It seemed an appropriate title for a combination exobiology and military SF post. "Listen up, you lowlifes who will never amount to anything!"
Incidentally, the kanji for "seizon senryaku" are 生存戦略. It's quite literally "survival" and "strategy", I'm guessing it's a deliberate calque.
- Been thinking, if I double the energy output of zled lasers and increase their aperture to 3 centimeters instead of 2 (or close to—they don't make things in nice round numbers of our units, because they're freaking aliens), I apparently double the effective range(s, given that laser effectiveness varies by target material). It would just require twice as much spring (maybe in two separate coils?), with a total mass of 512 grams. That's comparable energy to 7.62 NATO, and 16 rounds of that weighs 408 grams.
And you simply can't use 7.62 NATO in a pistol; not and get anything like proper twist out of your rifling. And the kick would be most unpleasant, in a firearm-pistol as opposed to a laser one, given 3200 Joules is on par with the most powerful magnum revolver rounds, the ones used primarily for hunting, and only found in a self-defense role in bear country. Appropriate, given zled cops have to deal with people the size of black bears in their professional duties. (And 16 rounds of .460 S&W Magnum weighs 508 grams.)
- Khângây weapons haven't shown up yet (I'm currently majorly reworking my third book's plot), but I think when they do they'll either be handheld mini-railguns shooting small projectiles—"sliver" or "needle" guns, as they're often known—or else, "ETC liquid" (electrothermal chemical) propelled. Leaning toward that second one, since railguns' length and barrel-longevity is something of a deal-breaker. Not sure if there'll be separate liquid-propellant reservoirs attached to each round of ammunition, or a single reservoir that meters out the same amount of propellant, each time a round is chambered. The high temperatures involved mean their weapons are probably made of super-materials.
It seems culturally appropriate, since the khângây are a race of artists and artisans, so they have a tendency to pursue intriguing technologies, sometimes without much reference to their immediate battlefield feasibility. They also have a much smaller military than either the zledo or even the humans, and "splurging" on equipment is the kind of thing affluent societies with small militaries do, e.g. the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. I imagine that while their weapon-manufacturing might be part of a clan's exclusive intellectual property (remember, they're like a potlatch culture), armor manufacturing, while closely guarded, would come under the heading of "safety information", and thus be public-domain. At least to the point that a faction whose armor-tech is stolen by a competitor doesn't have a legal grievance (there's no requirement to actively publicize armor-tech, of course).
See, they don't regard things directly relevant to the preservation of life as being subject to intellectual property; all clans share things like medical knowledge and disaster-reports freely. Their major modern religion, also (unlike their older ones, which were one-to-a-tribe affairs), regards its teachings as relevant to safety—albeit of souls—and thus as public domain (I imagine, thus, that khângây physicians are disproportionately monks).
- You know you're a science fiction writer when you see a slashfic based on your work and your first objection is, "Kzinti don't have external genitalia" (apparently that was Niven's reaction). But have you figured out whether your aliens do? And if so, what? Aside from the fact that you simply need to work out at least a rough outline of how your aliens work in that regard, there will almost certainly be cultural-setting implications to whichever particular structure you actually go with. My advice, as in all things, is to mix and match non-mammal, non-vertebrate, and even non-animal systems, till you get something interesting.
Zledo, for instance, don't urinate (neither do birds), so their intromittent organ (which is external) doesn't do double-duty as part of the excretory system. Their sex-organs aren't even part of a "cloaca" (unlike birds, where the penis, if present, is part of the cloacal wall—species that don't have a penis, which is 97% of them, just use their cloaca for the purpose—and whatever the male's anatomy does, the cloaca serves as the female's genitalia, instead of a specialized vagina). In that respect the zled genital system is actually more like that of a cephalopod, with reproductive organs that have nothing to do with the excretory system (the cephalopod excretory system seems, for some weird reason, to involve both a urinary tract and an anus; most marine life doesn't even bother with uric acid—excreting which, instead of urea, is the reason diapsids don't pee—and instead just excretes ammonia directly).
RE: Cultural setting implications, among other things, the fact that our reproductive organs are also part of our waste-elimination system is the basis of a great number of zled insults for humans.
- Aeons ago, I mentioned that zledo (not yet identified as such in the blog) have Z0 sex-chromosomes (the male has two Z chromosomes, the female has only one, with no partial chromosome like a human male or a bird female—a system used only by a few butterflies, on Earth; the opposite, where the female has two and the male only one, is called X0, and is used by grasshoppers, crickets, and cockroaches, among other things).
