gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
2017-08-03 07:48 pm
Entry tags:

This post is Moot. (Traveller Government Stuff)

(Sorry if this is choppy, my case manager called in the middle of writing it.)

The Great Hall of the Moot has been described as one of the most impressive spaces in known space. Under a soaring 50 meter dome featuring an Imperial Sunburst crafted from the remains of a First Imperium warship, lay the desks and benches of the nobles of the Moot, each a work of art celebrating the home County of the noble. At the center is the pure black marble of speaker's dais, and opposite the great main doors to the chamber is the raised throne of the Lord President of the Imperial Moot. An impressive sight, with banners for each of the 300-odd noble houses hanging from the ceiling, the trophies and relics in niches around the viewers' gallery. Not to be missed.

It's also almost empty most of the time. The full Moot only meets sporadically, usually to vote on measures and packages to be presented to the Emperor. The true work of the Moot happens in hearing chambers and offices.

But who are the nobles who serve in the Spire? Currently, there are 347 members of the Moot, each one either an Elector or representing an Elector. The vast majority of seats are held by Counts-Elector, with 12 Baron-Electors and one Duke-Elector. Only a fraction of the actual title-holders serves on Capital. Time and distance combined with the responsibilities of holding an Imperial title force many Counts-Elector to remain at their county capitals.

Various Imperial Orders have, over the years, refined who can serve in the Moot. All Electors are required to maintain a presence on Capital. As the Imperium grew, that presence was allowed to fall into the hands of family members "of appropriate rank." Which means that a Count-Elector's representative must be drawn from the immediate family. This is often a duty given to favored cousins, and one eagerly accepted, as the social whirl on Captial is unsurpassed anywhere in known space. For many noble families, a stop at Capital is de rigueur on a young noble's grand tour. A chance to learn the ins and outs of the Imperial bureaucracy and make important contacts for the future.

Such noble stand-ins are granted a limited Imperial Patent naming them Viscount [County name] for the duration of their tour in the Moot. This patent can be revoked by both the Emperor and the actual Elector. While serving as Viscount, the noble has all the powers of the elector but is expected to keep his lord well-briefed and obey any commands issued.

The day to day business of the Moot is advocacy. Each and every member sitting in the Great Hall is there to get the best for their homes. More money for defense, increased allocation of assets, subtle cloakroom maneuvering to solidify power in the home sector. The hallways of the Moot Spire are always filled with intrigue and secrets. Much of the open work is done in the Standing Committees. These ad hoc groups are formed with the permission of the Lord President, and some have endured for centuries. The Standing Committee on the K'kree Issue, for example, is made up of nobles from Gateway and advocates of a larger navy. They exist to convince the rest of the Moot and the Emperor that the K'kree are the greatest threat to the Imperium and that naval building and deployment should reflect that fact.

There are dozens of such committees that meet daily, drawing on the advice of the hordes of experts that descend on Capital every year. Every committee and faction chimes in on the many reports and proposals that get forwarded to the Emperor. Generally, a majority of the Moot must sign off on any document destined for the Palace, but this is not a hard rule. Minority reports are politically risky, as offended factions within the Moot can call for a new Lord President or work to sabotage rivals and their agendas.

There are two days when the full Moot meets in all their glory and finery. Holiday, when the Moot is formally opened for the new year, and the Emperor's Birthday, where the assembled nobles receive an Imperial address and renew their vows to the Imperium and to the Emperor.

The Loyal and Honorable Nobles of the Imperial Moot live in either spacious estates for the older, wealthier noble houses, or in luxury apartments in the Palace Districts. Most have large retinues of servants and advisors as well as personal house troops guarding their estates. The social circle of parties and receptions is seen as being just as important as the hearing rooms of the Spire for getting business done.
gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
2017-08-02 06:46 pm
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I just like to say Moot. (Traveller government stuff)

Every visitor to Capital agrees that the highlight of the visit is the looming mass of the Imperial Palace, a burnished brass sphere a kilometer wide hovering 500 meters over Zhunastu Park. The museums, the precise drill of the Imperial Guard regiments, and the somber remains of the Palace of Martin II which was destroyed in the Civil War, all impress the visitor with the power and legacy of the Emperor of the Third Imperium.

However, 5 kilometers down the Imperial Promenade stands the Moot Spire, a needle soaring 3 kilometers into the sky, by law the only building on Capital allowed to be taller than the Palace. Most citizens understand vaguely that the Moot is where the nobles of the realm meet, but their actual function remains a mystery to most.

Cleon I created the Moot as a way to keep the new nobility under control and in one place. As the Imperium grew, that became impossible as more nobles were required to attend to their own fiefs. The Moot remains of vital importance to the Imperium and Emperor, as it holds two vital powers.

The first power is to confirm the heir to the throne and conduct the ceremonies acknowledging the heir and eventually crowning the new ruler. To this end, the Moot maintains an office that tracks all potential heirs and their place on the Succession List. As of 1115, this list has some 17,000 names on it. The Office on Succession and Continuity scours census data and reports to keep the list as up to date as possible. The Imperial Household also maintains an office that tracks heirs, but their list is much shorter.

The nobles who volunteer for this office take their duties seriously. The monitor the extended Imperial Family for signs that a candidate for the Iridium Throne would pose a danger to the stability of the Imperium. Imperial family members can expect to be asked for interviews, have their actions scrutinized, and their accomplishments judged. Only once in 500 years has the Office had to inform a sitting Emperor that his heir would not be passed by the office. The heir was quietly removed and granted an office in Gateway.

In 654, the Empress Arbellatra issued Imperial Edict 378, which gave the Moot the power to establish a Regency Council in any case where the Emperor died with no clear heir, the heir was below the age of 16, or the Emperor was missing in action but not confirmed dead. The Council is to be made up of the senior noble of each Imperial Sector in residence on Captial, the Second Fleet Lord, and the senior member of the Imperial family not in line to succeed to the throne. The Regency Council is charged with resolving the empty throne as quickly as possible with a legal heir.

(The preceding is part of my annoyance with the whole "Rebellion" in MegaTraveller. The idea that the Imperial government would grind to a complete stop is stupid. Even if Dulinor was able to pull a pistol in the Octagon and kill the Imperial family - and that's another groaner - the Moot would immediately summon a Regency Council and assume command.)

The second official power is to dissolve the Third Imperium. The Moot can, on a three-quarters vote, dissolve the Warrant of Restoration and strip the Emperor of all powers. Obviously, this is an act of last resort and was last invoked as a threat during the Civil War. All analysts and historians agree that this power would only be used if the Imperium was already failing, as a sort of lifeboat measure to allow local governments to bind together for survival.

Never the less, almost every year some noble with an ax to grind introduces a measure to dissolve the Imperium to the Moot. Such measures are usually shouted down in short measure, then a quiet inquiry into why the noble felt such a measure was necessary. The Vilani nobles can be relied on to try to dissolve the Imperium on a regular basis.

Moot spokesmen have denied for years that there are contingency plans locked away for how to assign Imperial assets should the Moot vote to end the Imperium. Rumors continue to fly over secret deals concerning post-Imperial states, re-flagged fleets, and even splinter states having their own governments ready to roll. Every few years someone leaks documents that "prove" the Imperium is about to fail.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about what the Honorable Nobles of the Moot do all day, and who they are.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
2017-08-01 03:27 pm
Entry tags:

More brain wiggles

It's a new month, and time for some honest self-examination. I have been really, really bad about using this tool for anything. Novel preparation, Traveller world-building, even just blogging stuff. Using it as it was intended as a way to encourage the daily habit of writing 750 words every single day. Even if they are total crap, I have to be better about putting myself in the chair and opening the page and doing it.

It's been hard. My birthday stresses me out, as I wrote about earlier. Hot weather really messes with my system, and we don't have air-conditioning at our place. And my mental state has continued to get worse. I'm going to say it: I think I'm suffering from depression. My moods have gotten deeper and darker like my emotional drive is a pendulum that is slowly losing momentum. I'm spending more and more time in the dark spaces of my head, questioning my basic value as a human being and wondering why the hell they ever woke me up from that damn coma four years ago.

There's another stressor - four years ago yesterday I had a stroke and 22 years ago in late July, I was diagnosed with Stage IV-B Hodgkins Lymphoma. So the happy days of summer are not the happiest for me. Probably why I hate my birthday so much; just another reminder that I am actually past my sell-by date in terms of how Hodgkins survivors do. I am beginning to realize that I'm never going to shout "Hello, Cleveland!" to a capacity crowd at Red Rocks, and my chances of topping Chris Garcia's Hugo Award acceptance speech grows ever dimmer with each rejection notice.

But the hardest thing for me is feeling useless. I used to be things. Light Weapons Infantryman, Training Driver, Truck Driver, Dispatcher. . . all those identities, which are so vital in our culture, have been taken from me. I'm a writer who can barely write. A gadfly at conventions. Someone who is only of the slightest help at Burning Man. I feel all my days of glory have passed me by far too soon and just when I was getting good at life, it was all taken from me piece by piece.

See, that's the real horror. I wasn't struck down in a day and told: "rebuild from the ashes, Berry." No, my competence was taken away in tiny chunks. Bit by bit parts failed, slice by slice I lost chances and doors closed. Did y'all know I was on the verge of working to get my Class B license and a much better paying job when I developed pulmonary embolisms and had to quit commercial driving? Road construction company in Fremont. They wanted me and would help me get that Class B and pay me double what I had been getting at Lord & Sons, plus a per diem for overnight runs. That fucking close.

Closed doors. That's all I can see these days. Except the one marked "exit" and I'm not quite ready for that one, even if some days it's only understanding how badly my death would hurt Kirsten and my family that keeps me here.

But there may be a crack, a light at the end of the tunnel that is not an oncoming train. I finally got some referrals for therapists, with a suggestion I schedule an evaluation meeting with a therapist and they can work with me to decide if I need full-on psychiatric care from an MD or if therapy might be the best bet. Waiting for a call back from one of the offices I was given to look at. Hopefully, I'll hear back soon.

