Thursday, September 12, 2019

Worldbuilding with Real World Martial Arts

The average author treats martial arts simply as a collection of techniques to be displayed in fight scenes. But martial arts is more than just techniques: it is a way of life, one that resonates throughout the individual and society. The superior writer recognizes that, and sees opportunities for worldbuilding and characterisation. 
Sigmund Ringeck's Knightly Arts of Combat is a comprehensive combat manual, covering swordsmanship, spear combat, armored fighting, wrestling and more. An invaluable martial arts treatise, it provides insights into how 15th century knights and men-at-arms would have fought -- and, more importantly, how they would have thought.
A basic unarmed Ringen, or wrestling, technique is to rush an enemy, wrap your left hand around his neck and grab his genitals, then twist and pull his sensitive parts. To throw him, jerk upwards with your right hand and pull his head back with your left. Alternatively, you could smash your left arm across his throat instead of wrapping it around from behind. 
The translators of my copy (Peter Lindholm and Peter Svärd) added a note: If you want to be truly wicked, drop him but retain your hold on his genitals as he drops.
This technique is designed for crippling and killing. In one stroke, you crush his testicles, strike his throat, and slam his head into the ground. 
This technique would never be allowed in a ring today. You'd be hard-pressed to see anyone teach it outside a HEMA re-enactment group. On the other hand, the brutality of the technique reflects the harsh reality of a time and place where warfare was constant and killing was done face-to-face. If you can't eliminate the enemy quickly, he will do the same to you. Moreover, even if one offensive aspect fails, you'll still do at least some damage, creating an opportunity for a finisher.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Dungeon Samurai Vol. 3: Seisen is live!

The final installment of the Dungeon Samurai trilogy is now live on Amazon!
Crowdfunded in March, Dungeon Samurai was my maiden attempt at creating a series from scratch and publishing it on a rapid release schedule. In the course of a month, 29 backers raised $1105 to cover publishing costs. I am extremely grateful for their help in making this series come to life.
To find out more about Dungeon Samurai Vol. 3, please see the blurb below.
The war for the dungeon reaches its climax!

A hero has fallen. The threat of famine looms over humanity. The endless hordes of monsters inhabiting the world have grown even more powerful. The human military is at the breaking point.

All hopes rest on the shoulders of Yamada Yuuki, a college student turned battle-hardened samurai. Armed with faith and steel, experimental weapons and new tactics, he must lead the way into the depths of the dungeon through swarms of horrific abominations and countless traps. But the dungeon itself is changing.

And at the bottom floor, the demon ruler of the world awaits.

The final campaign begins. A desperate, gruelling crusade to win through the dungeon and find a way home. Now is the time for Seisen.

Now is the time for holy war.
Dungeon Samurai Vol. 3: Seisen takes the high-octane samurai combat of the previous two volumes and cranks it up to eleven. It is a grim death march to the bottom of the titular dungeon to win a way home. 
Can the humans overcome supply shortages, mass casualties, and new bloodthirsty monsters? Will Yamada Yuuki find a way home? Will he even survive? Find out here!
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Friday, August 16, 2019

Rawle Nyazi: "Defeat The Witch!"

My colleague Rawle Nyanzi had something big to say today, and you had better take the time to listen to it. See for yourself at his blog.

You wonder if there’s something — anything — you can do. Sure, you can avoid the cinema and cancel Netflix, but that can only do so much. Deep down, you want to replace the shows on those services, but you don’t think that’s possible.

You’re correct — right now, it’s not possible. Emphasis on right now.

But you can help change that.

What did he make using what he can do right now? This.

You want better? Then quit being a paypig, cut the cord/cancel Pozflix, and give that money to Rawle instead. He's opened a Patreon account if you want to fund him directly, or you can buy his books if you'd rather fund him indirectly by reading his books.

It is necessary, BUT NOT SUFFICIENT, to not give money to people who hate you. It is also required that you give your money--your material support--to those who want to entertain you properly. They like you; TAKE YOUR OWN SIDE and give them your money instead.

