Introducing the Nigh-Hulud 6000X!

I was inspired. Sue me.

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Sandworms make for the most terrifying heavy assault cavalry the galaxy has ever seen, but there’s no denying they come with disadvantages. That’s why Ix Defense Group (a CHOAM division) has designed the Nigh-Hulud 6000X. Unlike natural sandworms, the Nigh-Hulud-6000x can mount a variety of heavy weapons, while simultaneously allowing your jihadi legions to ride INSIDE its armored surface. The Nigh-Hulud 6000X is fully sealed, making it suitable for combat in multiple planetary ecosystems and atmospheres. Also, unlike organic sandworms, the Nigh-Hulud 6000X doesn’t fly into a killing rage when you mount shield generators on it or your infantry. And finally, the Nigh-Hulud can be disassembled for easy transport on your frigates or Guild Heighliners.

The Nigh-Hulud 6000X: The tactical option for the 103rd century battlefield

The Post-Apocalyptic To Do List For Non-Preppers

What I have learned from a study of post-apocalyptic literature and film.

  1. First and most obviously, you really need lots of guns. LOTS of fucking guns. Get those as quick as possible. If you already have them, you’re ahead of the game, but if you have time we recommend duct-taping a bunch of jaggedy things on them, in case that makes them look more intimidating than, I don’t know, having a GUN! Remember, ammo will be scarce, so ideally you want a gun that makes those motherfuckers wet themselves and faint just by displaying them in a holster. Try one of those chainsaw bayonets the media warned us about last year. There have to be some around.
  2. Keep lots of alcohol on hand. You should be able to do this now: you have guns. Alcohol keeps practically forever, is good for trade and purifying water, and when bottled or pressurized can make a dandy flamethrower or bomb. And, given the shit that’s coming down, you might just want to stay drunk. Except when you’re familiarizing yourself with how the guns work, of course.
  3. Next, acquire a silver nose, eyepatch, or gauntlet that looks like you’ve replaced your hand. That scares the fuck out of people.
  4. Of course, if you’re REALLY feeling hardcore, or are among those of us who are unmuscularly slender or grossly overweight, and who look about as intimidating scantily clad (and you will be scantily clad. Clothes are at a premium, and NICE clothes are now a sign saying “Kill Me For Food”*) as an eight year-old boy flexing in Underoos, go ahead and amputate a limb and replace it with car parts. That scares the ever-living fuck out of people. This is painful, but quick and easy, especially if you aren’t very familiar with your new guns.
  5. Q.E.D. Swear a fuckload more than you do in real life. Otherwise, you’re pretty much volunteering for fucking slavery by virtue of not being intimidating enough.
  6. Really I can’t emphasize this point enough: kill and subjugate those Society For Creative Anachronism motherfuckers as fast as you can with those bullets before you run out. Partly because with their preindustrial knowledge, they’re going  to be your greatest long-term threat, but ALSO because it’s going to be funnier than shit to watch “Duke” Edward, “King” Jason and “Queen” Alicia realize that their twenty years of learning blacksmithing and weaving has uniquely fitted them to be the most valuable and closely-watched slaves in your new Empire Of Terror. And it’s the apocalypse, so you need the laughs.
  7. Don’t worry too much about medicine except for disinfectants (which you’re set for, because you have all that alcohol) and of course, The Plague that is creeping over the countryside, and doesn’t have a cure anyway. No one ever seems to get ordinarily sick after the apocalypse.
  8. Finally, make sure to take the mufflers off your car and install afterburners and as many jagged rusty metal bits as you can. This pretty much guarantees you’ll always find a supply of gas.
  9. Oh, yes, and the films especially suggest that you probably don’t want to make the mistake of being female unless you own Thunderdome.

Happy Hunting!

 

Reverse Poison: Writing Advice

Chemical weapons are funny things. I remember doing research on them back in high school, and reading about what were called “medical countermeasures.” This meant, basically, that you would take someone who had been exposed to a nerve agent that, say, depressed neurotransmitters, and you would give them a shot of something that would overproduce them. Of course, you really had to be careful with this, because taking the antidote by itself would kill you just as surely as the chemical agent was. Essentially, you poisoned the body in the opposite way it had been poisoned, and that let you go on living. But the body had to have been poisoned that way in the first place.

Reading Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird reminded me of this, especially when, late in the book, she gave the advice that when one is suffering writer’s block, one must “resign as the controller of one’s fate.”

Now, the problem with that advice is that by itself, it is exactly the kind of advice that I-As-A-Beginning-Writer did not need to hear. It sounds like, “Hey, don’t worry about being blocked. Go off and fill yourself with the universe and come back when you are Inspired And Ready To Write.” And by itself, that advice is the Death Of All Writing. Because that feeling is rare and far between, and the only way I have ever found of summoning it with any chance of success is to write when I do NOT feel it.

Now, taken in context with the rest of the book, it’s pretty clear that what Anne means is more along the lines of, “You can’t summon brilliant writing on demand, so you have to abandon that hope and resign yourself to writing what feels like shit for awhile, even if it’s only a little of it, until you push through and it feels good again.” In that context, the advice is extremely valuable, and leads to good results. The problem is that the quote is so., well, quotable that you run the risk of finding it in isolation — or worse, understanding it in isolation — and poisoning yourself by taking the antidote to a problem you haven’t been privileged to have yet.

Wait for the problem of being a disciplined writer first. Then the advice to resign control of the forward motion makes sense.

Maine Reactor Back Online…

Hello, loyal readers. Just a little update on why the long radio silence, here.

