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!

Are All Fandoms Created Equal?

How are sports and fictional fandoms alike? How are they different?
| Feb 6, 2019 | 1 comment |

There is a particular meme that always shows up twice during the year. You can see the meme below, where Spock is pondering the logical fallacy of looking down on sci-fi/fantasy conventions and cosplay while bearing less ill will to the equally silly/awesome/childish/dedicated/what-have-you devotion of football fans to their respective teams. This meme always makes the rounds when football season kicks off in late August and shows up again during the NFL playoffs, intensifying right around the Super Bowl. This is obviously a sore subject for many people on both sides, but since I’m not firmly rooted in either one, I’ll just throw my two cents out there.

I don’t consider myself an “avid” fan of anything. There are some fictional realms that I really enjoy, as well as some sports that I watch regularly. Yet I’ve never been to a convention and I don’t own any figurines, comics, or collectibles. I did see all three LOTR movies on opening night and numerous times afterwards (the movie tallying scene in Clerks 2 was a hoot) and I know a fair amount about Star Trek, though I can’t say that Star Wars holds my attention for long. I’ve been to a number of sports games but I have never been to a professional football game, and although I am a long-suffering fan of my hometown Atlanta Falcons, I don’t own any memorabilia or jerseys. I do watch football whenever it is on TV and I’ve been getting embarrassed in my neighborhood fantasy football league for a couple of years now. I know a good bit about the game, as well as baseball and basketball. However, I don’t live for these sports, just as I don’t “geek out” whenever a new Star Wars or Harry Potterverse movie trailer drops.

So now you know my (lack of) geek or sports cred, let’s examine the meme at hand. First, are these two fandoms anything alike? What do they share in common? Well, the fans spend exorbitant amounts of money on all manner of entertainment and merchandise related to their particular fandom. They wear uniforms to identify with their tribes. People who “don’t get it” think they’re weird. Their significant others are tired of competing against the fandom for affection. And no matter what you say or do or think, you’ll never convince them that your fandom is better than theirs.

How are sports and scifi/fantasy fandoms different? I suppose the biggest difference would be that one is based in reality while another is not. I don’t mean this to be derogatory, but this is a simple fact. Everything that sports fans idolize and cheer for are done by real people in the real world. Their “superheroes” don’t save the world or stop evil villains (at least, not in the traditional sense) but they fight against physics, physiology, psychology, age, the environment, and most importantly, other people who are very similar to them and who want the same thing. Fictional fandoms are based entirely on imaginary people, creatures, and worlds, and while they may be as complicated or perhaps even more so than our reality, there are far less limits in these realms.

This is where I have to disagree with Mr. Spock. If you ask a sports fan why he or she is wearing the jersey of their favorite player and the fan responded, “Because he is so AWESOME! He can jump over mountains and lift three tons and run a forty in two seconds and he never needs to sleep and he eats twenty steaks a day!”, people would probably back away slowly. Yet these characteristics would not be out of place at all at a superhero convention where people dress up as Superman or the Flash or Captain Marvel. Now, wearing a jersey or a costume imparts no powers nor brings the wearer any closer to their idol, but there is something to be said for idolizing reality rather than fantasy. You CAN meet your real-life sports hero. You CAN directly benefit from their community charity. You CAN possibly even play with or against them someday. However, the closest we’ll ever get to meeting a real-life superhero is shaking hands with the actor or actress who portrays them on screen.

Yet this speaks to the power of imagination. Superman isn’t a real person, but the idea of Superman has inspired millions and has helped many people through difficult times, as well as spawned countless livelihoods. Removing Spider-Man from the world would leave a bigger hole than if Tom Brady was suddenly erased (did I say that out loud?). So while cosplay and fantasy conventions are certainly more “nerdy” than sports, they are no more and no less stupid. It’s all what we make of it.

Preview Lorehaven Magazine’s Spring 2018 Issue Online!

Readers can now preview all of Lorehaven Magazine’s spring 2018 issue, even without subscribing.
| Feb 5, 2019 | No comments

Last year, Lorehaven Magazine debuted our first issue for spring 2018.

Our mission: to find truth in fantastic stories.

This quarterly magazine can be read exclusively by free subscribers. But, for a non-virtual magazine, you might pick up an issue without subscribing. You might find a copy free in a waiting room. Or you could even (gasp) purchase an issue at the airport.

Lorehaven Magazine, spring 2018That’s why readers can now preview all of Lorehaven Magazine’s spring 2018 issue.

It’s all free online, including:

Nope, you don’t need to subscribe to read this issue. Not even for free.

