In the Shadow of the Hand: An Oral History of the Lyran War

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Introduction

“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.”

These words, written in 1888 by H. G. Wells, summed up the total of modern man’s experience with the uncanny well past the end of the nineteenth century and into the beginning of the twenty-first. Until the events of 2004, the vast majority of humans had never seen an alien, much less the horrors that were approaching us from the depths of space.

The war has many names: “World War Three,” “The Troubles,” “The Bad Times,” along with more “hip” titles like “Earth Vs. the Keebs,” or “Tolkien’s Revenge.” For me, it will always be “The Lyran War.” They attacked us first, and their name still conjures up nightmares.

This record of the greatest crisis and conflict in human history began as a supplement to the United Nations Postwar Commission Report. I interviewed hundreds of eyewitnesses and survivors. I had originally wanted to include their testimony in the final report, but AEGIS Command was very particular about what they wanted.

They were right; the official report was a collection of hard data, an objective “after-action report” that would allow future generations to study the events of those dark years without being influenced by “the human factor.” But isn’t the human factor what connects us to each other? Will future generations care for chronologies and statistics like they would for personal accounts of people not unlike themselves? And in the end, isn’t the human factor the thing that seperates us from the Lyrans? We owed it to future generations - people who might well face the Lyrans again - to let them know what happened, not just in numbers, but all of it.

My argument, which I admit was less than diplomatic when I first presented it, fell on deaf ears. Not long after, however, my “boss” pulled me aside and suggested that I prepare a book of my own. I had the notes and the legal freedom to use them, so why not publish these stories on my own?

Some critics may, undoubtedly, object to a personal history book so soon after the end of worldwide hostilities. After all, it’s only been a decade since that last terrible battle in Colorado. As one UN colleague told me, “We haven’t had enough time to get a handle on things.” It’s a valid argument. In the case of this generation, time is as much our enemy as it is an ally. The passage of time may provide perspective, hindsight adding wisdom to memories seen through the light of a postwar world. But those memories may not survive to see that perspective, trapped in bodies or spirits too weakened by their experiences to enjoy the fruits of victory. It is because of this enemy, the enemy of time, that I have forsaken hindsight and published this account. Perhaps one day someone will take up the task of collecting the recollections of the much older and (one hopes) wiser survivors. I might even be one of them.

This book is not about my experiences, as incredible as they might have been. I have done my best to minimize my voice through all the interviews and interrogations. I have attempted to reserve judgement throughout, and if any human factor has been removed, it is mine.

...huh?

Right, explanation time.

This is a bit of an ambitious group project, which is a spinoff of another ambitious group project. The first project was Jihad Universe 3.0, an epic, sprawling story of the last battles of the Jihad to Destroy Barney. This in turn spun off the AoS universe, which is a future history of the world left behind once the last words of JU3 have been written.

Not too long ago, I happened to read a really excellent book called World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by a fellow named Max Brooks. This was a serious historical work describing a completely surreal situation. Being a guy who enjoys serious takes on surreal situations, I was hooked from the first page.

World War Z got the wheels turning (not to mention Zack Parson’s equally surreal GI Joe-based parody of WWZ, which may be even more applicable in this case) and started me thinking about applying the same concept - an oral history - to the JU3/AoS setting. For about twelve hours on the 15th, I even contemplated doing it all myself as a NaNoWriMo project. Instead, I’ve decided to open it up as a collaborative work, open to the JU3 writing staff and folks who I’ve either invited to join JU3 or are just friends of the project. Personally, I think that’s actually the better route - as much as JU3 is my brainchild, it’s equally the product of a lot of other people’s hard work too. To hog the spotlight with Shadow of the Hand would be, to me, incredibly disrespectful.

We’ll be filling in the broad strokes of the Lyran War as we go in JU3, along with the stories of all the JU3 main characters. Shadow of the Hand is here to take care of the detail work and tell the spear-carriers’ stories. It should be a hell of a ride.

Selah.

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For members of the #ju3 or #spork communities who’re interested in taking a swing at a Shadow story, please consult the writing guidelines.

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