‘Maquia’ Shows A Different Side of Epic Fantasy

Many epic fantasies focus on adventurers, but Maquia explores the wonder of motherhood.
Audie Thacker | Mar 1, 2019 | 12 comments |

In summer 2018, the movie Maquia: When The Promised Flower Blooms briefly appeared in theaters.

I knew almost nothing about the movie. But after some research, I thought it might be good. On the weekend it was showing, I decided to take the risk and go see it.

There weren’t many people in the theater. But as the movie ended and the end credits played, I think none of us moved to leave until the credits were finished, and not because it was a Marvel movie. It’s a tricky thing to assume what others are thinking, especially strangers, but I’d guess that none of us were in a great hurry to leave behind what we’d just seen and felt.

The story of ‘Maquia’

The Iorph consider themselves the Clan of the Separated. They are a people who look like normal humans, but who can live decades and even centuries and still look young. They live apart from the human societies around them, and their main occupation is the creating of a fabric they call hibiol, which seems to serve as a kind of weaving of fate and as a way they can communicate with each other. Maquia is a young Iorph girl.

When the Iorph city is invaded by the human kingdom of Mezarte, Maquia finds herself far from home and alone. About to give in to despair, she hears a cry and comes on the remains of wagons that had been attacked by robbers. There is only one survivor, a newborn child still protectively clutched in his dead mother’s arms. Maquia decides to take this child and raise it, naming him Ariel, and through many years and throughout all the other large-scale events in the movie, royal maneuverings and kingdoms in revolt against each other, the story always comes back to the joys and struggles of this mother who is forever a stranger in the human world and her foundling human child.

Mother and child

I guess it’s a bit of a cliché that the main characters of a fantasy story are people who do not have parents, and to some degree that is a part of this story, too. Maquia is an orphan, though the leader of the Iorph seems to care for her a parent would, and Ariel has lost his parents while he’s still very young. But the fact that this movie focuses so much on this mother-child relationship between Maquia and Ariel puts it a bit apart from a lot of other epic fantasy stories, and is in most ways a welcomed change from the cliché.

Yet it shows the limits to that relationship in itself, too. When Ariel is little, Maquia seems to be enough for him, but as he gets older, beginning to work to help them live and growing into that awkward stage where he’s no longer a boy but not yet a man, the lack of a father begins to have an affect on him, and not always a good one. For the men he works with, their ideas of Ariel becoming a man involve getting him staggering drunk. It’s a bit of an irony, then, that at the same time that Maquia turns down a marriage proposal from a man she’s known for a long time, Ariel turns to that same man to help him become a soldier.

The other story

The movie also has a subplot involving two of Maquia’s Iorph friends, Krim and Leilia. If Maquia’s story is in the end difficult but happy, theirs is a tragic one. At the moment the Krim expresses his heart towards Leilia and she happily responds, their city is invaded by soldiers riding dragon-like creatures and is quickly overrun. Leilia is taken captive and forced to marry the Prince of Mezarte. It’s a loveless marriage meant solely to put Iorph blood into the royal bloodline.

Krim is free, and tries desperately to get to Leilia and free her from her gilded royal prison. But as years and decades pass, he falls more and more into hatred and bitterness. In the end, his demands that Maquia and Leilia forget their children, Maquia’s adopted human boy Ariel and Leilia’s half-human daughter Medmel, is as cruel as any other hardship either woman had faced.

The last part of Leilia’s story is the only part of the movie that really rings wrongly to me. Perhaps the best way to understand it while not excusing her actions and decisions is that after all the things she’s been through in the years since being taken from her home and her people, things implied as well as shown in the movie, including her last encounter with Krim, she’s gotten a little too close to madness and despair.

Why can’t Christians create like this?

As much as I enjoyed seeing this movie, I’ll also admit to some frustration, too. It’s a frustration that can be expressed in a few different ways. Why can’t Christian movie makers create stories about motherhood that are as gripping and moving as Maquia? Why can’t Christian story tellers, me and people like me, create stories about characters that are sympathetic, frustrating, sometimes right and sometimes wrong, go through trying situations without convenient answers and escapes, and anything else that keeps Maquia from becoming a collection of sappy tropes strung predictably together?

