Watch on the Rhine Afterword
“I am, of course, not a lover of upheavals. I merely want to make sure people do not forget that there are upheavals.” —General Aritomo Yamagata, Imperial Japanese Army, 1881
This story began on a dare, of sorts.
John Ringo created a very interesting, and very bloody, series called, generally, either the Posleen Universe, The War Against the Posleen, or The Legacy of the Aldenata. The series presupposes an alien invasion—a sort of Mongol Horde in space—and a decadent galactic civilization which is able to give Earth much needed technology to defend itself and which needs humans as soldiers to defend it, the controlling Galactics having been genetically and/or culturally manipulated into a helpless pacifism. Much of the tech described is very neat stuff, of course, but the social ramifications are staggering. This is the major reason why the reader will not see as much Galactic Technology (GalTech to the uninitiated) in Watch on the Rhine as one might have expected. The one aspect of GalTech that seems to have the greatest potential social impact is the ability to rejuvenate human beings.
John had solicited contributions from fans, of which Tom is one, for short stories and novellas to deal with areas of the Earth, and of the wider war, that his series was simply not going to cover. These were to be collected, those that met the grade, into an anthology.
Initially, Tom wasn’t all that interested, having other fish to fry (like the series John and he are planning on doing . . . hint, hint. Finish the outline, John). But the more Tom thought about it, and the more he considered the twin impacts of both rejuvenation and a war of extermination being waged by these aliens, the more fascinated with the idea he became.
The conversation went something like this:
Tom (who may have been drinking at the time): You know, bro’, thinking about Germany, the coming invasion and rejuvenation, they’re going to need all the trained and experienced combat soldiers they can lay their hands on.
John (who may not have been drinking at the time): Well, duh.
Tom: Did you ever think about where they are going to get them? Can you say Waffen SS?
John: Cooool. Let’s do it. I’d love it. More importantly, Jim would love it.
So we asked Jim. Then we cornered him. Then we started the arm-twisting. He kept twisting free. But we were persistent . . . and the rest was going to be future history.
* * *
In the course of writing this collaboration we talked about the nature of the Posleen War, aka the War against the Posleen, by the hour. Tom added a fair bit to John’s understanding, and of course John’s interactive responses (“No Goddammit, Tom, we can’t effing crucify the Greens.” “Can we hang ’em? No drop?” “Oh, all right.”) added to Tom’s basic thought-universe. Of course Tom is a Lieutenant Colonel of Infantry (qualified Ranger, Inspector General, Spec Ops Civil Affairs bubba, etc.) and takes all things related very seriously (Remember, you may not like the effing IG . . . but the IG sure likes effing you). John likes some jokes with his mayhem. Maybe you can tell the difference.
Initially Watch on the Rhine was “Die Wacht am Rhein” and was only going to be a long short story or a short novella, 45,000 words tops. But Jim wanted a book. Set in the PosVerse. We decided on doing a companion novella, “Back to Bataan,” that would appear with Die Wacht am Rhein and would concern the Japanese defense of the Philippine Islands against the Posleen. (Which, by the way, we may still do. Time will tell.)
But the story of Hans and Dieter and Anna and Gudrun . . . and, yes, even that Nazi bastard Krueger, kept growing. It grew until it ate all the time and space allowed for both stories. As it turned out, Jim liked that better. And it’s good to be king. Just ask him. (“My writers love me . . . pull!” “Arrghhhh!”)
“But why the bloody damned SS?” the sensitive reader asks. Put simply, because they would be there in John’s universe. Deal. “But what about Malmedy?” Go do a Google search: “biscari sicily peiper.” Let ye among you. “But the concentration camps? Babi Yar? The holocaust?” To which we would answer, “Horrible things and the men responsible should have all been hanged. But we fail to see why those things would keep desperately needed soldiers out of action, whatever larger organization they belonged to and whatever symbols they wore.”
There is another reason, too. Dear reader, we wanted to shock the hell out of you.
Right now, Western Civilization, however much many of its members may refuse to admit it, is involved in a world war. No, it has seen no entire cities destroyed; no trenches have drawn their scars across entire continents. It is a world war all the same. Moreover, it is a world war that is putting to the test every notion of individual liberty, freedom of conscience, and rule of law that the West prizes. And should we lose we will see, or our grandchildren will, the erasure of all that is good in Western Civilization.
We cannot afford to lose.
Yet winning will have its price, too. Just as the invasion John described is ordained to change humanity into something that one of Hitler’s Waffen SS would recognize and call home, so too will this war change us. Because side by side with the virtues of Western Civilization are paired vices that may destroy us: a narrow legalistic mindset, an emphasis on form over substance, and an unwillingness to do the ruthless and violent things we must if we are to survive. This list is not exhaustive. Perhaps worse than these things, however, the West has nurtured at its own breast a set of execrable, vile, treacherous and treasonous villains that seem to seek at every opportunity to do all they can to ensure its destruction.
Yet there is hope. “Survival cancels out programming.”