Last week was our first really, really BIG family vacation, prompted by the 90th birthday of my wife’s only surviving grandmother, whose big birthday request was a family reunion. So, naturally, the first thing we had to do was send me and Son to Webelos Weekend, because when you’re planning for a week away from home, the best thing to do is start things off right with a camping trip for half the family. If that doesn’t make a lot of sense to you, as it did not to me, I suggest you review this faithful transcript of the conversation I had with my wife over the matter:

Me: “We’re going to be driving with all our children to MAINE. It wil be exhausting, and besides, there’s a Scout camp every summer. Do we really have to..?”
Wife: “YES.”

So, having been convinced by that argument, Son and I went to Webelos Weekend where we donated approximately a half-gallon of blood to Satan’s Aerial Red Cross, but other than that had quite a bit of fun. We then came back and took off for Maine.

Get ready for a profound observation: The United States is really, really big. The last time I drove to the East Coast, it was from Kansas, not Wisconsin, so technically that was a bit longer. Notwithstanding, that time I was splitting the drive five ways, not two, and I was also about 23 years younger, and the youngest person in the car.

All kidding aside, it was a great blessing to be able to show the kids something like a sixth of the country. We waded in the Atlantic Ocean. On our travels, we saw crabs, snakes, and more deer than I ever thought possible. We met cousins we hadn’t seen in years, or in the case of the kids, ever. And they got to meet their great-grandmother. That’s not a thing that most of us get to do, these days. I remember my own great-grandmother clearly from my childhood, and treasure it. I am glad that my own children will at least have some of those memories.

On the way back, Wife’s uncle was kind enough to invite us to a wonderful barbecue, and if you have never eaten smoked salmon, pork, and brisket in the same meal, I highly recommend it. The weather was wonderful, and the only real downside to the trip struck on Friday morning, when Elder Daughter succumbed to carsickness, and we had to deal with very unpleasant odors on the way back.

I must say that while visiting Niagara Falls was wonderful, I don’t really recommend visiting on Saturday. Also, go EARLY and avoid the lines that plagued our visit. That said, riding the Maid Of The Mists practically into the Horseshoe Falls is well worth it.

Also, Saturday nights in summer, the hotels all along I-90 in Ohio are booked. Solid. Be warned.

However, that is why I have not blogged this week. Everything should be starting back up now. Watch this space for details.

Science-Fiction Dont’s: A Micropost

Hi, readers!

I know it’s William Shakespeare’s Dune Monday, but I’m a little behind, so I have to leave you with this observation:

One of the worst things a science-fiction writer can do is to introduce an amazing technology or alien ability, and then do nothing with it.

I was reminded of this when watching Attack of the Clones with my kids. Zam Wessel is chased down by Obi-Wan and Anakin, and under stress begins to revert to her true shape. Anakin recognizes that she is a Changeling.

And then, she utterly fails to change her face, attempting to sneak up on Obi-Wan disguised as the same attractive woman she was when they started chasing her. The whole thing goes nowhere, and we’re left with a terrible sense of disappointment. Never do that to your readers. It’s like going to a banquet and finding out that the delicious dessert in the center of the table is a frosted cardboard prop.

So, the reason I’m behind is that I’ve spent the last month (and a VERY intense last WEEK) revising a 620-page novel and have just sent it to a publisher. I’m done writing today.

How I Learned You Do Need An Editor

Okay, so I realize that many smarter people than I already figured this out. This post is for people, like me, who are better-than-average at spelling, sentence construction and mechanics. People who, like me, are often told that they write very clean copy. People who, like me, have sometimes wondered why they would need an editor before self-publishing. Upon re-reading my novel that I have fully revised TWICE and was now revising for the third time, AND which has been through easily a half-dozen beta readers, I discovered, among other things:

That most of the regiments and noble houses had at least two different color schemes for their banners and uniforms.

My main villain’s formal regalia was elaborately and stunningly described, with some of the best prose I have ever written… three separate and completely different ways.

During the climax, A military unit ambushed and murdered another military unit that it had relieved over a week previously.

The succession of the kingdom was arranged such that my villain could and should have solved the problem with a cup of poisoned wine and an unfortunate accident about ten years ago.

My protagonist’s nasty younger brother reacted to something before he ever showed up.

My protagonist’s personal rifle had a plot-activated bayonet.

Now, I’ve never used a professional editor, but I had read this thing a half-dozen times, had beta readers do the same, and while they pointed out a number of problems, these skated right by them. So I know the results of NOT using one. And they are to be avoided.

Edited To Add: I would like to say (because I meant to, but not strongly enough) that I do not mean any of the above to cast aspersions on my wonderful beta readers. Firstly, there was a lot MORE wrong with the novel when they saw it, and they caught a BUNCH of errors and weak points. Secondly, it’s not really their job to catch everything. That’s why you HAVE an editor.

 

 

The “Importance” Of Originality In One Easy Lesson.

I just sold a story about Space Marine Midwives with Disabilities to a pro market magazine (announcement of which one when contract is signed).

This should teach us two things about “originality.”

  1. No idea is so completely bizarre that it should be cast aside as unworthy  of being published.
  2. Since the GENESIS of this story was actually a Call For Submissions (for an anthology that as far as I know, never even opened to submissions. Yeah, um, really should have gone on to that if you wanted this story, guys) that SPECIFIED “Space Marine Midwives,” there is no idea so completely bizarre AND original that no one has thought of it already.

In other words, “Originality” doesn’t matter a DAMN as long as it’s good writing and doesn’t FEEL like a retread.

The rest is up to you.