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Somewhat belatedly, I know...

Now for the rest of the cast – the crew and passengers of the flagship of the Prussian submersible fleet, the U-19 Nautisch:

Read more... )


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Okay.  Last time, I gave a basic breakdown on the plot and history of the Lightning Age game.  This time, I'm going for a who's who list.  On a larger scale, talking about nations I've done this before once or twice, and I think I'll leave it at that, though a few things have changed.  Because what's really interesting in a LARP is usually the characters.  I wrote thirty characters and wound up with twenty-four players

First off, then, here's the crew of the Marid, an experimental U-Boat built by the Khanate-Caliphate-Carthage alliance, barely finished with construction when it launches.The characters... )


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The Lightning Age -- the advent of widespread electrical power -- began five years ago, in 1900, when the infamous renegade scientist Herr Doktor Kilroy Schweizerkaze Von Blitzkopf auctioned off his inventions to the Great Imperial Powers in exchange for amnesty for his crimes.  The resulting technological revolution has shaken the foundations of power world-wide, and war -- lightning-fast and as unpredictable -- has re-drawn the map of the world.

In 1903, Shanyu Khan called the first international summit since Blitzkopf's auction -- the unveiling and maiden voyage of his new mobile capital city, Khara-Zanai, Thanks to its massive steam-driven smartwheels, the rolling fortress can travel across the massive span of the Khanate in mere days – and the beleaguered Khan used it to declare war on Tunguska, avenging the loss of territory he suffered in 1900.

For two years, nation after nation has gone to war, like dominos falling. The Khanate is at war with Tunguska. Tunguska is at war with Prussia. Prussia is at war with itself, a bitter struggle for succession. The African Paramountcy is at war with Carthage, the nation that successfully rebelled against it. Joseon and Uchinaa have been supplying technology and intelligence to all sides, in clear violation of the Treaty of Milan; and the Chakravartin Raj is complacently neutral. The Ummah Caliphate, still reeling from the wounds it received five years ago, is no doubt nursing thoughts of revenge. New alliances have been drawn. The Prusso-Zaporizhian Empire, the African Paramountcy, and the Twin-Kingdoms of Joseon-Uchinaa unquestionably have greater power, larger armies, and more advanced technology than their rivals... but their nations are fractious, mistrustful. They lack the morale needed for greater action. The Ummah Caliphate, the Golden Khanate, and Carthage Free State are wounded, resources scattered; but they are united by their common grudges. They have the spirit, but must still rally their forces. The Chakravartin Raj, safely indifferent, needs no allies; and the Tunguskan Dominion of the Great Old Ones, with its maddened leaders and fearsome, incomprehensible biotechnology, has both the will and the might to prosecute a two-front war against the other Imperial Powers.

The world has been hostile, but stable. That is about to change. Strange creatures have risen up from the Atlantic, bearing unmistakeable signs of bioengineering that pre-dates Tunguska – that is, perhaps, the source of Tunguska's power. Scientists have traced them back to a sunken city called Tartasso in the depths of the Atlantic. To the two great alliances, the implication is clear – whoever finds this city first and either captures or destroys its secrets may be able to counter and cripple Tunguska, and become the pre-eminent world power. Each faction has launched its fastest and most advanced submersible, packed with the most brilliant and dangerous people at their disposal. It's a race to the bottom of the sea, to an archaeologist's most lurid nightmare; and whoever unlocks the secrets first may have the world at their fingers.

...Any questions before I proceed to the next bit?


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So I haven't posted in a while. That's mainly because I've been working on finishing the Lightning Age III steampunk LARP in time for Game-a-thon -- I have three pages and some gear cards left to go, so go me! Success.

Speaking of which, I still need a witty name for the subtitle. The second Lightning Age game, centered around the revenge taken by the leader of the Mongolian/Hun faction, was Wrath of the Khan. This one is a U-Boat race to a sunken Lovecraftian city. Help me out!

But yeah, Game-a-thon is this weekend, so don't expect another peep from me until Monday or so (at which time I hope to be preoccupied with Mass Effect 3). We've got five people staying in our apartment (the only reason I am awake now is that we're waiting for my brother's train to come in), and I'm really looking forward to spending time with them all and eating lots of fast food.

