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.

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Space Catapult!

Hey, check it out! Someone is building an actual space catapult to launch cargo into orbit!

By Josh Constine

What if instead of blasting cargo into space on a rocket, we could fling it into space using a catapult? That’s the big, possibly crazy, possibly genius idea behind SpinLaunch. It was secretly founded in 2014 by Jonathan Yaney, who built solar-powered drone startup Titan Aerospace and sold it to Google. Now TechCrunch has learned from three sources that SpinLaunch is raising a massive $30 million Series A to develop its catapult technology. And we’ve scored an interview with the founder after four years in stealth.

Read the full article at TechCrunch.com.

From @MykeCole’s Blog: On Killing

By Myke Cole

An excellent examination of the cost of killing on killer, victim, and everyone around them.

There’ve been some recent forays into writing combat scenes on some blogs lately. A few fans reached out to me and asked why I didn’t join the conversation. That got me thinking, and not in the way you’d expect.

I’ve said in many interviews that nobody owns the military experience. My being in the military doesn’t make give me any more authority over a military story than anyone else. The same is true for writing combat. One doesn’t have to be a veteran brawler to write a great fight scene.

But I do feel like the end result of fighting, namely, killing, isn’t often treated in a way that resonates with me. I can count on one hand the number of writers who get it right. Joe Abercrombie springs to mind as one of them, a tiny band of authors, and I do not count myself among them, who evoke the consequences of killing in a way that feels authentic.

Read the full article on Myke Cole’s website.

From @MykeCole’s Blog: What PTSD Is

If you’ve been playing along at home, you know that much of my protagonist Shaundar’s character arc is centered around his war experience and PTSD. If you’ve been reading between the lines, you know that I’m examining my own PTSD (though I’m not a war veteran, I’m the daughter of a bipolar mother who was untreated during most of my childhood) through the writing of this story.

Myke Cole is a military fantasy writer and an Iraq War veteran. He’s written a couple of particularly good pieces on the subject that I’ll be sharing over the next couple of days. The thing that struck me the most about this one was his observations about Condition Yellow.

Living under Condition Yellow for extensive periods of time is the big factor that drives PTSD. I spent my whole childhood under Condition Yellow, and school just made it worse because I was bullied extensively. So Condition Yellow was my LIFE. I didn’t know there was any other way to live, and only now am I beginning to unpack that this is not normal, and has affected every relationship I’ve ever had.

Anyway, check it out.

I’ve talked before about genre writers who have been very open about personal trials, particularly the kind of depression/anxiety conditions that I feel are a natural part of the uneven terrain all authors have to walk. I’ve always appreciated their willingness to go public with these issues, as the first (and false) thing that most people suffering from these sorts of things think is a.) that they’re alone and b.) the problem is unique to them. When your literary heroes step into the spotlight and say, “hey, this is more normal than you think and you can figure out how to live with it,” well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more than a few folks still pushing air past their teeth because of a blog post they read.

The thought of talking about what goes on in my head in anything but the most general terms in the public square takes me way out of my comfort zone. But I reread the first paragraph of this post, especially that last line. Sometimes, you need to go outside your comfort zone, talk about a thing not because you need to get it off your chest, but because it might help others to hear it.

I was diagnosed with PTSD in August of ’09, just after my third tour in Iraq. Of course my first concern (like everyone in my line of work) was losing my security clearance, and that kept me from going for help for a long time. But DoD did right by me, and I kept working for another 2 years before the book deal got me out of the business.

Read the full article at Myke Cole’s website.

Virtual Fantasy Con 2017: Realism in Fantasy Warfare Panel

Diane Morrison

This is the second of three panels I had the privilege of hosting for the Virtual Fantasy Con 2017, and this one just might be my favourite. I was honoured to have a truly expert panel at my disposal, whose background and expertise included both studied and practical, hands-on experience. From logistics experts to medieval recreationists to real-life military personnel, all of whom are also fantasy authors, I think we’ve provided an excellent starting resource for fantasy writers who want to write about war.

You can watch a full playlist of all the VFC2017 panels HERE.

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Professional Disobedience: Loyalty and the Military

“The King gave you a commission because he thought you knew when to disobey an order.”[1]

“On rare occasions in our history, the leader on the ground, at the crux of a fleeting moment on the battlefield, has decided to disobey his instructions for what he judges as the greater good of the unit and the larger task at hand.”[2]

THE VIRTUE OF OBEDIENCE
Read the full article at Real Clear Defense.

Alternative Physics for the Toy Soldier Saga

Adapting the alternative physics of Spelljammer to something new was the sticking point for me in turning the Toy Soldier Saga into something publishable.  I have worked on this concept for a long time, and I think I’ve finally come up with something that works but is its own thing.  Right now it’s a very loose idea and I will be working out the bugs as I write, but here it is, in a nutshell.

Crystal Spheres

Spelljammer’s “bubbles in space with crystal shells” idea is unique.  However, it’s based in Ptolemic physics.  How that worked was that the Earth was the center of the universe (and then the sun later on,) and everything we see in the sky is on the inside of a “crystal sphere,” interlocking within one another like Russian dolls.  Later theories of universe construction discussed the idea of the “crystal” actually being something a bit more ephemeral, something that holds the stars and planets in place but can be passed through like a veil.

