Thursday, June 30, 2016

Armada by Ernest Cline - A Review

Greetings Starfighter!
Earnest Cline’s stock in trade is his geek cred and nerd-dom.  He’s a card carrying member of everything dork-worthy and pop-culture related from the late 70s science fiction/fantasy/gaming era forward.  In his debut novel, “Ready Player One”, this DeLorean-driving master wove together that tapestry of geek-chic trivia, first-hand experience and scifi speculation to create a wonderful bit of wish fulfillment.  With “Armada”, Cline dips back into that well, answering the what-if that every game console player has secretly—or not so secretly—wished: What if this is real?  What if I’m being trained to fight actual alien invaders?

Cline’s story introduces us to the story of Zach Lightman, and his merry band of gamer misfits who are gonna save the world.  Zach, a modern teen with more than one foot square in the 80s/90s era of entertainment, has been selected, along with most of the planet, by the Star League-like Earth Defense Alliance because of his impressive skills to fend off the “evil” armada of the Europan invasion.  The threat had been kept secret from the public, but was sprinkled on our collective subconscious over the decades so that if/when the time came, Earth could join together as one species and stave off annihilation.

As with “Ready Player One”, Cline is able to craft some excellent primary characters.  As our guide into this “what-if” fantasy, Zach is the most rounded and accessible.  The problem comes from the supporting and secondary characters, who seem interesting, but aren’t given any time to really develop.  Where Cline was able to pull the trick of making real-seeming characters on the barest of information, here the lack of details flops.  Readers almost would have been better off with fewer, but more rounded characters that we could have gotten behind, while having more cardboard extras fill in the background.

The timeline of the story is set on fast-forward, with the major action taking place over a few dozen hours.  This feels like a miss opportunity, where Cline could have really drawn together the myth and mystery of his aliens and their motives, while at the same time giving us a real sense of camaraderie and joy/loss with each success or failure.  There is almost no time for the reader to really connect with anyone beyond Zach, which limits Cline’s potential audience.

Overall, “Armada” is a wonderful addition to the Cline library, and readers will not be disappointed as the newest Duke of Fanboy’s effort delivers everything that was promised.  While not quite up to the same bar of “Ready Player One”, “Armada” is a quick, clean and easy read with a fun jazz riff on classic science fiction tropes.  Eagerly awaiting Cline’s next effort for another dive into his world.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Secret Project—Revealed

Lengthen your stride and quicken your pace!
I can’t even tell you have excited I am.  Last week, I announced a “secret project” with really wasn’t that much of a secret if you paid attention.  But for those who are new, I set out to build a replacement of the bookmark I lost.  The idea came to me after I finished working on my son’s storybook.  For that, I’d taken to Fiverr.com and found an artist whose work was in line with what I was trying to create.  I had a wonderful experience, and the whole project came together so well that I returned to Fiverr and found another artist to handle this project.

As I crafted the message to the artist I’d selected see if the project was doable, I started searching for an image the approximated what I was trying to recreate.  I was only looking for an image that was similar enough, and then I hoped the artist could create the graphic I was looking for.  My search for “gnome with book” turned up a listing on eBay for some bookplates with THE GNOME.  Not just any gnome—THE GNOME!

Where, previously, I’d been pleased by the concept of the project and the potential final outcome, now I was FREAKING OVERJOYED!  I quickly tracked down the bookplates, purchased them, attached the image and waited.  After I’d chewed all my fingernails off and started on the toes, I received a response from the artist, and we were off!

His final reproduction and coloring of the image was pretty spot-on as far as I’m concerned.  Obviously, I don’t recall the exact details, but this project started out merely trying to create a reasonable replacement.  The image that I received matches the one in my memory, and that’s good enough for me.  That I now have the actual image (plus bookplates!) is an order of magnitude more than I had imagined.

Sometimes, it’s really great to live in the digital age.


If anyone is interesting in owning one, send me a message.  I’ll have about 20 extra and I’d be happy to share!  Here's the graphic of the bookmark.  The final will include a beautiful, dark green tassel.

