Libertycon 31!

As longtime readers of this blog know, I regularly attend Libertycon, a small sci-fi convention out of Chattanooga.  Unlike most cons I attend (where I allegedly perform Jedi mind tricks, erm, vend), Libertycon is primarily a professional get together / family reunion.  I met my first guest blogger there, got invited into an anthology, and generally get up to all sorts of shenanigans with folks who are fellow authors.

This last year I had to skip the Con due to that pesky dissertation problem.  This year was the first time in decades the Con had moved to a new venue, the Marriott in downtown Chattanooga.  The journey down was a little, um, interesting (video tilts the right way once you hit play):

As I had not been sure I was going to make the Con, I had planned to just attend as “just another guy.”  Well, that lasted until I got signed in, looked at the back of my badge, and realized I was scheduled for several events.  Whoops!

The first of these was Chris Kenned and Mark Wandrey’s Four Horsemen Author’s Panel for all the participants in their anthologies as well as those who write full novels in the larger 4HU Universe.  As readers of this blog may recall, I’m in A Few Credits More.  I will hopefully be able to get Chris a story for the second trio of universe anthologies, as it’s a fun playground to mess around in for an old Battletech fan.  I stuck around for the mass autograph signing and also jaw jacking with my fellow authors.  It was great to see Kacey Ezell, whose alternate history Minds of Men I really enjoyed listening to.  So much so, I’ve hired her narrator for Aries’ Red Sky, with the intent being to have the print, Kindle, and audio book versions arrive within weeks of one another.  We’ll see how that goes.

The rest of Saturday was spent in panels on Space Opera, Retro-Futurist Alternate History, and what’s going on in indie publishing.  I had intended to just be a bystander for the Space Opera panel, but the always lovely Sarah and Dan Hoyt weren’t having any of that.  (Yes, it says something about how indomitable Sarah is that she can basically motivate the crowd to force me to the table.  “I’m here on vaaaaaaaccaaaatttttiiiooonnn…”) Retro-Futurist Alternate History was hosted by Louis Antoinelli, and a good time was had by all (even if I got called a pessimist at one point).  Finally, I got to sit in on a “Masters of Military Science Fiction” panel that included Chuck Gannon, David Drake, David Weber, and John Ringo.  Lots of ideas flowing out of that one, and it was timely in that it’s made me think of several things currently going on as I edit Aries’.  (Yes, I know, I should explain those things, but they involve spoilers.)

All too soon, it was Sunday morning.  Given that I was trying to not have to take leave on Monday, I had to hot foot out of Chattanooga earlier than I wanted.  Always hard leaving friends that are like family, and it speaks volumes about the con’s atmosphere that all 750 memberships sold out in under 6 hours once sales opened.  Already looking forward to next year when I’ll spend entirely too much on T-shirts and have my muses reinforced by my friends’ crazy ideas.

Otters!

In support of Aries Red Sky (available here), I had some work commissioned by A.R. Crebs.  A.R. is a fellow author as well as an artist, and I’ve mentioned her before when discussing the system maps for the book’s interior.  Introducing Oscar and Ollie, a pair of otters who are the subject of a 31st Century children’s show (of which more will be written later):

 

Harpoon Otter 18x24Ray Gun Otter

Hope you find these two images amusing.  They serve the basis for the unit patch for VF(S)-10, the “Obstinate Otters.”

A Quick Note

Greetings all, it’s been awhile.  Lots of good news, and there will be a longer newsletter (subscribe here).  But first, three items of major import:

As of 11 May 2018 I have received my doctorate in U.S. History from Kansas State University.  Here is one picture of me getting hooded by my committee chair, Dr. Don Mrozek:

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The next piece of news is that I will be at Smallville Comic Con in Hutchinson, KS on 23-24 June 2018.  We will be at Booth #44:

Smallville Map

Last but far from least, the next Vergassy Universe novel, Aries Red Sky, is available for pre-order from Amazon.  Feel free to pick up a copy so that it will download on its release date, 24 July.  Also, if you prefer audiobooks, a producer has been hired for the book with an expected completion date of 10 August on ACX.

Aries Red Sky Kindle Cover.jpg

That’s all for now!  Hope you are all doing and have a chance to pick the book up.

Star System Maps and a Shout Out

The next novel, Aries Red Sky, is nearing its completion now that the dissertation monster is finally slain.  It’s at 95,000 words or so, and will be headed to the editor (Lord willing and the creek don’t rise) at the end of the month.  My usual artist and better half is busy completing her senior projects (links go to her page), so I asked my talented fellow artist and author A.R. Crebs to put together the system maps that are pasted inside of the book.  I don’t know you guys, how do you think she did?

