Warrior Wordsmiths, First Lines by Veterans

Back to our regularly scheduled program, this month’s First Lines post is dedicated to authors of speculative fiction and are veterans who served or are serving in the U.S. military.

Please note:

Many of these authors received honors for their service. Read their bios for more information.

What is First Lines?

First Lines is a series of blog articles posted on around the first of the month. The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. Do these first lines hook you? Do you want to read more?

Cover of The Bonding Spell shows an image close-up of a gold coin with a symbol on it partly buried in a sand dune, in the distance, silhouetted against a moon are skyscrapers.

At first I don’t recognize the street until we pass the stooped guy with the long, white beard pulling the goat cart, and I know it’s about to happen. It’s the dream. The same dream I always have and it pisses me off.”

The Bonding Spell, M.L. Doyle served in the Army.

Cover of the Double Spiral War features a shot of a man in a futuristic military uniform front and center, behind him are men and women and behind them is an image of a space ship approaching a  double spiral galaxy.

Frye Charltos read the battle reports with harshly conflicting emotions. So far the surprise attacks worked almost exactly as he had planned. He should be pleased.”

Double Spiral War Warren Norwood, was a veteran of the Vietnam War.

Cover of Trading in Danger shows a semi-transparent close up of a half a woman's face with the image of deep space and a space ship also visible.

Kylara Vatta came to attention in front of the Commandant’s desk. One sheet of flatcopy lay in front of him, the print too small for her to read upside down. She had a bad feeling about this.”

Trading in Danger (Vatta’s War Book 1), Elizabeth Moon served in the U.S. Marines

Cover of Not This August has triangles of color across it with line drawings of two soldiers fighting with rifles and bayonettes while the lower half of another soldier is visible lying face down on the ground. Also there is the line drawing of a rocket on one side that reaches from top to bottom.

April 17, 1965, the blackest day in the history of the United States, started like any other day for Billy Justin. Thirty-seven years old, once a freelance commercial artist, a pensioned veteran of Korea, he was now a dairy farmer, and had been during the three years of the war.”

Not This August, Cyril M. Kornbluth served in the U.S. Army during the Battle of the Bulge.

The cover of The Healer's War has a color gradient of black to green from left to right. In the upper right large helicopters are visible and in the lower right is the silhouette of a female soldier from the back.

The nightmares have lost some of their power by now. I can haul myself out of one almost at will, knowing that the sweat-soaked sheet under me is not wet jungle floor, that the pressure against my back is not the barrel of an enemy rifle or a terribly wounded Vietnamese but my sleeping cat.”

Healer’s War, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough served as an RN in the US Army, including time in Vietnam.

The cover of The Forever War has the author's name and the title against a red background in the top 2/3 of the cover. The bottom third shows close-up the debris of city buildings with more city scape visible and damaged in the background against a cloudy sky

‘Tonight we’re going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man.’ The guy who said that was a sergeant who didn’t look five years older than me. So if he’d ever killed a man in combat, silently or otherwise, he’d done it as an infant.

The Forever War, Joe Haldeman, is a Vietnam war veteran.

The cover of The OUtback Stars shows a woman in an ornate space suit facing the reader, she's walking toward us, around her are curly tendrils of something black , behind her is a multicolored swirl of nebula-like nature.

Despite the protective suit shielding her from the flames, Lieutenant Jodenny Scott expected to die very soon. The prospect should have alarmed her, but on some dim, exhausted level, she supposed it was only fair.”

The Outback Stars, Sandra McDonald served in the U.S. Navy.

Cover of Planetside has the title running vertically in the center, the image is of the side of a space vessel that appears to be armed, a starburst of light is in the distance and beyond that is the space view of a blue-green planet with a moon in the further distance.

I stepped off the shuttle in a shitty mood. Three straight days on a crowded ship with two jumps and no booze would do that. Nothing good ever can from answering a communicator in the middle of the night.”

PlanetsideMichael Mammay is a retired army officer.

Other Author Veterans

Arthur C. Clarke served the Royal Air Force during World War II.  

JR Handley, a veteran of the Air Force.

Roald Dahlwas an RAF fighter pilot in World War II.

David Drakeserved in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

Robert A. Heinleinserved in the U.S. Navy in the 1930s.

Paul Linebarger(AKA Cordwainer Smith) was in the U.S. Army during WWII.

Jerry Pournellewasa veteran of the Korean war.

John Ringo is a U.S. Army veteran.

Kurt Vonnegut served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Gene Wolfe fought in the Korean War

A Special Salute

There are many nations embroiled in armed conflicts (invasions, civil wars, wars against drugs or terrorists) at this moment. Israel and Gaza, Ukraine and Russia, Afghanistan, Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, Southern Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, and Yemen. It’s sobering to think there is so much violence in our world. For those who fight for freedoms, I see you and I honor your service. 


If you know of an author, not on this list, who has or is serving in the military, add their name to this list in the comments. Let’s support our veterans who are authors.


There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. Usually these titles are pulled at random. They are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.

Do You Want to Read More?

Did you enjoy this list? 

Check out previous First Lines posts

Thank you for reading. Please take a moment to share in the comments below— Which ones spoke to you? Did you buy it? 

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