That's the post number—28910. Random thoughts!
  • In my continuing campaign to explain to people that the distinctions between guns are non-trivial, for a writer, I think I'll have the girl in my wurrwilf book trade in her M1911A1 for a Delta Elite, in the second book. Why? Same gun, but in 10 mm. Two extra shots, and actually more power—10 mm Auto is roughly comparable to .41 Magnum (yes there's a .41 magnum).

    You don't want to be Stephen King, not knowing that a Colt .45 revolver doesn't have a swing-out cylinder (and that a cylinder isn't a barrel), or James Patterson, not knowing:
    • Glocks don't have safeties.
    • Revolvers don't have magazines.
    • The HK PSG-1 sniper rifle is chambered in 7.62 NATO (.308) not .40 caliber.
    • There is no such thing as a 30-gauge.
    Or Robert Ludlum, apparently, just in general.

  • Which, huh, I wonder, would you be able to tell that a pulled-out-of-a-corpse Makarov round was a Makarov? 'Cause Makarov is real close to .380 Browning/9 mm Kurz, the only difference being it's slightly thicker (the bullet's diameter is 9.22 mm vs 9.0 mm). But it might be hard to tell when it's mushed up inside a cadaver.
    Left: .380 Browning. Right: 9×18 mm Makarov.

    Then again, the Makarov rounds in question are silver, so they probably won't deform as much.

  • I re-read Immortal Rain recently, and uh, why does it have to be so similar to my damn werewolf book? Seriously, my hero? Remarkably like Rain (except a shorthaired albino of average height, and not such a dolt). Plus, his girlfriend starts out trying to kill him for the sake of a parental figure, just like Machika.

    Hey, does the genre Rain's in have a name? Trigun, Berserk, Übel Blatt, Immortal Rain, HandxRed—GunXSword, come to think of it—they're all basically the same story. Gungrave is basically the same thing told in a different order. And hey: Vash, Guts, Rain, Van, Jim, all monosyllables (Brandon and Koinzel/Ascherlit are odd ones out, here).

    Also, Meteor Methuselah is a much better name than Immortal Rain, I don't know why they changed it. Well, 'cept there's no meteors.

  • I don't recall the particulars, but my sister related to me a while back how her co-worker was saying we'd need to terraform and colonize Mars, and my sister explained how no, if you could terraform Mars, you could solve whatever problem was making you leave Earth (please O sister, feel free to correct me if I have mistaken some detail).

    But I realize, why did nobody, not even me, notice that flaw about Firefly? Did nobody say, "Hey Joss, why don't they just re-terraform the Earth?" Blind-spots are weird and somewhat disturbing, because I didn't notice it either, and I'm me.

    Which reminds me, though there is a colony on Mars in my SF book, it's not very old—it only dates to the invention of artificial gravity. It's under a dome, built over the Tuscaloosa Crater (which is right on Mars' equator, oh yes, I looked it up)—the crater's flooded, and there's an orbit elevator at one end.

    Here is a Groucho Marx joke of the 24th century: Why do they farm-raise walruses and elephants for ivory, in that colony?

  • Huh, it's interesting, there's definitely a stylistic school in manga art that, I think, goes back to Evangelion—at least that's as far back as I care to trace it at the moment. It's noticeable in the way eyes and hands look (because apparently Anno was schizophrenic). It's present in Narue no Sekai, Soul Gadget Radiant, and to a lesser degree, Immortal Rain (which also, almost certainly, has a Studio Ghibli influence).

  • Do you know anyone who's considering voting third-party? Well are you angry at them? You should be. Voting third party in a two-party system is tantamount to voting for whichever of the major parties you support less. Because your vote is one less vote for the guy you support more.

    And if they dispute that, sit them down and explain, very slowly, about Perot '92 and Nader '00.

  • For further proof of the idea that moe anthropomorphisms are related to "animist" concepts like tsukkumogami, go read Kandachime (Kami-ta-chi-me, i.e. "divine longsword woman"). Notice anything? Yeah, it's simply taken for granted that making a sword wholeheartedly, or using one for unimaginable slaughter, will have it become a spirit. A Western work would have to have them be made of some special metal, or come from some school actually founded by a wizard, or something: because we don't consider "swords have souls" to be an unremarkable, if debatable, statement.

  • Christian Toto was saying how rebooting Spider-man is the same phenomenon as Glee and American Idol, and how even kids' movies don't have original songs, but only Top 40 hits. It's true, although (playing Team Fortress will reveal) the new My Little Pony is chock full of original songs.

    I don't know why Team Fortress players are "bronies" either. It is a great mystery of our age.

    But also, Toto seemed to react with horror to the proposition of rebooting Batman yet again. While allowing a third reboot does set a dangerous precedent, maybe this time it'll be made by somebody who likes Batman.

  • On the other hand, they shouldn't have let reboot fever convince them to greenlight the new Conan movie. Not when Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are right there, just waiting to be made into a sword-and-sorcery buddy picture.

    Also, Sheelba of the Eyeless face had something to say that, I think, is relevant to this trouble with reboots. Namely:
    Never and forever are neither for men
    You'll be returning again and again.

  • Finally, go read Magico, the manga where the mage-kid marries the girl with the curse. Shonen manga. Seriously. This story is for boys (though admittedly Jump does have a huge female audience).

    And if it doesn't bring a tear to your eye, it's because you have neither blood nor tears.


Boring, Terrestrial, and (Quite Frankly) Myopic

Did you hear someone's pitching—fairly seriously, must be, since we're hearing about it—a new Star Trek series? And apparently it'll have an openly gay character. All I'll say about it in a serious tone is, the NBC networks have already been trying that, and their token homosexuals—lipstick lesbians and bland, straitlaced young gents to a one—are much less well-rounded characters than anime's flaming stereotypes, like Leeron in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.

But actually, what I thought of on first hearing it, was something else. Namely (because I have large numbers of Penny Arcade strips memorized), to say, "Openly gay indeed. Indeed, sir. A universe of possibilities, and you're fixated on the local flavor."

(Read the newspost for that strip, it's hilarious.)

Personally I think it's unlikely that our form of homosexuality—one that attempts to recapitulate heterosexual relationships in all their particulars—shall survive long. Ours is the only society, after all, where such a thing has ever existed. Generally, a society either taboos homosexuality, or it values it significantly more than heterosexuality (mostly, again, because why would you wanna fall in love with a mere woman?). You can already see the latter phenomenon (femonenon?) in radical feminism's "political lesbianism", which almost precisely copies, except in mirror-image reverse, the misogynist ideas of Greek and Neo-Confucian male homosexuality.

Leaving any moral or religious considerations to one side, the argument for tabooing homosexuality comes from the same source—it is not directly for religious reasons that Hindus, Taoists, or more traditional Confucians taboo homosexuality. It's simply that, one's own sex generally being easier to deal with, many people will avoid the hassle of heterosexual relationships, not out of actual homosexual desire but merely out of convenience or timidity. That led, in Rome and certain eras of Chinese history, to declining birthrates, as well as to the neglect of wives and any children that did come along.

In a way, I have the same problem with this idea that Tycho jokingly suggests in the strip, there. With all the possibilities inherent in science fiction, especially of the Star Trek variety, why are you harping on your petty local politics? Give us Cmdr. Cherenkov, with his addiction to bioroid nerve tissue, or Speaker-to-Animals, holding himself honor-bound to starve even in full view of (human) meat. Give us the kif, with their hardwired dominance hierarchy, or the DearS, whose life-cycle requires masters willing to be served, and the destruction of any who aren't. You want to make us question our values, fine: but make us question all of them, and make sure they're really our values, not someone else's you're attacking as "the other". You want to give us an actually well thought-out character who happens to be homosexual (but whose homosexuality is not simply tacked on), fine—I'll believe that when I see it. But don't give us a token, affirmative action, run-down-the-checklist-and-see-if-we've-covered-all-the-diversity-bases, gay. There is not a single party—producers, audience, characters—who that last option does not demean.

So I guess I did have some more serious remarks to offer.


