Project Lyonesse – Making Short Fiction Great Again

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Logo-01A while back I posted about open submissions for Silver Empire‘s next major project, Lyonesse. Now that I’ve finished up a few other projects (including publishing Silver Empire’s first novel and merging two dojos together), we’re ramping up Lyonesse to full production.

If you sent us a submission for Lyonesse, we probably got it. I will be sending out responses over the next two weeks. If we accepted your submission, you will be getting an NDA agreement. Sign it and we’ll be letting you in on what we’re actually up to. If we didn’t accept your submission, I will let you know. If you haven’t heard back from me by Monday, September 12, then I probably didn’t get your submission and you should try sending it again.

We are still looking for submissions! We’ve had some great ones, but we need more. This is a pretty large project, and it will also be ongoing. So if you have them, send them over. You can find the official submission guidelines here.

What is Lyonesse?

We’re still not quite ready to lay it all out. But here are a few things I can tell you. Lyonesse is not a magazine, and bears only the thinnest resemblance to that model. Neither is it a retread of the magazine concept, shoehorned onto the web. Lyonesse is conceived with the digital age in mind, and is built for the internet era. Lyonesse will be very price competitive – you’ll be getting a lot out of your entertainment dollars. Yet even so, Lyonesse is very author friendly. We’re here to support your favorite authors, not exploit them. There will be no print edition of Lyonesse itself. Dead trees are so twentieth century. There will, however, be semi-annual roundups into traditional anthologies that will be available on Amazon, and may be available in print.

Look for more information throughout the month of September. And if we stay on track, look for our Kickstarter project to launch in early October. Stay tuned – this is about to get exciting!


Author Gladiatorial Challenge: Round 1, Brian Niemeir

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Souldancer by Brian Niemeier

Souldancer by Brian Niemeier

Brian Niemeier is the Campbell Award nominated author of the Soul Cycle series, including the Dragon Award nominated Souldancer. He graciously agreed to enter this Author Gladiatorial Challenge to earn your vote for the Dragon Awards (hurry! tonight’s the last night to get your ballot). Below is his entry for round one. I hope you find it as entertaining as I did. Declan’s entry ran earlier this evening, with judging to come tomorrow.


The Barbed Devil charges with a mighty Infernal oath to bring this chaotic aberration to heel.

In the cool of the night, the devil’s heat shines as bright as day to Astlin’s fiery eyes. She’s not sure what to make of the onrushing foe until the image of a man’s face painted on a broken shield lying half-buried in the sand speaks to her with the voice of a derelict whose mind she consumed years ago.

“He doesn’t believe in your shoes.”

Hearing that the devil doubts her shoes’ existence deeply perturbs Astlin. It’s not as if they aren’t right there on her feet for everyone to see.

Wait. Are they?

She looks down at the toes of her black, sturdy boots. Yes. This guy must be crazy.

The Barbed Devil’s charge has carried him halfway across the arena. Sand sprays and bones crunch under his spiny feet.

He’s not wearing any shoes. Is that why he doesn’t believe in hers? Because he’s never worn them?

Astlin decides that the best way to prove her shoes’ existence is for the devil to try them on. She bends down to undo the complex series of buckles and fasteners that connect her boots to her armor.

No sooner are Astlin’s boots detached from her leggings than the Barbed Devil knocks her right out of them. The force of the impact surprises her, and she topples onto the sand under her shoe-doubting foe.

The devil furiously rakes Astlin with his razor-sharp claws. Most of the attacks fail to pierce her strong leather armor and stronger brass skin, but some of the barbs scratch her still human face, drawing molten brass blood.

Being infused with positive energy, the Worked liquid metal irritates the devil, making him rear back. Astlin uses the distraction to roll out from under him. In her hurry to stand, she slips and falls prone on the soft arena floor. She sees her boots lying nearby and crawls toward them.

The fingers of Astlin’s outstretched hand are about to brush against her boots when a glowing cage of pure energy surrounds her. The devil’s deep, mocking laughter cuts her as no blade can.

Anger stokes the Fire in Astlin’s soul. She lunges forward, and her transessed body’s resistance to Workings shatters the glowing cage. She seizes the boots, and the diabolical laughter stops.

