Arthurian vs Lovecraftian Themes

Like many avid readers I have my favorite concepts and themes, but since I was 14 there were two theme sets that really had an odd appeal to me. Those two would be the Arthurian cycle of stories and the works of HP Lovecraft. I believe it came from an odd weekend, where in one rainy Saturday, I read through Rosemary Sutcliff’s Sword at Sunset while the movie “Excalibur” played in the background. Later that afternoon would be the first time I read At the Mountains of Madness, by Lovecraft. In my mind those stories rolled around and seem to echo off of each other. 
In all their variety there could not be two story cycles that are radically different but still fanciful. From the most historical rooted Arthurian tale to the most fantastic themed medieval romance, there is always an underpinning of the otherworldly to Arthurian tales. Also included though is always a bit of hope and a bittersweet tone of the frailty of human aspirations and lives. In many ways it is very human story.
The cosmic horror or eldritch horror story is a very different beast all together, when it comes to fiction. All of the ‘Cthulu Mythos’ stories by Lovecraft and other writers are also otherwordly, yet the very alien tones and sense of surreality makes it very different than Arthurian stories. Both are dealing with otherwordly or surreal elements, but one is very human and the other is very ‘unhuman’. 

The Essence of Shaolin White Crane

The Essence of Shaolin White Crane: Martial Power and Qigong by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming from the YMAA Publication Center is a book I just added to my training material. I have long been a fan of Dr. Yang’s teachings, but what caught my attention about this book was its strict focus upon the qigong aspects of the White Crane martial tradition instead of the martial forms plus qigong. 

The book is an extensive volume divided into 3 parts. The first part defines the essential definitions of Chinese martial arts, Chinese qigong, and the specifics of White Crane martial arts. The second part goes deeply into the theory of qigong and defines the specifics of what makes White Crane qigong traditions different from the other Chinese qigong traditions. The third part dives into the nature of the concept of Jin. Jin is hard to define without deeper context into the chi concepts of Chinese internal martial arts. Dr. Yang takes the time to try and define Jin for the English reader both philosophically and historically. 
In the second and third part Dr. Yang demonstrates several forms from the White Crane traditions. These forms help the practioner develop the necessary elements that make White Crane a unique tradition among the Chinese martial arts. Each part of the form is demonstrated with sequential pictures and detailed descriptions of the movements purpose and feel. 
I look forward to training with this material. 

Stars Arising Begins

The Third World War was a bloody mess. It had started as a regional war in Mesopotamia sparked by Shia and Suni rivalries. The first battle fields were along the Tigris and Euphrates but it quickly expanded to engulf the whole region. Vital interest around the world were endangered so other nations took sides. Eventually the war would spark other conflagrations across the globe.

The war lasted for years, with over a billion people slain. The hostilities came to involve the whole planet and after 3 years of war the major powers turned to a full nuclear exchange in escalation. This would have devastated the planet and killed half of the surviving numbers of Humanity in a day, yet that day a miracle and a reprieve for Humanity occurred. All of the nuclear weapons failed to exploded. The public explanation was a last minute accord, while privately there were many cover consultations between very scared leaders.

After weeks of comparing many forms of intelligence it was agreed that the strange wave of energy that had turned all the nuclear devices into duds had originated from the heart of Antarctica. With caution and uneasy diplomatic negotiations, all the governments of the world agreed to a plan of collective investigation. 

Constitution to Olympia – An Introduction

On the 21st of October in 1797 the heavy sailing frigate USS Constitution was named by President George Washington. As one of the authorized first six frigates built by the young Republic, the ship would go on to serve the US Navy through the first half of the 19th century, seeing action in the War of 1812, the Barbary Coast pirate wars, and interdiction of slaver ships off the coast of Africa.

On  the 5th of February in 1895 the USS Olympia was commissioned the sixth steel cruiser built for the US Navy.  She would go on to serve American in the Battle of Manila and numerous other functions till she was decommissioned on  9 Dec 1922.

Both ships still exist today as museum ships. Between them lay almost a century of technological development. By comparing the two ships’ technologies an observer can see the rapid technological change that underwent naval sea power throughout the 19th century. By comparing their strategic usages and service to the Republic which built them, an observer can see the changing focus and aspiration of these United States.

