My Writing Influences

So, two of my biggest nonfiction writing influences are two contradictory people. The first is Shamus Young, a video game critic. I like his stepped-back style with a touch of wit that can really dive deep into literary analysis (particularly his longform analyses of Mass Effect and Grand Theft Auto V).

The second is classic Bill Simmons, the sports commentator. I said “classic” [2000s] Simmons because he became a victim of his own success. But the sort of irreverent, “talks like a real fan attitude” in his early columns and The Book Of Basketball I read and loved growing up has also rubbed off on me.

Trying to balance the two influences can be tough. I can remember some Fuldapocalypse reviews where I was trying to be literary and analytical, and others where my mind was snarky and over-the-top. But they’re there, for better or worse.

Review Cravings

My latest Fuldapocalypse “craving” was thrillers written in the 2000s. As it was not a good decade for that genre (for reasons I’ve explained before and might explain again), why did I go there? It didn’t feel like I wanted a change of pace, as they were stylistically similar in large part to what I’d been reading before and after.

My review craving for low-list 2000s thrillers was probably because I wanted to see “were any worthwhile?” and “if they were bad, how were they bad?” And the answer can be seen in the reviews themselves.

Writing And Blogging

So, blogging has served me very, very well. Especially my Fuldapocalypse book review blog. However, I’ve noticed my reviews on there have been getting shorter and more off-the-cuff.

For the circumstances they were written in, they worked very well, and I’m proud of them. I got to broaden not only my own horizons, but also (hopefully) to share obscure books with my readers. If the convenient situation is “just read a soft ‘51%’ book, then give quick thoughts on it”, it works well.

But now-not so much.

First, I’m going back to long-form writing. I need (and it won’t be the easiest) to get in the mindset of writing 2,000 word or more chapters and not 200-500 word posts. Shifting from “sprinting” to “distance running” is tricky, and going back to the quick and easy posts may be a bad habit in that context.

Second, I’ve had this weird “mediocrity addiction” recently, where I read the first installments of a series, find them to be merely all right at best, then go to the later ones. Meanwhile, I read first installments that I significantly enjoy, and then, somehow, don’t follow up on them. My internal justification is “my brain is too busy to appreciate good fiction, so I might as well go for the outright mush”. That’s kind of self-defeating.

Third, I’ve been in a patch where I don’t have the most to say about my review subjects, and I’m sure the second part has something to do with it-what can you really say about “eh, it was all right I suppose?”

So expect less review blogging. I won’t stop it completely, but I do intend to slow it down, especially once I burn through my pile of “mostly finished” reviews. I’m nervous about going fully into writing long fiction, but I’m also excited, because there’s so much in my mind I want to get out.

Reading a long series

So, it’s not uncommon for me to face a long series. Many cheap thrillers in particular have huge numbers of installments in them. The pattern I faced with the Survivalist – grab the whole thing and read it all from start to finish – isn’t necessarily the best. And not just because I’m leery of repeating the gonzo “27 BOOKS I CAN DO THIS!” attitude. Ahern’s knack for long , connected “soap operas” was different from many other books aiming for each installment to be as self-contained as possible. So if there isn’t an explicit connection, then I tend to go for…

  • The initial one. First because it’s the sane place to start, and also because first impressions matter to me.

If it’s short, I just grab the whole series if the first book is good. If not, then…

  • The installment(s) with the most out-there premise. I can read five books about Mack Bolan facing mobsters/terrorists, or I can read a book where he fights some weirdly supernatural, out-of-character opponent. The latter seems more appealing.
  • Failing that, the installment generally considered either the best (obvious reason) or worst (Is it really that bad?).

 

An Unusually Influential Book

One of the most influential books I’ve read has been Bobby Akart’s Axis of Evil. It was the third book I reviewed on Fuldapocalypse, the first two being the classic World War III novel Chieftains and the more modern The Red Line.

Now, Axis of Evil was not a particularly good book in my eyes. But I owe it a huge amount of gratitude nonetheless, for it turned Fuldapocalypse into a far more diverse blog. Opening the door to more than the narrow Hackett-to-Peters big WWIII spectrium I’d originally planned was a wonderful thing.