The devil is on her back in an instant, pressing her face into the sand with inhuman strength. Enraged beyond words, its telepathic curses flood her mind.

This guy’s a telepath, too? Wow! This whole time Astlin thought she was the only one. Eager to show off her skill with the power they share, Astlin projects all of her thoughts and memories into the devil’s mind. He tries to resist for some reason, but it turns out that he’s not nearly as good at this as she is.

The devil doesn’t seem to like Astlin sharing her mind with him as much as she thought he would. He screams, throws himself off her, and keeps screaming while rolling around in the sand.

Astlin gleans from their telepathic bond that this guy comes from hell. She’s surprised and a little disappointed to learn that nothing he’s seen there is as bad as what happened to her.

Oh well. Serves him right for interrupting her.

What was she doing again?

Oh yeah. Shoes.

Astlin sits down on the devil’s back. He struggles but can’t do much more than writhe under the weight of what’s basically a living brass statue. She takes her boots in one hand.

You’re supposed to start with the dominant foot. Is this guy right-handed? Probably a safe bet. She grabs his right ankle. Sharp spines cover that, too, but her gloves are up to the job.

Her first attempt to put the shoe on the devil’s foot reveals a problem. Astlin’s feet are way smaller than this guy’s. She snaps off spines, and the devil howls. Still won’t fit. This is gonna take something more drastic.

Having his foot crushed down to half size drives all reason from the devil’s mind. His spear-like tail stabs out and impales Astlin through her right eye.

Astlin’s scream joins the devil’s in a nightmarish chorus. In a spasm of pain, she accidentally rips his foot from his ankle. Positively charged molten brass eats through the tip of his tail, leaving a cauterized stump behind.

In her agonized fury, Astlin jumps up. All of her weight comes crashing down on the devil’s head, squashing it like a melon. Black blood sizzles on her brass feet as she squishes grey matter between her toes. The stench of a burned corpse rises on the night air.

The devil’s barbs rattle like dry, bare brush in the wind; then go still.

Molten metal drips from Astlin’s eye socket onto the sand, where it cools into shiny amber drops. She steps off the devil’s dead body and lets its blood and brains burn off her feet before donning her boots again.

A single question haunts the souldancer: do her shoes really exist? Now she may never know.


Author Gladiatorial Challenge: Round 1, Declan Finn

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HonorAtStakeDeclan Finn is the author of the Pius Man Trilogy as well as the Dragon Award nominated Honor at Stake. He graciously agreed to enter this Author Gladiatorial Challenge to earn your vote for the Dragon Awards (hurry! tonight’s the last night to get your ballot). Below is his entry for round one. I hope you find it as entertaining as I did. Brian’s entry will run later this evening, with judging to come tomorrow.


Amanda Colt walked into the arena, and all she could think was What the hell am I doing here?

Her eyes narrowed as she looked over the battlefield, and cataloged what she could – piece of sword, piece of armor, piece of lance, piece of … person.

When I am done here, I need to eat someone. Preferably whoever’s in charge. Can’t kill the author. He has to finish writing the book. Stupid Dragon Award…

On the other side of the arena came the hell beast, and did a quick inventory: four knives, holy water, enough phials to make things interesting, two calf holsters, and a sword. She knew her opening move, since the creature had only four areas of attack. She could see three, and adjust. But there were two obvious opening moves for the creature in front of her.

“Begin!”

The creature broke lose. At the speed of an eye blink, Amanda drew her sword, thrusting it behind her, into thin air. When the barbed devil teleported behind her, it materialized around the sword.

The displaced air made a sound like bampf, and Amanda threw herself forward, pulling the sword out as she leaped.

“Ha!” she cried as she spun to face the seven foot demon. “I dated Gary Gygax … in … the … oh darn.”

The devil looked like a gamma-irradiated porcupine; and while she concluded correctly that its teleportation ability would bring it behind her (or above, that was an option), she probably just pissed it off.

The devil threw itself after Amanda with full blitzkrieg speed, as she backpedaled just as fast. Her sword flicked out, trying to discourage it from engaging with her, but she knew that if she got close enough to hurt it, her day was going to really suck.

