Risingshadow has the honour of publishing a guest post by Yoon Ha Lee, who is the author of Ninefox Gambit (Solaris Books, June 2016) and Raven Stratagem (Solaris Books, June 2017).
Information about Yoon Ha Lee:
Yoon Ha Lee is a writer from Houston, Texas, whose work has appeared in Clarkesworld, Lightspeed and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He has published over forty short stories, and his critically acclaimed collection Conservation of Shadows was released in 2013. He lives in Louisiana with his family and an extremely lazy cat, and has not yet been eaten by gators.
Click here to visit his official website.
Information about Raven Stratagem:
War. Heresy. Madness.
Shuos Jedao is unleashed. The long-dead general, preserved with exotic technologies and resurrected by the hexarchate to put down a heretical insurrection, has possessed the body of gifted young captain Kel Cheris.
Now, General Kel Khiruev’s fleet, racing to the Severed March to stop a fresh incursion by the enemy Hafn, has fallen under Jedao’s sway. Only Khiruev’s aide, Lieutenant Colonel Kel Brezan, appears able to shake off the influence of the brilliant but psychotic Jedao.
The rogue general seems intent on defending the hexarchate, but can Khiruev - or Brezan - trust him? For that matter, can they trust Kel Command, or will their own rulers wipe out the whole swarm to destroy one man?
GUEST POST by Yoon Ha Lee: Generals in Space?
When I was coming up with the Kel for the world of the hexarchate, one of the first things I was confronted with was how to manage their rank structure. While my dad was in the US Army when I was young, I didn't really absorb much about ranks. (For quite some time, the gold leaf of a major was the only insignia I recognized!) After that, the next time I made any serious attempt to learn ranks was when I got into Star Trek in middle school--please tell me I wasn't alone! This then led to further confusion because I "forgot" about the existence of noncoms, who seem to be rather vestigial in the Star Trek universe.
Later on, in college, I took a course on the Imjin War (the Japanese invasion of Korea, 1592-1598) and learned something else interesting. The Imjin War took place during a period when Korea had a unified military. Korea's most famous military figure, Admiral Yi Sun-Shin, didn't start out as a "navy" officer, and in fact he had no conventional naval background at all. But during Joseon Korea, you could be shuffled between Korea's navy and army willy-nilly. And the word for "admiral" is the same for "general" in Korean even today, although modern South Korea now has separate armed force branches in much the same way that the USA does.
The Kel aren't particularly Korean, other than swanning around in their spaceships serving gimchi and using chopsticks and spoons. But I liked the idea of a unified military and decided to steal that for my Kel. This is what led to my giving army ranks to the Kel, not just the infantry (e.g. Colonel Kel Ragath in Ninefox Gambit) but having generals lead armadas in space (e.g. General Shuos Jedao and now General Kel Khiruev in Raven Stratagem). It's only hinted at sideways until the third book of the trilogy, which goes into Jedao's history in more detail, but in his career Jedao led both planetside and space campaigns, and he's not particularly atypical.
The one thing I borrowed from naval terminology was the idea that an officer in charge of a military ship (warmoth) would have their own name. I didn't want to use the navy "captain" since the army rank of "captain" was already in use and that would be massively confusing. (I can attest that it confused me when I was a kid, anyway.) So instead such a Kel officer is called a "commander," who is effectively a colonel commanding a ship.
Ironically, this has led me to a sad conclusion that I never got to explore in the trilogy proper, which is that there probably are actual naval Kel--as in, Kel who go around on ships floating on oceans. I cannot escape the likely conclusion that they are probably the most insular of the Kel, who are already a pretty xenophobic bunch, because while I can justify Kel spaceships carting around infantry for assaults, I can't figure out a way for Kel spaceships carting around ocean-going ships to make sense! I reckon naval Kel do exist, but you only see them in a planetary context...