A Few Thoughts on “Generation Snowflake”

Are younger generations actually different from the past? Does “generation snowflake” isolate itself from criticism? How are we to respond to criticism and confronting others?
| Feb 21, 2019 | No comments |

I’m taking a break from the long-running series Travis Chapman and I are doing on the Speculative Fiction Writers Guide to War. It’s interesting to note though that he and I both work with the military on a continuing basis, including military members trained for combat, though neither of us work directly with the infantry troops most people usually think of when the subject of war comes up.

It’s my interactions with military members that in fact inspires this week’s post. Nothing I have to say here relates to fiction at all, or is speculative–other than me speculating on human nature. All of what follows below is based on my personal thoughts and observations, especially observations I’ve made in the military.

You see, military members on average are younger than the populace at large. I’m getting to be quite old for the service–and I think I observe differences between how the people I work with now act versus those I worked with when I first enlisted in the Army (which was, by the way, 1989).

I think I need to say up front that I see two general tendencies on how to see the generations younger than my own. The first tendency, coming from people who deeply believe in social progress, sees younger people as more open-minded, more tolerant, as making steady social progress over the past, as “woke,” or in short, as morally better than the past. (Notleia, who regularly comments on Speculative Faith posts, probably is a fair representation of this group.)

The second general tendency is to see that society is going downhill. To see the current generation as full of vices that the past didn’t suffer from. According to the people who hold this view, younger generations are more obsessed with their own pleasure in this view, tolerant only with those who agree with them, too thin-skinned, too “snowflake.” It’s usually older men who are the most open at expressing this point of view, guys like Mike Duran, also a regular contributor to Speculative Faith. (Notleia might be eager to add older white men here, but I think anybody who believes that hasn’t had enough conversations with older Black and Hispanic and other ethnicity men.)

My very use of the term “generation snowflake” implies I’m with Mike and the other older guys who we might fairly call “crusty,” who gripe about the youth. But I want to say up front, “No, not really.” I in fact increasingly see a sort of Law of Conservation of Evil in play in society–like how energy in a closed system neither increases or decreases but simply changes form, it seems to me evil in societies actually has a tendency to neither increase nor decrease, but simply to change form. (Though I would also say our society is not really a closed system and it is possible to add evil to the overall mix, even though it’s not easy…but that observation moves away from my point here…)

I explain this to say that I’m not with either general tendency on how to see youth. I’m not predisposed to see people younger than me (Millennials plus Generation Y people or whatever you wish to call them) in a negative light–nor in a positive one. My first thought is to notice how they are different from me, without assuming such differences are good or bad.

Differences in the military as I see it between my generation and the past are pretty striking. In the old days, military culture embraced a lot of consumption of alcohol. As someone who out of personal conviction does not drink alcohol at all, it used to be rather difficult to avoid military social gatherings without drinking. Oh, you could avoid drinking, but some people would always treat an abstainer with contempt. That’s not really an issue now.

Old-school military culture also engaged in quite a lot of cussing. I think military culture cusses somewhat less now–but I’d say the choice of curse words have changed. “G-d d-mn” and “J-sus” as curse words used to be extremely common. Now the cuss word of choice stems from all the multitude of variants of the F word. Note this change has accompanied a military that increasingly less religious (as judged by how few people attend chapel services now) and more marked by sexual liaisons between military members (yeah, that didn’t happen much in the old, mostly male, overtly hetero military of the past). Which is rather ironic. The past military, which believed in God more, profaned his name more, whereas the present military, which believes in sex more, uses a word referencing sex as their go-to profane word.

One thing though that I especially notice is that military culture in the United States very much believed in overt confrontation. It was common to have a sergeant yell at a soldier in front of everybody–and this still happens, but far less. Sure, this kind of open confrontation usually went from senior members downhill to juniors, but it was also considered normal for peers to take peers aside and give direct advice about what you should and should not do. Even subordinates could and did directly confront superiors under certain controlled situations.

I’m finding–and this is what really inspires this post–that people younger than me in the military reflect the society as a whole in that they are much less likely to confront someone. Which at first may seem like a more pleasant environment to work it–a whole lot less yelling is going on, that’s for certain. But my “Law of Conservation of Evil” is at play–people are not necessarily nicer or kinder or actually like other people more. They just deal with disagreement or problems differently.

So people today are more likely to punish someone who is perceived to have done wrong by denying a person access to a service or by refusing to speak to a person than by a face-to-face confrontation. And people are more likely to talk about someone rather than to someone.

I can’t help but think social media affects this kind of reaction. Having a problem with someone online? Just block or unfriend. Or maintain as a friend, but “unfollow” so someone you don’t actually tell is not really a friend of yours is someone you never want to hear from. These tools make it easy to isolate yourself from social criticism if you choose to use them. And to surround yourself with a bubble of people who agree with you–and it’s this tendency to isolate self from criticism that attracts my use of the term “generation snowflake.” People can certain seem too sensitive to criticism from my point of view. Yet please understand the whole context of what I’m saying–I do not believe generations younger than mine are inherently worse people than my generation. Even if they are in some ways more sensitive.

On the other hand, speaking of sensitivity, I should note that the current generation can at times be hyper-aggressive under specific circumstances. Instead of yelling in public where a person might be criticized for behavior, it’s possible to adopt a pseudonym like “Sandy Balz” or something, where it’s possible to attack, attack, attack, without anyone knowing who is doing it. The Internet troll is the flip side of the technological liberty expressed in a person who isolates himself or herself from everyone who disagrees with him or her.

People directly confront less, yet still deal with people they don’t like. How? Usually by means of exclusion of some kind, often permanent exclusion. Such a system encourages being unforgiving, encourages refusing to see others as being capable of change, and even goes in the direction of shutting out nuance of meaning, since social exclusion can and often does take place before you even know what other people really mean by what they’re saying.

Note I’m not saying it’s always better to yell at people. No, that culture was toxic in many ways. But current culture is also toxic, just in different ways. The way I’ve phrased this brings to mind the commonly used modern term “toxic masculinity.” The thing is, I’m not disagreeing that many aspects of masculinity have been toxic–yet by attacking these old attitudes, what are we (as an overall society) replacing these values of the past with? Looks to me like a lot of it is non-masculine toxicity.

By the way, I’m glad to have a military that is more accepting of what we might consider a female point of view–yet that doesn’t in and of itself make the military more effective or morally better. Not automatically. Yes, sexual assault and harassment is much more frowned on, yet “hooking up,” which includes an inherent devaluing of commitment and truthfulness, is on the rise. Evil in a society changes forms, so it’s awfully hard to get rid of, even when people are trying to enact positive change. (It seems to literally take a miracle of God for someone to actually put aside personal evil…)

On the single issue of confronting others, does the Bible and Christian tradition offer any guidelines? Yes, it does. With emphasis on how to treat other believers (but applicable elsewhere), we are to look at individuals as individuals and give a person a chance at reconciliation according to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18:15-17. If the person refuses, then you take a second person. Then if the person refuses again, you bring in a group to help. And only if a person refuses to deal with an issue three times do you adopt social exclusion. (Note I would say Christ’s command is to be a general rule and needs to be applied with wisdom, meaning sometime a private confrontation is a bad idea–but only on occasion, only rarely is that true.)

Let’s observe that yelling at someone in front of everyone, like the old-school military did, was not Christ’s way. But neither is the new-school means of social punishment by exclusion without confrontation Christ’s way.

“Narrow is the way that leads to life and there are few who find it,” in Matthew 7 expresses more in my mind than just a relative few finding salvation through Christ, though that is true. It also means the world picks the broad way that leads to destruction–the world does everything wrong in God’s eyes. And the world didn’t just start doing that recently–it’s always been true and still is, even though in new and different ways.

Yet Christ calls on us to walk a different path. He meant us to stand up against the evils of the past–and he also calls on so-called “generation snowflake” to stand against the evils of the present. We are not promised that everyone will agree with us, or that life will become pleasant and easy if we chose to do what is right no matter what. Yet we are still called to a higher moral calling, whatever the society around us is doing.

In that way, nothing has changed at all.

Would God Come Along Too?

What if we were to make a break for it and leave this rock for another? Would God be invited along for the ride?
| Feb 20, 2019 | 5 comments |

I recently finished season one of National Geographic’s scifi drama Mars, now streaming on Netflix. Part modern-day Elon Musk documentary, part near-future hopefulness, 100% marketing, Mars is about as realistic as a scifi show can get, to its credit and its detriment. Comparisons to the blockbuster movie The Martian are inevitable, but unlike Matt Damon’s gee-shucks-I’m-going-to-science-the-s***-out-of-this American hero character, the cast of Mars play everything totally straight-faced, and the emotional and psychological toll of extra-planetary travel results in unforeseen and sometimes tragic consequences.