She reached behind her, grabbing the first of the phials, and grimaced. This thing was fast enough to dodge most of what she threw at it. This was going to hurt.

Amanda thrust forward with the sword, and the devil knocked it aside with one claw, and grabbed Amanda’s sword arm with the other. The demonic barbs ribbed into muscle and bone, and she cried out. She went limp as the demon hoisted her by the arm, and grinned down at her.

She decided she was high enough as the devil poised its claws to eviscerate her. Then she smashed the 100 ml phial of holy water into its maw.

The glass shattered, splashing the devil. At the speed she threw it, shattered glass made little cuts in the skin, which didn’t react well to the holy water on the open wounds. There was a sizzling, crackling sound, and she expected to smell something like sulfur, but she didn’t get a chance. The devil roared in pain, but didn’t let go of Amanda’s arm, throwing her around like a rag doll. It slammed her against the ground once or twice, and she expected it to say “Puny vampire.”

Amanda started to turn to mist, starting with the captured arm. The sleeve tore, and she lost her sword, but she was free.

She was hurled a hundred feet across the arena, but she was free.

She groaned as she pushed herself to her feet. She had bounced over several broken weapons, including several spears that had left splinters in her back.  But she had bigger problems. It was starting to shake off the last attack like it was just annoyed.

Amanda reached and slit the sides of her jeans with her fingernails. She needed quick access to her calf holsters. Given how far away it was, it had two options. She dropped to one knee, feeling the ground while keeping an eye on the devil. She found a piece of old armor, and the hilt of a sword.

It turned and glared at her, and she was certain it wasn’t going to transport again.

She leaped to one side and hurled both the ancient weapon and armor, just a split second before the scorching ray lashed out and laid waste to the area she’d been. The armor piece hit like a discus and the broken blade jabbed it in the arm, but that just made it blink. Less a matter of pain, and more like “Where did this come from?”

She hurled any discarded detritus on the ground – partial spear, a ribcage. The devil just lashed out again. She dove out of the way, but it still caught her on the side. It blasted her across the field, and she deliberately rolled to put out the blaze before she made an ash out of herself.

Amanda grabbed the H&K-PDW in her left calf holster, yanking it out, and spraying it right at the devil. It flinched, like multiple bees were stabbing into it.

She didn’t empty the magazine before she reloaded. She reached down, grabbed the next PDW. Knowing it had to close with her, she leaped straight up into the air, 20 feet off the ground, before it bampfed.

The beast bampfed right underneath her, only six feet off the ground, attempting to attack her above her previous position. She pointed her left gun straight down, blasting down into devil’s skull. She landed on it, feet first, plowing it into the ground.

It bounced back. It’s right hand burst into flame. She dropped her empty left gun and grabbed its wrist.  The tail lashed out and wrapped around her waist, slowly crushing and cutting into her. The left hand slashed down, overhanded. Amanda blocked it with her right forearm.

The devil looked at her, and tried to burrow into her mind.

She glared. “I … am … vampire!”

She rotated her arm, making the attack slide down her right side. She jammed the PDW into the devil’s mouth, and held down the trigger. Thirty rounds of armor piercing bullets punched through the back of the devil’s mouth, and out its head.

The devil’s fire went out, and the muscles relaxed as it fell over. Amanda dropped to her knees, exhausted. “I need more blood if I do this again.”


WorldCon SJWs Continue to Defend Child Rape

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hugoLast Saturday the members of the World Science Fiction Convetion voted on the annual Hugo Awards. As I noted some time ago, there is a certain clique within science fiction that has a real problem. The perverted SJWs who make up the majority of the convention are covering for sexual predators, molestation, and child rape. There are some who still seem to think there is something redeemable about this collection of perverts.

Not one but two child rape exposes received Hugo Award nominations this year. “Safe Space as Rape Room” by Jeffro and “The Story of Moira Greyland” by Moira Greyland. Lest you feel this somehow excuses them, please note that these two exposes only made the ballots due to extraordinary efforts of outside forces. This is conclusively demonstrated by the sad news out of WorldCon this weekend. Not only did neither of these tales win the award – that would be OK, if disappointing. More to the point, both of them were voted well underneath “No Award.” For those unfamiliar with Hugo Award voting, that means that the majority (in this case the vast majority) of the perverts who attend WorldCon believed that exposing this very serious issue not only wasn’t the best “related work” this year, but that these articles weren’t even worthy of the nomination in the first place.

