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Author Topic: "Overblind"
Inkwell
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This is part of an SF novella I started work on the other night. It's the first writing I've tried my hand at in a while (RL has been extremely persistent of late). No target length yet, though I hope it will be fairly trim...perhaps lean enough for publication (that is, if I can whip it into some semblance of shape). POV is first person limited, and the prose is (intentionally) informal. I was trying to capture a very cynical and colloquial tone...let me know if I succeeded without going too far over the top.

I've already accepted the fact that the excerpt might not be clear...and I wish that you could read more (just to understand the reasoning behind the style of the intro). I guess that will have to wait until I have more of the story finished, and think it is ready for some brave readers. Any and all comments are (as always) greatly appreciated. And, in the words of Jim Carrey...be gentle.

---------------------------------------------
”Overblind”


The Cat screamed when I shot him. Well, screeched was more like it. They weren’t really cats, of course, but we couldn’t pronounce their species’ name anyway. The whole damn race looked like the larger felines from Earth. I guess that’s where the nickname got started. These bastards were much bigger, though. Almost nine feet tall, and twice as strong as one of our average marines, who were strength-enhanced themselves. And the claws! Damn things could tear your windpipe right out...if you were stupid enough to leave your armor unsealed, that is. A couple of the replacements forgot to zip up once. Their first try at hand-to-hand combat got messy. None of us forgot to keep our neck seals locked after that.

Another cat stepped through the hatchway, pulse carbine up and tracking. I put a slug through his head before he could squeeze off a shot, blasting fur and bone fragments everywhere. My rifle was a long-range version of the general issue M75, and a marksman’s best friend on the battlefield after his spotter.
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Inkwell
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"The difference between a writer and someone who says they want to write is merely the width of a postage stamp."
-Anonymous


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Minister
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The narrative "feel" is okay, from my standpoint. Sounds enough like one of my Marine friends to get by. Problem is that it seems, from my standpoint again, cliched. I forget what the name of the series was, but I think it was developed from a popular computer game in which you went around shooting at big cats in space. They had this same gritty kind of style. Again, it might just be the reading I've done, but a lot of books seem to open with the tough viewpoint character embroiled in some kind of shootout with aliens. This isn't necessarily bad -- you've just got to do it really well to stand out from the masses. Again, this is all entirely subjective.
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Survivor
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Kzinti from SF and another race starting with a "K" that played the bad guys in the Wing Commander games (and movie).

I've no problem with that, cat aliens have a distinguished pedigree (I'm fond of octopod aliens myself, but tastes vary).

The bigger problem is that the way the first person is used doesn't make any sense. I've had this argument before, but the main advantage of a first person account is that it explains how it came to be. And this one doesn't do that. The even bigger problem is that you pack in a bunch of thinly veiled OOC exposition in the middle of an action sequence.

And yes, some of what is being exposited is a tad cliche. That's a pretty minor sin, all things considered. A well played trope is nearer an homage than a cliche, after all.

You might want to rewrite this with no action at all, just the character telling the audience how big and scary the Mr*&zZer@#$K! really were in combat. See how that works for you. Then again, it might be that you don't really want first person at all.


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King of Men
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Kilrathi, in Wing Commander. Excellent game.

Back to the topic : You start with an action-filled sentence, "The Cat screamed..." and then you go off into the History of the Universe from the Creation and Unto the Present Day, yea, with Excerpts from the Moral Philosophers. In short, you need more action, or more exposition, but not a mix.


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yanos
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I have to agree somewhat with the last few posts. It seems we are dropped in the middle of something which you are now going to have to use exposition to explain. If you had started with why they are there, or what they are facing, or even with who your character is, then it is easier to cope. But having to face everything all together leaves the writer and reader with a much harder task.
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Inkwell
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Let me know if this 'works' better. I subdued the exposition a little, changing it into more of a sideline commentary...which I have seen many professional authors do, even in the middle of combat scenes (David Weber, John Ringo, and John G. Hemry to name a few). I hope this revision is more structurally sound than the original.


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The Cat screamed when I shot him, death cry mingling with the whine of my rifle as both echoed down the corridor. The impact must have forced air from his lungs just as the high-velocity round liquified and penetrated, combusting violently within the chest cavity. Their armor was tough, but not nearly strong enough against my brand of firepower. As a dedicated marksman, I carried the ER3 railgun, which packed a greater punch than most of our small arms. It was deadly at two klicks, which meant that combat armor didn’t stand a chance in hell at two meters. Blood, bone fragments, and fur were scattered all over the bulkhead behind the corpse. My rifle always made a mess, no matter how close or far I was from the target. The ammunition accounted for that...14mm depleted uranium pellets. Not that it really mattered. I didn’t have the time or inclination to clean up after myself, anyway.

Moving forward, I ascended gradually from the belly of the subterranean facility the Cats called ‘Overblind.’ Not like in poker...the Cats had no knowledge of my favorite Earth game. They used the term like some kind of obscure xenological insult, a scornful reference to ‘inferior’ human vision.

