By Django Wexler
I am, I have to admit, a war buff. I read military histories for fun, the kind with fold-out maps covered in little colored arrows and notations like “Kollowrath (40,000)”. As I am also a fantasy novelist, the nature of war in fantasy fiction has always been fascinating to me.
And there is a lot of war in fantasy. Starting with Tolkien, it’s become practically obligatory that the epic fantasy saga, somewhere around the middle of book three, feature an Epic Confrontation Between Good and Evil with a Cast of Thousands. Various allies, painfully recruited over the course of the hero’s journey, turn up to lend a hand at the Final Battle. Various villains are dispatched, hapless orcs or equivalent humanoids are mowed down by the score, and just when things seem bleakest Evil is defeated forever. A beloved secondary character or two bites the dust, and someone gets to make a Heroic Sacrifice. Afterward, we may be treated to a scene where the hero roams a battlefield strewn with corpses, or visits the injured to bring home the horrors of combat. You know, war, right?
Back before I wrote fantasy myself, my wargamer friends and I used to snicker a bit at this. Most of the fantasy authors wouldn’t know a halberd from a half-pike, and their descriptions of battles were usually heavy on bold strokes and dramatic confrontations and light on tactics and the important of proper reconnaissance. I wouldn’t want to be a poor foot-slogger in either army, given the rate at which they tend to be chewed up by either the hero and his friends or some villain demonstrating the full extent of his power.
(To get roughly the same effect, find some friends who are computer professionals and take them to see any Hollywood movie featuring “hacking” and explosions.)
Now that I’ve taken up the pen myself, I have a better understanding of how strict realism sometimes has to give way to dramatic necessity, and that the reading public probably isn’t interested in the details of orc logistical and latrine arrangements. But I still found that a lot of the fantasy wars were still … well … bad. Bad from a realism point of view, certainly, but also from a dramatic or a story point of view. I found myself flipping past battle scenes to get back to the good stuff. But this wasn’t always true — some authors can write a battle that will knock your socks (or padded leather greaves) off — so I sat down to think about why.
Read the full article at A Dribble of Ink.
By Myke Cole
An excellent examination of the cost of killing on killer, victim, and everyone around them.
There’ve been some recent forays into writing combat scenes on some blogs lately. A few fans reached out to me and asked why I didn’t join the conversation. That got me thinking, and not in the way you’d expect.
I’ve said in many interviews that nobody owns the military experience. My being in the military doesn’t make give me any more authority over a military story than anyone else. The same is true for writing combat. One doesn’t have to be a veteran brawler to write a great fight scene.
But I do feel like the end result of fighting, namely, killing, isn’t often treated in a way that resonates with me. I can count on one hand the number of writers who get it right. Joe Abercrombie springs to mind as one of them, a tiny band of authors, and I do not count myself among them, who evoke the consequences of killing in a way that feels authentic.
Read the full article on Myke Cole’s website.
If you’ve been playing along at home, you know that much of my protagonist Shaundar’s character arc is centered around his war experience and PTSD. If you’ve been reading between the lines, you know that I’m examining my own PTSD (though I’m not a war veteran, I’m the daughter of a bipolar mother who was untreated during most of my childhood) through the writing of this story.
Myke Cole is a military fantasy writer and an Iraq War veteran. He’s written a couple of particularly good pieces on the subject that I’ll be sharing over the next couple of days. The thing that struck me the most about this one was his observations about Condition Yellow.
Living under Condition Yellow for extensive periods of time is the big factor that drives PTSD. I spent my whole childhood under Condition Yellow, and school just made it worse because I was bullied extensively. So Condition Yellow was my LIFE. I didn’t know there was any other way to live, and only now am I beginning to unpack that this is not normal, and has affected every relationship I’ve ever had.
Anyway, check it out.
I’ve talked before about genre writers who have been very open about personal trials, particularly the kind of depression/anxiety conditions that I feel are a natural part of the uneven terrain all authors have to walk. I’ve always appreciated their willingness to go public with these issues, as the first (and false) thing that most people suffering from these sorts of things think is a.) that they’re alone and b.) the problem is unique to them. When your literary heroes step into the spotlight and say, “hey, this is more normal than you think and you can figure out how to live with it,” well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more than a few folks still pushing air past their teeth because of a blog post they read.
The thought of talking about what goes on in my head in anything but the most general terms in the public square takes me way out of my comfort zone. But I reread the first paragraph of this post, especially that last line. Sometimes, you need to go outside your comfort zone, talk about a thing not because you need to get it off your chest, but because it might help others to hear it.
I was diagnosed with PTSD in August of ’09, just after my third tour in Iraq. Of course my first concern (like everyone in my line of work) was losing my security clearance, and that kept me from going for help for a long time. But DoD did right by me, and I kept working for another 2 years before the book deal got me out of the business.
Read the full article at Myke Cole’s website.
This is the second of three panels I had the privilege of hosting for the Virtual Fantasy Con 2017, and this one just might be my favourite. I was honoured to have a truly expert panel at my disposal, whose background and expertise included both studied and practical, hands-on experience. From logistics experts to medieval recreationists to real-life military personnel, all of whom are also fantasy authors, I think we’ve provided an excellent starting resource for fantasy writers who want to write about war.
You can watch a full playlist of all the VFC2017 panels HERE.
“The King gave you a commission because he thought you knew when to disobey an order.”
“On rare occasions in our history, the leader on the ground, at the crux of a fleeting moment on the battlefield, has decided to disobey his instructions for what he judges as the greater good of the unit and the larger task at hand.”
This gallery contains 10 photos.
It shouldn’t be any surprise that PTSD is an ancient condition, one as old as war. Some modern psychologists are seeking to take the war out of our veterans by looking to our mythology. My feeling – why the hell didn’t anybody think of this before?
Ultimately, I think this is what I’m trying to say in the Toy Soldier Saga. This is the message. This is my theme.