Monday, June 20, 2016

A Victorian Birthday and Mementos Mori—Guest Blog from Ash Krafton

The Victorian Era is steeped in traditions. Anything that flew in the face of tradition was shunned, cursed, and outcast. Tradition provided vital foundation, the legs upon which society stood. 
Traditions embellished every moment in life. One such tradition was the celebration of birthdays. Considering this month marks the book birthday for THE HEARTBEAT THIEF, you might expect a post on birthdays. Right? Anecdotes about parties and pastries and pretty ribbons and…
…no. Just—no.
On one hand, THE HEARTBEAT THIEF *is* pretty on the outside, like a birthday party. Beautiful and beribboned and sweet as strawberries and cream. But what is a birthday if not all about victory over death? And, deep within, that is what Senza Fyne’s tale is all about.
She is, after all, the Forever Girl. Death’s Estranged. Endless. She stopped celebrating birthdays when she learned how to steal immortality. Eventually, there was only one day she marked each year: her Unbirthing Day.
So just think about all the lovely traditions she missed out on when it came to her death. The Victorians were morbidly fascinated with death and went to great lengths to mark the occasion.
Senza could not die. She denied her loved ones so many opportunities…
No one would stop the clocks or draw all the curtains, to dwell in sad, shadowy silence.
No one would post elegantly written funeral notes of invitation.
No one would stand watch over her body, every moment from death to interment (which could take three to four days to allow family to arrive).
No one would arrange flowers around her body to mask the signs of decay.
No final death portraits, with falsely life-like poses, cosmetically-created rosy cheeks, or painted pupils in propped-open eyes.
No hair trinkets. No one would trim her winter-fire red locks and weave the tresses into rings or bracelets or brooches to wear as mourning jewelry.
No one would wear mourning for her, deep black crinoline with heavy veils and dark jet jewels. Instead, those would be her own disguise, hiding the eternal freshness of her beautiful cheeks from her aging loved ones and she sneaked like a thief through the pages of time.
No drapes upon the mirrors to prevent them from enticing her soul to enter, only to become trapped for all of wretched eternity.
No black crape hung around the doorknobs to announce the tragedy of her passing, reminding callers to avoid ringing.
No elaborate funeral procession, aristocratic and stately, with plumes and pallbearers, a hearse trimmed in white to lament the passing of one so young.
No strings tied to her finger, connecting her to coffin bells above her grave. No dead-ringers, graveyard shifts, or being saved by the bell.
See what I meant when I said the Victorians were just a little on the morbid side? Bereavement, you see, was generally the order of the day, even when there was no one to bury, because life was fragile and brief and all too often lost in the blink of an eye.
Senza Fyne would not die. Mr. Knell had worked his dark spell on her and removed her from the march of time, placing her far beyond the decayed grasp of Death. Although the Ferryman would not come for her, she was forced to watch each and everyone around her succumb to the ravages of life’s bittersweet ending.
Shadows cluttered her heart, each and every day that she went forth, beautiful and young and free of what frightened her most. She could not die.
But in that, she very nearly forgot how to live.
You can read Senza Fyne’s dark tale and take that long walk with her. See what she sees, experience what she felt as she stood still, a statue in a fast-growing, fast-wilting, ever-changing garden.
This week until June 26th, THE HEARTBEAT THIEF ebook will be $0.99!
Find it at any of these retailers:
About the author: Ash Krafton
Ash Krafton writes New Adult speculative fiction under the pen name AJ Krafton. In addition to THE HEARTBEAT THIEF, Ash is also the author of a growing list of poetry, short stories, and urban fantasy novels.
Currently, she’s working on a new series, THE DEMON WHISPERER. First book, CHARM CITY, can be found on Wattpad.com where you can read it free. Find it here: CHARM CITY on Wattpad.com
Find more to love at www.ashkrafton.com
Follow Ash at:

Friday, June 17, 2016

Living Life

Skydiving? You mean jumping out of a perfectly good plane!
Happy Friday.  My friend Dave posted this up, and it seemed like an interesting list to check off things from.  I’ll play along.  If you want the story on anything, just ask.  I’ll consider it:

