Monday, December 8, 2014

This is a response from the author (well one of them) of Warpworld to my review.  I'd like to thank Mr. Simpson for letting me post this.

Wow, that's much nicer than I was anticipating.

Okay, to hit some points:

Don't look at me like that, it's tech that runs off the energy built up by belief and emotion, it's fucking magic! I don't have a problem with this in all honesty but a number of books these days attempt to tell me that the magic isn't magic, which I refuse to fall for! In fairness to the writers of warpworld, they don't try to sell me a potion of bullshit here, they get the characters to try to sell me a potion of bullshit.

Yeah, it's magic 'energy' Z that shows up in a lot of stories, and honestly I kind of cringe at calling it 'energy' in the first place because it doesn't have the characteristics of actual defined-by-physics energy. It's an entirely different state of, well, magic shit, the energetic equivalent of unobtanium. Explaining that it's not really 'energy' would make for too much exposition, so we leave it as 'emotional energy', a concept that the audience can readily relate to in terms of stuff like chi and other mystical concepts. So... guilty!

I don't know if the writers were trying to make the point that imperialism isn't very nice and is often a dirty, nasty business... But they did a good job of making that point without giving any lectures or rubbing your nose in it.

I don't consider myself a 'message' writer. Obviously a lot of my beliefs are going to bleed through, but I never set out with a story like this to tell people things, especially stuff that should be blindingly obvious to the average educated person. I tend to follow the David Drake model of just taking actual examples of our own world and adjusting them to differing circumstances. So I guess that worked in that depicted a scene without being preachy. Neato.

Seg's mentor Jarin, a cunning and crafty old man with his own mission and his own possibly shady past. He seems to have been in Seg's position before in a lot of ways and is trying to keep the kid from repeating his mistakes. Seg seems to feel that Jarin hasn't done him that many favors coming up, but considering the fact that someone with Seg's lack of connections and rather smart mouth is still breathing... I kinda think Jarin has spent a lot of time giving Seg cover.

And how. Jarin sees in Seg a model of the sort of revolutionary thinker that he feels they need to break the declining stagnancy of their own culture. They're losing their fight for survival, and they're too busy knifing each other in the back and fighting to keep the status quo.

The problem he has with Seg is that a revolutionary thinker is, well, revolutionary. Also Jarin's one of those guys who rarely comes out and just says what he means. He's using to being the puppetmaster, and that in and of itself is a source of much of their friction.

Viren was a bit of treat for me. He's sly, clever and irrelevant and completely refuses to take this shit seriously. He's no Han Solo but he is pretty fun.

I think you'll be satisfied with his role in the upcoming novels, then. He gets a lot of screentime.

The antagonists are the weakest part of the story. We don't get much of a sense of them, other then one member of the people being ambitious and petty and a law enforcer being an utter bastard for reasons unknown.

Guilty guilty guilty. Here's where I'll let you in on the dirty secret of the first book manuscript: Corrus and Dagga weren't in the original. Neither was Jul Akbas, for that matter. Or Adirante Fi Costk. There wasn't a single named villain in the entire thing, and it was a much more compact story. Akbas didn't actually show up in the original run of the series until the fourth book, Fi Costk got a cameo role in the second and third, while Corrus and Dagga were incorporated during our revisions on the original manuscript, so most of the material concerning them and responses to their actions were added in, which is why their characterization gets short shrift.

We do end up with some mustache-twirling on the parts of our villains in the series, something we've worked to chop back on. 

My original concept and the reason for no named villains is because ultimately what Seg and Ama were fighting and will continue to fight throughout the series is not so much people as systems. If Dagga and Corrus weren't wandering around being nasty and throwing their weight around, it'd just be another pair of thugs with badges. The same goes for the CWA baddies- they're the product of a corrupt institutional ethos, and the real enemy is the system that produces them. Which isn't to say the Guild are the 'good guys' because as the next few books will show the Guild is basically a giant egotistical clusterfuck. Again this is a personal belief shining through in the way I write, but it comes back to my belief that institutions cannot have honor and without good people to steer them away from bad things, they'll inevitably get nastier and nastier in the name of expediency. 

I'm left wondering why the CMC (the People's organization that is opposed to the Cultural Theorist Guild) is so dead set on wrecking Seg's raid when he can provide grand amounts of the the very energy they're so desperately hungry for.

To clarify from the story, the CWA is trying to usurp the Guild's role in raids. For centuries since the two institutions were founded, they've existed in an uneasy balance of power, with one side or the other tending to have a slight dominance. The Guild has carefully protected its formulas and methodology so that you can't kick off a raid and expect to have a good amount of success without employing a Theorist to do the scouting. On the other side, the CWA is the central vita bank of the world, and thus holds a tremendous amount of economic power.

After the disastrous Lannit raid some forty years before, the Guild took a big hit in the PR department and the relationship (which had been leaning heavily toward the Guild at that time) took a heavy turn backward. Going along with that, the CWA had been steadily implementing a policy of incremental gain- they were taking on the debts of cash-strapped Houses/raider units and absorbing them into a growing coalition.

So as mentioned in the story, the CWA has been developing their own version of the Guild in-house, with an eye toward eventually replacing the Guild altogether. Because the Guild's primary function by far is scouting and plotting raids, once that's gone they're fucked. 

The weakness of the Guild is that by and large it's a collection of fractured political cliques with little to no coherent long-term policy. After all, they've survived for centuries and why won't they just keep on surviving? The irony being that people who've studied the history and cultures of literally hundreds of worlds have been in many ways blind to their institutional decline, pointing at somebody else's house while their own is on fire.

The CWA, on the other hand, has a reasonably coherent pair of missions: protect the World from the Storm, and knock out the Guild. Even though they're full of bureaucractic knife fights, they have that much going for them and at this point of the story it's doing pretty damned well. 

