Archive | August, 2013

A Rather Unsurprising Vote

31 Aug

On August 29th, the British Parliament voted against joining President Obama and the United States in an attack on Syria. In the wake of Iraq, which was a disaster for British arms, and Libya, which was a dubious victory at best, this isn’t too surprising. David Cameron simply lacked the advantages (and historical oddities) that Tony Blair brought to Parliament in 2003. He also had the considerable problem of convincing the Houses of Parliament that events inside Syria are a matter of concern to the United Kingdom.

As I noted in my prior essay, dealing with Syria will not be easy. Almost anything the US does to the regime (with or without its allies) will play into the hands of the rebel forces, giving them an advantage against the regime. This is not a bad thing, on the face of it, but we have to consider the long-term picture. What sort of regime will arise from the wreckage of Syria? Will it be a greater threat to the UK than the current rather shambolic remnant of a bygone age?

We cannot hope to shape the future of Syria without making a massive investment in troops and infrastructure. That investment must be far higher than the investment the US made in Iraq – and, let’s face it, the US came far too close to defeat. (And the UK was defeated, despite the best efforts of the spin doctors; we didn’t even win the propaganda war.) If we don’t, however, we may discover that we don’t like the regime that takes over the country. And, at worst, we will have to launch yet another intervention.

But there is, I think, a deeper reason to applaud the decision. President Obama, who is almost a clone of Tony Blair in many ways, has backed himself into a corner. If he fails to take effective action against the regime, having threatened all sorts of punishments for using chemical weapons (if, of course, it was the regime who used the weapons), he will utterly destroy his own credibility – and, by extension, that of the United States. Bear in mind that the folly of Bush41 weakened the hand Clinton42 could play, while Clinton’s own follies weakened Bush43’s hand. Whoever replaces Obama in 2017 will have to come to terms with the legacy of Obama’s careless chatter.

In order to live up to his grandiose statements, Obama must deliver a shattering blow to the regime. If he can launch such an attack, the consequences may be very serious indeed – and if he can’t, the US will lose credibility. A handful of cruise missile strikes, even ones that take out the regime’s airfields, will not be enough to live up to his words.

Why, exactly, should we harness ourselves to such a poorly-crafted policy?

Obama is not the friend of Britain – nor should we expect him to be. (Remember Clinton’s statements on the Falklands?) The United States is guided by geopolitics, just like almost every other state in the world. Obama has played fast and loose with the interests of Britain, Poland and several other countries – including his own. He has been a failure when it comes to upholding American interests, let alone the interests of the rest of the world. Like Blair, Obama has yet to realise that words are not actions. Dictators and terrorists are not impressed by fancy words. They are only impressed by creditable threats.

The case for war in the UK revolves around a simple question; is military interest in Britain’s interests or not? Cameron failed to make that case, as did Obama.

In short, we get nothing by interfering in a half-hearted manner in Syria.

Well, nothing we actually want.

Catching Up

27 Aug

Hi, everyone

Good news first – I’m currently 28 chapters into The Very Ugly Duckling, which is Bookworm II. It seems to be going well; now, as events are sliding towards their denouncement, I have to keep my eyes on the ball. Some of those darn minor characters keep doing things that get in the way …

Anyway, I’m facing something of a dilemma.

I’ve been astonished (and delighted) by the success of Democracy’s Right, which means I should write Book II sooner rather than later. Does a 3-month gap seem reasonable? And then there’s Book III … and I also need to write Book VII of The Empire’s Corps.

All of this raises a question. I would like to get published by a big name publisher. However, it is unlikely that they will want to publish something I put on Kindle (at least without major revisions) which means that it will have to be something new. I do have several books working their way through the slush pile, but … should I really continue to hold out hope for a publishing contract from a Big Name?

Not that I’m short of ideas. I do want to write the Knight’s Move series, book one of which will start in the aftermath of a bloody war and then go on to another war … not unlike how the Seven Years War created the conditions for the American Revolution. And there’s a handful of other ideas that are completely unconnected to anything I’ve done previously, apart from a rewrite or two. (I’d like to rewrite the When the Empire Falls series at some point, so if people want to read the originals and give me thoughts … it would be welcome.)

There’s also a multi-generational story following a family as Earth becomes the target for a major interstellar power. Generally, it follows the timeline I established early in this blog; The Rise of the Terran Empire.

