Raed Nerian - Items filtered by date: October 2018
Monday, 29 October 2018 22:39

Bringing Ragnarok Dev Diary 6

Well, been a while since I did a Bringing Ragnarok update, so here y'are if you happen to be reading:

Book 2 is now 1/3 edited, and the wordcount has slowly crept up above 141,000. For reference, Book 1 came in at just over 120,000, so I'm already pushing a 20% length increase. Which isn't a bad thing, just worrying: Compressed wordcount induces parsimony in the narrative. Which is a fancy way of saying, when I have a word limit, I get more creative about my word use.

Fortunately I suspect there are several longer passages that can be significantly cut without losing any of the effect or impact. I simply have a tendency to let a character's train of internal thought go on a bit too long, have them mentally narrate a few too many paragraphs of backstory. Which, while many readers are quite tolerant, I want to avoid as a bad habit. As much as I work to create a 'real' world, where what happens is informed as much as possibly by underlying mechanics that are rooted in much of the best of what I've encountered, in the years working on a doctorate, in the many academic disciplines I've investigated.

I could write an actual 'history' for each of the three main Threads, and publish it as a pseudo/fictional history. And by could, I mean that I am capable of sitting down and writing a whole lot of background material into a reasonably interesting technical narrative. In fact, one long-term ambition of mine is to actually do something like that, including supported 'faked' research materials.

At the moment, though, I sketch most of this sort of thing out with pen and paper, often in that pleasant couple of hours after dinner when my mind is wandering towards sleep already. The dreams come easier then, and I am getting in the habit of actually writing it down so I can reference it as I type.

What does that look like? Well, for a sampler, here's a brief Appendix-like Timeline detailing major events leading up to the 2041 storyline, where Kim, Timur, and Patrick are stuck fighting in the middle of a rapidly escalating new phase of the Second American Civil War:

  • 2020 - After two years of increasingly bitter partisan rancor, The United States Presidential Election sees the first return of overt political violence directed by white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups against "illegals", which increasingly means anyone not of their ethnic background. Turnout in crucial 'swing' states remains low, and the vote count is further marred by substantiated allegations of foreign interference, resulting in an escalating series of lawsuits that carry the drama well into 2021, where an openly-partisan Supreme Court decision invalidates huge numbers of votes in several vital states.

  • 2022 - A year into the most severe double-dip recession in modern American history, D.C. remains paralyzed by partisan infighting, leaving the States to fend for themselves. Many larger states like California and Texas begin to establish independent foreign relations in order to seek trade agreements that can evade Federal rules and reconnect these states and their home companies to trading markets abroad.

  • 2023 - An escalating series of clashes between Chinese patrol vessels and ships from the Philippine and Vietnamese navies brings a sudden and overwhelming Chinese response, with elements of the People's Liberation Army Navy and Air Force launching strikes against naval and aviation assets in both nations. The United States, despite longstanding guarantees of protection, is too paralyzed to effectively respond, resulting in several aerial and naval clashes but no serious conflict, as many had feared. However, China remains the de-facto controller of the South China Sea, and other nations, while publicly decrying the move, quietly accept the situation.

  • 2024 - The next United States Presidential Election is held in a time of economic stagnation and monetary inflation, leaving vast swathes of the American electorate unemployed or underemployed. Thankfully, violence like that seen in 2020 does not recur, however the collapse of both major political parties across much of the US West results in the first Contingent Election in US history, where a 3rd Party candidate promising non-partisan reform is ultimately selected by Congress after no candidate obtain 270 Electoral College Votes.

  • 2025 - After a minor border dispute spirals out of control, Russian troops simultaneously occupy key districts in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. NATO is unable to respond, with the US now declaring Europe beyond its sphere of influence. A new European joint force is deployed to prevent further hostilities, and along with the simmering conflict in Eastern Ukraine brings a new 'Iron Curtain' falling across Eastern Europe.