No doubt, these questions tend to be unfair. It’s not like anime movies don’t fall into trope-fests, just watch almost any that are based on popular series. Nor is it as if everyone who watches Maquia will definitely like it; I’ve not doubt there will be some who will see it and will not be impressed.

There is always an element of mystery and uncertainty in story-creation. It’s one of those things that just won’t be put into set formulas and step-by-step patterns. Still, I wonder what I can learn from Maquia that may help in whatever my next story idea might be.

Maybe that a fantasy adventure story doesn’t need to be about the typical “Dungeons and Dragons” idea of a group of adventures seeking trouble and treasure. Maybe it can be about a seemingly insignificant little woman and her adopted child who have to move around in order to stay alive and keep secret her identity as someone not exactly normal.

Maybe that a story about a mother and child doesn’t need to be overly sappy and sentimental, nor do it’s conflicts need to be overblown and cliché.

Maybe that a story like this doesn’t need to rely on a romance element, even if it does have a slight one in it.

Maybe that it doesn’t need the typical happily ever after ending to have an ending that will not easily be forgotten.

Yet, I also find myself asking the the question in reverse: what could a Christian view add to a story like Maquia?

After all, there is a bit of a religious element in the story, as Mezarte claims that their renatos, the dragon-like creatures, and the prince’s Iorph bride are signs of God’s favor on them. But that’s also as far as the religious element is developed.

I offer this only as a thought experiment, not any kind of way to improve on the movie, but where I able to throw my two cents into adding to the story, I might think about ways of developing that religious element. Was the church just playing the political game with the ruling family? Were their elements in the church that were against the king’s too desperate attempts to keep his power? What about the church leaders in the small village where Maquia and Ariel first stayed? Would they have offered help and charity to the newcomers? And, mostly, what about sin and redemption, especially in the light of how the movie ends?

Conclusion

If the subtext of this review hasn’t already told you that I highly recommend Maquia, then here it is plainly stated, “Go watch this movie! It is well worth seeing!”

Favor the Franchise

It is possible, with sequels and spin-offs and a faithful public, to make an entire career of one story.
| Feb 27, 2019 | 4 comments |

If you pay attention to Hollywood today, you have probably noticed that western civilization is in the latter stages of spiritual and intellectual degeneration. You will also have noticed, by the by, that most of Hollywood’s output these days consists of (a) franchise movies, (b) movies based on pre-existing cultural artifacts, such as books, comics, other movies, theme park rides, and decades-old Disney cartoons, and (c) franchise movies based on pre-existing cultural artifacts like books, comics, etc. The percentage of such derivative works in Hollywood’s modern oeuvre has been estimated to be as high as 99 percent, but it might be as low as 96 percent.

So Hollywood is not terribly original these days. But the reliance on franchise is not a phenomenon isolated in Hollywood. The adventuresome reader seeking out a new book by a new author must be careful – careful that he doesn’t end up picking book 3.25 in an eleven-book series, finale coming out next spring. (By the way, decimal books: a thing.) (Decimal movies, too.) It is possible, with sequels and spin-offs and a faithful public, to make an entire career of one story. A standalone book is an increasingly rare bird.

Movie studios favor the franchise for the same reason that book publishers do: money. It must be admitted that this is a sensible reason, particularly in the case of movie studios. When you’re pouring out money in the tens of millions for a single film, you want a sure thing. How do you know people will like your newest project? Well – they liked the last one, didn’t they? It is a well-worn axiom that the sequel is never quite as good, but that does not prevent the sequel from inheriting the audience of its predecessor.

That truth brings us to another significant fact: People do not seem to easily tire of the franchise. Publishers and studios are looking for a profit, and audiences give it to them. Diminishing quality ultimately ends in diminishing financial returns, perhaps even in the death of the franchise – but along that road a great deal of money is given up to mediocre and even poor installments. Franchises depend on the powerful attraction of effective stories. You never want your favorite story to end, and the characters who have inspired more emotion than half of the real people you know – it is hard to let them go. The desire for the story to go on, the curious attachment to non-existent people, sustains the franchise.