In other words, these sickos believe that exposing actual, documented child rape is an unworthy cause.

Why? There is only one plausible explanation. This kind of sick perversion continues to this day and these people are covering for it.


Dragon Awards Gladiatorial Face Off – Setting the Stage

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A while back I noted that my friends Declan Finn and Brian Niemeier both got nominated for the upcoming first annual Dragon Award in the same category. Being a good and loyal friend, this forced me into a conundrum: who to vote for? There is only one way to settle this – gladiatorial combat! The authors have now submitted their champions.

Declan Finn

HonorAtStakeAmanda Colt. Vampire.

100 years old, give or take. Russian. Her CV is extensive. She’s served as a spy and a soldier on multiple continents and wars. She’s also Catholic, religious, and has alternate blood supplies. She has mastered more combat systems than even she remembers, if only because of professional interest, and she has the time on her hands. She’s smarter than the average bear, and has several bachelor’s degrees, and a smattering of Masters degrees here and there. She hasn’t bothered with any PhDs that I know of, but characters sometimes don’t tell you everything.

Her powers are standard vampire: seriously strong, seriously fast, and has teeth. At this point, she can turn to mist, but probably can’t take her clothes with her. She can become a rat or a bat, or a wolf. She is eye-blink fast when she wants to be (as in: she’s in front of you, you blink, she’s behind you breaking your neck). She is allergic to sunlight, wood, and silver. If she’s set on fire, she can put it out, but she has to do it fast, or she goes up like flash paper. Her exposure to low-level sunlight won’t kill her, but direct sunlight will burn her, and she has seconds to get to cover. Religious objects will not hurt her, because of her moral / ethical / alignment. And of course, cutting her into little pieces or cutting her head off will kill her.

Brian Niemeier

Souldancer by Brian Niemeier

Souldancer by Brian Niemeier

Astlin Tremore, Souldancer of Fire.

The Souldancer of Fire resembles a slight teenage girl with shoulder-length, deep red hair and incandescent blue eyes. Clad in asymmetrical leather armor haphazardly fashioned from the tanned hides of otherworldly beasts and strewn with metal fasteners, rings, and buckles.

In truth, a souldancer’s outward appearance is merely a shell Worked to contain the merged interdimensional rift/soul of its true being.

Special Abilities:

  • Healed by elemental/magical fire at a 2:1 fire damage to HP recovered ratio.
  • Cannot be healed by healing spells/ordinary medical treatment.
  • Immune to all poisons and disease.
  • Immune to natural cold.
  • Doesn’t need to eat or drink, but still requires sleep.
  • Acid and Electricity Resistance 21
  • Magic and Power Resistance 26
  • Takes double damage from magical cold and water attacks.
  • Flame Cascade x1/day: fire burst centered on the Souldancer in a 10′ radius rising 30′ high. 11D6 fire damage. Targets can save for half.
  • Fire Portal: If a Fire Souldancer dies, everyone nearby has a very short period of time (1D6 rounds) to flee from the area as the souldancer’s body begins to come apart. Once the body has completely broken apart, a screaming gate to the Plane of Fire opens, releasing a level of heat that can only be found in the heart of a volcano.
    Everything in 30 feet of the portal takes 20D6 fire damage, this damage is reduced by 1D6 for every five feet beyond the 30 foot point. This opening is not merely a portal, but the soul of the souldancer, continually torn and twisted in pure metaphysical agony. The souldancer cannot be brought back to life by anything short of a Wish, and this agony will continue until some way is found to close the portal. Even after the portal is closed, the souldancer still cannot be brought back to ‘life’ by anything short of a Wish.
  • Insanity: Astlin suffers from severe post-traumatic stress, as well as a grab bag of psychoses and emotional disorders.

