Monthly Archives: April 2016

Orbital Insertion and Space Combat Tactics – Part 3

One issue that is almost universally ignored in science fiction these days is the role of orbital mechanics in space combat tactics. Science fiction space combat tends to be written or visualized as if the spacecraft involved have nearly infinite energy and thrust available. Occasionally this is due to the writers or visual effects technicians consciously simplifying things for viewers. Unfortunately, however, most of the time it’s simply due to the writers being woefully ignorant of the subject.

In Part 1 we showed that any reasonable account of space combat in near-to-medium-future hard sci-fi must account for orbital mechanics. In Part 2 we discussed that pros and cons of higher orbits and lower orbits. However, we assumed that both spacecraft occupied the same orbital plane and that they were both orbiting in the same direction. What happens if we change these assumptions?

The first obvious choice is to consider two spacecraft orbiting in opposite directions but in the same plane (aka a retrograde orbit). Assuming that the two spacecraft are orbiting at the same altitude (and hence the same velocity), these spacecraft will only encounter each other twice on each orbit, and then only briefly.

Let’s consider for a moment two spacecraft occupying a Low Earth Orbit – say around 250 miles (such as the International Space Station). Such an orbit makes a full cycle every 92 minutes, which means that the two spacecraft would only be able to engage each other once every 46 minutes. The duration of the engagement would depend upon the range of each vessel’s weaponry. It should be readily apparent that long range weapons are of great advantage in almost all space encounters. They clearly show their advantage here.

In this particular scenario, weapons with a high burst rate but a long down time become tactically useful. For example, an energy weapon that requires a long time to charge but packs a major punch when fired might actually be practical in this case – provided it can be charged in less time than it takes to encounter the adversary again.

Likewise, shielding that holds up well to burst fire but doesn’t do well under sustained bombardment would be very useful here. The real world offers scant examples of this, but science fiction is littered with various energy shields that exhibit this exact characteristic. Just like our hypothetical energy weapon above, these shields could recharge in between engagements and provide protection.

A military ship equipped with these kinds of weaponry, then, might deliberately choose to enter a retrograde orbit relative to its opponent. On the other hand, a vessel with poor burst capability but built to take a beating might prefer to match orbits and slug it out.

Polar Orbit
Polar Orbit

Alternatively, our spacecraft might choose to enter an orbit with an entirely different angle of declination compared to our opponent. The extreme example would be to have one craft in a polar orbit while the other vessel occupies an equatorial orbit. In this case, the orbits would be angled at 90 degrees to one another.

It is critical to observe that even though the orbits intersect each other twice on every pass, due to orbital timing the spacecraft themselves might never actually encounter each other on these orbits. This is true whether the relative angle is 90 degrees or 1 degree.

This kind of configuration would favor a spacecraft that has both plenty of fuel for maneuvering and a very advanced navigational computer. Very careful maneuvering – consisting of burns to speed up and slow down ones orbit (and by consequence, raise and lower the orbit) could precisely control the timing of the orbital intersections. Depending upon the goals of the maneuvering craft, this could be used to either ensure that the two craft do meet or to ensure that they don’t. Of course, if the adversary also has high maneuvering capability and desires the opposite goal then the game is now on to see which captain can outsmart the other!

Equatorial Orbit
Equatorial Orbit

This kind of scenario absolutely requires a strong navigation computer. What you will not see here is the typical Hollywood scene of a captain standing on the bridge ordering a maneuvering burn “now!” Instead, humans would instruct the computer on the desired goals and the computer would control the timing of the burns. Human beings would not be able to manually control the burns so as to achieve such delicate timing.

This scenario would also favor two distinct kinds of vessels. Spacecraft with major weaponry designed to disable or destroy an opponent instantly or very quickly would find this kind of approach advantageous. Likewise, poorly armed but highly maneuverable spacecraft would find this configuration an ideal way to avoid encountering an enemy altogether. Although there are many others who might adopt this, one might find it useful to think of the first group as “pirates” and the second group as “smugglers.”

