Cheeseburger Gothic

Six free fantasy stories for your cold, wet weekend

Posted May 31, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

... or your warm, summer break, if you're reading this in northern climes. These freebies come courtesy of Longreads, so you can be pretty sure they'll be worth a book mark.

I dips me lid to Beeso for the heads up.

Get 'em here.

2 Responses to ‘Six free fantasy stories for your cold, wet weekend’

Barnesm puts forth...

Posted May 31, 2013

Fantasy is fine but let me know when you are alerted to six free Scifi stories for your cold wet weekend.

Preferably with lesbians and steampunk such as found in this gem which has a second volume

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John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted May 31, 2013

Why was I never told lesbian steampunk was a thing?

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Short fiction on Twitter

Posted May 30, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

But not in tweet form. CoriolasDave sent me this link and said I wouldn't regret reading it. It's a novel literary form, but reminds me of some old school Stephen King stories, or maybe a Twilight Zone treatment.

Check it out.

5 Responses to ‘Short fiction on Twitter’

insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted May 30, 2013

that is so last year

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Trowzers swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 30, 2013

I had a moment of cognitive dissonance when I loaded the page. It's a great little story - I do love me some creative story formatting.

I remember ages ago scraping through all my SF short story collections for examples of creative story formats for a school project a friend's kid was doing and coming up with a list of ones using screenplays, email chains, and communications logs, but never an error report form.

Hydrogen Sonata used a lot of different formats too - as well as Mogworld by Yahtzee Croshaw. The problem is some of those formats don't translate well to ebook or audiobook.

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Dave W ducks in to say...

Posted May 30, 2013

I loved it. Very King, but also very similar to some Asimov type stuff, I think (although it's been years and I might be wrong).

I notice also that the beginning of an Alistair Reynolds' novel starts with a literary device to tease the reader.

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WarDog mutters...

Posted May 30, 2013

Very ince, but I'm afraid I'll have to sue for patent and/or copyright infringement. I published the future api in 2017 and this Twitter usage is a clear breach.

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Darth Greybeard mumbles...

Posted May 30, 2013

The worrying part is that the last date of tweets is a birthday of mine of rather ominous significance. Occult as one might say. Presumably it marks the beginning of my thousand year reign over the Nations of the Earth and all that old stuff but I'm puzzled as to why I would/will switch off Twitter. I like Twitter.

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The recap as a writing exercise

Posted May 29, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

I took the commission to write The Biggest Loser recap the day before the finale. The entertainment guys at the Sydney Morning Herald had enjoyed the essay I'd written about recapping here and asked if I'd be interested in doing any myself. For the right price I'm interested in doing most things. But also for the right reason. Payday is a pretty good reason, but there is so much work involved in writing a recap that you're unlikely to recoup the investment in your time. There was the possibility of recapping Agents of SHIELD later on, however, and that alone was enough to entice me.
Actually, that's a lie. That and getting paid was enough to entice me. I hadn't bothered watching this series of Loser. I knew from previous years how it could be both addicting and pointless. A little bit like comfort-eating in that sense. So the first time I encountered the 2013 contestants was when I went to the show's website yesterday to do some research and preparation.
The whole recap experience was interesting and, for me, a novel enough a form of writing to be worth recording here. The first point I would make is that recapping is a very particular written form. Having just teed off on a whole bunch of high profile Game of Thrones recaps, I was standing there, pants down, arse out, waiting for a good kickin' if I didn't do at least a half decent job on this one. A simple recounting would not be enough. But nor would a more traditional review, or review essay.

Move along, nothing to see here.

The Loser finale offered a challenge in this sense. Unlike a fictional show it offered no obvious narrative arc, character development or subtext on which to riff. The show has all of those things, of course. Along with a keenly developed, if somewhat perverse moral sense. But not in the way that well produced fictional narrative has those elements. To avoid the trap of merely skipping from one thing that happened to the next thing that happened, from what Haley said to what the contestants replied, I'd need a couple of alternative through lines. The rumored 'relationship' between Michelle Bridges and Commando was an obvious pick – especially as the nature of that relationship remains unknown to anybody but the individuals themselves.
The cognitive dissonance, and blatant amorality, or even immorality, of selling fast food advertising during a show putting itself about as a 'cure' for obesity was another. A through line made all too easy to follow because of the preponderance of junk food advertising during the breaks. Having watched the previous two series I was also aware of the strange gear-grinding effect of having fallen into the mind set of the trainers – a censorious, judgmental and punitive psychology, especially as regards food — just before the network turns through 180° and rushes off in the opposite direction towards the launch night of MasterChef. This tied in nicely with the point I wanted to make about the junk food advertising.

Good for 10's bottom line. Not so good for your's.

Not that I'm expecting even half of the readers to recognize that point. But it's enough that some will.
Then of course there are the three lines which the producers of the show have established over the length of its run. The 'journeys' of the 'characters' and the resolution – there is always a resolution – of their personal challenges. That would be enough to frame a series of jokes about the two-hour broadcast, and hopefully negate the fact that I was using exactly the same linear structure I'd criticized in the earlier essay.
Having missed the entire series was a drawback, but not a serious one, since it was easily remedied by spending a couple of hours on The Biggest Loser website. All of the episodes are available for streaming, but they are not available en bloc; each individual episode being broken down into six mini eps, and each of those loaded out with their own advertising package. Grinding my way through season 2013 in this way was painful enough to make me wonder whether there's any regulation regarding advertising in streamed TV shows. At a guess, you seem to be subjected to about twenty minutes of advertising for every hour of the show.
The Biggest Loser website's UI didn't help. It was clunky, poorly coded, counterintuitive and designed, badly, to serve up as many minutes of advertising as they thought they could get away with before viewers abandoned the site. Still, I can't complain. I was being paid to be there.
The task of building out the recap can best be described as 'live tweeting' the show to yourself. I sat on the couch with a stiff drink – a very large stiff drink, frequently topped up – and watched the broadcast live on my iQ box, which allowed me to pause and rewind as necessary. I didn't want to lose the flow of the show, however, so I made the barest of notes on the first run through. And yes, I watched it all the way through, twice. Even went back multiple times to some sections. God help me.
I wrote down my observations in Evernote on my iPad, trusting the the Cloud to back me up. I would normally prefer to use a laptop for this type of job, but our MacBook Air was being used by Jane for real work. The iPad, paired with the Logitech Bluetooth keyboard was fine, but for that intensity of work over an extended period (two run-throughs of the show, totaling about four hours) I think a laptop would have been better. In fact thinking about it now I'd do it very differently next time. I load Dragon on to the lappy and simply dictate my notes into the speech recognition window. I suspect it would be much quicker.
[A little off-topic, but somebody is going to ask why I don't use the speech recognition on the iPad. Because it sucks. As does Dragon Dictate in its mobile app version].

JB's typomographical girl prepares to pedal his dictationary.

At the end of the second run through I had a couple of thousand words worth of very poorly typed notes, but because I was using a linear structure I didn't have to concern myself with how to arrange them. One word after another would do nicely.
Getting the copy in on time then became a matter of racing the clock. I was still turning notes into finished text at one o'clock in the morning, at which point I was only up to the twenty minute mark in the show. This didn't bother me overly, because I had front end loaded all of the thematic material of the through lines. The back half of the essay – and it had grown to essay length by now, about 3000 words – really would be little more than an accelerated narrative. Again, this didn't bother me because it would help create the impression of urgency as we moved through the "story" of the finale. You'll notice if you look at the end of the recap the paragraphs are much shorter and more numerous than they are at the start. It's a simple technique for creating the impression of acceleration on the page.
I finished writing the essay at ten in the morning, but it took half an hour to read and edit it before sending it off. 3000 words in a couple of hours is fast. Too fast really. Errors are inevitable. But timeliness is also of the essence in publishing recaps. You have to get them online as quick as possible. Finding the balance between quick and good is the challenge. I found the subject and its inherent contradictions interesting enough that I'd have been quite happy to noodle around with the text for another couple of hours, turning it into a much grander thesis about mass culture. But in the end you gotta go with what you got when it's needed.
It's not the approach I'll take if I come to do recaps of SHIELD. For one thing, I wouldn't be doin' no 3000 words per episode, but also I'd hope that the very different nature of that show would allow me to write something much closer to the sort of think pieces you get in the best recaps.

28 Responses to ‘The recap as a writing exercise’

Dave W has opinions thus...

Posted May 29, 2013

The above text is pretty lengthy and you did 3k for the recap piece. But you also have your long form work, which would require dedication to put out a few pages each day, I'd imagine.

Just out of curiousity, JB, how many words do you reckon you punch out per day (on average)?

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John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 29, 2013
I shoot for an average of 2000 a day, but by the time I've been distracted, over the course of a month, it probably rounds down to about 1500.

Dave W ducks in to say...

Posted May 29, 2013

Distractions, distractions- that's what the CBG is for me. When I was doing a degree I'd aim for one page - approx 300 words - per day every day. And yeah, the obvious differences are that uni was non-fiction and the writing extra to a day in the salt mine. Still, it seems like one of those moments for a low whistle in appreciation of your efforts.

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Conspiracy Cat mutters...

Posted May 29, 2013

Annoying. I read the bit about junk food and promptly opened a packet of biscuits. By the time I got to the end of the post, I'd eaten half the biscuits. (No, not a slow reader, just a fast eater).

Also, if you want to know about Michelle and Commando, the opinions of their respective angry spouses can be found in the most recent editions of Woman's Day - and surely that paragon of journalistic integrity would never make up anything about anyone.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted May 29, 2013

Surely, never. No.

BigWillieStyle puts forth...

Posted May 29, 2013

Excuse me?? Woman's Day never makes anything up. They've got more contacts for their stories than you can poke a stick at. Their quotes are always - always! - attributed to "a pal", "an insider", "a friend", "a fellow diner", "a former employee", "a confidant", "a source" or "a representative". Phew! Why would they print mistruths?

Woodward & Bernstein broke Watergate with less backup than that.

Barnesm reckons...

Posted May 29, 2013

I think both Conspiracy Cat and Birmo both had tongues firmly planted in their cheeks when they penned their comments. So perhaps did you BWS but its harder to tell tone on line. We do need an emoticom for sarcasm.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 29, 2013

"For the right price I'm interested in doing most things."

Solidarity, brother.

NBlob mutters...

Posted May 29, 2013

Ditto, Ibid & Opcit.

In a stunning piece of self justification I argue I built a career on being a stage tech whore. Most Audio engineers (Noise boys) won't TA for riggers, lighting techs( Lampys) wouldn't hang a drape, I came in to the show world as a vidiot and did anything for hours. Thus I learnt more systems outside of my narrow field of expertise.

I believe I've read or heard JB advise baby writers to write for anyone with a functioning chequebook. Narrow expertise is all well & good, but Generalists get work, pay bills ,& eat..

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Darth Greybeard mumbles...

Posted May 29, 2013

Well damn. Never watched Biggest Loser, but now I want to read the recap to see how the technique stuff translates into, you know, words.

BigWillieStyle would have you know...

Posted May 29, 2013

You've never watched TBL? Essentially, it involves a lot of ordinary Aussie batlers with self-esteem issues, who go on a Journey, have a heartbreaking tale or fifteen to share, cry for a bit, bicker for another bit, get lectured by pompous judgmental types, cry a bit more, applaud their fellow contestants, get applauded in return, triumph over Adversity, have their Inspiring Story splashed about in New Idea and the like, and, once the show is over, get forgotten by the viewers more or less immediately.

Hang on. Maybe it's Masterchef I'm thinking of. Or The Voice. Maybe The Block? My Kitchen Rules? No, no, definitely X Factor.

Honestly, who fucking knows anymore?

Lulu reckons...

Posted May 29, 2013

TBL = lots of shouting, sobbing, sweating. Repeat.

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JG reckons...

Posted May 29, 2013
I'm impressed that you wrote this without having watched this year's series, John. I watched the first and second TBL series in its entirety, missed a few, and then watched last year's and this year's series. I don't care much for the contestants, but I enjoy the drama and laughs along the way, and drool after Commando. Man, he's hot. Can't believe (well, I can) that he may or may not have a thing going with Mish. She's way cool. In fact, I'm currently doing a round of her 12-Week Body Transformation which is terrific.

Such a long piece! I think you nailed the essence of the characters in a nutshell, but oh, the heartbreak that the green team didn't win. Those two are just adorable. They deserved to win, but, as you pointed out on Twitter, the prize doesn't always go to the most deserving.

Anyway, excellent job, JB. I hope your knees have recovered since last year, and that you are still running. I'm into it now. Doing the Doomben 10000 on Sunday.

