Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Covers from Models


I make models, I just do. It's my thing.

I've also been known on occasion to play games with them. Above is the model reference picture I sent to the artist who drew my cover for Bad Dog. I have made up several models of my CASE-2X Dogs, each of them a representation of one of the characters combat armour suits in the story.

As I made the models, I found ways to make each a little more interesting through slight variants in the pose or choice of weapons. The Dog here is the second attempt of capturing Sergeant Tachikoma's ride in Bad Dog.


And this is the picture I sent my artist for the cover of Strike Dog.

Because Tachikoma is now a Lieutenant she gets to ride in a CASE-2XC command variant. As you can see, I added antennae to the back of the Dog, and changed the head of the suit too. I added the shoulder mounted missile pack to match the description in the book.

Things got changed for the cover, but I'd rather have a dynamic cover to sell the book than a precise representation of the model.

Below is one of the pictures I've sent to my artist as reference for making the cover of Ghost Dog. On the left is Master Sergeant Ferretti's Air Force security Buster CAS-C4P. It's a glorified mobile command-and-control center for running combat androids.


On the right is Captain Tachikoma's upgraded CASE-2XC-Mod-2, special forces command variant. Making this has given me ideas for CASE-2X-Mod-2 models I could make.

I can't wait to see what the cover will look like.

Summary

Last week was taken up with things other than writing stories. For example, I spent two days writing an article for the Galactic Journey blog. They always take time, because of the research I have to do, and finding suitable pictures.

I then drew up a brief for the Ghost Dog cover, and started talking my artist about what I wanted. Which is what inspired this blog.

Despite all that, I manage to produce 1,275 words in the spaces between doing all the other stuff. I didn't keep a precise record of the time, but about two hours typing, so an average of 633 words per hour. Mostly done in fifteen minute segments.

NB: For those of you who my be interested in my model making you can see more here.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Lost in Writing

I was shooting at the Pagoda shoot run by the Royal Richmond Archery Club.

I'm having one of those days when my doubts are at the forefront of my mind. Which considering my new word count last week met my targets seems a little bit odd to me. Clearly my emotions are rumbling in the background, and doubt seems to be my special friend.

Also, self-deprecation is a peculiarly British trait.

Now I sit here typing thinking what makes me write? I keep being told it should be fun; happy, happy words flow. But while I find myself typing I can't always say it feels like fun. Doesn't feel like work either. I just feel lost.

This is probably because I'm writing into the dark, which is a new thing for me. I no longer know what is going to happen. Well, more correctly speaking, how "what" is going to happen.

Targets out at 80 yards.
In the meantime I've been shooting. First competition of the year, where I placed last in my category having completely failed to sort out a sight picture at 80 yards. Sucks to be me.

Summary

Last week I wrote 8,190 words, which took 27.5 hours, averaging 297 words per hour.

It was cold and then it began to rain. With Chris and Richard from my club.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

RollaBot/SpiderMonkeyBot


My partner found this, the site is here.

I have  SpiderMonkeyBots in Strike Dog and RollaBots in my third novel Ghost Dog, and this real world project has given me a few extra ideas to add a bit of gloss to their description in the novel.

You've got to love it when real life brings you stuff like this.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Military SF Genre: Part 3


This is the third part of a series on mil-sf. Here are the links to parts one and two.

To say that the discussions around military SF can become somewhat fraught, as a result of the conflict generated amongst the readers, is probably an understatement.

Hence this series of blog posts to raise these issues, and address them.  Especially the opinion that people who read military SF are in some way bad, and that those authors who write the stories have a conservative political agenda.

Taking the latter point first.

While some authors do write from a conservative perspective, not all writers do. Therefore to make such an argument is to fall into the trap that has a number of different logical fallacies.

As for readers of military SF being somehow bad, from a notion that they have been brainwashed by right wing propaganda, and will therefore end up as sociopaths, I can only sigh.

I repeat again that this argument is based on logical fallacies that do not stand up to scrutiny. The research on the subject of the influence of media on the behaviours of people can at best show correlation. And correlation is not causation.

The difference between the two being that it's easy to correlate connections between events, but that doesn’t mean that one caused the other.

This is as a result of how we think by using heuristic analysis to come to conclusions.

The research into thinking processes has revealed that we have a large number of cognitive biases, and that the beliefs and opinions we hold are more likely to be wrong than right.

Let me repeat that.

Our beliefs and opinions that we hold are more likely to be wrong than right.

People tend to believe that they come to hold their opinions from looking at the evidence, but the research shows that people form opinions, and then look for evidence that supports their choice.

Furthermore, people tend to discount evidence that challenges their beliefs.

