Star Wars: A Galaxy of Subgenres

It should come as a surprise to exactly no one that I am a Star Wars fan. For as long as I can remember, the adventures of Jedi, smugglers, X-Wing pilots and weird alien heroes has enchanted me. It isn’t the kind of fandom that involves editing Wookiepedia or memorizing every species homeworld (not that there is anything wrong with those things) but rather a simpler, joyous kind of fandom that had me tearing up when I first heard the theme played in a theater in 1997 when the Special Editions were released. I first saw Star Wars sometime in the early 1980s on Betamax tape and had been re-watching the trilogy and (perhaps more importantly to my love of Star Wars) gaming in the universe by way of West End Games role-playing game. And, of course, there were comics and novels and video games.

The question as to how and why Star Wars managed to become such a powerful pop cultural force based on one ground breaking but ultimately indie sort of film is both interesting and probably unanswerable. No doubt many have tried and much has been written by both experts and amateurs alike. I won’t both injecting my voice into that discussion. Rather I want to talk about what it is I find so compelling about Star Wars and how it informs the direction of my own creative energies.

In brief: Star Wars, while representing a single milieu, contains within it many different subgenres of science fiction and fantasy. Just on its face, the original 1977 film is both a spaceships-and-laser-guns Science Fiction film AND a heroic journey, swords-and-wizards fantasy film. There are alien horrors weird enough to make H.P. Lovecraft proud as well as World War II ace combat. Lucas borrowed heavily from all kinds of film and fiction and so too did the people that followed him, from the earliest Marvel comic books to the current games and cartoons. Star Wars is inclusive, allowing it to tell different kinds of fantastical stories.

I recently finished listening to the audiobook of Battlefront: Twilight Company by Alexander Freed and was very impressed. this was hardcore military sci-fi in the Star Wars universe. The grit and relative realism presented in the novel juxtaposed well against the action-adventure melodrama of The Force Awakens. I don’t do reviews, but I will make recommendations: if you like Star Wars and you like gritty military sci-fi, Twilight Company is definitely worth your time. I could give or take the flourishes in the audiobook — music and sound effects, primarily — but they did not reduce my enjoyment. But more to the point, Twilight Company stands as a useful example for how Star Wars, while remaining fantastical space opera, became a successful vehicle for another genre. Like super hero comic books, Star Wars takes so much inspiration from so many other sources that it is a genre chameleon.

I like blurry genre lines. It is one of the reasons I am drawn to post-apocalyptic fiction, I think. Whether it is Gamma World, Thundarr or my own ReAwakened World, futuristic and unrealistic PA fiction is freedom to play with elements of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, westerns and more. Star Wars does that too, and very likely instilled that sensibility upon me (along with the aforementioned super hero comics).

My first novel Elger and the Moon is available for Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and in print from Amazon.

Elger and the Dead Trees

If you are the sort that needs yours post-post apocalyptic science fantasy adventure written on the corpses of larch and aspen, you are in luck! Elger and the Moon is available for purchase in print format right now! And don’t forget, the print book comes with the exclusive “Elger’s World” map by my friend Dylan Vitale.

But wait, you say! Isn’t the ebook version still on pre-order? It is! There are a few reasons for that, but chief among them is that I don’t have any idea what I am doing and I obviously never set a print pre-order. What it means for all practical purposes is that I will be moving up the release date of the ebook. I have not decided when, but it will be very soon. Stay tuned.

 

Thanks again for all your support and I apologize for any inconvenience, stress or hives caused by my little release date flub.

 

PS The best thing you can do (besides buy it!) is review it. the more reviews it has, the higher it climbs on its genre lists.

There and Back Again

When I was a kid digging out fantasy novels from my parents bookshelves, I always gravitated toward a certain kind of book. It wasn’t necessarily the one with the most frightening dragon or most luscious maiden on the cover — though those things certainly caught my eye. It was the one with the coolest map a few pages inside. those maps found in 1970s and 1980s fantasy novels implied amazing worlds and promised wonder. They did not all deliver, of course, but they drew me in nonetheless.

 

As such, I always knew that my first novel would require such a map — something to stir the imagination before the first words of the first chapter were read. There is an alchemy between cover, back copy and that map that creates a world in the reader. Luckily, I happen to know some truly talented folks. Among them is Dylan Vitale, a good friend and fellow gamer and wonderful artist, who crafted for me a map of Elger’s World. It will appear in the print version of Elger and the Moon only (which will be ready for pre-order any day now, I promise!), as a special treat for those that like to hold a real book in their hands, but I present it here now for everyone to see.

 

It’s amazing, right?

This Book Is Not Yet Rated

One question I have gotten a number of times since the Elger and the Moon pre-order went live is some variation of: “What age group is this book written for?” Up until now, I have not thought overly hard about the answer to that question. When I was a kid, there were shelves full of fantasy and science fiction novels (my parents were members of the Science Fiction Book Club for as long as I can remember) and I would simply grab something off one of those shelves and read it. I never worried about whether the book would be appropriate or not: I would either be able to make sense of it or not, and either enjoy it or not.

