Andrew Girle's Blog

Crime and Speculative Fiction Blooking

Curse you, Writing Excuses!

Posted by Andrew Girle on May 23, 2012

Listening to an old Writing Excuses podcast today, there was a writing prompt. I’m not always one for jumping on a writing prompt, but this time it was too intriguing to NOT try. The prompt? To write a story from the point of view of an undead soldier in a shambling horde. WITHOUT using the word ‘BRAAAAIIIINNNNSSS’.

 

So here we go!

XXX

The worst part of being dead is trying to pick up chicks in bars.

It’s not like I’ve got rotting flesh hanging off me. That all went thirty, maybe forty years ago when my whole horde got hit with a fireball. Sure cleaned my old bones right up, gave them a great polish. And where is that meddling do-gooder wizard now? Who cares? Not me, that’s for sure.

But even when I give the old parietal bone a good rub with some floor wax and a soft cloth, there’s not a single woman that gives me a second look. It’s dead-ism, that’s what it is. It’s outright discrimination against the dead of the species. Dead guys need love too, y’know.

I suppose it can be a little off-putting for some people. I do the best I can. When I put on a good robe, I can cut quite a fetching figure. I mean, everyone dresses up, don’t they? True, it can be difficult to look me in the eye sockets, but at least I have plenty of coin. I realise the coins usually come in pairs, but there is a good reason for that; just don’t ask. You probably don’t want to know.

Back when I was still alive, I read somewhere that chicks go for funny guys. I can absolutely call bullshit on that. It’s not like I’m not a funny guy. I’ve got a lifetime of funny stories. And even more from afterwards. I mean, there was the time when we were besieging some castle made of white marble, way up in the hills. This psycho priest got in amongst us, and set off some kind of blasting ritual. We ended up scattered all over the place for years. Eventually the next Dark Lord came along and reanimated us, and I ended up with a jawbone from old Gustav, and a hand from Angus. You don’t think that’s funny? Well, you obviously never met those two. They hated each other, and I spent the rest of my time in THAT horde punching myself in the face.

See? You smiled that time. I’m an expert on grins.

I had a kid tell me I tell Dead Jokes.

Dead jokes? Dad jokes? It was a pun, get it?

Oh come on, it wasn’t that bad.

Where are you going? Come back! Please?

Bugger.

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Space fighters!

Posted by Andrew Girle on April 30, 2012

Anyone who ever watched a WW2 movie with dogfights between fighter planes, then saw Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica will know that dogfights in space are just awesome.

Of course, with no atmosphere, dogfights in space are also not going to happen like the movies. Sorry. Don’t believe me? Others have spent an enormous amount of time thinking on this concept, so get yourself a drink of your choice and head over to Atomic Rockets – make sure you do it on your own time, because if you are genuinely interested, you’ll spend a lot of time there!

Now one reason advanced for fighter planes and aircraft carriers in our history is the problem of horizon, and weapon range. Ships at sea are limited by the curvature of the Earth (radar provides a bit of extra reach); having aircraft to patrol puts your ‘eyes’ massively further out, and equipping them with missiles allows ships to engage the enemy without ever having to fire a shot themselves.

In space, it is argued, there is no maximum range for your weapons (no atmosphere, remember? Energy beams go on forever, and shells / missiles can keep going until they smack into something). The apparent limiting factor for weapons is the amount of ammo you can carry (for shells and missiles) and the amount of heat you can dissipate before you melt (for energy beams).

Likewise, just like the ocean away from a coastline, space is pretty empty. Seriously. Spotting a target against a star field is not difficult, nor is using infrared to pick up the heat radiating from it (don’t believe me? Go back to Atomic Rockets – you missed some bits. I’ll be waiting.).

So, we have weapons with unlimited range, and no limits to visibility. Alas, this spells doom for fighters as we know them, right? I mean, bigger ships with better defenses and armour are so much more survivable, so fighters are a waste of effort, right?