That’s sort of the idea I’m running with.  Each system exists within its own interlocking series of crystal spheres.  The beauty of this is that one could still see the stars of other systems through these permeable membranes, so it’s a bit more like the universe we know, and less lame excuses have to be created to explain why we can see stars.

Gravity Wells

Gravitational forces move in currents.  Now that in real-world physics we have confirmed the existence of gravitons, I’m sure that’s not as difficult to imagine as it might have been.  Instead of odd, semi-two-dimensional “gravity planes,” each body, when sufficiently separated from other bodies, has its own whirlpool of gravity that surrounds it.  Lining up these competing maelstrom currents so that they interact instead of compete dangerously with one another would require the same sideways approach as gravity planes would and would have very similar consequences of failure.  These currents draw smaller, less dense bodies in, but also might swing them right around in a circle and out again.  A ship might seem too small a body to create a gravity well of its own — but wait, I have an explanation, and I’ll get there.

Airts

Because gravity moves in currents between bodies, it creates slipstreams that travelers refer to as “Airts.”  Their existence would a) explain why ships can move at light speed or faster, and b) what sails on a ship are for!  The crew is needed to navigate the Airts.  In which case, the function of the Pilot (Spelljammer) becomes twofold.  The first is that a Pilot can actually sense the Airts, which most people cannot.  The second . . .

Starfaring Ships

Starfaring ships are constructed around special materials.  Those materials are the seed-pods of giant cosmic trees, something like a cross between the starfly plants you remember from Spelljammer, and Trees of Life out of myth.  These Trees of Life use Airts as a natural part of their life-cycle; their seeds are evolved to be carried along the Airts to find new systems to settle in.  They can influence and create their own Airts to a limited extent as well.  They bond in a symbiotic semi-telepathic link with Pilots because Pilots can help them to consciously navigate the Airts, and thus, they can travel through a much broader and larger area of the Universe than they would otherwise be able to, eventually picking a spot to plant and grow in.  Elves know the secret of this and have been using the Trees of Life for millennia, but the other races don’t, and so they have been building devices around seed-pods or their fragments, unwittingly creating plant cyborgs.  Also, it’s important to note that the elves have forgotten many of the things they used to know.

Trees of Life

Trees of Life have a special significance in my universe aside from this, but I’m not going to explain that, because that would be a major spoiler, as this is one of the mysteries that my characters must discover!

Phlogiston

Phlogiston doesn’t exist, per se, in my universe.  The areas between systems in my universe will be taken up with competing Airts, and will look no different from how things actually look in space in our world.  How do you know you’re entering a system?  The Oort Cloud will give you a clue, being the outer edges of a system’s gravity well.  Some theorize that Airts might be powered by Quintessence, which can be explained either as the fifth element Aether, or a kind of dark energy in modern cosmological physics.  I will still have it be a dangerous process to enter and leave a system, but that’s because of the Oort Cloud and the currents of Airts surrounding the outer edges of a system’s gravity well.

So, loosely, this is a rough look at my adapted physics.  I welcome your thoughts!

Thornworld!

A view from the roots of Garden, with the moon of Thorn in the background; by classic Spelljammer artist Jennell Jacquays.

Wildspace: The Spelljammer Fanzine

Thornworld Thornworld by Jennell Jacquays. Copyright (c) 1994. Used by permission.

From Jennell Jacquays:

So here it is, the painting that a number of my fans have been asking for … Thornworld, a Spelljammer themed scene for the cover of a Dragon magazine back in the 90s. My original intent for the painting was more complex, but deadlines pushed me toward a simpler rendering. If I can find the original sketch, I’ll attach it in the comments.

The painting is rendered in acrylics.

Thornworld Sketch

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The Unhuman Wars as Allegories of History, Part 2

Wildspace: The Spelljammer Fanzine

Elven Navy Officers.  Image from the Spelljammer comic. Elven Navy Officers. Image from the Spelljammer comic.

Since I have already likened the elves to the British in my first article in this series, which focused on the similarities between the Unhuman Wars and the World Wars, it would be consistent if I could say that the Elven Imperial Navy was an allegory for the British Royal Navy; and I believe I can.  The Unhuman Wars represent the major historical conflicts of the British Royal Navy; namely, the Anglo-Spanish War and the Napoleonic Wars.

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Complex life in the universe may be much rarer than previously thought

SelfAwarePatterns

At least, according to a couple of astrophysicists: Complex life may be possible in only 10% of all galaxies | Science/AAAS | News.

The universe may be a lonelier place than previously thought. Of the estimated 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, only one in 10 can support complex life like that on Earth, a pair of astrophysicists argues. Everywhere else, stellar explosions known as gamma ray bursts would regularly wipe out any life forms more elaborate than microbes. The detonations also kept the universe lifeless for billions of years after the big bang, the researchers say.

…The sheer density of stars in the middle of the galaxy ensures that planets within about 6500 light-years of the galactic center have a greater than 95% chance of having suffered a lethal gamma ray blast in the last billion years, they find. Generally, they conclude, life is possible only in…

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