Thoughts on Jirel of Joiry

Mention the words 'Strong Female Character' and immediately a visage of a tigress fills your head. She is powerful and fearless, unbeatable in combat, sexually alluring, takes no nonsense from anyone, and can best any man in any masculine pursuit. It's a trope solidified over decades of repetition on the silver screen and the printed page. 
And then there is Jirel of Joiry. 
Created by pulp queen C. L. Moore, Jirel was among the first female protagonists in the sword and sorcery genre. Passionate and proud, beautiful and brash, she is the ruler of the realm of Joiry, implied to be somewhere in medieval France. Skilled at war and arms, she commands a loyal army of troops. 
And there she parts company with modern Strong Female Characters. 
Today's stock Strong Female Character is a man with breasts. She talks as tough and as rough as a self-proclaimed alpha male with a chip on his shoulder would, even if she doesn't have the muscles and scars to  back up her words. Put her in a dangerous situation and she will fight her way out of it, even if she has to escalate it to the point where violence is necessary. She will punch and kick and slay like a man, somehow landing her blows with as much power and accuracy as an experienced male fighter with much more muscle mass to spare. She charges her foes head-on and seeks to establish dominance, like a man. 
Jirel is, before anything else, a woman. And her experiences and perspectives as a woman colors her adventures with a distinctly feminine touch that is little-seen today.
Jirel is a fireball of passion. Passion for revenge drives her to seek out a weapon of magic even if it costs her soul in Black God's Kiss. Overwhelming guilt compels her to make amends in the sequel Black God's Shadow. In her adventures she encounters foes armed with cosmic powers, capable of reducing her to dust in an eyeblink, and yet she swears defiance and refuses to surrender. Through passion she has common ground with many Strong Female Characters, as well as heroes from pulp tales and shounen stories.
But where a Robert E Howard would have the protagonist cutting down legions of foes with mighty sword blows, where a shounen manga would have her beat down an army of mooks, where a modern action show would devolve into a spectacle of stylized violence, Moore's Jirel rarely engages in combat. 
She can't. Where she goes, her sword and armor are useless. How do you kill something that is the anthropomorphic manifestation of an eldritch realm with mere steel? How can you raise a blade against an unseen ghost? Instead of empowering her, her equipment emphasizes her vulnerability and underscores the perils she faces. She fights not foes of flesh and blood, but weird beings so utterly powerful that a sword is nothing to them. 
Where most male and modern writers would indulge in gratuitious violence, Moore focuses on atmosphere. Every story is infused with a creepy atmosphere of dread and malice, where the seemingly immutable laws of nature can be violated at whim, hinting at cosmic truths so mind-shatteringly incomprehensible that mere humans cannot begin to fathom them. 
Yet in this darkness, there is still room for faith. A devout Christian, Jirel reveals her religion in the small things. In her quest for the Black God's Kiss, Jirel asks to be shriven -- and wonders if in seeking out a tool for vengeance she has damned her soul. Later, she must set down her crucifix to perceive, must less enter, the realm of the Black God; and to return home she must retrieve it.
In Hellsgarde, when interacting with a minor character, she notes that 'God in his wisdom does not mark a whole and healthy man with a cripple’s face' and concludes that he has a 'deformity of a soul'. Instead of being force-fed to the reader, religion is treated as one of the many aspects of Jirel's personality and of the world. 
Jirel may be a warrior woman, but she is still a woman first. Indeed, her femininity is an integral part of her stories. Black God's Kiss has her seeking the Black God to avoid a forced marriage to the man who conquered her realm, and at the end realizing she was in love with him. Black God's Shadow has her returning to the land of the Black God to make amends. In Jirel Meets Magic, she faces a supremely powerful sorceress, and taps on the power of her passions to prevail. The Dark Land sees her spirited away to a mysterious dimension whose ruler aims to wed her, while Hellsgarde pits her against an invisible ghost hellbent on ravishing her as she seeks a treasure to ransom her soldiers. 
These stories tap into the primal feminine fear of the violent, conquering male and the wrath of the jealous female. With her sword and armor useless against her enemies, she must adapt to strange circumstances, endure the unendurable and deceive those who would seek to destroy her.
In Jirel's stories we see reflections of the classic feminine virtues: adaptability, stoicism, emotional intelligence, reckless daring in facing overwhelming odds for a higher end, devotion to faith and duty. 
Jirel of Joiry embodies the greatness in women. Her femininity is front and center, the core of her being. It is an approach utterly alien to the fiction of Current Year; I do not think there will ever be a Jirel in traditional publishing for years to come, if at all. 
Jirel of Joiry is a strong female character -- not a man in a dress.

