Swinging the Lead

By Philip K Allan

Ilfracombe is a charming little port on the North Devon coast in England. Close to its bustling harbour is the base of the local scuba diving club, who have a large and active body of members. Many are keen wreck divers, and the busy but treacherous waters off Illfracombe provide rich pickings for their amusement. Over the centuries, numerous ships have foundered on this coastline, as the dive club’s bar bears witness. It is an Aladdin’s cave of maritime artefacts. Portholes and valves, ships telegraphs and wheels stud the walls, while smaller items crowd the window sills. In one corner, near to the back, are a number of dull grey conical objects. They generally have a round depression in the bottom, and a hole through where a line would once have been. In spite of their modest size, they can catch out the unwary who idly pick them up. Made of solid lead, that are surprisingly heavy – generally about fourteen pounds. These are ships’ leads that have been lost over the years by vessels probing their way in and out of the harbour.

Read the full article at Philip K Allan’s website.

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So You Want to Have a War?

By Django Wexler

I am, I have to admit, a war buff. I read military histories for fun, the kind with fold-out maps covered in little colored arrows and notations like “Kollowrath (40,000)”. As I am also a fantasy novelist, the nature of war in fantasy fiction has always been fascinating to me.

And there is a lot of war in fantasy. Starting with Tolkien, it’s become practically obligatory that the epic fantasy saga, somewhere around the middle of book three, feature an Epic Confrontation Between Good and Evil with a Cast of Thousands. Various allies, painfully recruited over the course of the hero’s journey, turn up to lend a hand at the Final Battle. Various villains are dispatched, hapless orcs or equivalent humanoids are mowed down by the score, and just when things seem bleakest Evil is defeated forever. A beloved secondary character or two bites the dust, and someone gets to make a Heroic Sacrifice. Afterward, we may be treated to a scene where the hero roams a battlefield strewn with corpses, or visits the injured to bring home the horrors of combat. You know, war, right?

Back before I wrote fantasy myself, my wargamer friends and I used to snicker a bit at this. Most of the fantasy authors wouldn’t know a halberd from a half-pike, and their descriptions of battles were usually heavy on bold strokes and dramatic confrontations and light on tactics and the important of proper reconnaissance. I wouldn’t want to be a poor foot-slogger in either army, given the rate at which they tend to be chewed up by either the hero and his friends or some villain demonstrating the full extent of his power.

(To get roughly the same effect, find some friends who are computer professionals and take them to see any Hollywood movie featuring “hacking” and explosions.)

Now that I’ve taken up the pen myself, I have a better understanding of how strict realism sometimes has to give way to dramatic necessity, and that the reading public probably isn’t interested in the details of orc logistical and latrine arrangements. But I still found that a lot of the fantasy wars were still … well … bad. Bad from a realism point of view, certainly, but also from a dramatic or a story point of view. I found myself flipping past battle scenes to get back to the good stuff. But this wasn’t always true — some authors can write a battle that will knock your socks (or padded leather greaves) off — so I sat down to think about why.

Read the full article at A Dribble of Ink.

Livestreamed Readings of Homefront at My Patreon!

Hey there! Did you know I’m doing livestreamed readings of my Toy Soldier Saga novella Homefront for my Patreon crew?  Here’s the first episode to give you an idea of what to expect:

I’m doing this every night (except Thursday, and when there’s unexpected interruptions) for all Patrons at the Ordinary Seaman or higher level (just $2+!) I’m also archiving the videos to be available for watching later, and recording an audio track of the readings, which are available to you on the unique audio RSS feed provided on the right hand side of the page!

Have you seen my new Patreon video yet?

I’m about halfway through, but it won’t take you long to catch up if you sign aboard now! Homefront is also available as a pdf for all my Patreon crew.  Support the Toy Soldier Saga!

Scott and Scurvy

I took a class yesterday with Django Wexler on writing flintlock fantasy (thank you, Cat Rambo, for providing these excellent classes!), and I realized that about 70 percent of what I write is flintlock fantasy. So I’ll do a post on that sometime. In the meantime, this article was recommended as a fascinating study in how the British Navy discovered the cure for scurvy, and due to technological developments, lost it again — and why.

Recently I have been re-reading one of my favorite books, The Worst Journey in the World, an account of Robert Falcon Scott’s 1911 expedition to the South Pole. I can’t do the book justice in a summary, other than recommend that you drop everything and read it, but there is one detail that particularly baffled me the first time through, and that I resolved to understand better once I could stand to put the book down long enough.

Writing about the first winter the men spent on the ice, Cherry-Garrard casually mentions an astonishing lecture on scurvy by one of the expedition’s doctors:

Atkinson inclined to Almroth Wright’s theory that scurvy is due to an acid intoxication of the blood caused by bacteria…
There was little scurvy in Nelson’s days; but the reason is not clear, since, according to modern research, lime-juice only helps to prevent it. We had, at Cape Evans, a salt of sodium to be used to alkalize the blood as an experiment, if necessity arose. Darkness, cold, and hard work are in Atkinson’s opinion important causes of scurvy.