Because when the pendulum isn't down in the dark places, I'm still me. I can still feel some hope, some joy, even have some energy. I want to write the Great American Fanzine Article, I want to finish my novel and sell fifty copies, I want to volunteer at BMIR at Burning Man to see if I can help out and be part of a team again. Damnit, I want to see the 49ers win the SuperBowl and the Sharks take the Stanely Cup.

Right now, I'm just waiting for a phone call and an appointment. No idea what that will lead to, or how long it will take, or if I'm going to be one of the Happy Pill People or sitting in a group. No matter what, I want it to happen because it represents a door opening.
gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
2017-07-25 01:33 pm
Entry tags:

It's good to be the Emperor.

Still thinking about a revised Third Imperium for Traveller, and making it "crunchier" and a better setting with more holes and internal conflicts. This is definitely going to be a "weak Imperium" build, as a strong Imperium simply clamps down on too many opportunities for things to go pear-shaped. So today, I'm going to look at the man at the top, the Emperor of the Third Imperium.

There's an old saying in the Imperial corridors of power; "the Counts make plans for the next year, the Dukes make plans for the next decade, the Archdukes make plans for the next century, and the Emperor makes plans for dinner." Although a bit over the top, the truth of the matter is that the Emperor is too far removed from his empire to really have that big an influence on matters popping up in systems that can be months away from Captial. This is why the Imperium has become decentralized, looking to the Imperial hierarchy more for support than real-time leadership.

But in a very real sense, the person of the Emperor is the Imperium, and all authority flows from the commands given by him or his predecessors. Those commands come in several forms.

Imperial Edicts are the most formal and powerful of the Emperor's commands. An Edict is law and will be enforced throughout the 11,000 worlds of the Imperium without question. In the Imperium's 1,100 year history, fewer than 400 Edicts have been issued. Over a hundred were issued by Cleon I and Artemsus in the first century of the Imperium, and these Edicts defined and shaped the state and how it was to be run.

Second in precedence are Imperial Commands. These are orders from the Emperor that directly address issues facing the state. A command might be issued to a Sector Duke to mobilize his military forces to support another sector or a command that a former Count-Elector is an Enemy of the Imperium and is to be found, captured, or killed. Commands are less formal than Edicts and expire once they have been carried out.

Warrants, Patents, and Charters are the next level of Imperial command. These are grants of authority from the Emperor to groups or individuals to carry out duties or activities. Every noble family has an Imperial Patent of Nobility and when a new person ascends to a position as Count-Elector or Duke, the Emperor will confirm their position with a new Patent. Any corporation seeking to do business on an interstellar scale will seek out a Limited Imperial Charter (LIC) which gives the company assurances of Imperial protection.

Warrants are a special case, as they directly give the holder the power to act for the Emperor. Many Warrants are limited in scope. Every naval officer holds a Warrant confirming his commission and allowing him to act for the Emperor inside Naval regulations and orders. Some Warrants have been vaguely worded due to Captial not having a good idea of what was happening.

This is is how Norris, Markgraf-Elector of Regina, was able to proclaim himself Erzherzog of Deneb. He had a Warrant in his possession which granted him full Imperial authority to take any steps needed to secure the Spinward regions of the Imperium from further threats. Norris decided that a united Domain under his leadership was the best answer to that. Strephon is still fuming over that trick.

It must be noted that many of these orders are first issued in the field, as it were, and sent to Capital for the Emperor's approval. This can take years for minor patents and commissions, so the standard has been to assume assent unless otherwise told.

Lastly, comes the Emperor's wishes or desires. These are minor commands that generally are used for issues inside the palace or dealing with the pomp and ceremony that surrounds the Imperial Household. The Emperor might state "It is the desire of the Emperor that Flumb fruit no longer be allowed inside the palace, or at any event attended by His Majesty." Wishes and desires are common when arranging large social events and ceremonials. It is commonly known that many of these orders come from the Imperial Family's large social staff and the Emperor considers such "mindless details" boring.

Day-to-day, the Emperor is a busy man. He is constantly dealing with reports of issues inside and outside his realm and tasked with decisions that can send thousands of warships into a battle or affect the economies of a hundred worlds. Luckily, just down the Promenade from the floating sphere of the Imperial Palace is the towering Moot Spire, where hundreds of nobles work to keep the Emperor informed and plot to keep him focused on their problems.

I'll cover them next.
gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
2017-06-12 05:22 pm
Entry tags:

What Dreams May Come

It's not often that I wake up and remember what it is I've been dreaming, but today was an exception. I frankly had a bad night's sleep, caused mainly by some stomach upset and my legs being their usual awful selves. So I was a bit surprised when I woke up around 0645 with a vivid image of a dream still with me.

Having lost too many good ideas to procrastination, I got dressed and headed out to my computer. I was under a bit of a deadline, as I had an appointment for my regular blood work and after that my writing group, so I had to be out the door by 0830 at the absolute latest.

Even though I'm not at all a fast or accurate typist, and my spelling leaves much to be desired, I was able to flesh out the image in my head into a short, but serviceable, story. Printed it out for the writing group (I did have another piece, a long, pretty much complete story that we didn't get to this week. I'll be reading that one next Monday) and stuffed it in the portfolio and out the door.

My good seemed to be holding. I was the only car in the McDonald's drive-thru, there was an adorable baby at the lab, and everyone loved what I had written. Then I found I had locked my keys in the truck and things went a bit downhill. But I hope you enjoy this thing that has sprung from my head.

The Modern Cassandra

Working in San Francisco has many benefits, one of those being exposure to all sorts of lunatics. At least that's what I thought as I emerged from the depths of the Montgomery Street BART station on that June morning.

He was standing on a wooden crate, with a beatific smile and shiny eyes framed by what we used to call "Jesusbro-fro" back in college. What caught me eye was the silver jacket he was wearing, it looked like the cheesy space jacket we all wanted as kids. Seeing the growing crowd emerging from the station, he began to speak.

"Friends, please hear me out. I know I sound crazy, but I have just returned from . . . the future! And I leave for there tomorrow. Hard to believe, I know, but please hear me out, for I must warn you of something terrible. But first, here's Dave with sports." He subtly shifted his manner and spoke with the rhythm of a long-time broadcaster. For a lunatic, this guy was good.

"Thank you, Dave. Tonight, the Warriors will beat the Cavaliers 108-92, taking the NBA Finals in five games." That got a small cheer from to commuters passing by. "In July, the Giants will go on a record-smashing winning streak, take the NL West and sweep the Yankees to win the World Series. Finally, The 49ers will have a chance to make the playoffs as the Wild Card, but fall just short, finishing the season 9-7. Sadly, that's all the sports news left. Now that I've established my bonafides . . ."

At that point, I had gotten my coffee and muffin from the street cart and was hurrying up the street to my office. So I missed the rest of his rant. Once settled in at my desk, I took a moment to write the guy's predictions down.

That night, the Warriors beat the Cavs 108-92.

Then the Giants won 26 straight games in July. By the time the World Series rolled around, I wasn't even watching the games, I was too busy trying to find the man who had made the predictions. A friend got me access to surveillance camera footage of the plaza at Montgomery Street. There he was, ranting away. He spoke for about ten minutes after I left the scene, looked around, and dejectedly went down the stairs into the Muni/BART station. Those cameras showed him entering a station restroom and never leaving.

By the time the 49ers faltered during a late drive in Week 17 and finished the season 9-7, I was a wreck. The words "all the sports news left" haunted me. I even hired lip readers to try to figure out what he was saying and spent thousands on ads trying to contact anyone who might have heard more of his message.

In legend, Cassandra was cursed to know the future and have no one believe her. This man's curse was to know the future and have no one listen.
gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
2017-06-05 05:53 pm

Rethinking the Zhodani

I'm going to mess with the Traveller default setting again. It needs it. This time, I'm looking at the Zhodani, those mind-raping scum! Or not.

The Zhodani might be the oldest official races in the game, first appearing as the "barbarians" defeated at the Battle of Two Suns. Then they earned a name and we began to learn about them. The Zhodani are human, the descendants of the stock taken from Earth 300,000 years ago by the enigmatic Ancients, and scattered across space. Many of those transplants died out, the Zhodani thrived.

Uniquely, they embrace the use of psionic powers and have made them almost the center of their society. The psionically gifted are nobles, everyone else the lower classes. Nobles hold all positions of power in the Consulate, civilian and military. To keep control, the dreaded Tavrchedle' - the Guardians of Our Morality - constantly scan the masses for thoughts or rebellion or anti-social acts.

Or at least that's what the Third Imperium would have you believe. Later remakes of the Zhodani softened the edges a bit, making them less leering villains in black capes and more an alien-human race. The capes stayed, because they are cool.

Here's my first problem. The idea of an entrenched psionic nobility. In Traveller psionic ability is unpredictable and not inherited. So there is no guarantee that a noble's children will have any psionic potential at all, While Zeb, son of a dirt farmer, but be a prodigy. There would be no institutional memory, outside of a true celestial bureaucracy. Even then, what's to stop a non-psionic son of a powerful noble from seizing the reigns of power?

The problem is the writers were in love with feudal autocracies when writing up the setting. The Imperium, the Aslan, the K'kree, the Zhodani, and even the Droyne all had some variant of "rule by tiers of nobility" as their government of choice. Which simply doesn't make sense.

Main;y because life as a member of the psionic nobility is pretty damn awful. Consider the fate of the Tavrchedle' officers. They spend day after endless day inside the minds of the sick and broken. Know any cops or social workers? Imagine their war stories if they had to probe deep into the raw psyche of each and every unhappy person they encounter. Then they have to fix them. I don't know how you say "alcoholic" in Zhedtl, but one thing for sure, there's no Alcoholics Anonymous in Zhodani Space, because the Tavrchedle' handle that as well!

No, being a noble in the Consulate means a lifetime of service. I would imagine that the word the Imperials translate as "noble" actually means "Servant of the People" or something similar. Because there will be a strong "you owe it to the people" push in this society.

