The Veil War

"and then I was like, 'Holy crap, goblins!'"

Month: December, 2011

And now, Part Seven

It’s Veil War Thursday, and that means that you have another 2000 words of pure, sweet adrenaline.

The goblins charged up the hill, some still carrying banners despite Evans’ best efforts. They were dropping faster now, his men steady and increasingly accurate as the range closed. A thousand monsters from hell charged up the hill and they knelt and fired. He throat tightened as he watched these Marines, his men, perform like nothing he’d ever seen.

Read, enjoy. And since I’m giving you this for free, all I ask is that you tell your friends. Link the Veil War in a status update on Facebook or Google+. Mention it on your blog. Tweet it.

There are even buttons at the bottom of every page here. They have mysterious and arcane names like “StumbleUpon” and “Reddit” and such. I presume that they won’t destroy the world if you click them. And you know what? I think it’s worth the risk.


Our Lady of the Blessed Internets, don’t fail me now…

Consider that Tom Clancy wrote Hunt for Red October before the internet. What an astounding feat. Aside from creating and for a time completely owning a new sub-genre of fiction – the technothriller – think of how he got hold of all the information that he crammed into that book – the verisimilitude he was able to create despite the fact that he was an insurance salesman who had never served in the navy.  He accomplished that feet without once using a computer. Not once! He flipped through the pages of actual books, books he had to leave his house and drive to go see.

While I do not need to do research to come up with the goblins and magic weapons in the Veil War, I do have need occasionally to get details on military technology, or other aspects of the story. What’s the range and actual military name of a light mortar? One step away. What does it sound like when it’s fired? Thank you, YouTube. What’s the terrain like near Rafha, Saudi Arabia? Google Earth can show me. (I should probably dedicate the novel to Google and the Internet instead of my mom.)

I can barely get my head around just how much more difficult it would be without the internets, and I’m not eight years old like my son who quite literally cannot imagine a world without iPads, the Internet and Google.

The funny thing when you start getting deep into the research is the odd places you find gaps. For example, the video feeds from unmanned drones goes somewhere, obviously. But where? What is the actual device that allows soldiers to view the camera images? Wikipedia’s page on the predator doesn’t say. Happily, a Facebook friend of the Veil War set me straight and gave me lots of useful info besides.

If you can believe it, I was actually somewhat conflicted about setting up this website before the story was complete. I worried that it might interfere with my ability to sell the novel. I worried that I wouldn’t get traffic. I worried, in a hazy and non-specific manner that would have made my grandmother proud. Jackass!

Turned out, I couldn’t have made a better choice. I shudder, now, to think of the things that wouldn’t have happened – like the getting the info on the drones, like getting the dope on blast trauma. Like meeting fellow authors stuffed to the gills full of sage advice on publishing that they are clearly just bursting to share. Like typo and error detection in the text. Encouragement, and the hypnotizing trance-like state induced by repeatedly clicking refresh on the stats page.

I swear to God, you lot are kind of creepy, volunteering obscure and arcane knowledge just exactly when I need it. I mean really, how would you know that I need information on US government plans for coping with mass casualty events anyway? Information that would have taken me months to accumulate by painful reading and thinking and sorting you just drop into my lap. Eerie, I tell you. Eerie.

Give it a name

Scalzi has a post that gives a name to the point I raised earlier about the uncanny valley in storytelling.

When my daughter was much younger, my wife was reading to her from a picture book about a snowman who came to life and befriended a young boy, and on each page they would do a particular activity: build a snow fort, slide down a hill, enjoy a bowl of soup and so on. The last three pages had the snowman walking, then running, and then flying. At which point my wife got an unhappy look on her face and said ‘A flying snowman? That’s just ridiculous!’

To which I said: ‘So you can accept a snowman eating hot soup, but not flying?’ Because, you know, if you can accept the former (not to mention the entire initial premise of a snowman coming to life), I’m not sure how the snowman flying became qualitatively more ridiculous.

‘The Flying Snowman Problem’ works as well as a label for the issue as anything, and better than most. Consider it named.

Interstellar snail mail

An update to our earlier post on the Fermi Paradox:

Charlie Stross offers some of his own thoughts about the issue.

Tanenbaum’s Law (attributed to Professor Andrew S. Tanenbaum) is flippantly expressed as, “Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway”. It’s a profound insight into the state of networking technology: our ability to move bits from a to b is very tightly constrained in comparison with our ability to move atoms, because we have lots of atoms and they take relatively little energy to set in motion.

Read the whole thing. Some of the comments are quite interesting as well:

Remembering how paranoid some of the denizens are here, can I point out the beautiful absurdity of message missiles and message laser?

“No, you idiot, I wasn’t trying to bomb your planet, I was trying to send you a copy of the Encyclopedia Galatica with instructions for planetary peace and interplanetary governance. It wasn’t supposed to take out your space station. Really. Now turn off that terawatt message laser please, before it fries our launch facility so that we can try again? Okay?”

