Ask a Smart Guy: Comparisons and Orcish Hordes

I really, really, really, really like Monsterpocalypse.

I mean, really.

Just wanted to be clear on that.

Also, my CREATE A TITLE FOR A SYFY ORIGINAL MOVIE contest is over.  I had a ton of great entries.  So many that I think I’ll end up having a winner and two or three runner ups.  I’ll be posting a list of all the titles as well as my choice for the lucky winners in a day or two.  So stay tuned.

But enough of that.  While striving to come up with an interesting topic for my latest blog post, I was fortunate enough to have a recent comment provide that topic for me.

Do you read books written by other writers who write in the same kind of themes and tone that you write? Examples above being Michael Rubens sci-fi novel The Sheriff of Yrnameer, and John Connoly’s The Gates.

Do you feel like there is competition or animosity between writers who have similar styles of writing in terms of theme, tone, and character?

Have you ever one a single game of Heroscape using Brunak? He never seems to work well for me, despite the fact he looks super awesome.


Well, Bradley.  Thanks for the questions first of all. 

To answer your first question, No, I don’t really read “similar” writers with “similar” styles.  I put the “similar” in quotes because, as I’ve mentioned more than once, I don’t really consider myself a comedic fantasy writer despite the fact that nearly every other sentient being in this universe does.  Heck, even my dog thinks I’m funny.

Frankly, I’m not just a fan of most “comedic” fantasy.  Most of it just doesn’t do much for me.  I don’t think that’s a flaw in those books as just a personal thing.  There’s plenty of great comedic fantasy out there.  I just don’t read much of it.  But, and here’s the truth, I just don’t read much fiction anymore.  Somehow, I slowly transitioned into a non-fiction reader.  I don’t know why fiction stopped holding my interest, but I think it just has to do with the fact that I don’t read a lot. 

(I know, I know.  I’m a writer.  I’m not supposed to admit that.  But I’m a busy guy.  I have games to play and world domination to plot.  I do actually read quite a bit, but very little of it is fiction of any genre, much less my own.)

To your second question, I can’t speak for other writers, but I don’t bear any animosity toward other successful writers, whether they’re “similar” to my style or not.  (Sorry. But I gotta throw in the quotation marks because perceptions of style are so individual that I find them hard to take seriously.)   When my first book, Gil’s All Fright Diner, came out I was compared to Christopher Moore.  An Amazon review even criticized me for aping Moore’s style too closely.  Yet, up to that point, I’d never even heard of Moore.  Since then, I’ve read some of Moore’s work, and I don’t think we write very much alike at all.  But that’s just one guy’s opinion.

And that’s something I realized a long time ago.  People are going to draw comparisons.  If the comparisons are meant as a compliment, then I take them as such, regardless of if I agree with them.

The flip side is that it’s quite possible to end up in a losing battle with comparisons.  The Christopher Moore comparisons are perhaps the most common ones I come across, and not all of them are positive.  Just because someone is a fan of a “similar” writer, doesn’t mean they’ll like my work.  But, again, that’s not Moore’s doing.  And, if it wasn’t Moore (or Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett) it’d just be someone else.  Nothing exists in a vacuum.  You just can’t get around it.  So you just deal with it, good and bad.

Finally, have I used Brunak?  Yes, I have.  Not many times, but I have about a billion Heroscape units (give or take), and I always like to try new combinations.  The units I use most reliably are probably The Venoc Warlord and Major Q10.  And I do love a good ol’ fashioned HORDE OF ORCS!  Mwahahahaha!  Suicidal, bloodthirsty, raging orcs charging fearlessly into the jaws of death!  Truly, that is a beautiful thing.

Thanks again for the questions, Bradley.

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,


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  1. Rippley
    Posted June 4, 2010 at 3:39 am | Permalink

    What? No offense to Bradley (great questions by the way), but you Promised you would answer my questions, three flipping blog posts ago. It’s ok, promises are nothing in the world of the famous. I get it. And now that I posted this, you’ll most likely either put me in my place or say “whoops, I forgot.”

    Now, I don’t want you to give me those promised answers to my questions. Screw those answers. I don’t want to know how you might change Hollywood’s understanding of the superhero genre. Those questions are as blank in my mind as your promise to answer them.

    I am now gunning for you to answer every question you have intentionally avoided. And I’m not looking for those two-sided penny answers, you give, either.

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted June 4, 2010 at 4:05 am | Permalink

      Rippley, you’re absolutely right. I did promise to get to your questions. I didn’t forget, but those are some complicated questions, and I also worry a bit about being too geek-centric. It might not look like it, but I try not to make these things too specific most of the time to allow them to have a broader appeal.

      Still, I will get to your superhero genre question soon. Just trying how to answer them in a reasonable, intelligent fashion that doesn’t require one being a huge superhero fan to understand.

  2. Rippley
    Posted June 6, 2010 at 12:40 am | Permalink


    Forget it. I should probably be on medicine for whatever it is I have–whatever causes me to be crude and fly off the handle. Honestly, in retrospect, I find myself writing and saying horrible things all the time. I am probably on the headshot list of over a thousand people across the United States (and the United Kingdom, maybe).