Image copyright National Geographic

If you’ve read my articles before, you probably know that I’m quite cynical about space travel as a whole. I don’t believe humankind will ever leave Earth and establish a colony on another world. I don’t believe we will ever journey to the stars. The Earth is our home and always will be, even after Christ’s return. Part of my cynicism is rooted in the Bible, which places such keen emphasis on Earth as humanity’s first and final destination, but I also find the desperation to leave Earth and make a new home for ourselves to be fatally humanistic, like we’re just not just leaving pollution and poverty and disease behind, but we’re also running away from God and religion and seeking to make a New World for ourselves, all to ourselves. I gladly applaud the demise of any such endeavors.

But what if we were to make a break for it and leave this rock for another? Would God be invited along for the ride?

The scientific community is largely atheistic, and it stands to reason that the people who would make such an adventure possible would have little room for God in their lives. But there would also likely be many who would be religious. After all, most of humanity believes in some form of deity. It would be callous for those seeking to make a new start for humanity to insist that one of the core elements of human existence be left behind.

So what place would religion have on a new world? Ships, jails, universities, hospitals, virtually every institution aside from banks and businesses have traditionally had priests, chaplains, monks, etc. I would bet that any space-faring project would be forced to bring along religious leaders of some sort. The scientists would probably grumble and complain but the governments sponsoring such a project would need to appease its taxpaying citizenry, who would probably not be thrilled to send a godless exploration party into the heavens. There would certainly be tension between those who would seek to minimize the presence of religion on the voyage, such as selecting atheistic or agnostic crew members, and those who would insist that God be brought along, in some form or fashion, since He/She/It/They are responsible for bringing humanity this far. Plus, think of the PR opportunity: a Muslim imam, a Jewish rabbi, a Buddhist monk, a Hindu guru, a Baptist preacher, and a Catholic priest lifting off together to bring God to the stars.

Could the world’s religions coexist in the stars?

But what use would God be on a cold and hostile world? Would people really take time to pray and read their Bibles while they’re trying to stay alive on a barren and hostile world? Or would those ancient notions of a higher power finally be put to rest when people realize that they don’t need God to achieve their dreams for humanity? After all, God didn’t build the rockets that brought them to this new world. God didn’t calculate fuel ranges and radiation spikes and atmospheric entry velocities. These intrepid explorers got to this new world and built this new home through grit and sweat and sacrifice and intelligence. Why would they need God anymore?

Only a fool would think such thoughts (Psalms 14:1). The One True God rules the heavens and the Earth (Job 38). All things were created for Him, by Him, and rely on Him for continued existence (Col. 1:16-17). God does not dwell on Earth. His power and glory and dominion are just as strong on the farthest moon of the farthest planet orbiting the farthest star in the universe as they are in a church on Sunday morning.

It doesn’t matter if we bring God along with us or not. He’s already there.

Announcing the Winner of Lorehaven Magazine’s Novel Giveaway

Our friends at Revell Books will send our winner a copy of Thomas Locke’s novel Enclave.
| Feb 19, 2019 | No comments |

Over the weekend, Lorehaven Magazine closed its first book giveaway for a copy of Thomas Locke’s Enclave.

The winner: Esther LoPresto!

Our friends at Revell Books will send our winner a copy of Thomas Locke’s novel Enclave.

From Lorehaven Magazine‘s featured review:

People like to complain that the United States is doomed to collapse. But who’s doing anything to plan recovery for the post-post-apocalypse?

Enter Kevin and Caleb from Thomas Locke’s novel Enclave. They’re two normal yet virtuous young men from the former nation. Several generations ago America fell into financial ruin. Now in the South, life has taken a frontier turn. Corrupt mayors rule the bigger cities called enclaves. What’s left of the federal government is off hunting down super-gifted people. These come from rumored genetic testing and are called “specials” or “adepts.”

Think Louis L’amour meets The Hunger Games–lite with a sprinkle of X-Men.

Explore the full review in our recent issue. As always, it’s free to subscribe.

Meanwhile . . .

Lorehaven Magazine, winter 2018You can explore Lorehaven Magazine’s debut issue right now. For this one, you don’t even need to get a free subscription.

Also coming up this year:

Lorehaven serves Christian fans by finding biblical truth in fantastic stories. Book clubs, free webzines, and a web-based community offer flash reviews, articles, and news about Christian fantasy, science fiction, and other fantastical genres.

Further up and further in!

Peruse The Archives

I hope you enjoy this chance to browse various articles of interest from the archives.
| Feb 18, 2019 | No comments |

Today in the US we are celebrating Presidents’ Day, so there will not be a new article posted here. However, I hope this occasion gives our visitors the opportunity to read or re-read articles from our archives. The past posts are sorted in multiple ways: by category, by date, by most popular. You can even read articles by a particular author if you click on the author’s name. Past articles will appear below the author bio.

I hope you enjoy this chance to browse various articles of interest from the archives—ones you may have missed and ones you want to read again—as well as other features Spec Faith has to offer, including the library.

Speculative Fiction Writers Guide to War, part 18: War Costs Exercise 1–Food for the Army

Ready to calculate some war costs? This exercise breaks down how much it would take to feed fantasy troops based on a late medieval army–and how much it would cost in relevant currency.
| Feb 14, 2019 | 3 comments |

Travis P here. In spite of the original date of this post, nothing we say has any direct connection to Valentine’s Day or romance (sorry!). Instead we’re continuing on with providing you a set of numbers you can use, if you ever chose to do so, in order to calculate what an army needs. My fellow Travis is leading the way this week:

Travis C here. As you saw last week, this topic is huge, and rather than try and combine informational content with illustration, we’re going to split things up for a bit. Travis P introduced us to food supplies over the ages. He covered a spectrum of periods and practices from ancient days till modern times and speculated upon futuristic scenarios in sciences fiction and fantasy environments.

This week, I want to build an example calculation using data that he provided along with some other resources. I’ll keep the story going as we discuss varying forms of supply and support, capital costs, and other cost-of-war-related themes. This post will accomplish two purposes: first, to give you a story context and second, to develop a relative cost estimate based on Travis P’s food post last week and how that might influence a story.

My entering assumptions:

Fantasy worlds are often modeled after the Middle Ages as we perceive them, ranging from the Dark Ages through the High Middle Ages. Because of the interesting data available for this time period, I used the time of the Hundred Year’s War, the 1415’s specifically. Several factors impact these calculations that don’t necessarily “scale,” but it was a place to start from. (Note that futuristic science fiction story worlds would be better modeled based on the needs of armies from our own times.)

Morning of the Battle of Agincourt, 25 October 1415, painted by Sir John Gilbert in the 19th century

For medieval warfare, two types of activity dominate: putting armies in the field, and castle warfare (i.e., occupation politics). For castle warfare, we have both a defensive mode, building castles to preserve or hold a condition, and an offensive mode where castles are used as a strong base of operations from which to launch expeditions. We’ll start with fielding an army.

The purpose of this exercise is to develop enough information about the logistics of an activity in warfare so my story can be told without the reader assuming unbelievable events and to see if the logistics of a war can be used to develop interesting plot points, tension, and conflict. This exercise might be a starting place if I were to write a military fantasy, but as we’ll see, this will be insufficient to satisfy the superfan of that genre.

When we get to it, we’ll base our currency off the English system and maintain similar relative values to the 1400’s:
1 pound (£1) = 20 shillings (20s)
1 crown = 5 shillings (5s)
1 shilling = 12 pence (12d for denarius)

Scenario: Lady Katie and the Mad King Crabcakes

The Queen of New Landia, the Lady Katie, is in trouble. The neighboring realm of Old Seaside has made a claim on the throne of her realm and rallied their banners to wage war against her own baronesses and herself. She has firm control of lands surrounding the capital city, Awesomeness, but her border with Old Seaside is relatively unprotected and vaguely defined by a forest. Wide rivers defend her remaining borders.

Rumors from her spies indicate the Mad King Crabcakes can field an army of 500 horse, 3000 foot, and 2000 archers plus attendants and that he plans to launch a major campaign within a year while testing New Landia’s defenses in the meantime. The strength of King Crabcakes’ forces drops significantly away from his stronghold on the coast, but there are at least 6 minor and 3 major fortifications between her border and King Crabcakes’ stronghold.

