So I Am Committing Sci-Fi Heresy

And going against everything Project Rho and their excellent compilation on sci-fi tech, with far more physics than I could understand, says about stealth in space. http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/spacewardetect.php

That is, they infamously drone, “There is no stealth in space.” And then they laugh at you for trying the alternatives. And here is where I think they are thinking too much like a physicist who assumes information equals certainty. Not enough as a tactician who has to interpret the data, the poor snob reading the scope, and let alone the politician who has to decide whether or not to go to war based on those blips that he may or may not see on the screen.

First of all, I am going to agree with this article against Rho: http://scienceblogs.com/builtonfacts/2010/03/10/while-doing-some-poking-around/ and say “Internal Heat is irrelevant.” Now, that is not the case to the crew who has to deal with said heat–like the Normandy in Mass Effect. You’d need massive heat sinks to bury your signature for even an hour. But the potato is a viable analogy. Internal heat does not mean the skin is hotter. And as long as the skin remains essentially dead space, you aren’t detected. So if you train your bloom away from the detection apparatus of the enemy, and then ensure you don’t heat the skin, you should be clear from anything but luck.

Second, we can scan the entire night-sky in four hours. But anything outside your star system is essentially irrelevant. By the time you could intercept, they would jump away, and your fleet is going the wrong direction. Battles would naturally occur near fortified or strategic targets, or on the trade routes between them. Anything else, and space is so big, awareness of existence is pointless.

Third, if it’s so easy to detect everything in the night sky, why do so many asteroids go by at bullet burn range? After all, the sunward side of these is heated well above background. They should be seen for weeks, if not months, before they slip past Earth. Instead we hear of events like this: http://www.thedailysheeple.com/undetected-asteroid-explodes-over-the-atlantic_012014 on essentially an annual basis. So again, if you know where the enemy is observing from, and you orient your ship so your trail is aft of the other guy’s heat sensors, there should be functionally a low enough signature to make it unclear if you’re a ship, or just another piece of space junk.

And this is where I have my beef with Rho. Stealth as we know it isn’t ‘invisibility.’ Even a submarine doesn’t operate on absolute non-existence, or you get detected for being an impossible hole in the ocean. (I can neither confirm nor deny personal knowledge of such phenomenon.) Stealth is about the creation of doubt. The ability to convince the guy at a radar board that he’s looking at a bird instead of a plane. That the submarine is a whale, or a school of fish. Just the same, if you can make your Super Star Destroyer look like a freighter, even if your enemy knows SOMETHING is there, they may not know the Galactic Empire is on their doorstep and bombardment is ready to begin until they disintegrate your orbital defenses. Would it give them enough time even to refer that portrait in the sky to his High Command? Perhaps enough to make your President jittery about lighting off your orbital defenses?

Also there’s the issue of the difference between detection and targeting. You know an enemy is there even perhaps. But between passive stealth, active jamming, and decoys, can you be sure of what you’re shooting at? Can you be as sure as the guy who only has to shoot at one ship, which he’s positively identified and has a firm tactical solution on?

I agree that the Cloaking Device, and such gimmicks for ‘absolute’ invisibility would be impossible. But this is not the same as “Stealth is irrelevant.” This is like saying that because jamming doesn’t stop every missile, it isn’t useful, even if it stops 90% of them. It’s sure a whole lot easier to shoot down 1 missile with your point defense than 10.

So there’s still room to wish confusion to the enemy. IMHO.

This is nothing but the triumph of small-minded people

http://techraptor.net/content/one-humankinds-greatest-achievements-decade-overshadowed-hawaiian-shirt

People too small to wonder. Too spineless to praise the accomplishments of others. Their horizons too low to care about the advancement of humankind. They make a man weep on the day of his greatest accomplishment…over a shirt. Not even one saying something profane. But one depicting superhero females in costume.

One made by a FEMALE friend, mind you. But this is ‘feminism.’ Equality? Nah. They’re perfectly free to wear shirts demeaning whites, men, or Christians without consequence. Perpetual victims who must be soothed, assuaged, and affirmed at every turn by every person, or you have exerted your privilege over them.

This is why #Gamersgate is more than a bad joke. This is why SFWA has been overrun by people with no sense of wonder. No concern for Speculative Fiction. This is-in short-why a certain segment of the population is incapable of writing quality fiction. Because their agendas must dominate Every.Single.Element. of their lives. They have no humor. They have no sense of wonder. Claiming to be ‘progressive,’ they deride every act of ‘progress’ that does not fit their political agenda.

If they had shame, THEY would weep and apologize. But they do not. So let anyone who thinks this was even a valid question be shunned. It’s what they deserve.

Using Scrivener for an Epic Fantasy

You’ve probably heard a great deal about http://www.literatureandlatte.com/. I bought it before attempting NaNoWriMo 2012. Since then, a number of friends have asked how I use Scrivener, and is it really better than Word Processor. Given that it usually is half-price on their website when you have a winner’s coupon, that might have been a minor mistake. But even at the full price of $40 dollars US, it’s been a bargain. Originally a Mac program, it’s Windows counterpart (which I use) is approaching feature parity. I’m not doing this on their solicitation or the encouragement of anyone but the friends I’ve had who’ve been curious how it works.

