Thursday, March 28, 2013

End of Act Three

Three quarters of my new novel is now complete.  This one is entitled "The Coup," and much like the movie Seven Days In May, it deals with an unthinkable consequence of the new civil war - the seizure of power by the United States Military.

Some people, I know, stopped reading right there.  They've shouted either, "Whoa, that just can't happen in our country," or "How dare you impugn our beloved Soldiers like that!"  In regards to the second point, given my own background, saying I'm anti-military would be like saying Peyton Manning is anti-football.  It's just a story, so please lighten up.

On the first point, the one where people would say that such a thing could never happen here, that's like me saying because I've never broken my arm, my arm is unbreakable, or that because I've never died, I'm immortal.  There is no such thing as "it couldn't ever happen here," because a lot of societies have let it happen.

The US Military is a very action oriented group.  They're not the kind of folks who sit around and discuss things in committee(well, some are, but not the majority of them).  When there's a problem, they don't just come up with a solution, they implement it.  When an obstacle presents itself, they figure out a way to overcome it.  Now imagine such a hard charging group of people in the midst of a country in chaos, where neighbor is killing neighbor and the legal issues of who's in charge are very murky.

However, even that wouldn't necessarily be enough for the Armed Forces to take control.  Those who serve, from the lowest private to the highest general, have service to country and subordination to civilian authority ingrained in them from the moment they take their oath(and most of them even well before that).  Moreover, their oath isn't to any one person or monarch as it is in a lot of countries - it's to the Constitution.  That's right, our military swears an oath to an ideal, and they swear to follow the lawful orders of the civilians placed over them.  Such a system is remarkable when you look at human history.

So what could spark a coup?  I threw in a different variable - what if there was a foreign attack and the nation's government was so paralyzed dealing with its own bullshit that it couldn't act to defend the nation?  Seeing this, how would the Armed Forces respond?  I'm sure they would fight to prevent the aggressor from winning, but what about afterwards.  The military routinely conducts what are called "After Action Reviews" in order to figure out where to improve, even if the mission went well.  Looking back at a shattered country that couldn't even remove its hands from around its own throat long enough to defend itself, would the aggressive Type A personalities that reproduce like jackrabbits in the military just let it go?  Or would they seek a way to ensure such paralysis never again threatened the country?

In that kind of environment, it might take only one charismatic individual, a person whose heart might be in the right place but whose methods are perverted, to come along and impose order.  Are we really so naive that we think that could never happen here?

I focused mainly on the guy at the top's rise to power, most of which happens during the war against a foreign power.  How did he get so many people to readily follow him?  Where did his power base come from?  Was he a victim of circumstance, a man trying to impose order in a chaotic world?  The foreign war took up over half of the act, but it was only a vessel to show how the person who takes over accumulated the power he'd need to take control.

The mechanics of the actual coup were straightforward, and it didn't take a lot of time to write.  Given that the military is the strongest force in our country, once they gained momentum, it was hard for anyone to stop.  In the act, they use their blunt force abilities, coupled with the public's admiration, to muscle out all other competitors and simply impose itself on the rest of us.  The guy at the top might have conflicted feelings about the path he chose, but as he gathers more steam, he learns to rationalize what he's doing.

From a writing standpoint, this was the hardest part to put together.  Not only did I have to write against my normal principles are, there were large pieces of life that got in the way.  Instead of my normal 2,000 words per day, at which point I would've finished about a week and a half ago, I could only guarantee 1,000 words per day.  Sure, there were many days I got more, but with what's been happening in the RD Meyer household, I knew I couldn't do that every day, but I committed to at least 1,000, even if it meant sacrificing sleep or food.  This work needs to be finished by the end of April if at all possible, and sitting around whining about how tired I was just wouldn't get the job done.

I'll start next week on Act Four.  I'm still playing around with a few titles, mostly because I don't want the title to give away the ending.  It's also the most nebulous part, so I need to spend a couple of days outlining.  I think I know where it's going, so my tentative title is Pax Americana, but we'll see if that holds until the end...

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