Tag Archives: war

Wile E. Coyote

Sort of how I'm feeling...
Sort of how I’m feeling…

Robert Heinlein wrote a few times about the “Crazy Years” which he plotted pretty much where we are now.   He didn’t go into much detail, besides off-hand mentions of the general collapse of nations and civilization and all the things that go with it: war, famine, riots, looting, you know, all that stuff that we’ve been without for a very long time.

I’m talking about serious privation, not the sort of distant wars we’ve seen since WWII… real, genuine hard times.  In David Weber and John Ringo’s Empire of Man books, they mention the Dagger Years, a similar time of chaos and bloodshed.

Looking out at the world and internal to our country, I’m worried that we’re headed that way.  There’s too much rhetoric and finger-pointing and no one really wants to fix these problems.  Problems, after all, employ people in the progress of fixing them.  The bigger the problem, the more people will allow “temporary” measure to repair them.

I feel like the US has run out, chasing the road runner… only to find ourselves running on empty air.  The rest of the world, is watching, some of them hoping for us to fall and others are encouraging us to keep running, insisting that we’ll find solid ground under our feet soon enough.  Meanwhile, here we are, the average person, starting to watch the ground approach.

How we got here isn’t important right now.  The important part is putting together some way to actually prevent that  impact with the hard edge where ground meets sky.

I’m increasingly coming to the opinion that we can’t avoid that impact.  In fact, it sometimes feels like Wile E Coyote’s rocket boots are running us full blast towards the ground.  People on all ends of the political spectrum are madly cackling as they pile up dynamite to cushion the fall, and, yes, someone has replaced the parachute with an anvil.

Where am I going with this?  Well, it isn’t all doom and gloom.  We’ve got enough people trying to rein in the crazy that we might just pull out of this death spiral.  What we need to do is start being rational.  Anger, hate, these lead to the dark side, yes?  We’ve got to stop looking for simple solutions and smooth-talking liars to fix things for us… we’ve got to fix things ourselves.

Be the example for your friends and neighbors.  Teach your kids the importance of hard work and independence.  Walk with your head high and be not afraid.  Fear is the mindkiller.  Speak your mind and most importantly… listen.  Communication has always been the ally of those who want control.  Don’t give up.  Don’t ever give up.

Do not go quietly into the night.  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.  Keep pumping those feet and maybe, just maybe, we’ll get across this empty space to the other side.

Skidding Sideways on the Ice

Now on my Wednesday morning commute, we had what they call a “blizzard”.  You know, whiteout conditions and lots of this fluffy white stuff everywhere. (25 inches of it at my place, with drifts over four feet in height)

More or less in the middle of this commute, I watched several vehicles driving sideways down an off-ramp, tires spinning as they fought for traction… and oddly enough I had something of an epiphany.

As I read the news and watch television, I realize that we are all doing the same thing.  As a society, as a nation, we realize that we’ve lost control and that something is wrong.  Watching the faces of the drivers, I saw anger, fear, panic, and even some people having fun as they careened down to the highway.  As our world spirals out of control around us, people, in turn, are reacting in similar fashions.  Some are angry, some afraid, and some people are completely panicked.

Just like those people (who thankfully made it onto the freeway without collision), we all react to the situation in different ways, but we all have that sick, sliding feeling as we know that something is going horribly wrong.

It is human nature to want someone to blame for the situation.  So that fear and anger gets turned to whoever we decide must be to blame.  After all, this has to be someone’s fault… right?  The people who are willing to place all that blame on one cause, one set of policies or one method of behavior scare me.  The unstable conditions we face can be traced back to a number of causes… many of them to our own action or inaction, rather than those of others.

Then there’s the people who enjoyed the loss of control, the same people who are gleefully saying “burn it all.”  In some ways, these are the most terrifying people.  These are those who have either given up hope or never had it in the first place… or else they don’t understand the consequences of their actions.  Seeking to pull down entire nations in the hopes that what will rise from the ashes will be better (or at least different), is much like sliding down a hill in a multi-ton vehicle with only a modicum of control.  At the end of it, everything might come out alright… or you might end up with a pile of shredded wreckage.  Worse, even, are the people who want to throw out all the controls or to hit the gas in the hopes that more of the same will pull us through.  (Don’t even get me started on the people who want to light the car on fire because it’s their passenger’s fault they’re in this mess)

What stuck with me, though, was the calm determination on the faces of some of the drivers.  They weren’t professional drivers, they didn’t know exactly what to do, but they knew they were in trouble.  They fought for control the whole way down… and when they got to the bottom, they had to fight their way through traffic to get to work.  They might have felt some or all of the emotions that the other people did… but they focused on doing what they could to make a crappy situation better, and they weren’t crying for attention while they did it.