Clearly there’s a lot left missing, but let’s go with this until we need to create more. Lady Katie must face a hard choice to begin with: does she meet the Mad King in the field, or does she put up a strong defense through building or capturing castles? Either method will cost her time and money and she’s limited in both. She gathers her advisers to assess the situation. For this post, we will only look at the first of her options.

Fielding an Army

Like all good rulers, noble Lady Katie knows her baronesses and the condition of their lands. Clearly, Lady Katie needs to draw forces if she meets Crabcakes in the field. Her advisers suggest she wants at least a 10% greater force to assure victory, so she’s trying to field 550 horse, 3300 foot, and 2200 archers. Plus all the support services necessary to remain afield for no less than 6 months (we’ll assume the fighting season lasts 6 months and then, by traditional obligation, she allows vassals to return home, necessitating the length of the campaign.) We’ll exercise our endothermic assumptions by fielding a dozen sapient war wolves, and to further challenge our ectothermic assumptions, she gains access to a dragon to lock up her chances.

I think we’ll delve into this in future posts, but let’s make a couple of assumptions to get us an army to put in the field, and some conditions she and her advisers will consider when calculating the cost of food:

1) When we say 550 horse, we’ll assume 400 knights and 150 skirmishing-capable riders (for pickets, scouts, messengers, and skirmishing duties.) Each knight has at least two attendants (squire/pages) in the field, and three horses (a warhorse, a riding horse, and a pack horse). At this point, we’ll assume the attendants will not have their own mounts. The skirmishing force each require two horses for their duties.

Total knights: 400
Total attendants for the knights: 800
Total skirmishers: 150
Total number of horses: 1500 (we’ll un-conservatively assume a horse is a horse, of course. That’s not true, as a charger’s needs will vary compared to palfreys, coursers, and pack animals.)

Lady Katie gets these through her baronesses as a feudal obligation. We’ll discuss their cost later.

2) The 3300 foot come from various sources. Some are her standing forces that occupy her lands’ castles and fortifications, which she draws down to provide soldiers for the army (let’s assume 300 of them). 2000 will come from feudal obligations from her baronesses’ lands. Another 1000 will be paid soldiers from other lands performing as mercenaries. She’ll pay for these via scuttage that we’ll discuss when we talk wages. While the majority of these soldiers will travel afoot, some portion do have horses to be used for their unit’s obligations. Let’s assume that’s 5% of the non-garrison force.

Total foot soldiers: 3300 (1000 mercenaries)
Total number of horses: 150

3) The 2200 archers come from her land’s feudal obligations as well, as every person is expected to shoot on Sundays by tradition. Half of this force have horses (one per soldier) to enable rapid deployment across the battle space, the remainder are afoot.

Total archers: 2200
Total number of horses: 1100

So just the regular fighting forces, not logistics support or engineers or anything else (other than squires), we end up with:

Total soldiers to feed: 6850
Total horses to feed: 2750

How much food?

Let’s look at the horses first. We may revisit this topic, and I don’t intend to provide a rigorous analysis of horse use in combat at this point, but according to a World War I source on horse care, I’ll use a median value of 11 lbs of oats and 10 lbs of fodder for each horse every day (irrespective of type; clearly an incorrect assumption, but sufficient for now).

2750 horse x 11 lbs oats = 30,250 lbs per day
2750 horse x 10 lbs fodder = 27,500 lbs per day

At 2500 lbs per wagon drawn by a brace of oxen, that’s about 12 wagons a day for oats, and 11 for fodder if it’s not available. Let’s assume she wants to have the horses forage for fodder to the maximum extent possible to extend her supplies. If I use a simple assumption that we can look at in more detail later that an acre of grass can produce 2000 lbs of fodder in a year, with a 9 month season it can be relied on for fodder, we can consume about 7.5 lbs per day per acre without leaving the land decimated. Lady Katie’s horses could consume as much as 3700 acres per day (about 5.8 square miles per day). Historical accounts suggest swaths of up to 10 miles wide being destroyed by a passing army, and now we can understand why.

Since in today’s market, wheat is about twice as expensive as oats, I’m using this reference to estimate my cost of oats at 4d/bushel, and a bushel of oats is about 32 lbs, so my daily cost of oats is:
30,250 lbs x (1 bushel / 32 lbs) x (4d / bushel) = 3781d, or 315s or £16/day
= ~ £2900 for a 6 month campaign (I’ve also found references that suggest this could be at least twice as high!)

For the people, let’s start with the simpler scenario: humans.

Using Travis P’s estimates from last week, I made some simple estimates for how much a person will consume per day:
1 loaf of bread @ 800 grams (this is higher than necessary)
⅕ of a chicken @ ~150 grams
1 qt of ale
1 qt of milk
Modify the costs by a factor of 150% to account for error, any supplements like sauces, etc.
Modify that result again by 150% for the knights assuming they will eat better fare
Estimate this all weights in around 5.5 lbs/person/day

Based on a mix of 1300’s prices (which we will share later), that works out to:
0.3 pence for bread
0.4 pence for chicken
0.2 pence for ale
0.05 pence for milk (assume ¼ the cost of ale)
Total: 0.95 pence x 1.5 = 1.425d (let’s round to 1.5 pence per soldier per day)
And lastly, 1.5 pence x 1.5 = 2.25d for nobles and knights

So with our merry band of 6450 human soldiers and 400 knights, we get:

1.5d x 6450 soldiers = 9675d, or 806s, or £40.
2.25d x 400 knights = about £4.

Let’s round that to £45 per day. In 2019, that seems cheap. If I use a simple relative conversion though, we see it’s pretty significant: in modern times, a loaf of bread alone costs about £0.25, or 60 pence a loaf, compared to our 0.3 pence. So that army costs a modern estimate of £9000 per day, or £1.6 million for our 6 month campaign! And think of everything we didn’t factor in:
Transport of the foodstuffs
Actual variability in the menu we purchased
Preparation, cooking, serving, clean-up
Any of our camp followers and support staff
Whether that food is immediately available when we want it

I want to check my math here and use a different measure, from a resource we will share in a future post:
Price in 1380 to feed each member of a household: lord, 7d; esquire, 4d; yeoman, 3d; and groom, 1d.

400 knights x 7d = 2,800 pence/day
6,450 soldiers x 3d = 19,350 pence/day (I lumped my squires into the yeoman category)
= 22,150d, 1,845s, £92/day (about twice what I estimated first)
= £16,600 for a 6 month campaign!

I’ll assume the higher amount for now to be conservative.

Endothermic Creature Calculation

Dire Wolves (an extinct species of very large wolf). Source: US National Park Service

Bear in mind that our standard Medieval figures only apply to creatures who actually lived in the medieval era. So how do we account for fictional creatures, like Lady Katie’s war wolves? I think we’ve got two possible approaches. She’s bringing a dozen in the field with her, and let’s say they weight in around 200 lbs (a little larger than the extinct species of dire wolves that once lived on Earth). The first thing we could do would be to scale up the average consumption of the closest living animal to our fictional creature, in this case a real wolf: our war wolf is a little more than 100% larger, and wolves consume around 10 lbs of meat per day (not necessarily in a single day though), so we can assume the war wolves will need twice that amount.

12 war wolves x 20 lbs meat/day = 240 lbs of meat per day

Based on assumptions about cows that follow, I can anticipate 1 cow lasting 3 days, so we need another 60 cows for a cost of about £25 for the campaign to feed the wolves. Alternatively, I could use Travis P’s recommendation on BMR and attempt to scale the caloric intake for our war wolves. Since the 200 pound figure I’ve been using equals about 90 kilograms, a BMR for a war wolf would amount to approximately 90 kilograms ^.75, but such a figure is so general that it would have the wolf wind up with the same approximate BMR as a 200 pound human!

While a war wolf weighs in near the size of a large man, for whom Travis P listed a figure of 2,500 calories per day as a reasonable calorie per day intake, my sense is a wolf will have higher caloric intake than a man. Travis P may have accounted for this by mentioning that creatures with higher metabolisms use more calories per hour than creatures with lower metabolisms. One way we would know if a creature has a higher metabolism is if its internal body temperature were higher than a human beings. Is that the case for wolves? According to one online source, the answer is no, because humans and wolves have the same internal body temperature, 37° C / 98.6° F.