Moving away from SF, I have several ideas to explore in other fields. The Road to Hell is intended as a grim-dark urban horror story, in which a girl – inspired by 50 Shades of Grey – sets out to get experience in the seedier side of society so she can write about it (instead of just making it up.) This goes about as well as you might expect. I also had the idea about an NSA officer spying on a young couple and trying to covertly help out their marriage, but real life seems to have outdone me already – well, sort of.

So … does anyone have any advice for me?

On a different note, if you enjoyed The Great Game, please review it. <grin>

On yet another different note, I’m preparing The Invasion of 1950 for Kindle. Expect to see it soon.


Another Day, Another Intervention?

26 Aug

One thing that has always struck me about the NATO campaign in Libya is that the rebels against Muammar Gaddafi were on the verge of defeat when NATO finally decided to intervene and start bombing Libya in support of the rebels. The timing was dangerous, it should be noted; no matter what the prophets of air power claim, wars are won and lost on the ground and the rebels might have been a spent force no matter what NATO did. This would have forced NATO to either admit defeat, thus granting a victory to the forces of tyranny, or insert large numbers of NATO ground forces. There was little stomach for either in the Western Governments.

There have been rumours of intervention in the Syrian Civil War since it began, but recent events – the apparent use of chemical weapons – have made intervention seem like a real possibility. The use of WMD has been internationally declared a ‘Red Line,’ with threats of real consequences if the line is crossed. This, however, raises a common problem in diplomatic negotiations; if someone crosses the line you drew, you have to decide if you’re bluffing or not. If you’re bluffing, you not only look weak; you are automatically in a weaker position in future negotiations. Your allies will fear that your promises of protection are untrustworthy; your enemies will not fear your threats.

It is not yet clear who actually deployed the chemical weapons. The regime certainly could have done so, although as they appear to be winning the war on the ground it would be quite irrational for them to do so. However, it could have been intended as a threat and a warning of the dire consequences of intervention. The only other possible suspect is one or more of the rebel factions in the region, which might have obtained the weapons from a captured arms dump. Their motive might be to galvanise Western support in a war they may well be losing.

If the West – particularly President Obama – wishes to retain any credibility when it comes to issuing threats, something will have to be done. The only question is what. What can be done?

As I see it, there are three possible options;

One – send weapons and supplies (and perhaps Special Forces) to the rebels. (Some reports say that this is already being done.)

Two – launch an air campaign in support of the rebels.

Three – insert ground troops and overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

All of these have considerable risks that cannot be avoided, only migrated.

The principle problem with arming the rebels is two-fold; we may not be able to arm them sufficiently to even the odds against the regime and weapons we provide to them may fall into very unfriendly hands Some of the rebel groups are afflicted with AQ; others are working with governments of dubious motives, particularly Saudi Arabia. The odds of a pro-democracy faction coming out on top in the inevitable faction fight that will follow a rebel victory are very low.

Providing air support to the rebels might well even the odds. On the face of it, however, Syria is a far tougher nut to crack than either Iraq or Libya; there will be causalities among NATO aircrew. The regime may also raise the stakes itself by launching missiles at Israel (as Saddam did in the first Gulf War) or into Turkey or Europe. At this point, there will have to be retaliation. Question; how far can the regime’s missiles reach? If a missile with a chemical warhead came down in Greece or Italy, there would be calls for bloody (nuclear?) revenge. In short, if air power fails to tip the balance, we would have to either pull back and abandon the rebels, or do something else. Like …

A direct insertion of NATO troops would be capable of unseating the regime. However, logistics alone would make this a daunting task. NATO troops – and these would be mainly American –would have to be concentrated in Turkey or Iraq (which raises the question of those nations being willing or not to help) and then advance into Syria. (I doubt that a forced landing along the coast is viable, although the USMC might disagree.) This would require a colossal commitment, fully on the same scale as OIF, and it would utterly shatter the regime. We might even require the assistance of both Turkey and Israel – and that would be a propaganda victory for the regime.

There would be other problems. For example, Hezbollah has been fighting in support of the regime. Hezbollah is also reputed to have the ability to launch attacks in Europe and perhaps even America; it will certainly try to launch attacks against Israel. The conflict might not remain distant, but include terrorist strikes in European cities. Hezbollah, which would probably be unable to survive without Syria, will fight tooth and nail to keep its patron alive.

