Sunday, January 25, 2015


I people-watch and eavesdrop; it's an occupational hazard of a writer and, well, I'm an introvert, I observe the world. I used to say I was a stranded alien grad student, but that's stopped being funny.
 
I over-heard a snatch of conversation and started asking myself the questions- who, what, when and where, how and why? The answer to 'Why?' is often multiple guess, a Rorschach test for the soul.
 
"A truck jack-knifed and was sliding towards them, nowhere to go… he turned his car so that he took the impact, spared his wife and daughter, and shielded the cars behind him. No one else died. "
 
"He did that on purpose?!"
 
"*I* think so."
 
"What was his name?"
 
"Why? You don't believe me?!"
 
"Because, when somebody does something like that- I *hate* sports analogies, but when somebody 'takes one for the team,' they need to be remembered. 'Shines the name.'"
 
"Reinforce the meme?"
 
"Meme, shmeme. The tribe has needs, the debt which we owe back to our families and people has no bottom to it. You pay and you pay gladly, cheerfully, with a smile on your lips and a song in your heart."
Work in Progress
 
W3 Story- 3K to 9K words, aiming for 6,000 words.
The stories must be related to, inspired by, or set in a Western setting, whether on Earth, in a fantasy world, or on another planet. Let your imagination run free figuring out what dangers the frontier folk might face from magic or science (or both!).
 
The gathering darkness was a peaceful quietus upon the range. Here and there an orange-furred beef mooed loneliness and kicked up its' hooves to rejoin the herd, over two hundred strong and headed down-river, ultimately to By-The-Sea.
 
The hands had just begun eating; beef stew with carrots, peas and caramelized onions, plus biscuits and apple pie for desert. The Double C fed its' ranch-hands well and worked them twice as hard as any other outfit, or so they said in the North Country. Which was only half true. There were an awful lot of bright, ambitious young kids who wanted to work for the Captain.
 
Humans had brought horses and cattle, chickens and ducks, and also small furry escape artists, to this world which was so like Earth…
 
"Run, Rabbit! Run!" a young cowboy cried, as one got spooked by cloven bovine hooves and raced away from danger.
 
"Run, Forrest, run!" one of the Uncles added, and the rest of the Ancients laughed along with him. The young hands had to have it explained, but Bruce Clinkenbeard knew the reference well. 'Forrest Gump' was his father's favorite movie, and Bruce wondered about what that said about him. He and his Uncle George's favorite movie was 'The Princess Bride'. What did that say about the two of them?
 
The sweet smell of an orange being peeled and- yes, eaten, he distinctly heard the sound of lips smacking loudly, interrupted his thoughts. Bruce looked around and saw the city woman, the Ma's factor, Ma Chenhau, sitting a camp chair by the fire, almost at his elbow. She smacked her lips again and smiled.
 
"Did you bring enough to share?"
 
"With you, perhaps. Last two, out of the three bushels I brought up-river to bribe the natives."
 
"And how's that working out for you?"
 
"Reasonably well." She held out an orange and he took it. "Nobody turns down an orange in the North Country."
 
"Thanks, I think. Have you eaten? Cookie will be annoyed with you, if you turn your nose up at chow."
 
"The line was long, and I didn't see you. Aren't you going eat?"
 
Bruce shrugged. "The hands come first."
 
The woman nodded. "Why, exactly?"
 
"Is this a quiz? You take after the people who take care of you."
 
Cookie had other ideas, and showed up a moment later trailing a couple of young hands loaded down with plates and glasses.
 
"…and they'll look after you, too. You shouldn't have, Cookie."
 
"Just seein' ta the guest and figured she din' wanna eat alone, and she ain't gonna!"
 
"Thanks, Cookie. I greatly appreciate this."
 
Cookie beamed and the two cowpokes both tried to hand their bowls of stew to the Ma factor. Bruce accepted second place with good grace and a wry smile. It suited him, brought out the laughter lines. The men, teenagers, really, stood there a beat and each tried to out-wait the other into leaving first.
 
"Thanks, boys…" Chenhau purred at their backs.
 