The other way Travis P may have accounted for this was by mentioning that while humans rarely exceed more than twice BMR while active, many other creatures have a much higher multiple for their BMR when energetic. He stated the BMR for a healthy adult human male is “about” 1800 calories–let’s round up to 2000 for simplicity. A human working hard may double that caloric intake a day or possibly even go over double by a significant degree, but an active wolf may go much higher, perhaps as high as 4 to 5 times that amount, based on a comment Travis P made in the previous article. That would mean a war wolf would use approximately between 8,000 and 10,000 calories per day.

Based on the figure of approximately 1,100 calories in a pound of meat from the list of Colonial rations in last week’s post, that would mean a war wolf would require between 7 and 10 pounds (3.2 and 4.5 kg) per day of meat. Which is about half the figure obtained from the simpler calculation based on what wolves eat per day, though that figure came from a source that may have referenced what wolves eat when given the chance as opposed to their minimum needs.

In any case we now have two figures, one pointing at a minimum of about 10 pounds a day and the other at 20. To conservatively ensure we have enough food, we’ll use the figure of 20 lbs of meat per day.

Ectothermic Creature Calculation

Since in the story world of Lady Katie a dragon is an endothermic creature rather than an animal with a minimum BMR like a wolf, the kind of calculation we just did won’t really work here. Thankfully Travis P gave us some relief when considering ectothermic creatures. Since they cannot regulate their internal body temperature and rely on the environment, we have some thumb rules for how to calculate their caloric intake. We’ll use those estimates to gauge our dragon’s consumption costs.

I’ll approach this the simpler of two ways: using the example of the 300-some kg crocodile Travis P gave (as opposed to more thorough calculations using his breathing rates). I also will assume out of that 6 month campaign that the dragon is lazy (for which I will use the SMR for 10° C /50° F that Travis P gave) and active for 3 months (for which I will use the SMR for 30° C / 86° F), respectively. If it were our crocodile:

3 months x 30 days/month x 180 calories/day = 16,200 calories
3 months x 30 days/month x 720 calories/day = 64,800 calories
81,000 calories (the sum) x ~720 calories/300 grams of meat = 194.4 kg, or about 430 lbs.

Source: Naominovik.com

Now for my crocodile-to-dragon conversion: I’ll assume a 15 tonne (15,000 kg) dragon based on Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series and assume that caloric intake scales directly. Our crocodile weighs in at the upper end of the scale at 390 kg, so:

430 lbs of meat x (15,000 kg / 390 kg ) = ~16,500 lbs of edible meat

From my earlier reference, a good cow costs about 9s and we’ll assume I get ⅔ of the ~1300 lbs average weight of a range cow down our dragon’s gullet.

Number of cows for the six months = 16,500 lbs / 867 lbs/cow = 19 cows
Cost of cows = 9s/cow x 19 cows = 171s or about £8.5

In practice, this looks like 1 cow every 9 days or so. I suspect Lady Katie’s dragon will exert more energy because he will be more active in combat and require a full cow per day (if I were a dragon I wouldn’t work for any less).

Cost of cows for the dragon = 6 months x 30 days/month x 1 cow/day x 9s/cow = 1,620s or ~£80

Total Cost for 6 Months Afield

Let’s wrap this up and do a quick analysis:

Total food costs:
Soldiers: £16,600 (I’m going with our higher end estimate for conservatism)
Horses: £2,900
War wolves: £25
Dragon: £80


Total £19,605

Again, remember that Lady Katie has paid no wages, hired no combat support, nor provided for any form of logistics to get this food to the army, and this assumes she allows the horses to forage for fodder every day. This is therefore an estimate based on the cost of food alone, not including anything else.

This feels like a long nerded-out math problem that has little direct relevance to us as authors. I certainly don’t suggest that we all need to have spreadsheets capable of doing this math, nor that we must be highly accurate when doing it. You are all likely great Googlers and can do research relevant to your story. But some things stand out in my mind:

The cost/horse (£1.05/horse) for food is lower than the cost/person (£2.50/person). This surprised me, and gave me a rough estimate that a horse-born soldier costs about 40% more than a foot soldier to support (in cost of food alone). It’s also much lower than £80/dragon but comparable to £2.08/war wolf.

Changes in food sources, especially access to grazing for horses and good range cows for dragons, can have a significant impact on the food budget; no surprise there.

Assuming a wagon can carry ~2500 lbs of goods, this army needs at least 20 wagons to support the horse feed alone, and nearly 13 to support the soldier’s food per day. Once we factor in drovers and teamsters, I have an entire storyline just related to the potential transportation of foodstuffs.

Inflation will impact these figures, so I should have some measure of relative worth to compare to. We’d call this something like useful purchase power, which we will address in a future post.

Any of those can be exploited for world building exposition or for a unique plot point. Maybe even a great secondary character like the drover for wagon number 17. We’ll keep delving into Lady Katie’s fictional war as we explore paying for her soldiers and later with the costs of castle warfare.

According to the Label

While the label of “a creative” is in one way too vague, it is in another too exclusive.
| Feb 13, 2019 | 5 comments |

There is nothing categorically wrong with labels. Labels are short-hand descriptions, a fast and easy method of classification – much like words. There is nothing wrong with labels just as labels. But labels, like everything else in this world, can go wrong. Some labels are active lies; others (not nearly so bad) are so insufficient they create more confusion than clarity, or so vague they are almost useless in conveying information.

Which brings us to the label “a creative”. As you know, this word (recently converted from an adjective to a noun) has become a popular self-label in recent years. It’s thrown out in blog posts, claimed in profiles. It appears to be roughly synonymous with “artist” – not by definition but by use (one senses that the “creatives” are not accountants).

The primary failing of this label is that it lacks a clear and specific definition. If you tell me that you’re a creative, I believe you, but I don’t know what you mean by it. Are you a musician, a writer, a painter, an actor? Or is it less a single talent or pursuit and more a way of thinking? Let me put it this way: An artist is defined by what he does (art). Is a creative likewise defined by what he does, or is he defined by what he is (creative)? I don’t know. I don’t understand the label.

I’ve poked around the Internet and discovered eloquent and elaborate definitions of what a creative is; these people aren’t pulling definitions out of a Dictionary. Some people understand the label. But they don’t always understand it the same. If they were operating out of a Dictionary, we would have a simple and reigning definition. But since they are instead spilling four hundred words to define a creative as they understand one to be, the meaning of the label is fluid. And the usefulness of a label is inversely proportional to the fluidity of its meaning.

While the label of “a creative” is in one way too vague, it is in another too exclusive. The label is generally applied to people who are creative in an artistic sense, but there are a thousand other ways to be creative. A person who can take a recipe off the Internet and make it twice as good is creative. People who come up with new and better operating procedures, that engineer or programmer or CEO who can see the way around the obstacle – they are all creative. Whoever first invented the assembly line was very creative. By God’s many and marvelous gifts, the world is overrun by creative people. A label for creatives that acknowledges only one kind of creativity is flawed; it encourages a false distinction, an unhelpful delineation between us and them.

Labels matter – because they are categories, because they are descriptions in brief, because they share the fundamental purpose of all words: to build a bridge. It is important, then, to choose your labels carefully. Before adopting, or bestowing, a label, we must consider what information the label conveys, and what judgments it implies.

Win a Copy of Thomas Locke’s ‘Enclave’ from Revell Books

Through this Friday, Feb. 15, you can enter our free drawing at Lorehaven.com.
| Feb 12, 2019 | 1 comment |

Today begins Lorehaven Magazine’s first contest: to win a copy of Thomas Locke’s novel Enclave. Through this Friday, Feb. 15, you can enter our free drawing at Lorehaven.com. Or you can use the same form echoed here:

Lorehaven Magazine: win a copy of Thomas Locke’s Enclave from Revell Books!

Enter the giveaway here. Then get more chances to win by doing any of these five options. Each option gets you different numbers of “points” that increase your winning chances:

The contest closes Friday, Feb. 15. We’ll plan to notify our winner over the weekend. Then on Tuesday, Feb. 19, we’ll announce the winner.

Enclave: ‘Think Louis L’amour meets The Hunger Games . . .’

From Enclave‘s back cover:

Enclave, Thomas LockeIt’s been 50 years since the Great Crash and what was once America is now a collection of enclaves, governed on the local level and only loosely tied together by the farce of a federal government. Catawba, one of the largest and most affluent enclaves in the southern states, is relatively stable and maintains a successful business of trade with nearby enclaves, including the one at Charlotte Township. But when a new vein of gold is found beneath the feet of those in Catawba, it’s only a matter of time before trouble finds them.

