Apple-Obsessed Author Fella

Myke Cole: From Fantasy To History

Psst. Time to give your eyes and brain to Myke Cole, who wrote a book of — *checks notes* — actual history, because Myke is bad-ass that way. He’s also a nerd in the best way possible, and so here he’s humbly asking you to give his historical nerdery a shot. And, knowing Myke’s writing, I think you oughta listen to him.

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Hey Science Fiction and Fantasy (SF/F) fans. Thanks for giving me your eyes for a minute.

I ‘m here to ask for your help.

You see, I wrote this book. It’s called LEGION VERSUS PHALANX, and it’s my first work of non-fiction.

Bear with me for a minute while I lay this out. A couple of years back I rediscovered my love of wargaming. I found myself refighting battles between the Roman legion and the “Greek” phalanx. It was this super cool “who would win a fight?” thing. You’ve got the Roman legionaries with their short swords, and the Greeks with their 21-foot pikes. Different armor. Different fighting styles. Different commanders. Batman vs. Superman. X-Wing vs. TIE fighter. You get the idea.

I thought. “This is awesome! I’m going to go read a book on legion versus phalanx battles and get smart on it!”

And off I went to Barnes & Noble.

And . . . well, there wasn’t one. Yeah, I was shocked too. It seemed so damn obvious. But after a few days of searching, I had to accept defeat. Nobody had written a book deep-diving on how the legion fought the phalanx, who won, and why.

Well, this is me we’re talking about. Suffice to say that about a year later there now *was* a book on legion versus phalanx battles.

But I had one small problem: I had to sell it.

My agent has a saying, “I sell one of two things – your manuscript or your reputation. The more you have of one, the less you need of the other.” When it comes to fantasy books, I have a little bit of a reputation.

But when it comes to *history*, to *nonfiction*, I have ZERO reputation. In fact, when I brought the book to my agent, he almost wouldn’t take it out. “Look, Myke,” he said after reading it, “this is a great book. But you have to understand that to sell a book like this, you have to have a Ph.D., be a professor. Nobody is going to buy it no matter how good it is.”

But, he took it out anyway, and as the rejections rolled in, I began to get the sinking feeling he was right.

In the end, fortune smiled on me. Osprey, the world’s leading publisher of military history (and my hands down favorite nonfiction publisher) picked me up.

Good news, right? Maybe.

You see, to get the deal, I made them a promise.

In my proposal, I told them that the fantasy and science fiction audience *loves* history, and in particular military history. I told them that SF/F geeks are gamers, miniature painters, the type of readers who obsess over weapons and tactics, who thrill to the kind of dramatic tension inherent in battle-narratives. “They’ll cross over,” I said, “publish this book, let me tell the story in a pop, non-scholarly voice, and I will bring you SF/F fans. They will buy this book. They will LOVE this book.”

See, I don’t come from the scholarly community. I come from *this* community – the geek tribe of SF/F fandom. THIS is what I know, all of you. So I am stepping out on a limb in publishing LEGION VERSUS PHALANX.

And I am betting that you’re going to step out on it with me.

I believe in this book. The story of how these units fought is *amazing.* I paid special attention to the drama in each battle, highlighting the personalities of the generals – the passionate, mercurial Pyrrhus of Epirus, the egotistical and fastidious Lucius Aemilius Paullus. Each of the six battles I cover in the book was near-run thing, selected for the fact that the fight was *close*, that it could have gone either way. I tell the story with my novelist’s eye toward a story arc. If I did my job right (and I think I did), you will get caught up in the story every bit as much as you would a work of fiction.

The fantasy novels you love all extrapolate from history. The court intrigues and vicious civil war of Game of Thrones is rooted in the real life Wars of the Roses. Tolkien’s Middle Earth lives and breathes for us because Tolkien built it from the historical and mythological bones of a world that did live and breath – the craggy mountains and dark forests of early medieval Europe. Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series rises high in the fantasy firmament . . . borne on the shoulders of the very real history of the Napoleonic Wars. The Paladins I always play on the rare occasions I actually get to sit down to the D&D table are based on the legendary champions at the court of the real-life Frankish emperor Charlemagne. The list goes on and on and on.

Fantasy resonates and transports because it is inspired by, and extrapolates from, the history of the real world.

After eight fantasy books, I’ve decided to cut to the chase and go right to the well-spring of that inspiration, and I’ve bet my publisher that you’ll come along for the ride.

So here I am, hat in hand, asking you to prove me right. Thanks.

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From the time of Ancient Sumeria, the heavy infantry phalanx dominated the battlefield. Armed with spears or pikes, standing shoulder to shoulder, and with overlapping shields, they presented an impenetrable wall of wood and metal to the enemy. It was the phalanx that allowed Greece to become the dominant power in the Western world. That is, until the Romans developed the legion and cracked the phalanx.

In Legion versus Phalanx Cole weighs the two fighting forces against each other. Covering the period in which the legion and phalanx clashed (280–168 BC), he looks at each formation in detail–delving into their tactics, arms, and equipment, organization and the deployment. It then examines six key battles in which legion battled phalanx: Heraclea (280 BC), Asculum (279 BC), Beneventum (275 BC), Cynoscephalae (197 BC), Magnesia (190 BC), and Pydna (168 BC)–battles that determined the fate of the ancient world. Drawing on original primary sources, Myke Cole presents a highly detailed but lively history of this defining clash of military formations.

Myke Cole: Website | Twitter

Legion Versus Phalanx: Indiebound | Amazon | B&N | Powells