Memoirs are important for two reasons: for the author, so they don’t forget those precious details that threaten to get washed away with the waves of time; and to the public, who ought to know exactly what goes on. I hear complaints about the number of veterans writing memoirs, and I understand it, but the alternative is never hearing the refined thoughts of the guys in the middle of the shitstorms — the guys actually pulling the trigger. Otherwise you’re stuck with politicians and generals telling the stories of war — a necessary perspective, but not the only perspective that needs to be heard.

However, there are very few veterans involved in the process of fiction storytelling. That means movies, television shows, novels, theater in any and all forms of storytelling. That could mean science fiction, fantasy, crime, thriller, romance, comedy — any genre in any medium.

But why is fiction important? Fiction can tell stories in ways that memoirs and articles and regurgitated stories at the bar cannot. While those can relay the facts, and often the harsh realities we face in real life, they can have a hard time expressing exactly how something feels. Where an article can tell the what, fiction can tell the why. Music, drama, particular dialogue — these elements of narrative can all serve to express emotions and feelings that couldn’t otherwise be felt unless you were there yourself. Of course, you can’t replicate a wartime experience, but you can’t do that with any medium. You also can’t replicate what it feels like to be terrified of the dark as a child, to fall deeply in love, to be overcome with grief — all experiences that movies and books have excellently replicated through fiction.

Funnily enough, some of the most compelling war movies or television series have been made by people who aren’t veterans at all. They are experts in their craft: making compelling dramas for the screen, page or stage. I would love to see more veterans embrace these crafts as their own.