But if you haven’t subscribed yet, we already have three more 2018 issues awaiting you. And the spring 2019 issue arrives next month. It features 12+ more Christian fantastical novel reviews, Tosca Lee with The Line Between, and beyond.

We’ll also showcase issues at the Teach Them Diligently convention in Waco from April 11–13. Texas fanservants, stop by and see us!

Meanwhile, keep watching this space for more Lorehaven updates—including a contest you can preview now at our web portal . . .

Stephen

Finalists – 2019 Spec Faith Winter Writing Challenge

Special thanks to all who entered and all who gave their feedback in the preliminary round.

What a great contest our 2019 Winter Writing Contest is. We’ve had wonderful entries—a considerable number which received double-digit thumbs up! Now it’s time to announce our finalists!

Just a reminder. This is NOT a popularity contest. We really do want to acknowledge writers who have honed their skills and demonstrated their ability in this little exercise. So, those who vote in the poll, please be sure you read all three of the finalist entries and give a fair assessment.

Special thanks to all who entered and all who gave their feedback in the preliminary round. We had some that came so close to making the finals—it was hard for me to follow the rules for the contest and include only three in this poll.

We’ve also had a number of excellent, helpful comments, so hopefully you all who entered gained some insight into your writing. I hope the challenge has encouraged and inspired all the writers.

So here, in alphabetical order by last name, are your 2019 Spec Faith Winter Writing Challenge finalists:

  • Sarah Daffy
  • Jay DiNitto
  • L. G. McCary.

All that’s left is to select the winner, and that’s also in the hands of our visitors. Choose from these finalists and vote in the poll at the end of this post for the one entry you think is best.

The entry receiving the most votes will be the winner, and the author will receive a $25 e-gift card from either Amazon or B&N. (In case of a tie, I’ll draw for the winner).

Voting will last until midnight (Pacific time), Sunday, February 10.

And now the finalists’ entries:

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.

– – – – –

By Jay DiNitto

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

That’s precisely why I told him my intentions.

“Eye’m going t’sh-to steal,” I, in my drunken rake’s disguise, declared with exaggerated slur, “that thing, right there. Thank you v’ry much!”

It worked! Lisette heard my final words, our predetermined cue. A small section of the floor molding rose, on the far side of the display room, revealing the narrow passageway. A mechanic’s creeper then glided out on well-oiled casters.

I unsteadily pointed at my target: the telluric electronal harvester, humming quietly behind the guard. It burnished bright with newly manufactured metallic curves and subtle, decorative illuminations. Naturally, it levitated, needlessly; my brother was ostentatious with “his” inventions as they were display at our annual Von Barger Estate Fair.

Lisette—my blessed, willing, diminutive, long-suffering, task-runner—slid out from the darkness of the hidden room. Brother’s architectural cleverness was my opportunity.

“You d’serve a dance, my friend!” I announced to the guard, and ersatz step shook my limbs.

Lisette lithely slid onto the creeper and wheeled underneath the harvester, deactivated the correct section of casing to reveal the electronal hopper and its wiring, quickly sketched out my proprietary schematics, and slid back into the passageway in just under a minute.

“Thank ye v’ry much fer yer time, sir!”

I belched, produced a silver ducat from my pockets, and flipped it over to the guard. It fell lamely onto the carpet in front of him. I doffed my hat and left down the hall, among the other fair-goers.

By this time tomorrow, the other Von Barger son will receive a very obnoxious series of tele-scripts and sketches that revealed my successful little reconnaissance and recovery mission. Our little prank war continues!

– – – – –

By L. G. McCary

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

I glanced at the hallway behind me. The research wing of the Library of Congress wasn’t as pretty as the reading room.

I smiled and opened my backpack.

“Check-in is on the left,” he said, poking in my bag with a plastic baton. “Sign in and leave your ID. You’ll have to throw that out.” He pointed at the box of cheese crackers.

“I just bought it!” I whined.

He rolled his eyes. “Don’t open it and leave it in your bag.”

The receptionist at check-in was barely paying attention. I handed her the fake ID, deposited my backpack in the locker, and sat in the cubicle with the only blind spot in the room. The flattened cracker box concealed in my hoodie poked my ribs.

The book came protected in a white archival box. It was smaller than I expected. I caught my breath as I opened it with white-gloved hands. Despite its size, it felt heavy, as if history added weight to its pages. I could barely believe I held the diary of the daughter of the most famous psychologist in history. She had written her name on the inside cover in spidery ink: Anna Freud.

I turned the fragile pages to the day I was looking for. It was blank but for one phrase.

Gestern festgenommen. “Arrested yesterday.”