I also believe that female characters should be treated as females, not men with breasts. Check out my latest novel DUNGEON SAMURAI VOL. 2: KAMI NO KISHI to see my take on a shrine maiden caught in a dark dungeon crawler. 
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Monday, August 12, 2019

Aero #1 Review

When Marvel announced its trifecta of Chinese superheroes, I braced myself to be disappointed. In recent times, Marvel has continually delivered comic series emphasising social justice in lieu of storytelling, and I was sure these comics would continue in that grand tradition.

Looking at Aero #1, I do declare I was wrong.

It was worse.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Why I Write

Much of modern entertainment is a garbage fire.
Many male characters are weak, wimpy and wishy-washy. They exist not as men in their own right, but simply to make the designed Strong Female Character look even more powerful when contrasted against their incompetence. Shounen protagonists inevitably run away screaming at the first signs of romance and emotional intimacy, those that aren't blank slates for the audience to project themselves into. In contemporary fiction, manhood is denigrated and virtue is disparaged.
Violence is inauthentic. The realities of violence are glossed over or just plain ignored where the pen meets the paper. Psychology, physiology and physics go out the window. Anatomy, biology and craft are unknown. Characters described as highly trained and highly experienced are anything but. There is no truth in the scene, only fantasies sprung from baseless illusions and the desire to push gender agendas. 
The specter of ideology haunts pop culture. It looms large over films and television, it has made inroads in fiction and comics, and it continues to expand. It infects everything it touches, and its proponents are eager to decry, denounce, dox and destroy everyone who opposes it. Progressive creators ram their politics down their readers' throats, transforming harmless diversions into vitriolic screeds; while publishers and distributors seek ever to deride or erase men, whites and Christians. 
Subversion is the order of the day. Religion is ridiculed at every turn -- especially the great majority faiths that have shaped the world. Every value of modern civilisation is targeted and undermined, replaced by empty amorality, howling nihilism and naked force. Everything beautiful must be corrupted, everything true must be mocked, everything sacred must be profaned.
This age is a degenerate age. This is the time of the Kali Yuga, where every vice is celebrated and every teaching insult. This is the great decline, when moral and spiritual corruption takes root, and people are no longer able to find salvation. The darkness of a long fall creeps ever close. 
But the darker the night, the brighter the light. 
The flame of civilization endures still. The wisdom of the ancients, time-tested and true, remain. The virtues that created society are the same values that will uplift it again. 
But the flame must be passed on. 
And so, this is why I write. 
I write strong, decisive, men who embody the archetype of the warrior monk. With the bright steel they stand between civilization and those who seek to destroy it; with unconquerable faith they stand fast against the temptations and the vices of the age. 
I write visceral action scenes that show the truth of combat, to reproduce on the page the its brutality, velocity, lethality -- and its bloody glory. 
I write character- and plot-driven stories, focusing on entertaining the reader first, for they are the reason I write.
I write stories with a strong undercurrent of pro-civilization values, where good triumphs and the evil get their just deserts, to pass on the flame. 
I write to manifest a vision of powerful and positive masculinity, to create beautiful prose that reflects hard truths, and to carry into the future the values that underpin civilization.
This approach dovetails neatly with the groups I'm involved in. PulpRev works are defined by powerful prose, dynamic characters, intense action, morality, and inspiration from old-time pulp stories. Superversive fiction builds up civilisation by upholding and celebrating the classic virtues. And on the corners of the Internet, men are gathering to spark a renaissance of masculine-oriented pulp-inspired fiction. 
The world is dark and has always been so. Social justice sinks its tentacles deeper into popular culture with every passing day. Degeneracy grows increasingly rampant. Yet in the darkness, a fire rises.
And I write to keep this flame alive. 