Worse still, Syria is a close ally of Russia. How will the Russians react if the West moves to unseat the regime? Or the Chinese? Or Iran, for that matter? Are our leaders actually taking this into account?

However, wars may be run … but history does not stop. Both Saddam and Gaddafi ruled their counties through not allowing any strong subordinates, let alone rival centres of power. When those regimes were destroyed, the social glue holding the nations together was badly weakened – and, in Iraq’s case, shattered. The removal of the Syrian Regime, as unpleasant as it is, will unleash chaos across the region. Rebels held together by a shared hatred of the regime will not remain united when the regime is gone. At the very least, we can expect to see plenty of score-settling, ethnic cleansing, mass slaughter, etc. Even if NATO sends peacekeeping forces to the region, it is unlikely that they will wind up as more than targets for the various factions.

And even that does not include the worries about just what will happen to the regime’s arsenal after it falls.

Do we really want to get involved in this ghastly mess? As far as I can tell, absent a massive commitment that would make Operation Iraqi Freedom look small, we could only make the situation worse.

President Obama and former Prime Minister Tony Blair really are two of a kind. They mistake words for action, fine rhetoric for actually doing something. And then, when they find themselves scrabbling to actually do something, they generally make the situation much worse.

I’ll let Howard Taylor have the last words.

President Mancala: Ambassador, how are you today?

Ambassador Breya: Shortly very busy, I expect. To what do I owe the pleasure, Mister President?

President Mancala: Our G.I.D. Chief tells me that the Fleetmind has been actively interfering in the affairs of several Sovereign States. The Tohdfraugs lost an entire fleet, Kestrona’s insurgency lost an armor column, and Qlaviql’s Tricameral Assembly was destroyed from orbit. I’ll send you the full report. This kind of opportunistic militarism cannot be tolerated. The United Nations of Sol and allied planetary Governments will not stand idly by while sovereign galactic powers are overthrown, crushed, or assimilated by the Fleetmind.

Ambassador Breya: What’s our plan, Mister President? Do I need to deliver a declaration of war, and then withdraw to the embassy?

President Mancala: Don’t be ridiculous. Your job is to lodge a protest, using the strongest possible diplomatic language.

Ambassador Breya: Ah. And how is that different from "standing idly by?"

President Mancala: If we were standing idly by, we would not be lodging a protest.

Ambassador Breya: Wow. We are fearsome.


Bullying is Bad for You … DUH!

23 Aug

Every so often, I wonder at the sheer nerve of research scientists. Instead of peeking into something useful (like warp drive, or nanotechnology, or … you know, actual science) they get grants to carry out studies that prove the bleeding obvious. In this case, that bullying is bad for the victims AND the d*** perpetrators. I could have told them that for free!

(Picture from above link.)

It is said, quite truthfully, that the child is the parent of the adult. A happy well-adjusted child will grow up into a happy well-adjusted adult (or will have the potential for being one, which isn’t always the same thing.) A child who is allowed to develop unpleasant personality traits will carry them into adulthood, where they often wind up in jail. How unsurprising! After all, if they spent 18 years learning that hitting someone weaker than them in the playground is considered nothing serious, they aren’t going to magically adjust their thinking because they’re now legally adults.

But spare no sympathy for the bully. It is his victim you need to worry about … you know, the innocent in all of this. The victim will frequently discover that so-called responsible adults will not lift a finger to save him from the bully. No, all that will happen if he tells a teacher (or a parent, or even a policeman) is that the bully will target him further. And, because no one wants to be bullied, the victim will face social exclusion from his schoolmates. Who will be friends with little Harry when big bad Dudley beats the living daylights out of everyone who even smiles at him in the classroom?

You can tell a child all day that his behaviour is bad, but that isn’t enough with kids. They rarely have any form of thinking beyond instant gratification. Their thinking runs “it makes me laugh to push him around and nothing happens to me,” not “if I push him around, twenty years from now I’ll be in jail.” They need to be taught that their actions have immediate consequences. The sense of gratification has to be removed.

What happens to the victim if the bully is left to run unchecked? Well, some victims kill themselves, unable to bear it any longer. Others take up guns and carry out school shootings. Do you think they think that they’re gunning down innocent victims? No – they’re gunning down people who did nothing to stop the torment, who even participated in the torment. And others become stunted social recluses who don’t even dare to open their mouths, fearing a torrent of mockery from everyone else.

