Writing And Blogging

Over at my other blog, I have a piece explaining it in more detail, but I’ll say it here as well. I’m slowing down Fuldapocalypse and putting it on semi-hiatus, not total by any means, but not at the pace I have now.

  • I’m concentrating on long-form writing, and want to slow down my blogging, as I want to get into the habit of long-form “marathons”, not short “sprinter” posts. Especially as my Fuldapocalypse posts have been getting shorter.
  • I’ve been sinking into a weird habit where I’ll pass over later installments in series where I loved the first book, but grab, read, and even review the same installments in ones where I thought the first one was merely decent at best.

That being said, I have no regrets about doing what I’ve been doing at Fuldapocalypse. It’s given me a lot of enjoyable books to read and share, and I’ve had a lot of fun making the reviews.

I have a few mostly finished reviews I can post to help it along a little longer, but just thought I’d give the heads-up.

 

The Fuldapocalypse 100 Post Special

So Fuldapocalypse has reached a hundred posts. What a ride.

As I’ve said many times before, I went in to Fuldapocalypse expecting a very narrow spectrum where Red Army was on one end and Hackett’s The Third World War was on the other. The formal scale was in part to get me to be more rigorous in my reviewing and in part because I thought the works would be so inherently similar that I needed to highlight their differences.

Almost immediately, though, I became burned out. As I branched out, my scale gradually faded away. “Zombie Sorceresses” aren’t really relevant in outright supernatural stories, and don’t work when the story is implausible and ridiculous from the get-go. Eventually, I just resorted to an inherently “unstructured” review system-and it’s worked out very well. If I want to mention a story is “rivet-countery” or has a huge “zombie sorceress” contrivance, I can just say so in the review without having a formal section.

So, what I have learned from Fuldapocalypse? A lot, but the biggest is…

There’s a lot fewer “World War III” stories than I thought.

Blame my weird tendency to read the imitators first. Take my wargaming background and looking on only a few places at first, and a narrow tendency emerges. After all, if all I see is infodumpy Hackett xeroxed fifty-times stories, it’s like someone only reading fanfics and concluding that Pokemon is about betrayal. Understandable given the narrow perspective, but not really accurate.

Even at the height of the 1980s boom, there were still were a lot more books about stopping World War III than fighting it. And frankly, to me it’s a lot more fun to see the different, the strange, and the classic-but-unread. If I have to choose between either:

  1. zigzagging between feminist superpower stories, basketball mysteries, conventional thrillers, and classic vigilante adventure stories (all of which I’ve reviewed here), with World War III novels when I feel like it…
  2. Reading the entire collected works of William Stroock for the sake of reading something concerning World War III.

I’m definitely going with Option 1.

Even “cheap thrillers” can vary to the point where depending on the era, the prevalent cliches are going to be almost the exact opposite of an earlier/later time. Or there’s an individual work that stands out from that time period.

Reviewing good books is more fun than reviewing bad books.

I’ll review bad books on Fuldapocalypse. But I’ll be honest, I feel a lot better about going “this is an obscure book almost no one has read, and it’s really good” vs. “this is an obscure book almost no one has read, and it’s really bad.”

Part of it is that if I had more fun reading a book, I’ll have more fun reviewing it. Part of it is a feeling that I’m (consciously or not) just selecting easy targets to smash, especially more obscure authors, and an increasing feeling that it sometimes isn’t really fair to do something like that. Well-established authors are another story-I had zero hangups about ripping Executive Orders to pieces.

But part of it is that I think I’ve outgrown my old “deliberately look at something I know is bad to see just how bad” (to a degree), and have come to love sharing hidden gems. I think it may be me being more of a writer (or Command LIVE scenario creator) myself and thus being on the other side of the critic/author divide, so I’m no longer the fire-breather I’ve been in the past.

That being said, as a writer/content creator, you will get criticism. You will get unfair criticism. You will get unreasonable criticism. That’s just how it goes.