The Call of Chaos and Old Night

Therefore I see no wrong in riding with the Nightmare to-night; she whinnies to me from the rocking tree-tops and the roaring wind; I will catch her and ride her through the awful air. Woods and weeds are alike tugging at the roots in the rising tempest, as if all wished to fly with us over the moon, like that wild amorous cow whose child was the Moon-Calf. We will rise to that mad infinite where there is neither up nor down, the high topsy-turveydom of the heavens. I will answer the call of chaos and old night. I will ride on the Nightmare; but she shall not ride on me.
—G. K. Chesterton, "The Nightmare", Alarms and Discursions
I think I shall spend the next short while revising my Urban Fantasy/Dark Fantasy/anyway-there's-werewolves-and-vampires-in-it book, ideally while figuring out how to publish the first SFer. For some reason, whenever autumn rolls around, I get in a horrory-vampirey mood—maybe it's the spirits of the dead revisiting the earth, maybe it's the shorter days and chill in the air. Maybe you only think those are two different things.

I already thought of a tagline for the back of the thing:
Hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
Stabbings, beheadings, impalements.
A guy who twists off zombies' heads with his bare hands.

This ain't your sister's vampire book.
Because, yeah, you need to be very clear up front that it ain't Paranormal Romance. Then again, now that I look at it in print, it seems a little more Saxton Hale than I'm actually going for.
Here we see Mr. Hale volunteering with Girl Scouts

One change I think I'm gonna make is, currently several of my vampires are Nosferatu, resembling the one from the film; but it's pretty much a given that there is no such type of vampire. Nosferatu—or rather, Nesuferâtul, "the Intolerable One"—is a title of the Devil, in Romania, and by extension, all evil spirits (including vampires because, again, ghosts). So I think I'm gonna have it be a nickname of the main villain—he was a Romanian nobleman, indeed a rival of Vlad III, and Romanian nobles were known by nicknames. Aside from Vlad II the Dragon and Vlad III the Impaler, there's Michael the Brave, Radu the Handsome, Vlad IV the Monk, Vlad I the Usurper, Mihnea the Evil (yes really), Bogdan the Blind, Radu the Bald, and Alexander the Good. Besides, isn't Stefan Nesuferâtul an awesome name for a villain?

So, basically, I have three types of Romanian vampire: strigoi, pricolici, and moroi, or OCD pretty-boys, the ones who can turn into bats and wolves, and living people with vampire powers. In my second book I also have the Vârcolaci, the vampire werewolf who eats the moon and causes eclipses, but that comes later.

I think I will shorten one scene (and coincidentally delete a superfluous POV character), and (ojala) add a scene about handloading silver bullets (it's not cast, did you know? nope, ground on a lathe). Because, frankly, in terms of "Gun Porn", this series, even more than my SF one, probably ought to be read in a private booth.

Every single one of my characters has a specific gun he uses: my main heroine uses an M1911A1, the male and female vampire-hunters use a .40 S&W P226 and .357 SIG Glock 31 respectively (before they both had Glocks, but that would get confusing), and the priest uses a Smith & Wesson .357 magnum M&P R8, the one with an accessory rail (think he uses a tactical light, rather than a laser). They all use shooting earplugs, I think the double-ended kind, where you put 'em in one way, they filter out sudden loud noises while allowing normal hearing, and put 'em in the other way, they block out all noise. Hey, both the guys I just mentioned are headbangers, and electric guitar is in the same frequency range as gunfire, they can't afford to lose that.

Now that I think about it, I'm not sure what I'm gonna do with my hero, the albino werewolf, RE: guns. Before, he only used a katana in the first book—katanas being the most easily-obtainable military-grade sword you can reasonably find training for—because, as an albino, his vision is far from ideal for guns. But then in the second book, he uses a laser-sight with a pistol (I don't remember if I'd picked anything, but let's assume we can have our 'druthers, and give him a Beretta Px4 Storm, because it's pretty). But then I thought hey, what about a shotgun? Not only can buckshot make short work of the head and the heart, but precision aim isn't necessary (I said precision aim, shotguns ain't magic death-wall launchers like you idgits seem to think), pump-action'll let him take advantage of his supernatural speed. Maybe this one, a Mossberg 590A1 Special Purpose 9-shot 12 gauge:And it's only $608.

Other than that, I'm gonna update the setting—lot of its pop-culture references are 2006, and that's a little too far back.


The Plodding of Our Trade

Little pen, little fountain pen, little vagulous, blandulous pen, companion and friend, whither have you led me, and why cannot you learn the plodding of your trade?
—Hilaire Belloc, "On 'Mails'", Hills and the Sea
Thoughts upon the pen-pusher's trade, occasioned by much reading of advice upon the matter. Careful, though: there's another Belloc quote, namely, "Of all fatiguing, futile, empty trades, the worst, I suppose, is writing about writing."

  • Why, why, why, are we supposed to have our protagonists doubt themselves? I don't know, maybe it's something rich people do. I certainly never doubt myself, it's the rest of you I'm not so sure about. Put less flippantly (but seriously, hands where I can see 'em), my awareness and your mind have no method of direct intercourse, therefore I have to go by what you tell me. But my own mind: not only am I aware of it at all times, it and my awareness are entirely coterminous.

    I think on some level it's Platonism, a conflation of knowledge and action. A healthier philosophy would be to have your protagonists suffer temptation. Not only is it sounder metaphysics, it lets your characters have internal conflict and yet not require them to act like idiots and deny things they know full well, like morals. Far too much "self-doubt" in fiction is just a species of Plot-Induced Stupidity.

    The only moral conflicts other than simple temptation, are "prudential judgment"—which permitted courses of action are most likely to secure optimal outcomes?—and the question of whether one has sufficient understanding of a given situation to even come to a decision. But those aren't self-doubts.

  • You know the correct way to write about religious characters? I don't know, why don't you just write about believable characters, and then work in the religion? Apparently people who write articles about "putting faith into fiction" don't know that there's been, y' know, some small amount of work done on the question of integrating religion into human life. Pretty recently, I admit, just 6000 years or so.

    Now, sure, fiction shouldn't preach, but if you can't have characters explain their beliefs in a natural-sounding way, brother, you're in the wrong business. A Buddhist character in my SF book, upon hearing about the Post-Human/Hermetic guy's plan to upload his mind, declares it to be akin to rebirth as an Asura. The vampire-hunting priest in my dark fantasy explains the metaphysical underpinnings of the vampires, with appropriate mention of Purgatory, the Greek Orthodox concept of Hades, and Lewis' the Great Divorce.

    Your job is to convey ideas to your readers' minds in an interesting fashion. I was not aware religious ideas were exempt from being thus conveyed.

  • Oddly enough, I realized there's an exception to the "don't write about writers" rule, in fiction (you know, the one Stephen King has based his career on violating, with predictably painful results). The exception? Manga.

    Manga about manga-ka are actually good. Dojin Work and Manga-ka-san to Assistant-san to are among the best screwball ecchi comedies in all of mangadom (they're by the same guy). Bakuman is by turns fascinating, hilarious, cute, and genuinely badass—if the scene where Niizuma Eiji refuses to let the heroine act in his anime (because she'd promised the hero she'd act in his), doesn't affect you exactly like the gesture of chivalry between rivals that it is, I'd be curious to know what life is like as a heartless lizard beast.

  • Back on the topic of characters with internal conflicts and flaws, apparently we love "rascals"? I don't know (then again I know the word's older connotations are somewhere between "scumbag" and actual profanity), a lot of the protagonists you try and give me as "loveable rascals" or "sympathetic because of their flaws", I mostly just want to get a knife into. Case in point: Mal Reynolds. Thanks to ODST I've really warmed up to Nathan Fillion, but not even he can salvage Mal—mostly because Mal is Whedon's self-insert.

    Here's an alternative perspective, from Chuck Dixon, whose toilets Whedon is not fit to tongue-wash. He's talking about comic books, but the same holds for all fiction. There are, in fact, two problems with your quaint Nihilist Realism, comrades. One, restrain your Puritanical insistence that everything be a sermon, artwork's chief good is pure aesthetic beauty. And two, as Dixon says, inspiring work is actually more mature, not less.

    My favorite line from that article:
    ...most of the folks writing comics don't ever talk to "real" people and have no idea what they talk like. Uh...you know? "Real" dialogue in comics these days means that the writer has written as close to the patois of a Quentin Tarentino movie as his talents will allow. It means that he has watched enough episodes of Buffy to get the characters speech patterns down.
    Preach it, brother.