Cheers.

JG

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Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 29, 2013

"t's a simple technique for creating the impression of acceleration on the page", whic I assume novelist mimic with smaller chapters towards the end of the book?

Have to try this with my review on BookClub.

Birmo have you conisdered writing a short piece, 3000 words no more, on the experience of reviewing Alister Reynold's "Chasm City'?

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted May 29, 2013

I could, but Murph should really do that.

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BobGrrl asserts...

Posted May 29, 2013

Some of my favourite recaps come from the ladies over at AfterEllen: http://www.afterellen.com/taxonomy/term/22

Considering that many of them are for shows which have minor (or none in the case of subtext recaps) lesbian or bisexual content, most of the recappers do a remarkable job of making it interesting/relevant to the community.

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted May 29, 2013
Really, the biggest loser? Fck I hope you gouged them, seriously that invoice should have had an eye-wateringly large number of zeroes n it.
The US Screen-Writers Strike got really drunk one night. In a seedy bar a precipitous drop in the price of broadcast cameras and a boom in the popularity of Discovery Channel's dramatized documentary style made the Strike their bitch all at the urging of a Dutch freak in a zipper mask called Big Brother. Rumours persist that Big Brother filmed some or all of the assault. While nominally a lawful act between consenting cultural forces it was horrible, violent, debasing and exploitative. 9.5 months later a daemon child was born, her name Reality Television.
I'm a compassionate guy, I usually feel for the less fortunate. For some reason I don't fully understand Greybeard and RT are beneath that. She drags her club foot of poor camera operation, the lop-sided leer of cardioid-lapel radio-mics poorly synced to a boom, the disquieting high square forehead of grasping attention-seeking personality-disorders-on-wheels. Worst of all is the steaming colostomy bag of desperate challenges, immunity challenges and other forced dramatic movements.
You could recap this spring carnival, tax accountant’s conference or Greybeards next colonoscopy and I'd struggle to be less interested.

ShaneAlpha asserts...

Posted May 29, 2013

Just remember, all these problema can be remedied by a flamethrower. Maniacal laugh optional.

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Quokka mumbles...

Posted May 29, 2013
I've never watched reality television for longer than it takes to shriek 'Where the FK is the channel changer?' and I'm not about to start now. I flicked on blunty, flinched at the title, looked at the pretty picture of the swimmer chick in her nice dress and wandered off.

It never ceases to amaze me that in this day and age of PC outrage, the Freak Show is alive and well on every single channel on TV. Daria got it right, it is a Sick Sad World.

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Rachel swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 29, 2013

Loved the recap JB, can't recall the last time I laughed so loudly staring at the computer.

I did notice the pars speeding up, but interpreted it as you getting progressively tanked. Great technique.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted May 30, 2013

Thank you Rachel. You're my new favourite.

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Karsoe swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 30, 2013

Nice insight into the recap technique, JB, and it's good/encouraging to see that a stiff drink is an important part of the process.

I remember some time back you were doing some writing tips on a Friday, but I'm not sure if those posts survived the Burger's redesign. I really enjoyed them. Is there a chance you might do something similar in the future?

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 30, 2013

There is Karsoe. But I'm having trouble figuring out the work flow of writing all these books and running a high turnover blog. (I've doubled the traffic in the last month and it wasn't low before then). I'll figre it out, and regilar writing tips will be a part of that. Prolly on Friday mornings.

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Rhino swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 30, 2013

Channeling Hunter S. Thompson in the recap. Nicely done.

Spreaking of HST ... was Ralph Steadman the inspriation for the new site's logo?

R.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted May 30, 2013

Why yes, yes he was. Although the young girl who did the design for me seemed unaware of the Old Master.

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Rob reckons...

Posted May 30, 2013

Wow way to go JB. In making me feel like the cubicle schulb version of an early knockout biggest loser contestant. I really do nothing for my salary, really shows the dedication and discipline of being self employed and a creative author. (are we allowed to say author anymore? or do we have to say writer, in the LES NY kinda way "I'm creative, I'm a writer, just look at my blog!') Although I wouldn't mind some of that fat suburban tattoo action, just look at the size of that canvas! Maybe when I start work as a tattoo artist and leave this box behind, I will use that as a marketing tool.

Free cheetos with every Nana font hallmark card, bogan poetry chest piece.

'live you're dreamz, like there is no tomorow"

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Radar ducks in to say...

Posted May 30, 2013

I don't know much about advertising, but I do know that I now have a strange desire to purchase a Macbook Air with Dragon Dictate and a Logitech blue tooth keyboard

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Bondiboy66 puts forth...

Posted May 30, 2013

My wife and son got seriously addicted to this show this season...and thus I was exposed to it by being in the same room. Although we called it 'The Fattest Boombahs'. JB, you encapsulated to Greek Tragedy that is TBL most succinctly and accurately.

For me, I found this show sort of like watching a car crash occurring - I didn't want to see it but ended up seeing it between my fingers as I covered my face in despair....

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How to write an apocalypse

Posted May 25, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

I've been delving into the history of the Black Death, firstly to help Anna with a history assignment for school, but then for my own reasons as I realised it could help me with research for my magic vs tech books. The premise of the books, which grew out of Buttecracke project below, is the idea that demons have been so long gone from the world that we've developed to a point where our technology and capacity for organised, industrial-scale mass violence is more than a match for monsters.

The problem is that to produce the means of defeating them, societies must remain intact and functioning, and there comes a point at which the stresses on post modern civilisation push it towards collapse. Hence my interest in the Plague, which threatened to collapse European civilisation, and came close at times and in some places. Contemporary observers certainly thought it the end of the world.

Francesco Petrarca: Ad Seipsum (Epistola Metrica I, 14: lines 1-55): "I observe about me dying throngs of both young and old, and nowhere is there a refuge. No haven beckons in any part of the globe, nor can any hope of longed for salvation be seen. Wherever I turn my frightened eyes, their gaze is troubled by continual funerals: the churches groan encumbered with biers, and, without last respects, the corpses of the noble and the commoner lie in confusion alongside each other."

Henry Knighton: The Black Death, 1348: In the same year there was a great murraine of sheep everywhere in the kingdom, so that in one place in a single pasture more than 5000 sheep died; and they putrefied so that neither bird nor beast would touch them. Everything was low in price because of the fear of death, for very few people took care of riches or property of any kind. A man could have a horse that had been worth forty shillings for half a mark [6 shillings and eight pence], a fat ox for four shillings, a cow for twelve pence… Sheep and cattle ran at large through the fields and among the crops, and there was none to drive them off or herd them; for lack of care they perished in ditches and hedges in incalculable numbers throughout all districts, and none knew what to do, for there was no memory of death so stern and cruel…

A Distant Mirror, Barbara Tuchman, Alfred a Knoph, New York, 1979. Chapter 5. "This Is the End of the World": When the last survivors, too few to carry on, moved away, a deserted village sank back into the wilderness and disappeared from the map altogether, leaving only a grass covered ghostly outline to show where mortals once have lived.

All societies have their tipping points, beyond which they cannot recover. I'm finding it fascinating to ponder where ours lie. How many dragons swooping down on how many delivery trucks does it take before there's no more food in the supermarket? How many orcs tearing through the suburbs before soldiers abandon their posts and run home with their guns? Which cities live, and by which virtues? And which die?

142 Responses to ‘How to write an apocalypse’

SenatorMckinneyTexas is gonna tell you...

Posted May 22, 2013

Ok, waiting for this one. In the meantime, there is a widely held belief among historians that 90% of the Native American population died off from diseases imported by Europeans in the first century or so after colonization began. I'm a dissenter from this view for a number of reasons. First, a 90% random destruction of population would not leave intact large, distinct tribal units with their own languages, oral histories and cultures. At least, it staggers my imagination to think this could happen, given the problematic notion that widely disparate tribal fragments could reform as Comanches, Apaches, Navajo, Souix, etc, with common and complex languages. Second, while it is true that, over a period of 4 centuries--not just one--a huge percentage of Native Americans died, and a number of smaller tribes were eradicated, the logical primary cause wasn't disease; rather, it was warfare. Native Americans were hunter/gatherers and often semi-nomadic. Large numbers of men were killed attempting to repel the Europeans, eliminating that segment of the population's role in food production. Starvation, decimation through war AND disease played their roles, but this took centuries. I have no idea how this might play a role in your books, but I do think that you should name a major character after me. Preferably one who has frequent, awesome encounters with beautiful women who find me irresistable.

Murphy asserts...

Posted May 23, 2013

Tribes compensated for their losses by virtue of Mourning Wars. As a general rule, they captured women and children for assimilation to augment their ranks, killing the men only.

I don't buy the 90% loss rate either, it seems too extreme, but I am willing to buy as high as 70%.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Durand ducks in to say...

Posted May 26, 2013

The 1864 war between Paraguay and the Triple Alliance (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay), is said to have killed 90% of the Paraguayan population too. But Paraguay is still a nation. Although probably not the same nation it was before the war. It would be interesting to read the history of this episode.

This leads to questions about what leads to nationhood? Why do I feel I have some kinship with a guy in Broome that I've never met, but not with the Kiwi who I have a beer with every Friday?

Murphy mutters...

Posted May 27, 2013

Cultural indoctrination with a heavy dose of nationalism.

Sheesh. There I go sounding like a fucking Marxist or something.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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Matthew K would have you know...

Posted May 22, 2013

Ah well if that's the scenario then it means organised delivery convoys of with air and ground cover from the military. Which means that, although an efficient, honest government can provide enough to keep it's citizens alive and healthy, it's bad news for the fatties.

Rationing is the bottom line here.

Britain survived WW2 with it and there was no mass starvation. Not many wobble bottoms in 1940's UK though. (Churchill and Ernie Bevin aside).

alexmac puts forth...

Posted May 23, 2013

Like the Berlin airlift, but Orcs instead of commies.

Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted May 23, 2013

Commie Orcs, the Lumpyproletariat

Matthew K mutters...

Posted May 24, 2013

B'Dum Tish!

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Dino not to be confused with is gonna tell you...

Posted May 22, 2013

Seven to twelve Dragons would take out Eastern Australia no problem.

Seven good ones or twelve mediocre ones

Dino not to be confused with has opinions thus...

Posted May 22, 2013

Goin' to bed to dream about Dragons.

Nigh Night Burgers.

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tqft is gonna tell you...

Posted May 22, 2013

It doesn't have to be no food in the supermarket and given Australia has 2? 3? functioning refineries*, a dragon to the fuel tanks would be much effective ins topping all manner of commerce. Also lighting a fires in the open cut coal mines and kill the electricity supply.

* the refineries are also the primary import terminals for processed petrol/diesel which make up a lot of the domestic consuption. ABARE &/or the ABS should have the numbers.

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Bunyip reckons...

Posted May 22, 2013

Diesel > tractors > broad acre farming

Now go and consider the depth of our warehousing.

On a linked note, I've noticed that people of Ukrainian descent have extremely large larders.

UKR-defender puts forth...

Posted May 24, 2013

I name just two:
Mila Kunis
Mila Jovovich

to prove u know nothing

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ShaneAlpha mumbles...

Posted May 22, 2013

Most large cities have approx 2 weeks of food, total. Once the trucks/rail/ships stop moving the clock starts ticking. The situation gets worse much quicker if the power goes out and refridgeration stops. Starvation is slow though, the death rate in that situation tends to have multiple peaks and troughs. A no water scenario is much worse.

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Wayne reckons...

Posted May 22, 2013

The more advanced the civilization, the worse the problem. If you live in an advanced urban area that is separated from the bread basket, all the smart dragons have to do is destroy the transportation infrastructure. No rail, highway, port, natural/petrochemical refinery/pipe system, no urban city. Take DC for instance. Drop all the bridges across the Potomac and you create an instant traffic nightmare. Over time this creates logistics issues. Destroy the Norfolk and Baltimore ports and food and supplies cannot be delivered by ships. Destroy the rail network coming from the west and then DC dies on the vine. Most major cities are similar, to a certain degree. Why is this so? Well, I look at where my food comes from. I live in Memphis, Tennessee. My produce comes from Mexico, Texas, and California. My gas certainly did not come from here. My water does (Dasani is bottled here, thankfully). Beef and chicken comes from the plains and Arkansas. So, were I targeting the US, I would first drop all the bridges across the Mississippi. I would then hit the major ports: San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, New Orleans, Miami, Norfolk, and New York and wreck them. Next, I would wreck the major railroad interchanges (I do not know enouch about that, but a map can help). Then, you drop strategic bridges on the Interstate system. Finally, you target major cities by interdicting traffic by dropping bridges and destroying interstate systems. Within two to six months, cities would eat themselves out of food. Depending on the abilities of the dragons (i.e., offensive capabilities and speed) maybe 100-200 could do the US, assuming the Air Force did not have other ideas.