 

For their part, my parents did not filter the world for us. We grew up on a farm where animals lived, bred and died and the entertainment we consumed was whatever we could handle without being little assholes about it. And if we did act inappropriately based on something we had read, watched or played, my parents wisely blamed us rather than the particular media. Of course, I am a parent now and I would go out on a limb and say my parents were much more discerning and careful about what we engaged in than I would have noticed at the time, but even so there were plenty of boobs, blood and bad words to keep my 12 year old self happy and feeling like I had the keys to the grown up kingdom.

 

All that said, I am not oblivious to the concerns of parents and the contents of the media their kids consume. I am a parent and I care, even if my tolerances are different than some other folks. With that in mind, I want to talk about the degree to which Elger may or may not be appropriate for any given child — not so much by age group (I was reading stuff at 10 that some high schoolers wouldn’t want to slog through) but by content. If you are a parent and you wonder whether Elger and the Moon is appropriate for your kid, I hope this helps you decide.

 

First of all, there is little if any profanity in the novel. I won’t say “none” because I honestly do not remember whether I might have had a few “damns”, “hells” or other words you hear on prime time television now. Note that this does not have anything to do with a personal aversion to profanity: I can be the fuckingest fucker who ever fucking fucked sometimes. But at the time I started writing Elger in earnest, Game of Thrones/The Song of Ice and Fire was the standard by which most fantasy was being measured. in other words, things were grim and dark and grimdark. Elger is partially in response to that, and as such I decided that I would avoid profanity. This includes fake fantasy profanity, but mostly because that trope annoys me to no end (I am looking at you, The Emperor’s Blades).

 

The same goes for sex — especially sexual violence. There is no rape, mention of rape or suggestion of rape in Elger and the Moon. It is unnecessary, even when you want to show how a bad guy is really, really bad. This is a problem in modern grimdark fantasy that I wouldn’t just like to avoid, but abolish altogether. Otherwise, there is what you might call sexuality or sexual tension in the book, but no actual sex — again, not because I have a problem with sex, but because it does not fit this story or its protagonist.

 

One thing you will find is a blatant, intentional acceptance of non-binary gender, homosexuality and non-sexual nudity. This is the one place where I decided to take a political stand in the book. There are gay characters and asexual characters and hermaphrodite characters and transgender characters. And they are just characters that happen to be in the book, not tokens or mouthpieces. the world I chose to create accepts these people as easily as what some might mistakenly call “normal” characters. If that sort of thing offense you, or you are worried it will confuse your kid, I can’t say anything other than that’s too bad for you.

 

Aside from bad words and sex, the biggest driver of concern for parents is usually violence. Elger and the Moon is an adventure story and sometimes that adventure includes physical peril at the hands of other characters and creatures of the ReAwakened World. There is a little bit of violence in the book. But Elger is no bloody swordsman; he uses his mind. Where there is violence, I think it is appropriate and appropriately appalling without wallowing in it. Any violence that happens in the story is integral to the story and as with profanity and sex, I tried to veer away from the gimdark state of modern fantasy. By comparison, The Hunger Games is much, much more violent.

 

When I ask my beta readers and others that have read it the question, “What age is Elger appropriate for?” the answer I get most commonly is, “Precocious 13 years old and up.” I did not set out to write a Young Adult novel. I was aiming for an “all ages” novel in the sense that anyone can pick it up, and if they are capable of making sense of the prose they should be able to deal with the content. I was writing it for my 12 year old self that picked up by turns The Lord of the Rings, The DragonLance Chronicles and The Guardians of the Flame. I hope this description helps.

 

If you still have questions, feel free to hit up my Facebook page or Twitter (both @IanAsItWere) and ask away!

 

 

Elger and the Imminent Arrival

After a very long time, Elger and the Moon is finally available for pre-order at Amazon!

Orphaned, deformed and indentured to pry valuable artifice from the detritus of a world long dead, Elger of Heap finds solace in the Moon. Covered in jewel like domes housing the ancient wizards who once presided over the Earth, the Moon represents the world that was lost to the Calamity. It was a world of wonders and comfort and magic. Elger’s dreams of going there are a salve for his hardships, but just dreams nonetheless.

 

Then one morning what seems to be a chance assignment propels Elger on the first steps along the road to the moon. He will make friends and find enemies, see wonders and endure terrors and with each step that road will grow ever more perilous. For Elger, though, escape from the broken world to the Moon is all that matters.
Elger and the Moon is a post-post apocalyptic science fantasy adventure. Join Elger as he discovers monsters and magic born of technological wizardry and learns just how far he is willing to go to reach the Moon.

I am super proud of the book and hope you take time to enjoy it. Once it drops on May 8, it will be available as a DRM free e-book, print and on Kindle Unlimited. And Elger 2 is in thw works, so we’re in this together for the long haul, you and I!

Elger, Everyone. Everyone, Elger.

A few days ago I gave you a little tease of the cover mock up. Now, it is time for you to meet Elger of Heap:

This awesome illustration was produced by my great friend A Bleys Ingram, whose work has graced many an RPG. Since I make no attempt to hide that my 30-plus years immersed in role-playing games thoroughly inform my fiction, it seemed appropriate.