  • So apparently many of the blind taboos in grammar, e.g. "the passive voice? Unclean! Unclean!", is due to Strunk and White. I ignored that book in English class, but then, I ignored everything in English class, after my teacher complained that my literary analysis of Pride of Chanur had too many weird names, like Pyanfar, Khym, and Sikkukkut(nice lady, and a decent teacher, but basically Diane, from Cheers; when a 17-year-old consistently feels that you've led a sheltered life, you have led a sheltered life).

    Here, a bloke from the Chronicle of Higher Education lights into them.

  • Huh. Where I come from, "Dark Fantasy" is that branch of Urban Fantasy that uses the trappings of Gothic, rather than of fantasy proper. But apparently, nowadays, "dark fantasy" is being used for "fantasy that deals with dark themes". Which, again, sigh, is part of Low Fantasy. Dark Fantasy, yeah, again, is basically Horror creatures and settings used to tell action/adventure stories (if they're used for romance, that's Paranormal Romance, a subdivision of Dark Fantasy). As TV Tropes says, or used to:
    In short, put a single vampire (or a few) in something, and it's Horror. Put an entire hidden society of them in there and mention the phrase "vampire politics", and suddenly it's Urban Fantasy.
    Maybe we ought to call the proper holder of the Dark Fantasy title "Gothic Urban Fantasy" (come to think of it, my wurrwilf books have the boogieman, magic, and Thor in them, so I guess that shoe fits), and let the Darker and Edgier Fantasy call itself "Dark Fantasy".

    I just call it "juvenile shit", though.

  • I have often railed against people substituting "have I seen it before" for an actually rational criterion, in judging writing, but actually, come to think of it, my stuff is pretty iconoclastic. Why? The semi-feudal warrior Empire are the good guys in my SF books. The industrialist is the protagonist, in my superhero story (though she's a criminal; the crime-fighters are the antagonists)—and she built her powered armor to let her copy superhumans' powers and mostly uses it to crush eco-saboteurs. The vampire hunters are the good guys, in my wurrwilf story—indeed, your "oppression" narrative version of vampires (True Blood, anyone?) is how mine come into existence.

    Without even meaning to, I hit on a perfect anti-cliche: my heroes are, by and large, the Emmanuel Goldsteins of your Anglo-liberaltarian orthodoxy. Either people will like it despite that, freeing themselves just a little from their Pavlovian conditioning, or they won't, and I'll have the satisfaction of demonstrating what hypocrites they are, with their endless yammerings about free speech and artistic expression.


Les armes à feu spéculatives

SF and guns.
  • Decided, my felinoids don't use finger triggers—they use thumb-triggers, located roughly where the hammer is on most guns (the hammers on their guns, when their guns still had hammers, were located just above the triggers—indeed, the trigger was probably something like the trigger on a mousetrap—or alternatively they used pinfire right up until autoloaders replaced revolvers and repeaters, and had side-hammers).

    Anyway, this led me to look for a model of their gun, since the Smith & Wesson No. 3 Schofield I'd been using was less than ideal. I found that the S&W No. 1 had had a much smoother back, and often had birdshead grips, something I'd always liked about the Webley Mk. 1. Only, I hated the tip-up design of the No. 1, where the barrel swings up, on a hinge at the top, and the cylinder is removed and reloaded. I much preferred the top-break of the Schofield, and indeed had that be how the felinoids reloaded their pistols (the revolver's cylinder becomes a squat helical magazine—the felinoids' bullets, remember, are spherical, so the mag can hold—I did the math—18 rounds).

    I was in luck, though; I found a picture of a top-break revolver with the same rounded butt and birdshead grip, and weird little spur-trigger, as the S&W No. 1. It was the S&W "baby Russian", designed for the concealed-carry market and, apparently, the most popular S&W revolver of all time.Now if only it wasn't in .32 S&W—anyone who calls .40 S&W "Short and Weak", when its hotter loads easily break 650 J (well over any normal Parabellum loading, and as strong as their precious .45 ACP), should have a look at the .32's measly 156 J. Still, "weak gun" beats "no gun".
  • Of course, the felinoids (since they don't use finger-triggers) don't have that spur-trigger. Nope, they have a lever, much like that on the Volcanic repeating pistol (a pistol with a tube mag, how weird is that?), except only used to chamber the first round. Did you know the Volcanic was also made by Smith & Wesson? Yeah, they were co-founders of the company that would later become Winchester Repeating Arms—and, as the New Haven Arms Co., produced the Henry rifle, AKA "that damned Yankee rifle they load on Sunday and shoot all week". I think Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson probably have a better claim than Col. Colt to being mentioned in the quote about making men equal.

    The lever, incidentally, lets my felinoids twirl their guns, always a bonus (and without a finger-trigger, quite safe). I think their civilians also have a gun that looks like a triggerless Volcanic, and another that looks like the Remington double-barrel derringer, except the bottom barrel is a tube magazine. Their main rifle, remember, also resembles a Winchester (or rather, a Marlin lever-action), with its tube mag. If you're not using Spitze rounds and percussion primers, there's no reason not to use a tube mag, indeed the tube mag, flush against the barrel, greatly reduces the area of the gun compared to a box mag (we might be able to switch back once we switch to electronically-fired caseless rounds). But what about speed of loading? Ah, well (and I'm amazed nobody's thought of this for shotguns), how about detachable tube magazines? Each of my felinoids carries a few, in a quiver-like pouch.
  • You know that Ayn Rand quote, "Force and mind are opposites; morality ends where a gun begins"? Yeah, well, aside from that being all the justification a sane society would need to take Objectivists' guns (they themselves admit they are incapable of thought and morals while armed), it gave me a great idea for a line. The villain in my last book, remember the felinoid who talks like John Galt and acts like Oliver Cromwell (so still a much better person than Galt), says something to the same effect. And the hero, also a felinoid, replies, "Force is morality in action. The morals of the unarmed are largely theoretical."
  • Someone needs to explain to me how, precisely, the Spanish have managed to get the Covenant to design a rifle for them. I.e., this:It's called the Fusil Automatico Doble, and it's quite plainly the answer to the question "what did Sangheili assault rifles look like?"
  • Conceding for the moment that Star Wars is science fiction (rather than a mix of good fantasy and terrible political fiction set in something-that-vaguely-resembles-space), did you know the Imperial blaster rifle is a British L2A3 Sterling submachine gun? Yes, and apparently the real ones aren't any more accurate. I guess it actually is the guns' fault this time.

    Similarly, everyone knows Han's gun is a Mauser "broomhandle" C96, but did you know the Stormtroopers' heavy rifle is a Wehrmacht MG-34 machinegun? And apparently the Rebel forces' main rifle is the blank piece of paper on Mikhail Kalashnikov's desk Sturmgewehr 44. Presumably without the banana magazines.
  • Hmm. While most of the problems with bullpup firearms are solvable by caseless ammo—since the main problem is the ejected casings, and things that come out along with them, being so close to your face—apparently they usually have mushy, sloppy, heavy (9 lb!) trigger-pulls. That might not be the sort of thing a 24th-century USMC Peacekeeper cadre would tolerate.

    The latest version I've done of the standard PK rifle (a bullpup Kalashnikov, remember) is 49 cm long, as long as the AKS-74U with its stock folded. Now, the barrel is the same length, and that's the length of the barrel in the Army's Squad Designated Marksman Rifle. But...the overall length of the SDM-R without its stock is only 75 cm, the same length as the M4 carbine with its stock retracted. Interesting but pointless you say? Ah, but you forget, there's an alternative to both bullpups and retracting stocks: the folding stock.

    Now, I'd be the first to tell you, the side-folding stocks on AKS's or the FNC look ridiculous—I don't know about you but I don't like having a part of my weapon attached by what is, in essence, a cabinet hinge. But worry not, there's an alternative. Namely, the top-folding stock as seen on the Szkorpion vz. 61 (actually, there's almost certainly some way to make that stock even sturdier, but it's a good starting point).

    Oh, you may be asking why the majority of Peacekeepers don't use that, instead of their bullpup AKs? Well, basically, the British Army's take on the (problem-plagued) SA-80 rifle sums it up best: "Designed by the Ignorant, Built by the Incompetent, Issued to the Unfortunate". But then again, not even my rather dystopian future society deserves to be compared to Britain. Hell, even Japan could say "Hey, we might be a self-absorbed island nation off the coast of Eurasia with a history of monstrous war-crimes, but comparing us to Britain is going too far!"
  • Bwahaha, not actually about SF except incidentally, but this list of gun mistakes writers make, by the comics writer Chuck Dixon, makes me happy. Why? Well, 'cause my geekery is such as to let me say, e.g., "The Nagant revolver can be silenced, actually." Everyone ought to know that by now (also, "safety on the revolver": it must be a Webley-Fosbery autorevolver, so it's really only justified in period pieces—which come to think of it, so is the Nagant, and that, only in Russia).