Finally, we must also consider highly elliptical orbits. Like angled orbits, elliptical orbits alter the timing and locations when two spacecraft would actually encounter one another. The timings and breakdowns become very complex. Are both orbits elliptical or is one circular? Are the two elliptical orbits aligned or are they angled with each other? Or are they in the same plane, but skewed? The possibilities quickly become very complex, but the considerations are essentially the same as discussed above with orbits of differing angles. Once more, an advanced navigation computer becomes essential to even have a prayer of tactically controlling the encounter.

In Part 1 we showed that we must account for orbital mechanics. In Part 2 we discussed orbits of differing altitude and velocity. Here in Part 3 we’ve discussed retrograde orbits and non-aligned orbits. In Part 4 we’ll discuss maneuvering itself in more detail.

Orbital Insertion and Space Combat Tactics

Orbital Insertion and Space Combat Tactics – Part 2

One issue that is almost universally ignored in science fiction these days is the role of orbital mechanics in space combat tactics. Science fiction space combat tends to be written or visualized as if the spacecraft involved have nearly infinite energy and thrust available. Occasionally this is due to the writers or visual effects technicians consciously simplifying things for viewers. Unfortunately, however, most of the time it’s simply due to the writers being woefully ignorant of the subject.

Figure 1
Figure 1

We left Part 1 with a discussion of the lunar transit orbit shown in Figure 1. Specifically, we showed that we must account for orbital mechanics. Here in Part 2 we will examine specific orbital decisions and how they effect our space combat tactics.

Transit Speed is our baseline. A spacecraft traveling through this orbit at Transit Speed will, left alone, continue into a “figure eight” orbit. A civilian spacecraft traveling an energy efficient path might adopt something like this approach. Depending on the goals of the civilian craft, it would most likely follow the standard Apollo model described in Part 1 and execute a burn somewhere around Point 4 to transition into a solid lunar orbit.

Keep in mind that these positions are relative and in constant flux. An enemy spacecraft in lunar orbit could be at any point along that orbit. However, that position is eminently predictable for a non-maneuvering spacecraft. If we know its position at time t, we can calculate its position at time t + x. But predictable doesn’t mean convenient. It may well be that the timing of our own orbital insertion coincides with the enemy craft being positions near Points 5 and 7. In this case, our military craft would also have to execute a burn to insert itself into a true lunar orbit as well or else it would never actually encounter the enemy vessel.

The timing of this burn carries a great deal of significance, however, and it’s greatly dependent upon our spacecraft’s velocity along the transit path through Point 3. At Transit Speed or above, we’ll have to execute a breaking burn to slow the craft down. At Low Speed, we’ll have to execute an acceleration burn to speed the craft up.

Beyond that, however, is another consideration. Merely inserting ourselves into the same orbit as our adversary isn’t enough. This point is key: any two spacecraft traveling in the same orbit are necessarily traveling at the same velocity. If their velocities are not the same, their orbits will change. This is counter-intuitive to many, but it is a necessary mathematical consequence of orbital mechanics. The military consequence of this is that once two spacecraft are in the same orbit, their relative positions on that orbit will never change.

Suppose for example that I insert myself into lunar orbit at Point 4. At the time I insert into orbit, my opponent is at Point 8. Unless one of us executes another maneuver, we will continue to orbit in that same relative position to each other – separated by more than a third of the circumference of the orbit – until our orbits decay. We will never encounter each other.

There are two solutions to this problem. The first is to adjust our velocity during the transit through Point 3. Speeding up or slowing down here will adjust the timing of our arrival, and by timing it appropriately, we can then ensure that we enter orbit close enough to our adversary to engage. The downside to this approach is that our opponent will see us coming and has a chance to adjust his own orbit to throw our timing off.

The other option is to enter a higher or lower orbit than our adversary. Here, we face another trade off that has tactical significance. Just like a modern air battle, we will find that altitude and speed are our friends. All else being equal, a higher altitude orbit is better. Likewise, all else being equal a faster orbit is better.