Let's look at the life of Zeq Chtilnats/ On the occasion of his Third Olympiad (roughly nine years old) Zeq, like all the other kids his age, is tested for psionic potential. It's a big deal, and Zeq and his classmates have been preparing mentally and emotionally for a year. The tests are odd, but fun.

Several days later, the Chtilnats family gets the fantastic news! Zeq has tested as one of the highest potentials in the District! His family starts planning his big party while he studies his packing list. Because Zeq is leaving home. He's losing his family name. Zeq is now Zeqiepr and will stay that way until he is trained.

Zeqiepr's new school is a huge facility on an important world. Here, the new students both learned the usual lessons (with a lot of political indoctrination) and undergo more and more testing to see what their skills are. Zeqiepr turns out to be wired for teleportation, clairvoyance, and telepathy. Right then his career is chosen for him. Zeqiepr is going to be one of the elite Consular Guards, troops trained to teleport in full combat armor and use their skills to defend the Consulate!

His training shifts. He and the others destined for military careers live in a more regimented way. Endless physical training, weapons training, and learning about the threats facing the Consulate. Much of the time is spent honing his ability to teleport accurately while carrying more and more weight. And always, the reminder that he is a servant of those who have not been blessed with his talents.

Finally, after three Olympiads of training, Zeqatl claims his new rank as a Commissioned Assault Specialist and reports to his Legion. Fast-forward thirty years. General Zeqiashav, commanding the 35th Consular Guards Legion, steps down. But his career isn't over! He's invited to join the Regional Defense Council as a military expert, and help guide the Regional Council on defense matters. His is a life of unending service to the people.

Now being one of the elect doesn't just mean work! They get great perks and universal respect. The turban worn by nearly all Zhodani nobles is both a symbol of rank and of humility. The bind their hair in turbans, because they work too hard to have the time to style it.

A different look, one that makes the Zhodani a little more alien.
gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
2017-06-04 05:36 pm

I'm a Complete Tool

I find myself struggling with the central driving force for my planned novel. The research is going fine, and I have the plot roughed out . . . to be honest, I have three plots worked out. Well, two and a half, as one ends rather suddenly early in the book.

But I'm digging for the emotional hooks to bring my characters to life. I know that Battle Captain Singh (I've changed his rank, as after reading the Ancillary Justice series, I think "Fleet Captain" would be seen as derivative if not out-right copying. Besides, this gives me a chance to add a little more detail to the Arjuni Deep Space Fleet. Officers in command slots are ranked as Captain with what class of vessel they are qualified to command. Escort Captain, Frigate Captain, Cruiser Captain, and Battle Captain. When they are not in command roles, those ranks are Lieutenant, Senior Lieutenant, Captain-Lieutenant, and Flag Lieutenant.

I just did a little world building right here. Go me.

But I'm struggling with how to create the drama in the two opposing forces and multiple ships. These are naval forces at war. For the Arjuni, they are running from a colony that cannot be defended and are trying to aid in the war effort by raiding merchant shipping in a cluster that should be lightly defended. The UN squadron has been dispatched to hunt them down. So right there is the main tension. It's a grand game mixing chess and Battleship. Two commanders trying to out think each other. I'm going to try to portray the stress of each emergence into real space, the desperate need to make repairs quickly, and every present knowledge that it has to come to battle at some point.

But along the way, I want to develop tensions based on crew interactions. Even the senior officers aren't always going to be on the same page. Some will doubt the mission, or the crew, or their ships. A few might be cowards, or utterly incompetent but in command because of family ties. The Arjuni force was basically at the ass-end of nowhere, so it is hardly the prime assignment. Meanwhile, the UN fleet is staffed by drafted starmen with minimal training and no real patriotic drive to excel. They live in terror of their brutal petty officers and the Political Affairs Officer and his spies. Some will take pride in having a positive identity for the first time. Others will mutiny at the first opportunity. It is led by an officer who picked the wrong side in a succession fight and has paid for it by being denied advancement. The Navy is all he knows, so he stayed. He sees this command as a chance at redemption.

There, more worldbuilding! I can do this in my sleep! It might be easier that way!

But at Baycon, I attended an intimate panel (seriously, there were ten seats in the room around a table) where I learned how to use the Tarot's Major Arcana to flesh out characters quickly. You can use the suites if you like, but that just muddles things. It's a simple layout that covers the past, present, future, motivations, fears, and a couple of other things. It's great in that it takes the foundation work out of building a character and instead gives you something to build on, creating unique characters for writing or gaming.

When it comes to designing anything, whether a character for D&D or a setting for a story, I use all the tools I can grab. My brain took a shot to the language center, so anything that can help me flesh things out is great. Any tool that helps me with my spelling and grammar is a gift from the Gods of Writing. I feel no shame in submitting my odder sentences to a website that diagrams sentences. Anyone else remember doing that in school? There are websites that do it for you, so you can see where you are screwing up.

So using one of my Tarot decks (I own both the Rider-Waite deck and a Thoth deck) I a going to designate a day when I print out a list of characters, draw cards for them, and note the results. This way, when that character needs to appear, I'll know more about them, and be able to weave them into the story.

At least until the characters begin telling me what they are going to be doing. I hate it when they do that.
gridlore: The word "Done!" in bold red letters. (Done!)
2017-06-03 09:03 pm

Magic Axes and Trailers. A full Saturday

Dear gods, my feet hurt. But it was a very good day. I like busy Saturdays, mainly because it lets me spend more time with Kirsten that doesn't involve staring at some sort of video device and they recharge my brain.

But damn, do I pay for it. My floor weasels are running wild tonight, setting my feet on fire, pulling off toes, driving spikes through my feet . . . it's not the pain that bothers me so much, although it can be excruciating, it's that my brain has a library of Things That Can Happen To Feet that translates these random bursts of information from dying nerves into specific sensations.

Like right now, where the big toe on my left foot has just been ripped off. Ow.

My morning started with the bi-monthly Dungeons & Dragons game. Playing over Skype with roll20 for the maps and die rolls is fantastic. We have five players and our DM with me out in California and one in Norway, with the rest in or near Michigan. Today we reached the end of our epic side quest to clear the abandoned hold of the Ironaxe Clan of the fiends that possessed it and return the Ironaxe to the clan's last survivor.

Digenis, my pantless (it's a running joke) Half-elf Barbarian was wielding Fred the Greataxe, who was smarter than Digenis and hated the fiends with a passion rarely seen in sharpened hunks of metal. It is a testament to my love of playing my Chaotic Neutral character that not once did I have to make a saving throw to keep Fred from compelling me to fight. No, I waded right in, screaming my battle cry "Safety Third!" and hacking away. Fred and I made a good team.

Sadly, after we defeated the boss demons, Fred's mission was complete. He left my axe. Luckily, In the treasure trove was a shiny +3 Battle Axe. Mine! I've named it Fred, Jr.

But after all this, I had real world work to do. Kirsten had hooked up the trailer and brought ti to her office so we could do some work on it. She came and got me, and headed back over.

The first task was to deal with some of the drips and oversprays from the painting of the red stripes. Kiri did a great job matching the trailer's color, and you can barely see the newer paint over the old. She also painted the small window frame, and we did touch ups here and there. It looks much better now.

The second task was a bit harder. Hell, it was a stone bitch. The platform for the sleeping area is multiple sheets of thick plywood. We had removed them so the interior could be stained and sealed (it looks amazing now) and today was the day to reinstall them.

One little problem. We had forgotten to mark which holes in the supporting frame lined up with which holes in the platform pieces. There was much cursing and setting of things before we finally got the pieces to fit. We are not taking those bloody pieces out again without a very, very good reason.

After a short break, we tackled the third task of the day: our pallet. Since Burning Man requires that you support yourself for a week, you need to bring a great deal of stuff. The Army left me with a compulsive need to organize and make lists. Since we have the Free Trailer Beowulf now, our packing needs have changed. We wanted to get a feel for what we had, what we needed, and what we can get rid of.

I was pleasantly surprised. Because of my broken foot last year I was unable to take part in our unloading process. But everything was well-organized. We realized we don't need our cots, the spare tent, and a couple of other things. We will be taking the big tent and all its support material as someone will be buying it from us on the Playa.

Doing this has allowed me to better see how our loading is going to happen. A small amount of material can be carried in the trailer, not too much due to weight and stability issues, but it gets some of the load out of the truck bed (and out of the cab for that matter.) Having the trailer means less stuff and time needed for set-up and tear down. It's all coming together nicely.

We do still need a few things, a battery for our solar panels, a spare tire for the trailer, a couple of other minor things. And we still need to get the trailer's name up on it. I'm almost tempted to look on Craigslist for a graffiti artist to do the work.

But after all this, it was time to hook the trailer up and take it back to the storage yard. We decided to take 101 to avoid the rather bumpy roads on 87 and 85. Big mistake. The had been a major accident on the other side of the freeway, and the looky-loos were causing a backup.

But we made it, eventually, and got the Beowulf into its assigned bay. A run through the nearby Jack drive through, back to the office where I had forgotten my cane, and then home.

2,700 steps today. Not bad. But dear Halford, my FEET!
gridlore: Army Infantry school shield over crossed infantry rifles (Army Infantry)
2017-05-19 06:16 pm
Entry tags:

American Storm Gods

It's a pretty hot day here in the Valley of Silicon. Not terrible, that's still to come, but exceeding warm. Call it about 85 degrees right now. It's much warmer in Offhand Manor (our name for the apartment) and will turn into an Easy-Bake Oven as the summer progresses.

But as much as I dislike the extreme heat, and it's worse since all my health problems, hot days like this always trigger a memory for me, one that explains my fascination with storm gods.

Back in 1984-85, I was a stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. Home of the Infantry, Benning was situated on a bluff overlooking the Chattahoochee River valley and the city of Columbus, Ga. It is the largest infantry training base in the world. It is also subject to some extreme weather.

The winters were cold, with rain and snow. Spring and autumn were pretty brief. Then there was summer. Summers in the Deep South have to be experienced to be believed. The heat and humidity are unbearable. Moving into the pine forests was like walking into an oven. The sun beat down like an angry god's hammer in some cosmic forge. Smart people retreated to air-conditioned homes and offices or escaped to Flat Rock Park to spend the day lying in the cool water.

