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Monday, March 5, 2012

Guest Post: Looking through the Eyes of the Dead

Today we have a guest post from G.R. Yeates, author of several horror novels set in World War One. I have an abiding interest in that war and have a couple of my own ideas for fiction set in the period, so this is an especially interesting post for me.

The First World War has been a passion of mine since my high school English teacher, Mrs. Bury, introduced me to the poetry of Wilfred Owen. I later read the works of Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves in the school library (I was never one for the football pitch when there was all that knowledge to hand - as an aside, I find it ironic now that the librarian used to chuck me out at lunchtimes - punishing a student for actually wanting to read and to learn).

So when it came to researching the period for my trilogy, The Vetala Cycle, it was much less daunting, though I had no great desire to spend hours doing historical research my passion for the subject stopped the time from dragging. As my initial introduction to the First World War had been through poetry that evoked the place and time, I decided that I would focus upon reading the diaries and personal accounts of the people rather than the dry specifics of dates and stratagems. Though I did study the latter to ensure there was a certain amount of verisimilitude between fiction and fact, I did not slave myself to the details because the average soldier was not concerned with them either. Generals planted numbered flags and moved outlines of terrain across desktops whilst the Tommies in the trenches were more worried about their feet rotting in their boots or being shot in the head by snipers sitting in the bunkers on the higher ground of Passchendaele.

In a similar vein, I wanted to ensure the view of the war was balanced, which is why I moved the action in The Eyes of the Dead out of the trenches to show the equal horror of the aftermath in the field hospitals where the wounded were treated for gas gangrene in surgeries that became almost medieval in the butchery necessary to save lives.

In Shapes in the Mist, I researched the home front and, in particular, the effect of the zeppelin raids. Noting that these air-borne monstrosities did far more psychological than actual damage, this planted the seed that led to me resurrecting Jack the Ripper in that time period as a spectre feeding off the fear of the people.

In Hell's Teeth (to be released this month), which closes the trilogy, I took the story forward because I wanted to show the consequences of the war not only for the veterans but also for the world they then grew old in - night-terrors afflicted many of these men for the rest of their lives. This persistence of the horror of the war came up again and again as I studied the period and I think this stands alone as testament to how terrifying the First World War was for those who experienced it. Historians may note how the memory can cheat and inaccuracies can be created by constant reminiscence but I would say that they are failing to realise this--the First World War was the stuff of nightmares and that fact should have been enough to warn us never to do this to ourselves, to each other, ever again.

G.R. Yeates can be found on his website, Facebook, and Twitter.

1 comment:

  1. I bet researching personal accounts was much more interesting!


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