll privately admit that he caters to my own prejudices), but funnily enough, though I sometimes want to try and depict some antagonists this way even if it’s just as a throwaway to satisfy some baser urges, I can’t.  The Decker’s War sequel Cold Comfort is giving me the same problems and it’s much more fertile ground for roughly drawn bad guys.  Make of that what you will.  I’ll be looking forward to another week of fun, fun, fun wondering where the leaders are.