Well, did I ever mention that the gamete-growing organs and the sex-hormone organs are distinct, although the former grow from the latter? The testes and ovaries grow from the hormone glands; they have four of them. The ovaries and hormone gland are at the back of the uterus, rather than beside it and connected by a fallopian tube, and the specific ovary that ovulates actually becomes the placenta and amniotic sac(-analogues) when fertilized, and the whole thing is expelled at birth. (An ovary and its embryo, together, is basically what "fruit" is, except with extra things to aid in the spread of seeds—also there isn't a precise analog to the placenta, flowering plants actually use a second embryo for that, which is freaky.)
Part of what that means is that female zledo regrow multiple ovaries throughout their lives (they can have more than four children in a lifetime), and males can regrow testes lost to injury (if their hormone-gland isn't also injured).
- Did some checking. Apparently each round of 6.8 Remington SPC (assuming 7.45 gram bullets) uses 1.944 grams of propellant. Supposing you replaced the nitrocellulose propellant with octanitrocubane, as is used by Peacekeeper guns in my books, you get (42% of 1.944=)816 milligrams of propellant per round. Caseless means we don't have to add any extra weight for brass. Assume a 60 round casket magazine, empty, weighs 192 grams (it wouldn't quite weigh twice what the 30-round one weighs—the 30-round one doesn't weigh 1.5 times what the 20-round was, and 192 is the number I get when I plug "in the proportion of the real weight-difference to 1.5", then multiply it by "117×2"). We can say that, for the weight of the standard seven magazines carried by a US Army soldier (210 rounds, each magazine weighing 483 grams, for a grand total of 3381 grams of full magazines), a 24th-century Peacekeeper can carry 5 magazines—and gets 10/7 the ammunition, 300 rounds vs. 210, with fewer pauses to reload. The consideration in the pistol rounds, incidentally, is not mass, but simply the length of the grip and its ability to accept the rounds. Using octanitrocubane instead of nitrocellulose, though, would reduce the propellant load from 460 milligrams to a mere 193.2 milligrams.
- Incidentally, given the theoretical density of octanitrocubane—2.06 g/cm3 (the slightly lower density usually listed is the actually-achieved one, remember that we can't yet get it to form even as dense as heptanitrocubane)—the 816 milligrams of propellant in the rifle round has a volume of 396.117 cubic millimeters. Treating the 7 millimeter-diameter by 31 millimeter-length bullet as a cylinder, and assuming the propellant "casing" has the same diameter as the brass one (10.7 mm), we discover that the propellant "casing" only has a length of 17.67 millimeters (the casing volume minus the bullet volume equals 396.117, casing diameter is given, solve for casing height). The "casing" sticks out 1.85 millimeters from the bullet, and goes 15.82 millimeters up its sides (assuming uniform propellant thickness in back, too). Hence, I guess, they call it "6.8 × 18 mm". Maybe "7 × 18 mm", I don't know where that "6.8" business comes from, 'cause those bullets (6.8 SPC uses the same ones as .270 Winchester) are 7.0 millimeters diameter exactly.
193.2 milligrams of octanitrocubane has a volume of 93.786 cubic millimeters. Again, treating a 9 millimeter-diameter by 16 millimeter-length (JHP) bullet as a cylinder, and a "casing" diameter of 10.77 millimeters, we get 12.20 millimeters as the "casing" length. The propellant "casing" has a thickness of .885 millimeters, and goes (again, uniform thickness in back) 11.32 millimeters up the sides of the bullet. So I guess they call it "9 × 12 mm"? Notice these rounds are much shorter than their cased equivalents—the rifle round is only 32.85 millimeters long, compared to 6.8 Remington SPC's 58.8 millimeters, and the pistol round is only 16.89 millimeters compared to .357 SIG's 28.96. I imagine they use the extra room for a coolant-reservoir (the battery for the electronic firing is set into the base of the magazine)—no casings to eject means there's nowhere for the chamber's heat to go.
- While I'm describing the precise dimensions of my propellants (I think they also have a tiny amount of a bonding agent that holds them to the bullets and controls the burn-rate, and are also painted to designate what type of bullet is being used, e.g. red for explosive-tipped), I'm having a real hard time figuring out what they smell like. Seriously, I have found exactly one reference to what octanitrocubane would smell like, and (apart from a joke about Cuban cigars), it's "probably a bit like camphor". No basis for this is given, but a man in my position grasps any straw he can.
