Signal Boost: Writing Down the Dragon

Another in our series of posts about the books of essayist extraordinaire, Mr. Superversive*, himself!

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‘This book is not for the Wise, but for my fellow beginners in the craft of Fantasy, who are trying to learn some of the master’s techniques and want to compare notes.’ — From the introduction

There are shelves full of books about the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, most written from the perspective of academics and literary critics. Here is one from the point of view of the working fantasy writer. How did Tolkien produce his effects, and what can we learn from his methods? In this collection, Tom Simon investigates topics from the uses of archaic language to the moral philosophy of Orcs.

The book contains eleven essays on Tolkien:

The Riddles of the Wise
The Tolkien Method
The Rhetoric of Middle-earth
Frodo’s Vaunt
The Method and the Morgoth
What Is Elf?
The Terminal Orc
Writing Down the Dragon
Moorcock, Saruman, and the Dragon’s Tail
The Abyss and the Critics
Lost Tales, Unattained Vistas

Some of these pieces have previously appeared on the author’s website in slightly different forms.

For more of Tom Simon’s writings, visit his blog.

* — For those who do not know the history of Superversive, Tom Simon is the one introduced the term Superversive to the rest of us.

Signal Boost! The Stone Soldiers Series

Guest Signal Boost by Nate Winchester

If you’ve read much of my blog and my thoughts on the show, Supernatural, you’ll know I sometimes discuss how the show ends up being a parable on the patterns civilization and anarchy. The most common being when citizens are in danger, ordinary folks will have to step up to do the necessary tasks. If this becomes common enough, society institutionalizes the job. Example: Laws must be enforced in a society – people have better things to do – ergo the society creates the institution of “police” to enforce the norms of that society.

The Stone Soldiers series runs with the question: What if the USA institutionalized dealing with the supernatural? Or for the show’s fans, “What if hunters were deputized?”

But this series isn’t some philosophical treatise or navel-gazing, no sir. It’s pure pulp slathering on action & coolness over its questioning. This isn’t Law & Order: SPN (though I would pay to watch that) but Hawaii-five-O: SPN. This is Sam & Dean going on hunts with the US government backing them up. (Which, yes I will admit that the government being efficient or effective at anything is probably the most fantastical part of the books – and I’m counting the shapeshifters.)

Of course if you gave Sam & Dean all the backing of the USA government, you’d also have to up the threat and that is certainly done here as the books set up a beastie so nasty, even the Predator would hesitate going after one of these. Yes, that movie was brought to mind a few times since one can see Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime playing the lead role of this series.

Anyway, if you have an enemy too mean, it becomes questionable whether the heroes can win at all. This brings us to my second favorite part of the series. See, in his review for the X-files episode “Fresh Bones” Chuck of SF Debris proposed the question: If, in the XF universe, “everything is real” what if humans fought aliens with things like… voodoo? Or to put it another way: what if invading aliens landed on an ancient Indian burial ground? In this series, the defenders of humanity run with that very question of mixing & matching supernatural features. If Medusa’s gaze only affects males, what happens to a shape-shifter that can be male or female? Could we partially infect soldiers with werewolfism to make them stronger without the curse side effects? (There weren’t aliens in the first two books, but they may show up later given the titles of later volumes.) This book series runs with those challenges and even answers them with logic and consistency – no really, I can’t express my gratitude for how well this world keeps things working. The only thing I appreciated more was its general appropriate use of religion without being insulting or stupid like some modern fiction.

Any cons to the books? Well the prose style isn’t quite to my taste but it does its job well enough and shouldn’t be a hindrance to less snobbish readers though some parts can end up being repetitive. The character work is pretty light with the protagonists painted more with broad brushes than nuance. I was informed that the first book was adapted from a screenplay submitted for a contest and it does show (for example, the “rednecks who mug the monster” bit) while the 2nd book at least works far better under the strictures of the novel format.

But all in all, it’s a quick, light read. You can check out the first book for free at the link below, and get the 2nd one (for only a dollar) if you want.

Summery – It’s an 80s action movie mixed with the supernatural in book form.

Colonel Mark Kenslir is the last of the Cold War supersoldiers–and he’s just come back from the dead. 