We weren't smart, we were U.S. Army Infantry.

But a couple of times a week, we got a reprieve. An even that cut through the muggy heat and renewed our will to live. We were visited by the storm god.

Picture the scene: a company of infantry moving through one of the vast training areas. You are all dressed in camouflage Battle Dress Uniforms, wearing steel helmets, and carrying up to 60lbs of equipment. Everyone's faces and arms are coated in camouflage paint. The temperature has soared past 90 with no sign of stopping. The humidity is also in the low 90s. The air is thick as molasses, and there isn't a hint of a breeze. You feel as if you stood still, you would use up all the oxygen around you.

Your M-16A1 weighed about eight pounds when you started out. Now it weighs a ton. Your shirt is soaked with sweat, and you can feel your socks squishing in your boots. You're limited in the number of times you can drink from your canteen. Every gulp of air burns your throat.

Then you come to a clearing and looking west, you see that someone has stolen the sky. A wall of black thunderheads, towering like the walls of hell, sliding across Alabama towards your position. Flickers of lightning light portions of the clouds in unearthly shades of green and purple. Beneath the cloud, you can see the shifting curtain of rain. The storm is coming, and coming fast.

Around you, AN/PRC-77 backpack radios come to life with chatter. The order comes down: get into the tree line and stack all metal gear at a designated point. Those who have been through this a few times tie condoms around the muzzles of their weapons. Then we disperse. And still, the storm comes.

The air remains still and lifeless. You take off your BDU blouse and use it as an improvised rain cover. Nobody bothers with the issue ponchos, they are useless and hot.

Suddenly, the wind stirs, quickly rising to a steady wind. The temperature drops like a rock, and where you were near heat exhaustion minutes ago, now you're shivering in your sweat-soaked t-shirt. The air becomes like the finest crystal glass. What was blurred in the distance seconds ago is now in perfect focus.

With almost no warning, the sky goes black and an assault of rain and hail comes down. The sky goes blue-white against the black backdrop of clouds with lightning and the near-constant crash of thunder roars in your ears and shakes your bones. Above you, the clouds boil like a living thing. Lightning flashes from cloud to cloud, and slashes down to strike the proud pines standing on the hills and ridges.

And it keeps coming. The red clay dirt turns to mud and tiny rivulets of water around you swell to small streams. You realize that you are actually sinking into the mud, and shift to a solid root. Then it comes.

For the briefest moment, the entire world turns white. A millisecond later an angry ancient spirit, freed from confinement and hungry for vengeance, bellows a war cry that smashes into your entire body. As you blink away the spots, you hear something over the ringing in your ears and the pounding rain and hail.

Cheering. Every man in your company is yelling at the top of their lungs, and you realize that you are as well. You don't know why. It just feels right, and you go with it.

Soon enough, the front passes. The God of Storms allows the Sun God to return. You're a mess, soaked through and coated in red mud. You retrieve your gear and set to cleaning it. But you know this is Fort Benning in summer.

You know that there are good odds that the Storm God of the South will be back tomorrow.

Yeah, sometimes I miss Georgia.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
2017-05-17 06:38 pm
Entry tags:

Seriously. Those arrows were huge.

History and fantasy literature and filled with tales of lost cities and tribes, people cut off from the main course of events and left to their own devices for centuries, until found by accident. There are still places in the world where tribal people still live in the stone age. The vast Amazon basin in South America potentially has thousands of isolated tribes living in its vast reaches. Papua New Guinea also still hold many mysteries, including constant tales of uncontacted tribes wholly unaware of the modern world. Even in the frozen wastes of Siberia, there are reports of nomadic peoples who run from any contact.

But none of them can hold a candle to the people of North Sentinal Island. More than 745 miles from mainland India and just 87 miles from Sumatra at the nearest, North Sentinel Island is found at the west of the Andaman Islands. It is a mere 27.8 square miles, roughly twenty percent bigger than the area of Manhattan. The island is surrounded by jagged reefs, with only a few openings usable only at high tide. The local climate is stormy, with unpredictable storms and surges. All of which has made the Sentinelese the most isolated people in human history.

How isolated? It wasn't until 1867 that anyone was known to have landed on the island when an Indian ship called the Ninevah was wrecked on its beach. The 106 survivors set up a temporary camp and were attacked a few days later.

They managed to fend off the worst of the onslaught but, if it hadn’t been for a Royal Navy steamer which arrived shortly after to rescue them, it is unlikely the terrified group would have survived. After that, the island was wisely left along for another century. In 1974 a documentary crew from the National Geographic Society accompanied and Indian Navy contact team to North Sentinal.

The team left gifts; coconuts, knives, small tools, and the like, and retreated to their boats to wait. Only after the boats had moved a fair distance into the lagoon did the Sentinelese emerge. The replied to the gifts with aggressive posturing, similar to ritual war dances seen around the globe. When that didn't drive the boats off, they started shooting arrows using their huge longbows. The film director was hit in the leg. The arrow was over 8 feet long.

After a few more attempts at contact, the Indian government placed a ban on visiting or even approaching North Sentinal Island. It was a good plan, until to fisherman who had been poaching in the region drifted too close to the island. The Indian helicopter that tried to retrieve the bodies from where they had been killed was driven off by arrow fire coming from the dense jungle.

Here's the kicker. The tribal people on the other Andaman Islands refer to North Sentinel only as a place of death, they've never gone near it for as far back as their histories go. We know from archeological research and genetic heritage testing that the Andamans were first settled as long as 60,000 years ago. It's possible that the Sentinelese have been living in xenophobic isolation for ten times the length of human recorded history. It is entirely possible that they are the direct descendants of the first humans to move out of Africa.

It's possible. The island is practically a second Garden of Eden. The Andaman chain is home to many wild fruits and berries, and the wide lagoon is filled with fish. Migratory birds make nests on the island, providing a source of meat and eggs. So food isn't an issue. The island is large enough for an estimated population of anywhere between 400 and 1,000. Large enough to prevent inbreeding issues. The reef even provided a natural barrier to the effects of the 2004 Christmas Tsunami.

They've never had to develop the ability to sail the ocean. Never, as far as we can tell, had any need to tame fire. No need for clothing. None of the modern vices, as far as we can tell. They are a people frozen in time, a snapshot of our Neolithic ancestors.

But I can't stop wondering who they are as a people. We know, from the abortive contact programs of the 60s and 70s that they have a language. We saw what appeared to be a social order where one man was given orders. They laughed, told each other things that made them laugh, maybe laughing at their visitors. Then with no warning bows were raised and the threat-dancing began. What did we do?

How do they live? Do they sing tales of their ancestors? Where do they live? Do they build shelters? Who is in charge at home? What do they think of us? Why are they so hostile to outsiders?

Just how long have they been on that island?

All questions I'm never going to learn the answer to in this lifetime. Because the Sentinelese have made it clear that they aren't interested in our world. And as I watch the grainy video of their children playing on the beach under the watchful eyes of family, I have to wonder if maybe they aren't the ones who got it right.
gridlore: One of the penguins from "Madagascar," captioned "It's all some kind of whacked-out conspiracy." (Penguin - Conspiracy)
2017-05-08 04:48 pm
Entry tags:

I Weep for Editors Now

For a couple of years now I've going to a writing "class" offered by Santa Clara Adult Education. I put class in quotes because the format is more of a writing group, with people reading their works as the rest read along, and then offering comments and suggestions.

It's been amazingly good for me, both in terms of my mental health and in encouraging me to write on a more regular basis. Each session is four weeks, meeting on Monday mornings, with 4-5 sessions a year. There is a core of regulars who come to class after class, some for years. I've made good friends there, and I'm especially proud to call Rafael my friend. He's a 94-year-old retired US Marine who served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Never once loaded a weapon, as the Marines realized very early that he could type and had been taking accounting classes. He's an incredible writer, and we have to keep him away from the women, as he remains an incurable flirt.

I am the youngest in the class by at least a decade. Which I don't mind at all, I love listening to the others' stories and memories. I like that my best friend in class is a fellow writer of fantasy and really value the feedback I get from them.

Then there's Ralph. Oh, dear Halford, there's Ralph.

Ralph is a nice enough guy, a retired engineer (like several people in the group) who wants to write fiction. However, there's a slight problem. He can't write to save his life. I wish I was kidding about this, but his work is just jaw dropping.

First of all, he writes like he's still writing engineering papers. Everything is stiff and formal, overloaded with technical details. In a series of stories he wrote about two women rowing across the Atlantic, he detailed every single building they passed while rowing down the East River towards the sea. No emotion about setting out on the trip, no description of the smell of the water, the weather, the sound of the oars in their docks . . . just a monotonous list of places. He does that all the time.

Then there are his characters. Think of the worst-acted movie you've ever seen. That's how his characters speak. Stange declarative sentences that pop out of nowhere, spoken with no emotion. No emotional reactions at all. In his latest masterpiece, a man with his family at the Santa Monica Pier realizes that the Big One is imminent, and races to reach the Mt. Wilson Observatory. At no time in this story do any of the adults question this action. Nor do any of the children react to suddenly pulled from a fun day at the beach in the traditional childish way. No one objects when a near stranger joins them.

It drives me crazy.

But today took the cake. I literally had to keep myself from screaming or writing "YOU ARE A HACK!" in giant letters across his latest. Because in today's installment, the characters, at the conveniently abandoned Mt. Wilson facility, having found the fully equipped arms locker found at all the best observatories, decide to take target practice. Just as two Evil Dudes on horses ride up. Remember, this was happening as target practice was underway. Evil Dudes seem to think that all the gun shots were signs that the people there were easy pickings. Two dead Evil Dudes and a rescued boy.

But afterward, we were confused about how long the Swiss Family Woebegone had been up there. "Oh, several months." Was Ralph's reply.

Several months. Let that roll around your head. He was writing about a quake and tsunami that devastated the Los Angeles basin. WHERE THE FUCK DID HE THINK THE REST OF THE COUNTRY HAD GONE? There would have been National Guard, FEMA, Red Cross, mutual support from fire departments across the state, aid coming in from Mexico. . . he just thought that a big earthquake in L.A. would be ignored.

