What defines military fantasy as a subgenre? Is it, as the post title suggests, a wizard wielding a fireball in one hand and a shotgun in the other, drawling “Do you feel lucky, punk?” Well…maybe in some versions of the world. In others, it may be more an army marching in rank, overseen by magician-generals, with dragons as air corps and elves in the cavalry (and most likely archery ranks).
Many fantasies–especially epic fantasies–have enormous battles as part of the over-arching story, often as a backdrop to the hero or band of heroes and the main quest. However, for some, the battle takes center stage and the military tactics are just as important, if not more so, than the clever ways in which the plucky band will outwit the Dark Lord. Let’s form ranks, then, and march through several novels where the military maneuvers are on the front lines of the plot and your ability to lead a trained squad may be just as crucial as your ability to understand esoteric prophecies and wield magical talismans.
As a security contractor, government civilian and military officer, Myke Cole`s career has run the gamut from Counterterrorism to Cyber Warfare to Federal Law Enforcement. He`s done three tours in Iraq and was recalled to serve during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. All that conflict can wear a guy out. Thank goodness for fantasy novels, comic books, late night games of Dungeons and Dragons and lots of angst fueled writing. Find Myke on Twitter: @MykeCole
Writing the Battle
Warfare in fantasy is an intimate thing. This is driven partially by the need for drama in a story, and partially by the overwhelming prevalence of the medieval/ancient setting. When the best you can do is a sword, every fight is hand-to-hand, close enough to smell your enemy’s breath, to see the look on his face when the blade goes in, to see, smell and feel his insides coming out. It takes a while to kill a man with a sword. It leaves plenty of time for snatches of snappy dialogue, catchy one-liners just before the coup de grace is delivered, “I want my father back, you sonofabitch!” Warfighters are valorous, heroic individuals who win battles, and eventually wars, by dint of personal strength, ingenuity and resourcefulness.