Unfortunately, all else is not equal and we can’t have both. The mathematics of orbital mechanics is a brutal dictator that we cannot escape. The catch is that absolute velocity and relative speed of motion are not the same things in orbit. If I move into a lower orbit, my absolute velocity will be increased. This is necessary to offset the higher force of gravity at the lower altitude. I will actually complete an orbit in less time than my higher orbiting adversary. The reason is apparent: even though I am actually traveling more slowly, the distance I must cover to complete an orbit is far less than that of a higher orbit.

As an example, the International Space Station orbits in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) at roughly two hundred and fifty miles and completes an orbit in 92 minutes. By comparison, a geostationary satellite orbits at an altitude of roughly twenty-two thousand miles and completes one orbit in 24 hours.

If I want to catch up to my adversary, then, one solution is to insert myself into a significantly lower orbit than him, come around behind him, and then raise back up into his orbit. This requires inserting myself at the correct orbit point, decelerating (perhaps substantially, depending upon my transit speed) to enter the low orbit, and then accelerating again at the correct time to enter his orbit.

This maneuver has distinct advantages over simply re-timing my insertion into his own orbit. First, it’s less predictable. That means that our adversary has a harder time responding to it. Second, it leaves us with more leeway to correct for any evasive maneuvers our opponent does do. Third, assuming that we’re orbiting in the same direction, it allows me to come up behind him. Yes, in space he can easily turn to face me without sacrificing his orbit.

But that maneuver does actually sacrifice some maneuverability. This is one reason, among many, that the battleships I described in my story “The Fourth Fleet” had main drive engines on both the fore and the aft of the ship. In addition to being able to accelerate or decelerate without turning, the ships maintained an ability to change to either a higher or a lower orbit without turning. Designing a craft this way would be hugely expensive, much like today’s supercarriers, but it would have huge military advantages.

The final maneuver that we could attempt would be to insert myself into a higher orbit than my adversary and let him catch up to us. Then we could descend into his orbit to engage. With a typical ship configuration, however, this could mean letting him approach our rear or sacrificing orbital maneuverability. However, the configuration I just described above could easily handle this without such a sacrifice. In a situation where, say, I was inserting myself into orbit at Point 4 while my opponent was at Point 5, this might allow me to engage him much faster than otherwise.

This puts my opponent is a position of having a higher apparent relative speed, but it leaves me in a higher altitude orbit and with a higher actual velocity, both of which might be advantageous if used properly. One way that a higher orbit is tactically advantageous is that projectile or missile weapons don’t have to accelerate to reach our opponent – instead they would decelerate, and correct timing might mean that they don’t even have to do that. Kinetic weapons (bullets, shells, railguns, etc) might especially benefit from this, as the higher absolute velocity of a higher orbit would impart a higher raw kinetic energy into our projectile. Meanwhile, these same factors would work against our opponent, reducing the kinetic energy of his projectile weapons and requiring extra acceleration for them to even reach our orbital altitude.

As noted above, the exact way in which these factors trade off tactically is dependent upon the design of both our own spacecraft and our adversary’s. In some ways, we can design the craft to neutralize disadvantages of one position or another (energy weapons, such as lasers, would not suffer from the kinetic energy or acceleration problems imposed by a lower orbit). We can also design our spacecraft to amplify the benefits of one position or another (heavy use of railguns, for instance, could capitalize the benefits of a ship designed to operate at a higher orbit), although we must keep in mind that this would also have the effect of amplifying the drawbacks of poor positioning.

In Part 1, we spelled out why we must account for orbital mechanics in space combat tactics. Here in Part 2, we saw how decisions of particular orbits have a large effect on those tactics. In Part 3 we’ll examine some alternative orbits and see how those can drastically alter the tactical situation.

Orbital Insertion and Space Combat Tactics

Orbital Insertion and Space Combat Tactics – Part 1

One issue that is almost universally ignored in science fiction these days is the role of orbital mechanics in space combat tactics. Science fiction space combat tends to be written or visualized as if the spacecraft involved have nearly infinite energy and thrust available. Occasionally this is due to the writers or visual effects technicians consciously simplifying things for viewers. Unfortunately, however, most of the time it’s simply due to the writers being woefully ignorant of the subject.

