Enlisted grunt Colby Buzzell’s and armored cavalry officer Matt Gallagher’s blogs-from-the-front in their time seemed as new and different about the Iraq War as IEDs and FOBs. But in the years since Buzzell’s My War and Gallagher’s Kaboom galvanized Internet reading audiences the blog format’s luster has fizzled a bit and the Internet has changed structurally. In the face of competition from faster-moving, quicker-hitting social media forms such as Twitter and Facebook, it’s hard not for blogs to smell a little musty. As big money has upped the standards for web-based mass media and created plenty of outlets for the most distinctive voices, personal websites can seem quaint or a little bland. Still, they persist, reflecting and shaping popular opinion in a quieter, but still insistent vein. Most don’t speak to the masses, but all can aspire for influence within circles of like-minded cognoscenti. Below are the post-9/11 wars art and literature sites I check regularly:
War, Literature, and the Arts (WLA). The flagship of war lit and art websites, full of quality reviews, essays, and creative work. Not single-mindedly focused on the contemporary wars, but it doesn’t ignore them, either; currently featured is an essay by Ben Fountain and reviews of Katey Schultz’s Flashes of War, David Abrams’ Fobbit, and the Fire and Forget anthology. The site is affiliated with the United States Air Force Academy and operates under the wise, caring supervision of Donald Anderson. If you haven’t read Anderson’s Gathering Noise from My Life: A Camouflaged Memoir (2012), you should, but don’t take my word for it, read Brian Turner’s and Siobhan Fallon’s blurbs at the link.
Red Bull Rising. A powerhouse compendium of war lit announcements and commentary. Blog maestro Randy Brown–aka “Charlie Sherpa”–’s passion for sharing news, rendering credit, and building a community of contemporary war lit lovers via the Internet puts Time Now’s similar efforts to shame. Brown’s a former NCO in the Iowa National Guard, and he writes with the same curmudgeonly practicality and helpfulness I associate with the many members of the Iowa Guard I served with in Afghanistan.
Military Experience & the Arts (MEA). I don’t know MEA maven Travis Martin, a US Army vet of two tours in Iraq, but he clearly not only has his heart in the right place but possesses a ton of organizational and entrepreneurial clout. The MEA site is big-time beyond compare, with so many links, pages, and announcements it’s hard to keep track of everything. If I am reading their “Publications” tab correctly, they sponsor no less than four online journals dedicated to veteran and military-themed literature.
The Veterans Writing Project (VWP) and O-Dark-Thirty websites provide writing opportunities for veterans of all wars. The VWP site contains information about writing workshops and seminars, while O-Dark-Thirty features poetry, stories, and interviews featuring established and up-and-coming veteran authors from World War II onward. I also highly recommend VWP and O-Dark-Thirty founder Ron Capps’ memoir Seriously Not All Right (2014). Not only has Capps’ service as both a military officer and State Department official taken him to Kosovo, Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan, like Donald Anderson he writes from the vantage point of having more than just a couple of decades of life experience under his belt.
While The Military Spouse Book Review is not singly-minded focused on war lit and The War Movie Buff on post-9/11 war film, they overlap enjoyably enough with Time Now’s concerns that I always keep an eye on them. And finally, a number of published war authors–probably most–also maintain a website or blog, and if I don’t visit them as much as the sites listed above, I get to all of them sooner or later. Thanks everyone for writing and posting; the Golden Age of the blog may have passed, but to paraphrase a character in a Flannery O’Connor short story, “No one’s not doing it anymore if we’re still doing it.”