Worms: The Scourge of the Sea

By Philip K. Allan

The Teredo worm is a long, slimy, grey mollusc that can grow up to three feet long and an inch thick. It was feared by 18th century sailors, because of its voracious appetite for wood. Teredos bore long cylindrical holes into the timbers of ships, often in such numbers that only a thin wall is left between each worm’s chamber, reducing the strongest oak to little more than a honeycomb. As the ship becomes ever more fragile, the hull can break apart in the open sea, perhaps under the stress of rough weather, and without any warning. Sailors would recount dark tales of ships that vanished, far out at sea, when their worm-infested bottoms simply fell away.

Read the full article at Philip’s website.

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Invincible – How the French Gave the World the 74

By Philip K. Allan

In 1747, the French dispatched a vital convoy of thirty merchantmen to carry reinforcements and supplies to their troops in North America. They were being protected by a small naval force, including four ships of the line. On the 14th of May, off Cape Finisterre in Spain, the convoy was intercepted by a much larger British force detached from the Channel Fleet. The French warships fought bravely to protect their charges, but outnumbered as they were, they were decisively defeated.

This minor action might have gone unnoticed by all but a few naval historians, were it not for the fact that it was the first time that the British encountered a new type of warship. The Royal Navy had considerable difficulty in defeating one of their French opponents in particular. It was a large two-decked ship of the line called Invincible that proved particularly troublesome. She put up such heroic resistance that at one stage she was engaged by no less than six Royal Navy ships. The Invincible was one of a revolutionary new French design that was soon to dominate the navies of the world. Like all ships of the time, she was identified by the number of guns that she carried, which was 74.

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

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.

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?

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.

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.