There are a few cases where orbital mechanics can be safely ignored. Obviously, they can be ignored for atmospheric combat. Modern science fiction fans are intuitively familiar with atmospheric combat thanks to watching hours worth of dogfights in film and television. Although many of the details would make a hardened fighter pilot squirm, our intuitions of the basic physics of how these fights occur more or less conforms to reality. They can also be safely ignored when we’re discussing ships traveling in interstellar space (although there are other issues there, mainly the massive velocities of the spacecraft themselves). And in some cases of two “mother ships” occupying very near orbits, we can handwave away orbital mechanics if the fight is focused on “fighter ships” surrounding them. The mechanics still don’t go away, but for the purposes of entertainment we can safely pretend that they do.

Otherwise, orbital mechanics are crucial to space combat tactics. The definitive primer on orbital mechanics for science fiction writers is Ken Burnside’s magnificent essay “The Hot Equations.” Anybody looking to study the matter seriously should start there. Rather than retread ground he has already covered, my intention is to break new ground and discuss some of the implications of the physics discussed by Mr. Burnside.

My endeavor here will be far more modest in scope than Mr. Burnside’s. I wish to discuss merely one element of an entire tactical encounter: orbital insertion. Mr. Burnside has already lain much of the groundwork that we’ll need. Rather than walk through all of his logic, I wish to begin merely by recapping some of his relevant conclusions.

  1. Change in velocity (delta-V) is a finite resource, and it’s of huge importance militarily.
  2. Hiding a spacecraft (stealth technology in space) is essentially impossible because of the heat generated by the thing (even under minimal power) compared to the unrelenting background cold of space.
  3. Because that heat is detectable as infrared light, range of detection is limited really only by the strength of the sensors. In other words, sufficient sensors can detect a spacecraft at a range close enough to infinity as to not matter, militarily speaking.
  4. Thrust is necessary to effect delta-V. In other words, if a spacecraft wishes to alter course, it must emit thrust of some kind.
  5. Thrust is detectable. If that spacecraft changes course, it can’t hide the fact from its adversaries.
  6. You can’t make a battleship look like a rowboat in space. The heat signatures will give away the game.

Let’s begin by synthesizing these ideas together into their logical conclusions. Orbital mechanics require that course corrections (requiring detectable thrust) be made, very often at distances that are detectable in time for adversaries to effectively counter-maneuver. Let’s look at why this is.

Figure 1

Figure 1 represents a lunar transfer orbit of the type used by the Apollo missions. Keep in mind that this is, in space terms, a small distance to travel. Nevertheless, it can illustrate many of our points quite nicely.

For those unfamiliar with the basics of orbital mechanics, here’s how it basically worked for Apollo. The circles represent the Earth (the larger circle in the lower left) and the moon (the smaller circle in the upper right). The Apollo spacecraft launched on board a giant Saturn V rocket from Point 1 and first entered into a Low Earth Orbit (LEO), represented by the circle around the Earth.

At the appropriate time and place – Point 2 – the Apollo spacecraft executed another engine burn. Here on Earth, that would have been equivalent to simply pointing the car in a given direction and then hitting the gas. The car goes straight until you hit something or run out of gas. Space is different. The spacecraft goes straight until either you hit something or some gravity source operates on it. In this case, the gravity source is the moon – and rather than going straight, the Apollo craft was now on a “figure eight” orbit that orbited both the Earth and the moon. In Figure 1, that orbit would go from Point 2 to Point 4, around the moon to Point 8, then back to the Earth at Point 9 and around to Point 2 again. Assuming no orbital decay (which is a big assumption, and very likely incorrect) it would perform this orbit again and again and again. Apollo 13 actually did almost exactly that, performing only mild course correction burns, in order to get the astronauts home as quickly as possible after the spacecraft was damaged.

But Apollo 13 wasn’t designed to do that. The intention was to do what Apollos 8, 10, and 11 had done, and what the later Apollo missions would do. In the successful missions, another “braking” burn was performed at Point 4 on the chart to slow the spacecraft down. Doing so altered the orbit, and transferred it into a pure lunar orbit – the circle you see around the moon. But without the burn, you get the figure eight orbit.