Superheroes and morality tales go together like peanut butter and jam. To see how I'm keeping the flame alive, check out my superhero novel HOLLOW CITY!
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Thursday, July 25, 2019

Judge of the Wastes Part 3

The bandits returned in force.
Beyond the distant sands, a chorus of high-pitched roars filled the noon air. They grew louder and louder, closer and closer, gathering in force and numbers. Then, boiling out of a mirage, five buggies charged the camp at top speed. Two minutes out, two of them broke away, circling around to the side entrance. Tribarrels swiveled back and forth, hellguns nervously swept every field of fire, covering the towers and the gates and the river and the hills and anywhere else an ambush might spring from.
Nothing happened.
As one, the buggies halted by the gates. The bandits dismounted, gathering in squads. A whistle blew shrilly, answered by another, and both squads charged into the camp. Fanning out, they dashed between tents and huts, calling out their findings, heads and weapons scanning, looking for something, anything, that would betray their enemies’ presence.
Nothing happened.
They regrouped by teams, congregating in the heart of the camp and in the open space between the captives’ tent and the other dwellings. A brief moment of hesitation, and a squad trepidatiously approached the huge tent. 
All this, Gideon observed from the watchtower, lying prone on the wooden floor, exposing as little of his face as possible. He picked himself up, ignoring a sudden jolt in his back, flexed his fingers. 
Ten beams of light blasted from his fingers and out into the sky. The clouds gathered and darkened and roiled in the space of a breath. Ten blazing pillars screamed from the heavens, eradicating ten different bandits in ten thunderous blasts. Shockwaves pummeled smaller tents and huts, collapsing flimsier structures, flinging more men about. Fires caught among the buildings, spreading quickly within the camp.
"FIRE!" someone shouted.
Fire poured down from the towers. Three tribarrels he had plundered from the bandits, operated by the women. Long, long, long bursts of bolts chopped up the bandits, the tents, the houses, burning and destroying and annihilating everything they touched. The weapons themselves were easy to use; just align the red holographic crosshair on the target and squeeze the trigger. Even so, most of the bolts missed, striking only the dirt or igniting the camp’s huts, yet the sleet of hellfire sent the bandits into a frenzy.
Meanwhile, a figure burst out from the captives’ tent, cradling a tribarrel. The gunner dropped to the prone, braced the weapon’s tripod on the soil, planted its butt against her shoulder, and sprayed another stupendously long burst.
Princess Anabelle, leading by example. 
Right behind her, four more women emerged from the tent, formed a line beside her, and sprayed everything they saw with their captured hellguns. Bolts flew thick and fast through the air, the claws of a wrathful God ripping up the earth and tearing apart the flesh of sinners.
Replenishing his bracers, Gideon watched the slaughter coldly, dispassionately, tracking targets and fields of fire. The display of firepower was awesome, and the women were hellbent on taking their revenge, but they lacked training. The extended bursts wasted power and burned out barrels; most of the bolts had struck far too wide or too short of their marks; with the sole exception of Annabelle, the gunners seemed more interested in demolishing buildings than destroying men. Even now, he counted at least five survivors, running for the safety of the central hut. 
He took careful aim and fired. 
A line of bolts washed over the squad. 
All of them dispersed. 
He blinked.
It was as if the bolts had struck an invisible shell, exploding harmlessly like raindrops. The bandit in the middle had both arms raised, yelling gibberish, his hands cycling through gestures, his body glowing with light.
A sorcerer. 
No matter. He would run out of mana eventually. Gideon fired another burst. He didn’t aim; he didn’t have to, he just had to wear down the force field. Set to continuous fire, the hellgun blazed bright, the superheated barrel quickly growing red-hot.
Too soon he expended his power cell. He ejected it and reached for a fresh one.
And, suddenly, the camp went quiet.
Everyone had run out of power. 
Now the bandits shot back, blasting away in every direction. Explosions rippled through the watchtowers and set them afire. A bolt hissed past Gideon’s ear and blew off part of the roof. Cursing mentally, he pointed at the ground. Spoke.