Those people.  We need more of them.

 

Author’s Toolbag: Gaming Part Three

Some games are more realistic than others...
Some games are more realistic than others…

In Part One I talked about a general overview of what gaming provides a writer, while in Part Two I went into a bit more detail about how roleplaying games can help a writer develop his plots, characters, and worlds.

Here in Part Three, I’ll talk a bit about how wargaming can help you craft and design more realistic scenes for your books.  Obviously this advice holds a bit more true to those of you writing military or combat themes in science fiction or fantasy, although if you have even a small fight scene in what you write, it may behoove you to pay attention.

So, what does wargaming offer?  Well, it gives you some basic understanding of tactics and planning.  This, in and of itself, can show in your writing as your characters refer to flanking an enemy or massing fires.  Knowing even just the basics of how a fight would play out can really help when you go to write up that fight scene.

It can also help you to visualize where characters are and what kinds of odds they face.  Knowing that Throk the barbarian has to face a hundred orcs is one thing, putting a hundred markers out to show just how insane that would look is something else entirely.  Where this plays out is that it allows you to keep your fight scenes somewhat grounded.  It makes no sense for one person to hold out against hundreds without some huge advantages… unless you’re writing manga or some kung-fu movie type scenes.

Also, wargaming gives you a sense of the scale of a fight.  If your characters are taking part in a huge battlefront where tens of thousands of warriors are clashing, seeing that scale can help you to write scenes that feel more epic and with high stakes to increase the tension.  Whereas if you have a small skirmish deep underground or with a handful of people in a forest, that close, intimate description can set the tone and the immediate consequences for characters can set the tone.

Where do you get started then?  Well, there are a variety of games and a variety of methods, but the easiest is to probably go to your local gaming store on a Friday night and just ask around.  Most gamers are pretty welcoming and would love to talk about what they play.  If you tell them you’re an author and you’re researching for a novel, you’ll probably have several eager gamers willing to talk about the basics.

In general, games like Warmachine and Hordes are small skirmish games with a handful of fighters per side (squad and platoon size), games like Warhammer 40k and Warhammer Fantasy are larger, small armies (company size or larger), while games like Flames of War are for larger scale battles (company and battalion).  There are a variety of ship-combat games, ranging from fighter level to capital ships (X Wing, Star Wars Armada, Battlefleet Gothic, and more).  Game rules range from very complex to absurdly simple and most give you at least a decent approximation of how a fight might play out.

One thing to remember as you go about converting what you learn with what you’re writing: don’t get too caught up in the technical details.  Writing is about characters, so spending a long time discussing the technology, tactics, and advantages of one side or the other is a good way to put your reader to sleep.  Slip that kind of thing in here or there, but focus on the characters, the stakes, and anything else to drive up tension.  A fight scene (whether between hundreds of capital ships in a distant galaxy or just two characters locked in a grapple with knives), is there to show conflict, increase tension, and to make the reader excited.  Dry, technical dialogue is a good way to ruin an otherwise perfectly good scene.  Don’t take pages to get to the point, do it quickly, establish the stakes, show the danger, and complete the scene in a manner to accomplish your plot goals.

Another point: the main character doesn’t always need to win.  In fact, oftentimes it is far better for the story if they don’t.  They might be defeated ingloriously and either left for dead or taken prisoner.  They might be forced to withdraw in the face of overwhelming odds.  There are lots of options for you, as a writer, to use conflict to batter your character, to force them to grow and into introduce themes and plots that you couldn’t explore otherwise.

That’s all for now.  Thanks for reading!

Review: Desert Strike by Leo Champion

Leo Champion's Desert Strike
Leo Champion’s Desert Strike

Leo Champion’s Desert Strike is a book.  Okay, review done.  No, seriously, it’s a book.  And it’s got things in it.  Go read it.

In all seriousness, there’s a lot going on in Desert Strike.  We see war on a global scale, with a Chamberlain-esque government determined to avoid it, a hyper-violent enemy determined to murder and/or enslave the good guys, and a strange semi-benevolent star-spanning nation which supports both sides in return for the resources they’re fighting over.

Mix into this massive landships up-to and including aircraft carriers, a mix of tech that feels gritty and at the same time cutting edge, and incompetent leaders within the good guy’s chain of command, and you have a very interesting setting for the story that unfolds.

The book has several characters, and what Leo Champion does best is making those central characters seem real with believable goals and ambitions.  You have a bad-ass, general, Jaeger, driven by anger and revenge.  You’ve got a young, rookie pilot, O’Conner, who wants to leave his mark.  These are the “Tropes” the “of course he has this person” but Leo goes further than that, he makes them real.  The side characters abound, with momentary glimpses at a bigger universe, then whipping back to the central plot.

