Blackhand isn’t for everyone. I didn’t write it for everyone.
The fantasy genre is glutted with books so thick they’re practically cube-shaped. Huge portions of these novels are often dedicated to people walking around the countryside or lengthy descriptions of settings. Honestly, I can’t get through them. They don’t move fast enough for me.
By the time I’ve read a hundred pages of a novel and the farm boy who’s really a prince is still in the village, I just give up. I have never been able to finish a book by Jordan or Goodkind who are two of the most successful authors in the field. It’s not them, it’s me. I know this. I got through George R.R. Martin’s Storm of Swords, but it took me a month, and I’m the guy who loved Armageddon Rag.
Fans of the genre have not only come to expect this approach, they helped create it. They’re the ones buying the books, so publishers give them what sells.
Now many, if not most, of the books are well written, at least in regards to the flow of the prose. My problem was I couldn’t tell them apart. And I’m not just talking about the Tolkien knock offs. I wanted to get into them, I really did! I just couldn’t.
There were, however, a handful that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. A few kept me up at night and haunted my thoughts during the day.
Here is a list of every fantasy book and series I’ve ever read in chronological order:
- All the Conans written by Robert E. Howard (none of the other authors)
- Princess of Mars (I’m counting this as fantasy because of its influence on my work)
- The first three books in the Thomas Covenant series by Stephen R. Donaldson (senior year of high school)
- Nine Princes in Amber (All five in first series) by Roger Zelazny (college)
- Creatures of Light and Dark by Zelazny
- The Hobbit by Tolkien (my 20s)
- The Dying Earth “series” by Jack Vance (late 20s and then again in my 30s)
- Lord of the Rings (mid 30s)
- A Voyage to Arcturus (I was 49)
- A Song of Fire and Ice (in 2012 because I couldn’t wait to find out what happened in the HBO series)
That’s it. A pretty modest list even for a budding teenage fantasy fan. Throughout the above list, I would periodically dive into the hot titles of the day and face plant ten chapters in. I’m not blaming the books or the authors. They just weren’t what I was looking for.
But the above list of titles had managed to give me the bug. There was something about the infinite possibilities and complete abandonment of reality within the stories that made me decide to enter the realm of fantasy as an author.
I’ve know I wanted to be a writer since I was eleven years old. The Doc Savage novels by Kenneth Robeson (Lester Dent) clinched that dream (I’ve read 105 of them). That was the age I realized I might never be a real superhero, but I could write about them.
Within that ambition, heroes of the sword-welding sort roamed sun-scorched landscapes and battled ogres with terrible under bites in the frequently visited annals of my daydreams.
But along came college. Writing workshops. Literary analysis. Deconstruction. Symbolism. Allegory. Freudian interpretation. Moby Dick. Red Badge of Courage. As I Lay Dying. The Great Gatsby. I never abandon my love for science fiction, fantasy and mystery, but now I was looking beyond the story. I sought subtext and symbolism. I began to perceive a depth to literature I hadn’t noticed before.
And that was a lot of fun!