Now, I had been taught in school that scurvy had been conquered in 1747, when the Scottish physician James Lind proved in one of the first controlled medical experiments that citrus fruits were an effective cure for the disease. From that point on, we were told, the Royal Navy had required a daily dose of lime juice to be mixed in with sailors’ grog, and scurvy ceased to be a problem on long ocean voyages.

But here was a Royal Navy surgeon in 1911 apparently ignorant of what caused the disease, or how to cure it. Somehow a highly-trained group of scientists at the start of the 20th century knew less about scurvy than the average sea captain in Napoleonic times. Scott left a base abundantly stocked with fresh meat, fruits, apples, and lime juice, and headed out on the ice for five months with no protection against scurvy, all the while confident he was not at risk. What happened?

on the necessity of brutality: why i went there

Content warnings also apply to the Toy Soldier Saga. Keep in mind I consciously patterned it after elements of the Napoleonic Wars, World War II and the Vietnam War. I mention a very similar variety of horrors, all of which are based in real events I pulled from history. And I went there because I believe it’s important to tell these stories, as cautionary tales if nothing else, so we don’t repeat them – and the fantastic medium allows us to take politics out of it and look at it all with some perspective.

Rebecca F. Kuang

There’s an oft-made argument in genre fiction circles that sexual violence shouldn’t be used as a plot point. It’s regressive. It’s demeaning to women. It’s gratuitously violent, grotesque, and unnecessary because we don’t need to see violence against women to know that this was a historical truth, we know it well enough–

Except we don’t.

The Poppy War is centered around the 1937 Rape of Nanjing. This also happens to be what I wrote my thesis on. I have spent over a year reading personal accounts of the bystanders, victims, and perpetrators. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned after months of research, it is that the west frankly does not care.

The west has never done a good job of caring about sexual violence done to women who aren’t white.

I’m not interested in writing utopias. I don’t like writing the alternate histories where gender equality is taken for…

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How 17th Century Dreamers Planned to Reach the Moon

Diane Morrison

By Maria Avxentevskaya

People have been dreaming about space travel for hundreds of years, long before the arrival of the spectacular technologies behind space exploration today – mighty engines roaring fire and thunder, shiny metal shapes gliding in the vastness of the universe.

We’ve only travelled into space in the last century, but humanity’s desire to reach the moon is far from recent. In the second century AD, Lucian’s True History, a parody of travel tales, already pictured a group of adventure seekers lifted to the moon. A whirlwind delivered them into the turbulence of lunar politics – a colonial war.

And much earlier than any beep of a satellite, these dreams of moon travel were given real, serious thought. The first technical reckoning of how to travel to the moon can be found in the 17th century.

Read the full article at The Conversation.

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On the Horizon RELEASE DAY!

Diane Morrison

It’s finally release day for the On the Horizon Book Bundle! If you haven’t got your copy yet, you can get it here: https://amzn.to/2HMH56H or here:  https://www.books2read.com/u/bQBgZP.

And why wouldn’t you want a copy of this awesome set? 22 novellas and novels by 21 different authors in worlds of low or no tech! Features my Toy Soldier Saga novella “Homefront,” which is published here for the first time.

It’s only 99 cents, and only available for a limited time (90 days.) And we’ve removed the digital watermarking, so once you’ve bought it, it’s yours forever. We trust you not to post it to pirate sites. And if you do decide to share it, why not encourage your friends to support my Patreon?

Here’s two more book trailers if you’re not convinced yet:

Patrons will find their names in the Dedication section of my contribution, as promised; and thank…

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Author Spotlight: Homefront

 

Welcome to another Friday Author Spotlight! This week Diane Morrison is here to tell us about her novel, Homefront, which is part of the On the Horizon Bundle. She’ll also be sharing an excerpt from her book, so keep reading!

Diane Morrison lives with her partners in Vernon, BC, where she was born and raised. She likes pickles and bluegrass, and hates talking about herself. An avid National Novel Writing Month participant and gaming geek, she is proudly Canadian and proudly LGBTQ. She is currently managing the official SFWA YouTube channel, where she gets to interview some of her favourite authors and other interesting people in the SFF field. Under her pen name “Sable Aradia” she is a successful Pagan author, a musician, and a professional blogger. After a lifetime of putting the needs of her family first, she is striking out to become what she always wanted to be; a speculative fiction writer.

 

Read the full article at Renee Scattergood’s Website.

Tall Ship Sail Handling

On a Russian tall-ship the crisp command, “Paruznj avral! Paruznj avral!” means one thing only. “All hands on deck!” It doesn’t matter whether crew are off watch and sleeping, or having a meal, in the heads, or peeling spuds. “Paruznj avral!” usually means the wind direction or velocity has changed and all hands are required, immediately, to alter the set of the sails.

Read the full article at OceanNavigator.com.