Veterans in Horror: Interview with LP Hernandez
LP Hernandez is an author of horror and speculative fiction. His stories have been featured in anthologies from Dark Matter Magazine, Cemetery Gates Media, and Sinister Smile Press among others. He is a regular contributor to The NoSleep Podcast and has released two short story collections. His novella, Stargazers, was published under the My Dark Library banner with Cemetery Gates Media. When not writing, LP serves as a medical administrator in the U.S. Air Force. He is a husband, father, and a dedicated metalhead.
Tell us a bit about your military service. Years? Branch? Specialty?
I have been serving in the Air Force for over sixteen years now. I entered the Air Force as an enlisted member and commissioned as a Medical Service Corps officer about halfway (as of now) through my time.
What role, if any, did reading and writing play during your military service?
Writing has definitely had an impact on my career. In the military, you are expected to attend professional development courses at various points in your career. Writing, from essays to performance reviews, is often integral to these courses. I’ve been very successful at writing awards packages for my members, which is a good way to show appreciation and can also benefit their careers.
What inspired you to start writing?
What I thought was a talent for writing, when I was a kid, turned out to be a big vocabulary instead. It took years before I realized those were different things. A big vocabulary can sometimes get in the way of a story. At around the age of ten, my friends and I would pass around homemade comics inspired by MAD Magazine. I was a voracious reader at the time, and always had a fondness for horror, as tame as the horror written for kids was in retrospect. Having received validating feedback for my comics, I shifted my efforts to writing stories similar to what I was reading. Those early attempts at writing fiction were more vehicles for me to showcase my vocabulary, but the validating feedback continued, deserved or not. I never stopped writing even though it wasn’t always possible to dedicate myself to it fully.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
My first encounter with horror was probably Killer Klowns From Outer Space. I thought about those cotton candy cocoons for months after I watched it at the probably-too-young age of six. I liked other genres, but I loved horror. I read it as soon as I was able and have never wavered in my longing to recapture the thrill of watching The Exorcist or reading The Stand.
What role, if any, does your military experience play in your writing?
Overall, I love and appreciate what the Air Force has provided me, the opportunities I was able to seize. I entered the service as a high school dropout (long story) and have since earned my Master’s. I had the privilege of being on the frontlines of the COVID vaccine administration effort, spending two months in Brooklyn in 2021. I’ve lived all over the world, deployed, and made lifelong friends. It is who I am. I credit my military experience with giving me the confidence to be the writer I am today. I do draw on some of the themes that permeate my service, loneliness and isolation come to mind, when writing. The main character of my novella, Stargazers, was a veteran and I drew from what I experienced being separated from my wife and kids as inspiration for his mannerisms and behavior.
What is your favorite depiction of military service in all of literature? Why?
My son is named Yossarian, so that should answer the question. I love Catch-22! For all the good of military service, it is still government work. That means redundancy and shifting targets. There have been times in my life, while serving, I just had to laugh at my circumstances. My very first day of basic training, I ran into the shower while being screamed at by a TI. I promptly slipped on the wet tiles and sprawled out, naked in front of fifty other trainees. I recall marching over ice during thunder-snow, being told if we fell and took someone down with us we could be charged with assault.
How do you feel military veterans and the broader military experience has thus far been represented in the horror genre?
My gut reaction to this question is to say unevenly. Military members are a microcosm of society. We have the same hopes and fears as civilians but can be portrayed in a monolithic fashion. With that in mind, I don’t believe military characters should automatically be presented as heroic, and they should also not be assumed to carry heavy, combat-related trauma. Military members are complex. We do have some service-related touchstones that unite us, but our experiences vary.
Who are some civilian characters in horror that you think would have made for great soldiers?
Oddly, my mind went to kids. A great soldier (or Airman, Sailor, etc.) needs to be able to adapt to shifting circumstances. Two that came to mind were Jake from The Dark Tower, and Max from The Troop. Both adapted and survived when most would have folded.
Who are some military veteran horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
I am looking forward to reading other responses to this question, as I do not know any off the top of my head.
What’s something about veterans most people don’t know?
We’re just like you!