And yet maybe it all is a little too much. Beyond the bankruptcy of individual franchises, we have been trained to a certain insouciance regarding the endless sprawl of connected films. Of course they’re making a sequel. There is, too, a downgrading of regard for those who seem too inclined to revisit old triumphs; Pixar toppled from the creative heights when it discovered the sequel, and no one counts on Pixar’s annual offering being one of the film highlights of the year anymore. This, then, is what I would like to know: Does the paying public want more standalones and more variety, or are we content with franchises as long as they are well-maintained?

Four Reasons I Loved ‘How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’

“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” makes me long for the day dragons will return.
| Feb 26, 2019 | 23 comments

Both previous How to Train Your Dragon films showed how peaceful-warrior humans can help redeem nature. The third film, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, brings the film series to a beautiful landing.

This was basically what I hoped. And by the end, yep, I was enjoying my joyful weeping. Here’s why. Beware spoilers.

1. The villains portray man’s abuse of good creation stewardship.

To review, this story follows a group of fantasy Vikings, led by Hiccup. A chief’s son, he starts as an awkward teen, grows into an explorer, and finally becomes chief of his tribe. Hiccup is the first Viking to find that dragons aren’t always wicked creatures. Dragons don’t only raid villages to destroy property and steal sheep. Rather, if humans respect these creatures, and train them, they can become the most amazing pets ever.

Some viewers see this as a questionable “environmental” message. It’s not. Possibly by incident, these stories simply reflect how God designed humans as his regents to steward and “train” God’s creation:

In the first How to Train Your Dragon film, man and creation must reconcile. By the story’s end, Vikings and dragons have learned to work together and find redemption. Yet man has not simply become “at one with nature,” as if wild nature is superior. Instead man has stopped sinning against nature and become a better nature-steward. The meaning is right there in the title: it’s not “how to be trained by your dragon,” but “how to train your dragon.”1

But all along, each story has wrestled with some kind of terrible evil that threatens peaceful-Viking/dragon reconciliation.

How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World Christian reviewIn film 1, our heroes fought a twisted and gluttonous monster-dragon, which had enslaved smaller members of its own species.

In film 2, our heroes fought a monstrous human dragon-master, Drago Bludvist. Rather than befriending and training dragons, he used primal tactics to control the beasts, and to trap or kill his opponents.

Then in How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, our heroes confront Grimmel the Grisly, a dragon-hunter who exterminates whole species.

In any of these cases, the villain is not some simplistic “big business” type of stereotype. It’s a human (one exception: a monster-dragon) who has abused his power. Instead of acting as a righteous “chief” over his tribe, or his creatures, he hates them. He controls them. He uses raw power, the kind that Jesus condemned the Gentiles for using, to “lord over” rather than gently “train” the gifts of creation.

2. Hiccup’s and Astrid’s beautiful relationship exalts marriage.

This series shows Hiccup and his girlfriend, Astrid, building their relationship so realistically and beautifully.

They’re different. But they’re committed to one another. They’re a great team. They joke around, with “banter” based not on sexual nonsense or stupid flippancy, but on shared commitment to one another and to their tribe. Hiccup supports Astrid. And Astrid, in a fashion that can only be described as the best kind of “complementarian” beauty, supports her beau (and by film 3, her chief).

How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World Christian review

I love you guys.

I love how Valka, Hiccup’s mother, encourages their relationship. In one touching moment in How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, she gently suggests Astrid intervene and support Hiccup’s leadership. Valka says that Hiccup can’t do this alone, though he feels he must because his father did.

Even Hiccup’s goofy friends, Ruffnut and Gobber, insist Hiccup and Astrid get married.

For the couple’s part, they aren’t sure they’re ready. (You could see this as a gentle prod at some younger people. They seem to act as if they “aren’t ready” to try marriage until they’ve earned enough money, or gotten enough education, or traveled enough of the world, or …)

Spoiler alert: They finally do marry.

In animated film-verses, I’d rank their covenant relationship at the second-highest, just beneath Carl and Ellie from Pixar’s Up.

3. Hiccup has heart-achingly refreshing family love with his parents.

How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World Christian review

I’m not crying you’re crying.

Double spoiler alert: Hiccup’s chieftain father, Stoick the Vast, sacrificed his life in film 2 to save Hiccup.