  • 2028 - The current U.S. President runs for re-election, and due to a stabilizing economy and international situation is expected to win re-election against two challengers from the far-left and far-right. On August 26th, 2028, while attending the Party's Presidential Nominating Convention in Miami, Florida, Nuclear weapons detonate almost simultaneously and without warning in Miami, Los Angeles, and Newark, killing tens of thousands of American civilians as well as all members of the line of Presidential Succession down to the Secretary of the Treasury, who narrowly escaped being killed in San Francisco when a U.S. Navy Destroyer spots and shoots down a pair stealthy cruise missiles approaching the area from the Pacific Ocean.

  • 2028 - The 2028 Attacks, which subsequent investigations show were launched by a rogue Air Force officer (James Hollahan) running what amounted to small death cult within the Air Force, results in two rival claimants for the Presidency: Carolyn Pilsudska, Secretary of the Treasury, and Timothy Connor, Secretary of Defense - a close friend and political ally of Hollahan, who himself is soon tapped to be next Secretary of Defense himself. Hollahan-Connor claim to have evidence that Pilsudska was born in Warsaw, Poland, and not the United States, seeking to invalidate her claim.

  • 2028 - On September 1, 2028, United States submarines fire twelve nuclear missiles, a total of three dozen warheads, at suspected nuclear facilities in Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan. China and Russia denounce this use of nuclear weapons before investigations can conclude, and media reports indicate that while Pilsudka and Connor agreed on the timing and magnitude of the strikes, neither accepted the right of the other to take action.

  • 2029 - In January, China announces the discovery of the wreckage of an American-made stealthy cruise missile off the coast of California. Returned to China by a submarine observing U.S. Navy exercises in the area, the revelation is immediately claimed to be a hoax by the Connor government.

  • 2029 - On March 15, several dozen United States Air Force Stealth bombers accompanied by unmanned drones fire hundreds of Tomahawk cruise missiles at sites operated by China's Second Artillery Corps, which maintains control of China's nuclear arsenal. Alleging a plot by China to attack the United States, the Connor government - which ordered the strikes - claims it was acting in self-defense.

  • 2029 - On April 23, the People's Liberation Army Navy announces the blockade of the American military facilities in Okinawa, which was used as a staging base for many of the forces that attacked China's nuclear arsenal. The Connor and Pilsudska teams both claim that this will not be tolerated, but the Connor team now maintains control of access to the Pentagon. Pilsudska, escaping what appears to be an attempt to arrest and contain her, flies with a Secret Service detail to Seattle, Washington.

  • 2029 - On May 30, PLAN forces engage and defeat a fleet of four United States Navy aircraft carriers moving to counter the blockade. Swarms of anti-ship ballistic missiles as well as land, sea, and air-launched cruise missiles are assisted by several dozen conventional submarines acting as mobile mines, who identify the locations of two of the Carriers at the start of the battle, launching torpedoes and calling in the rest of the Chinese forces to engage. In a furious and mutually costly battle, the U.S. Navy is forced to retreat after the U.S.S. Carl Vinson suffers catastrophic, near-fatal damage, and the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy receives severe damage to its flight deck. Covered by U.S.S. Enterprise and U.S.S. George Washington, the U.S. Navy moves to secure its key base on Guam and the naval supply lines leading back to Pearl Harbor.

  • 2029 - On June 13, the Pilsudska team announces that they hold the Connor government to be illegitimate under the Constitution, and call on all willing governors and military commanders to refuse orders from D.C. California, Oregon, and Washington are the first to comply, and a group of western governors concerned about the possibility of further escalation impacting their civilian populations propose a Constitutional Convention to reform the Federal Government.

  • 2029 - on July 4, units from the 82nd Airborne Division under the direct orders of Secretary of Defense Hollahan, who now in effect holds 'President' Connor as a puppet, land throughout the California Central Valley with orders to secure the state capital at Sacramento, and the California governor. Who responds by ordering all California National Guard units able to mobilize and not engaged in the relief effort in Los Angeles to move to Oregon and join with other Guard and regular military units whose commanders have chosen to back Pilsudska.