Kardiac asserts...

Posted May 23, 2013

I live in DC. I have always thought since 09/11 that the best and cheapest way to close this city is to take 6 old cars. Stop them in the middle of the bridges and set them on fire. EVERYthing will come to a screaming halt. Then the bridges to the North will be closed until things are straightened out. During that confusion most anything could happen. I know in the DC suburbs food and water will disappear fast. We can't handle a snow storm much less a real attack.

Murphy mumbles...

Posted May 23, 2013

Here in Kansas City you'd handle the blocked bridges problem by getting the 35th Engineers to establish bridges across the river. Augment them with barges converted for the purpose if needs must. Then again, in order to completely cut one part of the city off from the other part you'd need to block . . . at least nine bridges in the metropolitan area.

The downtown loop is fairly tight but even if you managed to choke sections of that off, smart drivers would know how to escape and evade leaving the Darwin Award contestants for Dragon fodder.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Matthew F. has opinions thus...

Posted May 23, 2013

In Metzger's Dog by Thomas Perry a gang take down Los Angeles using something very similar. Excellent book, highly recommended.

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Matthew K puts forth...

Posted May 23, 2013

All this is reminiscent of the film "Reign of Fire" where dragons screw the UK. As I illustrated to my niece using her toy dragon and her brother's toy A-10 Thunderbolt there's a little thing called the RAF that would see the slow flapping lumps of meat from over the horizon and dispatch missiles. Rain of Crispy Barbecued Meat more like.

All this seems to be based on the idea that the supernatural forces have a firm grasp of the relevance of supply chain logistics. Which brings to mind the mental image of the Beelzibub and his minions sitting down to watch powerpoint lectures...

But I admit that although the armed forces would remain largely intact the civilian population would undoubtably suffer, especially those who - like me - are disarmed and out of easily defensible ares like cities. That said, modern civilisation would not fall if people went without 90% of their luxuries and 50% of their food.

Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 23, 2013

I thought Beelzibub and his minions invented powerpoint lectures.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 23, 2013

"All this seems to be based on the idea that the supernatural forces have a firm grasp of the relevance of supply chain logistics"

Indeed.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted May 23, 2013

They wouldn't need a firm grasp - just a grasp. And why wouldn't they? Low tech demonic doesn't necessarily equate with stupid. Most of the demons I've negotiated with and against have been admirably intelligent.

Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 23, 2013

But I wonder how long it would take for them to figure out that hitting semi-tractor trailers and railroad trains was a good idea? And surely the military wouldn't waste any time setting up quad fifties up on the trains to deal with any scaly bastards.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Matthew F. ducks in to say...

Posted May 23, 2013

Not long, I'd have thought. My impression is that we're talking adversaries that have faced off against human civilisations before, and if you know about those then you know about cropfields and harvests. It shouldn't be too hard to think "oh, they use these metal things to lug the grain around now instead of carts. OK."

Matthew K ducks in to say...

Posted May 24, 2013

OK. So even large scale rationing would still only mitigate large scale hunger and even starvation. And next years crops would be unharvestable to non existent.

But still the military has it's own resources and stockpliles so it wouldn't be near so easy for the eldritch hordes to make an impact on the hard targets.

I guess we'd see large shanty towns of ragged refugees camped outside the wire of military bases sheltering under the umbrella of mitary air power. Kind of like how medieaeval peasants lived hard by the castle walls.

Jim asserts...

Posted May 24, 2013

Also to be considered is the scale of the forces the supernatural bring to bear and their level of coordination and logistical support.

As has been pointed out dragons are flying meat sacks waiting to be riddled with 20mm cannon. In order to be survivable on the modern battlefield they must work together as a cohesive unit and with other elements in the supernatural order of battle such as pestilence, plague etc. This creates tactical strength but operational and strategic vulnerabilities.

For example a dragon can't simply be sent forth to forage for food as isolated from its unit it would be toast. Rather it would need to be stabled and fed. Logically this means some percentage of the supernatural forces must be dedicated to force protection.

Our forces would not simply sit around guarding bridges and warehouses, rather they would seek to identify the enemies center of gravity and strike back. We would strike their command and control nodes. We would attack their logistical tail.

Matthew K would have you know...

Posted May 24, 2013

So the dark forces would soon have to start playing the game by our rules? Sounds right when you put it that way.

I guess in the immediate aftermath demons, devils, dragons and trolls would have a real party running around feasting on malls, schools and buses of people but sometime later the reckless ones would have been weeded out.

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Therbs has opinions thus...

Posted May 23, 2013

As a fourteen year old my best wingman in school pranks and I were caught by the English teacher doing the spitball on ceiling amusement. Punishment was researching the Black Plague. Thanks heaps for the Knighton nightmare flashback. By jingies you can be a scratchy fuck at times. What next, a Perkins Paste eating comp? Yeah, do it. Blog about school pranks, their resonance in later days and the sadness of those who never grew beyond those moments of teen glory.

Murphy asserts...

Posted May 23, 2013

Therbs, I did six hours of this at the grad level.

Which means I lived with the Plague for a year.

I've still got a less than admirable paper laying around here arguing that the plague helped to extend the Hundred Years War.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted May 23, 2013

You people behave as if the Plague isn't one of the most fascinating things that ever happened - which it is. Studying about the Black Death is a punishment? "You are a bad child! Here, eat all this candy..."

Murphy asserts...

Posted May 23, 2013

I would rather have spent six hours of graduate school covering the fall of the Roman Empire in greater detail but that wasn't available. The Black Death was and it beat studying the Papacy.

I got some value from the class but it wasn't because I had the most exciting instructor. It was her first year teaching and while she was knowledgeable as a scholar of her field, she lacked confidence in her classroom management and it showed.

Anyway, it was a painful class to sit through.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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Glen Turner ducks in to say...

Posted May 23, 2013

A third of the population of Europe died in three years from 1347. The only modern equivalents are being a 18 year old in the BEF in 1914 (about 60% in 1914, and 30% per year after that), in RAF Bomber Command over Germany (about 50%), or being a Tutsi in Rwanda (about 60% died). Of course people my age expected to experience something similar; our expected future didn't anticipate a Gorbachev.

The plague burned on of course. Which meant that Europe's population didn't recover until 1500. If you are looking for the answer for "why didn't the Enlightenment happen sooner", the inability of Europe to do much at all between 1350 and 1500 is one reason.

As well as your parallels with war, there's obviously also analogies with the consequences of global warming. It's well worth reading Defoe's "Journal of the Plague Year" as if it were in 2050.

I don't buy into the industrial aspect of warmaking as making a huge difference. Sure it all looks very impressive, but then so do Maoris doing the haka. Modern weapons are hard pressed to be as deadly as a machete in the hands of a Hutu. I'd argue more for modern telecommunications and the resulting holding of one philospophy by a huge population as explaining the modern inclination towards war of slaughter rather than war of heroes. There's also a nasty economic thought: the abolition of slavery means the enemy has no value, so killing them isn't wrecking your future asset.

Trowzers is gonna tell you...

Posted May 23, 2013

I was thinking this too- why go as far back as the Black Plague when you have modern insanities like the Rwandan Genocides taking out 20% of an entire population in a single month, mostly with hand weapons. It's easy enough to picture those performing the slaughter as the Orcs, and the unfortunates dead along the highways as they tried to flee on foot as the hapless humans, completely unprepared for that type of merciless killing. Really awful stuff, but would it be so different in a first world country? Sure there would be pockets of organised resistance, but only pockets and not enough on the ground to defend the entire population. And how far do things need to get before the armed resistance turns to protecting itself and just surviving, rather than protecting others? There must be a tipping point there.

SZF would have you know...

Posted May 23, 2013

Slightly off topic, but there's an amazing - and awful - account of the Rwandan genocide ("Shake Hands With the Devil") by Romeo Dallaire, the UN Force Commander on the ground in Kigali.

It's one of those books that's as hard to read as it is to put down. Harrowing stuff.

Trowzers asserts...

Posted May 23, 2013

I have a book of work by George Gittoes, who was on the ground at the Kibeho Camp during the massacre there. It really is the most awful, gut wrenching stuff. At the same time, it's important to remember that people can do this kind of stuff to each other, given the right circumstances.

Lobes puts forth...

Posted May 23, 2013

It would be completely different in a first world country.

The genocide in Rwanda was largely the result of a tribalist mentality. In the first world tribalism has been extinguished by materialism, the nuclear family and multiculturalism.

Nobody who lives in a first world nation with an immigrant culture like Australia, Canada, USA etc should seriously worry about Rwanda style events occurring.

Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 23, 2013

Eh, I'm not so sure. It wasn't too long ago that folks in this country engaged in acts of lynching African Americans.

I do not think it would take much to push the U.S. back into that racist, tribal mindset. I'd like to believe otherwise but I've seen too many boneheads over the years who'd relish a return to that sort of insanity.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Matthew F. reckons...

Posted May 23, 2013

+++I do not think it would take much to push the U.S. back into that racist, tribal mindset.+++

Am I the only one who sees this as a theme that comes through in quite a bit of JB's work, both his fiction and his discussion of others' fiction? He contends that we're all one bad day away from living in an abattoir, and likes to toy with the various forms that bad day might take.

Trowzers would have you know...

Posted May 23, 2013

Eh, just look at the rise of Golden Dawn in Greece (who are trying to establish a presence in Australia, by the way). A little bit of economic instability, and they're trying to make their own Nazi party (just don't call them that to their faces, or they'll stomp you - in a totally un-Nazi way of course).

There was a show about them on ABC just the other day - take a looksee if you haven't heard of what they are up to- http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2012/s3503598.htm

Trowzers is gonna tell you...

Posted May 23, 2013

Wait - actually it was SBS that had the best story, but the video seems to have expired. Oh well, here's their page - http://www.sbs.com.au/dateline/story/about/id/601692/n/Thug-Politics

Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted May 23, 2013

Noc, it is my fault.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Brother PorkChop mumbles...

Posted May 24, 2013

Has anyone asked Greybeard for a factual account of his experiences during the Black Death. How did he survive?

Trowzers is gonna tell you...

Posted May 24, 2013

One more point on this - First world humans may be over tribalism. But I betcha orcs ain't.

NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 24, 2013

@ BPC, as he always has; by making & discarding aliegances as & when he sees fit, hoarding, black-marketing, exploiting innocents, and other despiccbale dark dealings.

Machiavelli's prince was as a pauper when compared to the clandestine, underhanded and illegitimate shenanigans attributed to GreyBeard, Gris Beard & Canitia barba. He wraps as a cloak genteel patrician legitimacy. Few ever discover the spandex of evil that lies beneath before it is too late.

Respond to this thread

Wayne ducks in to say...

Posted May 23, 2013

Actually, people mistake what leads to societal and political collapse. For example, go back and look at what actually brought about the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in 1989. Sure, the communist nations had been tottering for years. But, they had made it work. But in the end it was the inability of the states to provide a modicum of luxuries that directly led to the riots of 1989. That is historical fact. The result was massive political change. China has ridden this proverbial tiger by ensuring that its populace is adequately supplied with material goods or otherwise dealt with. The US does the same (we call it EBT and Walmart). Do not undervalue the need of delivered luxuries and food.

Now, as for dragons, the question is what sort of beasts are we talking about here? Are they just dragons or are they intelligent beings? Some fantasy writing posit that dragons are superintelligent and able to change into human shape. Thus, while you mock the ability of minions understanding logistics, one could create a universe where dragons live amongst us (I would note that this has already been done). So, dragons live amongst us and learn our ways. They thus are the leaders of the fantastical horde. Additionally, do not underestimate the desire/need/sheer stupidity of some humans to want to join the other side. You get a few IT hackers/nerds on the wrong side and they can explain this information to anyone or anything for the right price or motivation.

Barnesm mutters...

Posted May 23, 2013

Didn't Jared Diamond write 'Guns, Germs and Steel' and 'Collapse:How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" all about this topic.

From Wikipidea

"Diamond's book deals with "societal collapses involving an environmental component, and in some cases also contributions of climate change, hostile neighbors, and trade partners, plus questions of societal responses".

Trowzers puts forth...