The First Challenge!

barbed_devil_tinyThe arena goes dark, lit only by tiny torches ringing its vast combat field and the twinkling of the stars above. The audience quiets in anticipation. Bones of fallen gladiators litter the field, punctuated occasionally by the random piece of arms and armor. Our champion steps onto the field, ready for combat, and they erupt in raucous cheers

A dark, robed figure stands above all on a floating dais: the Gamelord. He makes a gesture with his hand and the audience goes silent. The ground rumbles. Across the arena from our champion smoke billows out from below. A creature appears. From the tip of its lashing tail to the serrated features of its fang-filled visage, this fiery-eyed sentinel bristles with barbs. Hell itself has come alive. It drools and snaps its jaws. It sees our champion and lashes out, straining to reach her. An invisible force holds it at bay.

The Gamemaster raises his arm and the audience goes wild. His face remains hidden under a thick hood, yet our champion can feel his malicious grin through the cloth.

“Begin!” he calls out. The monster moves, as if invisible bonds have broken.


The first challenge is a Barbed Devil inside a darkened, star-and-torchlit arena at night.

Sentinels of the vaults of Hell, jailers of the darkest souls, and living weapons of the infernal forges, barbed devils—known as hamatulas to diabolists—enforce the strictures of the damned and safeguard the nefarious works of greater devils. A hamatula enjoys the feel of warm blood on its spines, and prefers to leap into melee when presented with an opportunity for battle.

Hamatulas are collectors and organizers, and are favorite allies of greedy summoners as they often bring with them tempting treasures from Hell’s vaults or know the paths to deadly riches. Left to their own devices, the lairs of these devils often bear the pierced trophies of their past victims, hung like perverse bug collections on bloodied walls. Most barbed devils stand upward of 7 feet tall and weigh 300 pounds, though their leanly muscled bodies appear much larger due to the constantly growing and adjusting spines that protrude from their razor-sharp bodies.

Both champions face the same challenge, one at a time. The fights will be posted in the order in which they are received. Authors are encouraged to be creative, over-the-top, and above all awesome. The Gamemaster reserves the right to require edits to combat under the standard Gamemaster “no, it really happened this way” clause. The more entertaining, exciting, and awesome the feat is, the more likely it is to be approved. Stats of the creature are available at the link in standard D20ish format, but there is absolutely no requirement for the combat to stick to D20 rules. Descriptions of D20 rules are discouraged; they make for great gaming but boring reading.

Go!


If you enjoy these characters, please remember to stop by and patronize the authors by buying their books. And please consider both of them as worthy contenders in the upcoming Dragon Awards!

Special Note: Brian Niemeier’s Souldancer is currently free and will remain so until the end of the week. You can’t beat that!


Freedom From Bandits

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banditsOne thing we take for granted in the modern first world is freedom from bandits. In the US and western Europe, they’re simply not a thing.

This is a huge historical anomaly. We are, of course, familiar with the idea of bandits from watching westerns. But bandits weren’t just an artifact of the wild west. Throughout most of human history, bandits have been the norm, not the exception. Bandits arise whenever a few simple conditions are met.

  1. People travel long distances, out of easy reach of population centers.
  2. The average traveler is defenseless.
  3. Law and order decays, law enforcement becomes lax, or bandits develop an easy way to avoid reprisal.

We very seldom even talk about bandits in the modern world. Yet the contribution our bandit-free culture gives to our culture is enormous. The economy benefits thanks to a reduction in deadweight loss. The people benefit when they don’t live in constant fear. People work harder when they can hold onto their earnings, and they travel farther for trade when the risks are lower.

The benefits are massive.

Unfortunately, our days of being outlaw free may be coming to a close. The news media, and even the “alt news” media, is treating the recent Calais attacks as a migrant issue. They are not entirely wrong. But they’re also missing a huge issue, because what we’re witnessing is the return of banditry to western civilization.

This is bad. It’s really bad.

It’s begun as a migrant issue. We’ve allowed in immigrants from areas of the world where banditry is common. They’ve brought the practice with them. At the same time, law enforcement has gone lax – especially against certain subgroups. When individual law enforcement agents have more to fear from appearing “racist” than they do from allowing bandits to run wild, well, you get more bandits.