    But I just wanted to say, I have the correct version of the empty automatic, in my book: rather than the gun being empty, the guy got distracted, and forgot to chamber the first round when he put in a new magazine. Remember that, and use it in good health.
  • Is it weird that in my dark-fantasy book I actually have a character think "the Mozambique Drill is a big help in this business"? That business being vampire hunting. I mean, hey, "Aim for the head or the heart, anything else and it's your ass" (Blade)—and guess where you're aiming, with the Mozambique Drill? Sorry, but since the main characters are civilians with firearms, they're gonna talk like them—and that's the kind of thing 'armed citizens' (or as Hollywood prefers to portray them, 'gun nuts') actually say.

    It's funny to me that Buffy once said guns were "never that helpful". Huh. Somehow I think multiple hollow-points have a better chance of destroying the head or heart of a vampire than a wooden stake does of going through a sternum in one smooth stroke, but then again, I don't hate guns as a phallic symbol (Whedon's probably better disposed to small-caliber snubbies, if you know what I mean). I'm also aware of what implement women actually use to redress the power disparity between the sexes, and it ain't magic.

    Sorry Whedon, but remember: God made men and women, Col. Colt (or, again, Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson) made them equal.



Thoughts. Oddly enough they actually are correlated (in the sense they're stream of consciousness), but not strongly.
  • Those sons of bitches who wrote Kurogane no Linebarrels (the manga, not the anime). They somehow used evil mind-beams and stole my Heideggerian-evangelism idea. See, the Katou Organization, in that, plan to use oppression and torment to force people to contemplate their own deaths, and thus prevent humanity willing its own extinction (as occurred, or rather will have occurred, in the future they and the machina were sent back from).

    Damn it, damn it, damn it. Don't you hate when other people have the same idea you do? I thought I was the only one who realized that inculcating a sense of Sein zum Tode in others, for their spiritual good, made a great ideology.
  • Serbia officially has the most badass dog breed, namely, this:It's a mastiff-type called the Szarplaninac, a type of Serbian Sylvan Dog, also known as the Zmaj. What's Zmaj mean? Dragon. And the name doesn't come from some ostensible resemblance to a dragon; no, it's called a "dragon dog" like other dogs are called "bulldogs".

    "Yup," the Serbs might be heard to say, "we have a breed for fighting those. Why?"
  • Decided, my felinoids' streets all have a narrower lane on either side, between the main traffic lanes and the sidewalk. Basically a bike lane...except they have no bikes. What for, then?

    Because they can run as fast as a human on a bike, and thus need special lanes to protect people who are just walking. At the same time, since they're still significantly smaller than a car, they need a lane to protect them from cars.

    Speaking of alien traffic safety, their intersections only have one light, rather than three. See, they only need one to tell them to stop, since their reflexes are such that they don't need a warning light (and the stop-light just has to turn off, thus no green light).
  • This thing I've been talking about vis-a-vis how your military develops differently, if you're basically a bipedal jaguar? Like, good luck stealing a march on your enemy with tanks: cat-type animals can hear the vibrations through the ground. Storms, earthquakes, tidal waves: they can hear all those, too.

    They can hear the auroras, too, which only serves to heighten their resemblance to fireworks—the colony planet my first book is set on orbits ξ Boötis, a BY Draconis variable (forms sunspots so often and rotates so fast its brightness visibly fluctuates). The auroras that creates are gorgeous, and accompanied (from the felinoids' view) by faint organ-music, but they play holy hell with EM communications.
  • Huh. I guess (considering their senses) they probably would've sided with Edison rather than Tesla, in the War of Currents. Why? AC power would probably be irritatingly loud, that's why. 'Course, the major disadvantage of DC—that you need lots of generating stations, since it can't be run through a transformer—isn't nearly as much of one, if your society is as decentralized as the medieval model the felinoids' society uses. Plus, experience with boosting voltage ('nother disadvantage of DC) helps with lots of applications in the long run, such as capacitors.

    Then again, cats don't seem to mind AC power much (they can hear it though, lurking inside the walls, waiting—bet felinoid schizophrenics have a fun time). One of the interesting things about having hearing like that, is their brains evolve to process all of it. Maybe my worrying about it is like a dog SF writer doubting that a species that could see "infragreen" can process all the extra data.
  • Mention of capacitors reminds me, the power-generating capacity of AMTECs would be greatly overtaxed by electronically fired caseless rounds, let alone coilguns (I envision coil vulcans and rail rifles, for different applications).

    But then it came to me: each weapon has its own power supply, independent of the one in the mecha. Still increases the drain on the vehicle's power (added weight), but nothing like trying to fire a railgun would.
  • Okay, so, why do a bunch of period manga seem to think that kenjutsu training was anything like kendo? I mean, yeah, the spacing and the basic movements are roughly similar, in the sparring, but you're not gonna shout out your target like that—nor is your movement constrained by anything other than your fellow students. Indeed, if you've got the room, you can, and should, turn the line of your combat as often as possible; sidestepping the line of attack is basic tactics.
  • It occurred to me, there's no reason that your main heavy-cavalry weapon has to be the lance. Oh? You mean you're pretty sure cavalry charges need lances to be effective? Well you're wrong. Polish cavalry used, rather than a lance, a giant rapier, the koncerz. Basically, it's a rapier or stiletto as wide as a regular sword, because it's 63 inches long; the hilt would be 8 inches.

    I decided my felinoids used those, when their nobles were heavy cavalry—and then they wore a shorter sword, that could also cut, on their side (the big one would go slung on their back). Then, when their main cavalry weapon became the pistol, the smaller sword remained as the sidearm.
  • Speaking of alternate developments in technology, I felt like I'd done a bad thing, in my fantasy book: I had a carriage in a 12th-century type setting. Carriages were not actually viable until the 15th or 16th century, when the Hungarians invented leaf-spring suspension, for a comfortable ride. In fact, the city where they did it, Kocs, gave its name to the vehicles it made possible—Kocs is pronounced "coach".

    But then I remembered something: hansom cabs. You know what a hansom cab is? It's an enclosed chariot, with the charioteer on top. Now, a cab proper still has springs, but considering people did archery from chariots, I think we can conclude that the vibrations would be tolerable, at least with enough cushions.
  • I'd really love to know who's in charge of procurements in the Russian Army, because they plainly don't own a pair of eyeballs. The MP-443 Grach looks like, well, an evil post-apocalyptic Glock. I don't know what it is with Russian guns, there's just somethin' mean-looking about them. Maybe it's how their finish is vaguely reminiscent of cast iron, not a friendly metal.

    But plainly, they should have gone with the Serdyukov SPS (aka the SR-1 Gyurza) as their main service pistol. Why? Well, they're still using a Kalashnikov, upgraded in various ways; so they should've had a little more pride, and paired it with a gun that says "Hey, remember the Makarov?" Only the SPS has an 18-round magazine and shoots special armor-piercing rounds. Plus, still has a bit of that mean post-apocalyptic cast-iron look.It is perhaps needless to say the Peacekeepers' pistols in my book look like the SPS?


Swords and Plowshares

Military SF & SFional equipment.
  • I realized, my felinoids' tactics make much use of "rapid dominance", AKA Shock and Awe. Think about it: if you've got cat-reflexes, you need your enemy off-balance when you strike, or any advance will, almost automatically, result in being outflanked. (By the bye, don't read the Wikipedia article; whatever troll edited it has done everything in his power to obfuscate the fact that rapid dominance is expressly designed to minimize civilian casualties).

    Their name for it is more similar to "shock and awe" than to "rapid dominance", though—they call it "stunning crush", i.e. crush the enemy so rapidly his remaining forces are stunned. They like the paradox.
  • The Rapid Dominance paper by Ullman and Wade (you can download it in PDF format, just Google "Rapid Dominance") quotes Sun Tzu among others, "War is deception". And remember how my felinoids have a big problem with deception, but not with stealth? Yeah, so their version is "war is stealth".