Posted May 23, 2013

I have both of those books. They are interesting reads (the first deals more with why civilisations developed in certain places in the first place eg how the lack of domesticable cattle affected the way society developed in Australia - Collapse spends a lot of time on environmental issues eg. Easter Island). The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee is also a good read - the first of his books on these themes. They do tend to concentrate more on long scale development and collapse though, not how people would cope with shorter term large scale disaster.

Dick reckons...

Posted May 23, 2013

Large Scale disaster. I see what you did there.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted May 23, 2013

Science and technology keeps pushing forward the line that marks the tipping point. In the good old days, if enough people died relatively suddenly they could take skills and knowledge critical to civilization with them. That was the concern during the 1918 bird flu epidemic. But now with modern information technology and the spread of a world wide popular and scientific data bases it less likely that mass death will render the data necessary for civilization to be lost.

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BigWillieStyle is gonna tell you...

Posted May 23, 2013

A tipping point from which society cannot recover, eh? In a local context, I'm quite certain that will occur when a strutting henhouse rooster with a questionable command of basic English, and who takes advice from shock jocks and old men in dresses and funny hats gets the keys to the Lodge.

The final ever episode of "Breaking Bad" is due to screen two weeks after this catastrophe is scheduled to happen. As someone with annual income below $10 million, I just hope my new overlords will allow me the dignity of seeing it before deporting me. It's a really good show, you see.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 23, 2013

You're gonna love today's Blunty. If they ever put it up.

BigWillieStyle mumbles...

Posted May 23, 2013

I'm sure I shall. Is it about farming root vegetables in Northumbria? That's my passion, FWIW.

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Barnesm asserts...

Posted May 23, 2013

What is it with school topics this year. Anna has the blak death and the_weapon has to research the Guatemalan Civil War and genocide. For a fictional rendering of the black death I'd recommend Collie Willis 1992 'The Doomsday Book".

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Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 23, 2013

Also in discussions about Magic vs Science I suggest you check out Cracked's After Hours 'Why the Harry Potter Universe is Secretly Terrifying click link where Michael Swaine makes the point

Soren: Wizards are supernatural. What good's a Muggle gonna do?
Mike: There's a bunch of us, and we have helicarriers and assault rifles. We killed Hitler, Hussein, and Houdini. You think we can't nuke "Volter-man" into next week?
Katie: He has limitless dark power!
Mike: That he has to aim through a wand. We can shoot people with a thousand rockets. From space. With iPhones.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted May 23, 2013

I am so digging this discussion.

GT: Slaughter occured before the abolition of slavery. Fighting men are not the assets a slaver desires. Other than a historically brief period when trained soldiers were valuable as gladiators, the winning side had no desire to preserve them.

Michael: thanks for mentioning Diamond. I am a huge fan.

BWS: out of curiosity, whereabouts in Northumbria?

BigWillieStyle would have you know...

Posted May 23, 2013

Errrrm....Northumbriaville?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted May 23, 2013

Just south of Alnwick, yes?

Respond to this thread

Chaz ducks in to say...

Posted May 23, 2013

What you've got to remember is that most countries now import food and petrolium products to some degree.

There are thousands of ships at sea right at this moment transporting cargo and once that supply chain starts to break things will get interesting.

Funny enough its the anniversary of the battle of the atlantic atm.

Respond to this comment

Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted May 23, 2013

The Black Death in England not only created population loss, it upset the established socio-economic order by eliminating cheap labor. Those who survived were able to and did often agitate for better wages and conditions. If you didn't want to deal with that, your serfs, freedmen and the like, would simply find someplace else to live. Maybe they might even go so far as to move into a recently abandoned villiage to start afresh.

My point is that in the midst of even a partial societial collapse there will be opportunity. Some folks will try to make a mint off of it. Others will try to remake the world as a result of it while others still will murder by the bushel to restore the Old Order.

Something to ponder.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted May 23, 2013

I don't ever do this, and promise not to do it again, but your comment reminded me of a poem that speaks to the idea of prospering during the apocalypse:

The circle never held for us.
Things fell apart long ago.
Born into this Wasteland
we fondly call it home.
Don't hold your breath
for the Second Coming, love.
From decay springs new growth,
new life,
a new tomorrow,
shaping a tougher man,
a stronger woman,
joining a swifter race.
Shock Wave Riders -
unlikely bearers of the torch -
we glide into the future,
bringing life into the Wasteland,
finding love among the ruins.

It makes me think of those English serfs that survived the Black Death, looked around and said "I think this is going to work out just fine."

Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 23, 2013

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peasant_Revolt

As for poetic rifts, retorts and the like, I'm afraid I must concede the board. A fine poem though.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted May 23, 2013

Dear PNB, Good poem!

Lulu swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 23, 2013

PNB, due to the shortage of available labour after the Black Death, that's exactly how things turned out for some of the surviving serfs & peasants: much more of a seller's market than it had been previously.

Respond to this thread

Dino not to be confused with ducks in to say...

Posted May 23, 2013

JB,

You moved the goal 'posts'!(See what I did there!)

Orcs now? HTF did they get here?

Well supply chains have gone and the gummint have disappeared. Wireless does not exist and those with analogue radios/TVs may get some sporadic reception.

Will be interesting. No more pizza deliveries either.

Looks like the local councils(are they legal yet?) are doing something but going outside isn't what it used to be.

It's pouring rain here now.

Dino not to be confused with is gonna tell you...

Posted May 27, 2013

Ah the Gulf of Mexico!

That's where the Orc's 'surfaced'!

Other places too I imagine.

How's Dave Hooper?

Respond to this thread

thetick puts forth...

Posted May 23, 2013

A lot of speculation about Magic vs Technology depends on the capabilities of the magic users. I would suspect that initial shock would be huge, with large swathes of the affected areas virtually denuded of human life. This is bad, but also presents opportunities.

For one, no need to worry about friendly fire in your retalitory airstrikes.

Once the initial shock had worn off and containment measures were being executed, such as evacuation, defensive lines, airstrikes against enemy concentrations, you'd soon reach a point where a modern counter offensive could take place. And then it would be over.

It comes down to numbers. Orcs with axes are not going to beat men with assault rifles, machine guns, IFVs, helicopter gunships and orbiting air assets. Drones would allow us to watch them (assuming no magic interrupts them).

Without knowing specifics it's hard to argue one way or another, but as another reader pointed out, communications maketh the modern army.

Of course, if these are Mary Gentle's Orcs then we're all screwed.

Murphy reckons...

Posted May 23, 2013

Yeah, uh, what if the ork picks up the fifty cal and figures out how to fire it? Reload it? Strip, maintain it and adjust the headspace and timing?

Not good.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 23, 2013

TheTick is correct. The enemy gets a vote. But Murph is also correct. Universal suffrage.

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Matthew F. puts forth...

Posted May 23, 2013

You know what happens then, Murph: WAAAGH!

Murphy would have you know...

Posted May 23, 2013

Everybody knows a lick o' red 'aint makes things go fasta!

Matthew F. asserts...

Posted May 23, 2013

Now just needz moar dakka!

Respond to this thread

Peter in the bleaches swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 23, 2013

S.M. Stirling's hange series kind of does it. The space bats turn off electricity, explosives and engines. Half the US ends up as cannibals, while a few survive. The breakdown of the logistic chain caused most of the collapse. You would assume a similar thing would happen in the big Australian cities.

Rob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 23, 2013

Yes, then stirling spends his of novels making his characters suddenly become super duper medival warlords with lashings of 'by juniper'. (Still recovering from the reading that book)

One thing top maybe look at is Albert Speers interviews by American occupation forces where he explained the logistics of moving factories, repairing rail roads and working out where everything was between bombings. Of course he had slave labour and a subservient population. Or you could the Force provided some Midiclorians are included with the out break magicalness .

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Maddoug ducks in to say...

Posted May 23, 2013

JB, if you're setting this series in Australia, please have a scene somewhat like the following:

Main characters or refugees walking past a smashed overpass and looking up to see an elderly man's corpse hanging from the guardrail.

1 Character: "Who's that?"

2nd character: "Johnny Howard."

1st Character: "Huh? How come?"

2nd Character "Took away all the guns, didn't he?"

Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 23, 2013

Yes.

Matthew K ducks in to say...

Posted May 24, 2013

Oh yeah us Brits too. We would be demon fodder for sure.

Respond to this thread

Shifty Tourist asserts...

Posted May 23, 2013

I've been killing demons (in one form or another) since I was 6. Panzies the lot of them.

And Dragons.... give me a break, you typical dragon can't stand up to skilless sword/axe flailing... let alone trained soldiers.... at least that's my experiece.

On a serious note (sort of) Its an intersting thought, how do you balance the powers of a mythical enemy, so that they can be a significant threat to the world/civilisation, but not so overpowered that the only thing that can kill them is the top secret Deus Ex Machina weapon... that scientists have been secretly working on for years.... and which would have been useful to bring out, before all the cities were destroyed and the protogonists had done alot of running about.

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Dino not to be confused with mumbles...

Posted May 23, 2013

JB,

There is a school of thought that Constantinople fell because of the Plague.

Nanotechnology/Gene Therapy ain't that new?

There is currently a discussion about vaccinations and not allowing kids who aren't vaccinated to attend childcare. An insidious(?) belief about Science?

I reckon stealth memes are the precursors to an all out attack by Deamons.

Having said that Economists will relish a Dragon Attack and finally come of age when they they are the 'turn to' heroes who will deliver a surplus in 'our time of despair'.

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Matthew F. ducks in to say...

Posted May 23, 2013

+++A lot of speculation about Magic vs Technology depends on the capabilities of the magic users.+++

The fundamental truth of the discussion. (And it gave me an interesting idea for a bit of fantasy lit-crit down the track when I'm out from under my current projects.) But most of the posters on this thread seem to be working on scenarios that sound less like "technology versus magic" and more like "technology versus large numbers of mindless cannon-fodder who form big tightly-packed crowds and obligingly run right into well-emplaced gun lines".

There are plenty of ways to write magic to make it way more interesting, and way more of an "oh, shit!" factor for the techo side.

thetick is gonna tell you...

Posted May 23, 2013

Magic opens up things like teleportation, gates, remote viewing that is undetectable, man portable artillery (mages and fireball spells), weather control, incurable diseases, rituals of mass destruction (earthquake spells, meteor storms, lightning storms) and so on. Realistically technology has no counter to this.

That's enough oh shit for me.

And unless you're talking out of left field fantasy, masses of evil orcs in a horde is pretty much par for the course. But it's never them that's the problem, is it?

Trowzers ducks in to say...

Posted May 24, 2013

Also, everything has it's limitations - as I think the discussion gets into later, what are the limitations of magic? D&D and RPG players know the pain of getting caught in the middle of an epic battle when your magic users run out of mana.

I have an image in my head of human troops whittling down a party of orcs, only to find a hapless mage at the centre, all out of magic juice and begging for mercy! Might lead to an interesting (if short) conversation.

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Jayanthi's Atomic Cat has opinions thus...

Posted May 23, 2013
Are we up for psychological warfare too or just blowing things up on both sides?

Matthew F. reckons...

Posted May 23, 2013

I think that the psychological shock of these monsters reappearing is supposed to play a role in the story - a lot of religions will have some 'splainin' to do. There's a huge potential to build stuff into the magic system on that side of things as well that I hope we see. Something like the Cloud of Contention from the early Corum books, or that mindfucking demon-radiation stuff from The Ill-Earth War would be fun to watch (although not for the people they were happening to).

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat would have you know...

Posted May 23, 2013
That's a cool idea N, a devoutly religious character would provide an interesting POV. Would they initially write it off as the work of the Devil, or the end of days or something, but be forced to revise their judgement/join forces with those disbelieving sinners who have been prepared for this all along...?


Also wondering how we could wage the psych war back at them. Kinda stuck tho.

Matthew F. has opinions thus...

Posted May 23, 2013

Oh, definitely, I reckon there's a whole book in just the religious thing alone. Or, if JB's going to do the Stalin's Hammer style spinoffs then there's a built-in theme of telling the story of the daemon breach as lived through by, say, a senior curate in the Vatican, then a British military chaplain, then a hardcore Saudi imam, then a moderate Melbourne imam, then a Baptist preacher from the American south, then...

I wonder how many people will remain unbelievers? Once you've got verified proof of the supernatural, that's a profound shock to the secular-humanist world view. I imagine that religious leaders would have a brief moment of glory as confused and frightened people pour into their congregations saying basically "OK, you know about this stuff. Tell me what's going on and what I have to do." I think you'd see a lot of quick, dramatic conversions.