"Foresee a much enhanced and embroidered tale of this."
 
"Then we'll all be happy." She suddenly giggled and almost lost a mouthful. "I overheard-"
 
"Yes?"
 
"'She's awful purdy' one of these kids said to another, I swear he hasn't had to shave yet, and his buddy was saying, "Easy on the eyes and-" when they both saw me and shut it down."
 
"The Princess has minions in my midst, a fifth column in my camp…"
 
"You see me as a princess?"
 
"Yes. A working princess, but a Ma, nobility, the elite of By-The-Sea, new Shanghai."
 
"My name means 'Spring Flower'."
 
"I know. I'm a round-eye, but not a barbarian."
 
"And, hm, noble-"
 
"We're not nobility-"
 
"I said 'noble'. Your grandmother, the Captain, is a Scots-Irish Captain General, the last one we'll have from the old American Empire-" she giggled at the look on his face. "C'mon, that's how the General, my grandfather, always put it. He's People's Liberation Army Space Navy, through and through."
 
Bruce shrugged. "She's a preacher's kid who went down to the sea, to Annapolis, then the aliens blew her up and didn't quite kill her. Clever apes reverse engineered alien tech from that day of dragons after they fought over us in orbit and went away for half a generation. Gave her a new eye which tried to kill her, too. Failed. Went up to the sky and out into the deep black. The Dragons call her 'Teacher Cee', say she taught them lessons in space warfare, costly lessons in blood and steel, fusion-fire and cometary-ice. Tried to kill her some more…"
 
"You're… quite the poet, aren't you?"
 
Bruce flushed and looked away. "Pretty words don't mean much. This an age of iron, gun-powder, steam… we're an accidental colony, peoples and species which don't get along or outright hate each other, and for good reason."
 
The 'Ma Princess' studied him, took a bite of her cooling stew, and thereafter tucked into it, stealing a considering glance at the 'noble prince' from time to time. 

The Ancients are soldiers and spacers stranded in the accidental colony, and mostly unmarried bachelors, the Uncles. The young hands are sons and grandsons of the few women in the task force, such as Captain Clinkenbeard, USAFSV Corpus Christi.
 
 
Build A World!
 
The world is Earth-like. Earth is (510.4m.km^2 / pi)^.5 = 12.74619025074578 megameters in diameter or 12.74619025074578*1000^2/2=6,373,095.1 meters in radius.
 
Orbital velocity, derived equally quick and dirty from A = V^2/R, is V = (A*R)^.5 = (9.82*6373095.1)^.5 = 7,911 m/s, at the Earth's surface. Escape velocity is 7911*(2^.5) = 11,187.8 m/s.
 
(Mars' orbital velocity, Q&D- V = (3.8*(6373095.1/2))^.5 = 3,479.8 m/s. Escape velocity would be ~5 km/s.)
 
Atmo, hydrographic ratio, etc. are close to one Earth.
 
Star density, from GURPS Space 1st Edition, is 1/36 parsec / 3.26^3 =
0.0008 stars per lyr^3. Times 100^3 = ~802 stars in one million lyr^3, a cubic light century.
 
A quick and dirty take on the Drake equation- one in seven stars with living worlds, one in seven living worlds with complex ecologies, one in ten have smart critters, one in ten have cities and civilization, one in ten of those have spacefaring natives… 7*7*10*10*10=49,000 star systems
 
7 seven space faring times 49,000 = 343,000 star systems in campaign space, a sphere of 343,000*36*3.26^3 = ~428 million cubic light years, (4.2781E8/pi*.75)^(1/3)*2 = 934.9 light years across.
 
Using GURPS' 30-day rule, the average speed of FTL is ~1.3 lyrs/hr (934.9 lyrs / 30 days = 31.2 lyrs / 24 hrs = 1.3 lyrs/hr).
 