  • 2029 - on July 9, advance elements of the 82nd Airborne Division encounter a militia unit holding a bridge over the Sacramento River in Redding, California. This unit, whose members are largely drunk, fire on the advancing vehicles, thinking them to be part of the California Guard. Before local commanders can sort out the situation, orders come down from Hollahan to treat Redding as under enemy control, and to seize the bridges supported by artillery strikes, which subsequently devastate much of the town and spark the first skirmish between American military units, when a CNG battalion covering the retreat engages the 82nd Airborne's advance elements, thinking themselves under attack.

  • 2029 - on September 25, Pilsudka loyalists defeat an attack by several brigades from the 82nd Airborne and 3rd Infantry Divisions under Hollahan's control, using the rugged terrain and narrow mountain passes to inflict heavy casualties, while preventing air support from making it over the mountains. In the wake of this victory of the California, Oregon, and Washington National Guard Units supported by a Stryker brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division and aviation assets from the Navy and National Guard, Pilsudska claims all military forces in the Pacific to be under her command.

  • 2029 - on October 22, Pilsudska forces seek to push back through Redding on their way to liberate Sacramento. Hollahan orders a nuclear strike to halt their advance, one missile with three warheads launched from a silo in North Dakota annihilating the remains of the town in a nuclear firestorm. Pilsudska orders a nuclear reply to match, a single warhead launched from a ballistic missile submarine outside of Puget Sound that detonates over the Sacramento International Airport, where Hollahan's forces have established a major base.

  • 2029 - on October 23, A surprise Russian nuclear attack is launched against the ICBM fields in North Dakota as well as the fields in Colorado and Kansas. Six hundred nuclear warheads destroy the bulk of the American land-based arsenal, sending plumes of radioactive fallout across the Midwest and into the Rust Belt. Immediate casualties are low given the relative isolation of the missile fields, however a vast swath of the American heartland is contaminated by radiation, and in several cities fallout strikes vulnerable populations, killing tens of thousands and forcing millions more to become refugees...

There you have it! A nice, depressing look at, I'm afraid, a plausible future leading to Post-America. As you go out to vote this coming election day, keep this dark future in mind.

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Bringing Ragnarok: Book 2, is written!

I don't usually give myself, you know, 'kudos' or whatever. But I will state my pride in having written a 140,000 word book in 15 weeks. Although I had hoped to have the draft complete by September 30, the extra length took it two weeks into October. Still, that's not a bad weekly average, especially considering that there have been other life matters to attend to during these months, as 2018 is the year that just won't stop giving when it comes to major life-changing events.

Now, as I write in an earlier Developer Diary for Bringing Ragnarok, a completed draft does not equal a publishable book. I mean, yes, there are plenty of indie authors on Amazon who do appear to be comfortable with publishing a 1st-draft, and many appear to make a good living doing it. Story > grammar, in most cases - at least in the mind of the average reader on Amazon, if sales in a number of indie-friendly categories are any indication.

I'm too much of a perfectionist not to at least try to make each paragraph and sentence as good as it can be. There is a point where the perfect becomes the enemy of the good, as is said, and a person could go on editing indefinitely and never actually publish anything. In life, I try to remain mindful of tradeoffs - in an imperfect universe, these almost always exist. Doing something means not doing something else, because time and energy are scarce/limited. So it is important, I feel, to realize when something is 'good enough', that is, the flaws that remain - and you can find them in any work, even one you love - don't bug the majority of people who encounter them. In many cases, one person's marring flaw is another's shining star.

But for me, the 1st draft is just that: The 1st draft. I am fortunate in that about a decade of academic writing has given me the ability to pump out a decent bit of writing without intensive editing - blog posts like this, for example, I type out and skim once to correct obvious defects, then hit publish. The result is usually readable, and gets my points across, though often I go on and on and on and on and on without actually saying anything substantial. Tangents are a problem for me, always have been.

