Friday, April 18, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: The "New Kind of War" Edition

Greetings from Albany!

I'm up here for a class, and I've got about an hour.  Let's hope I can get Five Things down.

1.  It gets cold in Albany.
We had seventy-degree weather over the weekend and into Monday in the City, and it was still reasonably warm, if rainy, when I got into town.  But that all changed Tuesday night.

I was lucky I still had my ice scraper in my car.

2.  Putin's New Kind of War (Slate.Com)
"This war involves not soldiers but local thugs and volunteers, some linked to the ex-president, Viktor Yanukovych, some from criminal gangs, and some who mistakenly think they are fighting for some form of benign local autonomy.

They are being led not by officers in uniform but by men from Russian military intelligence and special operations forces, some wearing camouflage without insignia, some communicating with “activists” by telephone. They are supplied with Russian logistics and a few Russian automatic weapons, but not tanks or planes. There is no “shock and awe” bombing campaign, just systematic, organized attacks on police stations, city councils, airports."

It's asymmetric warfare waged by a super-power.  Guerrilla war where a standard invasion seems more practical militarily but less palatable politically.  Also worth noting: this tactic only works when you have a lot of soldiers who speak the language well and can pass for locals.

3.  Ukrainian Security Forces Kill 3 Pro-Russian Protesters (NY Times)
Of course, the problem with the kind of invasion described above is that the other guy may just decide to commit conventional forces and kick your ass.

"Ukrainian security forces killed three pro-Russian protesters, wounded 13 and took 63 captive in a firefight overnight in the eastern city of Mariupol, the interim Ukrainian interior minister said on Thursday. The clash was the most lethal so far in the east of the country."

After all, a guerrilla war is usually only the answer when you're hopelessly outmatched and can't possibly survive a direct confrontation.  Why?  Because it involves ceding control of territory save for in those little enclaves where you can maintain some vestige of support.  This is not the way to go if you're trying to maintain some kind of logistical train or overall command and control in the region.

Anyway, it wouldn't surprise me if we now see some kind of conventional response--escalation--from the Russian Army.  In fact, this may well be the event that the Russians have been waiting for.

4.  Agents of SHIELD Recap (with the Guardians!)
It's amazing how much Marvel's Agents of SHIELD has improved since they turned Brett Dalton's Agent Ward heel.  I've been saying from the beginning that Dalton was the problem, and I stand by that statement.

Dalton makes a shitty babyfaced hero.  He's too good-looking to play a stone-cold killer who's seen too much but somehow retained his soul.  The guy just doesn't look haunted enough to bring that off.  However.  He is excellent as a heel who doesn't give a fuck.  That manipulative bad-guy thing is really working for him, and right now, he's carrying the rest of the cast on his back.

I'll also say that this week's episode had the best scene of the season so far, when Clark Greggson's Agent Coulson finally broke down and started to lose his faith in SHIELD and in everything else that he's spent his life defending.  He died for these people, and now he's stuck out in some Canadian wilderness wondering what it's all meant.  That was terrific.  It's unfortunate that ABC spoiled the reveal in the show's previews the previous week, but what can you do?  Even with that, the scene was still great.

Lot's of people have been saying that SHIELD has been getting better.  I'll admit that it has been, but this is the week that they actually won me over.  This week, I didn't think the show was just better.  I thought it was actually good.

And then, too, there's this:

I have this theory that the Agents of SHIELD are going to wind up in space before the season's over.

5.  Writing Update
I put down about three thousand words on "The Crown of Pluto" this week and finally brought Chapter 15 to a close.  Sneax actually has the Crown in her hot little hands, and events are--at last--starting to come to a head.

At some point today I have to figure out how to put the big fight scene together, how to make it seem hopeless for our heroes, and then how to get them out of the jam in the most miserable way possible.  This next scene is also Legion Commander Atticus Antoninus's big moment, and with that in mind, I've been considering killing off one of our heroes' major supporting characters, but that's not actually decided yet.  It's not in the outline, but it mght simplify the story going forward, and in any event, it's important to show Atticus as a real threat.  Having him cross off one of the party members would accomplish that nicely.

Eh.  We'll just have to see how it plays out.

Anyway, for those keeping score at home, "Crown of Pluto" is now at 47,000 words and counting, which is just a touch longer than "The Priest of Loki" was when it finished.  That brings the whole book to something like 122K words right now.  I figure "Crown" is probably gonna run another 30K words, bringing it up to something like 75K words all by itself, and that'll make it about half of the book.

  • "Sneax and Elaina Emboo vs. the Fire Elf" runs about 20K.
  • "The Caravan" runs 3K.
  • "The Priest of Loki" runs about 45K.
  • "Elaina Emboo: A Wizard of Wanderhaven" runs about 8K.
  • "Crown of Pluto" runs about 75K.
  • And then there's the Foreword and some appendices.
What's interesting about that is that each story has its own arc, but the book as whole doesn't break down into acts neatly along story lines.  Which is to say that Act 1 runs all the way up through the end of Chapter 5 of "Priest of Loki", and Act 2 doesn't end until Chapter 14 of "Crown of Pluto".  Moreover, the end of Act 2 in the book as a whole doesn't line up with the end of Act 2 in the "Crown of Pluto"...

To put it another way, I'm a little concerned that this structure (or lack thereof) is going to confound reader expectations badly.  Traditionally, "Priest of Loki" should have been the longest story, and it should have ended on a downer-type cliffhanger in much the same way that The Empire Strikes Back does.  

But that's not exactly what happens.  Yeah, "Loki" ends with a little cliffhanger, but things don't really start coming apart until we hit the beach in "Crown of Pluto".

Well.  A hundred people max are gonna read this book, so I suppose it doesn't matter.  But I still want it to be the best book that it can be, and that's why I'm concerned.  

That's all I've got.

Tri Club practice is a long run.  After that, I'm not sure what we have going on, but hopefully it'll be awesome.

Have a great weekend.


  1. I can't believe I found a place on the web that talks triathlon AND comic books (et al.) My favourite part of that ep of Agents was Patton Oswalt - the way he'd alternate between overly casual and deadly serious was hilarious/awesome. I missed that GotG trailer; I'm not big on the comic (or cosmic stuff in general), but when they played up the more comedic parts I got a little interested. This last one makes it look more like a pure-action flick.

    1. Hey thanks, Axel. And welcome!

      I LOVED the DnA version of the Guardians and can't recommend it strongly enough. It's up on Comixology, and it's TERRIFIC. Definitely my favorite "cosmic" Marvel thing of all time. While we're at it, I also really liked Dan Abnett's WARHAMMER stuff (he's the "D" in DnA), though I've only read the first mega-volume.

      What distance do you usually race?