Monday, September 19, 2011

YA Novel outline -- a novel where the heroine is eaten at the start of the second chapter

I'd have never been so happy if I'd realized I was about to be eaten alive that afternoon.

(or how to start a YA novel where the heroine gets eaten at the beginning of the second chapter).

But the day before I had started my day off with an arm full of fresh petticoats, just dried in the Queen's flower garden.  The smell of flowers and fresh clothing, setting out the week's clothes for my maids in waiting.  The next day (today!) was to be my birthday, when I would be invested as princess of the land, so the clothes each would wear, and the matching jewelry, was more important than ever.

Myself, well always in red and garnet, given the earring that never was removed from my left ear.

... More on this novel, since the start may not seem promising ...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thud and Blunder Revisited

A long time ago, in a magazine called Amra, there was an article called "Thud and Blunder" about some of the action oriented heroic fantasy that was stewing about.  Now, at the time there was not a lot of fantasy, but there were a fair amount of Conan clones (as in 5-10 stories, maybe a novel or so, every year -- times were slow).

Poul Anderson, who I admire as a writer, attempted to interpose some "realism" into thinking.

In that regards, let me note that a competitive quick draw artist can draw, shoot two separate targets and reholster his or her pistol inside the normal reaction time.

For someone shooting five targets in about a second. There are lots of videos with two shots in under half a second (from holstered pistol to reholstered).

With a sword there are people who are just that much faster than a typical trained person with a sword.

I trained with Bob Barrow for a while.  When Chuck Norris took a team on the road, Bob was the guy on the team who had the highest total points scored (though, Norris, of course, became famous as the guy who won the most).  Compared to a garden variety first degree black belt of the 1970s and 1980s, Bob could literally have mowed through large numbers of them.  He could well have been a real action hero in different circumstances, rather than becoming an attorney.

As modern MMA has shown, muscle works as armor (and Bob was an early proponent of steady weight training), hitting like a mac truck really makes a difference, and doing so very, very quickly can really make a difference.

Coming back to Anderson, the original essay is very, very good.  However, many of those who read it, learn from it (and there is a lot to learn) and think about it forget that there is another side to realism (one noted by Anderson, though not by those who followed him).

I just wanted to make the point that part of realism includes people who as a result of training and experience can do things that seem unreal.  When Poul Anderson notes Incomparably drilled and disciplined, the Roman legionary almost always made hash of his foes he is not exaggerating, but he is also talking about a military that considered a soldier green until he had been enlisted and drilled for at least ten years.

Ok, so I'm agreeing with Anderson on almost every point, only disagreeing with the abuse his essay has been put to over the years.

Other points:  Rapiers are usually heavier than broadswords.  A man with one does not worry about a broadsword/migration era blade cutting the rapier in half if he makes a mistake with a parry. (Anderson doesn't talk about that, but it is a common mistake made by the Thud & Blunder types). Shields are even more useful than you would think.

Heck, read the essay:

Then you are ready to think again about designing FRPGs and writing heroic fantasy stories.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Chemical Weapons ...

– useful only for committing war crimes and acts of genocide. It is easy to forget that Hitler had huge stocks of chemical weapons he never used in combat.  Understanding the realities about and behind ABC weapons is useful for any game designer or writer who is interested in realism -- and for anyone who wants to understand modern politics and military matters.

His only successful deployments were in committing acts of genocide. Saddam Hussein had significant stocks from time to time, yet as the war crimes trials in Iraq noted, the only significant use his government ever got of them was in committing acts of genocide.

The Taliban and the Russians both had access to the same chemical weapons. Neither got any significant use out of them at all. And as for the nerve gas assault on the Tokyo subway that made the news? The gas used is flammable and killed fewer people than if they had just lit the canisters on fire and thrown them into the crowd.

Part of the problem is the threshold – you usually don’t buy the weapons off the rack like you would with guns and bullets and anti-tank weapons (just visit Armada International — — to read reviews of MBTs, coastal diesel submarines, etc. to get an idea of what is being sold “off the rack” to governments).

Thus, to begin with, you have to develop a chemical agent. Once you have one, you have to figure out how to deliver it. Both tasks take about ten years and developing delivery systems only works after you have the weapon. Then, after the twenty year lead, you have to find a way to deploy them effectively.

The rub comes in at every level. First, there are lots of poisons, but developing one that you can make, store and use takes more effort than you would expect. Then, there is deployment. Nerve gas seems pretty simple. But as the Tokyo subway incident shows, getting it to actually affect anyone is harder than it looks.

An acquaintance of mine, who specializes in ABC weapons and disarmament said she told her husband to only get her out of the shower next time when it was a “real” attack, once she saw the fatality numbers from Tokyo.

She referred to it as the pseudo-Sarin attack (it may have been nerve gas in canisters, but a real weapon would have killed thousands, not a couple score of people). Finally, there is the issue of getting the targets to sit still for the weapon’s use.

Not that there is not a huge market. The United States manufactures, uses, and sells more nerve gas products than the rest of the world combined. They are called “insecticide” and on a perfect day, against insects who don’t move out of the way, they work pretty well. But as many dictators have discovered, to use them against people you basically need to be able to line the people up in controlled areas using firearms.