The worst titles to review are the uninteresting ones

Uninteresting does not necessarily mean “bad”. In fact, many books I personally enjoyed I struggled to review. Thus the paradox emerges. A solid title in a series I’ve reviewed a past installment in leaves me having to work hard to write something other than “Like Book X in Series Y, Book Z in Series Y is good to read”.

Meanwhile, a book I didn’t like and could think of a very solid, distinct reason why I didn’t like it can easily get a review.

The most and least-reviewed decades are…

At least according to the tags, and as of this post, the number of books reviewed by decade are…

  • 1970s and earlier: 5
  • 1980s: 19
  • 1990s: 20
  • 2000s: 16
  • 2010s: 31

So the “technothriller heyday” of the 1980s is actually the middle of the road.

Reading obscure books is more fun.

I’ve noticed obscure [e]books come a lot more easily to me than big-name thrillers. It obviously depends on the individual book, but I’d think the biggest reason is they’re too long for their own good. I’d rather, all other things being equal, read two 300-page books than one 600-page one. Or three 200-page books. If only because it gives me a chance to review and ever so slightly widen the exposure of an author if that 200-300 page book happened to be good. This isn’t to say there aren’t good long books or bad short books, but it’s a matter of overall taste.

The second biggest reason is there are only so many real big time authors, and I don’t want to read too many books by the same wri-wait a second….

Somehow I read Jerry Ahern’s entire Survivalist series. I might be crazy.

Yeah, I don’t really know how this happened. Maybe blame the season and the fact that the books acted as a valuable time-filler. Maybe blame Ahern writing it as a serial and me going “ok, what’s happening next?” Maybe blame Ahern being surprisingly good with the literary fundamentals, so that even the worse books didn’t feel bad to read and I could always get through them quickly.

I also think reading the entire ‘epic’ has made me less judgemental. Let me put it this way- reading and enjoying dozens of ridiculous pulp tales is a pretty glass-filled house to be throwing stones from.

I’m torn on when to try and read more Jerry Ahern books. On one hand, he could write and some of the premises look good. On the other, well, aren’t two dozen books by one author more than enough. I mean, the Casca series has around the same number, and I’ve liked many-but not enough to want to go “Yep, I want to read every last one of them”.

And finally…

Fuldapocalypse has been a fun experience.

I’ve really loved how Fuldapocalypse has turned out. It’s legitimately broadened my scope of literature I’ve read, given me the chance to write lots of reviews, and given me a lot of fun.

If I had to list the best author I’ve discovered after I started Fuldapocalypse, it’d be Mack Maloney. Maloney has managed two things. The first is providing a scope that’s (for the most part) between the small-unit thrillers and the giant worldwide technothrillers/army books. The second is having a sense of fun and imagination.

But I’ve found many more good writers after starting this blog. And I’ve had many fun experiences with writing about what I’ve reviewed here, good and bad books alike.

A new tagline

You may notice this blog has a new tagline. It used to be “Reviewing the Third World War on the page and screen.” That was made way back in last August when I thought it’d be a very narrow review site. Of course, now it’s anything but narrow. So I felt a new tagline was appropriate. Now it’s the more appropriate “Reviewing the Third World War and much, much more.”

New Year Blogging

Happy New Year

Happy New Year. My rough Fuldapocalypse plans are as follows.

  • Northern Fury will hopefully release soon, and I eagerly await the chance to review it thoroughly.
  • My military science fiction collection has grown and I’m in that kind of mood, so expect to see a lot more of that.
  • Finally, I’m looking to review some “classics”-the earlier books that helped create and forge their respective (sub)genres. You’ll know them when you see them.

 

Getting this blog going was one of my favorite things of 2018, so here’s to 2019 in Fuldapocalypse!

The Dead Generals of World War III

I’ve finished reading Aleksander Maslov’s Fallen Soviet Generals, a chronicle of the fallen general officers of the Red Army in World War II. Over two hundred Soviet generals were killed, on average one every six days. German general casualties were similarly massive. The Western Allies got off lightly (the United States lost twenty generals), although there were exceptions. In Vietnam the U.S. Army lost five generals.

