Category: On Writing

It’s all about Style.

I have have this twitter account, I’m pretty sure most of you reading already follow me. It’s a useless distraction where I post random inanities and constantly refresh for that adrenal pumping endorphin kick that my degenerate generation is addicted to. Every-now and then, and by that I mean almost daily, I make definitive philosophical and artistic declarations on said Twitter account, letting everyone know what they should be reading, writing, and how to prop up our failing civilization.

One of my recent rants was about my belief that writers should be well read in there genre, even if their genre is dominated by progressive degenerates. I believe that you should know your enemy and be able to continue the genre conversation through your work, something you can’t do if you don’t understand what the current mainstream is about.

I mostly write in the fantasy genre, so to put my own advice into practice I went to the Fantasy subreddit, the basic bitch hangout of the fantasy fan world, and noted a few recommendations.

To skip to the point, I bought three books, started reading each of them and had to give up around the 20% mark. Modern traditional published fantasy is garbage. All three novels were highly touted by the reddit crowd, all three were horribly cliche Dungeons and Dragons derivative stupidity.

The worst of the three actually, I shit you not, used the stupid wife getting raped by her lord because “prima nocta” straight out of Braveheart. I almost wretched from cringing.

Most of all, all three of the books had pedestrian writing that lacked any hint of style. The prose felt like early young adult, middle school grade, nothing fancier than early Animorphs, and the plot and characters felt stolen from a overwritten D&D module.

But to get back twitter and the whole point of this post. I posted about giving up on most fantasy because the writing sucks. People responded, we had some good back and froth, and one friend stated that people tend to never give examples of good writing/prose when complaining about bad writing. So, I’m going to give some quick examples.

I believe that Style is the most important aspect of writing. Style followed by Character, then finally plot, world-building, etc. Style is where the aesthetics of the novel come out. I also prefer adult writing with deeper themes and subtext.

For style, I think Bret Easton Ellis is the best living example right now. Check out this piece from American Psycho. If you haven’t read American Psycho, you are wrong.

there is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there. It is hard for me to make sense on any given level. Myself is fabricated, an aberration. I am a noncontingent human being. My personality is sketchy and unformed, my heartlessness goes deep and is persistent. My conscience, my pity, my hopes disappeared a long time ago (probably at Harvard) if they ever did exist. There are no more barriers to cross. All I have in common with the uncontrollable and the insane, the vicious and the evil, all the mayhem I have caused and my utter indifference toward it, I have now surpassed. I still, though, hold on to one single bleak truth: no one is safe, nothing is redeemed. Yet I am blameless.

American Psycho

Excellent. The whole book is a stylistic masterpiece.

But I can hear you bitching now, Alex, American Psycho is literary fiction, it’s supposed to be stylish, you were talking about Fantasy. Yeah, ok, you might be right. But, there is a lot of fantastic, well written, mature fantasy that doesn’t read like some dorks character background for his Tuesday night D&D game he forces his wife to play.

The best living writer of Fantasy is Guy Gavriel Kay. Excellent poetic prose and mature novels that explore complex themes. Here is a few pieces.

The sailors say the rain misses the cloud even as it falls through light or dark into the sea. I miss her like that as I fall through my life, through time, the chaos of our time. I dream of her some nights, still, but there is nothing to give weight or value to that, it is only me, and what I want to be true. It is only longing.

A Brightness Long Ago

We like to believe, or pretend, we know what we are doing in our lives. It can be a lie. Winds blow, waves carry us, rain drenches a man caught in the open at night, lightning shatters the sky and sometimes his heart, thunder crashes into him bringing the awareness he will die. We stand up, as best we can under that. We move forward as best we can, hoping for light, kindness, mercy, for ourselves and those we love.

A Brightness Long Ago

Fantasy can be written for adults at an adult level. Some of the oldest Fantasy like the works of Lord Dunsany, are mythic and poetic. Lord of the Rings is both a beautiful and complex work of art.

I have very little time for pleasure reading. I love fantasy, but I’m not going to spend my time reading the equivalent of roleplaying game fan fiction. Why would I read your dull prose when there’s Conan?

Stand aside, girl,” he mumbled. “Now is the feasting of swords.

No Silver, No Swiss

“No silver, no Swiss,” commented Gian Trivulzio, a Milanese Condottiero during the Italian Wars. He was talking about the Swiss Mercenaries that served in the armies of the Italian City States. They were expensive and often sieges and sacks depended on the city’s ability to pay foreign soldiers.

A more recent quote “Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics,” quoted to Gen. Robert H. Barrow, Commandant of the USMC.

The bravest warriors and the stoutest horses can’t fight without food and water. The most advanced military weapons can’t be operated without fuel and spare parts. Men can’t march without boots. Supplies can’t be used unless they arrive at the right place at the right time. Military supply and logistics is often if not the most important aspect of battle behind fate itself.

Yet so many fantasy and science fiction novels completely hand wave this critical aspect of military operations. Fantasy fiction is often the most grievous violator of basic common sense. Massive armies march across barren lands. Foot soldiers willing to leave their homes to die for whatever cause, yet pay is never mentioned, supplies never shown, equipment that in reality would cost a lifetime to acquire is just magically handed out.