By the time you are able to successfully use poison gas against them you could have already shot them hours (or days) before. Anything else in the way of targets and the wind blows your gas away, or on your own troops (the Russians, when doing maneuvers and training with fully geared and protected troops, considered 15% casualties in the practice troops a success).

The problems are severe enough that the end of Hitler’s war saw the Germans unwilling to use the stockpiled chemical agents. The benefit was never as great as the downside even when the downside was complete and crushing defeat.

Next I’ll cover Biological Weapons – good for shooting yourself in the foot and nuclear weapons – or a way to pay five times as much for half the result. Then we can move on to other topics, like why it is better to defend than attack, and other military facts. But if you have questions about WMDs, why people are so emotional about them, or why they are so useless, I’ll be glad to talk

Friday, September 9, 2011

Dispute Resolution Links

Cherryh has a series of novels where the protagonist is a mediator.  The following are some links to materials that would help anyone trying to use a mediator as a protagonist.

Barbara McAdoo: Negotiation Skills Fundamental in Teaching - VideoBarbara McAdoo discusses why a negotiation class is the most important class a law school student can take.
McAdoo, Barbara: Transparency and Clarification - VideoBarbara McAdoo emphasizes the importance of clearly defining what the party is and is not getting through mediation.
McAdoo, Barbara: InterviewThis is the complete interview with Barbara McAdoo, longtime mediator and faculty at Hamline Law School, filmed as part of's "The Mediators: Views from the Eye of the Storm" Series.
Barbara McAdoo: Disappointing that Mediation is not Defined - VideoBarbara McAdoo shares her disappointment with how the field has not been defined and how mediators cannot communicate what mediation is to consumers.
Barbara McAdoo: Importance of Defining Mediation - VideoBarbara McAdoo explains reasons why the mediation profession should be clearly defined.
McAdoo, Barbara: Ethical Issues with Judge - VideoBarbara McAdoo shares an anecdote about a judge who revealed to her that he mediates all his cases before he tries them.
Barbara McAdoo: High School Project Leads to 'Helping' Values - VideoBarbara McAdoo shares a life-changing experience she had as a senior in high school when she chose to do a project on segregation.
McAdoo, Barbara: Lack of Research - VideoBarbara McAdoo observes the little research that has compared parties' settlements and experience from mediation to parties' settlements through other processes.
McAdoo, Barbara: Seeing Litigation as Wrong Path in Many Cases - VideoBarbara McAdoo speaks of her experience with litigation and feeling like the clients were not addressing the problem in the right way. She felt they could have communicated more openly and directly with each other.
McAdoo, Barbara: Consequences From Spread of Mediation - VideoBarbara McAdoo discusses that the spread of mediation is what most pleases her about the field. However, she is also concerned with the institutionalization of the practice.
McAdoo, Barbara: Neutral Evaluation - VideoBarbara McAdoo shares her concern with mediators not being able to clearly define what mediation is compared to neutral evaluation as well as the acceptable, ethical boundaries that each has.
McAdoo, Barbara: Lawyers Need Communication Skills - VideoBarbara McAdoo describes her concern with lawyers waiting for mediators or others to be able to relate bad news or other news to their clients.
A Style Index for MediatorsThe Mediator Classification Index (MCI) is designed to assist in understanding the approach or style a mediator tends to use during the mediation process. The MCI is a valuable tool which you may ask prospective mediators to complete as part of the mediator selection process. This is also a valuable tool for mediator self-examination.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Klingons in the first sentence

"See, we don't need your imaginary Klingons" said Kathryn as the porch failed to shake, the blast doors remained down, and the imploding reactor cores of the incoming battleships failed to light up the night sky.  Knitting needles continued to click.

"The Laadan Ladies Knitting and Terrorist Society is not a soft target."

More knitting.

"Kathryn, no one ever said that our brand identity, 'The power of women talking'  .. "

      ... "and knitting" a voice interrupted

"And knitting," almost an eye roll "meant that we were a soft target."

"But those battleships show"

    ... "that a strong force can't even penetrate our Oort cloud"

Knitting needles clacked.

"That people still think we are a soft target."

"You know, we all know, it is words and perception, it is the talking that has the most power. After all, we did not get to be the most successful linguistic metaphor wielding terrorists in humanities' history without words."

   ... "But ..."

"No buts.  Fictional or not, over 20% of the confederation population believes that Klingons are a part of the real history, over 90% are willing to accept them."

   ... "No, please ..."

"It has to be done.  I know that you prefer to be anonymous, we all do.  However, with this announcement, no one will doubt that we are an impossibly hard target and these attacks by fools will cease."

The knitting needles stopped for a moment.

"It is agreed, as the press announcement will read, we will give thanks for the repulsion of this latest attack to K'thrnn, Battlemistress of the Fifth Klingon Mercenary Protective Force."

Slight smile, more knitting.  The quiet night continued.

Or what I got from Writing Excuses yesterday. ;)