The subject of how generals died after the invention of the telephone and radio has been a area of weird fascination for me, and I even chose it as the subject of my first (probably too goofy given the seriousness of the topic) ebook.

No doubt there would be a lot of generals dying in a hypothetical World War III, even a purely conventional one, along with their subordinates. The causes can be divided into two main categories:

Deep Fire

“Deep Fire” refers to anything to strike deeper, and encompasses air strikes, long-range artillery, surface-to-surface missiles and special forces raids. This would likely be the leading cause of general deaths. The long-range fire strike complex (to use the Soviet term) abilities of both sides had increased dramatically from World War II, and command installations are clear targets for “big-ticket”, scarce weapons.

Close Fire

“Close Fire” refers to direct fire and, for the sake of convenience, shorter-ranged battlefield mortars and artillery. While the advances in deep fire and targeting would potentially render it secondary, it cannot be counted out as a form of killing generals. Maslov’s book gives countless examples of how, in twisted, confused, rapidly mobile engagements, command posts ended up close to enemy soldiers and armored vehicles, with very dire consequences for those inside them. Especially in a conflict with overwhelmingly more mechanization than the Second World War, something similar is bound to occur.

Of course, these categories can be blurred. Is a long-distance tank raid “deep” or “close?” Is a CAS airstrike on a forward command group “deep” or “close?”

Either way, the generals will not be spared.

 

Fuldapocalypse Blog Plans

Fuldapocalypse has been very, very effective for me. Going in, I expected to be reviewing on a very narrow continuum from Hackett/The War That Never Was on one end to Red Army on the other. To distinguish the works in this one narrow, specific, subgenre, my formal scale would be useful in determining just how they differed.

Then I started branching out. I think it was my review of Axis of Evil that proved surprisingly good-while I didn’t think that highly of the book itself, I liked that I branched out from the “classic 198X WWIII” genre. This was coupled with me realizing that military/techno/action thriller fiction was a lot more varied than my previous narrow perspective had indicated. And that was a problem for my scale. It’s wonderful for me, but it’s not so much for a very strict scale.

The Scale

Obviously, “The Only Score That Really Matters” is fine. So is “The wha?”, although some stories are meant to be more character-based than others.

I have a little bit of an issue with “Zombie Sorceresses”, although I’d think it’s a matter of bias. I think a contrived scenario is more easily “swallowed” by me if the surrounding story is good or if the reveal is handled well. And I think a problem happens, as has happened in this blog, a story that’s explictly paranormal happens.

Then there’s “Rivets”. I think my biggest problem with “Rivets” is that this genre tends to be very infodumpy, and almost everyone already knows this. It’s like going shopping for giant SUVs and being told that they don’t get the best gas mileage. Yes, it’s true, but it’s also not exactly shocking. I feel like I’m repeating myself. “Yes, this has a lot of infodumps in it”. “Yes, this also has a lot infodumps in it.” “Yes, this also has a lot of infodumps in it”.

But the biggest and most jarring one is “Icelands.” It’s both too prescient and too inaccurate at the same time. At one end, it can be like “Rivets”, where I’m repeating that a book in a genre has most of the cliches from that genre. Not exactly shocking. At the other, well, the Iceland Scale itself feels irrelevant if applied to a genre other than “Red Storm Rising knockoff.”

Then there’s the lack of an ‘action’ category in the scale. It’s kind of folded into “The ‘Wha?'”, but given that cheap thrillers live and die based on how good the action is, I figure it deserves more focus.

So I might change some scale categories and see what works, and I also want to do some “unstructured reviews”, particularly of books where the scale categories may not apply. (For instance, if I was doing a review of an outright science fiction novel, both “Icelands” and “Zombie Sorceresses” would be out of place, the former for not really applying and the latter for being redundant.)

Which brings me to…

Book Review Plans

I’ve been mostly winging it with Fuldapocalypse. I’ve figured that since I want to have fun first and foremost and would probably get sidetracked anyway, I wouldn’t make a rigid “review schedule”. But I’ve become more selective about what I want to review here. If my reaction to it is formulaic, I don’t want to just instantly review the latest blog-suitable book I read.