Since obtaining it in May of last year, I’ve used it for five separate new projects, two of which are multi-volume. And then adapted one previously written novel that I imported to Scrivener for editing. But for this, I’d like to talk about how I set it up for my intended five-volume Epic Fantasy (Sword, Sandal, & Sorcery style).  The basic format is set in the “Novel With Parts” template. Here it is on the ‘Corkboard,’ (with my own custom background).

EpicFormat1

 

The Binder, which functions exactly like a three-ring of our project would if you printed it all out, is set on the left. It’s currently open to the 2nd (in-progress) book of that series. But the corkboard is open to the ‘volumes’ page, furthest back. You can see the “First Draft” over my 1st volume. And I already have volumes 3-5 set up on the corkboard. Here’s the volume I’m working on in detail:

 

ef2

 

Here again, you can see the ‘index cards’ marked “first draft” and “to do” where I’ve been distracted from working on the novel by my need to blog. 😉 Every chapter has at least 1 index card. In fact, every scene has an index card. Each is organized with the appropriate chapter. What’s cool about this? If I decide I need to reorder my chapters, all I have to do is slide the index card to the new location. NO copy-and-paste like with a word processor. All I have to do is recompile and it’s all in the right place. The only editing concerns I have is to check consistency in the timeline.  I can compile all this all at once, or a few chapters to check scenes.

Also, Scrivener saves whenever I’m idle for 2secs. And it keeps FIVE full backups. So unless I blow up my laptop, it’s protected from corruption. Of course, being OCD, I copy the Open Office version saved to a flash drive. Also, in the binder, I can keep all my documentation on characters, setting, plot sequences, and research web sites. All of them are organized in the Binder. 1 click to open them, and I can hide them when I don’t need them.

It’s not immune to my mistakes. But it’s pretty darn close. Plus, if you make changes you’re not sure you will like, you can use the ‘snapshot’ feature to roll back to the version you preferred. This is especially useful in editing.

I was able to lay out the entire plotline for all five books on the corkboard. I’m sure I’ll add/change/move things around between now and then. But I can use this at a glance to find where I am, and anything I may need, before or subsequent, to maintain consistency and ensure I don’t show too much, too soon. Or leave a plotline underdeveloped.

It’s a great tool for the writer. The larger the project, the more useful it will prove. But even in my single novel projects, it’s a profitable experience.

 

Fantasy Worldbuilding: On Technology & Magic

One of the reasons I love to write Steampunk and Urban Fantasy is I don’t have to make excuses for why there is both gunpowder and magic in my world.

Or better said, I don’t have to argue why I shouldn’t have to make an argument for having both magic and gunpowder in a fantasy. To me, one of the most annoying tropes in fantasy is the assertion that magic removes tech. First of all, it’s applied with horrific inconsistency. There can be High Renaissance fashion, castles, rapiers, full plate armor, caravels, and even primitive steam engines. In other words, all the trappings of the late 1600s. But, JRR Tolkien forbid you ever, ever include anything that looks like even a primitive firearm. Somehow, the inclusion of a musket ruins fantasy.

I once read Raymond Feist’s defense for this. That was where magic emerged, technology stalled because it wasn’t ‘necessary.’ OK, if that’s what you want to do with your world, fine. But let me point out why this is actually illogical.

First, magic is unpredictable. Even Mordenkainen or Pug can find their spells going awry every so often. Whether that be because they’re out of reagents, the Gods thought it would be funny, or just plain bad luck. Magic is not reliable. And the less certain your mage is, the more likely it is things go boom in your face. So why should we think that the uneducated masses would trust magic as far as they could carry a stake?

Second, It assumes that every genius is a wizard. Why would this be true? Does every genius pursue the same fields of knowledge in our world? Do the all become politicians? Businessmen? Even philosophers? Nope. So why do they all become magicians in your world? ‘Cause? Not an answer. Then there’s the question of what happens if magic is a gift that not everyone has access to? isn’t it entirely likely that a certified Leonardo Da Vinci doesn’t get the magic bug? So what does he do? Stay a farmer? Not buying it. See Tavi in Codex Alera on this score for a character where this is well done.

Third, philosophically, magic and technology are opposed forces. Magic is insular, elitist, academic, esoteric, and expensive. Thus it;s the province of a very few. Technology is practical, utilitarian, comparatively inexpensive and reliable, and easy to reduplicate compared to magic as well. Thus, it becomes the force that gives power to the masses. Magic is the essence of an elitist feudal regime. Technology the harbinger of advancing freedom and the Renaissance. So it’s somewhat laughable when technology is stifled and yet the masses yearn to be free without knowing what the rest of the masses are thinking.

So, while my current writing project is an Epic Fantasy set in a pseudo-Hellenistic era world (thus no black powder), I have no problem writing fantasy with firearms and advancing technology (pretty much everything else I’ve done). And even in my current project, the Hellenistic era saw a lot of advancement in society and technology, and I can emulate that freely. 😉