Now the future of Catawba may be in the hands of an untried 21-year-old trader named Caleb. And Caleb knows that if his secret were ever to come out, he would never see another dawn.

Lorehaven Magazine, winter 2018Lorehaven Magazine’s winter 2018 issue reviews Enclave:

Think Louis L’amour meets The Hunger Games–lite with a sprinkle of X-Men. . . . It leaves young readers without the despair often associated with the “dystopian” genre and with hope to regain a better society.

Meanwhile . . .

You can explore Lorehaven Magazine’s debut issue (spring 2018) without even a free subscription.

And see what else we’re planning for this year. This includes:

Lorehaven serves Christian fans by finding biblical truth in fantastic stories. Book clubs, free webzines, and a web-based community offer flash reviews, articles, and news about Christian fantasy, science fiction, and other fantastical genres

Further up and further in!

We Have A Winner—2019 Spec Faith Winter Writing Challenge

Again, thank you all for participating, and watch for Spec Faith’s Summer Writing Challenge later this year.

Congratulations to our 2019 Spec Faith Winter Writing Challenge winner:

Sarah Daffy.

For details about your prize, Sarah, please contact me via Facebook messaging, either at my personal site or through the Spec Faith page.

I honestly thought any of our finalist might win, they were that good. And the close voting bears that out. So congratulations to the other finalists in the writing challenge for their excellent entries: Jay DiNitto and L. G. McCary.

We had great participation in the writing challenge, in all phases: excellent, and numerous, entries, lots of readers in the first round who gave their feedback and comments, and a substantial number of voters (twice as many as in last year’s summer challenge) who chose the winner from our finalists. Thanks to you all for your participation.

Contests like this writing challenge are fun. The thing that continues to amaze me is how varied the stories are even though they all begin with the same first sentence. We had such a wide range again this year. That shows a lot of creativity.

For those who may have missed Sarah’s winning entry, here it is again:

By Sarah Duffy

The guard would never let me enter if he knew what I was planning.

The airport inspector and guard would never let me enter if he knew what I was planning—and hiding.

Right now I was being screened such at customs, for metals or explosive devices. What the airport inspector didn’t know was that a Bible was stashed away in the false bottom of my carry-on bag.

In this country it was illegal to import Bibles. It was illegal to be a Christian. It was even illegal to own a Bible. That’s why I was helping my friend Edward smuggle Bibles.

I held my breath as the airport inspector looked me over, hoping and praying he wouldn’t find me out. Or my secret. He patted me down and used his metal detector. Nothing. No metal, no explosive devices, nothing. He grunted.

“Go ahead, ma’am,” he said. “You’ve got nothing illegal on you.”

I smiled and moved ahead. I was through all customs, all inspectors, now all I had to do was figure out a plan and get the Bible to Edward.

Suddenly someone rushed across the airport, someone I knew and recognized.

Amir.

The worst enemy of the Christians. He was known for hunting Christians down, reporting them to the authorities, and worse. I knew someday God would bring him to justice, but right now I was terrified and thinking that day would never come.

“Don’t let her get away!” Amir shouted. “She’s carrying a Bible!”

Immediately the inspector officer rushed after me and caught hold of me. Amir stood by, smirking.

“Explain yourself,” the officer demanded.

“I have nothing to explain,” I said, “except I’m doing the will of my Father in Heaven.”

I looked up and our eyes met, mine boring into Amir’s. Right then and there I knew he was sorry he’d betrayed me.

Conviction.

– – – – –

Again, thank you all for participating, and watch for Spec Faith’s Summer Writing Challenge later this year.

Standing Up to the YA Fantasy Impuritans

As Christians and as fantasy fiction fans, we have a duty to stand up to bullies, including the “Impuritans.”
| Feb 8, 2019 | 38 comments |

You have probably heard by now about Amelie Wen Zhao, the Chinese immigrant who pulled her YA fantasy nove, Blood Heir, after being set upon by Twitter piranha.

Zhao based the invented world in her novel on her own experience growing up on mainland China. In China today, slavery is a concern, especially for young women, who are in danger of being kidnapped and sold to men who cannot otherwise find wives, due to China’s one-child policy. So Zhao included indentured servants and human trafficking as a plot issue in her novel.

Only, in her fantasy world, it was magic powers, rather than skin color, that fueled the discrimination that decided who ended up as a slave.

It was this that—of all things—that upset her attackers.

Nearly every fantasy or science fiction book I read as a child had basically this same theme—that prejudice would be different in an alien culture, and by viewing it from afar, we can learn to overcome it in ourselves. And yet, this very premise is what Zhao’s attackers denied. They condemned her for allowing slavery to be about anything but skin color.

They actually said this.

Other attacks

Zhao is not the only author to be so attacked recently. Laurie Forrest and Keira Drake both suffered similarly before the release of their books. The publicity from the media reaction catapulted Forrest’s book, The Black Witch, to greater success, but Drake was not so lucky. She delayed her book, The Continent, rewriting sections, but she did not benefit from the publicity and her series is struggling.

All three of these authors were attacked for writing the very kind of books that were most praised only a few years ago.

Speculative fiction without speculation?

Speculative fiction is the art of speculating about the world through fiction. How can such an art exist, if no one is allowed to write about anything  except exactly what they know from their every day experience?

Science fiction’s grand master, Gene Wolfe, addressed this subject when he wrote:

Science fiction’s fictional people are hard to make believable because they are likely to be remote from the writer’s experience. Who has known a Martian? A starship captain? A woman who has published scientific articles intended to prove that she is not a human being? If the writer cannot empathize with people who do not yet exist—and may never exist—he must stay out of science fiction.

His comments remain true today. Without empathy for others—the ability to imagine the life and experience of someone unlike ourselves—we cannot enjoy speculative fiction.

Hitting close to home

As an author, who is also the mother of a Chinese girl, this story hit me particularly hard. I immediately ordered Blood Heir on Amazon, hoping that a show of support from the public might convince Zhao to change her mind about canceling the book. Alas, I have since received word from Amazon that the book has been pulled.

Blood Heir, Amelie Wen ZhaoZhao’s story is doubly painful, because I, too, spent decades pursuing my dream before I was finally published by Tor in 2009. So Zhao’s comments on the topic from her blog broke my heart.

On a recent Skype session with my parents, my mother told me in tears that, when I was around 8 years old, I said to her one day: “Mama, I want to be an author!” And she gently sat me down and told me the reality. That so few authors make it — and fewer, still, make it big. That many still struggle on in pursuit of their dream. That I have to decide whether I want a life of comfort — one that my parents have gifted me — or a life of uncertainty, potential financial duress, and, very possibly, never having my books see the day of light.

I chose. For my entire life, I’ve prepared myself for a career in finance, telling myself it was the more realistic choice, that success stories for authors came true once in a blue moon and that dreams were something only Cinderella’s fairy godmother could grant with a wave of her wand.

I HAVE A THREE-BOOK DEAL!!!!!!!

This young woman’s life dream has been robbed by bullies.

The Impuritans

These modern bullies form mobs that exhibit as much moral outrage as the Victorians or Puritans of old, but they lack the one thing that redeemed the older groups: virtue.

The Victorians and the Puritans may be known for moralizing, but many of their members legitimately tried to live up to the high moral standards they proposed. One might say that they had the virtues of their vices. This new movement has all of their arrogance but none of their morality.

Because of this, some have started referring to these frothing, outrage mobs as Impuritans. Where the Puritans used peer pressure in an attempt to enforce morality, these modern Impuritans attempt to bully people into accepting sinful behaviors.

A Christian’s duty

L. Jagi Lamplighter

L. Jagi Lamplighter

As a writer and a mother, this story appalls me, but as a Christian, our duty must go beyond merely being appalled.

As Christians, we have a duty to stand up to bullies, especially if they are urging us to commit sins and accept false, non-Christian moral codes. In the Bible, the penalty for yielding to bullies was surprisingly severe. Upon leaving Egypt, the Israelites had been told that they would be led to a Promised Land, running with milk and honey. Moses sent a few ahead to spy out what lay ahead. What they discovered was a land running with milk and honey, but the people living there looked menacing. The spies feared the locals much as we might fear standing up to a bully.

The spies returned and told the Hebrews that the land was full of unbeatable giants. Only one told the truth about what he had seen, a man named Caleb, but the people did not listen to Caleb. They quailed in fear and begged not to have to face these giants.