The other reason this has been a crazy week is that Megan got a new job -- an office job at a health care place. It's a dollar-fifty raise from her current job making pitas at EXTREME PITA, not to mention she'll be going from fifteen hours or so a week to forty. And then, of course, the job comes with benefits. Health insurance, for the first time in years -- maybe I can stop wearing the glasses I got when I was twenty! (The pair I got when I was twenty-one broke when I was twenty-two, so I went back to the old set, which had the same or nearly the same prescription).

Anyway, this is going to nearly triple our monthly income, which is simply fantastic. It's going to be a rough month, however, because switching from one job to the next is working out to leave a sizable gap between paychecks, and that gap falls right over the end of the month, when everything comes due. Probably most of that can be fixed simply by letting various companies know WHY we'll be late, but you can never be sure of reasonable accommodation that way these days.

This is my life. It's pretty busy. And it's a lot of fun.

Hope everybody has a good weekend. Expect all kinds of LARP recaps next week, as well as me grumping about how this trilogy of LARPs may be growing a set of sequels -- I've done land, air, and sea travel. Now I just need underground terror and a Fin-de-Siecle improbably space race!
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Man.  Twice today while writing characters for the LARP I have wound up with someone far different than I expected on the page.  One of them is a double agent who is probably simply too convoluted, and I'll have to trim their story down so a stranger can pick up the character sheet, look it over for five minutes, and feel good about having a solid grasp of them.

The other is a eunuch.  I hadn't realized until I wrote it up just how heavy and serious a person they would be -- I mean, I wasn't playing their situation up for laughs, but I was basically thinking "here's an intriguing concept" without having done the research or pondered the ramifications.  Now I don't know if I can ask anyone to play the part.  It's not so much that I'd hesitate to ask a dude to play a eunuch (though I'm not sure how many players would jump at the chance, or even not feel offended or uncomfortable if it was handed out to them); but this dude is understandably Serious.  I don't know anyone who would enjoy the experience of spending four to six hours in this guy's head.

On the other hand, he's a cool dude, a total badass, and he has Opinions About Things.  From an authorial standpoint, he's amazing and I love him.

I'm conflicted.

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In the middle of the night last night, I was sure I had half a dozen brilliant dreams to relate to you.  Now all I remember is that in one of my dreams, my teeth kept falling out.  In's that supposed to be one of those classic means-something dreams?

Anyway, my family is currently visiting, which has been pleasant thus far.  Also, accidentally, a surprise.  I knew what dates they were coming up, I just forgot until the day beforehand that the numbers on the calendar and the numbers in my head both referred to something that was about to happen.  Miracle of all miracles, however, we managed to clean the place up in time.  Dishwashing, laundry, vacuuming, tidying, sorting, putting things away... the fact that on top of that I cooked dinner and wrote 990 words yesterday makes me once again feel like a Responsible Adult.

We'll see how long that lasts.

Anyway, this year I am actually starting to write the characters for the Steampunk LARP in a timely fashion -- I'm about 10% done and I still have more than a month to go.  Usually I do it all in one manic week.  But that amazing stretch of time ahead of me may even allow for revisions -- is anyone here interested in seeing the rough-draft character sheets and plot notions posted under a filter?  Obviously if you're going to play you're ineligible, but that still leaves plenty of you.  The year is 1905 and the great colonial powers of the world are racing through the Atlantic in a pair of U-Boats, hoping an abandoned Lovecraftian city will unlock the secrets they need to defeat the biotechnology of the dastardly Tunguskan Dominion.

Okay.  Coffee is ready.  See you lot later.
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I'm 1306 words into When Everyone Is Dead, an AU steampunk historical tale of The Great Game as it was played in 1893 Lahore -- the same setting that Rudyard Kipling's Kim begins in.  Like Kim, I have some historical characters,  some fictional and original.  I also have some appropriated from Kim, and an original but derivative hero, an intrepid Muslim boy who runs a coffee kiosk and reports regularly to numerous spies of numerous factions.

I'm hoping to have it done in the next 4 or 5 days, at a length of 6,000+ words, and may need a 48-hour turnaround beta; if anyone is interested.  If you know Kim, Indian History and the Great Game, historical Islamic practices, or the works of HP Lovecraft, I am especially interested in recruiting you to read this story, but no qualifications are required.

As with most of my latest stuff, this will be submitted for publication, so if it sounds like an interesting read to you, your only chance to see it may be to volunteer to beta, :-P.