In film 3, Stoick makes a few flashback appearances that further the story. And his appearances triple down on the films’ insistence that Stoick was a good father. Stoick fought for his family, his tribe, and for honor. He committed to one woman, Valka, for life. He loves and respects his son, Hiccup, even while challenging him to grow as the tribe’s future chief.

Even in film 1, when Stoick insisted the only good dragon was a dead dragon, he was doing his best for his people. And when Stoick learned otherwise, thanks to his son, he fully committed to seeing dragons in a new and peaceful light.

Hiccup respects his mother, Valka, just as much. They both share “the soul of a dragon.” She respects him, even her younger son, as chief of the tribe. And (as already mentioned) she does whatever she can to encourage Hiccup and Astrid toward commitment and marriage.

Any other flippant animated franchise would have reversed all of this: cheap “daddy issues,” shallow conflict over long-lost parents, or patriarchy/matriarchy. We get none of that. Only images of the love, honor, and affection that all three members of a family can share together—and the challenges this brings when they face the evils in the world.2

4. Heroic humans can’t keep building a ‘dragon utopia’ … yet.

How to Train Your Dragon has specialized in showcasing thrilling environments where dragons soar colorfully and freely.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World tops them all. Here, Hiccup decides to migrate his people away from their original home. They’ve grown too numerous. He believes they must seek a mythical land from which all the dragons come: the hidden world. There, the Vikings can live together with their dragon friends in peace, away from a world of dragon trappers and hunters.

When our heroes finally reach this world, the film’s animators, plus John Powell’s soundtrack with chorale, take viewers into this wonder. This isn’t just a secret cave. It hangs with glowing jewels, and swims with tiny dragons like tadpoles made of glowing golden aether.

This is a perfect Garden of Eden, or even heaven on earth, for these wild creatures.

Later, Hiccup and Astrid realize the truth: they can’t stay here.

The film almost neglects to explain why. But I felt it didn’t need to put this into words. This place is too unspoilt, too beautiful, too pristine and even too spiritual. Even peaceful-warrior humans simply … don’t match. And if non-peaceful humans ever found this place, they would ruin this paradise just like Adam and Eve ruined the last one.3

Triple spoiler alert …

How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World Christian review

That’s why, near the story’s end, we come to sweet partings. Hiccup bids goodbye to his dragon, Toothless. Other Vikings, following his lead, remove their equipment and wish farewell to their faithful beasts. And Toothless leads the dragons to the hidden world to live in peace.

Well, that’s about as Christian as I could hope for.

So is the fact that dragons will return someday. Hiccup, in the film’s closing monologue, says they’re waiting for humans to “get along.” That will do as a brief summary. But in the real world we know that “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God”4 Creation waits not just for people to behave better. Creation waits for us to be resurrected, so we can become peaceful, creative, God-worshiping, dragon-taming chiefs and chieftesses of the real hidden world—the New Heavens and New Earth.

Finally, we see Hiccup and his bride and their two children get one last glimpse of this hidden world. And I’m left yearning for New Earth even more. But with one great advantage: I know the Creator of all dragons, and I believe he’s promised to bring them back.

“The world believes the dragons are gone, if they ever existed at all. But we Berkians know otherwise. And we’ll guard the secret. Until the time comes, when the dragons can return—in peace.”

  1. See my article “‘How to Train Your Dragon’ Shows Man’s Good Stewardship,” EStephenBurnett.com, Feb. 25, 2019.
  2. Brief aside: Christian movie-makers, can you follow this lead set by How to Train Your Dragon‘s central Viking family, please? Your family characters can be interesting without some dramatic Conflict. That is, somebody flirting, somebody Not Being a Good Husband, somebody dying Tragically, somebody needing to Learn a Lesson About Faith. Ya basic. Plot twist: going back to some traditional heroic-character training actually frees your story to soar higher.
  3. I’m adding the “Adam and Eve” part. The film has no story of “original sin” or an origin for dragons. A Christian can see the film’s images as incidental portrayals of these biblical truths. But I make no claim that the director or other storytellers chose to work with these biblical themes. That’s why the films’ only shallow element is likely here: we get no imagined myth from the film to explain why dragons (who often behave as sentient as the humans) couldn’t also become corrupt. After all, we’ve already seen that at least one type of monster-dragon could turn into a bloated, dominating beast.
  4. Romans 8:19.

