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Living like an Irvanian in a universe filled with Dweasels

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Whither yon novelist natus wargamer?

May 9, 2007

Yes, I know, it’s been something like six weeks since my last blog entry. Yeah, I know, the whole idea of a blog is to write down my thought whenever I have one and post it. Is six weeks too long between thoughts?

The good news is that the main reason I haven’t blogged much recently is that I’ve been concentrating all my creative mojo on the novel project. I’m about half finished with the most recent round of major revisions on the first book, getting it ready to send off again in search of an agent/editor/publisher. Meanwhile I’ve been tightening up my notes on the second and third books in the series.

Along much the same line of thought, Brandon Musler commented on the “Questioning My Identity” blog entry (the 300 Spartan Dudes). Brandon writes:

As for the rest, none of it means you aren’t a wargamer. It means you’re maturing to taste and discretion and not being a unreflective wargamer. This may make you some enemies in the wargaming community, but you won’t be able to help it. It will help your writing too. (That isn’t meant as a veiled criticism. I’ve never read your nonwargaming prose but many wargamers read and write dreck exclusively.)

I’ve been pondering this a lot lately. I started gathering notes and ideas for the first novel back in the summer of 1999, with the original intention being that this novel (or series of novels) would be set in and based around the Generic Legions sci fi wargame I wrote in 1994 or so. In fact, I still refer to the series as “the Generic Legions books” even though the Generics are not in the books at all, simply because I haven’t come up with a better name yet.

As it turned out, the novels are way different than the game. As the writing progressed, the whole project moved further away from “game-based fiction” and towards “Literature with a capital L”. Yeah, there’s battles and lots of military stuff in there, but none of that is the main point of the story; the battles are metaphors for conflicts between people and ideas. There’s also lots of parody and what some have labeled “near-slapstick”, but that all has a point too. I took out all the one-off gags that didn’t actually mean something or apply to one of the themes.

The sorts of books I’ve been reading has changed over that time too. In 1999 I was reading lots of military history books and some science fiction; since then I’ve been reading a lot of ancient literature, classics from many periods and cultures, poetry, and a much wider variety of fiction. I’ve been making an effort to read more 20th century classics: Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catch-22, Canticle for Leibowitz. This has had a big impact on the direction of my fiction, as illustrated in this brief excerpt from Chapter 9:

A few miles beyond the hills the ground turned flat again. He found traces of an ancient road and followed it towards another formation of low hills on the horizon. A small low green and black dome, about a foot across, appeared in the road ahead. Agrippa slammed on the brakes and climbed out of the truck. He walked up to the round shape. It was a turtle.

“Steinbeck or Castenada?” demanded Agrippa.

“Steinbeck,” said the turtle.

“I thought so,” grumbled Agrippa. He stepped back into the truck, carefully drove around the turtle, and sped down the road towards the hills.

I’m not sure how this will go over with wargamers, but I figured out a while ago they probably aren’t my primary target audience anyway, despite my own background as a wargamer.


I was delighted when I saw this comment left by Dan, the son of an old gaming buddy:

Kind of a strange way of reconnecting but….

As spawn of one of the Generic Legions players, and having glanced at the origins of this book in my previous days, I greatly look forward to the completion of this book. Long Live Snaga the Great.

~Son of Manton

To which I replied:


Welcome, Son of Manton. Long Live Snaga the Great!

Relee3 added this comment:

Steinbeck! No way! If you find a turtle in the road it’s Carlos Castenada or nothing dude!

To which I replied:

The turtle’s name, as it turns out, is Steinbeck, although he is something more likely to be found in Carlos Castenada’s writing than in John Steinbeck’s.

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May 2007 articles
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