    The problem is, I don’t get you, or people like you. Its as if you have some sort of impossible gift I could never attain. I started out reading one of your novels, Monster. I thought was great, so I had all my friends read it. Everyone thought Monster was amazing. So, I read a few more of your novels–not all. Some of my friends jeered–Too Many Curses, wasn’t so great.

    Anyway, I found your website, checked the internet for interviews, read the reviews at Amazon and the rest. So here I am, a semester or two away finishing my Masters of Arts–my friends are all attempting to pick your brain, getting nowhere fast. I’m surrounded by all these pseudo-writers and pseudo-intellectuals with their pseudo-creativity. And I realized my store bought $180,000+ education doesn’t give me what you already have. I mean, $180,000 of education to learn about the “craft” and, here, you post that you’ve only graduated high school. Don’t get me wrong, there are loads of writers who never went to college, I know that. But I’ve read those twentieth century writers, and I don’t find them very creative. I find you creative. I wouldn’t say you were very deep. Your friends say you are the Existential Loki–I don’t think your friends understand the terms “existential” or “Loki.” They must be saying this half-jokingly. But you are creative. Way more creative than I am, I think.

    I want to know what makes a man like A Lee Martinez tick. I’ve done a bit of research on the alumni of my school, especially the English department. I wasn’t surprised to find out the that most of the alumni with either an Undergraduate or Graduate degree never attained what you have attained. My ex-university has a facebook-esque social network. I sent up a poll, and asked people to do research on the subject. Most of those pseudo-creative types landed a job at the unemployment line, or found work at in another field (aka fast food joints). I’ve polled people who’ve sent in manuscripts, and found that thousands of my peers had submitted their works, multiple times–some still do it. Of the thousands, only three folks have been published. I talked to one of these gentlemen. He said, he wrote an ms., submitted, submitted to anyone publishing company who would give it the time of day (and many who wouldn’t). He submitted tons of ms. Finally, he caught a lucky break. But then he had to edit and re-edit. Eventually they made it into a book. So the next round, he wrote and edited and edited and edited and got a giant bleeding ulcer. He submitted. They accepted–still more edits. And they made his second ms into a novel. He can barely think about writing without his ulcer killing him. Anyway, he was the only alumni with more than one novel.

    But you, you make everything sound so paint-by-numbers. I’m envious. Even if you’re hiding the pain, I’m envious as Hades. I don’t want to end up at a fast food joint, nor do I want to have bleeding ulcers caused by stress.

    I want to know what you know. I want to know what those idiots at University fail to tell us. But then again, I don’t understand you nine times out of ten. I thought maybe your games had something to do with your story writing, but you vehemently deny such claims.

    I’m wondering if I made bad choice in going to University. I guess I’ve become too mad and pretentious to write anything worthwhile. In high school I won awards for my fiction and non-fiction writing. Now, I feel as though I have ADD and a crack addiction. Everything I write seems to be a mass of random, unfocused thoughts on paper. I don’t even know what I’m doing. So, now, I’m unloading my problems on you. And I know I shouldn’t, but you seem to be the only person who has some clue about life, the universe, and everything.

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

      Wow. Obviously, you’ve got a lot on your mind, buddy. We’ve all been there.

      As an aside, I’d like to point out that you dismiss me as not being very deep, and yet, you say I seem to be one of the few people you know who are happy with their lot in life and that you want to get what makes me tick. While I don’t know if I am actually “deep” (then again, I don’t know if anyone really is), but I do think that it’s a bit odd to want to understand someone because you find things you admire (or at least find interesting) about someone and yet deciding that they lack substance.

      More of an observation than a criticism, and I’m not out to win any admiration. I’m just a guy who gets paid to make up stories, and damn lucky to be so at that.

      By the way, if it helps you in any way, I recommend reading some books on Buddhist philosophy. Particularly zen. I found it remarkably eye opening in the way I perceive the world, and it really helped put things in perspective. Not that I’m a Buddhist (or any religion for that matter), but the philosophy of zen really shaped my life’s view and continues to.

  3. AC
    Posted June 6, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    holy crap, not enough people play Monsterpocalypse! especially not in my area.

    what faction do you play?

    you absolutely made my day with that comment at the beginning.

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted June 7, 2010 at 1:10 am | Permalink

      AC, you might want to check for my earlier post about Moncon. It was in Tulsa, OK, and a whole weekend of Monsterpocalypse madness.

      I tend to skip around in factions based on whatever I feel like at the moment. I have a fondness for the Terrasaurs, The Planet Eaters, and The Sinister Swarm, but I’ll pretty much play any faction.

      I had a Terrasaur force with Pteradax at Moncon. I didn’t do very well, but I blame myself more than my forces. And I did win an award for being the best Terrasaur player, although I was the one in the tournament. Still, I’ll take it.

      • AC
        Posted June 7, 2010 at 3:55 am | Permalink

        my personal favorite faction would have to be the Martian Menace for its mad power-dice gathering abilities and how they help out with multiple monster activations.

        anyways, I just think it’s cool that one of my favorite authors plays one of my favorite games, haha.

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