As for why they're willing to dick themselves out of a load of vita, that's just taking a long-term gain over a short-term loss. They're accountants by the nature of their institution. 

And if you have to write several paragraphs after the fact to explain an important plot point, you obviously didn't communicate it well enough in-story. My bad.

And now, as a DVD extra!

The original, never-before-released-anywhere original short concept story I wrote that spawned this monstrosity.

Heh, never edited, either. I just spotted a major goof-up there, but whatever, here's the raw.

"Cultural Theorists are the very backbone of our society," Segkel said, taking a sip of water before turning away from the window toward his pupils. Behind him, the dark clouds of an afternoon storm whipped across the landscape, heat lightning shimmering as it struck in rapid, strobing pulses. His acute eye could see the tiny forms of scrabbling surface scavs darting through the dusty surface, seeking shelter or trying to pull in that last bit of precious salvage. He put his glass down on the mantle, then turn to take a slice of fruit from a proffered tray. "Cultural Theorem divides us from any number of primitive raiding societies and barbarians. Without it," he gestured toward the window. "We'd all be out there until the gates burned the planet lifeless. There would be no caj, no luxury, ultimately no survival."

The three students sat quietly, making no comment or question. Questions, of course, would come afterward, submitted in written form. Segkel actually felt that tradition to be obsolete and counterproductive, but he'd caused enough issues of Non-Orthodoxy for any two careers and really needed to occasionally demonstrate a willingness to work within the accepted bounds of the Guild. Besides, he was going to have to fail one of these seekers, and her family was likely to cause him no small amount of pain in consequence. 

He turned back toward the window as the light darkened, the storm finally arriving. The faint pattering sound of drops against the armored glass belied the driving force of the impacts as the water began sheeting down. He loved the storm, the power and the sheer chaos of it. It was much like storming through a gateway with an armored legion, pouring forth into an unsuspecting world to capture and pillage their fortresses, citadels, and cities. 

"These thoughts are first cycle training," he said. "I repeat them to drive home their vitality. The level of responsibility assumed by the CTG is enormous, crushing. Corinse, what percentage of raids bring back enough vita to justify the cost of expedition?"

She answered quickly. "Fifty-seven percent." Facts and figures were no challenges to the young woman. It was understanding the nuances of her desired profession and a basic lack of social proficiency that failed her. He nodded at her, then looked to the woman next to her.

"Usalln, what percentage of raids bring in enough vita to meet goal?" 

"Thirteen percent, mentor." This one was more promising. Sharp, incisive. Should she survive the next stage of training, she could well go far.

"Gelen, what percentage fails to return entirely?" This was something of a trick question, another of his motions to draw his final and most enigmatic pupil out. Gelen seemed to have the necessary attributes, but balanced this with a seeming dispassion for the work. He often seemed... bored. 

"Seven percent failure," the final pupil answered. "For actual complete loss of mission force. Fifteen percent recovers no vita." He offered a small smirk at having evaded the trap inherent in the question. Segkel nodded, granting him the small victory. Dispassionate but arrogant. Marks of a prodigy, as he'd thought. He'd make double sure to grind on the little bastard. Either Gelen would break, or he'd find enough challenge to get up and start actually applying himself.

"So, upon the weight of thirteen percent rests forty-three percent of failure, with twenty-two percent being abject. Non-goal expeditions bear some slack, but are still a form of failure. It is imperative that we maximize every trip through the gates. Every trip. Every trip."


"Did we evolve here, or did we immigrate by some happenstance in the distant past? Who knows? Our myths and stories contain tales of fantasy and exodus, but then so do the myths and tales of nearly every world we encounter. The irony is that we'll laboriously sift through those foreign myths to learn their ways and isolate their centers of vita, while essentially ignoring our own. This brings us to the assignment of the week- a level one survey of our own society. What are our centers of vita?"


"So when I'm finished with these three neophytes, my exile will be finished?" Sekgel paced impatiently as he fired off the question.

"Seg, you're one of the few I've ever met who regarded a home assignment as exile," his old mentor answered. "The answer lies, as always, with the Council." Jarin shook his head. "Twenty years and you're still as pig-headed and willful as ever. I tried to break you of that."

Sekgel snorted derisively. "I should apply some of your methods to the current crop. I'm sure a bit of pain-stim would work wonders. I'm going to down the Haslit neo. She'll make the Guild a good accountant."

"And when the Haslits call for your head?" Jarin drummed his fingers on the desk.

"I'll point out to the Council that we already have enough half-qualified morons running about carrying Guild badges and remind them that this training rotation was their idea. I have a job and a responsibility to the Guild, and I'll discharge it to the best of my ability." He settled into the overstuffed armchair across from Jarin.

"So what is the current assignment?" Jarin asked.

"Locate our centers of vita," Sekgel said, waving a dismissive hand. 

"Evil," Jarin said. "They'll waste the entire week tearing their hair out over that."

"Not the boy. He'll make a conclusion one way or another inside of three days. If he makes the correct assumption, he'll spend the rest of the week drinking and fucking caj. Usalln likewise may figure it out, though she'll proceed to thoroughly and exhaustively test her hypothesis, then agonize over her answer until presentation. The Haslit will probably give me a coordinate list of arenas and brothels."

"That is where we've got what little vita left, of course."

"Of course, but the point of the exercise is to demonstrate that we live in an utterly barren wasteland that wouldn't be worth raiding. The larger issue being that we're in a terminal arc of decay that is only being braked by the actions of the Guild, which is why we can't let idiots like the Haslit girl be guiding expeditions into dumps like this one."

"You've been drinking, Seg,"

"Of course I have. Why haven't you?"

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