Sent to Arizona to hunt a heart-devouring shapeshifter, Colonel Kenslir and his team of supernatural-smashing soldiers thought it was just another mission. But instead of stopping the monster’s murderous rampage, the Colonel and his team became the latest victims in a trail of carnage blazed across the Southwest.

Suffering from partial amnesia, with no weapons and no support, Kenslir must rely on two reluctant teens to help him remember his past, complete his final mission and avenge his men.

(Warning! Contains extreme violence and pulp action that may be too intense for some readers.)

Colonel Mark Kenslir, a cold warrior cursed to live forever, is rebuilding his team of stone soldiers after a campaign to stop a rampaging shapeshifter in the American southwest. But word soon arrives that someone, or something, is again on the loose, ripping out and consuming human hearts to steal the memories and forms of civilians.

Kenslir enlists the help of one brave teen and an FBI postcognitive empath to track down the new killer–only to discover there are now two prehistoric shapeshifters loose in the modern world.

Falling back to their headquarters to regroup and replenish their numbers, the Detachment soon find themselves under assault from the ravenous shapeshifters–who are intent on pillaging the military’s greatest supernatural treasures.

Can a new generation of stone soldiers and a girl struggling to understand her new cryokinetic abilities turn the tide of battle, or will Colonel Kenslir die at the hands of a shapeshifter again?

The Stone Soldiers are America’s secret weapon against the forces of darkness. A small detachment of psychics, supernatural soldiers and men turned to living stone, they respond to threats conventional forces are not equipped to handle. Battling myths, monsters and magic around the world, the men and women of Detachment 1039 stand ready to do whatever it takes to stop evil in its tracks.

 

Signal Boost — Chasing Freedom

Chasing Freedom is a lovely tale in the tradition of the old distopias–Brave New World, Animal Farm, We. Unlike nearly every other distopia, Chasing Freedom starts in a world that is practically our own and shows the disintegration of a world in the grips of bureaucratic tyranny and the rise of a new resistance full of hope and willing to bear the terrible price. The story is told in short vignettes, moving back and forth between a number of different characters in different walks of life. As the story continues, you see the effect on later characters of the courage and conviction of the earliest ones.

A chilling yet inspiring tale beautifully told.

Chasing Freedom by Marina Fontaine

***2016 Dragon Awards Nominee, Best Apocalyptic Novel***

Freedom is lost, but not forgotten.
In 2040s America, civility is prized above truth, conformity above free expression, and “green” living above basic human needs. Most have given up, too busy trying to survive in a country where life is cheap and necessities are scarce. Yet even in the midst of drudgery and despair, unbroken spirits remain.
Julie is a girl who has everything, including a plan to ignite the spark of resistance.
Randy dreams of winning Julie’s love and escaping the emptiness of over-regulated life.
Joseph seeks revenge on the system for a family tragedy.
Daniel is a young artist, who can’t seem to stay out of trouble.
Chris is an orphan prepared to do the unthinkable to protect his younger sister.
Whether by choice or by accident, each will take a path on a collision course with the oppressive regime. Will they find the freedom they desire? Or will the cost of defiance prove too high to bear?
Marina Fontaine is an immigrant from the former Soviet Union. She uses personal experience to craft a novel that takes an intimate look at life in a totalitarian society and the role that individual choices play in advancing the cause of liberty.

Chasing Freedom on Amazon

Signal Boost: The Ironwood Staff

The Ironwood Staff by J. H. Hamilton

This is a Superversive book. The story is like a high fantasy set in Africa with Zen elves, but the progressive ideas of the villains and the way in which evil corrupts and spreads, as well as what the hero must do to fight it, lends a Superversive thread to this simple fantasy.

Tomas the Lame was a scribe, until the goblinish Kchabani invaded his home, sacking the library and enslaving the people. Escaping to the eladi in their forest home, he fought back until he was injured and unable to fight.

When the eladi found he had strange gifts in communicating with animals, he thought he had a new life as a Magus – what he didn’t know was that the invaders were seeking him by dark arts and vile monsters, putting his new friends and new love in danger.

On a desperate mission to the cold, wet south of the world, Tomas joins a party seeking the aid of an eladi king, leader of a people who have hidden themselves from the rest of the world for centuries. Will the southern eladi help? And, will they be in time to save the Sunlands from the kchaban hordes?

Available on Amazon