What I would normally do at this point is use a spreadsheet to randomly generate the locations and masses of the spacefaring home-stars and mother-worlds. In this case, a box the diameter of the campaign-space high, wide and deep. Generate 2Xs as many and delete the ones which aren't in the sphere (within radius of the central point closest to the main spacefaring species, which has a one in n-spacefaring species of being human, or maybe the humans aren’t even! 8-), which might leave me with extra, unknown spacefaring, hmm...
 
Another sheet would be a time and distance chart; the closer the spacefaring species, the more they interact and compete. This is a map of enemies and enemies of enemies!
 
Once I have the masses of the stars involved, weighted towards K and G, orange and yellow, I can estimate how many sols worth of light and heat they put out, and the goldilocks zone. The masses of each world, planet or gas-giant moon, are similarly weighted towards one Earth, and hydrographic ratio upwards of 1/2 the surface area.
 
In my campaign space, there are 7 spacefaring species, one of which is the big kahuna, 63 more developing civilizations, one of which may very well be humankind, nearly 630 smart critters which might or might not be ignored as animals, seven thousand worlds with complex ecologies and another forty thousand living worlds. There might be millions of terraformable worlds, but my guess is there are too many 'good enough' worlds for that to happen. There will be a few barely-good-enough hard-luck colonies settled for good reason and re-engineered into garden worlds.
 
Oh dear, I haven't even gotten to my campaign world yet...
 

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Seven Dozen Eggs
 
(not sure where this one came form or is going...)
 
The grocery clerk watched the boy and the girl closely. He'd been having a lot of trouble with teenagers lately, but these two were behaving themselves, and that only made him suspicious.

He was that kind of man.

The two finished collecting items and brought their purchases to the register, setting them carefully on the counter.

"Seven dozen eggs!"
 
"Yes, sir." 

"Boy, watcha need seven dozen eggs for?" 

"He thinks we're buying all these eggs for mischief," the girl muttered. 

"Well, are you?" 

"No," the girl answered tightly. 

"I was asking you, boy." 

"My name's not 'boy'. It's Jared, sir. What's yours?" 

"Mr. Douglas to you, boy. And you still didn't answer my question." 

"Mr. Douglas, my friend and I have to bake cookies for the Gaming Club Bake Sale." 

"Couldn't find enough girls to do that for you, Jared?" 

Again, tightly, the girl answered for Jared. "I can't cook or bake. My mom… never… Jared is a great baker and I'm his assistant."

"Your girlfriend do most of your talking, does she?" 

Almost together, Jared said, "She's not my girlfriend!" and she said "He's not my boyfriend!" 

"My mistake," the man said hastily. "Tell you what, to make amends, I'll give you a discount on the eggs and flour and such. How about ten percent." 

"How about fifty?" the girl sent right back. 

"You will go places- maybe to jail, maybe to a bigger house than the big house," the man said grudgingly. "Twenty-five percent off. Take it or don't." 

"We'll take it!" Jared said quickly, and the girl nodded.

Monday, January 19, 2015

You Haven't Been... 
By
Vincent L. Cleaver
 
"You haven't been writing about us…"
 
I looked up from where I had been tapping away at ghostly virtual keys and finger-painting in the margins of my 'eye-balls-only' workspace, which shut down as I looked away. I sat at the warm not-wood picnic table, realizing I was, improbably, on Ilshan, the heart-world of the Conservancy.
 
Frank Costigan smiled, which can be alarming, truth be told, even for the author of his tale.
 
"But that's okay. Life is so very interesting when you're writing about us, and boring is good, too."
 
"Well, I suppose." The way he said 'boring' as if it was-
 
Oh. I'd killed him once, briefly, hadn't I?
 
I looked around. It was a park and all the species of the Conservancy were in evidence. The children of the Cee played strange games, and there was a young human child there in the midst of them who suddenly ran towards us, tackling Frank.
 
"Dad!"
 
I stared. Not Daddy, but dad, so grown up…
 
"This is Faith?! But she's still…" I paused to do the math and she answered me.
 
"I'm eight!"
 
"Eight."
 
"And seven months!" Faith looked up at her father. "Who's this?"
 
"A trouble-maker from Earth," I answered in his stead.
 