Niven and Pournelle did it better, dude, and their end of the world novel was a racist, misogynistic mess.

He's no better reading your stuff. He misses the obvious and gets diverted by pointless details. I can't begin to calculate how much time has been wasted explaining to Ralph things that were in the work to begin with. As an example, I wrote a piece about our visit last year to the Museum of the Ancient Orient in Istanbul. I included how pleased I was to find a relief of Teshub. I gave his entire history, explaining how the storm god of the Hurrians moved west into Lydia and Greece, becoming Zeus along the way, and giving us the idea of God as a man sitting on a cloud.

Ralph's first comment? "This thing about Teshub, I feel I'd need to know who he is to appreciate it." I almost killed him.

He is the only thing about the group I don't like, and I can tolerate him. But I needed to get this rant out.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
2017-05-07 07:04 pm

Yes, I've been bad about this.

But between weather extremes and the never-ending back troubles, I've been hard-pressed to find the energy to write.

This is a writing experiment to describe the bridge of the battleship Vajra, from Task Force Singh, my proposed National Novel Writing Month Project.

A couple of things. "kps" is kilometers per second, the standard measure of velocity. 1 kps is 2,237 miles per hour. These ships really move!

"mpss" or "mips" is meters per second squared. This a measure of acceleration. The Vajra can accelerate at 50mpss. Earth's gravity is 9.8 meters per second squared, so if it wasn't for the artificial gravity, people on the Vajra would experience over five times Earth's gravity at full acceleration.

"LS" is a light second, a unit of distance, 299,792 km.

--

"Captain, Glaser orbital control has cleared the squadron to depart. We have been cleared to departure area 117 by 230."

From his command chair, Singh nodded. It had been a productive visit, shoring up relations between the empire and the neutral Glaser Republic. But he doubted he could stand one more banquet. "Very well. Set the course and have the squadron set into travel formation."

He consulted his private plot on his repeater. "Engineering, please bring us to 75,000 kps once we clear the planet." Singh shifted his attention to the young officer of the deck. "Commander, set Condition Four and secure for movement. I will be in my office if I'm needed."

Satisfied that the small squadron was moving out according to orders, Singh walked the short distance to his day cabin, just to the rear of the bridge. Pouring himself a cup of coffee, he settled at his desk with a sigh. Running a ship seemed to involve never-ending paperwork to keep the Fleet offices happy, and now he had to compile a report for the Foreign Office on the visit to Glaser.

He had barely begun that task when the door buzzer went off. 20 minutes, Singh thought, barely 20 minutes before I'm interrupted. "Come in!" he shouted, trying to hide the irritation in his voice. It was Khan, his executive. And he had a grin on his face.

"Alright, Ahriman, care to share the joke?" Singh said while Commander Khan helped himself to a mug of coffee.

"Did you happen to notice Lt. Metz just now?" Khan said as he settled onto the spartan bunk across from the desk.

"I was a little occupied," Singh admitted, a smile growing on his own face. "Was our favorite a little worse for wear?"

"He looked like the gravity was off. Holding onto a grab rail for dear life. My sources tell me he was half-carried aboard by several fellow officers just shy of curfew."

Singh chuckled. "Oh, dear me! Was it too much drinking? A whirlwind love affair? A blood feud with nefarious characters?"

"All three, if the stories are to be believed. Ah, to be young again! To hit dirtside leave with visions of wine, women, and song!"

"That was you, Ahriman. I don't drink and am a terrible singer. Which left me the women!"

Their laughter was interrupted by a call on the overhead speaker. "Captain to the bridge." Both Singh and Khan quickly returned to the bridge, waving the crew back to their seats as they entered.

The rating manning the Signals console remained standing. "Sir, Glaser Control is monitoring at least four hyperspace bowshocks approaching the system. They are not scheduled, and there isn't a known route to account for their approach vector. Control requests that we divert to meet these ships." The young rating fidgeted for a second, clearly wondering if he had to remain standing after his report, before awkwardly taking his seat.

Singh absent-mindedly stroked his beard as he stared at the large holographic main plot. The tactical officer had already updated the plot with this new data. Commander Khan leaned over to speak in Singh's ear. "It is part of the treaty, and we know there have been some pretty heavy raiding being done in this general area."

Singh nodded. "Absolutely." He raised his voice. "Set Condition Three. All hands prepare for battle stations." He looked to his left at the helm station. "Set a course that brings us to intercept in four hours. Let engineering know we're going to be making the turn. I want to enter the potential battle area at no more than 750 kps. Signals, send confirmations to Glaser control. Alert the squadron that I'm going to want formation Gamma one hour before arrival at the intercept point."

As Singh sat back on his couch, doing the math on intercepts in his head, Commander Khan spoke up. "You heard the Captain, now move! This is a battleship, not a luxury cruise! Get to work!"

Soon the bridge was filling with the battle staff. Every console was now manned. All eight gunnery control officers filled the sunken area known to everyone as the pit. Three ratings and a control officer at Signals. The A crew for the Sensors team. All ready to pass on information and command decisions. Singh allowed himself a slight smile. This was a good crew.

The squadron raced through the empty system, every sensor probing the area where the unknown ships would likely emerge from hyperspace. At one hour out, Commander Khan commanded "Set Condition Two." Klaxons blared across the ship. On the bridge, half the staff hurried out to a nearby ready room, returning in a very short time in combat vacuum gear. Then the other half repeated the act. When everyone else was suited up, Singh retreated to his day cabin to don his own suit, bright white with orange and red recognition panels and the Fleet Captain insignia comically large on his chest.

Once back on the bridge, he double checked that everyone was hooked into the ship's air supply and was ready for action. Captains did have to do that, but it helped morale. Satisfied, Singh returned to his own couch and hooked in.

Mere minutes later, the sensor team sat bolt upright, as if they had been shocked. "Captin, multiple hyperspace emergences at 012 by 362. Evaluate as two Kian-class armored cruisers, one Divad-class battle cruiser, and a large transport, class unknown. Updated to the main plot."

A few scant seconds later, the call came from the tactical officer. "We are being painted, multiple targeting lasers."

"Well, they wish to play? Set Condition One, battle stations." As the klaxon sounded again, Singh leaned forward toward the plot and addressed the chief gunnery officer. "Commander Khatib, you may fire when ready."
gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
2017-04-29 08:23 pm

Task Force Singh, a New Direction

I really need to thank my old high school friend Bruce Norbeck for pointing me at two great books. Since Task Force Singh is drawing from WWI naval combat, he suggested I read "Dreadnought" and "Castles of Steel," both by Robert K. Massie. The first is an account of the rapid expansion of both the Royal Navy and the Imperial High Seas Fleet in an age where a ten-year-old ship was already hopelessly obsolete. Imagine the tech cycle we experience with computers, but instead of laptops, we're talking about heavily gunned ships carrying close to a thousand crew members.

From that book, I harvested a treasure-trove of characters and background details to set the action. Then I dove into Castles, which more about the conduct of the war at sea, and it was there that I found that one piece I had been missing.

See, what inspired me to write Task Force Singh was the pursuit of the Goeben and Breslau, two German ships sent to bolster the Turkish Navy. This led to a tense hunt across the Mediterranean as ships of the Royal Navy, not yet at war with Germany, tried to track the Germans and prevent them from reaching Constantinople.

Spoiler, they made it. And when the Russian ambassador to the Sublime Porte complained about two German warships in the Bosporus, he was told that these were, in fact, Turkish ships. See the crew in their (hastily issued) fezzes?

So while it's a great story, there's very little action. Beyond a few breakdowns and concerns about coaling, the two forces just watched each other. I was going to have ti invent action. Also, the reason for the Goeben and Breslau to travel to the Ottoman capital makes little sense in space, even with my restrictions on the duration and distance of interstellar flight. Those ships were there to deny passage through the Bosporus and Dardanelles to the Russians. I was going to have to stretch to find a local system that would work as such a choke point.

Which brings us to the other great chase I learned about in Castles of Steel. The German East Asia Squadron, based out of Tsingtao in Mainland China (know you know why Tsingtao beer is so good. Germans) found itself, as war loomed, in a very bad spot. Filled with older ships, surrounded by large forces of the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy, and probably facing the fleets of Japan and Russia as well, staying put was an invitation to a quick death.

So they ran. Across the Pacific. Heading for South America to engage in commerce raiding. That is a long way to go in coal-fired ships, so they had to stop to coal at neutral ports, raided French Polynesia, and sent a cruiser to Hawaii to pick up the mail. One cruiser, SMS Emden, was too slow to accompany the squadron, so stayed behind to raid until sunk.

The East Asia Squadron was commanded by Admiral von Spee, who swore that he would fight until he ran out of ammo or was destroyed. Of the coast of Chile, he annihilated one British force before being decimated himself in the Battle of the Falklands.

Which means I can combine the two events. Task Force Singh starts as a small unit assigned to protect a small colony far from home. Upon war breaking out, they are ordered to hit and run, concentrating on merchants whenever possible, and try to make it back home. This gives me several more ships to work with, meaning I get to kill more characters! Yay!

It also gives me two, possibly three big battles. The one where the Vajra and company defeat a Peacekeeper force in detail, the one where he wanders into an ambush, and possibly one near the end, although I'm trying to avoid a death ride. I'm not David bloody Weber.

After the losing battle, the mood shifts to a pursuit, as the battered ships race for safety being pursued by the admiral sent to destroy this threat. Very high tension as the damaged ships see systems fail due to battle damage or the effects of travel in hyperspace, the surviving ships are overcrowded with survivors of lost vessels, and the strain of each entry into every new system rises every time.

I really like how this is shaping up. I just to sketch out some characters for the major ships, and at least name commanders, figure out the composition of the fleets involved, and I'm ready to start outlining!