There are people, so-called child psychologists, who feel that giving children a short, sharp shock is inappropriate. No, the child must be understood. His delicate self-esteem must not be damaged. Well, I understand bullies all too well. They think that they can get away with finding amusement in picking on people and, sadly, they’re often correct.

There are even worse idiots among the ranks of child psychologists (my contempt for them is so great that I would sooner share a room with fundamentalist terrorists than such people) who actually believe that the victim deserves his suffering, that he is somehow provoking the bully. What absolute claptrap! Even if the victim was an odious little git, he shouldn’t be picked on. Or should I consider my distaste for so-called psychologists sufficient grounds for terrorising them?

Sigh. No one deserves to be bullied.

If you want to deal with bullies, you have to make it d*** clear to them that their behaviour will bring them nothing, but immediate and painful consequences. You need to punish the guilty and protect the innocent.

Right now, when it comes to anti-bullying policies, it is almost always the other way around.

The Rise of The Terran Empire Timeline

18 Aug

Background notes for a novel.  Comments would be welcome.


Humanity begins a slow expansion into the solar system. Luna colonies (later, gas giant mining) provides a steady flow of HE3 to power Earth’s society, largely ending the dependency on oil. In response to a wave of terrorist attacks, Earth becomes more fascist, while those who don’t want to live in a police state start leaving for the outer colonies. Industry starts to move into space (safe from terrorist attacks). ISA (international Space Agency) founded to coordinate space exploration and expansion and prevent clashes between various nations, corporations and even individuals.


The first alien starship visits the solar system, manned by independent traders on the edge of the Dominion – a vast alien empire hundreds of light years from Earth. They trade the secret of hyperdrive to Earth in exchange for refuelling rights.


Hyperspace is not safe – travelling through hyperspace is rather like sailing through the worst of Earth’s weather in a tiny little sailing ship. Hundreds of lives are lost as humans struggle to master the art of building actual starships. However, humanity carries on and starts integrating into the galactic community. Small human settlements appear on dozens of worlds, while a number of aliens start interacting with humanity. Technology takes a boost forward as humanity absorbs alien ideas and starts to improve on them.


Humanity was only vaguely aware of the Dominion until now. It was founded by the first known spacefaring race (at least in this part of the universe) and much of the other races drew their tech from its developments. Now, it is a stagnant entity, bringing other races under its control so that they don’t threaten the stability of the Dominion. Humanity is told that they will become part of the Dominion, like it or not. In the meantime, human traders and settlers are harassed by local authorities as the Dominion assets its authority.


A cold war of sorts breaks out between humanity and the Dominion. The Dominion is many times larger than humanity, but cannot gather its strength quickly enough to crush humanity before it prepares. Once humanity is warned, human raiders start harassing the Dominion, trying to buy humanity as much time as possible. Unsurprisingly, those raids help to harden the Dominion’s attitude towards the upstart humans. After the Massacre of Yana’s World, where the Dominion slaughtered upwards of 10’000 humans while claiming that they were illicit settlers, humanity was in no mode to discuss peace.


Having gathered a formidable force of 400 starships, the Dominion set out to teach the upstart humans a lesson. Realising, correctly, that a conventional battle would be futile, humanity’s defenders met the enemy force in hyperspace and crippled it. (Historically, all powers avoided battles in hyperspace as they tended to be disastrous to both sides.) Having shut down or destroyed part of the navigational system, the remains of the Dominion fleet were lucky to stumble into the relative shelter of Wolf 359. There, they were harassed badly by the human fleet until they finally broke and scattered. A handful of battleships, the most powerful units ever created in the galaxy, were even forced to surrender. Only 30 starships managed to make it home after the battle.


The Dominion reeled under the unexpected defeat. It had always been invincible, with its force of mighty battleships ready to move in and suppress dissent from any of its subject races. Now, those races had a chance for freedom and many of them took it, launching uprisings that further weakened the Dominion. It would be years before the Dominion could turn its attention back to humanity.

This was fortunate, as humanity’s narrow shave seemed to have done something to the race. While hawks wanted to take the war into the Dominion’s territory, doves wanted to obtain a peace and nothing more, fearing that the Dominion’s overwhelming power might still prove decisive if the war continued. This wasn’t helped by political struggles over everything from settlement rights – the richer nations had staked their claims first, which the poorer nations resented deeply – to question marks over alien immigration to Earth.

