Sierra and Two Foxtrots IV

Fantasy and SF thoughts.
  • Much is being made, at least among fantasy writers, of a recent study (or rather re-examination) of Viking Age Scandinavian burials. It turns out that scholars had assumed every burial with weapons was a man, rather than, y'know, looking at the bones; as it happens half the burials with weapons were actually female. This, of course, is being cited as proving that women fought just as often as men in that society.

    Only, blatherskite. Being buried with weapons no more makes you a warrior than it makes you a man, particularly not when you're Indo-European and therefore the elite (you know, the people who get the fancy burials) are the "warrior" class even if they don't actually fight. Besides, we also know from textual evidence (a lot less open to interpretation than bones) that the "shield maiden" was almost certainly the female equivalent of the berserker "complex", and therefore semi-útangarðr. (Besides, the highly slanted nature of "whose burials are we most likely to see" tells us exactly nothing about the "average" warrior of that society.)

    The Norse would be far from the only society to have fictive warrior-status in its women, incidentally. South Athabaskans didn't let women fight—in the Apache formulation, because "women walk too heavy", and also because men who are with women will "hold themselves back in their minds", the latter basically being why the Israelis don't have co-ed units. But the real names of Navajo and Apache women, known only to their medicine man and maternal grandparents (for day-to-day purposes Navajos and Apaches are known by sobriquets, like "Shorty"), contain just as many references to warfare as those of men.
  • Been getting into debates with people who genuinely think a planet can beat a spacefaring opponent. But even if the space-force has to preserve the planet for their own use (and thus can't just lob Chicxulub meteors), they still have an overwhelming advantage. On a planet, you can basically only observe things that are on the night side. The sun gets in the way on the day side. (Which is basically Dicta Boelcke #1, by the way—"Try to secure the upper hand before attacking; if possible, keep the sun behind you.") And people on the night side can't attack them either, because the planet is in the way of any sensors they might use. It's impossible to use over-the-horizon weapons on something you can't target.

    There is a possible workaround, if you park enough military hardware in orbit, particularly in your planetary and natural-satellite Lagrange points; you might, then, be able to get enough of a triangulation to spot—and target—enemy ships without the sun getting in the way. But it's a gamble, since the enemy has a huge mobility advantage over anything stuck in one orbit. If you're going to defend a planet, you really need a space-force of your own. Otherwise a remotely competent enemy with sufficient forces at his disposal, can pretty much always just shred your orbiting defenses and park in sun-synchronous orbit, then threaten your population centers with over-the-horizon bombardment.

    I suppose technically you could just saturation-bomb every possible sun-synchronous orbital position...but you have no actual way of knowing your enemy is in one rather than than staying on the day side "manually".
  • This actually came to me explaining why I don't like Rick and Morty (because if you're more than very mildly amused by it you're not old enough to watch it), but the summary of my contempt for Grimdark, is that "mature" and "not appropriate for children" are actually two different things. (Admittedly Rick and Morty's problem is less simply Grimdark than that "man this is Grimdark" is pretty much the only joke—that and, as my brother pointed out, they regularly announce what the subtext is, like the elcor from Mass Effect. Either way, people who are particularly impressed by it are mostly just demonstrating they were too young to watch The Venture Brothers.)

    I also discovered, hearteningly, that the only justifications people can now make for A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones are, one, "it's fantasy, it doesn't have to make sense" and two, "well it makes a lot of money so it must be good". The second one is tantamount to arguing that a Pet Rock is a good product, except in the sense of being a demonstration of marketing skill. The latter, though, is interesting, because no fantasy fan would say it. A fantasy fan would know about "suspension of disbelief", verisimilitude, what Tolkien called "secondary belief". So the interesting question is, does this slasher-flick softcore soap opera mainly appeal to people who don't actually like fantasy? Seems like it.
  • Messing around with other conlangs made me realize, I can just have Zbin-Ãld use "compound stems" for things like auxiliary verbs. So now the causative is just going to be applying inflections to a stem composed of "verb" plus "cause". That streamlines things immensely (I think I'll just inflect it for the main verb, in terms of the two groups of verb-inflections I have).

    This presumably means I can also have compound nouns and compounds of verb and noun, since Zbin-Ãld verbs and nouns are built from the same kind of root, unlike adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions. Probably have to decide which kinds of compounding (probably, as I've said, all the possibilities can be found in Sanskrit) are permissible.
  • Am I the only one who feels that the relative obscurity of Warhammer allows lots of things to rip it off unchallenged? I mean, The Witcher makes a lot more sense when you discover that Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, not Dungeons & Dragons, was the main fantasy RPG in Poland. I've mentioned the obvious knockoff elements in Elder Scrolls, from Sigmar Talos to the high elves randomly having the dragon-god be a bird, because Asuryan is a phoenix.