Of course, there's the question of how long that lasts. What happens when the hymn-singing holy warriors march out behind their pastor and find that the daemons and trolls don't give a fuck about being told to be gone in the name of Jesus? Do you get a swing back to secularism? Or people just letting go of everything and plunging into despair? Because, shit, we put stock in science and then actual fucking daemons came up out of the ground, and then we put stock in religion and that turned out to be even more useless - none of the rules work any more.

That would have to be the most terrifying feeling to try and deal with. What do you do? I can easily imagine cults and religions starting up trying to appease the monsters, or at least to try and tap into whatever mojo the monsters are using, because hey, it demonstrably works!

On the other hand, there's a really good short story by David Brin called "Thor Meets Captain America" - the title's a deliberate sly wink to the Marvel characters, I think, but the story's set late in WWII. The main characters respond to the emergence of supernatural powers on the enemy side by doubling down on their drive to win with science and rationality. As one of them puts it, knuckling under and worshipping these things, buying into the mysticism they represent, represents the final surrender of his civilisation's values. Victory (or survival) that way would be meaningless if you give away the thing you're fighting for.

tqft would have you know...

Posted May 23, 2013

That story by D Brin has a supernasty premise that still scares the crap out of me.

Matthew F. swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 24, 2013

If you liked that one, you might enjoy Lavie Tidhar's novella An Occupation of Angels. It's sort of a cross between the Brin story and Stalin's Hammer: an alternate Cold War where the intervention that sent WWII off the track we know was not a future battlefleet arriving but the archangels of the Heavenly Host arriving and taking a direct hand, then sticking around. Needless to say the various lethal spy games of the Cold War now have some big differences...

Barnesm mutters...

Posted May 24, 2013

Along this line I would suggest the Milkweed Triptych by Ian Tregillis. I'd suggest Birmo not read it as it may be a bit similar to the book he is proposing to write but for the rest of us.

Bitter Seeds
Raybould Marsh is a British secret agent in the early days of the Second World War, haunted by something strange he saw on a mission during the Spanish Civil War: a German woman with wires going into her head who looked at him as if she knew him.

When the Nazis start running missions with people who have unnatural abilities—a woman who can turn invisible, a man who can walk through walls, and the woman Marsh saw in Spain who can use her knowledge of the future to twist the present—Marsh is the man who has to face them. He rallies the secret warlocks of Britain to hold the impending invasion at bay. But magic always exacts a price. Eventually, the sacrifice necessary to defeat the enemy will be as terrible as outright loss would be.


The Coldest War
Someone is killing Britain's warlocks.
Twenty-two years after the Second World War, a precarious balance of power maintains the peace between Great Britain and the USSR. For decades, Britain's warlocks have been all that stands between the British Empire and the Soviet Union—a vast domain stretchin from the Pacific Ocean to the shores of the English Channel. But each death is another blow to Britain's national security.
Meanwhile, a brother and sister escape from a top-secret research facility deep behind the Iron Curtain. Once subjects of a twisted Nazi experiment to imbue ordinary people with superhuman abilities, then prisoners of war in the immense Soviet research effort to reverse-engineer the Nazi technology, they head for England.
Because that's where retired spy Raybould Marsh lives. And Gretel, the mad seer, has plans for him. As Marsh is once again drawn into the world of Milkweed, he discovers that Britain's darkest acts didn't end with the war. And while he strives to protect queen and country, he is forced to confront his own willingness to accept victory at any cost.


The conclusion - Necessary Evil
The history of the Twentieth Century has been shaped by a secret conflict between technology and magic. When a twisted Nazi scientist devised a way to imbue ordinary humans with supernatural abilities - to walk through walls, throw fire, and see the future - his work became the prized possession of first the Third Reich, then the Soviet Army. Only Britain's warlocks, and the dark magics they yield, have successfully countered the threat posed by these superhuman armies.

But for decades, this conflict has been manipulated by Gretel, the mad seer. And now her long plan has come to fruition. And with it, a danger vastly greater than anything the world has known. Now British Intelligence officer Raybould Marsh must make a last-ditch effort to change the course of history - if his nation, and those he loves, are to survive.

I waited until all three were out so I could red them in one sitting, an engaging idea.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat puts forth...

Posted May 24, 2013
I keep thinking that this religious character Nocturnslist and I have mooted would be nicknamed 'The Cleric' but would not get thejjoke

Matthew K mutters...

Posted May 24, 2013

Hmm. I have seen those in passing. This looks like it could be an up and coming sub genre if handled right.

No doubt why our genial host is doing what he's doing.

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DILLIGAF is gonna tell you...

Posted May 23, 2013

Birmo, I don't know if you have ever seen the "Shadowrun" game\novel universe, but it sounds very much like what you're writing about, you might want to check it out.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 23, 2013

I've heard of it, Dilli, but because it might be close to what I have planned, I need to avoid it. A bit like FInal Countdown when writing Weapons of Choice.

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John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 23, 2013
Man, this turned into a useful thread.

Barnesm puts forth...

Posted May 23, 2013

Aren't they all?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted May 24, 2013

The best thread of the year, and there have been some really good ones.

Matthew F. would have you know...

Posted May 24, 2013

These conversations have goaded me into digging out my own magic/tech story, a thing I've had fermenting in the (literal) back of the filing cabinet for years, and tinkering with it. Whether this is a good or bad consequence is left as an exercise for the observer.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat asserts...

Posted May 24, 2013
I'm just relieved the number of responses has now kicked the Dan Brown thread in the pants!

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Wayne asserts...

Posted May 23, 2013

Yes, I was thinking "Shadowrun", as well.

Another thing to remember, yes we have really cool, modern weapons in the military. But, the tooth-to-tail ratio in modern militaries is rather small because modern logistics is the tail that wags the dog. Not so with a horde of orcs. That is the beauty of the Battle of Yonkers in World War Z. Modern weapons didn't work because the enemy didn't fight fair. So, why would we expect fantastical enemies to fight fair against modern armies? Further, if an orc horde boils up in the middle of downtown NYC, whats the military going to do about it? It takes time for the military to respond. Sure, NYPD is there. Sure, some civilians are armed and might fight, but what real difference will they make? When you are dealing with urban centers and populaces that are largely unarmed (hello, Europe), the problem is magnified.

The issues is we do not know how intelligent and scary the fantastical horde will be. What we can assume is that it will have leaders. Leadership can adapt and learn. So, while modern weapons are all cool and neat, magical weapons are unknown. Both sides can think. Which side responds better is the ultimate decider. But, the problem humans have is that I really don't think the fanstastical horde cares about collateral damage. Humans probably do.

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Murphy reckons...

Posted May 23, 2013

I don't know about you guys but I have a friend who works at the Lake City Ammo Plant over in nearby, cough, Blue Springs, Missouri.

As an aside, should you ever crash land in Missouri, Blue Springs should be avoided at all costs. In fact, it will probably be the focal point of the Zombie Apocalypse with a composite low IQ coupled with an inability to control their fornicating ways, it is a perfect storm of children, preggo moms and redneck, deadbeat dads.

That said, Lake City would be the place to fall back to.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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Matthew K has opinions thus...

Posted May 24, 2013

Quite a lot of historical parallels to chew on in this thread.

And yes without doubt the soft underbelly of civilian populations would suffer a large scale slaughter while the efficient first world militaries would quickly respond to individual attacks after the fact and fall upon the gorged demons, orcs and trolls etc. But once air forces gets air superiority together then the tide would begin to turn. (Unless the demons and devils have any serious amount of ranged weapons equivalent of course.)

It would be a very different story in the large parts of the world where the corrupt militaries are configured only to feather their own nests and oppress the population.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat puts forth...

Posted May 24, 2013
Oh, I would love to see some of those guys devoured by orcs.

Matthew K swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 24, 2013

Oh it would happen but the hapless citizens would get eaten first because fkucked up as those forces are they're still a more challenging target..

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HAVOCK21 has opinions thus...

Posted May 24, 2013

Once the air force gets air superiority...thats interesting because I would wager they have never had to contest the skys with such a versatile opponent.

1 Firstly, they would probably be very manoeuvrable

2 They could be a right bitch for heat seekers to lock onto

3 Radar might not work that well on them??

If we end up with a visual fight and not the current doctrine of BVR engagements, then we might be in some bother, especially if they have lots of numbers.

I just had a vision of the RAAF sunderland flying boats and the tag flying porcupine, I can see C5’s and Hercs being fitted out with blister canopies and turrets with Mini’s and .50 cals etc to fend off the hordes.

Another thing will be the attrition rates, I’ll lay money the Orc’s and whatever have a better regeneration rate than what would be able to be achieved with a modern fighter force which just happens to have its supply and log chain all fkd up. Modern aircraft take a fkn long time to build and most people tend to think about being the winners and having the most planes, bullets and bombs left over after they have smashed the enmy.

This changes rather drastically if the conflict happens to wallow into one of attrition, even further complicated should the battle be waged across the logistics infrastructure, and the home territory where you grow, manufacture and rest your troops, pilots and so on. So progressively, you loose aircraft to maintenance issues, by either having them grounded, cannibalised for spares or lost in combat due to both the enemy, fatigue or malfunction and the fatigue covers also the pilots.

I’ve also only touched on the platform itself and having to keep it in a flyable condition, lets not even start on the weapons themselves and having make them, ship them even before you can shoot them. Its a fully and I mean, most western countries have not faced this in fkn decades, its a fully contested environment, no rest from being on guard and fighting. Fighting for you home to sleep in, fighting for food, fighting to fabricate shit, fighting to ship it and then fighting to keep the base from which you plan to attack the enemy.

Somewhere up thread it was mentioned about quad 50’s on trains....FKN HELL YES, flack trucks with road convoys, shipping convoys and the fkn list goes on.

The most advantageous item we might have come up with will be the gun and bullet, plus the tech to see find and put the bullet into the enemy with previously unavailable precision. The missile whilst good, for defence will be both too slow in the majority of cases and we will not carry enough of them nor be able to manufacture enough of them, i’m really talking about SAM’s. Gear like TLAM’s and..yes..CLUSTER MUNITIONS for hordes of attacking Orc’s and trolls..FK YES. But after that, its the bullet, scope, IR, radar and mini and barret and so forth.

Matthew K reckons...

Posted May 25, 2013

You can be quite articulate when you want can't you. ;)

Yes to all the above, just what I was struggling to formulate.

thetick swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 25, 2013

If you're talking long term, why are we still building super complex weapons? If you're fighting a mobile ground force with swords and crossbows, won't a piston engine aircraft (think Pucara) be just as effective as a JSF? Why not a Mosquito?

IFV's can be manufactured pretty cheaply and quickly and if you're fighting fantasy monsters, why do you need tanks?

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Shifty Tourist is gonna tell you...

Posted May 24, 2013

It doesn't need to be the showy, fireballs and meteor shower type magic, which is the staple of RPG games... what would be the effect if nobody in NYC (or Sydney) could get any sleep, because the magic weilders infect everybody's dreams with horrific nightmares... what if every time the military drops bombs, the moment the smoke settles, the illusion of a massed orc horde waivers and they find have just bombed civilians who have been coralled there to be bombed.

Military folk, occasionally have to deal with the possibility of civilian casulties, thats true.... but this won't be "enemy" civilians... but their own countrymen.... I'm sure its hard enough for the ADF when an Afhgan child accidentally gets shot in a firefight with the taliban... but what would be the effect on service person's morale if the RAAF is freqently decieved into killing syndeysiders, briszegans, perthites, Adeleenans, and Melbournians.... well they'd probably be OK with melbournians, but the others might be a real blow.

The potential for psycological warfare is enormous... what happens to a nations military, or even the citizens themselves when they can no longer trust what they can see or hear.... can a military that second guesses its every move?

HAVOCK21 asserts...

Posted May 24, 2013

Sydeny is the first fkn joint I will offer us as fkn BAIT for the hordes to come in and fkn feed on.THE....NUKED FROM FKN ORBIT!

Shifty Tourist mutters...

Posted May 24, 2013

... hmmm maybe using the capital cities was as an example was a bad idea..... need to find country town names, one with lots of farmers, people like farmers...

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat asserts...

Posted May 24, 2013
Shifty, how can we turn that aspect of the psych warfare back onto them?

Seriously, I have been trying to come up with an answer to that for a while now. How do you do 'Shock and Awe' to dragons? Like, all those demotivating leaflets would be incinerated, not to mention I don't think we have sufficiently skilled linguists.

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HAVOCK21 ducks in to say...