"Wow. Earth." Like that was a fairy tale, and not this place, imaginary, neglected, perfect.
 
"Where's Marianne?"
 
"Doin' Ranger-type stuff; it is her religion, after all."
 
“That it is,” I agreed. I waved a hand at Faith’s playmates; Trikes and Oddities, Markov and Gara, and others I couldn’t identify, the product of my subconscious mind, I supposed. Stranger things than cthulhoid monsters like Trikes or Oddities or Ubers, oh my.
 
“What game are they playing?”
 
Marianne’s little girl launched into an explanation of a cooperative team-sport, small teams, three or more of them, self-assembled. No one ever got picked last, they chose leaders instead of leaders choosing followers. Lopsidedly small teams voted to invite members of too-large teams to play with them and the player could refuse but it was bad manners…
 
“Ship’s manners.”
 
“Hmm?” Frank asked, as Faith went on without us.
 
“The social norms of a people used to living in close quarters on starships and in work-gangs, bringing dead and sterile worlds to life, building bold brave starships, new cities and habitats, as living works of art-“
 
“Are you two ignoring me?!”
 
“She’s your daughter, Frank,” I told the man.
 
“She’s Marianne’s daughter, and Karen Boyle’s granddaughter.” He flashed me another crooked grin. “What’s with you and all the warrior women, anyway?”
 
“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about…” I murmured. “What’re they doing now?!”
 
“Don’t you know?” Frank quipped, but I ignored him
Faith squealed and ran off to join her friends, who were… herding cats, or at least Gara kits, anyway.
 
“Sometimes the game is real-world work, but nobody ‘works’ in the Cee, Vince.” Frank rapped knuckles on the not-wood of the picnic table. “I made this, after one mission while I was laid up with a bum leg- it ended below the knee, by the way. Conservancy Medicine is bio-wizardry… I made the tools to make the tools to make something like the sort of table I remembered from… home.”
 
He was quiet for a few seconds.
 
“I got a lot of unasked-for advice, that’s their way. And it was all good advice, because they kibitz, but they’re good folk, all different shapes, especially their minds and hearts, but good, good people.”
 
“This one is almost infinitely adjustable. And then I bossed a squad of robots who built a bakers’ dozen of similar, but not identical, tables. This one here is mine, see?”
 
He pointed at a heart carved into the worn-smooth surface, then rubbed at it, tracing out the characters. I knew without having to ask that they were the ideographs of Old High Ilshani, but I asked anyway.
 
“What does it say?”
 
“Frank loves Marianne, and both love Faith. Have faith.”

That was what I'd been going on about, hadn't it? I tried to remember how it went... it had been years.
 
"'That which was broken-'"
 
He joined me, and then so did the people of the Cee. "'Is re-forged!'"
 
"'That which was dead, is reborn!"
 
"'The work gives us meaning!'"
 
"'The work gives us hope!'"
 
"The work goes ever on!'"

***

The Tales of Conservancy are about my Big Damn Space Opera a federation of non-humanoid, starfish aliens, dedicated to bringing dead worlds to life, creating and conserving life and the potential for sapience, wisdom, in the wider galaxy.
 
Old Complications' hearts' work.
 
The people of the Cee come in all shapes and sizes, but they are one people, many minds and hearts. They are, perhaps, 'over-socialized', but I don't think so. I think they value each individual for themselves, for what they bring to the Cee, but not just what the *whole* needs of them.
 

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Getting People Into Space

I want to work through some ideas for getting peeps into space. First off, I'd love to get away from rockets, but don't see that happening soon. I do see us going with space planes and suborbital launchers.

(I love that 1N lets me do math on the fly. Spreadsheets can be intimidating, when all I want to do is talk on the page…)

I'm going to rough out a suborbital launcher based on spaceship one, two cylinders slung under long straight wings, plus the orbiter between. The fuel is jet fuel for controlled flight in atmo, LOX/LH (liquid hydrogen) for the suborbital ballistic arc out of atmo. Go w/ 77% propellant, 66% LOX/ 11% LH, 2% for landing gear, 2% for space frame, 10% for the orbiter, 3% for rocket engines, 3% for jet engines and fuel, 3% for everything else- .66+.11+.02+.02+.1+.03+.03+.03 = 1.0. LN(.77/.23) = 1.2083*425sec*9.82m/s^2 =-5,042.8 m/s. Call it 5 km/s, a 100 tonne GLOM with a 10 tonne orbiter which has another 5 km/s delta-V, one tonne payload, 9.5 km/s to reach orbit with losses, 1/2 km/s to circularize in LEO.