Are We Still Reading Animal Farm?

The point of the allegory is clear: communism is no answer to the inequities and economic difficulties of the workers because those who benefit will be those who rule, not everyone else.
| Feb 25, 2019 | 21 comments |

Animal Farm, an allegorical novel by George Orwell, was one of several speculative stories upon which I cut my teeth. At some point I want to discuss the other speculative stories as a body, what they taught me, how they affected my thinking. Not today.

In part this article will be a political rant. I don’t usually talk much about my political views, especially on a team blog where my thoughts might inaccurately be taken as the thoughts of Spec Faith. They aren’t. None of our articles represent anyone but ourselves, though we all do hold a faith statement in common. And we do all love speculative fiction.

Which brings me to Animal Farm. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure this book was required reading in school when I was growing up. The allegory is an animal revolution that mirrors the Communist Revolution.

In the story, the animals take over control of the farm where they live and work, and drive off the humans. But as years pass the animal leadership does some shady things: they alter history, lie about the cause of disasters, cover up killings, change the laws upon which the revolution was founded. In the end, the pigs, who are the inner circle making all the decisions, look and act so much like humans, the other animals can’t tell them apart.

The point of the allegory is clear: communism is no answer to the inequities and economic difficulties of the workers because those who benefit will be those who rule, not everyone else.

All through the cold war, that idea seemed to come true in the news headlines of the day. Cruelty, economic chaos, restricted individual freedoms, lies, coverups—these were all common place in the communist world. That is, whenever the Iron Curtain could be cracked. All we needed, really, were the accounts of people being shot trying to leave communist Berlin. If communism worked so well, why did they have to stop people from fleeing?

And why were the Soviet-made cars such shoddy workmanship? Why was the Soviet economy in such shambles? Why was there a notable lack of initiative?

When at last the Soviet Union crumbled and capitalism came out of hiding in the black market, socialism seemed defeated. Certainly I and others who cut our teeth on Animal Farm, as well as other dystopian novels that denigrated Big Government, along with government-controlled economics, assumed socialism was dead in the water. It had a fleeting moment in history in which the concept of equality proved to be little more than a shifting of wealth and power from one group to another.

More recently Venezuela has served as another example of socialism’s failure:

The current situation is the worst economic crisis in Venezuela’s history[7] and among the worst crises experienced in the Americas,[8][9] with hyperinflation, soaring hunger, disease, crime and death rates, and massive emigration from the country.[10] Observers and economists have stated that the crisis is not the result of a conflict or natural disaster but the consequences of socialist policies (“Crisis in Venezuela”)

Imagine my surprise, then, at the rise in popularity here in the US of political figures who take the mantle of socialism upon their shoulders. One such individual recently has received a lot of attention for supporting a “Green New Deal.”

The idea behind the proposed changes to our society is two-fold. One, the plan is to do away with carbon energy sources and mandate renewable energy within ten years. Ten years! Let that sink in a bit. The other part of the plan is a make-over of our economy. A change from capitalism to socialism, essentially, with the government guaranteeing everyone a job if they want one.

So, back to Animal Farm. Does no one read the book any more?

I think most people can see that greedy entrepreneurs have a lion’s share of the wealth in the US and other capitalist countries. Some have gained their wealth by corrupt and unfair practices (lots of history of such in the late nineteenth century; other examples more recently in the banking industry). Others gained their wealth by innovation and developing better ideas for doing business.

Most Americans are not in the highest tax bracket, however. We do our best to provide a comfortable living, and largely we do so by hard work. But it’s clear the system isn’t “equitable.” I mean, the star baseball player gets $30 million dollars for ten years while teachers strike to get a 6% raise.

But is the answer to the inequity to be found in an Animal Farm take over?

In many ways, George Orwell was prophetic in his little book. After all, he wrote long before the collapse of the Soviet Union. But he saw the ways the lofty goals of socialism affected the people in Russia and how it changed the country and the people who led it. He saw the “pigs” become like “men”—the socialist leaders become like capitalists. The only difference for the chickens and the plow horse and the dogs was who they worked for.