This may actually happen!
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
2017-04-18 06:25 pm

Vajra, Part 2

I'm still deep in research and character creation for Task Force Singh and hope to have more concrete bits for all of you at some point soon. I've been dealing with some other issues that have kept me from being as diligent as I should be. Again, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

But I must admit that I've been pleased with the feedback I've been getting, and want to address some of the comments and suggestions I've received both on Dreamwidth and on Facebook. Let's make this a great ship and setting!

First of all, on further research, I'm changing something I stated earlier. At first, I didn't want ships traveling in hyperspace subject to detection by ships and stations in normal space. While reading multiple descriptions of naval combat in Castles of Steel, it's become clear that "spotting smoke" was quite often the signal for ships to rig for battle, or at least go to a higher state of readiness until the approaching ship or ships could be identified.

So now ships in hyper can be detected, but that detection is limited to the knowledge that there is something moving nearby in hyperspace. Extended observation can reveal a general course and measurement of speed, and in the case of multiple contacts, a rough count. But nothing beyond the roughest idea of size. At some points, three cruisers traveling together could present the signature of a single battleship.

While this ability is most important to solar systems for traffic control and the early warning of hostile craft, it also aides ships traveling as a squadron in station keeping. To keep the fog of war intact, this sort of detection isn't always available or certain. As with everything, distance equals loss of signal strength, so if the ship approaches a system far from the detectors, there will be little warning.

The same goes for ships in transit together. It is quite possible for a ship to wander "off the beam" and lose track of their squadron. Since warships travel under strict orders, it's entirely possible that a UN Destroyer, as an example, might not know the final destination of their group.

I almost used "flotilla" there. While I can transfer a lot of naval terms, that one won't fly.

A number of people asked about the Vajra's ship's mascot. While it's a fun idea, I'm vetoing that one. Hyperspace travel is harmful to anything that requires electrical fields to operate, including pretty much all forms of life that we know of. So it would be heartless to subject an innocent animal to the constant trauma of FTL flight, especially on a ship that makes runs of frankly dangerous distances at high speeds, two factors that increase the onset and severity of Hyperspace Adaptation Syndrome. Sorry, no space monkeys on the Vajra.

Nicknames. This one has come up a few times. Since Vajra means both thunderbolt and diamond, I'm thinking The Big Bolt. I'd love to connect to some Hindi speakers to find what a properly scatological nickname bestowed by the lower-ranking crew. I have a list of Hindi pejoratives to use when it comes to what the engineers call the engines, power plants, and all the damn things that break.

Ship's traditions. I'm open to suggestions. Just remember this is a ship of the Deep Space Fleet, under strict military discipline, operating in an environment where everything can kill you. So shenanigans should be subdued.

The Vajra was the first of her class to be built. Going back to the Dreadnought building war of the late 19th century, we can say that the Vajra was the first of her kind to be built. Perhaps it was a quantitative improvement in gravitics or fusion plant output that allowed for more heavy guns to be carried with more armor without sacrificing real-space acceleration or speed in hyperspace.

The real revolution in the Vajra-class was not installing Autonomous Attack Vehicle tubes and support in addition to the grasers. The Vajra was designed to be a brawler, built with ten 200 Gigajoule grasers in heavy two gun turrets, 12 108 Gigajoule graser turrets, and 12 64 Gigajoule rapid-fire grasers in barbettes. Devastating at close range, she has no long range punch. She was built to be the center of a squadron with other ships handling the AAV duties.

The changes were probably mostly cosmetic in the later hulls. No two warships are identical, and in her long life, the Vajra has probably been overhauled several times. The main difference between DSF Vajra and her newer sisters is the latest generation battlewagons will be bigger, faster, and carry heavier guns. Which is why at the beginning of the book the Vajra and her battle group are flying the flag far from the main action.
gridlore: Photo: penguin chick with its wings outstretched, captioned "Yay!" (Penguin - Yay!)
2017-04-14 01:36 pm
Entry tags:

Y'all are going to need more popcorn

Ah, the Fantastic Four. Along with Spider-Man, Marvel's iconic characters. For over fifty years, they've fought cosmic threats to our world, confronted Dr. Doom over and over, bickered endlessly, broken up and reformed . . . and made terrible movies.

I'm serious. There has never been a good FF movie. Which is a shame, because they deserve it. Because great movies are about great characters, and the Fantastic Four are filled with them. To that end, allow me to present my concept for a great Fantastic Four film.

First off, no origin story. I'm not wasting twenty minutes retelling the same story over. It doesn't matter how they got their powers, they have them. Secondly, we see them as an established team already. Forget the fumbling starts and transformative moments. They've been around probably as long as the Avengers. Which brings me to my third change: I'm moving them out of New York. NYC is filled with heroes already.

My first choice is Boston since it is close to both Harvard and MIT, both of which would appeal to Reed Richards. But let's go farther afield and send them to Los Angeles. CalTech and Harvey Mudd would be happy to have Reed around as an occasional guest lecturer, and God knows Angelinos love seeing LA destroyed in the movies.

Now, out characters. Reed Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic. A brilliant scientist and engineer, with a body that is elastic and extremely durable. He can stretch his body out like rubber, and take blows that would kill a normal man dead. He's also autistic. It's so bloody clear to me. Reed is somewhere on the spectrum. He has trouble with interpersonal relationships, is more comfortable with his theories than practical life, and doesn't get most normal references. It's why he decided to fly an unauthorized flight in an experimental spaceship with his friends! I see Reed as being in his late thirties. Reed is married to . . .

Susan Storm-Richards, the Invisible Woman. Strong, independent, and deeply in love with Reed but growing frustrated with his habits. She sees herself as the designated adult of the group. Along with turning herself invisible, Sue can protect invisible force fields in almost any shape. She can use these to protect people, hold things up or down, or restrain a combatant. Sue is younger than Reed by about eight years in my vision. Sue's brother is . . .

Johnny Storm, the Human Torch. Still in his mid-twenties, Johnny has been a thrill seeker all his life. Before becoming the Torch, he raced dirt bikes, surfed, and had gotten into BASE jumping. As the Human Torch, he can transform into a humanoid creature made of fire. In this form, he can fly, project blasts of concentrated flame from his hands, and is highly resistant to injury. As a last resort, Johnny can "nova burst", creating a massive high-temperature explosion centered on himself. He is usually shocked back to human form and left drained by this act. Johnny is the one member of the team who revels in what he's become; accepting endorsement deals and dating starlets.

Lastly, Benjamin Grimm, the Thing. Left feeling deeply isolated by his transformation into a rock-skinned monster, Ben is often angry and sarcastic, lashing out at both friends and foes. He still blames Reed for the trip that led to this state for him. One thing I'd like to show in the film is Ben's faith, as he is supposedly an observant Jew. As the Thing, Ben is immensely strong, able to life items weigh many tons easily. His rocky skin makes him nigh impossible to hurt, although he can still feel things the way most people do.

There's the main cast. We start the movie by zooming into the Baxter Building (wherever it ends up) and coming into a room where the team has for. . . a merchandising meeting. PowerPoint, bullet charts, the whole deal. One by one the team makes excuses to leave. Reed left an experiment running, Johnny has to make a date for a movie premier (just for fun, I want him to say he's meeting Alison Blaire for the film. Just a nod to the Dazzler fans.) Ben just announces he's bored and leaves. Sue looks at the executives and says that once again, she's left to make the decisions.

So we've set the dynamic. What follows is a set of attacks on each of the characters when they are away from each other. Reed gets attacked at Harvey Mudd (Cathy can tell me what building she wants to be trashed), Johnny gets ambushed at an after party, Ben while walking through a park. All these attacks are tough, but each member is able to fight them off. Except for Sue. She gets jumped and captured.

At which point the remaining team members receive a message. From Victor von Doom.

Doctor Doom is the classic megavillain. Arrogant, overwhelmingly powerful, yet honorable in his own way, he's been the FF's main antagonist for years. Always clad in his trademark armor, face always masked to hide his scars, he speaks of himself in the third person and is playing four-dimensional chess at all times. Doom has two goals. Bring the world to order under his rule, and the utter destruction of Reed Richards, who he blames for his injuries in their college days.

Again, I'm amused by the idea of Dr. Doom being a Mudder. West is Best, Crush the Others Like Vermin!

Anyway, the team comes together, tracks down where Doom is holding Sue, release her, and have the big battle against Doom. Just Doom. No waves of troops, no big hole in the sky, Just Dr, Doom in all his glory. The fight will be epic. But in the end, the heroes prevail. Doom falls, and the team pulls off his mask to reveal. . . a robot. It speaks.

"Were you so foolish as to think that Doom would bother with you personally so early in the game. This has been a test, and you all performed as I expected. Fear not, Richards, for the seeds of your destruction have been planted, and soon Doom will reap his just rewards."

Then the robot blows up. Credits

The after credits scene is six weeks later at an OB/GYN office where Sue is being told she's pregnant. The doctor says that everything looks normal, but because of the parents, they want to monitor it closely. Reed and Sue walk out, obviously back in love again. The receptionist watches them go as lines of green text scroll down her eyes.

This sets up the next film and the birth of Franklin Richards. The third movie can be the coming of Galactus, not just to eat the Earth, but to destroy the threat of Franklin Richards to the Universe itself!
gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
2017-04-13 06:51 pm
Entry tags:

750 words can be hard

OK, I've been really bad about writing. Which pisses me off after successfully finishing the March challenge to write my 750 words every day of the month. I said I'd take a few days off, but I've gone way over that.

Part of it is stress. I'm dealing with the ongoing tumor treatments on my back. This is particularly annoying, as it is so drawn out. I have three sites. Each one has to get an approval for a biopsy, approval for a removal after the biopsy, and then repeating the process for the next site. The largest basal-cell tumor (the size of a freaking cashew) was removed, and the next removal is in two weeks. But this means that I have to do wound care and deal with some discomfort from having stitches in my back almost all the time.

Then there's the new tattoo. Yeah, I got it, and I was a stressed-out mess in the day leading up because, between my medical history and my history with bad tattoos, I was a bit worried about my appointment. Luckily, my tattoo artist, Alex at Black Dolphin, was great and I have my new tattoo is great! But again, I'm dealing with wound care for the tattoo. Still, love it.