This is a hypothetical 13 tonne reusable SO space plane, costing $10K/kg or $130M. The reusable orbiter has a ballute and parawing instead of landing gear and a heat shield for reentry. It similarly costs $13M, and we need 10 to 20 times as many, probably. A fleet of 3 SOSP for redundancy is $390M. Fifty orbiters would be $650M, so 50 tonnes in LEO for $1.04B, or ($13*50+3*$130)/50tonnes = $20.8M/tonne or $20.8K/kg in LEO, not including the costs of fuel, salaries and other capital costs, such as operating out a small dedicated airport/spaceport which also handles air freight and passengers for the spaceport.

Fuel @ $10/kg? Call it 77tonnes*1.1*1000kg/tonne*$10/kg = $847,000.00 per launch, adding $847/kg. Salaries @ 100 persons, each @ $100,000 per year is $10M/yr. A billion dollar spaceport @ $100M/yr. The 3 SOSPs and 50 orbiters for $1.04 @ $104M/yr.

Two flights per week, 50 weeks per year? 100 flights, 100 tonnes per year into $10M + $100M + $104M = $214M is $214M/100 = $2.14M  per launch, plus $.847M in fuel is $2.987M per flight or tonne, $2,987/kg. One per day reduces the cost per flight to $214M/250 +$.847M = $1.703M and $1,703/kg.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2nd Half of 2nd Assignment-

It was pushing towards spring in the Northern Hemisphere, but after the Fire Rain there was a lot of crap up in the stratosphere. Temperatures dropped and dropped and the last mild freeze of winter was followed by the first ruthless freeze of a hard, cold spring and the broken promise of a summer which never came.

At first things ran as much like before as possible, as people clung a little desperately to what was, and now was gone, the old world. The gas station clerk was there to look after the physical plant, the owner/franchisese's money, but the valuable thing was the convenience store food and the gasoline in the tanks. By and by, they woke to the new order of things, but not right away.

The night was desperately cold. The clerk took pity and took chances which he shouldn't have, letting people into the store after hours instead of making the customers use the window. The doors were locked in between times, but along about quarter of eleven, not very late at all, a man appeared at the north door. The clerk assumed that he was coming in from a car on the far side of the of the singleton gas-pump to the north.

But he wasn't.

Instead of looking around the store for purchases, he came right to the clerk at the register, to pay for gas, except that that wasn't what he was here for. He pulled out a shiny metal object and the clerk didn't understand for a moment. Three was a large hole in the shiny metal object and then it was the barrel of a small pistol.

The clerk didn't hear what the man said and he had to repeat himself, waggling end of the weapon in his face. "Open the register!"

Which the clerk did, absently. He thought to himself, 'Smith and Wesson have crawled back upstairs,' proof that, if he was hung like a squirrel, at least he was, hung like a squirrel.

The robber took the money and was gone, out the north door and headed east behind the gas station, where the car and his get-away driver was.

The owners were more upset that he'd let the man in, than anything else. They let him go as things went further to shit, and the stolen money was worthless to everyone, let alone the robber, within the week. Losing the job was the worst thing to happen right then, as he'd had a tab against his wages, had access to bad food and drink, which, in the days after, went away. The shelves of the gas station were emptying out even before he was fired, and he was in the middle of one of the first food riots, a run on an Acme, on his way home.

He fought with a guy over a loaf of bread and ended up with the lesser half and a couple of slices off the floor. They ate, along with most of his half of the loaf with its' twist-tie. That and the last can of tomato soup was all he had in the apartment, and then the landlord kicked him out.