    Basically their ethics allows for feints and some misinformation, as long as a betrayal of trust is not involved. Similarly in their law-enforcement, they have a lot more leeway for listening devices, but no undercover work. Maybe I've just seen Reservoir Dogs too many times, but it boggles my mind that we're perfectly fine with the police using deception and betrayal, but have people seriously suggesting that phone-tapping is intrinsically immoral. That is not a reasoned moral position, that is a taboo.
  • Do you ever consider what a future society's airliners are gonna be like? I hope so. If not, and you're a science fiction writer, well, why not?!

    In my books, though it hasn't come up, the humans' airliners are Blended Wing Body, something like a halfway point between a flying wing and a conventional design. Their military planes include a tailless fighter, laid out like the X-36, and a transport aircraft with "twin tilt turbojets" (basically an Osprey with the propellers replaced by turbojet turbines), roughly comparable in size to the Soviet An-8. I'm not sure what the attack aircraft is, exactly, except that it roughly fills the role of an attack helicopter like our AH-64 Apache or the Russkies' Mi-28 "Havoc". Maybe it'll be a compound helicopter, rotor for VTOL, wings with propellers (maybe jets?) for lift and propulsion. Or maybe a rotor-wing, where the rotor stops after VTOL and becomes a wing.

    The felinoids' commercial airliners are hybrid airships, specifically rigid bags of (heated?) helium, shaped for lift—essentially, a cross between a lifting body and a dirigible. I imagine it'd look something like the Aeroscraft:Their military aircraft probably split between tiltjet things (I imagine a cross between an AH1Z Viper and an A10 Thunderbolt, with tiltjets), for close air support, and something like an F221 on steroids (I imagine supercruise or even hypercruise, thrust-vectoring, maybe hypersonic ramjet or even scramjet flight) for air-superiority/high-speed interception.
  • Power systems fascinate me. I think everyone, but certainly the military, in my future human society, is gonna use AMTECs for power, in pretty much every vehicle (yes, all the above airplanes: propellers and turbines work real well with induction motors). Frankly AMTECs are so awesome, I'm absolutely certain I've missed a downside somewhere. Fortunately I haven't specified many power sources, I can afford to figure out the downside without having to edit things.

    As for my felinoids, they use, again, dilaton alternators—quantum scale waterwheels tied to the fabric of spacetime itself. I don't know if they even use batteries (maybe something like a quantum-scale "spring"?); I think they can make the alternators any scale they need, even small enough to power a gun. I think their swords actually have a power supply, too, holding the blade's structure in place—I confess it's an idea I got from the good ol' General Products hull, though they're not invulnerable, just crazy tough. Whether or not the swords are always powered, I do know that, rather than grinding the blade to sharpen it, they can apply a charge to realign the molecules.
  • The only AMTEC I could find size characteristics for was a disc 41 cm in diameter, and 12 high—a volume of 15,843 cm3, with a mass (I think) of 6 kg. So given the one my mechas have, volume of 1.265 m3 (just under 80 times as much), it has a mass of merely—get this!—479.076 kg. That's the weight of a large pickup engine.

    If we were gonna keep it as a disc, that'd be roughly 177 cm in diameter, and 52 high. Not unworkable, but I think I prefer it as a cube.
  • I mentioned Captain America before, but apparently there's also some nonsense about how they choose Steve based on his answering "no" to "You want to kill Nazis?" Good God, hippies, if we can't all get behind killin' Nazis, what the hell we even have a society for?

    I think I need a scene with something comparable in my book; either one of the human protagonists or, more likely, one of the felinoids is simply going to say, "Yes, it seems that's necessary." Also, ironically, the full line is "no, I don't like bullies"—the felinoids would say yes, specifically for the exact same reason. A part of their ideology, symbolized by the dragon that hunts giants, is breaking the arrogant and humbling the great by force of arms. Holding power in feudal gift from the civilian populace, they consider it an act of vassalage2 to bully the bullies.

    Set the scene thus (it's a motif in my books): some nasty individual does something horrible, or is about to, and is very impressed with himself...and then he turns around and, à la Alien, finds himself looking seven feet, 311 lbs of pissed-off ambush-predator right in the eyeteeth.

A Wholesome Terror of the People

Then one of the two, who had long guessed by my dress and face from what country I came, said to me: "And you, how is it in your country?" I told him we met from time to time, upon occasions not less often than seven years apart, and did just as they had done. That one-sixth of us voted one way and one-sixth the other; the first, let us say, for a moneylender, and the second for a man remarkable for motor-cars or famous for the wealth of his mother; and whichever sixth was imperceptibly larger than the other, that sixth carried its man, and he stood for the flats of the Wash or for the clear hills of Cumberland, or for Devon, which is all one great and lonely hill.

"This man," said I, "in some very mystic way is
Ourselves—he is our past and our great national memory. By his vote he decides what shall be done; but he is controlled."

"By what is he controlled?" said my companions eagerly. Evidently they had a sneaking love of seeing representatives controlled.

"By a committee of the rich," said I promptly.

At this they shrugged their shoulders and said: "It is a bad system!"

"And by what are yours?" said I.

At this the gravest and oldest of them, looking as it were far away with his eyes, answered: "By the name of our country and a wholesome terror of the people."

"Your system," said I, shrugging my shoulders in turn, but a little awkwardly, "is different from ours."

—Hilaire Belloc, "The Election"
I realize, the French Revolution—as it actually happened I mean, not the Saxon dog blood-libel version—shows, far from the evil of the mob, that the mob is a necessary corrective in politics.

Remember, the Terror was not the mob. The Terror was the Committee of Public Security—as I said before, a small legislature, a microcosm of every flaw in Republicanism. Its mastermind was Carnot (not Robespierre), who was something like the Minister of Defense. Robespierre supported it because Carnot had convinced him it was the will of the people, and, though personally opposed to capital punishment, he believed officials only had the right to act as instruments of the people's will, whatever their own views. Ironically, of course, the Terror's only popularity actually came from Robespierre's support of it; but, when he himself fell to it, following his ideals unto death itself1, the Terror soon ended. Why?

Because Carnot discovered that, without Robespierre, he couldn't maintain popular support for the thing. I.e., it was ended by fear of the mob.

Similarly, Marie Antoinette's trial. She was charged with, among other things, incest with her son, which was of course complete nonsense. The charge was dropped, because of protests from the women in the audience—far from the Madame Defarge caricature (it would've been Citizen Defarge, but it's not like Dickens knew sod all about the period), the Revolutionary women took pity on the Queen herself. The magistrates were worried about unrest in the court.

Again, the slander was ended by fear of the mob.


Mélange II

The random thoughts must flow!
  • Steve Kuntz Scott Kurtz, the guy what draws PvP and is collaborating on "The Trenches" with Gabe and Tycho, had a newspost recently about Captain America, and how he (being German-American) liked that the movie emphasizes the distinction between Germans and Nazis, epitomized in the line "People forget that the first country the Nazis invaded was their own."

    Now, my gut instinct (as a French-Czech stormcrow) would be to say "Well thank you Gunther Grass, but who invaded them in World War I, the Franco-Prussian War, the Seven Years War, the War of Austrian Succession, and the Thirty Years War?" But then I remember: Prussia. That's who invaded them, under the leadership of the Von Hohenzollern monster-clan.
  • Speaking of Prussia, there's this idea out there called "Fourth-Generation Warfare", about how our approach to war is outdated and how, in the future, we're going to have to drop the distinction between combatants and noncombatants, among other loathsome ideas. Its proponents don't come right out and say we should march priests before our troops as a human shield, but I think it's implied.

    If that sounds familiar, it should—it was one of the atrocities of the Rape of Belgium. And no surprise: "fourth-generation warfare" is the misshapen brainchild of right-wing think-tanker William S. Lind, who is quite upfront about his admiration for Kaiser Wilhelm, the coiner of the concept of Schrecklichkeit ("horrificness"). It was originally coined in the context of some action the Prussian Empire was taking in China, and had to do with targeting civilians to cow the enemy.

    Go join your false emperor in the hell prepared for you, savage. This, like Rand, is the sort of idea the right embraces at its peril—unless they want to become the type of people the left says they are.
  • Schrecklichkeit is a major theme in my SF book—it's a permanent risk of pacifism, see also William Tecumseh Sherman. One of my felinoids dispenses with the idea thusly: "We have no need to terrorize your populace. We find your soldiers are adequately terrified of us."