Maybe not.

Because nobody has been able to prove Einstein wrong, nothing can go faster than light. Yeah yeah, I know, it’s science fiction, but hey – let’s at least accept that science has a role to play. Targets obviously don’t WANT to be hit, so they are going to be manoevring – where your target was at the time of firing may not be where it will be when your ravening beam of directed energy crosses the gulf of space. So to try and hit your target, you need to predict an area, a patch of space that it is most likely to be in, and fill that area with shells / missiles / laser beams / coilgun accelerated titanium skulled frogs, or whatever. It’s called deflection, and fighter pilots have been doing it in dogfights since the first pistol was carried aloft in a flimsy craft in WW1.

Now, I’m not an engineer but I can pretty much bet that due to ammuntion constraints / recharge rates / heat dumping, that area is going to be pretty small, unless you accept very low probabilities of a hit.

Big ships are going to be less able to manouevre (well, maybe not, they may have bigger motors, but don’t bugger up the narrative flow NOW of all times), so if they want to keep their own chances of being hit down, they have to maintain a longer range. Fighter class ships will be lighter and zippier, so they can keep that chance of being hit at an impressive minimum.

Here is where it gets clever. The fighter can pick a range near the big ships where it is unlikely that they can be hit, but the target, being so much larger, is still well within the fighter’s engagement envelope. And even if they can’t carry heavy beam weapons (unless they are powererd by fusion collapses, but that is part of my story so you’ll have to wait for that one) they can carry enough shipkilling missiles that they can’t be ignored. Nor can their kamikaze capacity.

So what do you, as the target, do? Why, carry your own fighters of course, that can go out there and keep the enemy away from that engagement range sweet spot. And lo and behold, fighters are BACK!

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A teaser, from a sci fi story I’m working on.

Posted by Andrew Girle on April 25, 2012

Yes, I know you won’t recognise all the characters. I just enjoyed writing the scene so much I though I would share.

xxx

5. The Captain meets his crew

The police prisoner transport squealed to a halt on the tarmac at the base of one of the LD841’s landing struts. A heavyset officer in shell armour walked along the flank of the boxy vehicle, opening the individual transport cells with his palm print.

From the passenger door, the Second Engineer stepped out. He brushed his grease-grey overalls clean of the clinging local dust and squinted at the row of dishevelled crewmen and women blinking at the bright morning sunshine. He shook his head. Each of them sported lumps and bruises; split lips and torn clothing.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began in a mild voice as the police transport moved off. “You are a disgrace.”

There was a low murmur in response from the group, but nobody’s lips moved.

“Quiet in the ranks!” He bawled and began to stalk down the line, each pace bringing him level with another battered face.

“I’ve been Fleet since I was sixteen years old. I’ve seen more action than all of you put together. Don’t challenge me on that, I looked you up.” He reached the end of the line and spun on his heel.

“My father was Fleet. My Grandfather was wet-hull Fleet on Earth! And …” his tirade was interrupted by the blaring of private ground car horn as it weaved across the landing field. It stopped and Ramone stepped out, his undamaged ship suit crisp, but his eyes bleary. He blew a kiss into the car, and Rose drove off, her snake tattoo glistening in the sunlight as she waved goodbye.

“Ramone Rodriguez reporting, sir!” bellowed Ramone, drawing himself to attention and snapping a salute so crisp you could hear the air tearing.

“Fall in, Rodriquez.”

Ramone marched with perfect, precise steps to the end of the rank, did an immaculate about-face and stood at ease. The Second Engineer glared at him and shook his head.

“As I was saying; all of you are a disgrace. You were given a seventy two hour shore leave. That time expires in a little over two hours. As Watch Officer Discipline, the very last thing I expected to have to do is get your sorry little arseholes out of gaol, before time. Never, in twenty years relative, have I been so disappointed.”