Worth noting, perhaps, that this AU world is the same one I've set my Lightning Age LARPs in.

"When everyone is dead, the Great Game is over.  Not before."
--Rudyard Kipling

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Today I finished a deliberately incomplete short story:  A Lightning Tour of Damascus, Part I, which is meant to serve as an introduction to a pair of tabletop Lightning Age one-shots I will be running next month.  (Well, it introduces the first one shot.  Part II will introduce the second.)  Once the one-shot has been run, and I know how the rest of the story goes, I may or may not "finish" the prose narrative version.  We'll see.

Anyway, here it is:


A Lightning Tour of Damascus, Part I )

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I keep wanting to pull some sort of passive-aggressive BS about not getting the comments I want, but I am honestly pretty clear in my own head that the problem is my desire to constantly be the center of attention.  A natural desire, yeah, but not a reasonable expectation, and I have to admit my expectation was that when I began blogging on a daily basis I would become an awesome, godlike amalgam of John Scalzi, [ profile] yuki_onna , [ profile] copperbadge , and [ profile] theferrett .

I am not unhappy with anyone's commenting habits.  I am unhappy with my own blogging.  I'm not entirely sure why.

In more interesting and less self-indulgent news (still wondering if posting about passive-aggressive BS is in this case the same as indulging in it.  Probably at least a little bit), I am world-building for the LARP sequel.  This last LARP, people asked me a fair number of questions I had to quickly spitball answers to, because my notions of goings-on in the Lightning Age outside the framework of my story are somewhat sketchy, at best.

I know that the Fatimid Dynasty of the Caliphate continued its reign, or that its successors maintained many of its attitudes and policies, and that Sufism became much more widespread and accepted.  I know that Islamic refusal to sexually objectify women lead to women dressing in male clothing rather than embracing other notions or definitions of modesty. 

In Southern Africa, the lack of European colonialism helped the Kingdom of Mutapa, or Monomotapa, prosper rather than decline, and that the mid-1800s military rise of the Zulu lead to Monomotapa allying with and later absorbing many contemporary African nations.

In Europe and northern Asia, the Mongol Empire never dissolved in civil war.  The historical position occupied by colonialist and imperialist European nations was instead dominated by the Khanate and the Caliphate instead.  The only European power that avoided becoming part of al-Andalus or the Khanate was Prussia, which merged with Cossack, Russian, and Scandinavian powers in solidarity, and fiercely maintained its cultural hegemony by deporting criminals and political prisoners to Siberia and specifically the prison colony of Tunguska.  The methane clathrate deposits of the Tunguskan coastal ice fields became a fuel source for steam technology, and eventually Lovecraftian beings beneath the ice awakened, leading to a prison revolution, and an unstable government that maintained sovereignty only because it could threaten the world's fuel supplies, and had a unique method of developing biotechnology.

In southern Asia, the Chakravartin Raj formed as a reaction by Buddhist and Hindu monarchies to the threat of Caliph and Khan; and Korea and Okinawa, by alliance, managed to exert considerable influence over Japan, portions of China, and Kamchatka, forming (relatively recently) the Twin Kingdoms of Joseon-Uchinaa.

My goal throughout this, which I do not believe to be an unqualified success, was to create a world in which Europe never held a world-spanning Empire, in which multiculturalism was embraced, but that would still highlight rather than erase the problems of imperialism and colonialism.  The existence of Prussia is due to a desire to avoid a simple reversal, where my intent could be construed as showing white Europeans oppressed by dangerous and exotic cultures -- not a flavor of Orientalism I have any wish to dabble in.  I wanted to be respectful where I could rather than be appropriative -- which has also spurred my omission of the 'New World' of Australia and the Americas.  In the world of the Lightning Age, it is known that there are powerful and independent societies in these places, but trade has not been established.  It is difficult to treat Australian Aboriginal, Native American and First Nations peoples and cultures in all their variations without offensive appropriation, and Australian Aboriginal peoples in particular have objected to their stories being co-opted and retold by others.  It is my hope that by acknowledging their existence in my worldbuilding without explicitly discussing them or including them 'on-stage', I am treading in the space between appropriation and erasure, both of which I want to avoid.  It is my expectation, of course, that I have handled this less than perfectly (along with the rest of my world-building), and I am open to differing opinions and correction where I have erred into offensive territory.

With that said, obviously, there's still a lot of worldbuilding left to do.


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January 2014



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