And what a plot.  The enemy has been given free rein, and they use it.  This isn’t a book where the good guys have it easy, where victory is well within grasp if they only work hard for it.  If anything, I’d say the odds are too heavily stacked against them.   At times, you feel that the only victory left is a pyrric, one, where the planet is left a radioactive wasteland… yet somehow you still cling to hope that the good guys will turn the tide.

Desert Strike is a book which surprised me in a lot of ways.  I’ve enjoyed reading several of Leo’s books, but he writes in a certain tone, one which is instantly recognizable.  Desert Strike takes his normal tone and softens it a bit, ironic in a book about combat and war.  It has a fun edge to it, one which isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself, a bit of tongue in cheek even as a character’s life is in the balance.

The aerial combat feels like Vietnam Era, the ground war feels like something from the far future, and everything fits in a way that is hard to describe.  If you’re a fan of military science fiction, I think you’ll enjoy the solid characters and gripping combat.  If you just like exploding stuff, well, there’s plenty of that here for you too.

It’s about to go hot. 

On the dry world of Arkin, the Zinj are taking over. A technologically-competent strain of Islam that make ISIS look like the Amish, they’re challenged only by the nations of the West – and a divided West without much will to fight.

Among those who do have the will are fighter pilot Egan O’Connor, a working-class kid from a tough neighborhood, ready to test himself and serve his country. He’s a chivalrous rookie ready for an honorable battle.

Jimmy Newland’s a cavalry NCO who’s earned his spurs. He’s ready to fight but he doesn’t want to; he’s seen enough skirmishes to know how bad it can be. But he’ll do his job if the cold war gets nastier – as it’s about to.

And there’s nothing chivalrous at all about Air Marshal Elisabeth Jaeger, a career intelligence officer promoted to field command. Twenty-five years ago she saw her husband murdered by the Zinj; she’s spent the time since avenging him. As she’s about do on a scale just a little bit broader than spywork…

You can find it: here.

Book Review: A Call to Arms by David Weber and Timothy Zahn

A Call to Arms by David Weber and Timothy Zahn
A Call to Arms by David Weber and Timothy Zahn

While A Call to Duty was something of an introduction to a time before the Star Kingdom of Manticore was a major power, A Call To Arms takes the time to show the reader just how messed up things are.  Politicians spend more time trying to manipulate the system for their own game than they do considering the consequences, pirates and outside influences see Manticore as vulnerable and weak, and even the colonists of Manticore seem to have a low opinion of what they might accomplish.  In all, it sets up a number of nasty repercussions as all of these factors come due.

Travis Uriah Long, the main character from the last book, along with a number of new and old characters, finds himself at the center of those repercussions.  David Weber and Timothy Zahn do an excellent job of weaving several character arcs and stories, some that end with victory, some with barest survival… and a few in tragic death.  While I enjoyed A Call to Duty, I loved reading A Call To Arms.

Overall, the story itself doesn’t explore any new themes to those familiar with either author’s works.  Duty, courage, standing up for what is right, and with a good amount of self-sacrifice thrown in.  Yet where this book really shines is how it approaches these themes with fresh eyes, exploring them from the perspective of someone who doesn’t seem to be cut from the same hero material as Honor Harrington.  Travis is a young man who is just discovering who he is, which makes his efforts and sacrifices all the more impressive.  The Star Kingdom of Manticore, too, is a new nation, just getting their feet under them and developing the first processes that will make it the mighty power later on in the Honorverse.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it and the first book of the series to all fans of military science fiction and space opera.  An excellent book, well worth the read.

Here is my review of the first book, A Call to Duty.

From multiple New York Times best selling author David Weber and #1 New York Times best selling author Timothy Zahn. NEW ENTRY IN BEST-SELLING SERIES. Book #2 in the Manticore Ascendant series, set in David Weber’s Honorverse.

Lieutenant Travis Long of the Royal Manticoran Navy is the sort of person who likes an orderly universe. One where people follow the rules.

Unfortunately, he lives in the real universe.

The good news is that Travis is one of those rare people who may like rules but has a talent for thinking outside them when everything starts coming apart. That talent has stood him—and the Star Kingdom—in good stead in the past, and it’s one reason he’s now a “mustang,” an ex-enlisted man who’s been given a commission as a King’s officer.