 

Watch this space for a fully designed cover reveal in the near future, as well as pre-ordering information.

The World is a Phoenix: The Post-Post Apocalypse

phoenix-fabelwesen

I love the Post Apocalypse. I love mutant bears with lasers coming out of their eyes. I love libidinous frog men trying to keep Rowdy Roddy Pipe down. I love spike covered muscle cars and psychic dogs and cross country treks in tricked out APCs and the rockabilly battles of Old Vegas. But as much as I love the post apocalypse, it is really all prelude, because what I really love is the post-post apocalypse: when civilization rises from the ashes like the titular mythical bird of this post.

 

Stories about the end of civilization are fun. Characters are given permission to go native and lose their inhibitions, and in the context of games (both tabletop and electronic) you are too. It’s cathartic, blasting mutants and zombies and cyborgs and mutant-zombie-cyborgs. But it is also ultimately limited: the world is dying and man is fading and no amount of weird super-science or gritty survivalism can change that. But when the spark of renewed hope appears, when it looks like the world might just crawl out of the crater, that is when things get interesting. I would contend that much of the best post apocalyptic fiction is actually post-post apocalyptic, because it is not about the End, but the New Beginning.

 

Let’s take for example a pinnacle of the genre: Fallout. Across many games and some tie-in media, the world of Fallout is celebrated as a perfect post apocalyptic story. Except it isn’t. From the very first Fallout game, it is a story about hope: can you find the water purifier chip and save your people. Along the way, it turns into a story about how new powers are trying to control the new world and usher it into a new age. That doesn’t sound like a whimper or a bang. Fallout 2 is more explicit in its metaphor, casting the player as an uncivilized tribal that enters and embraces the new civilization. By the most recent Fallout 4 you actually create, manage and preserve civilization in the form of settlements.

 

When post apocalyptic stories center around creating a new world order, abolishing the monstrosities of the past, reclaiming lost knowledge or otherwise building something new, they transform into post-post apocalyptic ones. Now, sometimes it is a bit of a bait and switch: The Walking Dead, both on the small screen and on the page, is a post apocalyptic story. it flirts with hope but ultimately smashes it with a baseball bat or devours it with a horde of the cannibal dead. The original Mad Max qualifies as well: there is no real sense that things are going to get better by the end of that film; they gangs will just keep fighting one another until all the gas is gone. Interestingly, The Road Warrior transforms into a post post apocalyptic tale just at the very end when we hear the narration of the feral boy grown into an aged storyteller: there is hope and a world beyond Max’s diesel powered Hell. Both Beyond Thunderdome and Fury Road are, like the later Fallout games, more explicit in their embracing of the post-post apocalypse. Each of those films promises a future.

 

Narratives more easily recognizable as post-post apocalyptic are often set much longer after The End. A Canticle for Leibowitz is a recognizable example of this, if a bit less fantastical and weird science than much else in the genre. The tabletop role-playing game Numenera from Monte Cook qualifies, too, along with the upcoming (and awesome looking) Horizon: Zero Dawn Playstation game. In each of these examples, enough time has passed that the world is on its way to healing (although usually things are still much more primitive than they were prior to the apocalypse). Here the events of the apocalypse and subsequent rebirth serve as a stage for whatever drama is to follow, rather than the plot itself. The slate has not only been wiped clean but new social, political, religious and cultural structures have been built and these worlds often have similar features to second world fantasies. My own upcoming novel Elger and the Moon fits into this category.

 

There is an optimism in the post-post apocalyptic genre that makes me happy. I like to think that however badly we screw it up, humans are just smart, tenacious and lucky enough to avoid completely destroying ourselves. The struggle to survive is interesting but it is also exhausting, and with all the things in the real world that seem so hopeless sometimes, a dash of hope in my leisure-time adventures is much appreciated.

Elger Update: The Words, They Are Written

It has been a long time since I mentioned my novel Elger and the Moon, which I began in earnest a little over 15 months ago and finished the first draft of just less than a year ago now. Well, the last day of 2016 turned out to be the day I finished the editing process (which I did with the input of a good friend who is also a professional editor). That means the book is done!

 

Well, the words anyway. It seems there is a lot more work yet to be done. I hemmed and hawed over whether to submit it to publishers and agents, or to self publish. I finally decided on the latter. I am not especially good at selling anything, let alone myself, but I am even less patient and the prospect of waiting years to find a publisher and then see it published was too daunting. So instead I will cinch up my mantaloons and do what I need to to get it out there and seen. From there, it is up to, well, you guys.

 

Over the next weeks expect to see more news about Elger here as well as other things. Table top (or virtual table top) gaming is still a huge part of my life and I have much to share on that front, as well as thoughts and opinions of everything from the awesomness that is the newest Star Wars to my complete and utter spasmodic anticipation for Horizon: Zero Dawn. Long story short: expect more geekiness out of me than you saw in 2016, as well as a little of the promotion (which I am no good at).

 

Happy New Year!