Animal Farm in no way glorifies capitalism, but it makes a strong allegorical case against communism.

Young people would know this if they read the book, so I’m wondering, does anyone still read Animal Farm?

The Bible: A Fantasy Fan’s Dream Book

Explore the Bible from the view of a fantastic fiction fan and see God’s word with new eyes.
| Feb 22, 2019 | 8 comments |

It’s no secret to the Christian that the Bible is a supernatural book. From the virgin birth and the resurrection to the power in the blood, many can testify of reading the exact passage they need at the exact moment they need it. The Bible is a living Word.

This is especially exciting to those of us who love all things speculative. The question what if drives us to imagine new worlds, technologies, and even systems of magic. What many people, even Christians, forget or fail to realize is just how relevant the Bible is for the speculative reader. Here are a few examples of spectacular stories found in the Bible, but there are many more. I encourage you to seek them out and let us know what you find!

Time travel? You bet.

Hezekiah was a mighty king who did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord. He followed in the footsteps of his ancestor, King David, and he ruled over Judah after the kingdom of Israel had been split in two.

After Hezekiah tore down the idols and restored proper faith throughout his kingdom, the king of Assyria came up against them. It looked as if he would take Hezekiah, but God sent an angel to smite the Assyrian army and they were defeated. (You can read all about Hezekiah in II Kings 18–20, II Chronicles 29–31, and Isaiah 36–39.)

We learn in II Chronicles, though, that these great happenings caused Hezekiah to get a little puffed up and proud. He became ill, and the prophet Isaiah was sent to tell him he was going to die. Hezekiah fell on his face and humbled himself. He asked God for mercy and God complied. He even gave the king a sign to prove his intent—he turned back the shadows ten degrees. No one knows exactly how much time ten degrees was, but the general consensus based on today’s measurements is around twenty minutes.

Is this a huge time travel? Considering none of us can do it, I’d say yes.

The writing is on the wall

This is a popular phrase that has come to mean that any given thing is inevitable. The writing is already on the wall—it’s going to happen. But the phrase has its roots in the Biblical book of Daniel.

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came up against Israel and besieged it. He took all of their treasures, as well as the people whom he made captives. We’ve heard the story of Daniel in the lion’s den, and you’ve almost certainly heard of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

At some point after these happenings, Nebuchadnezzar dies and his son, Belshazzar, becomes king. He was a wicked king who didn’t learn from his father’s mistakes, and one day he threw a great feast. In the midst of the feast, he calls for the vessels from his father’s conquest of Judah to be brought forth. He and his guests were going to drink their wine out of these vessels, which had come from the holy temple.

Daniel 5: 5–6 says:

“In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.”

I think it’s safe to say he was afraid. His wife suggests he call for Daniel, who used to advise King Nebuchadnezzar, and when Daniel arrives his news is not good. The Bible tells us that on that very night Belshazzar was slain.

So, what did the hand write on the wall, and what did it mean?

MENE – God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.

TEKEL – Thou are weighted in the balances, and art found wanting.

PERES – Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.

A zombie apocalypse? Not quite, but still …

In the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John we are given the account of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. You are no doubt familiar with this story, which is the core of our hope and salvation.

But during the account of Christ’s crucifixion, sandwiched between the veil of the temple being rent in twain and the centurion saying, “Truly this was the Son of God,” we have a few intriguing verses. Matthew 27: 52–53 says:

And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

What happened to these bodies once they’d finished appearing to people in the city? What did they say to the people they came upon? What does it all mean? We may never know until we get to Heaven, but this story further exemplifies my point—the Bible is a spectacular book.

I’ll end here with the same sentiment I started with—a challenge to read the Bible for yourself, study it, and discover all the wonders it holds. If you’ve studied other spectacular stories from God’s word (or you have more insight into the stories I’ve given here) and you’d like to share them with us, please tell us in the comments!

Lorehaven Magazine, winter 2018Lorehaven Magazine says of Katie Clark’s novel The Rejected Princess:

“Katie Clark has fashioned a cozy political thriller braided with thoughtful ambiguity and adorned with romance.”

Read the complete review here.

Join the Lorehaven Book Clubs group to explore more Christian fantastical novels with hundreds of other fans around the world.

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 | 26 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 | 7 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.