Then there's simple writer's block. I can't tell you how many times I've opened 750words.com and just stared at the blank screen in frustration. I've tried my usual writing exercises, wrote rants about the Giants' slow start to the season that petered out after 200 words, and ended up rage-quitting the site.

Damn, it'd be nice to be able to drink booze on days like that.

But I'm trying. As I told Kirsten the other day, I need to buy a new notebook to organize my notes for the novel. I'm hoping to begin to block out a timeline and chapter outlines soon, along with a full list of major characters on both sides of the story. I can see where I want to go, the real task is getting things down. As this is going to be my National Novel Writing Month project, actual writing will commence November 1st. Expect calls for beta-readers around that time.

What else is going on, as I strive to find another 350 or so words to fill this out? Work on the Free Trailer Beowulf continues. This weekend, as the rains appear to have finally tapered off, we're painting the red stripe and the Imperial Sunburst man stencil. We tried to do the stripe with tape, but it didn't hold that well. So we have very nice red paint and a reflective covering coat. The Man is doing to be in black. We still need to make or buy the "Free Trailer Beowulf" lettering stencils.

Also on the list is installing the new roof vent. As I think I've mentioned before, the person who built this trailer installed a vent cover instead of an actual vent hatch that can be closed. This is an issue that probably led to the mold problem. We need to install and seal the new window we had cut at Tap Plastics. Finally, the guy who owns the custom door and window shop next to Kirsten's warehouse has offered to spray coat the interior with a dark stain and a sealing coat. Which will make the interior look amazing, as we've picked up glow-in-the-dark stars to put on the walls and ceiling.

It's going to be amazing when it's done. I just want it done. Which leads to another source of spoon-eating stress for me. I have a lot of trouble helping with these activities, because of the damage that I'd accumulated over the years. I get tired too fast, lose my words, and can't remember what I'm doing.

Such is life.

So, writing. I have to be better about this. I need to set aside a four-hour block each day for research, note-taking, writing drafts, and editing. I need to plot out some short stories and submit them until something sticks somewhere. I need to write enough articles for Chris Garcia until he gives up and produces the Douglas Berry issue of Journey Planet. I need to reclaim the discipline that I learned in the Army.

Because writing is what I have left. I'm never going to be a truck driver or dispatcher again. I can't go back to school with this Swiss-cheese brain, and my odd of getting drafted by the Giants to play left field are growing dimmer by the day. (Although, given the recent play of our outfield, you never know.)

So, this is a new start. They may not always make sense, but there will be something every day, or I'll tell you why I missed a day.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
2017-04-09 05:15 pm

Vajra, part 1

A look at one of the major, if not the most important, settings in Task
Force Singh: The GNJ Vajra, hull number BB-3126. The leading ship of her class, the Vajra has been in service for twenty years and is now considered a second-line capital ship.

Vajra is a Sanskrit word meaning both thunderbolt and diamond. Additionally, it is a weapon won in battle which is used as a ritual object to symbolize both the properties of a diamond (indestructibility) and a thunderbolt (irresistible force). When it was first laid down, the new ship was the first of the big battleships to take advantages of improvements in materials technologies that allowed for heavier armor and more powerful weapons without sacrificing speed.

The ship is a slightly flattened cone 1,200 meters long and 500 meters wide at the stern. The interior decks are stacked perpendicular to the direction of thrust. There are 150 manned decks, which much of the interior space given over to power plants and munitions storage.

Beginning at the bow, you find a cluster of sensor arrays and the navigational deflector, a weak gravitational beam used to push dust and pebbles aside at high speeds. Attempts to ramp up this technology to a true deflector system able to push aside incoming penetrators have been unsuccessful, as the energy requirements are just too high.

Moving back, much of the forward quarter of the ship is given over to storage and docking facilities. The Vajra carries several shuttles, each able to move a hundred men and several tons of cargo between the ship and a planet's surface. The forward stores include fresh water tanks, replacement parts and raw materials for the machine shops, and enough dry goods storage to allow cruises lasting over a year. Also in this area are the ship's hydroponic gardens, which grow much of the food consumed by the crew. (Most Arjunans follow a mostly vegetarian diet, so fresh greens are vital.)

Behind this area, and clustered around the ship's core, is the main bridge and associated facilities. Senior officer quarters are found on these decks. The bridge itself is two decks high (roughly 4 meters) to allow for a large holographic display. Control stations are arranged in two tiers around this display, with the captain's station at the base. Just off the bridge is the captain's day office, a small mess mostly handling mid-watch snacks, and "crash rooms"; small spartan rooms for quick naps during extended operations.

Moving down the core, past a ring of fusion plants and magazines, is the main crew quartering areas. The Vajra has a crew of 258 officers and 7,740 ratings. The highest ranking petty officers and most commissioned officers get single accommodations. Junior officers and petty officers live two to a room, while the bulk of the crew live in six-man bunkrooms. Policy to mix-up the assignment of bunks so that crew working in different jobs live together. This encourages the cross-training the navy relies on.

The one and two man quarters enjoy private restrooms. The ratings make do with common showers and freshers. There are many mess facilities throughout the ship. As a rule, officers are encouraged to eat with the ratings as often as possible, to foster a sense of teamwork. There is a formal mess near the bridge for the senior staff. The mess crews compete to have the best food and cleanest facilities. They are not above sabotage in these competitions.

Also in the crew areas are the scattered medical facilities, with the main medical station being the equivalent of a small hospital. All the inhabited areas of the ship are built to be as open as possible. Wherever it is feasible, live plants are found. This not only helps with keeping the air fresh, it is a psychological boost as well. The crew is constantly urged to take the various classes offered while on a deployment, work to become cross-qualified in another technological specialty and strive to make their section the best on the ship.

Beyond another ring of fusion plants (the Vajra carries 36 plants in total) and more magazines for the ship's weapons, there are the engineering spaces. The Vajra uses four massive thrusters to maneuver in real space and has a powerful hyperdrive capable of hurling the ship at 270c if needed. In real space, the engines can accelerate the ship at a constant 1.8g.

That's a look at the insides of the battleship Vajra. Tomorrow, I'll write about the important parts, her armor, and her weapons, as well as dealing with the heat issues.

Folks, I really would like feedback on this. The Vajra needs to be a character, not just a name.
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
2017-04-07 06:26 pm
Entry tags:

That was just my life.

Yeah, I've been slacking a bit. I promise to be better about keeping up on my writing.

So the news today is that I have an appointment for getting my first tattoo in 32 years on Monday. If you've ever seen my one tattoo, the World's Worst Grateful Dead Tattoo, you'd know why I've been a little wary of adding to my inked hide. Why take the risk? I know the circumstances of the WWGDT were a tad unusual, but you can see why I was a little needle-shy.

There's also my changing tastes. I didn't want to end up with a design celebrating something now passe or downright embarrassing. The Dead art, while horrible, is at least a good story and Deadheads have always been a loyal tribe. There's also my ongoing health issues, which for years made me worry about getting my hide pierced a few thousand times with an ink-injecting needle. But when I asked, the anticoagulation clinic staff only asked what the design I was getting. They did say that working my appointment in to the times I'm off the Warfarin for the ongoing dermatology visits would be best.

So what is the design? Nothing fancy, just a list of the medical issues that have either drastically affected how I live my life or came close to killing me. They'll be down my right biceps, listed by the ICD-10 code, under a header reading, oddly enough, "ICD-10."

We're going in chronological order, so the festivities start off with G72.3, which is Hypokelemic Periodic Paralysis. This is a genetic disorder, so I've had it from the time I was a fertilized egg, but never knew it until a year or so ago. What it is is my body has a hard time channeling potassium properly when I'm under high levels of stress. Rather than sending the potassium to the muscles to help things move correctly, it gets locked up in red blood cells. This causes the extremities to lock up at the joints, mainly.

Looking back, I can see where I might have had an attack and just passed it off as something else. Like when I was running a marathon at Fort Benning, and my legs locked up at the 20 mile mark. I thought I was just not strong enough, or hadn't eaten correctly. But more likely I had put my body under so much stress that the HPP struct. I'm very fortunate that my threshold for attacks is very high. Some people deal with daily attacks of their limbs freezing up.

Next is C81.09. Stage IV-B Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Diagnosed after the removal of my spleen in late July of 1995. Stage IV means that the cancer was all through my lymphatic system and had jumped to my liver. At the time, I was given a 60% chance of living to see my 30th birthday, and that was with harsh treatment.

I made it, obviously, but the cancer and the treatment combined to really wreck my health. I was left with almost no immune system, I eventually lost my teeth, and all the other things on my list can be traced back to the fight of my life against Hodgkin's.

But before I could even start to fight the chemotherapy, I had to deal with I82.401, Deep Vein Thrombosis in my right hip. When I had my spleen removed as part of the lead up to my cancer diagnosis, my platelet count skyrocketed. Which led to an amazingly painful blood clot in the very large vein that drains the right leg. As a side note, I was in this kind of agony when i found out that Jerry Garcia had died. I was beginning to feel a bit like the Biblical Job at that point. Treatment required that I be hospitalized for three weeks. During this time, my weight dropped to 113lbs.

Next up, and this came quickly on the heels of the end of my chemotherapy, is J18.9, pneumonia. I have had eight or nine diagnosed cases of this disease since the first one in February 1996. Probable a baker's dozen more than never got the nod from the medical establishment. The first two cases came damn close to killing me. My lungs crackle when you listen to them, that's the damaged alveoli (air sacks) that were wrecked in my many fights with this problem.

I have never been fashionable. I've never been one to go with the latest trends. But I was on the cutting edge once, and boy did I hate it. This is when I got hit by J09.X2, the H1N1 Influenza. I never quite needed to be hospitalized, but it was close, and I was in the hot zone for people in danger of dying from this particular flu strain. Since then, I get my flu shot early.

After having the flu, my lungs continued to torture me. This one really hurts, because it cost me my job driving for Lord&Sons. I26.09, Pulmonary Embolisms. These are blood clots in the lungs, and are horrifically dangerous. Never mind the fact that they kill off sections of your lung tissue, they can move into your heart (and kill you) or into your brain (and kill you) or just stay where they are and eventually kill your lungs. Which is bad.