He paused at Goofball, and glared at the egg sized lump on her hairline. “Fighting.”

Two more paces and he looked Ramone up and down. “Fornicating.”

He spun on his heel and slow marched back along the rank, until he stopped at Sean. “And what in the name of the Martyr’s bleeding arse is a charge of …” he took a slim data tablet from his pocket and tapped the screen, “… randomly supplying intoxicants with intent?”

Sean pulled himself up straighter, staring directly ahead out of a swollen blackened eye. “I stood a round for another jump team, sir.”

Tap. Tap. The screens flipped. “It says here that you were handing out stim packs on the street, outside licensed premises.”

“They tasted like rodent piss. We gave them away.”

The Second Engineer slid the tablet back into his pocket and shook his head slowly in disbelief.

“Have standards slipped so far? Two hours left. Two full hours.”

Nobody said a word.

“There is going to be a full dress inspection at 0800. Here. Then we lift. Anyone not here in full ribbons and perfect creases gets left behind. Senior Paramedic Sean Mulholland report to me; the rest of you, fall out.”

Sean turned to face the Second Engineer, who simply said “Catch,” as he lobbed an oblong. A slight juggle and fumble occurred before Sean realised what it was. An old fashioned leather wallet. He flipped it open to see a wad of notes inside.”

“Sir?” was all he managed to say.

“The Base mess is five hundred paces that way, and I wish to remind you that you are still officially on shore leave. Don’t let the standards fall any further.”

*

At 0800 the next morning, the Second Engineer roard, “P’rade! P’rade, atten-hut!”

Two dozen boots slammed into the steel hull plates and a dozen faces winced through blazing hangovers.

First Officer Flynn Rothman stepped forward.

“Thank you, Buffer. I have the parade.”

The Second Engineer saluted smartly and replied, “Sir, you have the parade.” He spun on his heel and marched off to the side.

“Ladies and gentlemen, allow me formally welcome you aboard the LD841. Further, let me congratulate you on managing such neat shaves over the top of the bruising.”

Rothman let his gaze roam across the crew. Every uniform was perfect; the collection of service ribbons and medals on display would not have shamed a crew three times the size.

“This is a new ship, of a new class with a new mission. Many of us have served on capital ships, undertaking rescue and retrieval missions when we weren’t prosecuting the war.”

The First Officer paused. He became aware of one of the parajumpers staring at him. She was tall, with pale skin and dark, dark eyes. In fact, he realised, she was staring at his sleeve, where his wounds stripes were. He blinked, then carried on.

“Our mission is search and rescue. Dedicated search and rescue. Crews that go down in enemy space, or ground combat teams that need urgent medivac. Crews in engagements where nobody can be spared from the fighting for the rescue effort. The broken angels for whom there is no hope.”

“We are unarmed. Not defenceless, but unarmed. The heaviest weapons on board are the side arms of the paramedic teams. We have the legs of a smuggler and the wings of an eagle. Ladies and gentlemen, between us we are going to make this ship soar.”

 

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I hate mobile phones

Posted by Andrew Girle on April 15, 2012

At least, mobiles (@Cellphones in the USofA) and what they have done to tension in crime fiction.

Our hero is stumped, she cannot connect that last piece of the puzzle, and if she doesn’t work it out in the next five minutes, the villain will escape.

Problem? Of course not. Phone a bloody friend. Arrange backup, sort out a roadblock, check with the forensic experts, whatever.

That is how it works in the real world, folks.

But the whole idea of thrillers is the THRILL, and that comes from tension. And real tension takes time to develop, it has to fester and bubble and rise like bile in the back of your throat until it stops you thinking about anything but turning the page and when you finally do you realise you haven’t been drawing breath and the resolution lets you BREATHE …

And mobile phones destroy that.

*sigh*

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Hello Poland!