Been Married *
Been divorced
Fell in love *
Gone on a blind date *
Skipped school *
Watched someone give birth *
Watched someone die
Been to Canada *
Ridden in an ambulance *
Been to Hawaii
Been to Europe *
Been to Las Vegas *
Been to Washington D.C *
Been to Nashville
Visited Florida
Visited Mexico *
Seen the Grand Canyon in person*
Flown in a helicopter
Been on a cruise
Served on a jury
Been in a movie
Danced in the rain *
Been to Los Angeles *
Been to New York City
Played in a band
Sang karaoke *
Laughed so much you cried *
Written a book *
Caught a snowflake on your tongue *
Had children *
Had a pet(s)*
Been sledding on big hill *
Been downhill skiing
Been water skiing
Rode on a motorcycle *
Traveled to all 50 states
Jumped out of a plane
Been to a drive-in movie *
Rode an elephant *
Rode a Horse *
Been on TV
Been in the newspaper*
Stayed in the Hospital *
Donated blood*
Gotten a piercing
Gotten a tattoo *
Driven a stick shift vehicle *
Lived on your own *
Rode in the back of a police car *
Got a speeding ticket *
Broken a bone
Gotten stitches
Traveled Alone *


You’re welcome to steal this and post it to your blog, Facebook or whatever.  Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Some Notes on Guns

Deadpool.  You either love it, or you're wrong.
Let’s get some stuff out of the way first.  Personally, I heart guns.  Deadpool was easily one of the best shoot-em-up super “hero” movies of the year, if not the decade. It opened with an exquisite orgy of gun violence and death that is both memorable and will be hard to parallel.  I love modern, vintage and archaic guns.  I'd love to have a replica of Wyatt Earp's famous Buntline Special on my wall right next to a Brown Bess and a Winchester 1866.  I enjoy shooting gun at targets.  I especially love to research and write about them.  If you've read my books, you can see I take great care to accurately portray weapons and their use.

I am, however, very much in favor of gun control.  I know.  That’s like being wrapped up in a nice, warm, friendly blanket that hugs you, but never makes you sweat and then having an ice water deluge poured down on you with the fury of ten-thousand frozen waterfalls.  Sorry about that.  Also, this position is not open for debate. That’s not what this article is about.

This position is not open for debate.

That's not what this article is about.

I hope those two points are clear.

Over the past few days, I’ve found myself educating more “gun control” folk than should be necessary.  Hopefully, this will shed some light on a sorely needed area that seems vastly misunderstood.  Gun control folk, if you really want to make meaningful change, you need to understand guns.  It would help if you’ve shot a few, but at the very least, please, please, please educate yourself.  Ignorance is as much a problem for the lack of change as the folk actively working against change.

When we appear ignorant (not stupid, just not educated on the facts) our arguments are easily hand-waved away.  If you know this stuff, then great.  Move along and continue the good work.  If you don't, please take three minutes to read to the bottom and then go do some more research.  It will only benefit all of us in the long run.

Reading—It's what matters.
First, let’s understand what an “assault-style” rifles is versus an “assault rifle”.  They are two different things.  The AR-15 (AR stands for ArmaLite, not “automatic rifle”—that’s the company who first designed the AR-15) and similar termed "assault-style" rifles are semi-automatic weapons that have "scary" bits attached to them.  They do not make the weapon any more dangerous than any other long rifle.  A flash-suppressor doesn’t make the bullets bigger, shoot further, or fire at a faster rate.  A pistol-grip and bayonet lugs do not give the weapon a superior ability to kill over other semi-automatic rifles.  Thus, the AR-15 is no more dangerous than any Remington .223 long rifle.  You pull the trigger once, and only one bullet is fired.

Assault weapons, like the M16 which the AR-15 is based on, are defined as being able to go fully automatic.  Fully automatic obviously makes a weapon shoot much faster with the single pull of a trigger.  This puts more lead into the air which is inherently more dangerous for humans who enjoy breathing.  As such, assault weapons have been banned from public ownership since the 1930s under the National Firearms Act.  Only the military can have fully-automatic weapons. 

That said, some semi-automatic rifles can be turned into full-automatics if you know what you’re doing.  It is mostly illegal, but that’s not part of this piece and not germane to the discussion.

Now, “assault-style” weapons like the AR-15 were banned (sort of) from 1994 to 2004 under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  The data that we have from before, during and after the ban shows that it was wholly ineffective.  This is not to say that assault-style weapons found their way into criminal hands and were used to commit horrific acts.  They were not.  Instead, assault-style weapons were not used in any meaningful way to commit crimes such that banning them or not banning them made any sense.  In short, the “scary” looking guns were removed, and it didn’t make a lick of difference.