Had the Apollo craft been traveling at different speeds, the results would have been radically different. Just a bit faster or slower, and the craft still would’ve traveled past the moon and swung around back toward Earth – but its aim would have been off. It would have missed the Earth, reached escape velocity again, and been slung off into interplanetary space.

If it had gone a lot faster, it wouldn’t have even swung back toward Earth. Its path would have arced a bit, thanks to the moon’s gravity, and then it would have just kept going – once more headed for interplanetary space. Had it been going fast enough, the moon’s gravity would barely have even warped its trajectory.

The speed of the spacecraft during the transit stage (roughly point 3 on the chart) is of critical importance. Let us consider six categories of speed:

  1. Very Low Speed – the spacecraft is unable to escape Earth orbit and never transits to the moon at all.
  2. Low Speed – the spacecraft does not have enough velocity to enter a full figure eight orbit, and will likely crash into the moon.
  3. Transit Speed – the spacecraft is paced exactly right for a figure-eight orbit.
  4. High Speed – the spacecraft will swing around the moon and return, but at too high speed to re-enter Earth orbit
  5. Very High Speed – the spacecraft will have its trajectory warped by the moon, but will continue beyond it rather than orbiting it at all.
  6. Ludicrous Speed – the moon’s gravity has an imperceptible effect on the spacecraft’s trajectory.

For our purposes, we can ignore Very Low Speed, as it won’t even allow us to maneuver to fight an enemy spacecraft near the moon. We can also safely ignore Ludicrous Speed for all “hard” science fiction scenarios. Any technology that could be built on currently understood physics or engineering can neither accelerate to Ludicrous Speed nor decelerate from it in anything we would consider a reasonable, militarily significant time.

From a military standpoint in a reasonable hard sci-fi scenario, we must therefore assume a spacecraft operating at Low Speed, Transit Speed, High Speed or Very High Speed. We must also assume that the craft will ultimately need to either a) match orbit with an enemy spacecraft in order to fight it, b) make a flyby close enough to launch a barrage at the enemy, or c) enter an eccentric orbit designed to close with the enemy more than once for repeated barrages.

In nearly all cases, this will require our hero spacecraft to make further burns and expend delta-V. The speed at which the craft makes the transit and its decisions of when, where and how quickly to expend delta-V has massive tactical implications. Writers of hard science fiction – and potential future space combat officers – would do well to keep these in mind.

In part 2 we will begin to examine the ramifications of these decisions.

Orbital Insertion and Space Combat Tactics

Strength Training Works

barbellLast night I finished my first 4 week rotation of the 5/3/1 strength training program (very slightly modified to match my schedule).

One thing I like about the program: the deloading week. Though hardly unique to the 5/3/1 program, I’ve found it to be extremely useful. I’d been reading about it lately and planning to incorporate it anyway, even before trying this program. Previously, I’d simply taken a random night or a random week off. After my first week of deloading, I think I like it a lot better. The idea is that you lose less of your gains than you would from a week fully off, but you still ramp everything down enough to really give your body a chance to recover.

In this case, the lifts were basically dropped down to roughly half of what I’d been doing for the previous three weeks – and that’s where things got interesting. I commented to Morgon on both deloading nights that I hadn’t lifted that light in years. To check it, I dredged up an old blog post from a defunct blog. The results shocked even me. From almost exactly five years ago (4 years and 11 months to the day):

Squats: 5×275 (up from 5×265 last week)
Deadlifts: 5×135 (up from 5×125)
Pull-ups: (three sets of: 4, 2.5, 2.5; kind of lame, but significantly up from 3, 2.5, and 1 last week and WAY up from 1,1 only a few weeks ago)
Bench Press: 3×190 (up from 3×165 last week, which was actually <em>down</em> from 3×185 the week before)

I didn’t do pull-ups last night, so I don’t have a good comparison there [side note: I need to work those back into my routine]. As for the others… here’s what I did last night on my deloading night:

Bench: 5×115, 5×145, 5×175
Squats: 5×140, 5×180, 5×215
Deadlifts: 5×155, 5×195, 5×230

On both the Bench Press and the Deadlift, my new “very, very light” night numbers still show me pulling numbers comparable to what I was proud of five years ago. One small caveat: deadlifts were new to me at the time. My numbers from them were almost embarrassingly low.