Posted by Andrew Girle on April 13, 2012

WordPress has introduced an interesting little stat-widget that shows where hits on your blog originate from. I’ve got no idea as to the validity of the track-back, but to whoever it was in Poland that looked at my page today, HELLO!

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Is anyone else having problems ‘publicising’ from WordPress to Facebook?

Posted by Andrew Girle on April 7, 2012

I keep having to reset my ‘publicise’ options – is this

(1) Facebook Timeline creating hassles; or

(2) WordPress creating hassles; or

(3) (and most likely) passion-fingers on my part?

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Magic systems, built from scratch

Posted by Andrew Girle on April 6, 2012

I have hit a stumbling block: I don’t want to have a magic with wands instead of guns (there goes most peoples ideas of magic!); nor do I want to have an Earthsea magic so incomprehensible that readers need to be stoned to follow it.

I want magic that is possible enough to our understanding of the world; that stretches the imagination without dulling it.

One of my background notes for ‘Grimnoires and Gumshoes’ refers to natural magic – the patterns in a stripes of a tiger (or zebra!) create confusion in the beholder, so that bright yellow animals are effectively invisible in a dull green jungle. Where belief in the power of an object can be sufficient to imbue it with that effect – so a horse shoe over a door can ward evil, by virtue of hundreds if not thousands of years of belief.

But DAMN, fireballs are sexy.

Even just writing that has given me an idea for working ‘explosive magic’ into my world of natural magic; in the same way that rapid exothermic reactions are part of nature (explosions, for the unscientific reader). Maybe the magician merely needs enough sex appeal.

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The bug is back

Posted by Andrew Girle on March 26, 2012

For months now my two stories (magic/crime mashup going under the working title of ‘Grimnoires and Gumshoes’; and a sci fi adventure under the working title of ‘Broken Angels’) have languished.

All that changed last week.

As a result of another driver being too lazy to stop at a stop sign, my car is off the road for a while. This means I have gone back to the tedium of public transport. That has given me plenty of time to scribble notes, and over the last couple of days I have hammered, beaten and pounded a couple of thousand words into the Broken Angels universe. Serious second-writing will be required, but that is ok – the core storyline has progressed. I am getting somewhere!

And somewhere in the back of my head, I can hear the whispers of the Grimnoires and Gumshoes cast, muttering amongst themselves about being ignored. Sometime soon, their story is going to jackhammer its way out of my head and onto the screen as well.

Welcome back, bug!

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Finding time to write

Posted by Andrew Girle on March 6, 2012

I have a fair sort of a daily commute to work each day; I’m up at 4am to leave at 5 so I miss traffic to start at 6. I pick the kids up on the way home, so usually not in until 4pm. By the time I am ready to write, it is time to actually go to bed so I don’t fall asleep on the drive back to work!

I know many aspiring authors have written at all hours; the closest I get is to keep my laptop with me and tap out a few paragraphs while waiting outside the school, or when I get up in the morning.

I do know that if I spent less time on “Words with Friends” I would get more writing done!

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There is a reason I don’t write poetry

Posted by Andrew Girle on February 5, 2012

And here it is!

To Face the Truth

‘Tis a terrible thing to face the truth,

To examine oneself and find little to sooth.

To review all that angst,

And find nothing but the fangs,

Of a dingo, in that telephone booth (of truth).

Some can write poetry as rolls off the tongue,

Some can write prose that burns like the sun.

Yet often my truth,

Is that my work belongs in that booth,

With the dingo, and all of its dung.

Of Iambic Pentameter I know not a whit,

When I discuss Yeats I sound like a tit.

Perhaps I could be a bush poet,

But I write nothing of note,

And readers just think I’m a git.

When I consider a theme,

I end in a daydream.

And my plots all have dots,

M-dashes? What?

God help me if I try to write meme.

The truth is my friends,

The hardest words are ‘the end’.

Although the ones in the middle,

Make me fidget and fiddle,

And beginnings, my mind they do bend.

(c) Andrew Girle 2012

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