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Posted on Oct 8, 2007 in Armchair Reading

Fiction into factual events?

By Mike MacGowan

Dear ACG,

I am curious; in the INTERACTIVE section of your magazine, where readers must decide on the outcome of several different scenarios, at what point do you insert fiction into factual events?  In other words, just like in the movie “Saving Private Ryan” where we were introduced to fictional characters and operations in a factual historical setting, how far down the line do you typically do this in your INTERACTIVE section, and do you ever use actual names of soldiers in the scenarios you present?

Mike MacGowan

El Cajon, CA

* * *

Thanks very much for your email and question. Typically, in such interactive articles as You Command (Combat Decision Game) and What Next General, the principal leaders are actual historical figures. In You Command, most of the subordinates who interact with the historical leader in order to propel the combat action are usually fictional, although we try to make these characters as historically authentic as possible. In What Next General, normally all of the main subordinate commanders are historical characters who served with or under the main leader in the particular combat action. Occasionally, some fictional subordinates are added in order to provide the main historical leader with the chance to "discuss" the courses of action to give readers some critical insight into the factors that the leader had to consider when making the final decision and his thought process.


In Combat! and Interactive Combat Story articles (the latter is no longer a department in the magazine), all of the characters are fictional ones inserted into a combat situation based upon a historical battle or campaign.

In all of the interactive articles, whether the characters are real ones or fictional ones, the first-person dialogue is usually created by our authors (although we always try to ensure that the dialogue is consistent with what the historical figure would have said in that situation).

By the way, Saving Private Ryan is totally fiction — the incident as well as the characters are all made up, since such a mission never took place. The historical basis for Ryan’s plot is loosely based upon a family of 5 brothers, four of whom had been killed in the war and the 5th, surviving brother, was serving in the Pacific Theater under MacArthur’s command. MacArthur learned about the situation and on his own initiative (not George Marshall’s orders) ordered the surviving brother home. There was no dramatic ‘rescue mission’ to find him.

Thanks for your email and thanks for reading Armchair General.

Jerry Morelock

Editor in Chief, Armchair General Magazine