Yes, this is my longsword.

Being a Swordfighter

Today, I will have been a swordfighter for exactly one year.

Sometimes it feels like I’ve been one forever, and sometimes it feels like only a moment. I can remember feeling very out of place, initially, when I first stepped into the Warrior Fundamentals class in Academie Duello. That lasted until I actually picked up a longsword, and truly began to learn.

I’ve been in Vancouver for four years. Time, opportunity, and, cheesy as it sounds, a New Year’s resolution finally got me in the salle; I needed the exercise, above all else, but I also needed knowledge. I write fantasy adventure, the kind of stuff that wouldn’t look out of place next to Lord of the Rings, and there’s only so far you can go with fight scenes before you really need some actual experience of fighting.

I’m not sure what I expected. What I found, though, is that there is a difference between learning how to swing a long piece of steel, and actually being a swordfighter.

fifty-shades-of-grey

Fifty Shades of Crap

FSOG (Fifty Shades of Grey) is, hands down, one of the worst things to ever happen to the BDSM scene, even though it’s probably one of the best things to happen to erotica writers. With the movie coming out soon, I feel like I should do my part and rant like it’s 1999 on just how utterly BLEARGH this whole series is.

Allll the BLEARGHs. I’m not so good with words any time I ever get onto the topic of Fifty Shades.

Lightsaber duel

Let’s Talk about the Bind

Two fighters size each other up. They strike and parry, back and forth, then their swords lock together dramatically as they hurl snappy one-liners at each other. They shove and circle around, and split apart again, and the fight continues!

Except… nah. This is the Hollywood parry, something you’ll see in all the Star Wars movies at least. Like many things in Hollywood, it’s not a bad thing because it’s unrealistic (though it is that) but because it’s boring and stupidly overused.

Buster sword

Why Swords of Power(TM) Don’t Work

Here’s a thought – what do you think of as the ultimate sword?

This is another trope that shows up quite often in all kinds of media: the concept of the ultimate blade, the Sword of Power, the mystical weapon before which all others go crying to their mommies. Frequently it’s got some kind of marking or decoration to distinguish it from others as well, and it’s either in the hands of the bad guy, or it’s stuck in a dungeon somewhere (the Legend of Zelda option), or it’s being hidden or carried around by someone ‘worthy’.

samurai-jack-vs-aku

The Swordmaster Trope

So here’s the common trope: there is a master swordsman. This swordsman has a single Sword of Power(TM) and has never been defeated in battle. There can be only one, etc etc. The swordsman will face many opponents with many different kinds of weapons, and emerge victorious every time.

Duncan McCloud from Highlander. Too many examples from anime and manga to count. Jaime Lannister from A Game of Thrones, apparently. Drizzt Do’Urden. Zorro. They just pop up everywhere, when you think about it. The idea of the swordmaster is a very powerful, romantic one.

The problem is that one swordmaster does not an army make, and although it serves for good storytelling SOMETIMES, it doesn’t make for good tactics.

Buster sword

Video Games Swordfighting Fun

You know, I spend a lot of time talking about movie swordplay, but do you know what’s really awesome? Video game swordfighting. For pure silliness, you just can’t beat the balls-out crazy that usually goes into game combat. Movies can get away with their silliness because of the requirements of story and characterization and all that, but games? Oh man, they’re on another level. There is almost nothing about video game swordplay that makes sense from the perspective of true swordplay.

the bayeaux tapestry

Grimdarkness in Fantasy

Or, as I like to call it, Game of Thrones syndrome!

I can’t really get into grimdark fantasy. Not to rag on George R.R. Martin, but a lot of it comes off as being, well, just there for shock value, and I can’t stomach the stuff. But my big issue is that there’s usually a lot of overtones of REALISM, with the implication being that this horrible world of horribleness was what the Dark Ages in Europe were really like, instead of the lighter, fluffier variety of regular fantasy.

“Not taking sides”

I’ve been following the Amazon vs. Hachette dispute with interest, mostly for the entertainment value. I don’t have much time to write on it myself, unfortunately, but one thing has finally prompted me to say something: the fact that Doug Preston, Authors United, and David Streitfeld, for example, are supposedly impartial, and not taking sides, when it’s clearly – CLEARLY – not the case. They are the old guard, on the side of Hachette and against Amazon.

The nice thing about the Internet is that you can basically try to prove it, and, well, I just feel the need to call out this silliness.