But the real problem runs far deeper. If we allow this new wave of banditry to continue unchecked, before long the local ruffians will join in. “Bad boys” aren’t limited to the migrants, you know. Every culture has its share. And the locals will bring better organization, logistics, and armament to the game. Why? Not because westerners are inherently superior at these things. It will be because the locals won’t be migrants who have left everything they own behind to move to a foreign land. They will have friends, family, and support networks. They will have wealth, built over generations. And they will know the land of their fathers inside and out.

Banditry begets more banditry. We must crush it ruthlessly in the gestational phase. The Romans learned this lesson the hard way. The British learned it the hard way. The nations of the west sure seem about to learn it again – the hard way.


Babylon 5’s “Trinity”

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babylon5Damn you, Declan Finn. Your incessant tweets and Facebook posts on your re-watch of Babylon 5 have left me with the urge to re-watch the show. It may, in fact, have to go in my queue as the next binge watch.

The problem is that this is a show I’ve already seen all the way through 2.8 times. Yes, 2.8 times. I watched the first four seasons live as they aired. Then they switched networks – from the doomed-from-the-start PTEN network (aired on Fox in my local viewing area) to TBS. As a poor college student who couldn’t afford cable, I spent years desperately longing to see how my favorite television show of all time (a title it still holds to this day) ended.

When I finally graduated, my aunt gave me the best gift ever: a giant box of VHS tapes, containing the complete run of the entire series. DVDs existed, of course, but television on DVD was not yet a thing. I had a job on offer, but it hadn’t started yet… and I didn’t actually have an official start date yet. I had moved back in with my parents for my last year of college. So what was I to do? I binge watched the entire series, of course.

[Aside: This is one more area where modern television lovers can thank Babylon 5. Its fans (“we”) petitioned Warner Brothers to release the entire series on DVD. We spent years pushing for it. Then, slowly, they trickled it out. One disc (2-4 episodes) at a time. Myself and many other fans painfully shelled out for each of those discs. Finally somebody hit on the plan of releasing the entire season in a set. It sold like wildfire, and eventually every other show followed suit.

B-5 may not have been the absolute first show to be released in season packs. Even so, I remain convinced that we never would have seen the phenomenon develop if the fans of B-5 hadn’t pushed – and paid – for it.]

A few years later I rewatched the series with my wife Morgon, who had not yet seen it. There’s your 2.8.

A week or so ago I watched as Declan let out tweet after tweet, quoting a line here, referencing a scene there. Every single time I knew exactly what scene he was referring to. I’d read the tweets and think, “Dang, that show was so awesome!” Then I’d see a few more tweets and think it again – shortly thereafter followed by, “And he’s only on season one!

However, this particular tweet came through my feed over the weekend and I had to take a slight issue with it.

One of the greatest things about the show is that its creator, J. Michael Straczynski (known to fans as JMS because his name has, in his own words, “ten thousand consonants and no vowels”) was one of the first show creators to heavily interact with the fans via this newfangled thing called “the internet.” There are huge archives out there of all of his postings on Usenet and other forums related to the show. Like many, I read them in real-time.

And if you read them in real time, one thing that’s painfully obvious (though he never quite said it), is that the concept of the one radically changed during the course of the show. Given everything else he said, it had to have.

In the original 5 year Babylon 5 arc, Sinclair was clearly planned as the commander for all five seasons. It shocked everyone when they replaced him in season two. Then the official explanation came down: the studio wanted someone with “more charisma” in the lead. We all bought it. It sure sounded like something the studio would do. Lord knows they’ve done it before. It wasn’t until many years later that we found out the real truth: Michal O’Hare had a horrible degenerative brain disease that would eventually kill him. He couldn’t continue with the show.

JMS talked all the time in the forums about his “escape hatches.” Episodic television is a massive logistics nightmare, you see. Actors may not return. People can die… or get horrible degenerative brain diseases. So he’d written in a “way out” for each character. If something happened to the actor, they could switch the plot into a different direction. One of the best known is the example of the telepaths. Lyta Alexander was replaced by the telepath Talia Winters because the actress became unavailable in the dead space between the pilot episode and the filming of season one. But the actress who played Talia, it turns out, couldn’t get along with anybody on set. She was eventually fired… and the actress who played Lyta was available again, and magically worked back into the story. Genius, right?

