It was six years ago this day that I started the process to make the Creative Corner. Three years ago I started Fuldapocalypse. Blogging has been very, very good.
So I’m happy to say that my Weird Wargaming post on a semi-serious look at the army of a “victorious” Third Reich is now posted on SLP in my first direct crossover between the two sites. (My review of The Man with the Iron Heart was originally posted on here and Never Was).
Fuldapocalypse has reached five hundred posts. To mark the occasion, I figured I’d do a post on something that was the reason this blog even exists at all-criticism. Here goes.
- Critics have the right to be as sneery and abrasive as they want in their reviews. As a writer, I’ve found valid points which I’ve incorporated from harsh, bad-faith reviews. The signal can be separated from the noise. Even as a reader, one of my favorite authors I found from a harshly negative review.
- Writers have the right to ignore criticism they consider invalid. If you’re writing a literary romance and someone complains that the book doesn’t have enough explosions in it, you know that’s not what you’re writing.
- However, both should ideally hold themselves to a higher standard.
- Some works of fiction lend themselves more easily to criticism than others. This is why I have such a big insistence on creative control over what I review here. I don’t want this to become a chore, and knew that if reviewing was mandatory, it’d lose its quality.
- The ideal work to review is something that’s flawed in an interesting way. Something flawed in an uninteresting way is arguably the worst type of fiction to review.
- Perspective matters. My absolute favorite Bill James essay of all time, Inside Out Perspective, is a beauty. The difference between inside and outside is the difference between getting angry at one repetitive World War III timeline after another that you don’t see much direct criticism of on its website, and realizing that there are more action hero thrillers released in one month than there are conventional World War III stories overall-even with the most slanted accounting.
- Basically, from the inside, you see things as being bigger than they actually are.
- I’ve said repeatedly-being a critic has not made me a better writer in my eyes, but being a writer has made me a much better critic. Me the writer has written things in my books that me the critic would denounce if done by someone else.
- Remember: Sample size matters. A lot.
- Fuldapocalypse has been eye-opening, enlightening, and a lot of fun.
So 2020 happened. The worth of this blog in getting me through a lot of stress this year cannot be overstated. It’s been an amazing experience. What’s also been an amazing experience is seeing just how me becoming more broad-minded about fiction has manifested. What might have been exactly the sort of thing I would dismiss with a firebreathing sneer. Now I read and enjoyed it. I’ve been reading and reviewing far more alternate history than I had in the past as well.
I also feel comfortable with how I stopped the Creative Corner. That blog was becoming nothing but filler posts for the sake of a perceived obligation, and I found that once I made the conclusion post, it just felt right to concentrate entirely here.
There’s two book series I read this year that really stand out. The first is John Gilstrap’s Jonathan Grave series, which happened at the right time. I was having what I call the “D-Day Effect” where something big and covered you’ve previously dismissed becomes novel simply because you haven’t experienced it. This has happened to me and “grocery store books”, and this series was proof that some mainstream successes are deserved.
Of course, the second and much bigger series is Kirov. This is weird. Not just in its “three mediocre Final Countdown/Axis of Time knockoffs turning into a combination of wargame lets play and time travel soap opera” content, but in how I enjoy it without necessarily recommending it for others to read. But I enjoy it nonetheless, and love how I took so much to a series with a ton of jumping Steel Panthers Characters, wargaming lets plays, and World War IIIs (plural). Knowing that I embraced a series that, before the beginning of this blog, I would have done nothing but sneer at has warmed my heart.
However, there’s also been a bittersweet side to this blog, and that’s in seeing a lot the distant vistas close. Seeing the conventional World War III subgenre at its limits and piecing together what happened to the “Men’s Adventure” fiction that seemingly disappeared after 1990 can be fun, but it can also evoke a feeling of “that’s it”? Then there’s also seeing that some pieces of fiction are just easier and more interesting to actually review than others, even if they’re both equally fun to read. If the blog goes in the direction of those, so be it, but I feel obligated to bring that up. While I obviously haven’t completely dropped them, a “51%” thriller just isn’t as good to review or analyze as an ambitious, conceptually interesting work.
This brings me to the announcement. My answer to “what do you do if you’ve seen all there is of conventional World War III?” is “Write your own take on it.” So I’ve started writing my own supernatural/weird-tinged conventional 1980s World War III novel.
This concludes my 2020 posts on Fuldapocalypse.
For the 400th post on Fuldapocalypse, I decided to use this occasion to finally get around to something I’ve been wanting to do for a while-links to the ebooks that I’ve written.
You can see all my ebooks, from the early novelties to my Sea Lion Press novels, on the My Books page on the top of the blog. Enjoy!
