Radio Drama
Science Faction

Vol 1, Issue #10
"Stand By For Mars!"
October 2006

The Thunder Child: Interview with Authors
Marshall Thomas, Author of The Soldier of the Legion and The Black March
Interview by Caroline Miniscule

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Marshall Thomas is the creator of the six novel-series featuring the soldier Thinker and the Soldiers of the Legion.

Mr. Thomas graciously agreed to an interview with The Thunder Child.

External sites
  • Soldier of the Legion official site

    Interviews on The Soldier of the Legion:

  • Soldier of the Legion was published in 2002. The Black March is coming out this November, correct? The Black March was scheduled to come out late this year, but just a few days ago I received an update from Timberwolf Press. The new release date is the "first or second quarter" of 2007. The good news is that they're planning to do the audio version first this time, with the trade paperback to follow. Timberwolf's audio version of Soldier of the Legion was awesome, and I'm looking forward to the same quality work for The Black March. It's a shame that there's a further delay before we see The Black March, but it can't be helped. Timberwolf has plenty of other books to put out and maybe that's the problem. I'll make sure you get a copy of the audio, or book, when it's released.

    Here's a quick synopsis of The Black March:

    Trapped in the volcanic cauldron of Andrion 3, Squad Beta and the young Legion trooper Thinker fight their way into the camp of the O's, facing an alien enemy that has never known defeat. They confront their foe and find themselves helpless and terrified in the grip of the alien's awesome psypower. Invulnerable Omni probes strike at will and leave the battlefield littered with the glowing armored corpses of some of Thinker's closest comrades.

    Squad Beta ultimately escapes Andrion 3 but the survivors may have lost their souls. Stunned and shaken, Beta recovers in a medmod on Veda 3 but then learns they are to drop onto a Systie world to test a new generation of weapons against the O's. Thinker's old flame Tara ferries the squad to the target in her slave ship. They drop onto Mongera like microbes, falling to their doom. They are certain they will all die there, and they know it must be victory or death. Failure will mean extinction for their species.

    Thinker has learned that the Taka princess Moontouch is to have his baby, and he fears he may not survive to see his own child. His Legion lover Priestess is right at his side, and they vow they will live or die together. They both know that immortality is a cruel joke for a Legion trooper, and the angel of death is with them every instant. As he advances on the O, Thinker is filled with a burning resolve and vows that if he goes out it will be with a very high body count.

    What was the genesis of The Black March. Was it also in the editing process for 2 years like Soldier of the Legion? Actually Soldier was not in the editing process for two years, although it seemed like it at times to me. It was just two years before Timberwolf got around to editing it, again because there were other books in line before it. We did a very thorough job in editing it. I was impressed with the attention to detail that Timberwolf showed, and the close cooperation between editor and author.

    The editing for The Black March was much swifter and easier, probably because by then I was a known quantity to the chief editor, Carol Woods, who is very skilled at what she does. It only took maybe a month, but again there were delays at the publisher that slowed things down.

    I hope I'm not revealing any publishing secrets, but this seems fairly straight-forward to me. Here's how The Black March was born: originally we had Soldier of the Legion, Slave of the Legion, and five other books in the series, all written. The first problem was that Soldier was far longer than the publisher's guidelines. So were the other books. The story was fine, but since Timberwolf planned to do an unabridged audio version of it, it was even more important that we shorten up the first book. We ended up with 270 pages and a terrific audio product that was still nine hours long! In order to do that, we had to end Soldier at an earlier point than the original draft version. I did some rewriting and we chose to end it at a dramatic "to be continued" point to build suspense for the next book.

    When we were ready to do the sequel, it again became clear that Slave of the Legion was too long for one book. To fix it, I moved the last part of Soldier into the first part of Slave. We then cut Slave in half. The last half of Soldier and the first half of Slave became The Black March. The last half of Slave retained the name Slave of the Legion. This wasn't really that hard to do because the entire Soldier series is one continuing story. When you do these cuts, however, it's very important that each story stands on its own. Had I known it would take so long for the sequel to Soldier to see print, I might have reconsidered that dramatic 'ending' of Soldier. I believe both The Black March and Slave of the Legion will be intense and memorable reading experiences, and will stand on their own as well.