 

Me, I think she did awesome.  Quick work too–each of those took less than 4 hours.  So if you’re looking for a highly capable, easy to work with artist, feel free to send A.R. an email.

Blank cover art reveal of Aries Red Sky to follow shortly.

Sales and News!

News Item #1An Unproven Concept is now on sale.  It will also be promoted by Free Kindle Books and Tips (a promotion website that comes highly recommended).

Got Books Free Kindle Books Image

 

 

Please go to their FB page and give the promotion post a like to increase its FB reach.

News Item #2:  Acts of War and Collisions of the Damned will shortly both be available for circulation with the Mid-Continent Public Library system in Kansas City, Missouri.  This should also make them available for inter-library loans elsewhere in the United States.

News Items #3:  On 31 January, I successfully defended my dissertation.  Barring a few minor edits and rework of the conclusion, the long twilight struggle against academics is now over.  Not quite a “Tearing down the Berlin Wall…” moment, but it’s definitely up there!

The Butcher and the Hamburg Delusion

So when last we mentioned the British, they were busy creating the world’s first man made firestorm over Hamburg. Now, if I left it at that, you’d have the impression the British had broken the code, enjoyed success, and basically wondered why the Americans were being stubborn. Well, in the name of Monica, Nuremberg, and Window, I’ll explain why Hamburg was pretty much a one off that did more harm than good. Sure, Operation Gomorrah killed a lot of Germans and hindered U-boat production for a bit, but did not appreciably shorten the war in and of itself. Even worse, like a gambler who makes a big score at a table then does not immediately leave, Sir Arthur Harris did not realize the uniqueness of the situation.  Subsequently, Bomber Command burned through a lot of its crewmen between August 1943 and March 1944.

First, one needs to do a little reading on firestorms. Understand that these phenomena are largely dependent on ignition sources, fuel, and atmospheric conditions. In other words, it’s not coincidence that both Peshtigo and the Great Chicago Fire occurred on the same night, nor that the Great Kanto Earthquake was followed by a firestorm. Get the right band of weather, have a whole bunch of fires start at once, and add a good steady breeze? Well, there will be large helpings of “long pork” and psychologically scarred citizenry regardless of whether it was “all natural” or involved “artificially enhanced airborne deliveries.”

Second, Hamburg was a case of the RAF catching the Germans “on the wrong foot” in their scientific chess match. The German system for night fighter defense, as discussed previously, relied heavily on ground-based radars. To grossly simplify things, the majority of these radars operated on Frequency X. The British figured out, through a mixture of study and coincidence, that if you cut reflective materials to a certain length for a given frequency, they would produce a false echo. Throw hundreds of these packets out the bomb bay, it tended to make ground radars useless due to excessive “snow” on the screen. No ground radars, and all but your most capable night fighter pilots would be left trying to catch fleeting targets in pitch blackness.

The date on this discovery is given as 1941 and 1942 by differing sources, with the honors being about even. The British, in typical nondescript code word fashion, called the foil “Window.” (The modern variant is called chaff.) If you’re thinking, “Uh, what the hell were they doing for a year plus?!”, remember that the Luftwaffe was still paying regular visits to British locales at night. Indeed,not only were they bombing cities, they were also pulling tricks like following Lancasters back to their bases, shooting up a couple bombers in the pattern, then dropping a couple bombs on their way out for good measure. Fighter Command was understandably not keen on getting their own radars blinded when the Germans reverse engineered Window, gave it some badass Teutonic nickname, and proceeded to wreak havoc across Southern England.

By July 1943, however, everyone could agree the Germans were pretty tapped out on the offensive operations front. Something about “More Russians than we ever imagined” and “Whoa, the British seem to be as good at flying night fighters as we are!” (Oh Hans, you have no idea. Wait, sorry, getting ahead of myself.) Moreover, the British realized their radars were a different frequency and would be largely unaffected by Window. So, with a nervous wince and crossed fingers, Fighter Command blessed off on opening a “Window” for Sir Arthur Harris “Pyres and Pyros” service (“Now delivering to all of Germany…)

The third factor for Hamburg was both technological and geographical. Sometimes what your realtor tells you about location, location, and location is true. In this case, being a port city with an easily identifiable harbor and distinct coastline just as your opponent is perfecting night radar means your location sucks. In a “Honey, are the neighbors opening an unregulated graphite reactor underneath their crack house?”-way.