God’s response? He condemned the entire tribe to wander in the desert for forty years, until the current generation of adults had died. Those who had given into their fear were denied entrance to the Promised Land. When they finally were allowed to enter,  Caleb, the one who told the truth, was still as strong, at 85, as he had been—the gift God gave him for his truthfulness.

Standing firm

If we modern Christians give way to this mob mentality of immorality and outrage, rather than standing up to those who abuse the truth, we could lose our promised land. America has been a promised land in many ways—a place of freedom and human dignity. These benefits have been vanishing in recent years, not because some tyrant has taken them from us with bayonets, but because we are ceding the willingly, due to the insistence of the Impuritans.

Amelie Wen Zhao has had her promised land, the happy future she had envisioned since she was eight years old, snatched from her. If we continue to allow this to happen, we, too, may find that we have lost ours.

We must take a stand against immoral mob mentality if we want to be able to continue to practice Christianity, much less enjoy speculative fiction, in the years to come.

Speculative Fiction Writers Guide to War, part 17: War Costs: Food per Fighter

If you ever wanted to calculate how many supplies your fictional army needs, your numbers start with how much food per single war fighter per day. We’ve got the numbers here–for both humans and non-humans!

Travis P here. Since Travis C did an excellent job giving an overview of the costs of war essential to providing for a military, I think it’s time to give the math-lovers out there some hard data that can actually be used in formulas to make generate specific data on what an army might need, starting with the most basic possible cost of war–the cost of putting food in the bellies of war fighters. Which starts with a look at how much food per day a war fighter needs. You as a writer may never need these resources, but if you ever do, we’ve compiled some data to indicate just how much food it takes to keep an army fighting in the field. (Note this post wound up being longer than normal, but I’ve used bold text to highlight key ideas for those who will skim this article rather than read every word.)

The place to start with this kind of analysis is based on historical data, what real world armies have already done and then to expand from there to discussion of imaginary armies composed of fighters who are literally not of this world. We’ll also in future installments cover some of the issues regarding what it takes for a nation to produce sufficient food, which relates to the transportation of food and other supplies. Which will segue nicely into future posts that will provide some formulas that relate to transportation (and more).

How Much Food Per Human War Fighter

The first numerical summary I’ll share here of how much food an army needed per day was from the records of the Colonial Army prior to US independence from Great Britain (1775). What they listed as their daily needs surprised me in its last item (source, a US Army Quartermaster piece entitled The History of Rations):

Credit: Savoring the Past.net

l6 oz. beef  (probably salted)(about 1100 calories) (193 grams)

18 oz. flour  (about 900 calories) (510 grams)         

1.4 oz. rice  (about 150 calories) (40 grams)

16 oz. milk   (about 300 calories) (454 grams)

1 qt. spruce beer (about 450 calories) (907 grams/ml)

Total: roughly 3,000 calories per day (caloric value of food varies according to exact type, which is partially unknown), weighing 5 pounds 10 ounces or 2.56 kilograms. While the beef, flour, rice, and beer could be stored over a long period of time, the milk would have to have come from fresh-milked cows, due to a lack of refrigeration at that time.

Note that the members of the Colonial Army often enough did not receive this much food. But this list, even though a bit idealized, took into account the higher calories a person needs when marching from battlefield to battlefield, a number significantly higher than the roughly 2000 calories per person that’s considered an ordinary caloric intake in our time. The variety of food reflects a rudimentary understanding of nutrition–spruce beer, made from a brew that included fresh spruce tree needles, was intended to prevent scurvy (which it did because the needles added a certain amount of Vitamin C to the beer). (Spruce beer was the surprise item on this list, because I’d never heard of it before!)

Note also that the average size of a Colonial soldier was less than a modern American–and smaller people on average require fewer calories. A modern US Army MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) has approximately 1250 calories, so three per day would equal 3750 calories, which is a more appropriate calorie count for larger people. More on MREs and calories per size a bit later.

To further illustrate the issue of people needing a different number of calories in accordance with the work they perform, let’s look at the German rationing system for food during WWII (cited in the Wikipedia article Garrison Ration).

The Germans used 4 different levels of allotments for food, based on how hard they perceived a person was working and how much food they needed. Note this system was based on a number of scientific measurements. The food supplied was specific to what Germany was able to produce, but it covered all nutritional needs for their military well–even at the lowest calorie level, these were not starvation rations (sadly the Germans applied starvation rations elsewhere).

Ration I (Verpflegungssatz I) was for troops committed to combat, for those that are recuperating from combat, and for troops stationed in Norway north of 66° N. Latitude (because living in extreme cold requires a higher caloric intake).
Ration II (Verpflegungssatz II) was for occupation and line-of-communication troops.
Ration III (Verpflegungssatz III) was for garrison troops within Germany.
Ration IV (Verpflegungssatz IV) went to military office workers and nurses within Germany.
Food Item Ration I Ration II Ration III Ration IV
Rye bread 700g (1.54 lb)

1590 calories

700g (1.54 lb)

1590 cal

700g (1.54 lb)

1590 cal

600g (1.32 lb)

1360 cal

Fresh meat with bones 136g (4.8 oz)

About 250 cal

107g (3.7 oz)

About 200 cal

90g (3.17 oz)

About 170 cal

56g (2 oz)

About 100 cal

Soybean flour 7g (0.24 oz)

280 cal

7g (0.24 oz)

280 cal

7g (0.24 oz)

280 cal

7g (0.24 oz)

280 cal

Headless fish 30g (1 oz)

About 40 cal

30g (1 oz)

About 40 cal

30g (1 oz)

About 40 cal

30g (1 oz)

About 40 cal

Fresh vegetables and fruits 250g (8.8 oz)

About 100 cal

250g (8.8 oz)

About 100 cal

250g (8.8 oz)

About 100 cal

250g (8.8 oz)

About 100 cal

Potatoes 320g (11.29 oz)

150 cal

320g (11.29 oz)

150 cal

320g (11.29 oz)

150 cal

320g (11.29 oz)

150 cal

Legumes 80g (2.8 oz)

64 cal

80g (2.8 oz)

64 cal

80g (2.8 oz)

64 cal

80g (2.8 oz)

64 cal

Pudding powder 20g (0.70 oz)

About 470 cal

20g (0.70 oz)

About 470 cal

20g (0.70 oz)

About 470 cal

20g (0.70 oz)

About 470 cal

Sweetened condensed skim milk 25g (0.88 oz)

83 cal

25g (0.88 oz)

83 cal

25g (0.88 oz)

83 cal

25g (0.88 oz)

83 cal

Salt 15g (0.5 oz) 15g (0.5 oz) 15g (0.5 oz) 15g (0.5 oz)
Other seasonings 3g (0.1 oz) 3g (0.1 oz) 3g (0.1 oz) 3g (0.1 oz)
Spices 1g (0.03 oz) 1g (0.03 oz) 1g (0.03 oz) 1g (0.03 oz)
Fats and bread spreads 60g (2.11 oz)

422 cal

50g (1.76 oz)

352 cal

40g (1.41 oz)

282 cal

35g (1.23 oz)

246 cal

Coffee 9g (0.32 oz) 9g (0.32 oz) 9g (0.32 oz) 9g (0.32 oz)
Sugar 40g (1.4 oz)

135 cal

35g (1.23 oz)

118 cal

30g (1.05 oz)

101 cal

30g (1.05 oz)

101 cal

Supplementary allowances 2g (0.07 oz) 2g (0.07 oz) 2g (0.07 oz) 2g (0.07 oz)
Total Maximum Ration in grams / pounds 1698 / 3.74 1654 / 3.64 1622 / 3.57 1483 / 3.26
Total Maximum Ration in Approximate Caloric Value
(Note calories are approximations due to exact foods used being unknown)
3584

About 3600 calories

3447

About 3450 calories

3330

About 3300 calories

2994

About 3000 calories

(Note under some circumstances, such as a soldier being very large, or extreme cases of long marches, the calorie intakes listed would be insufficient–but the system did work for most people under most circumstances.)

More ancient sources that list rations are, not surprisingly, not as nutritionally balanced. According to the online source Alimentarium, during the time of the early Roman Empire, each Roman soldier was allotted 2 Roman pounds (1 pound 5 oz or 657.8 grams) per day of bread, plus an unknown amount of meat, olive oil, and sour wine. Salt and the kinds of fruits that would stave off scurvy are not included in this daily ration at all. Though we should note that Roman soldiers ate fruits when available. (Romans always ate from local cuisine in addition to what they were rationed.)