I’m willing to bet that he used a lot more of these than we, the audience, ever knew. Babylon 5 was a massive project, on a scale never undertaken by anyone else – before or since. But the concept, storyline, and execution of “The One” was, by far, the clunkiest use of these trap doors.

Read between the lines and it’s pretty clear what the original intention was. Sinclair would command the station all the way through all five seasons. Almost all of Sheridan’s arc (perhaps slightly tweaked in some cases) would have happened to him, instead. Then, at the end, he would have vanished into space – just as Sinclair did. But instead of merely being taken away, he would’ve been taken back in time to become Valen.

Oh, wait, you say. Isn’t that last bit what actually happened? Yup. But it happened nearly three years early due to O’Hare’s declining health. And they had to split the character – he could no longer be the same character who had fulfilled every aspect of the original intent. At the same time, Sinclair had to be the character who went back to become Valen. Sheridan’s temperament simply didn’t fit the role. But more importantly, Sinclair had already been the one shown in possession of a Minbari soul.

And yet dialogue already recorded and aired – in one of Babylon 5’s best known episodes, no less – had well defined that there was a character of, “The One.” What to do?

JMS turned to religion, in a quite clever move, and created the “Trinity” of Sinclair/Delenn/Sheridan. It works. But honestly, it only ever barely worked. It sounded cheesy and clunky the moment it aired, and it still sounds cheesy and clunky twenty years later. I give him mad props for making this work. It had to have kept him up at night until he worked out the solution. If you want to talk about JMS and religion, stick to episodes like “Passing Through Gethsemane,” which is so deep and profound that it actually played a role in my conversion to Catholocism. For an atheist, he certainly gets and understands the best that religion has to offer.

But let’s not give him props here for more than he actually deserves. Babylon 5‘s “trinity” was a cheesy hack. A really good cheesy hack, but still a cheesy hack.


First Annual Dragon Award Nominees Announced!

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DragonConLogoThe nominees have been announced for the first annual Dragon Awards! You can hop over to the page and see the full list for yourself, but I’d like to call out my friends John C. Wright, Declan Finn, and Brian Niemeier on their nominations!

However, this does lead me to a serious conundrum. My friends Declan and Brian received nominations in the same category! Whom to vote for?

There is only one solution – an author gladiator contest!

Here’s how it works:

Each author picks a character of his choice from his nominated work. That character enters the arena, prepared to do battle with whatever creature I (as the GM) throw at them. Each character will face the same creatures. The author must write out his character’s response in 1000 words or less. The submission must show the final exchange of blows – but it must also leave off the results of that exchange. That is for the GM to decide. There is no time limit, except that if the authors wish to encourage fans to vote for them for the Dragon Awards… well, they only have until voting closes for that.

I will announce the creature here for each round. Each author will then e-mail me their submission (at their own pace), and it will face the judgment of the GM. I will judge entries based on creativity, over-the-topness (a plus, not a negative!), plausibility (only a minor part of the total score), and sheer awesomeness. We shall go best two out of three – so if there is a clear winner after round two, we won’t have a third. But I, for one, will be awfully disappointed if we have a clear winner after two rounds.

The authors shall own all rights to the submitted works except for granting me the right to post them here on this blog.

Let the games begin!


All Politics is Self Interest

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meBryan Caplan suggests that he is aware that normal human beings value group identities, yet he is still solidly in favor of open borders. Vox Day retorts that this is not so much a sign of logic as of other things. In his own words:

I don’t buy his answer. I have a much more logical one. Bryan Caplan grasps the massive political effects of group identity, but remains a cosmopolitan and open borders advocate because he sees it as being in the interest of the group with which he identifies.

I’m going to take the reply even a step further. I believe that more or less everybody ultimately subscribes to the politics of self interest. Some examples:

  • Some states in the US spend as much as $20,000 per student annually on public education. Every state spends at least $6,500 per student annually. New York spends enough to put each student through the best private school in my area. Utah, at the bottom, still spends nearly enough to send every child to the well regarded local Catholic school. Yet every single teacher I’ve ever met still supports higher spending on education.
  • I’ve never met a defense contractor who honestly supports lowering military spending.
  • Single women vote overwhelmingly for social programs that help unmarried mothers. Married women vote overwhelmingly against them.
  • Warren Buffet is a big proponent of raising taxes on the rich. He made the core of his fortune in insurance, predominantly by helping rich people structure their wealth to avoid taxes.
  • Bill Gates loves to push technology as the solution to everything.Almost all libertarians are successful people who can handle (and even thrive in) open, minimally regulated environments.