The Cost of Infantry

During the Renaissance

Sergeants -5 Ducats per month

Corporals -3 Ducats per month

Pikemen -3 Ducats per month

Musketeers -3 Ducats per month

The Renaissance at War by Thomas F. Arnold

The above is in Venetian Ducats, one of Europe’s most popular and traded form of currency. While exact value and buying power is hard to pin down. You can approximate based on known sources. For example, Leonardo DaVinci and Michelangelo earned about 100-300 Ducats a year. Michelangelo earned up to 450 per statue, and he was a superstar.

The Ducal Palace in Urbino built by Federico da Montefeltro was estimated at 100,000 Ducats when it was first built. The richest Medici had savings of 200,000 and up.

Ducal Palace Urbino

Your average army had about 20,000 infantry, so you are looking at 60,000 Ducats per month in wages alone, ignoring food, water, clothing, and you know.. the really expensive aspects of an army, cavalry and artillery.

Emperor Charles V during the Schmalkaldic War took 54 artillery pieces, 10 of them were full cannon. A full cannon weighed 10,000 lbs, required 21 horses to move, and cost about 1,310 ducats. The price does not factor in the horses, carriage, spare parts, iron balls, and the wages of the 20 or so artillery men assigned to each gun.

Warfare was, and still is, monumentally expensive.

Backstory is for Busters

But what makes you sit down and absorb lifeforms into yourself? Did it start with your father? Tell me about your mother, did she absorb lifeforms?

The thing I love about classic Sword and Sorcery like Conan is that Howard had no need for useless backstory. You find Conan chilling in some tavern, he hears about a wizards tower filled with loot, he decides to rob it freeing ancient gods and fighting monstrosities along the way. Simple, done, no bullshit.

Modern fantasy writers instead of focusing on the action would spend paragraphs boring me with the socio-economic role of said wizards tower in the city economy and how the looting economy would be disrupted by Conan’s actions. All of this following an in-depth two book background story on Conan’s intra-personal family relationships and his estrangement from his mother causing him to be a wandering barbarian thief.

The nerdy obsession with over explaining everything is really a symptom of our current generations inability to deal with the unexpected and unexplained. Bret Easton Ellis in his book White talks about 70s and 80s horror movies and how they lacked explanation.


… movies made in the ’70s didn’t have rules and often lacked the reassuring backstory that explained the evil away or turned it into a postmodern meta-joke. Why did the killer stalk the sorority girls in Black Christmas? Why was Regan possessed in The Exorcist? Why was the shark cruising around Amity? Where did Carrie White’s powers come from? There were no answers, just as there were no concrete connect-the-dot justifications of daily life’s randomness: shit happens, deal with it, stop whining, take your medicine, grow the fuck up.

Bret Easton Ellis in White

Excessive backstory and explanation demystify, destroying fantasy and imagination.

Rethinking the Blog

I’m sitting here at my favorite bar in Yokosuka Japan enjoying a cigar and dark beer reflecting on the past five years of blogging. I begun blogging early on when I first decided to take writing seriously.

When I started Barbarian Book Club my goal was to use this space to document my writing process and to make it a hub for promoting my writing. In the past few years due to this place and social media I’ve grown as a writer and also developed numerous professional connections in the independent world of writing.

But, honestly I’ve used this place as an extension of my social media, almost as a long-form version of Twitter.

Yet the biggest undercurrent of development in my growth as a writer has been in the scope of the politic. The more I’ve delved into the culture of the creative the more I’ve realized that all art is strictly in the philosophical and the political. Every act of art is political and cultural because culture is anchored in the political. Culture does not exist independent of politics, because culture is intertwined and reflects the philosophy of the creator.

Accepting the above fact means that I’m no longer going to shy away from using this medium to discuss my philosophical and political observations. Views that have matured and changed drastically in the past five years.

Practically what this means is that I will be using this place as a home not just for my writing but for my observations on culture, life, politics, and religion.

I plan on restructuring this space away from a focus on everyday blogging and towards a more essay focused medium discussing subjects such as masculinity, fatherhood, personal growth, and how these subjects pertain to a fledgling career in the independent publishing subculture.

I have a lot of material planned and outlined and I hope I can grow this page as a discussion hub or at least a place worth visiting for like minded readers and writers.

Red Sun Magazine #4

My short story The Death of Giraurd de Vallays just got published in Red Sun Magazine Issue #4. Red Sun is one of the newer action oriented independent Fantasy and Science Fiction magazines that make up the exciting indy market. While I haven’t managed to read through back issues I like the blind reader philosophy and the fact that the editors are all military veterans.

The Death of Giraurd de Vallays is a story I care about because it’s actually the first short story I wrote when I decided I wanted to take up fiction. The only other place I submitted it to was the Writers of the Future contest where it got an Honorable Mention. I’m glad that if found a final home after sitting on my drive forgotten.

When I wrote it I was in a Red Sonja mood and also reading a book on the Cathar’s and the Albigensian Crusade.

Support indy magazines and my writing by buying the digital version, reading it, and leaving a review.

Get it Here.