I like the concept of NaNoWriMo. It’s just a shame that it happens at the worst possible month for me.
- I have seasonal affective disorder, or at least what feels like it. So this time of year, regardless of what else happens, is extra-stressful for me. This is a problem because…
- The hard truth is that I’ve found writing actual books to be (understandably) stressful, even if ultimately rewarding, while writing reviews is stress-relieving and fun. This is made worse by how I’ve found it very, very hard to read for pleasure while I’m in the middle of writing a book.
- So doing something in November is the worst for me.
- However, I have written at a similar pace to NaNoWriMo before. My two Sea Lion Press thrillers are only slightly-to-somewhat shorter (The Smithtown Unit is 45,000 words and Box Press 41,000), and they took a little less than a month to write. I probably could have gone over the word limit in the time limit if I pushed a little more. But there’s the issue in that I don’t want to make what should be a fun hobby too forceful.
- Finally, I should note that I do get motivated to write when I find, for whatever reason, I’m not reading as much anyway, taking away the biggest disadvantage. This was the case when I made Box Press. I was in a reading slump so I figured-hey, why not write? And I did.
In the past, I’ve made three entries in the Command LIVE series of DLC scenarios for both Command: Modern Air Naval Operations and its sequel, Command: Modern Operations.
Now I’m proud to say that my fourth, Sahel Slugfest, has now been released.
This is the 300th post on Fuldapocalypse, and it’s fitting that it comes now, because well, I’m in what feels like a blog midlife crisis. I don’t want to overstate this, because the diversification of the blog, which I’ve talked about many times, means there’s no problem with supplying actual content. But there’s still a strange feeling in me.
See, there’s an increasing feeling in me that the well is running dry. I’ve said many, many times that there’s a lot fewer World War III books than I thought. And that’s only a little less true for “big war thrillers” in general. It’s a little weird knowing your views were distorted by a combination of one field where those tropes were common (wargaming) and an internet trend that, in hindsight, was no more significant or influential than a long-ago boomlet on Spacebattles of who-would-win matches involving lions (yes, this actually happened).
And yet, for the fiction of that type that actually exists, my initial wariness still often holds true. It’s still often a cross between conference rooms and paper-thin Steel Panthers Characters. Sturgeon’s Law still applies, and in any exposition-heavy format, I consider the “floor” to be lower than in a lowbrow action thriller. So I’m in the strange position of, regarding the supposed subject matter of this very blog, either having already read or having little desire to read a lot of the of “Icelandic” books I set it up to review. Not all-I still have some I want to read, and genres should never be discounted altogether. But a lot.
And what else that’s come to me is the sense that this kind of “big-war thriller” is just harder to write well than a conventional cheap thriller (I’m not saying it’s impossible, only harder). I’ve felt this way about alternate history, and think it’s also true here. You have to balance a good and reasonably accurate picture of the conflict/divergent setting with a good story and characters, and sometimes those are at cross purposes. It’s why, with my annoyance at there seemingly being too many “conventional WWIII” stories having long-subsided, I feel that there aren’t enough, and that there especially isn’t enough cross-pollination (which is understandable, but that’s a subject for another post).
So what I’ve been experiencing is something very much like the bittersweet feeling someone gets when they finally finish a long series that they enjoyed. I felt this way with the Survivalist. I felt this way with Blaine McCracken. I felt this way with video games and movies and TV shows that I liked. In all those cases I found later replacements (for the Survivalist, it’s responsible for getting me into an entire genre) but the feeling still remains.
And so it feels this way for here. I’ve reviewed, judging by tags and discounting essay posts, about 28 “World War III” books. They range from good to bad, from rote to pulpy to clunky to outright bizarre. I’ve experienced a huge range. In many ways I’ve accomplished what I’ve set out to do. And while that sort of thing can bring about justifiable pride, it can also bring about a sense of understandable emptiness.
My feeling isn’t “what do I do now?”, since the answer (read and write about either other types of fiction or history/theory in general) is what I’ve been doing. Rather, it’s a simpler “So, that’s it? That’s all there was?”
Just some blog updates here.
First, I found out about Never Was magazine, an online magazine devoted to alternate history, after they announced a partnership with Sea Lion Press. Signing up and liking what I saw, I’ve posted a link to it on the sidebar blogroll. Looking a little deeper, I saw a piece on a subject dear to Fuldapocalypse-World War III Without Missiles. I recommend checking it out.
Second, as you may have noticed from the Red Hammer Down review, I’m experimenting with changing the layout just a bit. Nothing too big, just something done for the sake of curiosity.
Be sure to check out the tenth anniversary post on the Glorious Trash blog describing how it came into being. I regularly read the blog and find it very entertaining (you can see it linked on the sidebar), and the post was a delight to read.