What everyone should understand is that all firearms are dangerous.  They are meant to do
Maybe this time?
one thing—kill.  The data on shootings shows that the majority of deaths and injuries (unintentional or intentional) are committed with handguns.  If we want to look at meaningful legislation that would reduce death and injury from firearms, it should from the facts and move forward—not knee-jerk reactions to traumatic events.  Those events only underline the need for change.

The take-away here is that banning "assault-style" weapons will do next to nothing.  It will probably feel like a victory to some people, but overall it would be smoke and mirrors meant only to placate. Meaningful change can be had, but it will take both sides understanding that any death or injury from firearms is almost wholly preventable.  We, as a nation, did NOTHING after Sandy Hook, except watch those little coffins being lowered into the ground, or the subsequent hundreds of other shootings, and thousands of other injuries that have taken place since.


Maybe today is that day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Game of Thrones- Redux

Mountain-stein? The Golem Who Rides?
All caught up on Game of Thrones?  Ready for some interesting responses?  If not, be warned, there be light spoilers ahead!

Are you warned?

Warned?

Ok then.  I’ve been really enjoying the recent season.  As the television show is beyond George R.R. Martin’s books, I know they’re hitting the plot elements that Martin has dictated, but I feel like the production has missed some of the poignancy that is had before.  The story is moving along at a good clip, and everything seems to be lining up for some stunning seventh season action.  Overall, my complaints are small, but I did feel they missed a great visual opportunity with the recent Gregor Clegane/The Mountain Who Growls fatality scene.

Sure, Clegane is big, and he’s . . . I guess scary.  We haven’t seen him do anything until this latest episode.  Mostly, he’s been a giant menace, but not much more.  The show attempts to drive home the point of his renewed scariness by having him literally tear a man’s head off.  But that seems anticlimactic given the potential that was in the scene.

Here’s my quick, five-minute attempt to restore that epic feel:

Cersei peered at the Faith Militant.  “I choose violence.”

Brother Lancel smiled.  Gregor Clegane moved forward and drew his sword.  The eight, armed members of the Faith Militant surged around him.  Mace and hammer rained blows down, and the giant’s sword clattered to the ground.  The Mountain ignored the weapon and the strikes that clanged from his golden armor.  He grabbed the nearest brother, and slammed his helmeted head down in a crushing blow.  The man staggered back and fell to the ground unconscious.

Still, the Faith Militant kept up the barrage.  One of the brothers managed to drive a spiked club into Clegane’s armor where it stuck deep.  It should have pierced his heart.  Instead, Clegane hammered his huge fist down on the man’s head.  The brother fell to the ground in a silent heap.  Two warhammers slammed into Clegane’s chest, and the giant took a half step backward, grabbed the two men, and slammed their heads together.

With half their number down, Lancel and the remaining Faith Militant moved back, out of his reach.  Clegane surged forward.  A mace clanged uselessly off his shoulder.  He backhanded the owner, throwing him against the near wall.  The brother’s head impacted with a wet sound and left a trail of blood as he slid to the ground.  Without waiting, Clegane grabbed a second brother, and drove his knee into the man’s chest three times in quick succession.  Blood spewed from the brother’s mouth, and Clegane let him fall to the ground.

Lancel and the last remaining brother looked at each other.  The faith of their conviction had been replaced by fear of Clegane’s brutality.  No man should be able to stand up to eight strong.  With a growl that sounded more animal than man, Clegane started forward.  Lancel and the last brother struck at the same time, smashing their maces against Clegane’s head and chest.  The Mountain grabbed the brother’s weapon and pulled him in.  His fist clenched around the brother’s neck, and he lifted the man off his feet.

“Brother Lancel,” Cersei said as she strode forward.  Lancel looked from the gasping brother in Clegane’s one hand to Cersei and back again.  “Do tell the High Sparrow that he is welcome any time.”

Clegane slammed the brother down onto the ground.  He took hold of the man’s neck and in one swift movement tore it from his shoulders.

Brother Lancel ran.


The old saw is that it takes five writers to change a lightbulb—one to change it and four to say they could have done it better.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Monday You Can Fall Apart

There's a gnome who knows what he's about!
Most of us with young kids haven’t had a good nights sleep in, well, forever.  In my case, it’s been about nine years.  From about the time my wife was pregnant with our first son and right through last night as well.