Thankfully, I have a pile of previously read and accessible books I can use to tide me over until the new releases emerge soon (fingers crossed). There’s a few cheap thrillers, including one by an author I like (you’ll know if/when I review it) upcoming, and there’s also the biggie. The real biggie.

Northern Fury. I’ve been following the Command scenario set for a while, and seeing a novelization of it is amazing. However I personally feel about it (and it’s obviously too early to judge a book that hasn’t been released yet), I wish its creators the absolute best of luck. A weird part of me even wants to deliberately hold back on reading “conventional” WW3 books before Northern Fury H-Hour’s release so that I can be more unbiased.

That’s probably thinking too hard-after all, my mind is heading towards less “Icelandic” books already, and the goal is to have fun here.

I’ve been having a lot of fun with Fuldapocalypse, and hope to have even more fun with it as I experiment and read more and more!

 

Welcome

Hi. I’m Coiler. What made me start up this separate blog when I already had one? Well, part of it was just to get the experience setting up a new, different, less casual-looking blog. But another part of it was to keep my reviews of military fiction stories from being “cluttered” amongst the various topics I like to talk and blog about on my own page.

In the past, I’ve done plenty of book reviews and comments on WWIII/wargame-friendly stories at my existing blog and elsewhere. But the hope is for these to be more “structured”. I’m aiming for specific categories:

-Icelands. This is based on an old thing I did called the “Iceland Review Scale”, to determine how formulaic this kind of WW3 fiction is. This examines how formulaic it is.

-Rivets: From the “Rivet-counting” description/insult, this examines how much technical detail is in it.

-Zombie Sorceresses. This is a weird one. Zombie sorceresses (they’re a reference to one of my childhood favorites, a Fire Emblem game), are a kind of catch-all for “handwaves”. In alternate history, this is known as “Alien Space Bats”, or “Random Omnipotent Beings” on Spacebattles. This determines how plausible or contrived it is-ie, how hard the zombie sorceresses had to work to set things up.

-The “wha”? This examines the plot and characters, and literary quality of it overall. It’s a slight poke at dry AAR-Let’s Play style stories.

-The Only Score That Really Matters.

How much I enjoyed it. The whole of a story can be a lot more than the sum of its parts, and vice versa. It’s possible to have a tale that’s formulaic even at the time, has lots of technical descriptions, has the zombie sorceresses working extra-time, and is imperfect in plot and characters-and that I still enjoyed.

So, a few things I want to say to set the tone. One is that criticizing a work, even harshly, is not the same as telling a writer to stop. I do not want any sincere, well-intended writer to stop at all, no matter how I rate their work. First, there’s always room for improvement-a lot of authors started out poor (in my mind) and got better from criticism. Second, even if I didn’t enjoy something, many other people will. Criticism should never be a signal to stop writing altogether. I know how it feels to hate one’s own writing-it is an absolutely horrible feeling. Don’t hate your own writing.

Another is my own tone. I’m trying to be somewhat lighthearted, but not too snarky. Hopefully I’ll get the tone right-I do want to experiment, after all. Trying in with the above, I tend to be very critical even of stuff I like, and can articulate what I don’t like about something more easily than I can about what I do.

Another is what I’m including.

-REVIEWS: Reviews are of either “cold war gone hot” narratives or other similarly big-scope military stories involving tanks, aircraft, and warships en masse. The lines will be a little blurry, but stuff like special forces or otherwise irregular thrillers probably won’t make the cut. The stories, or at least installments of them, have to be complete. I WILL BE INCLUDING SPOILERS IN THE REVIEWS YOU ARE WARNED.

-ESSAYS: Short (hopefully) posts on this kind of fiction, generally examining it from a literary point of view rather than a technical one. My perspective has been slanted (as everyone’s has) by several factors, so hopefully it can become a more valuable one.

With that being said, it’s time to launch the missiles at the gap.