Exacerbating this was the issue of Bomber Command’s Pathfinder Force, after some major growing pains, starting to come into its own. Bomber Command, in its usual way, only belatedly decided to give the blokes who marked the targets the best aircraft possible in the Mosquito and Lancaster.  The former was so fast it was difficult to catch in the marking area.  The latter could carry more marking materials and loiter in the area longer.  The marking materials themselves includes improved flares and pyrotechnics with greater visibility and duration. Finally, the Pathfinders figured out that having a “Master Bomber” remain over a target and direct traffic greatly aided navigation for later bombers in the stream.  As previously discussed, this all came together over Hamburg…then never really did so again for the rest of the war.

“Well why did they never pull this off again, James?”

One, the weather never cooperated.  While, yes, Dresden was a thing, it was far from the shock effect and carnage delivered at Hamburg.  Once one gets past Dresden, it’s arguable whether there was another significant fire storm in Germany for the rest of the war.  Second, even when the conditions were right, the Germans took extensive passive measures to reduce the aftereffects of British bombs.  No, there was no real economic way to reinforce and reconstruct German cities so that the bombs did less damage.  However, there were numerous ways to prevent said damage from feeding the fire beast.  Perversely, conducting minimal repairs to housing and other non-essential buildings created impromptu firebreaks that prevented the rapid spread of flame necessary to generate a true firestorm.

Finally, the Germans greatly strengthened their night defenses post-Hamburg.  Production and conversion of the Ju-88 night fighter variants increased to cope with the higher performing Lancaster.  The Germans also introduced the He-219 Uhu, a dedicated night fighter that possessed heavy armament and decent speed.  Additional flak defenses, searchlights, and means of coordinating fighter attacks on the bomber streams all contributed to preventing Bomber Command from bringing together the necessary components to bomb the Reich out of the war.

That’s not to say Bomber Harris tried.  Indeed, Harris tried mightily.  Like a powerful brawler who believes he has his opponent lined up for a final flurry, Harris repeatedly flung Bomber Command at Berlin from November 1943-March 1944.  Despite landing several steady blows, Bomber Command itself was increasingly bloodied by the German defenses.  Even as the German night fighter force was ground down by simple attrition, Bomber Command’s losses approached 6 percent, or a full 3 percent higher than either the RAF or USAAF considered sustainable.

The crowning folly of Harris’ persistence was the Nuremberg Raid on the night of 30/31 March 1944.  Due to poor meteorological analysis, a rigid command structure, a long flight, and recent changes to German tactics, things started out bad then got worse for Bomber Command.  With the bright moonlight and highly visible contrails providing a “Here they are!” arrow to the RAF bomber stream, the Nachtjagdflieger gathered like sharks chasing a pod of bleeding dolphins.  When all was said and done, over 100 of 700 RAF bombers dispatched were lost.  Without the use of RAF intruders (Fighter Command Mosquitos and Beaufighters operating over German bases) to harry the Luftwaffe’s night fighter force, things likely would have been far worse.

With more crew casualties than the Battle of Britain in a single night, the RAF was simply incapable of sustaining these loss rates in either the short or long term.  Fortunately for Bomber Command’s crews, even Sir Arthur Harris had bosses.  With Operation Overlord looming, Bomber Command was ordered to concentrate on transportation targets in France and the Low Countries.  Rather than landing the subsequent knock out blow he had so desperately sought, Harris found his own forces stunned and bleeding in its respective corner pondering what had gone wrong.  Fortunately, events in the daylight strategic campaign would serve to mitigate the German defenses by the time the RAF resumed its strategic offensive.

 

(Featured image is “Nuremburg Nightmare” from Piotr Forkasiewicz.  Please go check his amazing work out.)

News on Reviews

Recent news about Amazon reviews here.

My quick thoughts:

Jeff Bezos and the gang are not playing around.  This is a strong action taken against click farms and other gimmicks that have had Amazon’s review / marketing features in the news for all the wrong reasons.  It was starting to appear to some indie authors as if Amazon did not care so much about review veracity as long as the money was flowing in for sales.  This would seem to indicate Amazon cares a great deal about protecting the integrity of its brand.

Getting reviews just got harder.  If you have books in Kindle Unlimited, this probably means that getting borrower reviews may be more difficult.  I know of at least one regular indie reviewer who is on a fixed income (hence why he does KU).  It sounds like this is $50 total lifetime, but still–it’s just another barrier to having, say, people who borrow a book from the library give an author good buzz.

Grudge Killers.  While I’ve yet to annoy someone enough that they thought it was worthwhile to create 20 different accounts to one star me, I know of several authors who have.  Amazon had previously had a “We have neither the time nor the energy to get involved…”-view of this.  However, I think in part this is due to several prominent figures getting just avalanched by fake accounts when they publish a memoir.  Regardless of the reasons for the beef, this should make it harder for crap like this to happen.

Overall I think it is a plus.  We’ll see how it turns out.