Posted May 24, 2013

Here is a thought, what happens if the current 5.56 ( .223 ) round does not kill the majority of the ......enemy, the orcs, trolls, dragons and Christ knows what else. What if it takes 7.62mm or better, whats going to happen if you really need to be in .50 cal territory for medium to longer range hits and I’m thinking out to a 1000m.

That would render most weapons useless, certainly those for personal defence, a vast amount of military stuff too. Sure, you can shoot for the eyes, but not everybody can and would get them on target. What if they have some crawling fire spitting fkn monster thats armoured out the wazoo, then maybe it chain gun 200mm or better time, maybe its tank time.

I think we would have a better chance on the ground, its our natural home, the air we would not be quite as good and our real exposure lies in the ocean. Ships and sub are simply not aquatically versatile and swift enough to take on an enemy thats got water creatures or something very close to them as part of their fkn attack kit!

Brother PorkChop puts forth...

Posted May 24, 2013

Happy days. I reckon I could still strip and assemble an SLR, and I always enjoyed letting rip. Throw in some M60s and ARs (L2A1) - not much gets up after being smacked down by a round from the SLR/AR.

Matthew K has opinions thus...

Posted May 25, 2013

I'd wondered about the .223's effect on the slavering hordes too.

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HAVOCK21 mutters...

Posted May 24, 2013

And lets toss in the fkn MAGIC too, thats got some serious implications as well, both for the bastard using it and those receiving it and also those who KILL those who use it. I’m thinking midiclorins and JUMPER, meets, Alien and Hobbit lands and Weapons of choice with Space troopers and General fkn Custer with some BSG hovering with majic help base ships (perhaps carriers ) as they are not safe sailing on the ocean wepons and battle...hmm....FK YES!

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted May 24, 2013
Could arch-rationalist have the capability to create non-magical zones which prevent the magical working.

For a good analysis of how a modern world tech can respond to supernatural/magic threats I recommend the British TV series 'Ultraviolet'. Well I call it a series but so you Yanks don't get shocked its only six episodes, but that was what was planned. It didn't get cancelled or anything.

From Wiki

"In Ultraviolet these methods allow the vampire hunters to develop modern weaponry to fend off their foes - instead of stakes, they carry automatic handguns and submachine guns with carbon bullets and specialized sights that use video cameras to differentiate between vampires and humans (vampires are invisible to recording devices); instead of wreaths of garlic, gas grenades containing concentrated allicin; instead of sunlight, lamps emitting ultraviolet light. The traditional idea of religious symbols repelling the creatures is regarded as a placebo and not relied upon. A major character describes it as "a matter of faith...on both sides." The thrall attributed to vampires is explained as chemical suggestion, a side effect of feeding. The conversion of humans into vampires is regarded as pathological infection, not demonic possession. The vampires in turn use scientific tactics, not supernatural ones. Genetic engineering plays a major role in the vampire conspiracy. They use cars with UV resistant glass for ground travel during the day, and time locked caskets for long-distance air travel. They use speech synthesis software to communicate over telephone lines".

Matthew F. ducks in to say...

Posted May 24, 2013

I loved that series. A really cold-bloodedly calculating think-through of how a modern vampire infestation would really work, as I suspect only the English can really manage.

Surtac mumbles...

Posted May 24, 2013

Agreed. A really good show.

Now I have to try again to find it on dvd. I tried and failed a few years ago ...

Barnesm reckons...

Posted May 24, 2013

Amazon UK have it. Can seem to activate the link icon above

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ultraviolet-Collectors-DVD-Jack-Davenport/dp/B00B59MHPQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1369361347&sr=1-1&keywords=ultraviolet

Surtac ducks in to say...

Posted May 24, 2013

Thank you Mr Barnes. A 2013 re-release I see.

Eldest Daughter wants to order stuff from Amazon UK too so I might chuck this in too and see if I can score some free shipping. That always makes me happy..

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w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted May 24, 2013

Historically, the smaller it is, the more dangerous it is.
Bacteria, it seems, in the case of the Black Plague. Viruses are even more dangerous, though that may change. The most efffective anti-personnel weapons platform has been the mosquito.
Within limits, probably, the bigger it is, the easier it would be to handle.
As HAVOCK rightly points out, the danger is a lot proportional to the regeneration rate. So far, there is a strong correlation between size, birth rate, and time to mature.
The cane toad had proven too much for us. Big animals are all under threat.

A swarm of quickly replicating, microscopic orcs. That would be probably more dangerous than the ones in LOTR.

Barnesm puts forth...

Posted May 24, 2013

In a wired arctile on how to response to Kaji the warfare boffins suggest micro drones/swams such as your micro-orcs.

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Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 24, 2013

My apologies for the dense clump of text in my comment above. The grey formating toolbar in the comments section dissappeared. Its back now for this comment.

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HAVOCK21 mumbles...

Posted May 24, 2013

Ok

Just had a though, the magic works both ways and is transferable, yes, the enemy had matured and learnt to manipulates some tech but with the realisation of the transference of the magic or perhaps even additional communication powers to humans in combat, the possibility of “Soldierising” and thereby “ weaponising” animals comes into play.

This opens the field right up, in the water you would have access to fish, dolphins whales and Christ knows what else, maybe its restricted of sorts by proximity or the intelligence level.

A dumb as swarm of human controlled KRILL chokes some attacking underwater killer fkn mutant toady orc thing!

Animals, not all, certainly quite a few are very efficient killers, but also, they would be extremely effective intelligence gatherers and with some tech mated to them and the animal actually understanding what it needs to de, find gather etc, the capability jump is massive.

It could be an evolutionary tipping type point where the enemy has been winning and the discovery effective give parity to the humans and animals alike

Matthew F. puts forth...

Posted May 24, 2013

Possibly not something you'll see in this series, since one of JB's premises is that technology and industry have actually made us scarier than the monsters.

But if you like the idea, you might like Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan book (books? I think there's a series) about an alternate WWI where Darwin went a lot further in his research and the English wound up with full-on bioengineering by the Victorian age. So you've got giant armour-plated war lions and bioengineered super-birds for recon and message carrying and so on. The Leviathans of the title are enormous air battleships - think a blue whale as long as a city block, growing its hydrogen sacs inside its armour-skinned body, swimming through the air with a fortified gondola underneath. They're fighting the "Clankers", the Kaiser's army which are still using technology in the form of weird dieselpunk battlemechs and whatnot.

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Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted May 24, 2013

Two more comments for the ton.

Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted May 24, 2013

I think Birmo gets to justify another bunny for the pool.

Shifty Tourist mumbles...

Posted May 24, 2013

I assume it means JB has to distribute the entirety of his vast wealth to everybody who commented.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted May 24, 2013

Ha, you assume wrong.

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Surtac reckons...

Posted May 24, 2013

Fascinating discussion in here. And I now have to find my copy of Reign of Fire to rewatch. Just love the scene where one of the protags and his mate are acting out the "Luke ... I am your father!" bit from Star Wars to entertain the kiddies in their culturally barren future ...

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HAVOCK21 is gonna tell you...

Posted May 24, 2013

will ya wrap around Oakley’s stop the impact of the medusa stare?And at the end....ya still gota have somebody standing on that fkn wall!.......

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Maddoug puts forth...

Posted May 24, 2013

Well on the subject of the Magic side of things, what if they have someone like Saruman who can use earth creatures as spies or weapons? Swarm of locusts flying into the intakes of attacking aircraft, massive schools of fish disrupting a naval operation, and how about if his "connection to the natural world" gives him sympathisers among those members of the human population with similar ideas? Think Sea Shepherd out in the Southern Ocean protesting when suddenly the whales do a Moby Dick on the japanese whaling fleet right in front of them, but leave their ship alone...

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The Wiz mumbles...

Posted May 24, 2013

Sounds like The Wheel of Time meets GI Joe BrisVegas

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yankeedog mutters...

Posted May 24, 2013

I'll move to Japan should this whole 'magic vs. technology' thing happen. Ain't no dragon on the planet can stand up to Godzilla. I've seen Godzilla beat the hell out of King Ghidorah, and that's a THREE-headed dragon there, not your basic uniheaded attack dragon.

History shows again and again how nature points up the folly of man...Godzilla!

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andyf puts forth...

Posted May 25, 2013

have you had a squint at 'pantheocide'?

more importantly, modern militaries understand its about logistics, these proto-medivalists wont get that

if something can breathe fire , its fairly sure it will show up on IR

flying creaures , to be fair, arent gonna fly over 15000ft

and sams will LOVE em

best toys would be nerve gas.. sadly

check out dimethylmercury- id pop that down their nest holes

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JG mumbles...

Posted May 25, 2013

I can't wait for your magic vs tech series next year, John. It's going to be brilliant. All the best with it. Hope you have Brissie bookshop book launches for 1, 2, and 3. Excited by this series. Cheers, guv.

Joanna G :)

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CathieT reckons...

Posted May 25, 2013

Can I just throw in some silliness here and ask whether anyone has factored in the pro-dragon/monster sympathisers amongst the human population?

People who are horrified that governments are killing dragons and orcs and protest and sabotage our efforts to annihilate them!

Just sayin' :) Guerilla Humans.

AB has opinions thus...

Posted May 26, 2013

Or from the opposite perspective, the Orc who falls in live with a local girl and wants out of the war, wants to assimilate, wants to settle down in the 'burbs and play happy families.

To the prep mums when their first born turns up for class on day one:

"We just want to be left alone to live our lives" she said. "Everyone just thinks he's a monster, but he's got feelings too, y'know? Though between you and me girls, in the bedroom, lets just say 'monster' is right..." Cue nervous twitters, nudge nudge, giggle giggle..

CathieT asserts...

Posted May 26, 2013

Thanks PNB. :)

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pitpat swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 26, 2013

If the magic is really technology so far in advance of our own that it appears to us to be magic then we will be screwed.

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Respond to 'How to write an apocalypse'

Kindle Worlds update

Posted May 24, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

So, this fan fic thing may not be quite as awesome as it first seemed. My initial reaction was an insider's take. There's a lot of control at stake in Amazon's plan, and I didn't see the old school publishers conceding it.

A couple of hours later, issues of control have come to the fore of the reaction to Kindle Worlds, but not in the way I imagined. There are significant issues over who owns and gets to exploit the IP generated by the published fan fiction.

Bottom line, not the authors. And by that I mean the fan fic writers. It seems that the licensing agreement Amazon has developed gives them and the originating license holder (the publisher, not the writer) all rights to everything. I think it's known in legal circles as the All Teh THINGZ clause.

Other people with bigger brains have already started to pore over the deets. From Wired:

Wired spoke with attorney Jeff Trexler, who expressed similar concerns, pointing to a clause in Amazon’s contact that grants Amazon and the licensor rights to the text of the stories and any original elements they might contain.

“In short, if your fan fiction includes new elements that catch on with the general public, it’s likely that you’ll not be able to profit from them outside of the stories that you write,” he said. “For example, Time Warner could launch a movie series based on a character you created and not owe you a dime. While the terms state that you retain the copyright, you also give Amazon an exclusive license to your original work and Amazon in turn licenses your work to Time Warner in a license that provides nothing for you.”

Furthermore, says Trexler, if you decided to keep using that character outside of Kindle Worlds, you’d be violating the terms of your contract.

John Scalzi, writing as 'is 'umble self, rather than in his superhero tights and underpants as the chief poobah of SFWA was massively underwhelmed.

...that really cool creative idea you put in your story, or that awesome new character you made? If Alloy Entertainment likes it, they can take it and use it for their own purposes without paying you — which is to say they make money off your idea, lots of money, even, and all you get is the knowledge they liked your idea.

Essentially, this means that all the work in the Kindle Worlds arena is a work for hire that Alloy (and whomever else signs on) can mine with impunity. This is a very good deal for Alloy, et al — they’re getting story ideas! Free! — and less of a good deal for the actual writers themselves. I mean, the official media tie-in writers and script writers are doing work for hire, too, but they get advances and\or at least WGA minimum scale for their work.

Another red flag:

“Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright.”

Which is to say, once Amazon has it, they have the right to do anything they want with it, including possibly using it in anthologies or selling it other languages, etc, without paying the author anything else for it, ever. Again, an excellent deal for Amazon; a less than excellent deal for the actual writer.

Both links are worth hitting up if you are in any way interested in trying to break into publishing or even just turn a modest dollar from this Amazon deal.

I don't know that the problems are a complete deal breaker for me. I can still imagine ways of publishing AoT and Disappearance fan fic into Kindle Worlds that would protect the fan writers. But it would also constrain them very severely, which is arse. If they wanted to avoid getting ripped off, they'd have to avoid using new characters or settings, I imagine. Mick's Queen of the Seven Seas might well run afoul of this.