This was the point when I first filed for permanent disability, and was awarded it. However, the feds have an interesting idea of what permanent means, and a year later they declared me fit for work! I got a gig doing dispatch and reservation work for a small limousine company. But just over a year later, on July 31, 2013, Kirsten heard a crash in the bedroom and found me wedged between the bed and the dresser, totally unresponsive. A fast ambulance ride and a long two days (which I didn't noticed, due to the induced coma I was in) and we learned what a G45.9 Transient Ischemic Attack is. It's a stroke. My blood thinners just stopped working, and a blood clot made its way into my left parietal lobe. It's called a transient attack because the clot resolves on its own. In my case, I hit my head pretty hard going down, and that might have been enough to shake the clot into pieces.

But afterwards, I couldn't speak clearly for more than a few sentences. My memory was shot, and I had almost no proprioception on my right side. I had to learn to walk again. I had to teach myself to speak. I spent three weeks in between the hospital and the in-patient rehab clinic learning the skills possessed by the average 2 year old child. It was very frustrating. Follow that with about 3 months of outpatient rehabilitation. And sill i was never going to be the same.

Like a good mystery? Then try to explain why I developed G62.9 Peripheral Neuropathy. The sensory nerves in both my legs are dying, leading to near constant pain and sudden bursts of extreme shocks of pain. We call those the "floor weasels", because that's what it feels like most of the time; weasels ripping into my feet. Then there the involuntary muscle contractions. Usually later in the day, I'll get everything from twitches to fell on, kick like a Rockette, leg spasms. Which makes sleeping difficult. None of my doctors can figure out why this developed in me, and why it's so severe. One of the reasons i try to walk as much as I can and do my gym time is that regular exercise can slow the progress of the condition.

At this point, many of you are wide-eyed in horror, and thinking "Oh my God, the poor guy! Next time I see him I'm going to buy him a beer!" Hahahahahahaha Fuck My Life. No beer for me, you see, because about the same time I found out about the Hypokelemic Periodic Paralysis I also found out about my raging case of K85.20 Acute Alcoholic Pancreatitis. After years of moderate but steady drinking (my barracks had a beer machine, I loved the Army) and with all the other slings and arrows it had suffered. my pancreas stopped playing nice with booze. One can of Budweiser could make me sick for days. So I switch to non-alcoholic beers (I still like the taste) and face the world sober.

So that's it, my new tattoo explained. These are my campaign ribbons, showing the battles I've fought and the ones I'm still fighting. The ink will be starting high on my right arm and extend down. That way, I have room for more entries.
gridlore: A pile of a dozen hardback books (Books)
2017-04-03 03:33 pm

In The Strangest Of Places, If You Look At It Right

The title is half of one of my favorite Grateful Dead lyrics.

Went up to Half Price Books today, it what is probably the last load of decluttering books for some time. While waiting for them to tabulate my payoff, I wandered around for a bit.

Wandering the history section, I scored. My friend Bruce Norbeck had suggested two books for me as part of me research for Task Force Singh, "Dreadnought" and "Castles of Steel", both by Robert K. Massie. The first is a detailed examination of the people and events that shaped the naval arms race between the United Kingdom and the German Empire in the decades leading up the First World War.

It's an amazing read, as Massie takes the time to introduce to characters like Kaiser William II and Admiral Jackie Fisher as people. Indeed, the book spends more time on how the personalities of the movers and shakers interacting with each other shaped the balance of power in Europe. This style also gives great insight to these powerful figures as human beings. Otto von Bismarck was a brilliant statesman, but also a petulant, petty jerk. King Edward VII was pretty lost as a monarch, happily deferring to his government on almost everything. And Winston Churchill had the crappiest childhood you can imagine.

All of this is wrapped around the whirl of European politics in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870; the war that made the scattered German states into a single empire while causing the fall of France's Second Empire. It's really fascinating to see how England was stuck in the ideal of the Splendid Isolation, secure in the knowledge that the Royal Navy was a bulwark against any invasion. Even as the age of sail began to fade, the hide-bound traditionalists of the Royal Navy clung to sail. It took true revolutionaries and mavericks to drag the navy into the modern age.

In Germany, the Kaiser faced a similar problem. German had little coast line and limited access to the North Sea, so a navy had never been a concern. Besides, Germany's power was her armies. Vast, disciplined, and well led by a professional officer class, the Imperial German Army could crush any of her neighbors. Convincing the Reichstag to spend huge piles of marks on building battleships and improving the Kiel canal to allow them access to the North Sea was the work of years, and involved no small amount of dishonesty and gambling. Several times, the Kaiser ordered ships to be laid down before the funds had been approved, and then presented the assembly with a fait accompli.

All in all, a fascinating read. But as long one, and quite dense. I've already had to renew the books once, and the Santa Clara library never guarantees endless renewals. "Dreadnought" is almost a thousand pages long, and the next one is about the same length. But there's so much good material in here! I've already cribbed three characters, some setting details, and the casus belli that sets off the who plot.

Since these are library books, I've taken to taking pictures of important passages that I want to remember and emailing them to my self. Rather clumsy, but it works. I tend to do most of my reading in bed lying down, so taking notes would be an act of some contortion, and even I can't read my own writing these days.

So these books must be returned, and possibly soon. Which brings me back to Half Price Books. As I said, I was wandering the store, glancing at this and that, when I spied the Ballantine Books paperback edition of "Castles of Steel", which is more directly on point for the style of warfare I'm hoping to describe in Task Force Singh. New, this book goes for $20. I got it for about nine bucks, which I just took out of what I got for the books I was dropping off.

Now I can highlight, margin note, and page mark to my heart's content! I can take time, reread important bits, and really digest the material. Because I really want the foundations of the novel to be as strong as possible. As I mentioned in my writing group this morning, getting the basics right makes the whole story sing.

My next step in laying that foundation, is to design the Vajra, the Arjun battleship that will be one of the main locations for the events of the book. I'll be using GURPS Starships for at least an initial pass on making the ship more a place than an idea, but will be working out details of the living ship. Because down properly, the ship can become a character in its own right.
gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
2017-03-31 07:34 pm

All Hail the Samrat!

OK, some changes and expansions of the setting for Task Force Singh. I'm still building the state my main protagonist comes from (there are actually two protagonists in opposition to each other, but this is the guy I thought up first.)

The Beta Hydi system was settled roughly 300 years before the book's starting date by way of a huge colonization effort headed by India. The effects of climate change and the ravages of the Warpox epidemic was leading to mass famine. Volunteers from across southern Asia begged to be included in the mission. All told, over 5 million refugees were packed into colony ships and sent out.

The rigorous conditions on their new home, named Arjuna after a mythical hero, led to the creation of a strict hierarchy and a strong work ethic. Shelters needed to be dug and fitted out, vast hydroponic farms put into operation, and a million other details worked out. The colony thrived with an isolated oligarchy running things. For the Traveller players reading this, it was a Feudal Technocracy.

Power has concentrated in the hands of the Jagirdar; landed nobles who ruled through sheer economic power. The Jagirdar were the captains of industry and operators of the vast warrens of worker housing. As the colony grew to exploit both the resources of Beta Hydri and those of nearby stars, conflict among the Jagir houses grew to near warfare. To end this, the houses agree to elect a dictator and form a constitutional monarchy.

Today, the Arjun Samarjy (Arjun Empire) controls eight star systems besides the home system. The ruler, the Samrat (Emperor) has full executive power. Technically, the assembly of Jagirdar elects the Samrat; in reality the ruling Samrat appoints his eldest child at birth and the nobles approve it.

The Jagirdar meets as an upper house of the government, known as the Gomed Hol (Oynx Hall) for the chamber they meet in. The Gomed Hol serves mainly as an advisory body, producing little legislation, as its members tend to be busy seeing to their own holdings.

The people are represented in the Samsad (Parliament) which is based on population. Currently the Samsad seats 573 voting members and numerous non-voting observers from the colonies. Members of the Samsad are elected from regional councils, which are elected by the people. One of the greatest issues on Arjuna is the growing demand for direct representation and more regional power. The Samsad is considered to remote, with each member speaking for an average of 3 million citizens. The Samsad is where legislation is introduced, debated, and passed. The state operates on a theory of implied royal assent. When a bill passes the Samsad, it is held for three days after the Samrat has been informed of the bill's passage. After that thime, the bill is law. The Samrat has the power to veto any bill. This power is almost never used.

The Samrat is the head of state. The head of the government is his Chancellor, a post selected by the Samrat himself. The Oynx Hall has the power to refuse to allow the Samrat's choice for office, but it takes a super-majority and has only been invoked twice. The Chancellor is charged with appointing officers to the various ministerial posts and running the day to day operations of the state and government. Chancellors are usually chosen by the party with the majority in the Samsad, or by coalition vote. The Samrat is usually quietly consulted as well. Chancellors remain in office at the pleasure of the Samrat or until his party falls out of the majority and a new Chancellor is called for.

There are several parties in the Empire. The major players are:

The Imperial Expansionists. They support a strong central government and expanding the Imperial holdings. Currently hold a slim majority in the Samsad.

The Traditionalists. A conservative, religious party dedicated to returning to old Hindu ways and promoting religious unification under one faith. The more radical members want a return to the caste system. They are partners with the Expansionists in the current government.

The Unionists. Their main platform is full membership in the empire and full citizenship for those living on the colony worlds.

The Democracy Now Party. They demand the dismantling of the imperial state and full suffrage and free elections under a new constitution. The hold a small number of seats, but are quite vocal and vote as a solid bloc.

The Consolidationists. Bitter foes of the Expansionists, they advocate spending precious Rupees on building infrastructure and improvements in the territories already controlled by the state, and improving the lot of the citizenry.

The Isolationists. The fight defense spending and expansion tooth and nail. Once the strongest voice in the Samsad, they've lost dozens of seats over the years and are now a distant third after the Imperial Expansionists and the Unionists. Natural allies of the Consolidation Party, they break on several issues so a true union seems impossible,

More to come.