While the Dominion recovered itself, very little was done …

This was almost fatal.


Having secured control of most of the vital territories, the new Dominion Viceroy turned his attention to Earth. Unlike most of his haughty kind, the Viceroy was genuinely curious about Earth and studied humans extensively. Having gained an understanding of humanity’s strengths and weaknesses, he alternatively flattered and threatened Earth’s politicians, who were hypnotised by the thought of being considered the Dominion’s equals … and the sight of the Dominion’s powerful fleet. Unsurprisingly, when the Dominion attack came, humanity was off-balance.

A number of military and intelligence officers had been warning of the threatening storm for years, led by Admiral Mathew Quinn. Their reward for this was to be ignored and sometimes dismissal from the navy. However, as the Dominion fleet entered the Sol System, Quinn was put back in command and, through desperate improvising of insane combat manoeuvres, managed to defeat the Dominion fleet before it could land more than a handful of blows on Earth. The death toll was 70 million; everyone knew that it could easily have been 9 billion.

In the aftermath of the battle, Quinn led a coup against the politicians who had failed their people so drastically. There was little overt opposition and he became dictator almost by default, charging himself to the human race to prepare for a long war.


The second defeat – and the death of the most capable Viceroy the Dominion had – resulted in a second round of chaos spreading through the Dominion’s territory. This time, human agents aided and abetted the resistance fighters, ensuring that the Dominion would be too busy to respond as human forces built up rapidly and put new weapons and sensors into production.

Admiral Quinn, with high approval rates, declared himself Emperor. With the looming threat of the Dominion, there was little opposition. His son, Admiral Alexander Quinn, was appointed First Admiral and CO of the Main Strike Fleet.


With reports that the Dominion were building up yet another strike fleet, humanity went on the offensive. The Main Strike Fleet advanced into the heart of Dominion technology, hammering away at enemy shipping nodes and shipyards, scattering ill-prepared Dominion forces. In their wake, the citizens of the Dominion rushed to declare independence and join up with the advancing human fleet.

The Dominion’s response to this advance was sluggish, at first. By its standards, even the Battle of Earth had been a relatively minor affair. By the time the Emperor and his court grasped the fact that they were facing a foe with more advanced technology than themselves, they had already lost control of a dozen sectors and thirty more were being threatened with collapse. The fact that humanity could not even begin to occupy so many planets was even worse, in their view. The barbarians they’d ruled for so long would surely avenge themselves on their suddenly helpless masters.

Once they grasped the danger, however, they adapted their tactics as best as they could. Small elements of their fleet were dispatched to raid human supply lines and knock out navigational beacons (a waste of time, as it happened; humanity had improved navigational technology as well as other pieces of equipment). In the meantime, the main body of their fleet harassed the advancing human force, slowing their progress considerably.

Peace talks continued between the two powers, even as mighty fleets kept clashing. However, neither side could agree on terms. Humanity wanted an end to the Dominion threat; the Dominion was prepared to concede human independence, but not that of their subject races. The Dominion still enjoyed a considerable production advantage; the human race had better technology and better-trained personnel. Indeed, by 2310, non-human personnel were starting to join up with the human military.

The Battle of Dominion Prime should have ended the war, as human starships surged into their enemy’s home system. Instead, the Dominion Emperor managed to retreat with most of his fleet, leaving the war unfinished. It was not until he was assassinated by one of his own people that the war finally came to an end, leaving the Dominion in ruins.


Humanity suddenly found that it had largely inherited the Dominion, along with all the problems the Dominion had worked hard to suppress. Dominion citizens were fleeing for their lives, while their former subjects were rising up against them everywhere. Large parts of the Dominion Navy surrendered, but other parts became pirates or set out to set up their own empires far from human space.

The ending of the war also brought other problems into the open. Should humanity bring the non-human races into the empire as equals, rule them as subjects or give them their independence? Matters were not helped by the death of Emperor Mathew I, even though his son succeeded to the throne without problems. (He was a war hero with a powerful fleet ready to die for him, said the cynics.) Humanity’s guiding hand was gone when it was most needed.

Alexander I came up with a solution that satisfied few, but seemed workable. Alien homeworlds would have internal autonomy. Non-natives would be allowed to leave peacefully if they didn’t want to stay. Multi-species worlds would remain under human jurisdiction, along with most of the space-based settlements. (In effect, the aliens would find it hard to wage war on humanity, were they so inclined.) Aliens who lived on such worlds – and human worlds – would be considered full citizens, with the right to elect representatives to human governments. Naturally, the Monarchy (and control of the military) would remain firmly in human hands.

