Q&A With Sebastian Junger

DreamStates: Sebastian Junger   Animation by Cole Gerst

Sebastian Junger is busy on a book tour promoting his book WAR, now in paperback. The author and filmmaker took time from his busy schedule to chat with me about his Dreamstates episode, seen above.

How were you first approached to take part in DreamStates?

I was told about it by National Geographic. I thought it was a cool idea.

Did you collaborate at all with the illustrator? If so, in what ways?

No I did not. And I think he did a fantastic job! I absolutely loved what he created. It was such a cool experience watching my own dream portrayed visually. It was very cool.

Was there anything that he got 100% right, spot on?

Well I think the characterization of the expanding cartoon monsters was perfect. He really nailed it. It was really spot on.

You said this dream marked a time where you grew up. Have you had other dreams, like or unlike this one, that have repeated or have impacted you?

I mean every once in a while we all have dreams that are devastating. Nothing ever like that though. Nothing with a complete sense of doom and helplessness. It was really a classic midlife issue.

How old were you?

I was 46.

Your dream occurred while traveling with the military. What are sleeping conditions like when traveling with the armed forces?

It depends on where you are. There are big bases were you’re in a nice building. Out in Restrepo we were sleeping on the ground and on rickety wooden platforms and it was drafty and cold as hell. And filled with flies in the summer. That’s where I had this dream, on one of those bunks.

You mentioned that many soldiers also had dreams. Were there any that stuck with you? Any commonalities among the dreams of the soldiers?

Not specifically. But many had combat dreams a lot. Or they’d dream they heard gunfire. You’d wake up thinking the outpost was getting attacked. It was a small outpost, only twenty men, so it was a real possibility of getting overrun. It was serious business out there.

Once I woke up thinking I’d had that dream; and I woke up thinking that I’d dreamt of gunfire. And it was real gunfire, we were getting attacked, so it was a real reversal. We were also all taking anti Malaria medicine too which is famous for giving you crazy psychotic dreams. We all took those pills on Mondays and so, Monday nights we had horrifying dreams those nights. The guys would talk about those dreams sometimes. I had a dream I was ordered to cut a woman in half with a carpentry saw. I did it lengthwise in my dream, instead of crosswise.

I told the guys that dream, and they just shook their heads.

Many dreamed they were home a lot. And when they were home they dreamed of being in combat. They weren’t touchy-feely. They talked less about the content of the dreams and more about the effects of their dreams.

You mention having a make-believe brother in DreamStates. Who would play him in a film versions? Who would be your imaginary brother?

I don’t know my actors well. I won’t go with Mel Gibson!

That’s safe.

That’s a tough one. I’ll go with Sean Penn.

Do you remember your latest dream?

No. I am on a book tour which is not natural to human life. So I am not dreaming right now.

Be sure to check out Sebastian Junger’s dream, and many others from DreamStates.