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.

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.