The Romans would march with cows and wagons full of bacon, grain, olive oil, and sour wine as part of their baggage train. An individual soldier might carry some hard biscuits, bacon, and sour wine on his person, but most of the food was provided for the entire army at once, based to a large extent on what the local civilian economy supplied. Which was to a certain extent how all ancient and many medieval armies operated. Food supply was for the entire army, not really for soldiers as individuals. Without cooks (almost always civilians until WWI) to process the food, the army would go hungry.

The reason this was true was because of spoilage. Fresh food doesn’t usually keep for very long but live animals obviously don’t normally get eaten by bacteria due to their own immune systems (fresh milk will clearly not keep long, but if you keep the milk cows with you, you can provide fresh milk on a continual basis). Certain foods like grain or flour resist bacteria because they are dry. Dry cheeses also resist bacteria and have been used to supply some ancient and medieval armies (olive oil, while not dry, contains no water and as a result resists bacteria). Alcohol also resists bacteria and was for a long time in various forms part of the supply ration for many militaries (a ration of rum was common for colonial-era navies–a ration of whiskey was allotted to the men of the Lewis and Clark expedition).

Another advantage of alcohol as food supply is that some types, such as beer and wine, have water within them, which means they can help supply the body’s need for hydration. Whiskey and rum cannot do that effectively on their own, but when mixed with water, they serve as a purifier for water, since many ancient water sources were contaminated with bacteria or other microorganisms that alcohol kills. (While this article is barely touching on the issue of hydration, please note that military operations requiring a lot of marching may require on average about 6 liters, or 6 quarts, of water or other liquid containing water, per day.)

Pastoral nomad warriors of the past, who were able to sustain themselves off their herds, would simply drive the herd with them if going into a battle that would take a long time (and leave the herd in a safe place if going on a raid). Though of course the professional armies in world history have been supported by sedentary agricultural production. Since most agricultural nations have primarily produced grain (whether that be wheat, barely, oats, rice, or corn/maize) and secondarily livestock along with the fact that grain at least needs to be boiled in water if not baked into bread to be edible, while livestock needs to be slaughtered, butchered, and cooked to be edible, that meant that soldiers mostly could not carry their own food on their person. They were either dependent on what they could obtain from the civilian economy (which, especially if they were invading enemy territory, probably meant stealing from civilians) or soldiers required an entire army camp apparatus to provide their food. Or some of both.

Since it’s possible for soldiers to be cut off from the field kitchen feeding them or it may be necessary for them to spend extended periods of time away from such a kitchen in a combat operation (this can happen to sailors, too, but is not nearly as common at sea), militaries over time have worked to make rations more compact and easier to carry on a person in combat. An early step in this direction came in the late Eastern Roman Empire, a.k.a the Byzantine Empire, which eventually changed its philosophy on supply (along with the introduction of the Theme system). Each individual soldier was required to supply himself with 20 days of food, usually in the form of grain. The Byzantines carried a paximadion, a hand mill, to grind their own grain to make a rough bread that was their primary sustenance in battle, a bread the soldiers would make themselves, providing them a measure of independence in food supply that didn’t exist for most armies of their time.

It wasn’t until World War I that it became possible to feed a soldier a complete set of rations while separated from a field kitchen. That’s because of the invention of canning (“tinning” in the UK) allowed food of sufficient nutritional value to be stored in a way that would keep it safe from spoilage.  World War II also used canned (tinned) foods for soldiers who could not easily be fed in field kitchens.

Freeze dried food. Credit: Backdoor survival

Post-World War II, the practice of freeze-drying food, which actually had been pioneered by the Incas in South America (circa the 1400s), provided the most compact form of food currently known. With freeze-dried food, it’s possible to carry 3000-4000 calories per day at a weight of only 1.5 to 2 pounds per day (680 – 907 grams). (Of course you still have to add water.)

While freeze-dried food is the most compact form of food in common use, many militaries have moved away from using it, because freeze-dried food isn’t particularly tasty and in wartime, the supply of water isn’t guaranteed and may have to be carried by soldiers–so you might as well include the water in the food in the first place. In fact, the infamous US Army ration of modern times, the “Meal Ready to Eat,” (MRE) is “ready” because it ISN’T freeze-dried (though some early versions of MRE’s included some freeze-dried food, none do now).

Generally, a MRE contains the following items (from GoArmy.com):

Credit: Amazon.com

  • Entree – the main course, such as spaghetti or beef stew

  • Side dish – rice, corn, fruit, or mashed potatoes, etc.

  • Cracker or bread

  • Spread – peanut butter, jelly, or cheese spread

  • Dessert – cookies or pound cakes

  • Candy – M&Ms, Skittles, or Tootsie Rolls

  • Beverages – Gatorade-like mixes, cocoa, dairy shakes, coffee, tea

  • Hot sauce or seasoning – in some MREs

  • Flameless Ration Heater – to heat the entree

  • Accessories – spoon, matches, creamer, sugar, salt, chewing gum, toilet paper, etc.

Each MRE provides an average of 1,250 calories (13 percent protein, 36 percent fat, and 51 percent carbohydrates) and one-third of the Military Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins and minerals.
Each MRE weighs between 18 and 26 ounces depending on the specific meal (510 to 740 grams), so an entire day’s provisions would weigh between 3 pounds 6 ounces (1.53 kg) and 4 pounds 14 ounces (2.22 kg). Which is heavier than freeze-dried food, but not a great deal and they are easier to consume.

Futuristic food is not likely to get any more efficient than freeze-dried/MRE-style meals. Star Trek fans may cite the replicator at this point–which can transform energy, which in theory weighs nothing, into food. This would seem to be the ultimate way of making food lightweight, right? Of course, speculative fiction authors are of course free to invent what they want; however, you should be aware that a food replicator is an unrealistic type of technology.

Directly transferring energy into food (Star Trek replicator style) would use a lot of energy. More than you might imagine–that is, if a replicator is truly thought of as directly converting energy into food. That process would be covered by the formula E=MC^2, or to flip that around for creating mass, M=E/C^2. Since “C” is the speed of light and that’s about 300,000 kilometers per second (186,000 miles/sec) that means C^2 is “only” roughly 90,000,000,000,000,000 (9×10^16). Which means if you decide to make 1 kilogram worth of spruce beer in your replicator (because you’re curious what it would taste like) (one kilogram, by the way, is about what the US Colonial ration of one quart of spruce beer would weigh), assuming 100% efficiency of the energy to matter transfer, it would take you a mere 90,000,000,000 megawatts to produce that one kilogram of spruce beer. And since by one online source, the entire United States uses about 317,000,000 megawatts per month, it would only take a “mere” 23 years 8 months of all the electric production of the entire United States (as it currently is) to produce enough power to quench your curiosity about what spruce beer tastes like.

Credit: YouTube

Yeah, I don’t see energy-to-matter food replicators happening. Not ever–even if a future society mastered the technology, it seems incredibly wasteful. That’s the kind of thing you’d save for rare engine parts made of out platinum or whatever other very rare mineral. You wouldn’t waste such a technology on food production. Even an advanced food generator that would allow you to replace cooks would make more sense if it used actual matter that’s already around instead of generating it directly from energy. Why not have a kind of advanced digital printer for a replicator instead, that could squirt together food components from a bank of proteins, fats, sugars, starches, and liquids to make your custom food? Much more practical! Though maybe not as tasty…but note that while this sort of technology would allow you to replace field kitchens, it would do nothing to make field rations any smaller.

So any realistic version of a future society will include them needing to pack and supply field rations as much as past ones have done. (In fact, even Star Trek itself at various times references the existence of field rations!)

Of course a story set in a fantasy world can have magical rations. The Lord of the RIngs features Lembas Bread, a bread baked by elves (no, not Keebler elves! 😉 ) that tastes sweet and when in use, one small loaf will provide enough energy for one person for an entire day. The exact weight of a Lembas loaf is unknown, but it does weigh something. Let’s estimate half a pound (227 grams) per Lembas loaf–that means Lembas Bread at maximum is only about 4 times more efficient than freeze-dried food. Though Lembas may have the additional benefit of reducing thirst, note that even an army of elves would have to think about how much Lembas they need versus how much they can carry–and for a long campaign, even magical bread would require wagons of some kind to move it.

Credit: Sorted Food

And of course one would have to consider the resources required to make Lembas or other magical food. Please understand I’m not saying good worldbuilding requires you to calculate all of these things out in every case. But nothing should be free in a story world. Not even magic. You should consider the fact that an army marching to war, even a magical army, will need to plan how it’s going to feed itself when you create your story world. (Of course, spells that generate food from non-food–say rocks into bread–could be one way to solve this issue.)