Proof positive that resistance based strength training works.

As for the 5/3/1 program itself, I’ll report back after a few more cycles through. One month simply isn’t a good test.

Congratulations Dr. Jerry Pournelle!

Hearty congratulations are in order this morning for Dr. Jerry Pournelle! Dr. Pournelle has been awarded the Robert A. Heinlein Award by the National Space Society! I still can’t believe this guy picked my story, “The Fourth Fleet,” for his anthology There Will Be War: Volume X – but I am forever grateful for it. (H/T to the publisher of that anthology, Vox Day).

Acclaimed Science Fiction Author Dr. Jerry Pournelle Wins the National Space Society Robert A. Heinlein Award

Jerry PournelleThe National Space Society takes great pleasure in announcing that its 2016 Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award has been won by acclaimed science fiction author Dr. Jerry Pournelle. This prestigious award selected by an international vote of NSS members will be presented to Dr. Jerry Pournelle at the 2016 International Space Development Conference (ISDC). The public is welcome to attend the conference and see the award presentation at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The ISDC will run from May 18-22, 2016.

About Dr. Jerry Pournelle

This award recognizes Dr. Jerry Pournelle’s many years of support for space science, exploration, development and settlement and his close association with Robert Heinlein. He was active in the NSS predecessor, the L5 Society, during its early years. Jerry served as co-chair of the very first ISDC, NSS secretary, and as a Board member.

Jerry was also Chair of the Citizen’s Advisory Council on National Space Policy. This group was active during the 1980s and was one of the most effective groups promoting specific space related policy positions at that time. Robert Heinlein was also an active member of that group. The group’s early support of missile defense eventually led to the perceived need for an inexpensive launcher. The briefing that he and two others gave to then Vice President Quayle was instrumental in getting the approval of the DC-X program, overcoming government skepticism about the project. Jerry was present at White Sands on September 11, 1993 when the first large rocket, the DC-X vehicle, was reused.

Jerry has consistently supported the vision of self-sustaining human settlements in space and on planetary surfaces, and as part of a free, spacefaring civilization, which is at the very heart of the space movement. Jerry’s work as a science fiction author, focusing on science fiction with realistic physics, has contributed to a better understanding of the limitations and the abilities of human space operations. Few have made such a rich contribution to these fields.

About the Robert A. Heinlein Award

This award is presented once every two years for lifetime achievement in promoting the goal of a free, spacefaring civilization. The winner is decided by the vote of the entire NSS membership, not by the awards committee. The award consists of a miniature signal cannon, on a mahogany base with a black granite inlay and a brass plaque as shown. The award concept came from Robert Heinlein’s classic book TheMoon is a Harsh Mistress. Some of the early award winners include Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Carl Sagan, Neil Armstrong and Elon Musk. More information about this award and the past winners is at:

Does Ted Cruz Have Asperger’s?

Locutor is hardly the first person I’ve heard posit this theory. My coworker in the cube next to me at work insists the same thing. I have an alternate theory: I think Ted Cruz has Asperger’s Syndrome – or, as they call it these days, High Functioning Autism.


  • Ted Cruz’s body language always seems just a little off. It doesn’t fit quite right and people don’t know what to make of it.
  • Cruz has almost negative natural charisma.
  • Everything Cruz does comes across as calculated rather than genuine – as if he had to learn how to interact with people.
  • Every now and then Cruz spectacularly miscalculates how his actions come across, getting it so wrong that everyone is left scratching their heads.
  • Like him or hate him, judged by raw IQ he’s quite probably the smartest of the candidates who ran this year.
  • He’s well known (and massively disliked) for his lack of social skills.

Can I make the claim definitively? No. It would require an interview with a trained psychologist for a definitive diagnosis. But I’ve been fairly convinced for a while.