Interstellar war or peaceful contact. What if you can’t tell the difference?

Good stuff. An essential problem in interstellar relations is the bare fact that any means of transportation or communication across light-year scale distances is, inherently, a weapon of vast destructive power.

Addendum: If you’re really interested in all of the above, you will likely want to read this and perhaps this.

Neo Feudalism

This is interesting, if I do say so myself. And in this case, I do.

In the context of the Veil War, thinking like this will be relevant in two ways – one, the eventual defense of the earth will come to depend on this sort of thing. And also, the reasons why the medieval knight became extinct on our world as a result of arms technology outstripping armor technology may not obtain everywhere. And societies will change – or not change – in consequence.

The set up – blogging

I’m trying out a new blogging tool for the iPad, Blogsy. So far, I’m liking it.

Up until now, my primary blog tool whilst on the go has been the free WordPress app. It’s adequate in most respects and actually as good or better than most of the paid apps I’d tried, like BlogPress and others. A key feature is that it allows me to manage comments and check stats easily. Where it falls down is in what one might imagine to be a core competency – ease of actually writing and posting. The interface for composing and editing posts is unintuitive and aesthetically lacking. And it makes many things that should be easy… not so easy.

Having played with it all morning, I think this app will be a clear improvement in the posting and writing department. The writing interface is clean and simple, and all the nifty tools for simple formatting, link-adding and media search are arrayed in two menu bars across the top and right.

One nifty thing about this app is a slick built-in media adder thingy.  For example, you can pull up Google image search or a Flickr account from within the app and drag images and whatnot right into your post.  Say I’d like to have a picture of a pretty unicorn.

Boom. That took two seconds. Trust me. It’s a lot easier than copying and pasting image code or other, more frustrating techniques of getting images into posts. There’s also a bookmarklet for sending an image link to Blogsy, but I haven’t tried that yet. Might could be useful. And apologies to Indigo R. Wake for copying, altering and redistributing his pretty unicorn image. Lighten up, Francis.

The big downside is that Blogsy entirely lacks the ability to check stats or manage comments. Which means I either keep the WordPress app for those things, or else do them in Safari or use WordPress on my phone. Or I can download more apps… I know there are stats apps, but is there a comment management app? Probably.

If I ever need to post from my phone, which is actually fairly unlikely, I’ll just continue to use WordPress. There’s no Blogsy for iPhone and probably that is a good thing. Cramming all that into the iPhone’s limited screen real estate would likely be a disaster.

That covers mobile. As for the big computer at home, I’ve tried desktop blogging tools at various times. But really, the browser interface for WordPress is pretty slick in most regards and paying $40 or more to get the same functionality from MarsEdit just doesn’t make sense and the free blogging applications have generally sucked.

One useful thing, if you’re a Mac user, is Fluid. This is a nifty app – a browser wrapper that allows you to make an app out of a web page. I’ve used Fluid to make a gmail app in the past (though now I use Sparrow – a wonderful gmail client) and now I have a veilwar app in my dock with a custom icon. Having a web page behaving as an app is useful because you don’t have something crucial buried among thousands of tabs. Best thing, it’s free.

I apologize if you’re a windows user and/or Apple hater. This post won’t be very helpful to you. But I’ve been a mac user for about four years now – which started about a year after I spent two weekends rebuilding every machine in my home from the ground up after a pretty nasty virus/rootkit incident. My loathing for windows solidified somewhere around the third time I reformatted, reinstalled XP, set up the security software, reinstalled all my programs, and re-migrated all the essential data. The next computer I bought was a MacBook.

Now I think I’ll have to go look at stats apps…

I think this applies to you

I think this is a good theory on why the nitpicking seems focused on certain topics here. (Mind you, I don’t mind the nitpicking. But you weren’t complaining about bulletproof magical armor.)

Well. That’s fairly comprehensive

The folks over at io9 have compiled a table of the rules of magic from fifty different books, series, tv shows and movies. I can assure you that magic in the Veil War doesn’t work exactly like any of those.

Part Six gets up and walks around

Hey, it’s Veil War Thursday, and that means Part Six has hit the streets. Your traditional teaser:

“I swear to God, sergeant, there’s nothing more wrong than watching these bastards stand back up when you kill them.” As he spoke most of the goblins stood up and shook themselves back into order. And started marching.

“Next,” Pethoukis said, and remote-detonated the next bomb.

Enjoy. And don’t forget to share with your friends. It’s free, so everyone should have enough to share.

Update: Scalzi sucks

Not really. But his irrational prejudice for completed works has scotched my plans to post in his non-traditional writers pimp thread. Actually, I can see where he’s coming from – the whole idea is that the posts are a Christmas gift guide. And I admit that telling someone, “Hey, go read this great free story on the internet!” and then adding, “Merry Christmas, that’s your gift!” would be edging into douchebag behavior.

Thanks for the feedback on the bleg – much appreciated as always. But you lurkers and others, please chime in on the fabulous prizes – what would you like me to do?