Summary

So, if anything I've said has caused a strong emotional response, that's a clue that an underlying assumption has been triggered. The thing about emotions is that they should serve you, not you serve them.

War is the ultimate expression of conflict. And just because some authors write about conflict in ways trigger a strong negative response, doesn't mean that writing about war is wrong.

What the research into reading and playing games about warfare shows is that the assumptions being made about what that does to people is flawed.

Conflict is at the heart of the human condition and avoidance does not serve us well.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Military SF Genre: Part 2


Continuing on from Part 1, what if anything do stories about war tell us about what war is good for?

Probably not a lot in the bigger scheme of things, because telling people what war is good for is probably not the primary remit of story telling in Western culture.

However, wars are fought for a wide number of reasons.

When those reasons ally with the maintenance of one’s society in the face of others who want to force change where change is unwanted, and though war involves lots of bad things happening to good people, good things are created too. The argument of avoiding war is one that has to be tempered with the costs of avoiding war, because while wars are frightening things, they're an illustration that there are no simple answers to some problems in life.

If science fiction is a genre that speculates about the effects of technological progress on society, where technological changes are driven by the need for victory, then military SF stories must therefore be a valid topic.

However, as I have observed, war is more than individual fighting; war is an institution.

Therefore like all institutions the people who work within the confines of the military hierarchy have a set of beliefs and theories based on reasoning from years of tradition as supporting evidence. If military SF fails anywhere it is in focusing on tactics, and not giving the reader a strategic context, with the necessary understanding of the operational problems that the military has to face.

The old adage in the military is that amateurs talk tactics while professionals talk logistics underpins my observation.

I can see that this makes writing a military story that works at the level of the character motivation a bit of a challenge. Especially if one wants to keep the story interesting; as descriptions of sergeants reading of f loading manifests is probably not going to make for the most exciting conflicts.

Though as I write this I know I have a scene about checking the manifests of containers about to be loaded on trucks for a mission. So it can be done.

Assuming that one agrees that stories are driven by conflicts arising between characters and events; otherwise known as the plot, then yes, one can argue about the merits of each individual story, and its value.

But here’s the thing; if you don’t like a story it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have been written. Or that people should stop reading it, because that's an opinion.

Remembering that opinions may be driven by feelings, because opinions are things that we hold dear. As such emotions/feeling cannot be subject to rigorous testing to be used as proof of anything much.

Final part will be out on Friday. See you then.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Military SF Genre: Part 1

 
Military science fiction is a sub-set of the SF genre, and readers of mainstream SF novels can be quite divided in their opinions about the merits of such stories.

There have even been editorial opinion pieces in on-line media. The Guardian, for example, ran an article complaining that using imagery of future wars to entertain reveals deluded beliefs that writers hold about modern conflict. The writer then proceeded to use this assumption to divide the genre into good versus bad stories. Not on the merit of the story, but judging them through the lens of political beliefs, and starting their polemic by quoting from Edwin Starr’s song War with its chorus line response of, "absolutely nothing!"

Therefore to write a military SF story as one’s debut novel into the field can be seen as a message about the author’s political stance.

However, stories involve conflict, and stories about war are just about conflict writ large.

Over the years I have commented on military science fiction books that I love, and on reflection my feelings remain the same. Avoidance of, or failure to discuss the importance of conflict, and the cultures that arise from conflict is to put one's head in the sand.

If you've never read any military science fiction I recommend the following without equivocation.

Starship Troopers by Robert A Heinlein, I discussed it more back here. A book that can easily be misunderstood and misconstrued. It's theme is service, and the responsibility citizens have to defend their polity, which I see as a discussion of Greek City States. In short, we can learn from history.

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, also discussed at the link above, is a book that talks about alienation from society, through the lens of time-dilation, which makes it SF. Far less controversial than Starship Troopers, because it's talking about the human condition, rather than politics.

Orphanage by Robert Buettner, which I discussed here, also talks about alienation of soldiers from society. But in this case, the effects of training to become a soldier, which the title of the series alludes to. Unlike the first two standalone books this is a series of five novels.

The Heritage Trilogy by Ian Douglas starts with Semper Mars. I discussed it here. It's a favourite of mine, but it also talks about culture. In this case, the culture of the Marines, which is a lot of fun. And it's a trilogy of trilogies.

The Compleat Bolo by Keith Laumer. Again the first link will take you to where I discussed his work. This collection of stories about self-aware tanks are seminal to the concepts of artificial intelligence in the science fiction genre. I recently re-read my copy to reacquaint myself with the tales, which was a surprise, because my recall of them was different than the experience of the re-read.

It gave me lots of ideas for my The World of Drei homage to Laumer.

On that note, I will finish. More in part two.

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