So, a long time ago I had this idea in my mind. Now, granted, I didn’t know how to proceed from there, but it was this idea I had in my mind. Maybe it could still work as a very short story by itself.
I’ve talked before about “Steel Panthers Characterization”, derived from this:
Basically, in Steel Panthers, a unit has a nationally appropriate name and rank applied to it. Being otherwise interchangeable, this means nothing else in terms of characterization.
I came up with the term “Steel Panthers Characterization” to describe situations when characters were not just underdeveloped, but seemed to exist solely to put a certain piece of military equipment into action.
Fortunately, just as there were many, many fewer “Big-War Thrillers” than I’d thought, there are equally as few Steel Panthers Characters. Yet as a formative experience, this introduction stuck in my mind.
Basically, there would be a pilot in a two-seat, side-by-side aircraft, like an A-6 (as in the illustration) or an F-111 or an Su-24. It would dive in, release its weapons, and fly away on a routine mission.
Suddenly, the pilot would realize something wasn’t right. He looks at the other crewman, clad in his flight suit. Lifting up the visor, the pilot sees absolutely nothing underneath it. Same thing with the gloves and sleeves. Unnerved, the pilot simply ejects. His fate would be left ambiguous in a short story, but in a longer one he would become one of the characters.
What’s soured me on the concept is that I’ve felt it’s not only too harsh a critique, but also too inaccurate of one, given how few works really sink to that level. And the ones that do either make up for it in some way or are just unfairly easy targets. But still, the draft of the pilot’s story is something I feel I should share.