The smell, of course, is important, because what's a gunfight without the smell of gunpowder or nitrocellulose (often erroneously referred to as "cordite")? But apparently 24th century gunfights smell quite different, though. I imagine the cops busting into a house because they thought they smelled gunshots—but no, man, it's just Hindus performing puja! "Every time we have a gunfight, I get hungry for pork-chops afterward. If we don't make peace with these rival gangs soon, I'm gonna need to invest in a whole new set of pants." (Rosemary has camphor in it.)
- The khângây being able to see near-UV, and thus also distinguish ten times as many shades as creatures that only have three color bands, are, as I said, a race of artists and artisans. Part of it is that they say there are 30-35 "main" colors, instead of just six or seven (the seven, again, are red, orange, yellow, green, azure, blue, and purple—or you may regard azure and blue as the same color, or call azure "blue" and blue "indigo"; if you're Asian you consider green and blue to both be shades of azure; you also might call purple "violet"). Notice I said 30-35, not 60-70? Yeah, well, actually, only three colors in English are even named for themselves, rather than for things that are their color.
Think about it. What's orange? A fruit (its Old English name was "yellow-red", look it up). What's green? A formation of the same root as "growing" and "grass", it actually means "flourishing plants", that's not just a connotation of the word. What's azure? A rock. What's violet? A flower. What's indigo? A dye. So is purple. No, the only words that can even partly be considered to actually mean the color they describe, are red, yellow, and blue—we weren't just calling them primaries 'cause of paint. (There's something similar in Japanese—the only colors that are adjectives instead of derivations from nouns, are black, white, red, and azure. Yellow, orange, and purple are named after gold, bitter oranges, and the purple gromwell, and pink, brown, and green are named after peaches, tea, and melons.)
Khângây cultures have ten times as many words for colors that actually mean the colors themselves, which, if we assume ten times as many as a typical human language, is about 20-40, not counting black and white (and they presumably have ten words that mean "gray" plus dozens for things like "gunmetal" and "mouse"). Then they also derive ten times as many specific shades from other sources as we do. I imagine that being around colored objects made by humans and zledo probably sets their teeth on edge (if their jaws could do that, which they can't—technically they don't even have teeth), with slight variations in shade that we don't even notice, but that make them feel like they're in the "before" segment of a detergent ad.
- Mention of khângây teeth, or lack thereof, reminds me that I redid their biting/chewing anatomy. Instead of beak-like horn structures, but shaped like canid teeth, inside their lips, they now have bone plates with sharp cutting surfaces, like those of the armored-jaw fish (still inside their lips). Their "biting plates" have a horn-like coating, like a bird beak, which continually regrows as it's worn down. The horn is in the same color as the feathers of whichever ethnic group the khângây belongs to.
I had had the males have brighter-colored plumage than the females, but I can't think of any species with a similar mating structure to khângây that have that. Most of the brightly-colored birds that mate for life—parrots, mostly, although blue-jays (being predators) are probably a closer parallel—have indistinguishable plumage between the sexes. I might just decide to have the sex be determinable by build (they give live birth and have big brains, so their females' anatomy has adaptations for that).
- It's fascinating how many common criticisms of things are just unintelligent retreads of each other. I've talked before about the people who say walking mecha won't work because walking uses too much power...thus demonstrating they have never seen a mecha anime or they'd know they usually roll on good terrain. Another one is the people who yammer on and on about how military science fiction is stuck in the Cold War—and then talk as if it's self-evident that the wars of space-faring civilizations would be genocidal affairs that kill billions.
Newsflash: war did not cease in the Cold War. It just got much smaller and tidier. The whole thing we learned from the end of the Cold War is that the whole idea of Total War is, like racism and women as legal minors, an incredibly stupid assumption of the Renaissance and Enlightenment that intelligent people would never have adopted, or resurrected, in the first place. "The only time it's worth killing your enemy is if you kill everyone like him" is an idea exclusive to the modern era; Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan would have regarded it as blasphemously bloodthirsty.
The "every war is a war for race-survival (not to say Lebensraum)" trope in science fiction is not merely pre-end-of-the-Cold War, it is demonstrably just a hangover from World War II—or even from the 19th-century ideologies that brought about World War II. Do try to at least catch up to the point where eugenics has been discredited, women can vote, and there's black people at the diner, hmm?