The solution was greeted with mixed feelings. Some humans applauded the efforts of alien allies in the later part of the war. Others, however, were prepared to believe in human supremacy or that the only good alien was a dead alien. On Earth, aliens soon found themselves concentrated in ghettos, while many human colonies banned aliens altogether.

There were other problems. In order to make full use of captured Dominion infrastructure, the human race needed to use alien labour. In some places, this was effectively slave labour, with humans merely taking the place of alien masters. In others, Dominion citizens had to be coddled and given advantages denied to other aliens, sparking resentment.

Unsurprisingly, there were many problems in store … and one exploded into the light when an alien terrorist organisation managed to successfully assassinate the Emperor.

2451 – 2470

Alexander I had been a good Emperor, everyone agreed. His son, Mathew II, who succeeded to the throne in 2451, was rather less so. Unlike his two predecessors, he had no real military experience (the heir could not be exposed to real danger, they thought) and he had too many sycophants buttering him up pretty much from birth. And, after his father’s death, he developed a pathological paranoia and hatred of aliens.

He started slowly, purging the ranks of Imperial Intelligence and the Emperor’s Own, who – in his view – had failed his father. Then he removed a handful of senior military officers and replaced them with his own men. And then he started his campaign against aliens and alien sympathisers.

Mathew I and Alexander had created a monarchy where a vast amount of power resided in the Emperor’s hands. On his own authority, Mathew II started a security state that targeted aliens specifically. Aliens illegally on Earth were to be deported, alien organisations were to be treated with great suspicion, alien lovers – in particular – were to be exterminated. Five years after his Coronation, aliens were hardly to be seen on Earth and the outer worlds were experiencing the start of similar regimes.

This drew support, unfortunately, from human supremacists. It also drew horror from others and there were numerous protests, both in and out of government. Mathew, having taken over most of the military and civil security infrastructure, cracked down hard, asserting that those who failed to show obedience to the Emperor had to be removed. His mental instability growing as resistance started to take shape, he ordered mass executions of Senators and Congressmen … and even the scorching of an alien homeworld that had dared assert its legal right to secede from the Empire.

Thankfully, this was too much even for some of his supporters. Mathew II was assassinated … but it was far too late to preserve the Empire as it had been.

A New Novel of The Empire’s Corps: To The Shores!

18 Aug

A new mainstream novel of The Empire’s Corps!

Available now!

Four years after their abandonment by the now-fallen Empire, the Commonwealth of Avalon is expanding into interstellar space and making contact with other successor states. With suspicion high on both sides, the Commonwealth and the enigmatic Wolfbane agree to hold a diplomatic meeting on Lakshmibai, a neutral world.

But Lakshmibai’s government hates off-worlders and, with the fall of the Empire, sees its chance to be rid of the hatred intruders once and for all. While Edward Stalker is besieged in their capital city, Jasmine Yamane must lead an untested army on a race against time to save the diplomats from annihilation.

And if she fails, the Battle of Lakshmibai may be the first shot in a new interstellar war.

Download a Free Sample, then buy it from Amazon here!

And read the afterword here

Available Now: The Great Game (The Royal Sorceress II)

16 Aug

After the uprising in London, Lady Gwendolyn Crichton is settling into her new position as Royal Sorceress and fighting the prejudice against her gender and age that seeks to prevent her fulfilling her responsibilities. But when a senior magician is murdered in a locked room and Gwen is charged with finding the culprit, her inquiries lead her into a web of intrigue that combines international politics, widespread aristocratic blackmail, gambling dens and personal vendettas… and some of her discoveries hit dangerously close to home.

Continuing on from the end of The Royal Sorceress, The Great Game follows Gwen’s unfolding story as she assumes the role formerly held by Master Thomas. A satisfying blend of whodunit and magical fantasy, it is set against a backdrop of international political unrest in a believable yet simultaneously fantastic alternate history.

Download an Advance Information Sheet and a Free SampleThe ebook can be downloaded from the links here.