I couldn’t believe I was holding what the Gestapo were so desperate to find. The diary fit perfectly in the cracker box. The receptionist was clearly woozy from handling my ID card and handed me my backpack without a word. She would be snoring in moments.

The ancient bottle of reagent was waiting in my hotel room to reveal what was inscribed on the rest of that blank page. Now I had to make it out the door.

– – – – –

Be sure to share this post and poll with your friends and family, your Instagram or Pinterest, your Facebook and Twitter accounts. The more voters, the better. And now, your vote:

Speculative Fiction Writers Guide to War, part 16: The Costs of War

No war can every be fought without considering its costs. These may include various types of capital costs but also always include the cost to human lives and welfare.

Travis P here. Since our last post of our Guide to War covered Combat Support Training, it seemed natural to segue into another type of support for combat–those things a nation needs to do in order to support and field an army. That is, the costs of war, as Travis Chapman is about to explain in general terms (future posts will provide some guidance on how to compute war costs):

Travis C here with a continuation of our post series The Speculative Writers’ Guide to War. As Travis P and I discussed where we wanted to head next, we knew that we needed to address the cost of war. We’ve discussed why a nation (or other entity) might chose to go to war, where their military forces might come from and how cultural and social factors might influence how they experience combat and how they might train for it. Lingering in the background is cost. War costs us something. We’ll spend some time dissecting how those nations will consider the cost of war before we move on to how planning and operations work.

We could go to several sources to frame a dialogue on the costs of war. I propose the Bible. Not surprising at all, Jesus gave an expert analysis of the cost of war. His statement in and of itself is worth our analysis:

“The Return of the Ten Thousand,” Public Domain image by Herman Vogel

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit don first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.” Luke 14:28-32 ESV

Travis P used this verse earlier in our series, but I think it’s worth returning to. In no particular order, a few things stand out to me looking through this lens of “costs of war”:

  • Offensive (going out) and defensive (build a tower) actions may require different analysis
  • The time to count costs is while sitting down, not after the foundation is laid
  • When it comes to towers, a finished product matters
  • Better to make terms before the war begins
  • Numbers mean things
  • Costs may be material, human capital, and even pride

Those last two strike me as a author. It’s not that ten thousand can’t defeat twenty; we’ll spend some time discussing force ratios in future posts. It’s that disparities like that should strike us as odd, and the emotions of those involved should reflect that. Our king who sends the smaller force, and the soldiers in that force, should recognize the dire circumstances leading to the decision to march, or the ace in the hole they are relying on to overcome the numerical deficiency, or the ineptitude or lack of foresight on the part of commanders to order forces into such a situation without knowing the enemy strength ahead of time. The leaders of the superior numbers should display confidence, even bravado, or maybe disdain for the smaller forces.

That’s when you can turn things on their head.

Or let things play out as expected.

The other point of note is in the types of costs that Jesus identifies:

Material costs

It’s no surprise that going to war costs money. As authors, we get to decide what exactly that means. Many of the material costs of war can be categorized as sunk costs (made one time, but never again thereafter), recurring costs (on some periodicity), and emergent costs. A nation may pay for those out of existing materials, purchase them from the coffers, capture them, or take them by other means. Consider the following examples:

Sunk costs

  • The king re-purposes a frontier lodge into a watch tower, rather than pay for new construction (existing stock)
  • The king raises taxes and drains the treasury to fund construction of a new wall
  • The warlord captures key castles along a river to build a defense network

Recurring costs

  • The king’s soldiers require food and spare leather for a campaign. Every village is required to provide a levy of grain each month and a grown cow per year.
  • The king purchases weapons from a guild of craftsmen through taxes
  • Soldiers forage for food and glean off the fields of conquered lands

Emergent costs

  • After losing many battles and being driven to the sea, a lord must bargain for passage on merchant ships to return home
  • After losing many battles and being driven to the sea, a lord lays claim to a merchant fleet and takes the ships by force, treachery, or charming good looks
  • The imperiled lord, frustrated by his attempts to get ships and desperate,… you get the idea.

This chart analyzes the cost of a specific war: The civil war in the Philippines between the government and MNLF rebels

You certainly don’t need to micromanage every grain of corn, every silver buckle, each force grenade holster in black leather, and the annual fuel supply for your hyperlight drives. That may be interesting and help with your worldbuilding and plot. It might be a way to introduce tension or uncertainty into the plot (our supply of hyperlight drive fuel was waylaid, now we’re stuck on this planet). At least a tacit acknowledgement that everything came from somewhere, at sometime, even if miraculously, will keep the realism going.

