John Hemry at Capclave

John Hemry and David Keener Saturday night at Capclave 2013, I decided to avoid the preparations for George R. R. Martin’s mass signing — he just about doubled the size of the conference, and the line for his signing wrapped around the interior of the Hilton. I checked the schedule and noticed that there was a John G. Hemry reading, so I decided to attend that session.

I got there a few minutes early, and there was another man also waiting outside the room for the previous session to end. So I joked around with him for a few minutes before I finally looked down at his badge. I’d been speaking to John Hemry for more than five minutes without realizing it, which just shows how observant I am.

Stark's War by John G. HemryWe both laughed when I explained to him that I had just realized who I’d been speaking to. Then I added, “By the way, I saw you speak the first time you were ever a panelist. You’d signed a publishing contract, and your first novel, Stark’s War, was due to be released but wasn’t out yet. So they added you as a panelist for the Baltimore Worldcon in 1998.”

Hemry said, “I bet I was a lot thinner, back then.”

“Well, me too.”

In fact, it was the 56th Worldcon, which was held in 1998 in downtown Baltimore. I remembered picking up his first novel a few months after the convention. So, I’ve been reading Hemry’s books for the last 15 years.

His career has had a very interesting trajectory. Like a lot of midlist SF writers his sales over his first seven books (the three books in his Stark’s War trilogy and the four books in his JAG in Space series featuring military legal expert Paul Sinclair) either diminished over time, or didn’t grow fast enough to suit the publisher. So he began publishing his Lost Fleet series under the pen name of Jack Campbell.

Henry / Campbell BrandingThat six-book series proved to be extremely successful, and allowed Hemry to “graduate” to hardcover releases. Hemry is now publishing two new series set in that universe, The Lost Stars and The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier. Plus, all of his backlist books have been re-published with better cover art and re-branded with both his regular name and his pen name.

This is actually a pretty big deal. Most writers who are forced switch to a pen name are fortunate if they subsequently achieve success under that pen name. It’s even less common for such a writer to resurrect their entire backlist or re-brand themselves back under their original name. So kudos to John G. Hemry for this feat.

The Lost Fleet: Dauntless - by John G. Hemry Anyway, his reading was scheduled for thirty minutes, and about twelve people eventually showed up for his reading (which is a respectable number). Hemry opted to read a chapter from his latest hardcover, The Lost Worlds: Perilous Shield, featuring an incident in which a commanding officer had to remove another officer from their position.

What I like about Hemry’s work is that he leverages his own military experience to provide thoughtful military fiction that isn’t just about the glory to be won in battle. His stories show not just the battlefield, but also the behind-the-scenes problems of leadership, discipline, political maneuvering and strategy that all effect the outcome of conflicts. In short, if you like military fiction, you should check out his books — you won’t be disappointed.

I recommend starting with the Stark’s War or Lost Fleet series, both of which are shown on this page and conveniently link over to Amazon for you.

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1 Comment

  1. Posted October 25, 2013 at 2:38 PM | Permalink

    John Hemry on FacebookI emailed John Hemry regarding my write-up, and was gratified at his response on Facebook. Click on the picture to see a larger view.

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