Letter to the Times, 1831

Random Musings

14 Aug

So I started to muse …

One of the issues I intend to look at in Culture Shock, which will be The Empire’s Corps VII or IX, is the difference between a strongly libertarian society and a strongly communal one. Both have their strengths and weaknesses; a communal society, on a very small scale at least, will be capable of ensuring that everyone has enough to eat. A libertarian society, by contrast, has no official function for ensuring that people can eat. There may be individuals who give charity, but society as a whole does not.

However, there are major problems with both societies. By definition, a communal society cannot tolerate dissenting views. If all foodstuffs must be shared, for example, people who disagree with this become a danger to the body politic. This actually continues; religious dissidents, freethinkers and suchlike are also dangerous to the society. After all, they might convince the population not to stay with the community.

By contrast a libertarian society can tolerate all sorts of different views. This is a problem when two separate sets of views contradict one another. What constitutes the sort of rules needed to keep a society fairly stable without leading to an end to libertinism? At an extreme, this society must tolerate everything apart from intolerance – which leads to obvious problems when ‘everything’ might include paedophilia, arranged marriages and rape.

This also leads to problems when it comes to focusing on the common threat. The communal society might recognise that there is a threat and bring its combined power to bear on the threat, while the libertarian society might spend hours arguing over the existence of the threat and how to deal with it. (Alternatively, the communal societies leaders might recognise that the existence of another society, another way of life, is a threat … even if the threat has no intention of posing a threat.) By contrast, libertarian societies would be comfortable with other societies … after all, everyone has the right to choose … and then failing to realise that the other society cannot coexist harmoniously with them.

Leadership is another issue. Communal societies do not tend to have elections, or free debates; that would run the risk of introducing new thoughts into the community. Generally, the leaders are either dictators or men who have spent years climbing to the top while mouthing the platitudes the system required of them. This leads to an impressive single-mindedness (at least with dictators) but also limits caused by having one person or a handful of people making decisions for the whole. By contrast, a libertarian society might spend much longer arguing over who (if anyone) should take the lead.

Selecting leaders would be important for both societies, but how does one choose a leader for the libertarians? Heinlein’s suggestion was a term in the military as a volunteer – or, perhaps, as part of a working corps. What about insisting that only taxpayers can vote? Indeed, make taxpaying voluntary … those who pay are the ones who put their money where their mouth is. Say the requirement is 10% of a year’s earnings. A child of 14 could vote if they earned money; a scrounger could not. A husband could pay for his wife to have the vote, if he saw fit.

I’m not really looking to craft a libertarian utopia here, more contrasting the two societies – and their flaws as well as their strengths.


The Empire’s Corps–Update

4 Aug

Hi, everyone – we had a great time in the UK. I spent more than I probably should have done on books, but you just can’t find proper second-hand bookshops in Malaysia. (There’s a great one in Korea, but it’s a bit far to go just for new reading matter. Thank God for electronic books.) Anyway, we got back safely last week and I’ve spent most of my time writing To The Shores, which is the next mainline book in TEC. I hope to have it up on Kindle midway through August. After that, I intend to write Bookworm II – and after that … well, I’m not sure yet.

What I do want to discuss is the next set of non-mainstream books for TEC. I’ve had a set of ideas for them and I’d like to know which ones you’d like to see first.

First To Fight – basically, this is Edward Stalker’s origin story. How he came to the Terran Marine Corps, his training and his first deployment against the Empire’s enemies.

The Shavetail – a newly-commissioned officer from the Imperial Army is sent to take command of a small unit on a planet on the verge of civil war – much to the horror of his NCO. Several people have asked for a story focused on the uprising on Han and this might be it, although I’m not sure yet. This story was not intended to be cheerful.

Culture Shock – a group of refugees from a highly-communal society are dumped on a planet governed by a very different ideology. Chaos results. Generally, I wanted to compare the two different forms of society – and also highlight their strengths and weaknesses.

Knives in the Dark – with Earth gone and the Empire in chaos, a lone Imperial Marshal stumbles across a deadly plan to take advantage of the chaos … and is forced to question where his loyalties’ really lie.

Alcatraz – the key to a missing space fleet lies with a former Imperial Navy Admiral, condemned to a penal world. Belinda Lawson may be the only person who can recover him, but no one comes home from Alcatraz …

Hard Lessons – a group of teenage schoolchildren from Earth are stranded on a colonial world and forced to fend for themselves. Think Lord of the Flies …

Marine Corpse – someone is killing entire worlds and the only people who can track them down are the most enigmatic Marines left in the Empire …

Anyway, which one do you want?