My family is off in Salt Lake City at the NSDA National Speech Tournament.  This means that I can do one of my favorite things—clean the house.  What’s so great about this is that for at least this week, the house will actually stay clean.  Pillows and throw blankets won’t be turned into forts; Legos won’t be turned into a landmine obstacle course; shoes won’t become tripping hazards.

Alright, fine.  I miss my family!

I did think that I could sneak off to bed early last night and get a decent amount of sleep.

As Lana, from Archer would say, “NOOOOOPE!”

My sleep was so poor that I woke up late and had to forgo shaving this morning to make it to work on time.  I’m tired, sore and tired.  Also, I’m tired.


Happy Monday!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Warcraft - Movie Review

Half-orc warrior woman for the WIN!
Based on the best-selling game which I’ve never played (though I loved Starcraft), this is a waste of excellent CGI, stellar actors, and a built-in, worldwide audience.  With “franchise” and “Next [i]Lord of the Rings[/i]” in their eyes, the talented Charles Leavitt and Duncan Jones (whom I can’t praise enough for Moon) sacrifice plot and pacing for a bloat of characters and backstory.  I’d hoped all this foundation-laying might pay off in the big conflict of the third act.

I was wrong.

We end up with less “awesome epic of awesomeness” and more Dungeons & Dragons or Eregon.

First, the plot.  It’s very straight-forward and that’s a good thing.  The Orc homeworld is dying.  The Orcs (I guess the whole planet of them) have been united and brought together by a Gul’Dan who uses “green magic” which the voice over narration from Durotan tells us is somehow bad.  Gul’Dan opens a portal to the fantasy world Middle Zeeland Azeroth.  The portal, powered by the deaths of hundreds of captives, is limited to how many Orcs can pass through, so only the elite pass through.  The goal is to open the portal again, bring all the Orcs through, and save their race.  I assume this dooms all the other races, of which there is at least one, but they’re weak, so what do we care?  The Orc way (traditions, we’re repeatedly told, must be honored) is to take by force, so the Horde starts doing that.  This, of course, is quite annoying to humans who enjoy their not-dying lifestyle, and conflict ensues.

The plot is more layered than that, which is a good thing.  It mostly avoids the "Always Chaotic Evil" trope with the Orc chieftain Durotan questioning Gul’Dan’s methods, and the Orcs in general out to save their race and way of life.  Durotan is especially concerned about the icky green magic, the fell or the fel or the f’el—this being a fantasy film I’m sure there’s a clever and unique spelling which I was too lazy to find.  Seems like anything with the Middle English root word for “destructive” should probably be avoided, but I’m guessing the Orcs missed their Chaucer studies.  I’m also sure there is plenty of fan service that I’m wholly unaware of it.  Jones and Leavitt seemed to have walked the fine line between new and experienced audience members such that I never felt left out.

SHOW ME YOUR ALPS!
Let’s be clear: I totally wanted to at least like this film.  It’s right in the sweet, sweet awesome center of my Venn diagram for fantasy, awesome and movies.  Alas, there is just too much that distracts from the awesome.

The biggest problem (of many big problems) is the pacing.  This is due to the lack focus.  There were are no less than a dozen major characters.  Any one of which could have served as a main character, but giving them all screen time made certain that none of them do.  It’s like the end of varsity basketball game that is so in the bag, the coach clears the bench to let everyone have some court time.  Jones provides us with a unique view for a fantasy film where, as Wreck-It Ralph taught us, “Just because you’re a ‘bad guy’ that doesn’t mean you’re a bad guy.”  But he goes to such great lengths to make this point that what should be a 90-minute epic first installment is stretched out into 123-minutes of blah that may not see a second movie.

When all else fails, call in a Viking in armor!
There are also so many little problems that I kept throwing up my hands in frustration.  If you have an experienced, professional military based on a feudal system, they should know how to fight together.  That is, literally, where they get their strength.  I don’t mind the manner in which the Orcs fighting-style (or lack of it) was portrayed, because they’re essentially Carthaginian war elephants—big, mean, and singularly stronger by an order of magnitude.  Their style is perfect.  But since Azaroth has nothing like them, the fighting style of trained military shouldn’t devolve immediately into single-combat melee.  The one iffy “shield formation” (*head-smack*) shows that the film could have reflected the strength of the Orcs versus the humans’ unity without giving up anything.