The bad news is that two of the best ways of making enemies ever invented are insisting on enforcing the rules . . . and thinking outside them when other people don’t. Travis learned that lesson the hard way as a young volunteer in basic training, and he knows that if he could just keep his head down, turn a blind eye to violations of the rules, and avoid stepping on senior officers’ toes, he’d do just fine. But the one rule Travis Long absolutely can’t break is the one that says an officer in the Royal Navy does his duty, whatever the consequences.

At the moment, there are powerful forces in the young Star Kingdom of Manticore’s Parliament which don’t think they need him. For that matter, they’re pretty sure they don’t need the Royal Manticoran Navy, either. After all, what does a sleepy little single-system star nation on the outer edge of the explored galaxy need with a navy?

Unhappily for them, the edge of the explored galaxy can be a far more dangerous place than they think it is. They’re about to find out why they need the Navy . . . and how very, very fortunate they are that Travis Long is in it.

You can get it from Amazon here.

Book Review: A Call to Duty by David Weber and Timothy Zahn

A Call to Duty by David Weber and Timothy Zahn
A Call to Duty by David Weber and Timothy Zahn

I first read David Weber and Timothy Zahn’s A Call to Duty last year.  I’ve long been a fan of both authors and I purchased the eARC (Advanced Reader Copy) from Baen’s eBooks without hesitation.

I’ll say right off that the book is every bit as fantastic as I had hoped.  The characters are fantastic, the setting is great, and the story is very engaging.  I particularly love seeing the great Star Kingdom of Manitcore in its infancy, watching the growing pains as it develops, and seeing it evolve.

The main character, Travis Uriah Long, has his flaws.  He’s got a painfully narrow focus and an inability to keep quiet when he sees something as being wrong… no matter how much trouble it gets him into, along with a social awkwardness that only gradually begins to fade.  To make matters worse, his half-brother dabbles in politics and since Travis is in the military and his brother is in league with the politician swinging against the military, things get a little difficult for poor Travis.

The book comes with all the exploding spaceship goodness that you can expect from a Baen read, along with the above mentioned fantastic characterization and gripping story.  Even though we know where the Star Kingdom will eventually end up, there’s enough tension because we have no idea what will happen to our characters in the process.  While our intrepid hero might well make it through the series, there are no guarantees.

All in all, if you are a fan of anything Weber or Zahn, this book, and the series it begins, is definitely worth a read.  You can find it on Amazon here.

NEW SERIES FROM NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLING AUTHORS. Book #1 in Manticore Ascendant, a new series set in David Weber’s best-selling Honorverse, from multiple New York Times best seller David Weber and #1 New York Times best-selling author Timothy Zahn. FIRST TIME IN PAPERBACK.

Growing up, Travis Uriah Long yearned for order in his life . . . some things his neglectful mother couldn’t or wouldn’t provide. So when Travis enlisted in the Royal Manticoran Navy, he thought he’d finally found the structure he’d always wanted so desperately.

But life in the RMN isn’t exactly what he expected. Boot camp is rough and frustrating; his first ship assignment lax and disorderly; and with the Star Kingdom of Manticore still recovering from a devastating plague, the Navy is possibly on the edge of budgetary extinction.

The Star Kingdom is a minor nation among the worlds of the Diaspora, its closest neighbors weeks or months away, with little in the way of resources. With only modest interstellar trade, no foreign contacts to speak of, a plague-ravaged economy to rebuild, and no enemies looming at the hyper limit, there are factions in Parliament who want nothing more than to scrap the Navy and shift its resources and manpower elsewhere.

But those factions are mistaken. The universe is not a safe place. Travis Long is about to find that out.

The Prodigal Emperor is Now Live!

The Prodigal Emperor, Book III of the Shadow Space Chronicles
The Prodigal Emperor, Book III of the Shadow Space Chronicles

The Prodigal Emperor is now available from Amazon and will be coming soon to Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Itunes.  The Prodigal Emperor is the third book of the Shadow Space Chronicles and concludes the story arc of Lucius Giovanni’s battle to save Nova Roma from the Chxor Empire.

Baron Lucius Giovanni has done the impossible: not only has he held the alien Chxor at bay, he has taken the fight to them and liberated human worlds. Yet humanity’s implacable foe has drawn a line in the sand. They will hold Nova Roma at all costs… or see it a scorched ruin.

Lucius must aid Nova Roma’s Emperor and liberate his homeworld, but along the way he must also deal with old and new adversaries and with a conspiracy that seeks to usurp control of his fleet.

Nova Roma’s Emperor is going home, and Lucius will go beside him, for if he cannot overcome these obstacles, then humanity’s last hope will be overcome and the Chxor will enslave and exterminate the remaining free worlds.

Pick up your copy of The Prodigal Emperor today!