September 7, 2016
Without a doubt, 10 Weeks at Chanute is a radical departure from anything I’ve ever written before. It went from a cathartic impulse, to a lost manuscript, to a surge of creativity and a finished product that I’m quite proud of.
BORING OLE’ ME
In nearly ten years of writing, I’ve been careful to keep myself out of the equation. Some authors make themselves the star of the show, with their writing a distant afterthought and by-product of their cult of personality. That is totally not me. If you’ve ever seen my tables at the various shows I attend, you won’t see my name splashed up in giant letters on towering banners with me dominating the space as a Grand Poobah over my devoted followers–all you’ll see is The League of Elder, my series with my name nowhere to be found. I’m just the little irrelevant guy pulling the strings, the odd things and places I’ve created are the undisputed stars of the show, I’ve never made any pretense about that. That’s how I like things.
So, all of a sudden, here’s this little book, 10 Weeks at Chanute–no spaceships, no Shadow tech, no dashing people or daring-do, just a story about me and my military experience set as it happened in suburban 1992.
I served in the Ohio Air National Guard from the end of 1991 to 1997. I went to Basic Training at Lackland AFB with all the other recruits and then finished up my training at Chanute AFB in Illinois. Though most trainees disliked desolate, landlocked, remote Chanute as a “real drag”, I actually loved it, found peace and an easy affinity with the place. I credit my time at Chanute for creating the mature person I am today. In 1993, about a year after I graduated, Chanute closed, just one of many bases to be shutdown and abandoned by the military. Twenty years later, I decided to return to Chanute, just to look around and reconnect. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw: the desolation, the ruined buildings, empty streets, broken windows and utter silence. It was like walking straight into Silent Hill where the only demons roaming about were in my head.
Seeing a place that I loved in such a state of smash had a profound effect on me. I sat down and started writing about my experiences, both at Basic and at Chanute. I wondered if I could actually accomplish such a thing, and, even if I could jot down a few thousand words, would anybody want to read it? How could the exploits of boring old me as an Airman in the military during a time of peace be of any interest?
I got about four thousand words into it and then stopped. I was busy pumping out my League of Elder books, the Temple Trilogy at the time if I’m not mistaken, and I had to put it aside in order to get the other books produced. Writing books is one thing, publishing them is another, much longer process. Eventually, with everything going on, I sort of forgot about it.
I forgot about Chanute…
Time passed. Books were published. I’m not sure why, but in early 2016 as I finished Kat, the latest of the Shadow tech Goddess books, I became rather nostalgic for my little Chanute epic. Lost projects, if given enough time, can find new life, and Chanute was rapidly reawakening in my imagination. I thought about the story, about my time there, and I was suddenly flush with things I wanted to put into the book. The sheen of twenty years had taken effect–Chanute seemed now like a Wonderland to me, a place crying out to be remembered.
I was ready, at last, to continue and give the story the attention it deserved.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it.
I couldn’t find Chanute…
Try as I might, I couldn’t find the file. I knew, back in 2012, that I’d penned down around four thousand words–not much but a decent start. The only file pertaining to the story I could find in my archives, was a mere two hundred words. Losing three thousand words, words that could never be replaced, would have sounded the death-bell for the project. I could not had recovered from such a loss. Words, once written, can never be replaced. I searched and searched, I lamented what was lost, I despaired. Then, in the back of my desk drawer, I found an old jump drive. On the drive was a copy of Chanute, four thousand words, just as I had left it years earlier.
I was elated.
I sat down and wrote. Over the next few months, four thousand words increased to twenty-three thousand–not quite a novel-length, but enough that I needed to tell my story. I filled the pages with humor and bawdiness of an earthy sort that soldiers tend to indulge in. I wrote of the birth of my ambition, my fear, my growth as a person and as an Airman, and my sorrow at what was lost. Those who have beta-read the book tell me it’s a fine glimpse into the life of a modern soldier, seeing what a soldier sees, feeling what he feels, far from the lurid, blood-soaked tales of Full Metal Jacket and other romanticized military stories.
It’s just a story about a soldier and a great place that died.
And so passes Chanute AFB. But, perhaps with my little story and other little bits of shared memory, it will live on through the ages as a great place that once was that should not be forgotten.
10 Weeks at Chanute, will be published by St G Press in early 2017.
copyright 2016, Ren Garcia
April 13, 2012
I’ve got all sorts of irons in the fire at the moment. LoE Book VI: “The Sands of the Solar Empire” is shooting along, as well as its follow-up Book VII: “Against the Druries”.
Writing fiction is all well and good, however, lately I’ve been feeling the call to dive into non-fiction. It’s a world I’ve not tried before. You’d think writing about the real world that you don’t have you build from scratch would be easy, but it’s actually pretty tough. You must consider each word and ensure they are accurate.I’m currently working on “10 Weeks at Chanute”, an account of my military experience learning how to turn wrenches at old Chanute Air Force Base in the middle of the flatlands in eastern Illinois and how my time there haunts me to this day.
I was one of the last jetmechs to graduate from Chanute. They closed it down about a year after I left. Today, Chanute is in ruins. It’s shocking to see the once well-tended streets that I marched down pock marked and weed-infested, the spotless buildings falling in on themselves and shedding paint, a-la Silent Hill. It’s like one of those cheesy postapocalyptic midnight movies where you wake up one morning and all the people are gone. The buildings are stopped in a moment in time filled with discarded bric-a-brac and stand empty wondering where everybody has gone.I knew when I was there, that in only ten weeks, I fell in love with the place and that I would feel its loss terribly. Perhaps I assign too much value on places and nostalgia. I once mourned for old Crosley Field and the Armory at Ohio State, and now I mourn for lost Chanute rotting in the sun. Like El Dorado, like Lemuria, Chanute is a place of riches now lost, just waiting to be rediscovered
I know that a bit of me rests in ruins in the flatlands of Illinois.
10 Weeks at Chanute is a moving, occasionally humorous, occasionally ribald account of one of the last soldiers to come to Chanute an unsure trainee and leave it a fully realized young man.
Look for it from Loconeal Publishing in 2013.
copyright 2012, Ren Garcia