    Hey, remember how not even Uday and Qusay Hussein, sons of Saddam, could get any of Iraq's pilots to take to the air against the USAF?
  • Shifting gears—finally working the clutch properly—how come people don't understand that manga and anime aren't written according to Western mores? I mean, Japan's unofficial-official religion is ancestor worship, so if a ghost shows up and helps people, and yet you think it's atheist? Yeah, try again, thinktank. Of course, that was John C. Wright who did that (RE: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann), and, again, it literally took a miracle for that intellectual colossus to know there's a God.

    Or this other guy, who I won't identify, who thought moe anthropomorphism was a development of the robot-girl thing. Dude, come on! Japanese folklore is in the condition called "prehuman flux", where animals and sometimes other things can appear as people—fundamentally, OS-tans and the gun-girls from Upotte! are a product of the same worldview as tsukkumogami.

    To put it another way, everyone, somewhat simplistically, describes Shinto as animist. Did it occur to you animists might have a slightly different set of expectations about the world? See, to a Japanese person, the idea that someone you meet is secretly a fox in his private life, is basically in the same category as alien abduction—nobody actually believes it, but if you saw it happen, you'd say "Weird, so all that was real!" rather than "Holy crap I need to invent new mental categories to fit this into!".
  • You know that perennial complaint about military SF, that it's written with World War II in mind? E.g., lack of air support? While there are exceptions (played Halo, especially the second level of Reach, my pet?), it's a legitimate complaint. Only, they're doing it on purpose: the ability to call in close air support is a drama killer.

    The trick is to come up with a justification for it, rather than act like it simply doesn't exist. In my books, since it's not actually during a war, and all the action takes place in cities that haven't been evacuated, they can't do it. It's actually quite realistic—the fact conflict takes place in the midst of population centers is a major factor of modern warfare, that's why the Iraq insurgency (which was largely not an Iraqi insurgency) lasted as long as it did.

    Gonna have to step things up eventually, though—there's the 24th-century equivalent of an Apache (or rather, again, a Mil Mi-28/Kamov Ka-50), in the one I'm working on now. Oh actually I had a scene with the 24th century's version of the Antonov An-8, in the first book. I forgot, and I shouldn't have, 'cause that scene also has a neat idea for sights I came up with, namely use a laser to measure the target's speed, then it gives you a ring of deflection points, and you put it on the appropriate one for the target's heading.
  • Turns out I might not have to go with a radioisotope battery on my mechas, after all. Apparently alkali-metal thermoelectric converters, AMTECs, are projected to achieve a power density of 200 kW/m3, in the near future. The 253 kW of a Sherman tank motor comes to a mere 1.265 m3, which is a cube 108 cm on a side.

    Now I just have to figure out a way to heat the thing to 1100 K. Maybe they'll heat it at their base's reactor, which will tend to limit their range. But not by much; apparently current AMTEC designs can operate for a long time on a single heating—one source I saw said 14,000 hours (1 year, 7 months, 5 days).
  • Have you read Final Crisis? Hot damn. Aside from the best line ever ("I am not averse to the taste of human flesh, sir!"—Vandal Savage), it has Captain Marvel's tiger-guy butler, in bowtie and quiet tweeds, kill Darkseid's son with his claws. Awesome sauce.

    Also, Batman kills Darkseid (you should know this, and it's not like it's a spoiler). With a gun. A real gun, with bullets. Batman. Gun. Bullets. It was mamma-jammin' Tantric, son (in the real sense of the term, look it up).


Walk Under His Huge Legs and Peep About

Shakespeare. Julius Caesar. What, everyone else gets to use his stuff for titles.

Got meself thinking about tanks, like you do, and that—as it does—got me to thinkin' about mecha. I have them, in my SF books; not going into more detail than that. But anyway, so I was thinking about how to do them, in terms of power and whatnot.

I like, in my books, to use real things as bases for my conjectures. So: ASIMO! ASIMO stands 1.3 m tall and weighs 54 kg. So if it was 10 m tall, it'd weigh 24.6 megagrams—we're assuming future-y materials that are that light, but can also support that weight. Now, ASIMO needs a 6 kg battery to run for an hour (at the mecha's scale, that comes to 2.7 Mg)—but then again, the mecha can just use atomic batteries, kick the training wheels off your quaint "electrochemical" toys. Hey, Gundams have fusion reactors, you know.

Now, 'course, ASIMO might be a little light. So how about BigDog? Certain steampunk sissy-pantses of my acquaintance think it's creepy; I think it's awesome (robot mule for the win!), and they're working on a muffler for it. Anyway, if we assume the thing would stand roughly 1.5 m tall, bipedally, that (since it weighs 110 kg) gives us a 10-meter mecha of 30.7 Mg—much more reasonable, considering the thing's gotta have weapons and armor. Incidentally, that's only 300 kg heavier than a Sherman tank.

Okay, so we got a weight, and a generator. Next, power. A BigDog uses an 11.2 kW go-kart engine; a Sherman's engine is 253 kW, or about half again the Tesla Roadster's engine. So plainly outputting sufficient power to drive the thing is not going to be trouble for a 24th-century tech-level. Especially because, remember, mecha don't walk on level terrain, they have tracks in the soles of their feet. Walking is only for bad terrain—they're designed to go on that nearly 50% of the landmass that wheeled and tracked vehicles can't get to.

Controls? Well, probably it'll use variations of most of a BigDog's proprioception systems, to keep its balance. As for the actual controls, the setup I keep picturing is basically an XBox/PS2 controller, except full-size joysticks, set into each armrest. Each would have two triggers in front, worked with the index and middle fingers, while the thumb works four buttons, set in the top of it. Rather than controlling the movements one-to-one, probably its movement programming will be a lot like in an FPS—one stick controls direction and speed the vehicle walks in, the other determines facing and point-of-aim. The triggers activate the weapons, of course, while the buttons do the other functions.

You're gonna want it to have weapons it can pick up, like an anime mecha: hands make a great basis for modularity. Now, you're probably gonna want something simpler than a trigger that has to be pulled, maybe male-female linked surfaces on hand and weapon, and then firing is done electronically. You're also going to want built-in weapons, though, like shoulder guns and whatnot. The way I picture it, you pull one left trigger to fire the weapon in the left hand, while the other fires the weapon on the left shoulder (or in the left kneecap, left side of the head, you know); right triggers fire the right-hand weapon and right (other body-part) weapon, respectively. I dunno, does a medium tank that can go on virtually any ground terrain and fire four weapons simultaneously sound like a bad idea? Plus gives the psychological advantage of being a mobile colossus whose hands rain down death upon the enemy.

PS. My robots use a similar proprioception system. I realized something funny, actually: they use only about 10% of their processing power for conscious thought, same as us. What's the rest of it doing? Watch how slowly ASIMO has to move, and consider yourself answered.

De Advenae Vitae

Latin, "On Alien Life". Play on Humanae Vitae, which you've probably never read, yet you think you get opinions about bioethics. Latin wasn't the first language I thought of, by the bye—the Hebrew would've been "Al haKhayim haZar". Did you know Hebrew puts the definite article in front of abstracts (at least, I think "haKhayim" is the "ha-" that means "the"), just like French does ("Sur la Vie d'Étranger")?
  • Know what? Aliens are not only likely to use sexual reproduction, with only two sexes, they're likely to have the females be the ones males compete over, rather than the other way around. Why? Bateman's principle: since the female nearly always invests more in the young than the male does, females are a limiting factor in the ecosystem, a resource males compete over.

    You know that feminist thing that women aren't a prize to be won? Bateman's principle says otherwise. They just happen to be a really weird prize, that bestows itself—and sets its own terms for how it's won.

  • An average male of my felinoids' species stands 193 cm (with his "heels", or rather the top end of his elongated ankle-bones, flat—if he's not walking "flatfooted", he's 208 cm) and weighs 116 kg. That's a BMI of 31.1—mostly muscle—but the other interesting thing? Yeah, he's also got a basal metabolic rate 48% higher than a human male. Why?

    Kleiber's law:
    Metabolic rate scales to the 3/4 power of mass.
    And 116 divided by the average human male's mass of 69 kg, is about 1.68. 1.683/4 is 1.48.

    The felinoid females have a slightly lower mass, relatively speaking—their average height is 188 cm (175 "flatfooted") and weight is 99 kg, which (remember, we take the "flatfooted" height) is a BMI of 28. Assuming an average human female has a height of 163 cm and weighs 56 kg, that means her felinoid counterpart has a metabolic rate (1.773/4=) 53% higher. I almost wanna write "she can eat whatever she wants and not get fat" jokes, you know?

