Where We Discuss Who Tarien Cole Is.

Or More Accurately: Is Not.

I often hear the statement, “Your writing must reflect your beliefs.” I personally find this a ludicrous statement. My current work, for instance, is a Hellenistic Fantasy written with full polytheistic pantheons, the possibility of apotheosis, Pre-Christian philosophy regarding Government, Civics, and Economics, and the general presupposition that all war is Holy War. In short, it is a Fantasy Recreation of the world of Rome and Carthage in the Punic Wars. Minus even the far-off influence of Judaism and Monolatry (if not true Monotheism). My lead characters all operate within the views of that world. One a priestess whose Patron oversees Love, Beauty, Trade, and the City, as Tanith did Carthage. Nor do I apologize for their own personal agendas, some of which include things we consider quite odious in the modern world: Slavery, for instance, was commonplace in the era. Well over half the Roman population was servile. Carthage could not have functioned without them either. It would be a gross disservice to insert modern considerations on the topic into that setting. They simply did not exist.

The person who Tarien Cole inhabits has a very distinct set of values. Despite my love of steampunk, I enjoy my modern conveniences, thank you. Despite the fact my current WIP comes from a ‘pagan’ setting, I am comfortably Christian in confession. And I have other works where that faith does occur in characters. Including a Historical Fantasy set in 16th Century Prague with a Brandenburg-born Bohemian Lutheran with Calvinist sympathies (who takes a Romani sorceress as his wife). Despite the fact the economic system of both of those worlds predates Adam Smith, I am a believer in the Free Market.

In short, most of my works have little relation to me. Some have virtually none. I don’t, as a rule, cut snippets of myself off and make characters out of them. In fact, I made the lead male character of my Steampunk as divergent from myself in personality as I could imagine. Just to see if I could! Hence his rather Indiana Jones-ish mentality to everything from women to problem solving.

Am I saying it’s wrong to do that? No. There are no ‘right or wrongs’ in writing, except this: “Thou Shall Not Bore Thy Reader. Because That Simply Sucks.”

I happen to enjoy making characters from what I observe. In history, in reading, and in the setting itself as I formulate it. I don’t pre-program parts of myself into the story. And even when a character ‘somewhat’ aligns with myself, I’m still responsible as a writer to answer questions AS THE CHARACTER. Not as me. So again, I am almost always endeavoring to divorce myself from the process, and listen to the characters.

They are not me. They may be my friends (though their murderous, sadistic author has a strange way of showing it). But I am not a metanarrator. Consider this one more reason I resent using fiction as a method of message.

Two Book Endorsements

Not Book reviews mind you. I don’t have the inclination to go through them both in detail and potentially spoil them for the reader.  But I’ll give them wholehearted thumbs up. (Or at least 99%.)

I recently finished reading Fated. The first book in the Alex Varus series by Benedict Jacka. Alex is a ‘probability mage.’ Don’t call him a ‘fortune teller.’ That gets him cranky, apparently. There’s nothing showy in his magic. But when you can see what’s going to happen from every contingent possibility, you don’t need to say Forzare! and make the world tremble.  (Plus he does a Dresden Shout-out, so I have to give it props for sheer audacity.) It has good humor, a great narrator as a primary character. Troubled, with having walked both the light and dark paths (further on the dark side than Harry ‘actually’ has, in fact). But committed to doing what’s right now, when no one else seems to be. Excellent world-building, a great magic system, a crackling narrator, and can there be a better city to write Urban Fantasy in than London? I really need to get the next two books in a hurry. Though Mrs Cole would point at the towers of Babel that constitute my current reading piles and tell me to stop. 😛

I no sooner finished that than turned straight into the 3rd book of Larry Correia’s Grimoire Chronicles: Warbound. If you’ve read the 1st 2 books, I don’t need to say anything more. If you haven’t. Well, do yourself a favor and get them. ALL. NOW. Alternate History meets Dieselpunk meets Superhero Noir (which is how the magic system of the series basically pans out, something X-Men-like, but more believable). Also, this is Larry Correia, so you know there will be guns. LOTS of guns. Many, many firearms of all types. Right uses Might. And Freaking How. There’s wit. There’s romance (gasp!). And there are epic battles by the bucketload. Correia is a master of pacing. And it shows. The editor could’ve done him a few favors in the grammar department. But none of them are disastrous. Some people classify this series as Urban Fantasy. I push back on that by saying that the action is decidedly NOT given to any one city, and the character of any ONE city does not define any character in the story. So it’s not UF. That doesn’t make it less awesome.