Slave Soldiers of the Clone Wars (Star Wars)

by Michaela Honkova and Earl Tower

Thesis: The conspiracy by the Sith was only possible by the unique aspects of having disposable soldiers on both sides of the conflict.

The Clone War was a major conflict fought between the Galactic Republic and the Confederacy of Independent Systems (CIS). The Galactic Republic was led by the Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, a Sith Lord in hiding. He orchestrated the war with the CIS, led by his own apprentice Count Dooku, as a plot to kill Jedi and obtain the control of the Galactic Republic. To keep positive control over the entire war, Palpatine played it as a chess game where he controlled both sides of the board. To make this work he needed the pieces malleable to his manipulations which is where the slave soldiers of both sides came into play.

The Jedi were non-militaristic since the Ruusan reformation one thousand years ago, during which they renounced all military ranks, disbanded their armed forces and placed themselves under supervision of the Supreme Chancellor, all to convince the Galactic Republic they were not a threat. The Supreme Chancellor granted them all indiscriminately officer military ranks, disregarding their lack of experience, and put them to lead of the clone troops. The Jedi Council did not care for that decision, yet they did not have a choice but to obey. The war occupied their attention, distracted them from the larger picture, and pride set them above the soldiers they commanded. Together with the the lack of military skills, it led to poor strategic decisions. The Jedi did not do well, making themselves easy targets and getting themselves killed one by one. The troops were spread thin on many battlefronts across the galaxy to ensure both the Jedi and the troops lack the numbers to win effectively, resulting in huge losses. All the better for the Supreme Chancellor, as their numbers slowly decreased and heavy losses in battle left few soldiers in need of health care. Both sides of the war routinely used propaganda to shift public opinion in the desired direction. The long attrition campaigns with little progress made the Jedi look incompetent, thus disproving in the public’s minds the vaulted reputation of invulnerability the Jedi long enjoyed. Even small skirmishes could look like a large scale battle when it suited the Sith and the defeats convinced the populace that the Galactic Republic should up its effort or be crushed.

By the planned use of clone soldiers, Palpatine was able to reduce potential objections to the war throughout the Galactic Republic. Using clones removed casualty list from becoming a matter of public opinion and objection. With no citizens dying, the war had a low humanitarian cost in the eyes of the voting public. The forced rapid aging of the clones combined with their high combat casualties cut the amount of combat veterans drastically, ensuring clone indoctrination would continue to dominate more than combat experience. The use of clone soldiers also reduced the matter to one of mere economic cost to the Galactic Republic. Each campaign could be won or lost as necessary to encourage public opinion to shift in the direction that most favored the Sith’s long term plan for acquiring power. As long as Palpatine kept the Galactic Republic strained by the war and avoided the danger of collapse, he could manipulate the situation to achieve his objectives of political power, and reduce the power base of his potential rivals and opponents within the Galactic Republic.

In a historical context, the situation developed in the Star Wars franchise with the clone soldiers can be compared to the Janissaries of the old Ottoman Empire. The idea was to create an elite combat force that was loyal to the central power of the state, while removing independent cultural factors of ideology or ethics which would distract the soldiers from obedience and loyalty to the their commanders. The Janissaries became a very controlled instrument of military power, while the average subject of the Ottoman Empire was not burdened by wars conducted by the state, except in their taxes.

To produce a major foe for the Republic, the Sith had to covertly aid in the founding of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, yet it had to be created in such a manner as to allow centralized control. The key building blocks of the CIS were the corporate sponsors and the rebellious star systems. To build a rapid, centralized force, the Sith planned for robotic forces through the use of droid armies and star fleets. The droid armies appealed to the strengths of the corporate sponsors of the CIS, by creating forces that were merely a matter of numbers on an accounting ledger. Droids could be built rapidly and controlled directly by a centralized council made up of officials from the corporate sponsors. Such centralized control gave precise command and control right down to the tactical level, ensuring no droid force could disrupt the shadowy battle plans orchestrated by the Sith. The rebellious star systems gave the CIS political cover, and a legitimacy of grievances against the Galactic Republic. The use of droid armies appealed to the rebellious star systems, because it placed no demands of manpower upon them, merely the need to agree to take a side in a war which only had an economic cost to them.