Also, if you have air superiority through use of gryphons, why doesn’t your fully-committed battle strategy include using gryphons?

The other problem are the various fantasy-terms being tossed around without any explanation for the audience’s benefit.  I dislike when movies take me by the hand and tell me I don’t need to think.  On the other hand, I still don’t quite understand who the “Kirin Tor” are, what vows Khadgar renounced or recanted, and what their relationship is to the rest of the world.  They use cool-looking “blue magic” which seems to suggest they’re a flavor of “good guy” but this is an inherent problem with most fantasy books and movies.

It's just a story about an Orc and his warg.
There are certainly moments in it that I did enjoy.  Travis Fimmel IS A GOD.  The Orcs, who are wholly CGI, are amazing.  Durotan and his wife Draka are especially groovy.  And Paula Patton’s half-orc Garona, well, I could stand to see her do some more awesomeness.  She kicks ass, takes names and never, ever stops chewing scenery.  Every scene with her is layered and nuanced, which is really saying something for a fantasy film.  She should have been the primary focus, and the story would have been better served for it.

Finally, while there is a lack of inconsistency in the use of gryphons and wargs, the giant half-eagle half-lions and the giant giant wolves were freaking awesome.  They were so well-rendered and interacted with by the live-action characters that I never missed a CGI-beat. 


The long and short of this, is that if you love Warcraft you probably will at least like this film.  But for more general audiences, it’s a swing and a miss.  That something you never want to do with an Orc.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Secret Project—Background

 Would you love me if I was anything but what I am? 
There’s an old saw which says, “Everybody has a gris-gris.”  A gris-gris is a charm or talisman (even a belief) that we maintain without any support of its abilities.  The original term means a device for warding off evil or creating good luck, and generally only coincidence supports a gris-gris’ ability to do anything.

But, we humans, we’re desperate to make order out of the chaos.  We like connections that signify intention.  We look from one coincidence to another trying to draw lines of meaning.

This was really driven home to me when I lost my own. Easily 30 years ago my best friend gave me a bookmark. It was a simple thing of paper with a green yarn tassel and featured with a hobbit-like gentleman carrying a book and a walking stick with a small quote that read, "Lengthen your stride and quicken your pace." The tassel had been retied at least three times in an attempt to preserve the strands, and the top had been folded over so many times it was in danger of falling apart just from age.  Near the end, I decided to put the entire thing in a plastic sheath, lest it finally give up the ghost.

I used it for every book that I'd read for nearly 25 years.

Get some gris-gris today!
For the first ten or fifteen years, it was simply convenient.  I didn’t attribute any special powers or luck to it.  Certainly my record can indicate it didn’t ward off evil.  As time passed, and the trappings of my youth were lost, worn out, broken, or discarded, I managed to hold onto the bookmark.

It had started as simply functional, but with the passage of years it became a sentimental favorite.

I thought I lost it once at a fast food restaurant where, instead of inserting the bookmark in the back of the book as I usually do, I set it on the table.  There was genuine fear at the thought it had been taken or, worse, casually thrown away.  Luckily, it was right where I’d left it.

Unfortunately, several years later it would be lost.  I bought my first Kindle ereader, and a fancy cover that looked like a leather-bound book.  I wanted to maintain my reading companion, and inserted the bookmark behind the Kindle where it was as tightly held as any paperbook could.

Alas, in a moment of distraction, I left the kindle—bookmark and all—on the top of my truck and drove away.  A few hours later, when I realized my error, the kindle was nowhere to be found.  Many, many, many internet searches for a replacement returned nothing.

Like much of the analog age, the bookmark was lost.


I actually mourned the loss, and still feel it today.  Sure, it was an inanimate object which had served well beyond its years.  It couldn’t talk to me, comfort me when various relationships ended or when emotions were confused and depressed.  At best, it represented the numerous books I’d read over the years, the journeys in both my head and in reality where stories had entertained me and helped pass the hours.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Let's Keep It Real

Steampunk scientist is steamy and sciencey!
There’s a lot of science in writing, or at least there should be.  The best worlds, whether science fiction, fantasy or any of the subgenres (yay, steampunk!) need to be based in science.  You, as the writer don’t have to be scientists to know that your world operates by rules.  You start out with some fundamentals based on our own world, because that’s easiest.  Most worlds have gravity, and the physics of motion parallels our own.