    Incidentally, since a male felinoid weighs as much as an average tigress, the Peacekeeper rifle round has the same muzzle energy as a .30-06 (though it's still 6.8 mm and classed as an assault rifle). Yeah, you don't have as much leeway, ammo selection-wise, when the other side is big game.

  • It occurred to me, you can't necessarily tell what numerical base a species uses just based on the number of their fingers. For instance, Elites: do they use base-8? Or base-12?

    Why 12? Because they don't wear shoes, and they have 2 toes per foot. The numerical system of several major Native American languages (Classical Maya, for one) are vigesimal (base-20) rather than decimal, and it's almost certainly because they also count on their toes. Now, I doubt anyone who does usually wear shoes uses vigesimal, but you can't assume people who don't, will—Polynesian languages use base-10, I believe, and they traditionally dressed a lot like Mayans.

  • Speaking of, I had my aliens' place-value system invented for monasteries' inventories, but it struck me as strange, since all their units of measurement are duodecimal—I wasn't sure I could justify them coming up with a decimal positional notation.

    But then I thought, d'oh. A lot of the things these guys would be inventorying, being carnivorous, would be indivisible, conceptually—if you bring in 8 critters you caught, the fact there's eight of 'em is a lot more important than their weight or volume. So (though base-12 still has its advantages, when you're apportioning shares), since you're basically dealing with "unit, unit, unit", you can use any base you like—and since both anatomically and linguistically, they think in terms of tens, that's gonna be the most natural.

  • Speaking of aliens and guns, the felinoids don't, as such, have "tanks". I mean, they basically do, tanks being a vital component of a modern military, but they don't conceptualize them as cavalry (because they aren't, air units are). Basically, they just up-armor their self-propelled artillery and give it the ability to fight comparable targets up close and personal.

    Anyway. It's funny, go look up "what's the difference between tanks and self-propelled artillery", and, along with those two, you'll get the idea that tanks are direct fire and artillery is indirect. But what about howitzer tanks and tank-destroyer artillery, indirect-fire tanks and direct-fire artillery, respectively?

    Late Addendum: I guess the term would be "armored gun system"—that's the term our guys used, when they'd abolished the light tank designation, but needed a light tank. Groovy.

  • I realized, the reason they never developed the distinction we have between tanks and self-propelled artillery, is because a military develops during intra-species wars. Their intra-species wars involved fighting bipedal tiger-margays who can leap three times their own height up and seven times their height forward, and can climb like squirrels. Thus, their military always makes close-in defensibility a higher priority than we necessarily do—their designers have to assume "an enemy soldier will be on the side of the vehicle, if he gets within 14 meters".

    Which, huh, I just got a cool idea for a scene. Let's just say safe distance for a helicopter, against humans, and safe distance against said terrifying death-machines, are two very different things. Also, dude, I actually have a logical reason to cover all their vehicle-armor in spikes: it's to keep the enemy from hopping onto the hull from 14 meters away and getting his Audie Murphy on.

    Also, ooh, 'nother idea: their martial arts have pounce-counters, where you dodge the other guy's pounce, catch him as he goes by, and redirect his momentum into a throw.

  • Aliens' mythologies are an interesting idea to explore—not just for the cultural-setting development, but also 'cause it gives ideas for things like symbols. E.g., my felinoids' Empire still uses its "pagan" symbol (they call them simply 'the tribal religions'), a dragon type thing. In the mythology, it perches on the Cosmic Tree (if Aztecs and Hungarians both have a World Tree, we may conclude it is universal), except it's more like a cosmic century plant, with an iridescent cuticle similar to some seaweeds. Anyway, the dragon-thing (its feathers are actually leaves) perches on the Cosmic Tree, looking for prey.

    In the original myths, its prey were a race of giants that disregarded cosmic order, à la the Rakshasas in Hinduism, but (since it's currently the symbol of a popular-sovereignty state), it's said that its prey is those who abuse their power ("evil giants", see?). Its modern form also has two heads, each looking in a different direction—like the double-headed eagle, except their ancient empire never had two capitals simultaneously, just one that got moved once (its single head turned to look the other way, when the capital moved). The two-headedness only goes back to their modern, unified empire. I'd considered using a four- or five-headed dragon, since they have five tribes/nations/races (but two of them are usually counted together), but, y' know, frickin' D&D Tiamat. When they want to symbolize the five tribes/nations, by the way, they use a pentafoil knot (one "leaf" for each nation).



What? It's a synonym for potpourri. Anyone else think it's funny how Alton Brown habitually refers to mixed spices, like curry or chili, as "spice melange"?

As my sister is known to say when ordering cinnamon-flavored coffee drinks, "The spice must flow!" Or maybe that was the barista (her co-worker, since she works at Barnes & Noble)—if the latter, may I just say, "coolest barista ever".

  • So why's Fullmetal Alchemist insist on translating King Bradley's title, daisoutou, as Führer? I mean, I get that that's how you say that in Japanese (possibly because the closest Japanese can get to the German sounds is "Hiira"), but look at Bradley. Look at his country, and its uniforms. Again, look at him, and his murderous mustache! Plainly, that man is Stalin, not Hitler.

    Then again, Brotherhood may just be keeping it up from the first anime, since the ridiculous adaptation had Amestris be Germany—never mind how totally not Earth their whole culture is; apparently things can change that much, just in the time between Paracelsus and 1913 (that's when the divergence happened, remember). But we'll still totally have the same people showing up (Bradley's double is Fritz Lang, remember?). Oh, and you can totally go from the middle of World War I to the beginning of World War II in the time between the first time Ed went through the gate, and the second, right?

    That's another weird thing: the movie portrays the Nazis as bad. But the guy who adapted that version for TV (and hijacked Arukawa-sensei's plot into an illiterate screed about the Iraq War) is a conspiracy-theorist who also wrote the notoriously anti-Semitic "Angel Cop", so shouldn't he be rooting for the Nazis?

  • On a lighter note, you know 2nd Lt. Maria Ross and Sgt. Denny Brosh, the pair that Armstrong assigns to look after the Elrics, before the Lab 5 business? Uh, why are they the same age? Generally speaking, a sergeant is in early middle age, while a 2LT is a "butterbar", a fresh-out-of-school rookie. One suspects Arukawa-sensei just said "hey, these two ranks are close together, huh," without understanding that sergeant is about in the middle of the enlisted progression, while 2LT is the very bottom of the commissioned-officer one. One of their other nicknames is "commissioned private" for a reason.

    Also, I know better than many what a pain it is to write around, but don't even get me started on the "fraternizing with the men" that all anime characters do. Does the JSDF not have websites that explain how a military works? Come on, there's gotta be some sort of reference people could use.

  • I might have to re-evaluate my felinoids' military structure: maybe have their space force begun as artillery. Remember, it was gunners who did a lot of our early work on rockets, like the Polonized Lithuanian who invented staging. And it seems highly in character for them, to have the same guys as shoot the rockets away, be the guys who shoot off in them.

    Before, I had them class their space-force as fortifications, but I think this makes more sense—besides, if you know what you're doing, a castle totally is an aspect of your artillery (they redesigned their castles so the keeps could be sunken into the ground, on giant elevator-shafts, and blast-doors closed over them). Now I'm just not sure if I should keep my distinction between cavalry (air forces, "starfighters") and infantry.

    Incidentally, speaking of FMA and the Japanese military, the felinoid cop in my books talks like a soldier, in Japanese—he uses "jibun" as a 1st person pronoun, says "de arimasu", and makes his imparatives with "-itamae".

  • I don't know, have I mentioned? X-Men and its "Mutant Registration=The Holocaust/Slavery/other Very Bad Things" thing, get really funny, when you remember that most people at Marvel favor gun registration. Leaving the merits of gun registration to one side, Magneto is significantly more dangerous than any gun, even a GAU-8 Avenger. The destructive potential of a GAU-8 Avenger is but a fraction of his capabilities, after all.

    I honestly can't believe anyone doesn't realize that X-Men utterly subverts its own "tolerance" message. 'Cause, uh, yeah, Jews or Blacks or gays or whoever you feel we've been insufficiently tolerant toward, can't pick up a nuclear submarine with his mind, or teleport into your bathroom and stab you in the shower. Someone who could? Yeah, that dude, I want under heavy surveillance 24/7. And I'm a moderate; more skittish people are just gonna want him whacked, be on the safe side.