Human costs

If you are writing about war, then you probably have an existing point of view on the human costs. We’ve discussed some of the psychological and physiological impacts on a soldier in combat, but this lens looks at things little differently. Generally, we expect people, soldiers and/or civilians, to die in war. That covers a wide spectrum: non-combatants, participating combatants, combatants drawn into the fight but not aligned either way, innocents, collateral damage, etc. The following thoughts may stir up other possible human costs of war:

  • Those maimed in war but not killed
  • Those disenchanted and disenfranchised, who change sides or work against their initial cause
  • Family relationships wrecked by war: divorce, separation, emotional distancing, trouble reintegrating
  • Lost future opportunities. Since the soldier is off doing “war,”they aren’t pursuing something else, like art or commerce

There’s many more, and each of the ones given here could be expanded into thousands of possibilities. Some of those possibilities might actually be positive ones (ex. I’m glad Boramir went off to war because he was a jerk and we didn’t like him around here anyways). Many will be viewed as negative of course. Whether acknowledged or not, there is always a cost.

Pride or Belief in a Cause

I’ve added this one in from my interpretation of sending delegations for peace terms. A wise ruler would recognize when to fold and find a non-combat solution that saves his or her people. We’d identify a  ruler who fights in spite of that recognition as pursuing war out of pride, spite, or hubris. A familiar trope is showing us the haughty ruler pursuing victory through combat at the expense of soldiers, as if from the soldier’s vantage the war is purely for vanity and no material purpose.

Credit: Crop of original artwork by Darrell K. Sweet for A Statistical Analysis of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

Of course, some causes are worth fighting for, no matter what the human or material costs. Existential evil tropes rely on this belief. Sauron must be defeated. Thanos must be stopped. The seals holding back Shai’tan must never be broken. Of course, each of these adversaries have their own justification for bringing war upon their world, which must be considered. In the Wheel of Time series we see many nations ally together when past experiences of war among each other must be overcome for a greater good. Those rulers must submit themselves at the cost of their pride to a greater authority.

A Time For Generosity

The benefit of this program is that authors make more money. The downside is that that money has to come from somewhere or, rather, from someone.
| Jan 30, 2019 | 15 comments |

The Authors Guild has announced that, as a curative to writers’ falling incomes, it will champion a national Public Lending Right program. The President’s Letter didn’t lay out the details, and PLR programs vary in their particulars (thirty-five countries already possess some version of it). The essential idea, however, is that public libraries will pay authors for the loaning out of their books. It’s a kind of royalty payment: a little money every time a book is checked out, with a cap on how much any one author can receive. For a factual examination of PLR, drop by the Steve Laube Agency blog. For a strongly-worded opinion, stay here.

Now, the benefit of this program is that authors make more money. The downside is that that money has to come from somewhere or, rather, from someone. The Authors Guild proposes the classic solution to this age-old problem: a federal government program. They are advocating (I must quote this) “creating a new government entitlement program.” The idea that Congress would create an entitlement program solely for published authors is touchingly ingenuous. The Authors Guild should consider – I suggest it with gentleness – that it is not a national issue that authors would like to make more money. Everyone else would, too.

The point of a federal PLR program is to shift costs from local governments, which are often poor, to the federal government, which is also broke but possesses nuclear weapons and therefore can be trillions of dollars in the red. This is unlikely to happen, but even if it does, it is still only shifting the cost. The inevitable result of any PLR program will be to increase the cost of public libraries. The ALA estimates that Americans check out an average of eight books per year, a number we can extrapolate to 2.6 billion books checked out per year. If public libraries must pay a fee every time a patron checks out a book – even a fee measured in pennies – the annual cost will be tens of millions. At the princely royalty of four cents per loan, the cost will top 100 million. (This will be multiplied again if – and why shouldn’t this happen? – Hollywood and musicians decide to get in on the game and libraries must make payments for CDs and DVDs, too.)

People talk glibly of raising taxes and government entitlement programs. But you cannot charge the public library system millions to loan out their existing collections and expect that library services will never be reduced.

So the costs of the PLR will be borne by the public. But there will be costs for authors to pay, too. Make libraries in general, and library books in particular, more costly, and it’s only a matter of time before someone lights upon the expedient of fewer library books. The least established authors will find the raised bar hardest to clear, and the consequence of making the system more profitable for some authors may be to push others out of the system entirely.

I am sympathetic to writers struggling to make their work profitable. It’s certainly true that readers should have a spirit of generosity toward writers. But there is also a time for writers to be generous to their readers. Public libraries exist for the public, especially the less well-off public: seniors on fixed incomes, families with small children, adults getting by, voracious young readers whose parents can’t afford all the books they want. It is already profitable for authors. Even authors should have concerns beyond making it more profitable yet.