Arse, as I said.

And, at any rate, I have my own very special issues to work through. Which publisher, for instance, gets to sign as the licensor. US? Australian? British? Polish?

Bueller? Anyone? Bueller?

13 Responses to ‘Kindle Worlds update’

tqft asserts...

Posted May 24, 2013

I tried to comment over at Attendly but it hated me.

I don't actually read much in the way of fanfic (so close to zero im my lifetime it isn't funny). But one side I haven't seen discussed yet (and heavnt looked for):will Amazon go after any and all (undergroud or not) fanfic sites now? For worlds where they hold the copyright I can see them lawyering up fast, but will they stop at individual or just go for the jugular and take down the whole sites, site owners, etc?

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w from brisbane swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 24, 2013

JB,
If a fanfic author wrote an AoT story with a hermaphrodite space warrior character, and later you included a hermaphrodite space warrior character into an AoT ebook; could you potentially owe Amazon money?

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 24, 2013

NFI, Dubya.

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Blarkon mumbles...

Posted May 24, 2013

Isn't this pretty par for the course when you're writing in another person's universe. For example, comics writers writing in the Marvel universe have Marvel own all their work, Star Wars and Star Trek authors have Disney and Paramount own their work?

I can understand writing work for hire for some licensed properties. Heck a CBG regular writes Warhammer 40K books - I'm guessing that the ideas and properties in his work are owned by Games Workshop.

It's also like if you come up with a cool idea while working somewhere like Google. You'll have to check your contract, because it's pretty likely that unless you've taken time to exempt certain things, anything that you come up while being an employee of the company may belong to the company.

If you want to own your ideas - don't write fanfic. (and I'm saying that as someone who at 17 had some kick arse Worf fan fic published in an Australian Star Trek magazine)

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted May 24, 2013

You're almost certainly right, and yet it sticks in my craw, and Scalzi's and I imagine pretty much anyone in the biz. Funny thing is, we'd still get in for our chop of any IP exploited by Amazon or the licensee, because our contracts would make sure of that. But if somebody writes an AWSM Kolhammer story, or Caitlin story or whatever, and that gets adapted it seems only fair they should get some recompense.

I recognise that fair's got nuthin to do with it, however.

Blarkon has opinions thus...

Posted May 24, 2013

A good example at the moment is Warren Ellis. He wrote Red as an original comic book story. It was adapted into a movie with Bruce Willis. Mucho $$$ (there's even a sequel in the works).

He wrote Iron Man Extremis - parts of which were adapter into Iron Man III. It was a work for hire job. Lots of *mention* of him in the press as being related to Iron Man III - but as it's *work for hire*, nyeto extra dollaro.

In the long run, talent will out. Someone who can write a great Kolhammer story can write a great story with their own characters and universe.

Sel mumbles...

Posted May 24, 2013

Yes, but if, while writing Amazon Worlds fanfic, I introduce a new concept or character that is my own creation, and then later I want to develop that concept in a world entirely of my own then by the terms of the agreement with Amazon Worlds, I cannot. It belongs to someone else.

I have had at least one friend who wrote one scene of a fanfic between two characters, and then turned around, "filed off the serial numbers", and created a seven-book series that pretty much started with an interaction between those two characters. It launched her published career. She's presently at thirteen books and still writing.

If, say, she'd been writing for Amazon Worlds, she wouldn't have been allowed to take that seed idea, turn it into a professional novel/series.

That is the danger of Amazon Worlds. One cannot publish the fanfic written for money, but if if they catch you filing the serial numbers off, or they think your professional story infringes on the fanfic you've written for them? Slapdown, baby!

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Dirk puts forth...

Posted May 24, 2013

Hmm first things first. There are a few things you should split from the bowl of spaghetti which are rights. Consulting a specialist in these matters is advisable though. Does Brisbane sport an university with some professors in civic law?
The rights:
1. The copyright i.e. the intellectual property of the world, characters and the strings of 200+ K words you call “Books”. This breaks up (under Dutch law at least) in the books them self and into the “artistic right” of an author to guard the world and characters against uses the author himself thinks himself inappropriate. Example: an architect in the Netherlands has to be consulted for adding sunshades for the building he has designed. This also includes the right to use the characters in for example commercials and alike. I took my copy of Designated Targets and it read © 2005 John Birmingham, so you are the sole owner of the copyright on that one.
2. Publication rights, so the right to print those 200+ K words either digitally or on “dead wood” after which those things are sold and you get a fee per sold copy. These can be split up per language/country or origin. The country of first publication is leading in this, so in your case Oz.
3. Movie rights so the right to make movies/tv series based on either the 200+ K words or the characters and or world into flickering pictures and or theatrical plays.
4. Gaming rights so the right to make xbox/ps3/pc/ios/android games based on either the 200+ K words, characters and or the world in to flickering pictures.
So how to kill of the beast in this.
1. Divided you fall: team up with your brothers and sisters in the arts. There should be a couple of thousand a list authors who could be affected by this, so you can fight this in a class action law suit. Amazon trying to get your copyright (and or that of your collegeas) can be viewed as an attempted of theft, which in itself is punishable by law! The “casus belli” just has to be reported at an police station near you ;) .
2. Open up your own channel, but adding in an opt in clause: You may write fanfiction, but I, Birmo can do with it what I please. Though DO I use it you will be compensated with for example an mention, a character is named after you and/or you will get a free digital copy of my work in which yours is used.

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April ducks in to say...

Posted May 24, 2013

JB,

Idea: "Caitlin is teh awsm inc". Your newest publisher! Thus if Amazon is recognising publishers as getting a cut, and you publish as a publisher in and of yourself, in basic principal don't you therefore get equal status?

Either way, IP is such a grey area and we all know its shonky, but at least they need to be honest about degrees of shonkiness. Good luck to anyone who doeth try to write Caitlin or AoT; except DeMille. He could screw you over- similar style.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 24, 2013

I've never read DeMille. Always meant to.

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MickH mumbles...

Posted May 25, 2013

Sorry I'm late to this.

So from what I can see, If I published Queen of the Seven Seas, anything original in it, like my whole alternate history setting, can be used by them without any financial gain to myself or even control.

I can't see why anyone would use this if the story was good. In my own experience, writing the story took a huge amount of effort and time and used it as a start to more serious ventures. But if the "chick who wrote the fifty shades of grey crap can get rich why can't I" mentality kicks in for everyone then they'd all stay away from that deal.

But on the other side of the coin, a lot of fan fic would be crap, and this would be a good place to put it and allow the author to at least get some recognition and coppers if the story deserved it.

For me, its tempting to stick it out there now. It was the first story I wrote so the grammar and style is pretty crap but at least I could have closure with it and let some of you read it (I do get asked about it). I'd be taking the chance that the story went viral and leave me in the gutter with nothing. But what are the chances of that happening? The other alternative is to totally de-fan fic the whole story. It will make it better, because i will have to we-write it completely, but would all the effort be worth it in the long run?

Hmm lots of questions to ponder and any advice from you guys would be appreciated.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 25, 2013

I'd go read the Scalzi link if you haven't already, Mick.

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MickH has opinions thus...

Posted May 25, 2013

yeah thanks John, just did. And its like i thought.

It can be a good deal if you just want the recognition and not the finacial rewards. They are are going to get some money arn't they? If they sell a story?

Personally i think I'll shy away from it until it becomes a LOT clearer. I think our idea to de-copyright the story is the best way ahead, even though it will be freak'n hard to re-visit it again.

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Should you plot out your best selling novel?

Posted May 17, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

When Raymond Chandler wrote himself into a corner he found the best way to escape was to have a man with a gun walk into the room. I loved Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novels, and they all but founded the sub genre of hard boiled literary noir. But he did admit that by the end of The Big Sleep he’d pretty much lost track of the bodies.

We all do.

Hanging narrative threads, forgotten side quests, unfilled plot holes, they’re the hazards of working at length. There’s a couple of ways of dealing with them. First, don’t. Just accept you can’t run down every blind alley to the very end, and trust that not too many readers will notice.

(Pro tip, they’ll notice).

You could trust to your editors and back fill the later drafts, but this relies on someone else picking up the mistake. Or you could story board the whole book and do it as a paint by numbers exercise. It sounds tedious and little constricting, because it is.

In the George R.R. Martin interview somewhere down the page, the big guy talks about the two types of writers he knows – the gardeners and the architect. The first throw out a story seed and wait to see what grows. The latter don’t write a word until they’ve drawn up detailed blueprints and specified ever single nail and nut and bolt they’ll need.

There are no such creatures in real life, of course. We all sort of plan and we all let the story run wild, but he’s right. Most of us lean towards one method or the other. Having had the experience of getting deep into Weapons of Choice and realising the half dozen previous books I’d written hadn’t prepared me at all to write it, I went into Designated Targets determined not to get painted into a corner, or lose track of the bodies, or tofall back on random guys blundering into every chapter with a gun.

It worked, sort of. I had much better control of that book than Weapons, and the writing went a lot easier. It was less frustrating, a hell of a lot better structured and I had none of the deadline slippage problems that dogged the first of the trilogy titles.

For book three, however, I went back to the gardener method. Mostly. I had a couple of plot points I knew I had to hit and a rough idea of how to get there, but I gave up on following a strictly mapped out path through the story.

I’d found that although the work flowed with fewer blockages and spills, I didn’t enjoy having to brute the characters through. They had their own ideas about what to do in any given situation and their intentions didn’t always sit well with mine.

It sounds odd, a bit of a wank, even. But I think it’s inevitable when you write point-of-view stories. Or at least it is for me. Why?

When you’re writing third person PoV you’re inside the head of that character. If you’re doing it properly it doesn’t take long before you become the character. I recall Martin saying something about this during the interview. He often finds himself staying with one character for long stretches of writing time, just to stay in their heads. I’ve done something similar with the Disappearance novels, writing whole arcs from, say, Caitlin’s POV, before going back and starting on Milosz.

When you’re writing in-character you really do end up shape shifting into that person. You see the world differently.

It’s just not possible to do that – or I don’t find it possible, anyway – sitting at a drawing board, mapping long narrative arcs for particular characters before you’ve written a word of their story. I found that as soon as I set them in motion, my fave characters had quite different ideas about how things should play out.

So now, I try to have some idea about where a particular book will go, and perhaps a few points it’ll pass through on the way, but I don’t schedule everything like a package tour.

With one caveat.

This method breaks down for shorter titles. Stalin’s Hammer: Rome got out of my grasp because I just set Harry and Ivanov loose on the city with vague orders to bring me back a vast Stalinist plot within ten or twelve chapters. Turns out vast Stalinist plots are harder to wrestle to the ground than you’d think. I also had some issues with Ivanov’s journey under the old city taking up much more time than I’d imagined it would, leaving Harry with less ‘page time’ than I wanted.

For Cairo, then, I’ve reverted to story boarding. I’m trying to be flexible about it. I just cut a couple of chapters because I could see they were going to lead me wildly astray and blow the word length out from 35 to 70K. Good value for you. But not so much for me. And not for you either if you’d like me to be getting on with the series.

How do other writers approach the problem of plotting out? Some crime writers go to the trouble of writing entire alternate arcs where any one of half a dozen characters could be the perp, then when they’ve settled on who they want, they just go back and delete anything which isn’t relevant. Or rather they delete most of the irrelevant content. The few bits and pieces remaining in the final draft stay there as red herrings. I seem to recall Agatha Christie did something like this.

Others, who look like they plot, don’t. Lee Child has some fiendishly complicated story lines which look as though they had to have been planned out to the last comma. But no, he insists he is a gardener. He gets the idea and runs with it, even using Chandlers ‘random man with a gun’ device if he writes himself into a corner. He’s also a lot less concerned with real world veracity than, say, Freddy Forsyth. If Child needs to make some shit up to get himself out of a hole, he makes it up and, like a magician, spends his efforts on distracting your eye from the rabbit in the hat.

Should you be plotting out?

I dunno. I’m not you, but I suspect that certain forms lend themselves to it more than others. Big sprawling fantasy epics can afford to sprawl and spread and take three or four hundred page detours because they’re as much about world building as anything. But even they have their limits.

I imagine that Game of Thrones (yes, yes, I know, It’s A Song of Ice and Fire) will have to bring the white walkers and the dragons together in the final battle. But the pace at which the story is advancing for now leaves me wondering whether Martin can get us there in two books – which is all he has ‘planned’.

37 Responses to ‘Should you plot out your best selling novel?’

MickH ducks in to say...