The droid armies of the CIS enabled military strategies designed to counter the strengths of the Galactic Republic. The robotic forces could be rapidly created, and rapidly replaced when losses were suffered through attrition. The ability to recover from this attrition allowed a strategy, which could also be used to ensure the major battles were fought in star systems that may become a problem for postwar imperial policies, and greatly weaken them. Another advantage to using the droid armies was the perceived fear among the Republic’s populace of an inhumane force of countless machines bent upon their destruction, allowing for added propaganda effect. From the point of view of the chess playing Sith, the droids were an ideal tool.

In a historical context, the CIS’s droid armies compare to the ancient mercenary armies of Carthage and some other classic polities. The core citizens had little care for the well being or deaths of the mercenaries, and the economic burden of paying for such mercenary armies was mostly borne by large mercantile interest. Carthage through the early Greco-Punic wars and the Roman-Punic wars was able to field sizable forces rapidly, and replace any losses through recruitment of local tribesman or hiring of mercenary armies from other classic states. The Carthaginian citizens seldom saw battle so they only protested the military adventurism of their Senate when the wars disrupted economic trade heavily or threatened the city directly.

It all came down to the Sith conspiracy being only possible by having disposable soldiers on both sides of the conflict to fight the war in their stead. On the side of the Galactic Republic, the clone soldiers who knew nothing of the galaxy outside warfare, commanded by the secretive, disfavored Jedi, played the part of valiant but disposable soldiers for the Republic; while on the side of the CIS, the droids controlled by a few greedy corporations, played the faceless menace. With neither of these forces costings their respective parties anything but money, both sides became hapless chess pieces in the shadowy plans of the Sith.

Two Sisters

The two sisters setting has elements of the fantasy genre of historical fantasy and the science fiction genre of alternative history. The setting is a timeline where the Roman Empire over came its challenges and never fell. The Roman Imperium did become two states in the 3rd century, just as in our own world, but the political development was radically different.

The first major change was the land reform of Tiberius Gracchus succeeded so the Roman Republic did not go through the throes of civil war. It remained a powerful republic with dominions and client states well into the first century CE.

The next major difference was the Roman conquest of the Alexanderian successor states was more though, with the Eastern wars being more brutal and the Roman Imperium extending almost to the Indus River and the Caspian Sea as a result.

The Roman conquest of the Celtic world would be slower, but would project all the way to Eire. The Germanic conquest would also be much later than in our timeline, but would project well to the River Elbe and eventually the Jutland Peninsula.

All of this vast territory would fragment the Roman Imperium. The Imperium was split into a Western and Eastern partitions.  The East would become more imperialistic, building upon the traditions of Persia and Macedonia, while the West would build upon the Republican roots of Rome and the individualism of the Celtic and Germanic tribes. The West would leave Rome as the cultural capital but would build great commerce centers at Carthage, Londinium, Cologne, and Athens. The East used Babylon as their capital, but still built heavily at Bzantinium, Alexandria, Antioch, Ecbatana, and Thatta on the Indus.

My Six Daughters

A Summary

My Six Daughters is a novel about a simple carpenter who finds himself raising 6 teenage girls by himself. Unknown to him, each girl is heir to a powerful mystical tradition.
The carpenter, Jonathan Suttons, lost his wife ten years into their marriage due to a tragic car wreck, that left him two daughters to raise on his own. Soon after those horrific events, Jonathan’s sister requested he foster his two nieces during a family emergency, something that turns into years. Also within a year of taking in his nieces, his oldest friend died in combat overseas, leaving Jonathan the only one to take care of his daughter.  The sixth girl is an exact twin to his oldest daughter. She appeared upon his doorstep one stormy night with a dire story. 
Jonathan must now try and be a father figure to six troubled teenage girls. To his shock each girl begins to develop strange and extraordinary powers. The challenges become more dire when menacing outside agencies begin to notice the girls powers, and Jonathan finds himself trying to defend his family from dangerous threats.