So back to the meat of the post: I have 140,000 words of fiction, taking the Six Friends further down their journey into the metaphysical war that ends in Ragnarok: the Apocalypse, Norse style, as I tag it in my Amazon ads. There's some pretty dark stuff in here, but also lighthearted bantering conversations and philosophical arguments about how Starcraft is actually a decent model for the essence of war and warfare, when you boil things down to the Vespene Gas of it all. The next stage of the project is the intensive surgery: While my 1st drafts usually get the basic plotline and sequence of events down, they usually lack (in my opinion) when it comes to dialog and parsimonious description. The latter being a 10-cent word that here essentially means: describe the hill, its vegetation, color, location, and immediate relevance. Do not go all Tolkien, and make the hill a character unto itself. Hills are interesting objects of study, to be sure, but most people are content to have characers simply move over the damn hill, and not discuss the entire history of its origins and occupants.

I mean, okay, I do in fact tend to to exactly this, and much of the point of the story is to write about history in a way that the actual people and events appear real, tangible, believable. To portray history from the perspective of people stuck in it, though unlike most of us they have/gain the ability to impact and even guide it. Because it wouldn't be much of a story if it were about people just, you know, farming a plot or something. As much as I enjoy Harvest Moon, I can't imagine writing a story about it, no matter how much I like to pull in aspects of litRPG into my tale.

Aside from this blurb, not much else to write about. I'm still on-track for a late December release of Bringing Ragnarok: Book 2 on Amazon, and hope to have pre-order set up. I'm also looking at getting Book 1 (and 2) set up for on-demand print distribution through Amazon, which is pretty easy and serves those who like a physical book to read (I'm one of them, in fact.). All with a mind towards sitting down from January - April and writing Book 3, which I'm very much looking forward to (a sign I've finally struck on the right career choice, methinks), especially because Books 1 and 2 (the first 'movement', in my symphonic way of thinking about plot structure) do so much to set the scene, and Books 3 and 4 will progress/go deeper in from there.

As for the rest of the world - meh. America's right-wing now has full control of all 3 branches of government, and has sold itself to a conman who seeks a racial nationalist state in place of the America we have. Democrats will likely retake the House this November, but not the Senate, so their resistance will remain ineffectual. And the current Oval Office occupant (not my President, never my President, as he has committed treason by threatening the peaceful transfer of power) continues to lay the foundation for a voter suppression + electoral college + supreme court effort to control D.C. for another 4 years... or more. Oh, and the IPCC has released a new report, pointing out the obvious fact that if the species doesn't get its act together, like, fifteen years ago, we're going to inhabit a very different planet in the very near future. To top it all off, the failure to fix the global financial system after 2008, coupled to these moronic trade wars, coupled to the US basically exiting the global international system it built, are fixing to throw a nasty recession in the near future.

In short, it remains a good time to be writing dystopian fiction. In my 2041, a limited Russia-US nuclear exchange has destroyed the Corn and Rust Belts, the USA has broken up into a whole set of successor states, and people are already abandoning vulnerable coastal areas in the Southeast, which nobody will insure anymore. I base this dystopic Post-American future on an extrapolation of current trends, as I see them, backed by a long study into the mechanics of human society and a theory I've developed, rooted in a merging of postmodern philosophy and systems theory, that I think explains why Western Civilization goes through cycles of collapse and destruction, some (like 1914-1945) rather destructive. And by 2147, after more than a century of rapid climate change, the solution Earth's 'experts' and 'technocrats' who end up running the planet decide, according to their ideological assumptions about why the world went the way it did, to the violent exile of 2/3 of humanity (the poorer two-thirds) to space 'habitats'.

After Bringing Ragnarok is done circa 2020, I hope to turn to writing something more positive, hopeful, space opera-y. A successor to the great sci-fi of the late 90s like Babylon 5, Stargate, and Star Trek. A story about people building a united galactic civilization in order to stave off a great Plague.

But for now, the times call for dystopian fiction. If politicians continue to prove themselves incapable of rising to the challenges posed by the great changes that are coming, then it will fall on regular folks to pick up the pieces and carry on.

As always.

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