Posted May 18, 2013

I thought his structure was to write the chapter in sequence then throw them in the air. The way he then picked them up determined the order in the book!

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yankeedog ducks in to say...

Posted May 17, 2013

I never really thought about this, but it's interesting. I know now why I don't write for a living-too damn much work!

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Matthew F. mumbles...

Posted May 17, 2013

My Warhammer stablemate Bill King talked about this in a blog post, and I liked his take on the balance point between the two approaches. He compared it to planning a trip. Some people plan a trip literally down to the number of minutes it will take to stop for petrol, some just throw some stuff in a bag and set off down any road that looks interesting. Most people will do something in the middle: plan their main movements, stops, expenses, what they want to see and do in each place and so on.

But once you're on the road, you find things change. The town you thought you were set to spend a week in is deathly dull but that tiny village twenty klicks further on looks pretty cool, so you switch up a couple of nights. One museum eats the entire time you had planned for one city, but then you find that the thing you were going to two stops along has been closed and so you redistribute the time. Your original itinerary is still there, it's just... evolving.

I notice Chuck Wendig uses the same analogy, albeit (of course) with more swearing, less pants, and flinch-inducing references to baboon porn: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/05/14/25-things-you-should-know-about-outlining/

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 17, 2013

It's a pretty good analogy. It doesn't need the baboon porn.

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Kieran is gonna tell you...

Posted May 17, 2013

Thanks for the insights, JB. Been thinking about this a lot. I started my current project as a "gardener", and ran into all sorts of problems for a different reason - at the moment I have to put down and pick it up a lot, and it became impossible to hang on to all the threads. With enough time in between, the story changes while youre writing it - I think maybe because, as a friend of mine pointed out, you keep changing yourself. Course it probably boils down to a personality thing too. But the best thing about the planning thing for me is it's left me willing to rip things out and chnage things with abandon, and probably let me learn more things more quickly than I would have otherwise. As to whether one of the characters will pull a handbrake turn halfway through my careful little world, or if it will all feel played out by the time I get there, well, I dunno. But I'm looking forward to finding out.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted May 17, 2013

I think that given the number of threads you have to hold in your mind, the way you need to suspend an entire world in your head while you write a book, it'd be all but impossible to do it in bits n pieces without a plan.

But that's me.

Mark Gordon reckons...

Posted May 18, 2013

My debut novel "Desolation Boulevard" is 150000 words of post-apocalyptic mayhem that is totally unplanned. I virtually had no idea what would happen from one chapter to the next, but I think that made it all the more fun to write. By allowing plot elements to "percolate" in my mind as the story continued, I found they they were able to become major parts of the book later on. Some of my favourite scenes in the book evolved when I stupidly wrote characters into situations that were (at the time) impossible for them to escape from. By sleeping on the problem for a few days, though, I was able to rescue them through some extremely inventive and exciting means. I can't imagine being able to go down these byways through planning.

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Trowzers has opinions thus...

Posted May 17, 2013

Appropriately, given my nickname, I am much more of a 'pantser' than a 'plotter'. And definitely much more of a gardener - something I enjoy outside writing as well! But meandering through a story leads me to wander right out of the story and into a completely different one, which is why I have a box full of unfinished stories, but barely any finished ones. One day I'll figure out how to stay on track (or find someone willing to get the whip out) and get these damnable endings out of my head and onto paper. Getting to the middle is no problem - it's the wrapping up that seems to be the hardest part!

w from brisbane reckons...

Posted May 17, 2013

I recently heard an author interviewed. When asked the inevitable "where do your stories come from?" ;

He said, "They always seem to start with one line that just pops into my head."
"Oh, so you just get the first line?"
"No, it is always the last line. Then I wrote a book to work out how to get there."

Which struck me as kind of funny, but perhaps not.

Matthew F. mumbles...

Posted May 17, 2013

I've done stories like that. Came up with an awesome closing line, came up with a closing scene to have something to hang the closing line on, then came up with a story to have something to hang the closing scene on.

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Analog Penetration swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 17, 2013

When is Cairo coming out?

w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted May 17, 2013

Yeah, Mr John R. R. Birmingham!

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 17, 2013

Sept, Oct, ish.

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maddygrace mutters...

Posted May 17, 2013
I tip my hat to anyone who can write more than 3,000 words. I recently went to a talk with Graeme Simsion, where he explained his writing process. He said that he never gets writer's block because he always knows exactly what he is going to write, every time her writes - because he always plans it all out. So I guess plotting can be useful. But I don't even know where you author people get the imagination from to actually write a novel!

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MickH asserts...

Posted May 17, 2013

If its your first time in the bull ring.

PLOT!

Plot plot plot! Its the only way you'll end up with a finished MS.

But JB has a point with gardening and its something i find myself doing with my new projects particularly the short stories.

I (and with lots of help from YankeeDog) plotted out Q7S in detail. First I did a coarse story board, sort of a general description for each chapter. Nailed that down them went to a fine story board on each chapter using points. All up it came to about 30 pages and a couple of weeks of part time work.

With this I was able to fill in the gaps where and when i felt like it. I was able to faff about sometimes and even added and deleted bits but I essentually stayed within the story board.

I would use that method again.

A down side for me was you got all the story imagining done early and thats the bit I like and keeps me motivated. I found it became a bit of a drudgery after that just filling in lines. Well, it wasn't just filling in lines, the characters came alive at this point so it wasn't that bad.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat is gonna tell you...

Posted May 17, 2013

For me, gardening is fine with short stories. As soon as I started writing stuff over around 5,000 words, I had to change my approach and start to plot, even if was just the "must-have" critical turning points of the story plus the beginning and the end. I found this stopped those moments of panic where I just didn't know where to go with a story, which was a more common experience for me with longer pieces of writing. Generally the longer the work, the more plotting I do, but it still focuses around the critical points of the story - very linear plotting is a creativity-killer for me. I like mind-mapping for plotting too, that lets me see the larger patterns and links in the story.

I agree that you do want to keep track of all your plot points/threads and if you don't, you risk losing some readers (especially those readers who are also writers!).

And I also accept that my characters will regularly hijack events, so if where they are going is good, I'm happy to run with it. Mostly the stuff that comes out of them is better than what I had planned (they are way meaner than me).

One writer on the Odyssey Writing Workshops talked about doing serial synopses - having a plot and synopsis to start with, and then stopping periodically during his novel to redo the synopsis and take stock of where he was going.

After a number of years I've finally hit on a method that is working for the novel I am writing now. I'm thinking that's great for this piece, but I'm not sure what I am doing will work for other pieces I will work on later. I have a feeling that you probably need to adjust for each book. When I actually finish more than one, I can let you know then! But bottom line is, you need to keep trying out different approaches until you find the one that works best for you. If writing is important, you will find a way.

Have fun at Book Club tonight.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 17, 2013

There's a great qoute from some very famous and important novelist whose name escapes me but who never wrote short stories because 'he didn't have the time'.

He felt the plot had to be so intricately controlled at that length he was better off writing long.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat puts forth...

Posted May 17, 2013
God, I wish my brain worked like that.

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JBtoo is gonna tell you...

Posted May 17, 2013

I think Mr Martin could do with a bit more architecture. I've enjoyed the GoT books, but with the last one, in particular, I started to think he was making it all up as he went along, because he literally seemed to have lost the plot.

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Bill swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 17, 2013

About the only thing that makes me immediately stop reading a book is when a character does something that seems dumb and out of character so the author, IMHO, can advance the plot. I guess that's most likely to happen when the author is following an outline. I need my hero in this box so he can be accidentally loaded onto the bad guys space ship. How about I just get him to walk over and climb into it even though he has no justifiable reason to do so and no reason being anywhere near it.

In many cases I stop reading the author altogether.

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Blarkon ducks in to say...

Posted May 17, 2013

Pratchett said to never shout the question "how do you keep your balance?" to the guy on the high wire.

I think the Internet and technology changes our nature of expectations about an author keeping control of their manuscript. That in a digital form, a manuscript should be "more malleable" than if it was pages coming out of a typewriter.

There are certainly tools today that can keep track of even the most fractal of narratives (mindmapping being a good start, but any diagramming application on a tablet is going to allow you to drag stuff around in a way that would be bloody difficult on butcher paper or a whiteboard).

I suspect that today's reader has greater expectations in terms of narrative complexity and coherence than a reader of a couple of decades ago. You can see the same thing in TV and Movies - I was watching the "writers room" special feature on the Season 3 Blu-Ray of Trek (which includes Ron D Moore talking about his first job (interestingly a lot of the Next Gen writing team at about Season 3 were on their first gig)) and they mention that TNG would have problems surviving today because the expectations around a show's narrative complexity are a lot higher than they were back in the late 80's.

MickH puts forth...

Posted May 17, 2013

Yeah, they have to keep bastards like us entertained :)

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Jayanthi's Atomic Cat reckons...

Posted May 17, 2013
I'm curious as to how much pre-planning goes into people 's characters before they start writing (as distinct from plotting events). Are people making notes of what they look like, what they eat for breakfast, etc? Or are the psychological drivers of character more critical for youse all?

MickH reckons...

Posted May 17, 2013

Some writers I know, JB is one of them, will write a characters whole biography before writing a single word of the story. It helps build the character in their mind as a unique identity

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat is gonna tell you...

Posted May 17, 2013
I can relate to the bio technique. I do that. I find it helps the characters assert themselves during the writing, rather than simply being vehicles for the pre-determined plot. I don't get as much enjoyment from stories which feel that way, a la what Bill said.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 17, 2013

Yup. It's not unusual to spend more time on character bios than on the plot summary.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat mutters...

Posted May 18, 2013
I quite like doing first-person character bios, effectively getting the characters to sit down and write out their life story. Not like year by year, but mapping their lives by events that were - often still are - significant to them. I almost never write stories in first person but I find this really gets me inside their heads. It's particularly helpful with characters I don't like - more insight makes you understand them better, therefore more able to empathize - just like with real people. Well, not all real people...with some of them understanding leads away from empathy...sigh.

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Jayanthi's Atomic Cat reckons...

Posted May 17, 2013
The cunning plotters amongst you will probably like alistair Reynolds' whiteboarding technique shown here: http://voxish.tripod.com/id19.html . May have spoilers, his whiteboards often do.

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Dino not to be confused with ducks in to say...

Posted May 17, 2013

Thanks JB,

Timely advice as it's happening to me right now as I write my 'best selling novel', which just happens to be my first. Onto chapter 4 (16 000 words so far) and having to keep hand written notes to tie up lose ends or unfinished threads. The unfinished threads 'just feel right' and will hopefully allow for more development down the track. I am a gardener of sorts. I have written a brief outline with a couple of incidences in each chapter to 'steer' the book into a direction. A seed or two in each chapter if you like.

I can see the need for storymapping as the work becomes more complex and/or memory fails to retain the ideas/arcs. It is bloody complicated! I feel I could never be a professional writer because I can't reliably write on demand and want/have to write when I usually have to do something else! Why can't life just wait a few months until I finish this FKN Book?

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat mumbles...

Posted May 18, 2013
Onya Dino, just keep slogging away at it and get that first draft down! I know how hard it is to get the writing done with life always getting in the way - anyone who writes does. I found Eoin Colfer's ('Artemis Fowl' books) advice from an interview of his really helpful. He said 'Write every day, even if it's just one or two sentences.' For me that took the pressure off of trying to 'produce' when life was being obstructive - but it got me into the habit of writing every day. I think the writing part of me responds to regular exercise and now I really miss being in the world of the novel when I don't go and I am 'producing' with a lot less effort. It may not work for you but you never know...
I confess I read about JB's multiple deadlines much of the time and feel glad it's not me...will stick to bringing in a salary, writing and beta-reading for now!

Dino not to be confused with has opinions thus...

Posted May 19, 2013

Thanks J'A'Cat,

I will keep sloggin' like everyone else!

What MickH says below scares me, 3 years!!!!

I'll be grown up by then.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat puts forth...

Posted May 21, 2013
I'm not sure that growing up and being a writer are compatible... Hurry up with that draft!

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MickH reckons...

Posted May 18, 2013

It took me nearly 3 years to write the first draft of Queen of the Seven Seas, 90k odd words and mostly written on the train to work.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat puts forth...

Posted May 18, 2013
Alistair Reynolds says he took ten years to get Revelation Space down, and from memory i think that was only the first draft.

Persistence and patience are true writing virtues.

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Emily is gonna tell you...

Posted May 22, 2013

This is an awesome post. Thank you. Btw I think it's wight walkers... Wight is a cool word for corpse or something.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 22, 2013

Ta. Sorted.

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