Nate Silver Admits that Trump Doesn’t Need 50%

For months,’s Nate Silver insisted that Donald Trump couldn’t win the GOP nomination because he couldn’t reach 51% of the GOP vote. I pointed out on more than one occasion, both here and on Twitter, that this was not the case. I wouldn’t say that Silver blew it off. More likely, with me being a relative nobody and him being somewhat famous, he just plain didn’t notice.

Last week, however, Silver tacitly admitted what I’ve been saying all along: Trump doesn’t have to get 50% in order to win.

Trump’s lowest Minimum Winning Vote Share was in New Hampshire, where he could have gotten away with just 19.5 percent of the vote and still beat John Kasich.1 On Super Tuesday, Trump’s average Minimum Winning Vote Share was just 31.2 percent.

But as I said, it’s been increasing steadily. It was 37.4 percent on average in the five states to vote on March 15. And it’s averaged 40.3 percent in the three states to vote since then, including 42.6 percent in Wisconsin

While there will continue to be some variance from state to state, Trump is now usually going to have to be in the 40s to win.

The emphasis was added by me.

What Mr. Silver has not done, however, is acknowledge that he made this mistake and that it was incorrect. I find it rather ingenuous how he writes this article as if the low percentages Trump needs to win are something he was aware of all along. Either he wasn’t aware of it and was legitimately assuming that Trump needed 50% when he claimed it or he knew it all along and he was deliberately writing articles with an anti-Trump bias. The first situation is moderately embarrassing but easily corrected by simply noting his error. The latter would be outright journalistic malpractice.

For the record, I believe the answer is the former. As surprising as it might be, given that this sort of thing seems to be his specialty (and given that it’s the kind of thing people with Asperger’s are usually right on top of), I believe he just made a mistake.

Lest I come across as hypocritical, I hereby acknowledge that Trump can no longer win with just 30% of the vote. However, I also point out that even Mr. Silver above notes that back when I made that statement, it was correct.

What’s changed? Mainly that a lot of voting has already occurred. But the other huge thing is that the political establishment – on both sides of the aisle – has literally pulled out every trick they’ve got (dirty and otherwise) to try and stop Trump. Whether they will succeed or not remains to be seen, but they are clearly having an effect. Finally, Trump has also stumbled a bit on his own. That was always a possibility.

Even so, Trump doesn’t need 50% in order to win. He never has, and he still doesn’t.

OPEN SUBMISSIONS: Superversive SF/F Short Stories Themed on “Family Devotion”

Update 5/1/16: Submissions are now CLOSED. Thanks to everyone who submitted!


Silver Empire is now accepting submissions for our next superversive science fiction and fantasy anthology! Our last anthology, MAKE DEATH PROUD TO TAKE US, focused on “manly courage.” The theme this time around is “family devotion.” Submission guidelines follow below:


  • It should be a short story of roughly 3,000 to 15,000 words. These are loose guidelines. If the story is strong, we’ll accept stuff outside of it. And I’m not going to quibble over a few words if it’s 2,998 or 15,011 words or something like that. But that’s about the size we’re shooting for.
  • It should be a science fiction or fantasy story.
  • It does *NOT* need to be written brand new for this anthology. However, if it’s been previously published anywhere else then we do need to verify that you still retain the rights for us to republish it.
  • We’re targeting a May release date. Submissions should be in by the end of April.
  • The theme of this anthology is “Family Devotion.”
  • The anthology is deliberately superversive. Thus, we’re looking for serious submissions. Satire and Parody are ok *IF* they take the theme seriously.
  • Payment will be in royalties – no advances. The royalty rates will be relatively high, but our sales volumes will likely be relatively low. Exact rates will depend on how many stories end up in the anthology but will follow a simple formula based on word count (50% of sales sent to authors, prorated to each author based on the word count of the story compared to the word count of the anthology as a whole).
  • Stories that are part of a larger world or series that you’re developing are perfectly fine – even if previous or later stories are not published through us.
  • Submissions should be in Word format (doc or docx is fine).
  • At this time we’re ONLY looking for submissions for this particular anthology – but we will be opening up for more in the very near future.
  • Submissions can be e-mailed to