And warped.
His boots softly touched the soil. Behind him, the watchtower crackled merrily. Wooden beams snapped. 
He ran.
A stream of bolts chased him. 
From behind.
Now he swore out loud, sprinting as fast as he dared. The princess was firing at him! Just as well that she was such a poor shot, or he’d be dead already. He dashed around a burning hut and the shooting stopped.
A Word rumbled through the cosmos.
Shafts of fire erupted from the ground, consuming the watchtowers whole. Women shrieked in panic and fear. All outgoing fire ceased abruptly. Gideon bit down a blasphemy and scanned—
There. The bandits were sprinting for the gate. Just three of them left.
Hellgun at the shoulder, he advanced on them, finger pulsing a burst of quick snap shots, feet taking him to the scant protection of a half-collapsed hut. A barrage of bolts lashed out at them, shattering against the shield. 
One last bolt, and the shield collapsed in incandescent light.
Gideon found his crosshairs superimposed over a bandit. He fired, watched him explode. Swiveled right, saw the sorcerer—
—he vanished in a dark blur—
—Kept turning and saw the last bandit, spraying blindly at Gideon’s direction. Gideon shifted his aim ever so slightly, pressed the trigger, saw him burst open.
A high-pitched roar cut through the air.
The sorcerer was fleeing. 
Gideon pointed at the main gate. Spoke. Warped.
He appeared by a buggy. Slightly off to his right, another buggy tore through the desert at top speed, rapidly disappearing into the distance. 
Gideon gritted his teeth. The sorcerer wasn’t getting away. He would face justice this day, the justice of Man and God. 
He climbed aboard the rear of the closest buggy and took up its rear-mounted tribarrel. The sighting module projected a bright red crosshair and the power indicator was full. He slewed the weapon around, training the sights on the fleeing buggy.
It was racing up a distant dune, nearing the crescent. Through the sighting unit, it was a dark dot the size of a pea.
He held down the butterfly triggers.
A river of light scorched from the weapon. The barrels rotated swiftly, screaming and whirring, slowly glowing red. Blazing white and blue light washed out the sight. He danced the dot back and forth, triggers held down, deluging the dune with fire, watching for—
A mushroom cloud bloomed. Flames licked the air and ground. Thunder followed in its wake. Debris went flying.
He released the triggers and slumped down.
It was finally over.
The Band of the Scorpion was annihilated.
But so were five of the women who had volunteered to fight alongside Gideon. All three watchtower gunners, plus two civilians who had fought alongside the Princess. Of the former there was nothing left to bury; the latter’s remains were too gruesome for the civilians to handle. 
Accompanied by the Princess, Gideon armed himself with a shovel, dug two graves by the water, and lowered the mangled corpses into the grave. 
He stood by the bodies, lowered his head, and clasped his hands together.
"Lord God, we return the bodies of Maria Nolan and Elizabeth Hill to the earth, and commend their souls unto Thee. Receive them at the gates of Heaven and salute them with an honor guard of angels, for they have fought alongside us as bravely as any warrior. Thank You for letting us know them for such a brief time, and lead them on to eternal life. Amen."
"Amen," Princess Anabelle said.
There was no funeral or eulogy for the bandits. The women didn’t want to touch them, and Gideon had no desire to waste his strength on outlaws. They simply left the bodies to rot where they were.
Under his and Anabelle’s supervision, the civilians raided the camp for essential supplies. Food, water, fuel, weapons, munitions. Between the magic and the wild shooting, there was precious little left to scavenge in the camp. But the bandits had laden packs in their buggies, still intact. 
There were just over fifty survivors. But only six buggies—including the one Gideon had taken. The children and most grievously abused took the vehicles. The rest walked. 
Princess Anabelle was among them. So, too, was Gideon. 
He led from the front, retracing the long lonely road back. He kept a sedate pace, slow enough that the civilians could keep up. With tight rationing, they would make it to Jericho. He hoped. 