Now, as Amazon offloads another truckload at my door, the next book up is from a former conversant on the OLD Bioware Forums boards, back in the days of Neverwinter Nights. The Grim Company, by Luke Skull. I’m looking forward to this read. And I’ll hope he returns the favor when The Iron Conqueror comes calling.

I finished three chapters of the Sword & Sandals this week. And I have most of a fourth in my notes. So it’s time to get cracking on that. 😉

 

 

 

 

Fantasy Worldbuilding: On Technology & Magic

One of the reasons I love to write Steampunk and Urban Fantasy is I don’t have to make excuses for why there is both gunpowder and magic in my world.

Or better said, I don’t have to argue why I shouldn’t have to make an argument for having both magic and gunpowder in a fantasy. To me, one of the most annoying tropes in fantasy is the assertion that magic removes tech. First of all, it’s applied with horrific inconsistency. There can be High Renaissance fashion, castles, rapiers, full plate armor, caravels, and even primitive steam engines. In other words, all the trappings of the late 1600s. But, JRR Tolkien forbid you ever, ever include anything that looks like even a primitive firearm. Somehow, the inclusion of a musket ruins fantasy.

I once read Raymond Feist’s defense for this. That was where magic emerged, technology stalled because it wasn’t ‘necessary.’ OK, if that’s what you want to do with your world, fine. But let me point out why this is actually illogical.

First, magic is unpredictable. Even Mordenkainen or Pug can find their spells going awry every so often. Whether that be because they’re out of reagents, the Gods thought it would be funny, or just plain bad luck. Magic is not reliable. And the less certain your mage is, the more likely it is things go boom in your face. So why should we think that the uneducated masses would trust magic as far as they could carry a stake?

Second, It assumes that every genius is a wizard. Why would this be true? Does every genius pursue the same fields of knowledge in our world? Do the all become politicians? Businessmen? Even philosophers? Nope. So why do they all become magicians in your world? ‘Cause? Not an answer. Then there’s the question of what happens if magic is a gift that not everyone has access to? isn’t it entirely likely that a certified Leonardo Da Vinci doesn’t get the magic bug? So what does he do? Stay a farmer? Not buying it. See Tavi in Codex Alera on this score for a character where this is well done.

Third, philosophically, magic and technology are opposed forces. Magic is insular, elitist, academic, esoteric, and expensive. Thus it;s the province of a very few. Technology is practical, utilitarian, comparatively inexpensive and reliable, and easy to reduplicate compared to magic as well. Thus, it becomes the force that gives power to the masses. Magic is the essence of an elitist feudal regime. Technology the harbinger of advancing freedom and the Renaissance. So it’s somewhat laughable when technology is stifled and yet the masses yearn to be free without knowing what the rest of the masses are thinking.

So, while my current writing project is an Epic Fantasy set in a pseudo-Hellenistic era world (thus no black powder), I have no problem writing fantasy with firearms and advancing technology (pretty much everything else I’ve done). And even in my current project, the Hellenistic era saw a lot of advancement in society and technology, and I can emulate that freely. 😉

The Iron Conqueror is Coming for You!

As in my soon-to-be E-Published novel, The Iron Conqueror. I’ve spent a long time beating my head against the traditional market’s doors, but I think the Steampunk audience, of all groups in the Speculative Fiction marketplace, is most willing to pursue the alternatives that the New Market Paradigm offers. So I’m going to put my work where my mouth is and try to prove you all right.

Here’s the reverse cover for my work: Image

I’ll stack the work on the cover for The Iron Conqueror against any work the ‘professionals’ at most publishing houses produce. And what’s more, you’ll actually see my world as I imagine it, not some suit who knows nothing about Steampunk but what they saw on a stereotypical CSI episode. (Or even a better Castle one.)  Suzi (Kachinadoll to those who follow her on deviantArt) is a talented artist whose Steampunk works have been sought after professionally before I came calling. And I’ve loved the Steampunk aesthetic since before it existed as a subculture of its own, having grown up on Jules Verne, H.G. Welles and the Future That Never Was.

For those who have seen some form of The Iron Conqueror in the past, I can assure you that the published version is cleaner and smoother than what you’ve seen. I’ve grown a lot as a writer since I first typed this four years ago, and I think it shows in the product.

It will also include a map of Trivoria, a glossary of Nations, Characters, and a summary of the Calendar, Faiths, and Magic System of the Griffin’s Tale series. And the story still has all the intrigue, in-it-to-win-it characters, and no-holds-barred action scenes you expect from a Steampunk story, or from Tarien Cole’s mad imagination in particular.

So find your Coachman’s hats, climb up the ladder, and let the cabin steward pour you some tea. The Iron Conqueror is taking flight.