    And if you say, as they always do, "Oh good idea, make the superhuman angry", I reply, "Okay, you have fun with the cringing servility, that's a wholly viable career option...let's hope the superhuman's romantic proclivities don't run in any awkward directions. Me, I'm gonna be over here designing a machine that'll let me kill the son-bitch—only as strictly necessary, I promise."

  • Which reminds me of another Chesterton thingy, this time an excellent method of peeing on Objectivists and kindred elitist lickspittles. From The Return of Don Quixote:
    "I was saying," said Wister, airily, but also a little loftily, "that I fear we have descended to democracy and an age of little men. The great Victorians are gone...We have no giants left."


    "That must have been quite a common complaint in Cornwall," reflected Braintree, "when Jack the Giant-killer had gone his professional rounds."

    "When you have read the works of the Victorian giants," said Wister, rather contemptuously, "you will perhaps understand what I mean by a giant."

    "You can't really mean, Mr. Braintree," remonstrated the lady, "that you want great men to be killed."

    "Well, I think there's something in the idea," said Braintree. "Tennyson deserved to be killed for writing the May-Queen, and Browning deserved to be killed for rhyming 'promise' and 'from mice,' and Carlyle deserved to be killed for being Carlyle; and Herbert Spencer deserved to be killed for writing 'The Man versus the State'; and Dickens deserved to be killed for not killing Little Nell quick enough; and Ruskin deserved to be killed for saying that Man ought to have no more freedom than the sun; and Gladstone deserved to be killed for deserting Parnell; and Disraeli deserved to be killed for talking about a 'shrinking sire,' and Thackeray..."
    Of course, though, Objectivists aren't giants. They are windmills under a delusion.

  • Speaking of how rocketry is considered a sub-discipline of artillery, did you know St. Barbara is the patron saint of artillery? Apparently her father was struck by lightning for burning her alive—let us all recall Jon's Law.

    St. Barbara of the BatteryPray for Us...and for the Space Program!

    I vote we make her patron of hard-SF writers, too.

  • And if you come here and deny her existence, merely on the basis of your unreflective double-Dutch demythologizing, I will give you another Chesterton quote. Or actually, a whole poem.
    "The Myth of Arthur"
    G.K. Chesterton

    O learned man who never learned to learn,
    Save to deduce, by timid steps and small,
    From towering smoke that fire can never burn
    And from tall tales that men were never tall.
    Say, have you thought what manner of man it is
    Of who men say "He could strike giants down" ?
    Or what strong memories over time's abyss
    Bore up the pomp of Camelot and the crown.
    And why one banner all the background fills,
    Beyond the pageants of so many spears,
    And by what witchery in the western hills
    A throne stands empty for a thousand years.
    Who hold, unheeding this immense impact,
    Immortal story for a mortal sin;
    Lest human fable touch historic fact,
    Chase myths like moths, and fight them with a pin.
    Take comfort; rest—there needs not this ado.
    You shall not be a myth, I promise you.


Am Politik

Thoughts on this laughable species of yours, and how it tries to organize its society.
  • So Matt Damon apparently thinks applying any of the principles of free contract to education—like, say, applying some form of uncertainty to teachers' compensation, as an incentive to job achievement—is "intrinsically paternalistic".

    Pfft. Plainly Damon can't garden without a few emergency trips to the proctologist, let me count the ways.
    1. "Paternalism" is, pretty much always, an epithet applied to the left. It is a synonym for statist. (The equivalent for libertarians, if anyone wondered, is "absentee-maternalism"—complete with the crackhouse!)
    2. "Do well and you get better stuff; don't provide the function your services were retained for and you get nothing" is not paternalistic. It's, again, the same thing as economics. Are teachers not paid money? Should their jobs somehow be exempt from all the laws of economics? If we're presuming we have the power to do that, why not exempt their students from the laws of ballistics and make school shootings irrelevant, too?
    3. Wait, I figured it out: "do well and you get better stuff; don't provide the function your services were retained for and you get nothing" is sometimes used by parents, so maybe that's where he gets off calling it "paternalistic". Of course, it's bad parenting—treating children like the relationship is founded on contract—and tends to produce emotionally stunted, spoiled, co-dependent narcissists. Like Damon, come to think of it: maybe he's just generalizing from his own parents?
    But let us be charitable. Damon may have been trying to ape making a reasoned argument—he wants to be taken for a big boy!—but really he was just making a warding sign and drawing back in superstitious fear, for you have dared question a sacred caste of his religion.

  • Which is not to say that the idea of "merit pay" for teachers has any merit, because it certainly does not. Teachers, like soldiers, aren't given merit pay, because their success or failure depends so heavily on what other people do (the exception, for soldiers, is groups like the Turkish bashibozuks, who were only paid in loot—thus their pay was contingent on winning).

    But you know what? You're still allowed to fire soldiers for gross incompetence, and that's all abolishing tenure would allow you to do to teachers. Personally, I (and I am basing this on ideas from my father and mother, both public school teachers—the former indeed the head of our local teachers' union) would have a teacher's firing-for-incompetence in the hands of the teachers after him. If the people who get your students after you find them lacking in basic skills, well, bye!

  • Remember how Ann Coulter's new book is a risible collection of folklore masquerading as real historical analysis? Yeah, well, what's real funny is, she even gets the terminology wrong. The precise same argument, point by point, was made in an earlier book, against the author's opponents (coincidentally also French), and with just as much historical accuracy.

    But he was more specific, and where Coulter says "mob", her uncredited source says "Lumpenproletariat". I refer of course to The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, by Karl Marx.

  • That's interesting, actually: the movement defined by anti-Communism is, more and more, basing its arguments on Marxist oppression narratives. You see it in so many right-wingers' embrace of punk, in the various characterizations of the taxpayers as the "real" oppressed, and in every word Ayn Rand ever defiled a page with or hissed out between venom-weighted fangs.

    I'm not even necessarily saying they're always wrong (e.g. the tax policies in this country are not so much bad as wholly incoherent), but then, that's the thing about a Marxist oppression narrative, you can pretty much fit any facts into it.

  • Speaking of bad economics, you know the idea of "job creation"? Yeah, well, I'm a science fiction writer, I know a hand-wave when I see it. You say "job creation" because you don't actually know what the labor-model in use in this country is, just like the writers in the new Battlestar Galactica say FTL: they're not even pretending they've thought about it.

    See, in a capitalist country, "job creation" is more accurately termed hiring. And you know who hires? The investor-class. Call 'em the rich if you like—that's a nice subjective term, just like poor—but the fact is, they're the ones who determine whether there are jobs. Tax policies probably (I'm just guessing here, really) ought to keep in mind that our economy is defined by its dependence on this comparatively small class of, admittedly, often-evil total idiots. Personally, I, too, would prefer the livelihood of everyone else were independent of the dumb apes, but since nobody—I don't care how socialist the other side calls them—has seriously proposed taking hiring out of the investor-class's hands, you can't afford to have them stop hiring. Again, tax accordingly.

  • The fact that "dumb apes" and "often-evil total idiots" is also the description of the political class who determine hiring in a socialist system—you, the common man, are not in any sense not a dependent, in either system—reminded me of something Chesterton says, in Utopia of Usurers:
    This system might run side by side with a theory of equal wages, as absolute as that once laid down by Mr. Bernard Shaw. By the theory of the State, Mr. Herbert Samuel and Mr. Lloyd George might be humble citizens, drudging for their fourpence a day; and no better off than porters and coal-heavers. If there were presented to our mere senses what appeared to be the form of Mr. Herbert Samuel in an astrakhan coat and a motor-car, we should find the record of the expenditure (if we could find it at all) under the heading of "Speed Limit Extension Enquiry Commission." If it fell to our lot to behold (with the eye of flesh) what seemed to be Mr. Lloyd George lying in a hammock and smoking a costly cigar, we should know that the expenditure would be divided between the "Condition of Rope and Netting Investigation Department," and the "State of Cuban Tobacco Trade: Imperial Inspector's Report."
    Or as I myself like to put it, in Capitalism, the business class is also the governing class, while in Socialism, the governing class is also the business class. I trust you know the Transitive and Commutative Properties of Equality?