    Is this book also going to come out in audio format? Do you get to watch the production of you want to watch the production of it? Yes, this time the audio may even come out before the print version. Timberwolf Press has their own completely equipped audio studio, and audio productions are a big part of what they do.

    I'd love to watch the production but they're in Allen, Texas, I've never been there, and I'm sure the last thing Timberwolf needs is the author hanging around and offering suggestions to their audio team. The truth is, they don't need my help. I was amazed by the quality of the Soldier CD: 22 voice actors, spooky music, wild sound effects - it was truly awesome!

    For Soldier of the Legion you had to "defend your science" to the editor. You said in an interview that you compiled a cutting edge science notebook. Did you/do you also consult with scientists to �pick their brains�? Timberwolf had some scientists on their staff and they'd ask for details on any science-related scenes that didn�t initially make sense to them. I'm not a scientist, but as a science fiction writer I knew my science had to be realistic. I never stopped reading. My science notebook got fatter as I added articles of interest. Actually it's now three big loose leaf binders. I subscribe to Scientific American, Astronomy Magazine, and Science News, and I read whatever new science books look interesting. There's a lot out there � serious science on subjects like time travel, quantum entangling, invisibility, parallel universes, black holes, dark matter, dark energy, wormholes, life extension/immortality and a whole lot more. It's amazing what progress is being made. No, I didn't regularly consult with scientists but I'm raising my own. My youngest son is 17 and wants to be a scientist. I already have my own computer tech and I made him too - my eldest son helps me whenever my computer goes down.

    Over the 20 years in which you worked on the novels, you learnt a great deal of the craft as you went along. The first draft of the first story is mercifully no longer in existence. I do have some early drafts of Soldier down in the basement somewhere but this story grew better as I improved my writing. Back in the Stone Age I used to write out the stories in longhand and then type it into the computer using PFS Write. Now I compose typing directly into the computer with Microsoft Word.

    What�s the third book in the series, and when can we expect it? Here's the full series: Soldier of the Legion (Book 1), The Black March (Book 2), Slave of the Legion (Book 3), Secret of the Legion (Book 4), Cross of the Legion (Book 5), and Curse of the Legion (Book 6).

    Although these are all written and complete, it's up to the publisher when they will come out. Right now they're focused on The Black March which is scheduled for early/mid 2007. I've no idea when Book 3 will come out. I'd prefer that all these books be published without shortening them, but H. L. Mencken said freedom of the press is limited to those who own one, and I don't own one, so it's up to Timberwolf to decide how long these books will be.

    You retired from a 35-year career in the US Foreign Service Office. I spent most of my diplomatic career in East Asia, doing Consular, Commercial, Economic and Political work in Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia and Malaysia. My diplomatic title was First Secretary in my last post, Malaysia.

    You were moved from post to post...could you request your assignments? Yes, you could always request an assignment that appealed to you, but there was no guarantee that Uncle Sam wouldn't need you elsewhere. I actually got every post that I wanted, probably because I didn't ask for places like Paris or London. Every country was different, but I enjoyed them all. Seeing the world, and living and interacting with people in all those countries, was an education in itself. I studied Vietnamese before the posting in Saigon and I later studied Chinese (Mandarin) at the State Department's School of Chinese Language and Area Studies, which was then in Taichung, Taiwan. I found both languages very helpful throughout my career. My wife didn't speak English when I first met her in Vietnam so my language training was valuable on a personal level as well as on an official level!

    How did you get into that line of work? My father was assigned to a series of overseas posts in the '50's and '60's so I was raised overseas � Spain, Indonesia, Panama, and Taiwan. I loved it and decided I wanted to spend my life serving my country in the Foreign Service while continuing to travel and experience the world. It proved to be a great career choice, and a good experience for our children, who studied in the International Schools.

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