Food Per Non-Human War Fighter

Ok, we’ve talked about the amount of food a human warrior has needed and various means to supply it. But what if we don’t want to write humans? How much food will a non-human need?

While androids/robots may sustain themselves with mostly energy and a small supply of replacement parts (including replacement hydraulic or lubricating fluid if applicable) and while we can imagine more exotic aliens who perhaps lay out in the sun to gain energy from photosynthesis or magical creatures who derive energy from proximity to crystals or similar notions, these kinds of creatures will be the exception in most stories.Because most inhabitants of speculative fiction stories will need to eat food, just like we do. And while some aliens/magical creatures might be able to consume food humans would get no nutritional value out of, it’s generally useful to think of these beings as eating food the way we do, but needing different amounts.

There are two basic factors that influence how much food a creature needs to survive. The first is metabolic rate, i.e. how much a creature burns per hour at rest. The second is size, with larger creatures needing more food in general than small ones. With the important caveat that larger creatures almost always have lower metabolic rates than smaller ones, so while an elephant may need much more food than a mouse, each bit of tissue in the mouse is actually using far more energy per period of time than the same amount of elephant tissue. While it is true that an elephant eats much more food than a mouse, in proportion to its weight, a mouse burns more calories in proportion to its body weight than an elephant, nearly 12 times as much. So however many mice it would take to weigh as much as an elephant, that number would eat far more than an elephant does!

As explained in an article by Khan Academy, our planet has two kinds of creatures, endothermic (they produce their own heat) and ectothermic (their body temperature matches their surroundings). Birds and mammals are endotherms and pretty much everything else is an ectotherm (note most but not all dinosaurs are now considered to have been endotherms).

Lizardmen vs. Chaos. Credit: Warhammer Wiki

Ectotherms: A pure ectotherm’s metabolism is defined as a Standard Metabolic Rate (SMR)–and the thing is that this rate changes with temperature. So the SMR of any cold-blooded (ectothermic) creature is like an algebraic variable that has a different range for every species–a range and not a fixed value. When it’s colder outside an ectotherm moves slower and uses less calories. When it’s warmer, an ectotherm moves faster and uses more calories. Since an ectotherm is not using its own energy to raise or lower its internal body temperature, it uses much less energy overall than an endotherm, at times as little as 10% of an endotherm’s energy needs. So your army of lizard men can probably skip their breakfast…and carry far fewer supplies…but they are gonna march super slooooow in the morning…though they might get hungry in the afternoon after a quicker pace marching in warm sunlight.

Since the baseline food consumption of an ectotherm is a variable by temperature (not to mention activity), it will be difficult to account for it fully in this post. To provide some means to account for the effect of size alone on ectotherm metabolism, I’ll make reference to an academic paper that says the relationship of size of crocodiles to its SMR is SMR = 1.01 M^0.829 at the standard temperature of 30°C (86°F) (where M=equals weight in kilograms). For many readers this equation will not be meaningful. The following diagram will be better:

An unfortunate thing about this chart is it measures metabolism in oxygen consumption per minute. It’s possible to convert that to calories but the conversion factor itself is, in truth, a variable. But about 5 calories (we’re talking “calories” as the term is discussed with food and diet, which are actually “kilocalories” in scientific talk) equal one liter of oxygen consumed. But a really big crocodile weighing around 300 kg / 660 lb. uses about 1/10 liter of oxygen in a minute. Which means in ten minutes it burns 1 liter or uses 5 calories energy or 30 cal per hour. That means in a day, doing absolutely nothing, a big (300 kg) crocodile needs 720 calories to stay alive (at 30 degrees C). Since it can get that much from around 300 grams of meat (10.5 ounces), the food needs of any ectotherm/reptilian are very, very low as long as they aren’t doing anything (and are significantly lower when it’s colder outside!).

To get a handle on how much temperature affects ectotherm metabolism, let me include a chart from The Biology Place. The chart applies to a specific organism, but shows the general trend for ectotherms to use more energy with higher temperature up to a certain point, above which high temperature causes the ectotherm to begin to shut down–and need to cool off. Note that at 40°C (104°F) an ectotherm uses twice as much resting energy as at 30 C (86°F), but that at 10°C (50°F) it uses only 25% of the energy at 30°C…so our crocodile from above only needs about a measly 180 calories per day to stay alive at 10 C/50 F. This probably would also be true for reptilian humanoids, if such a thing were to actually exist. They can’t warm themselves, but their need for food when their activity is minimal is very, very low! (Of course, when actively moving over an extended period, they need to eat much more.)

Endotherms: Calculating the food needs of an endotherm is actually somewhat easier. An endotherm has a Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) that reflects the basic amount of energy it needs to regulate its body temperature. That means, laying around, doing nothing, an endotherm burns a certain minimum amount of calories just to stay warm. That number of calories can be thought of as a fixed minimum number per species, though it increases per muscle mass of an individual (which is why human men, who usually have more muscle mass than women, burn more calories per day). 

Note that while this post will not provide a specific formula to track it, it’s true that the BMR is higher for creatures prone to heat loss by living in a cold climate (including humans needing more calories in a cold zone than a warm one). As one scholarly article said, “All other things being equal, a polar mammal living at −10°C has a body temperature ∼2·7°C warmer and a BMR higher by ∼40% than a tropical mammal of similar size living at 25°C.” Polar land animals would have to eat 40% more (in their environment).

Likewise, you may not realize it, but living in water causes sea mammals to lose heat much faster than land mammals. While fat under the skin helps slow their heat loss, the BMR of any given sea mammal is much higher than a land mammal of the same size. One study showed at least some species of dolphins weighing around 1oo kg/220 lbs to use about 1 liter per minute of oxygen when resting.  Since there are 1,440 minutes in a day, times our rough conversion factor of 1 liter of breathed O2 equaling 5 calories, that means a dolphin of that size (100 kg) and species needs 7,200 calories per day just to stay warm–ten times as much food as a 300 kg crocodile at 30 degrees C. Note a 100 kg human male at rest uses about 2,500 calories a day–a dolphin of the same size to stay warm in water uses nearly three times as much energy and so needs to eat three times as much food. (Merpeople would need to eat a lot!)

Credit: D’nalsi Wiki

While scientific studies note a relationship between a creature’s internal body temperature and its base metabolism–a higher body temperature indicates a higher metabolism–usually this factor is something scientists ignore. They often calculate typical BMR based on the mass of a creature alone, as this generally accounts for observed caloric intake needs. Roughly speaking, though there are variations among orders of mammals and birds (the most important variation being sea mammals and extreme cold weather mammals as already noted, but it’s also true that creatures with bigger brains burn more calories at rest than smaller animals), it’s generally true that the BMRM^0.75 (where mass equals weight in kilograms–for small mammals and birds this number is more like BMR = M^0.67).

What that math relationship looks like on a chart I’ll show you from an article taken from the Journal of Experimental Biology: Note that the bottom of the chart tracks mammals while hibernating or “torpid”–i.e. many mammals can enter a state where their metabolic rate plunges and they use far less calories than normal (when they are “entheric,” as the chart puts it).

An important point to remember on the subject of calculating how much a mammal (or likewise an alien or demi-human) needs to eat is that having to work can greatly increase the amount of calories a living creature will need, beyond the BMR. Human beings rarely double our BMR (the BMR for an average sized American woman is estimated at 1,400 per day and 1,800 for the “average” man), yet for most living creatures who live in the wild, doubling their BMR is the minimum they do on a daily basis. Some animals use up to six times their BMR when active (to give one example, while a dolphin may need roughly 7,000-8,000 calories per day resting, they on average need up to 33,000 calories per day in the wild!) Whether your non-human species typically does between 1.5 and 2 times BMR like a human or 4 to 5 times BMR like a dolphin has to do with how active your species is–if they are using 4 to 5 times as much energy as their BMR, they would pretty much be moving constantly, like dolphins do.

Ok, I’ve given a lot of data here as resources. It may not be immediately clear how to apply this data to world building, but Travis C is going to step in next week to help you put it all together. 🙂

Travis C here. I’ve watched Travis P develop this section through the week, building in detail upon detail of good stuff! Rather than pile on more this week, our next installment will work through an example using Travis P’s research and some of my own to show how a story might evolve via each of our Cost of War considerations.

Stay tuned next week as I unpack Lady Katie’s war against the Mad King Crabcakes as she fields a fantasy army!