In every one of these cases you can make an argument in favor of the positions being adopted. Indeed, the people who fit the criteria laid out above almost universally consider themselves principled people. They always do make better arguments in support of their opinions. And yet their opinions always seem to match their own self interest.

I’ve even watched people completely change their (supposed) deepest political convictions as the group they identify with changes. Every time they’ll give you an argument about how they’ve evolved and grown as a person. Every time, their positions (both old and new) magically correlate to their life circumstances.

There are very few people out there who are truly principled in their beliefs. Very few. It is simply the way of the world.


My Best Day At The Gym Was The Day I Failed At Everything

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At least I didn't mess up as badly as this guy.

At least I didn’t mess up as badly as this guy.

Last Saturday morning I had one of my best days ever at the gym. It was also the day when I failed at everything.

Summer is drawing to an end. I’ve been working a new routine all summer, ever since I posted my last PRs, and I wanted to see how it had worked out. Unfortunately, I had also been away from the gym for the last two weeks. I’ve been extremely busy, primarily with the dojo merger. But things are settling down a bit, so I went in.

Pro tip: never try for personal records when you’ve been out of the gym for two weeks. The lifts I was going for were all only a few pounds higher than the PRs I posted in the spring. I failed all of them.

Every single one.

But it was still one of my best days ever at the gym.

I loaded up the bench press with 325, and called Phil over to spot me. Now, you need to know a few things about Phil. Phil is awesome. He’s that guy – the one that everybody at the gym knows. A firefighter and a former competitive weightlifter, he’s forgotten more about fitness than I’ll ever know. Even in his sixties he’s still considerably stronger than me. But he’s also got the best attitude of just about anybody I’ve ever met. He’s never met a stranger, and he loves to share his incredible wealth of knowledge. He’s always available to spot you if you need it.

I lifted the bar off the rack fine, and I lowered it well. Then I started the lift. Things were fine until I hit the zone of death – that area about a third of the way through the lift that requires maximum tricep contribution. I couldn’t quite push past it. Phil was there to barely – and I do mean barely – nudge me through. But most importantly, he was there with a huge grin and the encouragement, exclaiming profusely that I almost had it. His exact words:

“Next week you’re going to come in and nail that.”

Then I hit the squat rack. My last PR was 395. Saturday I tried for 405. I warmed up to it as always – first the bar, then I added “one plate” (gym slang for a 45 pound weight on each side) at a time. 45, 135, 225, 315. Just a few reps at each weight. Then I added the fourth plate. Again, I got the bar off the rack strong. Again, I lowered it well – strong, controlled, and deep. Then I made my fatal error. I paused at the bottom. A second later I knew I was done. I caught the eye of a fellow gym goer in the mirror and he jumped in to help me out. Our local YMCA is fantastic for having folks with great attitudes there to help.

But I was bummed out – really bummed. I almost had that one, too. But in the end, I wasn’t quite there. The iron doesn’t lie. I started re-racking the weights and preparing for my next lift (overhead press). That’s when two other young men approached. I’d never met these two before. They were young – probably college students – and in fantastic shape. And they were all smiles.

“Dude, that was awesome – four plates!

“We thought you had it, man!”

Phil caught me again later.

“We thought you were just showing off at first when you held it like that!” he laughed at me – but it was a good natured laugh. “After that, these guys loading up 2 plates just don’t look impressive anymore.”

I went on to fail my PR at the overhead press as well. I literally failed all of my PR lifts on Saturday.

But I left with pride. I left with respect – respect that I earned – and some real encouragement from total strangers. I’ve never felt better about a failure in my entire life.

Failure is part of the gym. It is part of the progression. You will never hit new records if you don’t try things that are hard. And if you try things that are hard, often you will fail. Embrace the failure. Love it. It’s the pathway to success.