Horror Writers Association

Veterans in Horror: Interview with Bryn Grover


I grew up in an age when the Soviet Union and communism were generally conceived to be the enemy. “Bomb” drills were generally held as we ducked and hid under desks and learned to count ‘flash to bang’ times. Culturally, this was accented by B Movies of monsters resulting from ‘atomic’ problems and nuclear explosions. I grew to love those movies whether it was Gamera, Godzilla, & Mothra or giant Gila monsters, spiders, and other mutants. Combine that with a love of the work of such authors as H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, Clark Ashton Smith, Lord Dunsany, T.E.D. Klein and others, my stories often have a dark, weird, and perhaps fantastical side to them. They are generally macabre or gothic in nature and do not generally result in happy endings.

View Bryn’s titles.

Tell us a bit about your military service. Years? Branch? Specialty?

1979-1987, U.S. Army, Missile Based Artillery (vs Howitzers) — LANCE and MLRS (Multiple Launched Rocket Systems), typically in support of an armored division

What role, if any, did reading and writing play during your military service?

Reading provided a little bit of a distraction and escape from stress. But it is not unlike that in civilian life either.

What inspired you to start writing?

I have been writing a long time and don’t know if there was a trigger exactly. I think when it comes to horror though (vs other things I write), it started in the service. It was an outlet.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

Well, I basically grew up in drive-in theaters. My mom loved B-Movies. So seeing B&W movies in the drive in from as early in life as I can remember made it seem normal to me. My tastes have changed over time but I still love classic B-movie monsters and horror films.

What role, if any, does your military experience play in your writing?

I do not think that it does. At least not very much. I think some stories have geographic locations based on places I was in during my service. There may be a few hints of truth here and there in a couple of stories. But I do not consciously parlay any military experience into my writing.

What is your favorite depiction of military service in all of literature? Why?

Interesting question. I assume by literature you really want me to focus on fiction and specifically horror. But I will give a non-fiction one first. Panzer Ace: The Memoirs of an Iron Cross Panzer Commander from Barbarossa to Normandy by Richard Freiherr von Rosen is an autobiography that speaks to me because it depicts the tanker’s life — not in terms of wide sweeping exercises and famous battles and strategies but more of the mundane stuff, the real life of soldiers — tank hatch leaking water on you, breakdowns and maintenance problems, idiotic orders from higher up, lack of supplies, etc. It was my favorite depiction because I could associate directly and personally with a lot of it. From a horror point of view, I liked SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror … I like the breadth of it from Cthulhu to ghosts to alternate history and all wrapped around the military and war.

How do you feel military veterans and the broader military experience has thus far been represented in the horror genre?

I am sad to say I really have no clue as I haven’t tried to ferret out details. I know several authors in HWA Virginia chapter and one in PA that are all veterans. So I’d have to say from that experience, there seems to be a good cross section of representation.

Who are some civilian characters in horror that you think would have made for great soldiers?

Another great question. As I think back on all the horror I’ve read, I don’t know if I can name one. Most of the ones I loved have characters that almost require their flaws and shortcomings to make the story. Having them become soldiers would take away from them in some ways. On the flip side, stories with soldiers have ones like Lt Ripley who was made for that role in Aliens. I don’t think I can give an example on this one right now.

Who are some military veteran horror authors you recommend our audience check out?

I know several that I’ve met in the last year or so through the HWA. But the only one I have read that I know is a veteran horror author is Bryan Nowak. I would recommend checking him out, especially the novel Riapoke.

What’s something about veterans most people don’t know?

We are all so different. That’s not an easy question. For my generation and people I interact with, I think there is a tendency not to talk about your service ‘unless’ you are with others — then it becomes a reminiscing type of thing. “Do you remember? Did you ever?” — that sort of thing. But even then it almost never gets to a point where any really bad stuff is discussed. It’s more about military SNAFUs, deployments, places you’ve been, weapons you had or have currently, MOSs (Job functions where MOS stands for Military Occupational Specialty), etc. People don’t talk a lot about combat situations, things they’ve seen that bother them, etc. There is a tendency to joke around a lot. While veterans may be quiet in many settings, in groups, there’s a lot of joking and laughing because even if you didn’t serve directly with an individual and never even met them before, there remains a brotherhood of sorts, a bond of common experience that you recognize and appreciate in the other men and women who have ‘been there, done that’.

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