#7: Read, Read, Read

Open Culture posted Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writers, of which number 7 is a suggestion to read. “If you don’t have time to read,” he writes, “you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” I like Mr. King’s novels, some better than others, and I like his 20 rules, again, some better than others. I almost always have something with me read, in the event that I get a moment or two here or there to crack open a binding. I read on the bus ride to work, at lunch, and on the bus ride home. I can read and walk at the same time, so on nice days when I walk down the hill from work, I can read along the way. I also like to have a choice of things to read, and have found that I am most comfortable when my backpack holds a fiction, a history, and a role-playing game manual.

The fiction is usually one from a small collection of favorite authors, either something of theirs I haven’t yet read or something I’m reading again. My beloved recently blessed me with a clutch of Richard Monaco books, including more of his Parsival series that I hadn’t read. Instead of forging ahead into the series’ fourth book, Blood and Dreams – the third book, The Final Quest (which obviously wasn’t since there is a book 4), was brilliant – I’m reading Runes. Written in 1984, Runes tells the story of a pagan woman and an exiled Roman patrician, who “together . . . became one weapon against the forces of evil, in the enchanted Druid world of painted warriors, misty forests, and powerful magic . . .” True to Monaco’s Parsival books, Runes is a mix of graphic violence and disjointed hallucinogenic visions splashed against a loosely researched historic background. It’s a Kubrick script directed by Scorsese on a set produced by Ridley Scott. Monaco excites my creative juices. While I don’t want to write like him, I like his imagery and his use of color. I also like his plotting. A typical Monaco story introduces all the characters relevant at the beginning of the story, and while they start unconnected he slowly whirls the gears of conflict to inexorably throw all the characters together in the novel’s climax. Like a storm brewing, Monaco’s books rumble and slowly gather, and when the clouds burst it is in unparalleled thunder and lightning, both thrilling and horrifying.

The history is Desmond Seward’s survey of The Hundred Years War (Penguin Books, 1999). Written in the late ’70’s, it is a thin (270 pages) overview of the conflict between England and France that lasted from the fourteenth century to the fifteenth. I like to read history, and while I don’t have any writing designs for pieces set during this period of history, it’s still an enjoyable read. Reading history is my “doing research”, even if I don’t ever set a story or rpg game in the specific location or time period. But then again, I never know. I’m working on a piece now set in the 30 Years War, which I would never have contemplated had I not read C. V. Wedgwood’s The Thirty Years War.

The current role-playing supplement is S. John Ross’ GURPS: Russia (Steve Jackson Games, 1998). I haven’t read much yet; I bought this on a whim because someone recently in the blog-o-sphere mentioned that they liked Mr. Ross’ writing, and I found a cheap copy from a used bookstore. A few shillings out of my pocket and I’ve expanded my rpg library and my reading experience. After only a quick glance, I’m impressed by the production values, the art, and the list of potentates involved in the project. I wish I’d gotten involved in the vast line of GURPS products ages ago, but I didn’t. It’s a treat to be discovering them now and I certainly plan on picking up a few more in the next few weeks.

In summary, I’m currently reading Runes (fiction), The Hundred Years War (history), and GURPS: Russia (rpg).

Finally, I’ve gotten a lot of comments on a post I wrote a bit ago expressing my opinions about Ars Magica’s Code of Hermes inhibiting players interactions in the game’s fictional historic setting. I think it’s unnecessary, and that the game would play better if players didn’t have to justify interacting with the game world’s mundane history. Most comments say that I’m wrong, that the Code is necessary, and that the game works fine as it is and I’m either a heretic or lunatic to think differently. Or both. Commentators also like telling me that I can play the game however I want, and that if I want to ignore the Code in my games I can. I have a few comments in response, but they all boil down to one:

Thanks for reading!


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One Response to #7: Read, Read, Read

  1. mikemonaco says:

    I hope I haven’t been one of the commenters telling you you’re doing it wrong or “OMG did you know you can ignore rules?” 🙂
    Anyway the opening paragraph really grabbed me because I know someone who wants to be a writer and steadfastly refuses to read anything. It’s boggling and frustrating — esp. for a buttinski librarian like me.
    Also you’re really making me wish I held on to the Richard Monaco book I picked up at a library book sale and then gave away because I was afraid I’d never find the whole sequence. “a mix of graphic violence and disjointed hallucinogenic visions splashed against a loosely researched historic background.” Sounds awesome!

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