    At least in Warcraft's case it makes sense: it was actually going to be a licensed Warhammer RTS and then the deal fell through. (Starcraft has less of an excuse, though I suppose it does mostly lack the "demon invasion" aspect of 40K.) But Destiny, for example, doesn't have that excuse; it's shockingly similar to Warhammer 40K (or, as I said a couple months ago, Warhammer Fantasy Battle in space). But even freaking Legend of Korra, with the portals at the poles that Chaos Vaatu broke through before they were closed by Caledor Dragontamer Avatar Wan?

    The problem is, Warhammer isn't the greatest setting (FB is better than 40K, but not by a whole whole lot). And even though it isn't, I'd rather have straight Warhammer than a thinly veiled knockoff. (And some Warhammer games that aren't RTSes or multiplayer-only.) I'd also rather people would do fantasy and space opera in ways different than how Warhammer does them. Like, rather than ripping off the Imperium of Man, you could always rip off the Galactic Padishah Empire that it's a ripoff of?
  • Doing research for a short story involving space-stations, I discover that apparently, an O'Neill cylinder is big enough that it can get rain-clouds. As I think I've mentioned, my colonies aren't O'Neill cylinders, since they generate their gravity topologically rather than by rotation; they're shaped like mushrooms, with a dome over a flat area for buildings, and a big shaft of machinery.

    If (to save on math) we assume the dome is a half sphere, then to have the same volume as an O'Neill cylinder (1,608,495,438,640 cubic meters, i.e. 1,608.5 cubic km), it has to be a whopping 18,315 meters in diameter. Hmm, I guess that's reasonable? For a big colony-colony, not some "starbase" crap. It's only 263.5 square kilometers, which is only about the size of Orlando, Florida. That's actually quite doable; apparently I was worrying over nothing.

    Of course, it's not going to be populated like Orlando; more like, say, Los Alamos County, New Mexico.
  • Isekai really is a plague. I was thinking of getting Stranger of Sword City because it looks amazing, and because I need something other than Halo 5 and Master Chief Collection to justify owning an XBox One. But while playing the demo I discovered, you came to the fantasy world from ours, and despite there being five races, your character has to be a mangy monkey.

    Why? Why would you do that? You really can't come up with a hook for a fantasy game better than "you're a person from our world sent to another one"? If you didn't care enough about your world to come up with a way for me to relate to it as an inhabitant of it, it doesn't bode well for anything else about the world you were supposed to be creating. And why bother having all those races if the main character can't be one?

    I don't play games to do things I can do in real life. Let me be someone and something else for a little while. That's why I play games.
  • It turns out "a bunch of ice comets colliding with it" is probably not where Earth got its water. Apparently there's an "ocean" under North America, around the inner mantle, that contains something like three times as much water as the entire planet's oceans; it seeped out over time and formed the oceans as we know them. Now, I don't know that "ocean" is actually the word; it seems to be percolated into stone—specifically ringwoodite, a mineral mostly associated with meteors—like most groundwater. I doubt anything particularly large is swimming around in it. But it's not impossible that it could be. If you don't see worldbuilding opportunities in that, you're no son of mine.
  • I was trying to do a knockoff of the Lovecraftian language seen in the Cthulhu chant (often conflated with Aklo, but that's a written language in the source material), and, thus, looked up how "Cthulhu" is actually supposed to be pronounced, so as to know what sounds a language inspired by it ought to have.

    It's perhaps my fault for expecting more from Lovecraft (who didn't know "Abdul al-Hazred" is a name like Attack of the the Eye Creatures), but apparently, there is no T at all. Nope, it's a K followed by what amounts to a velarized ⟨ɬ⟩ (or a voiceless ⟨ʟ⟩), followed by the vowel from "hook", then an l, a glottal stop, and long u—⟨kʟ̝̊ʊlʔ.ɬuː⟩. I know I can see putting a T in that, can't you? (I suppose using a T to mark an L as unvoiced has a precedent, namely the word "Tlingit", but that still has an L there, and "Cthulhu" doesn't.)

    But anyway, I realized, what if we can reduce a bunch of seemingly intractable consonant clusters to a velarized L? Maybe "phnglui" is just ⟨pʰnʟui⟩; maybe "mglw'nafh" is just ⟨mʟʷʔnafʰ⟩ and "wgah'nagl" is just ⟨wᵚaʔnaʟ⟩. (Maybe "-⟨ʔna⟩-" represents some kind of inflection?) In practice all those ⟨ʟ⟩s are probably ⟨ɫ⟩s, since I doubt very strongly that H. P. Lovecraft was familiar with a consonant that only occurs in Hiw, Melpa, and Wahgi (ʟ̝̊ only occurs in the language of the village of Archib, Dagestan, in the Russian Caucasus—spoken by fewer than 1,000 people).