Understanding those rules is the science of your worldbuilding process.

Yes, even in fantasy.

The key is to remember that you’re in charge!

So what do you do?

Well, you try to understand the actual science. Usually, a thing can be explained such that us non-science folk can at least get a finger on the concept, if not a full grasp. That way, you can write about that thing in such a way that you reflect your own understanding.

That’s the best way.

But, if you can’t get a full grasp on the subject, that doesn't mean you shouldn't write the story. At the end of the day, if the concept is decent enough, and the writing engaging enough, the science-savvy in your audience will be willing to forgive deviations from the science in pursuit of the plot.

Do you even compensate for science, bro?
In short, since this is science fiction and fantasy, the author can always fall back on the "fiction/fantasy" side in times of need.  Anne McCaffrey doesn't tell us how her dragons of Pern fly, or how the time travel works—it just does.  Star Trek is notorious for doing this, to the point that their technobabble almost became synonymous with the show.  They’d realign the deflector screens and reverse their warp particles to achieve whatever conflict resolution was needed.

An incredibly weak way to write.


On the other hand, look at the Trek-based “Heisenberg compensators”.  These were a real-ish science thing that needed to be part of the show based on how we understand science.  But as a friend pointed out, the “Heisenberg compensators” were like the imaginary number i—easy to conceptualize, but impossible to realize.  When asked by Time “How do the Heisenberg compensators work?” Michael Okuda replied, “They work just fine, thank you.”

Monday, June 6, 2016

A Quick Note on Bullets

I have two guns, one for each of you.
You know that moment in the movies where the big bad is coming at one of the heroes, and swinging some blunt force object, like a sword or tank, and there’s just no way to avoid the hit which is certainly going to be the end of that character . . . but then, but then . . . another hero, unseen by the camera or the big bad shoots—BAM! BAM! BAM!—right in the chest.  The big bad goes flying backward, a distance that puts most professional quarterbacks to shame, and thus the day is saved?

Yeah, sorry, but that’s not how bullets work.

There’s even an equation for it, and unlike most physics, this one is very straight forward:

p = m ∙ v

Translated into Rob dummy talk (I had to look it up):

momentum = mass times velocity

Simply put, even though a bullet has a high velocity, it doesn’t have a lot of mass, and thus it doesn’t have a lot of momentum.  Even large caliber bullets aren’t going to change the
That's not how bullets work!
outcome much because, by design, they lack mass.  A bullet’s whole point is to be relatively small object so that it can strike and penetrate the “big bad’s” body at a distance. By comparison, a boxer can knock someone back with a punch because her fist and her body behind it, have nearly equal mass to the big bag being punched in his smug, evil face.  The boxer is strikes with a larger mass and a decent velocity against a larger area, thus creating the momentum needed to knock someone off their feet.

You wouldn't expect to see a boxer punch through someone unless they're trained to pull the big bad’s still-beating heart of their chest so they can see how black it is before they die. Whereas a bullet is designed to do exactly that.  Showing the big bad how black his heart is becomes quickly moot.

I believe the MythBusters did an episode on this, but I was unable (after 2 minutes and 38 seconds effort) to locate it.  However, I easily found this video, which first falls under the "don't try this at home" category, and second falls under the “maybe dying for science is a bad idea”.  Still, it serves our purposes nicely:




So, as you’re writing that urban fantasy, and place your character in danger from blunt force trauma, remember that the big bad isn’t going to be thrown backward by a bullet.  If he’s standing still, he’ll drop to the ground.  If he’s attacking and in motion, then he, and whatever weapon he’s carrying, will remain in motion, because there isn’t enough momentum in the bullet to stop it.  This is even better, because it creates a more realistic scene, and can provide for a much narrower escape!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Secret Project

There’s a project that’s been brewing for the last couple of days.  Today, while working out some of the details, I stumbled into this.

Gnome Walking by John Huchthausen

Now my project is ultra-secret and totally going to happen.


More to report later.  Watch this site for updates!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Shakespeare Meets Black Adder

If you haven't watched the excellent Rowan Atkinson and Hugh Laurie in the Blackadder series, give this a watch.  Then go watch the entire series.


You're welcome!