Gideon preferred to keep his own counsel. But Princess Anabelle was a talker. She wouldn’t speak of what she had experienced, instead prodding Gideon to reveal his tale. He humored her by honoring her request, careful not to dwell too deeply on the details of his one-man war. It wasn’t meet for a man to burden a woman’s soul with stories of too much death and destruction. 
When he had finally talked himself dry, his tongue was parched and the sun hung low in the sky. The civilians stopped by the highway and made camp, forming a laager with their vehicles. Gideon lit a fire in the center of the circle, while the Princess ensured everyone was fed and watered. As the civilians recuperated, Gideon drifted away from them, keeping watch at the edge of the light.
His route took him on an elliptical orbit around the laager. Taking care not to look directly at the light, he allowed his eyes to adjust to the growing dark. The air was cool and dry, filled with the smell of cooking meat and the laughter of children. 
He smiled. The former captives must have suffered greatly, and yet now they were healing. Slowly, perhaps, but healing nonetheless. He had little skill in nursing the wounds of the body, and none at all in tending to battered hearts. All he could do was pray. And get them to a place where they could find the healers they needed.
A foot scraped against the sand. He turned.
"Your Highness," he said with a nod.
"Anabelle, please," she said.
"As you say, Your Highness."
"You’re not a Judge any more. There’s no need to stand on ceremony."
"On the contrary, now that I lack the privilege of that office, I have one more reason to maintain protocol, Your Highness."
She laughed.
"Are all Judges like you?"
"I do not know. If the stories I have heard of other Judges are true, they are surely much better men than I."
"You single-handedly destroyed a gang of bandits and saved our lives. Don’t put yourself down."
"As you say, Your Highness."
She laughed again. Sighed. Shook her head.
"You know, there’s still one part missing from your tale."
"You haven’t told me why you came to rescue me. To rescue us."
"Your father requested my services. I accepted."
"My father? I thought he’d send his army, not a… not one man!"
"He did. But the Band of the Scorpion proved too elusive for his troops. Whenever the Army went on the march, the Band disappeared into the desert. It frustrated King Harold to no end. When he heard that a former Judge was abroad in his lands, he summoned me to his court."
"He sent you out alone?"
"It was my decision. One man can move more swiftly than an army."
"But you took on fifty bandits all by yourself!"
"It worked out, didn’t it?"
This time, they laughed together.
When the last chuckle faded, Anabelle said, "What’s your next step?"
"My mission is to return you home. After that, I shall continue walking the Wastes."
"Take me with you."
Gideon froze. 
"What’s wrong?" she asked.
"No," he said quietly.
"No? Why not?"
"War is not women’s work."
She straightened, her voice turning ice cold.
"I believe I acquitted myself in battle."
"So you did. But you were born and raised in a castle, in civilization. Life in the Wastes is unforgiving to those not born to it."
"I can learn."
"Why do you want to travel with me?"
"I have seen the horrors in the Wastes. I cannot, will not, close my eyes to them. If I return home, Father will simply marry me off for some political advantage. If… if I can still be deemed worthy of marriage. But if I travel with you, I can make a difference."
He sighed. 
"Why not? Because I’m a woman? Too weak for the Wastes?"
"No. Because you’re a Princess, too valuable for the Wastes."
"What do you mean?"
"I am an old man, a relic of a long-gone age. The future belongs to you. If you wish to make a difference, then return home and build a nation. A civilization. Build us a world where the Wastes are reclaimed, where the innocent no longer suffer at the hands of the wicked strong, where there is no longer a need for Judges."
"I… see. But I have one condition."
"Serve by my side in my court."
"I cannot."
"Why not?"
"You come from a land ruled by law, but here, there is no law but the law of the gun. Until the Law returns to the Wastes, my place is here, as Judge of the Wastes."
"You can’t be a Judge forever."
"It is the only life I have known."
She sighed heavily. "I can’t talk you into coming with me, then."
"I am too old and too set in my ways, Your Highness," he said gently.
"Very well. But you will at least accompany me home?"
"Of course."
"Thank you, Your Honor."
"You’re most welcome, Your Highness."

For more stories of hard men dispensing rough justice in a fallen world, check out my novel HOLLOW CITY!
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