The Bookshelf: Enfield Author Marko Kloos on War and Human Nature

Aug 30, 2019

For much of human history, human beings have waged war against each other. In the new novel by Marko Kloos, that tendency to wage war remains as strong as ever more than a thousand years into the future. Aftershocks is an adventure story as well as a portrait of a technologically-advanced civilization struggling to maintain the peace after a devastating war. Kloos spoke with NHPR’s Peter Biello. 

Read Marko Kloos's Top Five Reading Recommendations:

1.   The Book of M by Peng Shepherd. "A haunting post-apocalyptic novel after the outbreak of a strange disease where people’s shadows disappear…and with them their memories."

2.   Rosewater by Tade Thompson. "Highly original and inventive science fiction set in Nigeria: a strange alien dome appears outside of a city, and it may be the harbinger of a slow invasion of Earth."

3.   The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts. "A hard SF novella about how to stage a mutiny when your job involves time dilation and relativity, and you are only awake one day in every million."

4.   Voyage of the Dogs by Greg van Eekhout. "Fun middle-grade SF featuring a group of dogs called 'Barkonauts', who are trained to assist astronauts on a space mission, and who have to complete that mission when their spacecraft gets damaged and their humans go missing."

5.   Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah Dawson and Kevin Hearne. "A hilarious send-up of common fantasy tropes in the pun-soaked fantasy world of Pell."

To what extent do you think waging war is a fixture of who we are as human beings?

 I think that the history of civilization is a history of war. It's that thing that, I think it's a quote by Patton...I forgot the exact quote, but it says our history is one of warfare.

Is there a historical conflict that inspired some of what's going on in this book?

Definitely. It got a nice blurb from George R. R. Martin who told me that he could detect shades of World War I and World War II Germany in that. And I said, well, there's more than shades. I liberally cribbed from history of Germany after the two world wars. That had a pretty real inspiration to me because I had this memory of my grandfather who fought for the wrong side of World War II and it was definitely the wrong side.

Are you saying Germany?

Yes.

Is that the accent I'm detecting?

It is. It was unquestionably the wrong side. You know, the guys with the skulls on the uniforms. They lost, obviously, and he was in the war, and he came back home and when I was a kid, I knew he had been in the war, but he never talked about it and every time I asked him about it, he would change the subject and move on to something else. I was little and easily distracted so that was easy to do. But later on, when I was thinking about writing this book, I was thinking: What would it be like for somebody not only to come home from war and you've lost the war, but you come home from a war you've lost and you're the bad guys. Like, you're the aggressors and you've got beaten down and everybody hates you and you have to make sense of it all and put things back together and try to find an identity for yourself that is not your old identity. That is now...you have to face the fact that you've spent so much time basically dedicating your time to the wrong cause, the bad cause. Everything rolled off from there.

The character of Aden, who is Gretian. Am I saying that correctly?

Gretian. It intentionally rhymes with "Aggression." 

Oh, that's a good way to remember it. His side of the war was the losing side. And it seems like you're making the parallel between the Gretians and Aden and World War I Germany. 

Kind of a mix between both World War I and World War II Germany, because the reason they started the conflict is because even though the Gretians were the dominant planet in the system, it's all about resources. I wanted to have an analogy, like Germany after World War I had to pay these massive reparations.

They were punished.

Just like the Gretians were punished. I wanted to have a situation where they're in the same sort of position, kind of like the interwar state between World War I and World War II and all these tendencies that gave rise to World War II, which is the victors not being magnanimous and socking it to the defeated. When you beat someone down, you don't want to beat somebody down too far, because when they have no place left to go and can't get back up, they're not willing to be beat down any further. It's a careful balance.

One of the questions I had while reading this was: More than a thousand years into the future, we haven't figured out how to not have war. How depressing!

Yeah, I know, right?

Is that an assumption you had to make to make a novel work, or is that something you believe, that we're never going to figure out how to not have wars?

I don't think...unless something profoundly paradigm-shifting happens with our brains, I think technology will always have a tendency to outrace the lizard part of our brain, our brain that wants to use technology to club someone over the head with it.

This is the first book in a new series you've started. Safe to say that wars are going to continue? Or some kind of fighting in future books?

I could be glib and say, well, it depends on the sales numbers! But I'm just now turning in the second book in the series that'll be out next summer, and we'll see where it goes from there, but I have it planned for a longer series.