Post-human Earth

When man vanishes, what will Earth look like? I worked with two post-apocalyptic role-playing games in the 1980s and 1990s: Mutant and Wastelands. They each introduce settings in which the current civilization has been destroyed, resulting in two dissimilar game worlds, the grim and serious Wastelands Europe and the less serious Pyri Scandinavia.

However, after watching this video, I realize that my background research was insufficient, particularly in the Wastelands setting. For instance, there would have been extensive problems with the plentiful hydroelectric power stations in northern Sweden: cracked dams, flooded river valleys, and swamped riverside towns.

Space That Never Was

Space That Never Was is an art project by illustrator Mac Rebisz. The goal is to make technologically accurate depictions of space missions that could have been executed if the US/Soviet space race had continued for another decade at the hectic pace of the late 1960s, with manned expeditions to Mars and beyond.

The Soviet moon landing depicted above (click on the picture for a larger version) was on the way around 1970 and the one-man lander would have looked like that. However, the endeavor foundered because of insoluble problems with its huge N-1 rocket.

Read more about Mac’s project and view his “space history” paintings here — link >>>

“In Motion” — a Creed for Adventurers

The sated day is never first.
The best day is a day of thirst.

Yes, there is goal and meaning in our path –
but it’s the way that is the labour’s worth.

The best goal is a night-long rest,
fire lit, and bread broken in haste.

In places where one sleeps but once,
sleep is secure, dreams full of songs.

Strike camp, strike camp! The new day shows its light.
Our great adventure has no end in sight.

This poem could be a creed for us role-players, regardless where we live and what we play. It was written in the 1930s by Swedish author Karin Boye (1900-41), and has been translated into English by David McDuff. Ms Boye’s crystal-clear poems about rootlessness and finding your own path through life have accompanied me on my journeys since I was a teenager.

The Swedish original is available here — link >>>
and a German translation here — link >>>

Picture by Flavio Bolla at DeviantArt. Click on it for a larger version.

Review: Small Ships in the Great War

Sea Warfare is an unexpected little non-fiction book by Rudyard Kipling, the Nobel Laureate who today is famous for poetry and short-stories dealing with imperialism and the Indian Raj. I recently found an ebook edition free of charge at Amazon.

The book was written in 1916 or 1917 as a piece of propaganda to bolster morale on the Home Front. Nevertheless, Kipling rarely wrote poorly so this remains an interesting volume despite occasional outdated views and phrases. The reader learns of the everyday toils of the Royal Navy’s non-glamorous small craft, e.g. minesweepers, destroyers and submarines. Kipling used after-action reports and interviews with ratings and officers as his sources, though he changed many ship names because of wartime secrecy.

HMS E9. Sea Warfare describes some of her wartime exploits in the Baltic Sea. Click on the picture for a larger version. (Photo: Imperial War Museum, London)

Despite the obvious bias, i.e. chivalrous Britons fighting cruel “Huns”, these stories tell a lot about sailors’ wartime chores, for example, the hardships of mine-sweeping in the North Sea and the harrowing experience of serving aboard a tiny destroyer facing the Kaiser’s battleships in the titanic North Sea clash that is called the Battle of Jutland.

The book also addresses a few matters that I had not heard of before, for example the British submarine operations at the outskirts of Constantinople during the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. Tiny subs hunted Turkish ships in the constricted waters of the Dardanelles Straits and the Marmara Sea, hampered by mines and shore batteries; an underwater campaign very different from the one that Germany pursued in the North Atlantic at the same time.

I write diesel-era adventures and Sea Warfare provides me with useful setting information for future stories. I have already outlined a riverine tale in the Patchwork World setting. So my verdict is four armed trawlers out for five.

“Space 1889”: Sky Wolves in Action

The year is 1891 and the place is Mars. A pack of steam-propelled airships slogs it out with a sky frigate above a canal city. The small ships display no flags, so their attack is a case of piracy and not a legitimate act of war.

This is a scene from the Victorian science fiction game Space 1889 (link >>> ) by Frank Chadwick. This has been my favorite game since the early 1990s; my buddies and I have experienced scores of adventures in the dilapidated cities and cold skies of the Red Planet.

Click on the picture for a larger version.

Artist: Flavio Bolla at DeviantArt

“Sci-Fi!”: Partisankriget på Kythera

Summary in English: a counter-insurgency airstrike in a Kythera campaign for the Swedish science fiction RPG Sci-Fi!

En scen från gerillakriget på Kythera. Ett av kolonialregimens lätta Corvo-attackplan* angriper ett partisangömställe i ett träsk. (Klicka på bilden för en större version.)

Det rombformade vingmärket används på Kythera av Legionen, ett fruktat elitförband. Bokstäverna CMIC är planets identifikationskod, med ett bokstavspar för flygflottiljen (CM) och ett för det enskilda flygplanet (IC)**.

Kythera är en värld där rollspelen Partisan och Sci-Fi! möts i ett alternativhistoriskt 1988. Kampanjmiljön kommer snart som en lång artikel i speltidningen Fenix’ särskilda kickstarternummer. Läs mer här — länk >>>

Läs mer om Kythera här — länk >>>

Illustratör: James Flaxman på DeviantArt.

* Corvo — “kråka” på neolatin, kolonialmaktens språk.
** CM betecknar Legionens femte flygflottilj (le Quinte Stormo del Legion)

“Mars 2030”: Virtual-reality Mars

NASA is working with Fusion Media in developing Mars 2030, a virtual reality simulator closely based on a patch of real Martian landscape. The simulation is painstakingly detailed and based on current research data, including such matters as the reflectivity of the sand. The simulated astronauts’ suits, habitats and vehicles are also derived from NASA’s design concepts. The players will for example work as geologists, speleologists and surveyor.

Mars 2030 is supposed to be launched in late 2016. I plan to get it asap, provided that I do not have to invest in a fancy new computer to handle its graphics.

Read more about it here — link >>> — and do take a look at the Youtube teaser below.

“Dusk and Dawn”: A City in the Flatlands

I am currently working on the final chapter of the adventure novella Dusk and Dawn, a story from the retrotech Patchwork World setting, which so far also encompasses my shortstories “Dust” and “The Road” (link >>> ).

Three ancient cities serve as important venues for the novella’s plot. Here is what its protagonist Fennec has to say about one of them:

Sirak Thod lies where the Flatlands touch the World’s Brim. Millennia ago the canal builders founded the city on a hillside next to a deep lake, which they connected to the canal network through feeder gates that regulate the water flow into the Flatlands according to seasonal needs.

Similar cities dot the inner edge of the World’s Brim. Every time our ancestors came down from the mountains to reclaim the Flatlands, they started by repopulating those places. Then they pressed on, city by city, into the desolation. They dredged waterways, cleared and irrigated farmland, and rebuilt bridges and locks. All rulers know that the bountiful Flatland grain is indispensable for advanced societies; the meager crops of fruits and tubers in the mountain valleys cannot feed a teeming population.

Artist: DrawingNightmare at DeviantArt.