Rick Partlow writes Heinlein inspired military SF, and spoke to us about his work
Tell us a bit about your latest book
My latest book is a military science fiction story with elements of space opera and cyberpunk thrown in. It’s called “Glory Boy” and it’s the story of a teenager from a remote agricultural colony dominated by a religious sect based on the Quakers. They’re strict pacifists, so when a war breaks out between humanity and an aggressive humanoid race called the Tahni, his parents and friends are horrified at his conviction that he should join the military and do his part to defend his home against the enemy and they basically disown him. Once he joins the military, he’s recruited into a very small, elite commando unit and given cybernetic implants and various other physical augments and sent out to wage psychological warfare on the Tahni. When his homeworld is the latest to suffer occupation, and the government doesn’t think they’re worth the effort to take back from the enemy, he’s forced to go rogue to free his planet and try to save the family and friends who
What writers influenced you?
As far as military science fiction, I was very influenced by Armor, John Steakley’s mil-sf classic, as well as Voice of the Whirlwind by Walter Jon Williams, and the Night’s Dawn trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton. Not just the themes, but the aesthetic they established in these novels had a profound effect on my style. I also found William Gibson’s cyberpunk novels at a formative period in my teenage years, when I was starting to get serious about writing.
Did you read much science fiction when you were growing up?
Yes, I cut my teeth on Robert Heinlein’s juvenile novels. I must have read Have Space Suit—Will Travel a dozen times before I was 10 years old. I got it from the local library and I still remember the cover, with the purple colored space-suit. From there, I read the others: Between Planets,
Rocketship Galileo, Red Planet, all of them, then went on to more adult-oriented books like Asimov’s Foundation trilogy and Larry Niven’s Ringworld books.
Why did you take up writing?
I took it up because it felt like no one was writing the stories I wanted to read, so I figured I would. I haven’t done it full time as of yet, but I hope to start soon. December and January were very good to me.
Do you plan your novels or fly by the seat of your pants?
I pantsed my way through my first six novels, never planning more than a couple chapters ahead, and it’s honestly a lot more fun because it feels as if I’m reading the
book while I’m writing it,. letting the characters guide the plot with their reactions to the circumstances I throw at them. But I plotted Glory Boy
pretty closely and it’s done better than anything I’ve written in years, so what do I know?
What are you working on next?
I am about 60,000 words into another military-SF novel that takes place during the same war with the Tahni dealt with in Glory Boy, but this one focuses on a different character, a Recon Marine accidentally left behind on a mission gone wrong behind enemy lines. It’s tentatively entitled “Recon: A War to the Knife.” I hope to have it done by the end of March.