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Inkwell
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"The difference between a writer and someone who says they want to write is merely the width of a postage stamp."
-Anonymous


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Minister
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This strikes me as being a great deal better, though I'd be hard pressed right now to explain precisely why (might have something to do with amounts of sleep, or just underdeveloped writing skills). I'm fine with the exposition mixed with action; this seems to be typical of combat vets desribing events distant from themselves in time (and my USMC and Army friends are caught up enough in their weapons that I can easily hear them stopping to say something about their gun in the middle of a description of a fight).
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Survivor
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Depleted uranium doesn't liquify when it penetrates, not in any really meaningful sense. If it is, then the 14mm round must be moving at such a high velocity that it moves easily up to being a cannon rather than a marksman's weapon. I think that you should probably just cut that sentance anyway, it doesn't move the action forward much.

Tighten things up a few other places, like dropping "brand of firepower" for "ER3" and cutting the next sentance. "The sniper weapon/railgun" replaces "it" so we don't lose any information. Then you're pretty okay till the non sequitur at the end, the reason a mess in combat matters isn't usually because you have to clean it up, there are other reasons it could matter, though.

But yeah, this feels a lot better overall. The last paragraph is still a bit odd, but I suppose you have to get your shots in somewhere.


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HuntGod
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Well I'm a sucker for sci-fi military fiction, especially if they are marines (if you haven't read the Heritage Trilogy - Semper Mars, Lunar Marine and Europa Strike, check them out).

My only problems are with some of the weapon terminology. As already pointed out depleted uranium does not behave in that manner. Also rail weapons (which are traditionally very large and power hungry) use ceramic slugs, which when accelerated transform into a plasma state and obliterate anything they hit. They also have a kill wake from the force wave generated from the passage of the slug.

I think the second version has a better military tone to it, but the first version was prettier.

My only real suggestion is to spice up your terminology to be more in line with military jargon. Don't call recruits that fail to secure there neck gear idiots, call them green. Only other places where terminology bugged me was "strength-enhanced" you would be better served using a term like genegineered or just enhanced.

I like that you attempt to make analytical descriptions of weapon effects (reminds me of a friend that does weapon instruction at Quantico talking about combat and ballistic dynamics on soft targets) since it reinforces the military flavor. You might want to look at some of the material on the web regarding next gen ballistic tech.
In particular there is a new round that is made of a memory metal for lack of a better word with an explosive core. The round penetrates a hard or soft target, it stiffens on impact and then milliseconds letter the internal core explodes uniformly. So what you end up with is an armor penetrating round that then pulps the interior of the target and generally does not come out the other side, very nasty. There are also some nasty 40mm grenades that can be set to detonate at a designated range. All really nice high tech stuff that could be extrapolated on and be commonplace in the future.

Also don't ignore the significant impact of information tech on the battlefield in next gen theatres of conflict.

I would love to read anything else you have.


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Survivor
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A caution on information systems on the battlefield--they require achieving "information superiority". The direction of advance is such that it may be unlikely for either side in a near parity engagement to achieve the needed dominance. Generally speaking, it is easier to disrupt communications than to maintain them.
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Inkwell
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Sorry for the delay in replying, folks. I was out of town until a few minutes ago, what with the approaching holiday and all that. However, I had anticipated there being issues involving my choice of technology for the story...some of which were brought up in the most recent posts. Just to clear up a few of the technical concepts...

The DU ammunition in my ER3 concept is similar to the high kinetic energy projectiles used in current anti-tank rounds, though extensively modified (or, in this case, simplified) for use in electromagnetic technology...they do not require propellant systems, though a discarding sabot sheath might be necessary to support the actual projectile. Obviously, it was neither practical nor artistic to go into such detail in the excerpt, though I had prepared some of my research notes should clarification and/or explanation be necessary.

quote:
[The following information is quoted from “Review of Radioactivity, Military Use, and Health Effects of Depleted Uranium” by Vladimir S. Zajic ( http://vzajic.tripod.com ) ]

Surface of a DU penetrator ignites on impact (especially with steel), partially liquefies due to the high temperature generated by the impact and relatively low melting point of uranium (1132ºC), and the projectile sharpens as it melts and pierces the heavy armor.


The military’s current DU projectiles can pierce all forms of heavy armor. DU also easily burns, just like magnesium, upon penetration, adding to the effectiveness of the ammo as an armor piercing device. When the projectile cuts through the armor, the DU penetrator and impacted region of the tank get so hot that they literally vaporizes. In my story, the personal combat armor is sufficiently advanced to mimic such behavior on a scale smaller than our current tank armor, which is merely a logical assumption based on current trends of material advancement. Anywhere from 18-70% of the DU usually oxidizes (depending on the type of impact). For example, direct impact yields 99% oxidization. [this information is derived from the Federation of American Scientists’ Military Analysis Network study on DU technology]

Now that my description of the ammunition’s behavior is better explained, I will state how I proposed its modification for railgun technology:

Railguns, as you seem to know, consist of two parallel rails with a groove cut into them. A small projectile made of either copper, aluminum, or graphite is fitted in the groove (ceramic is also used in some cases, as HuntGod pointed out). The projectile must be at least semi-conductive in order to complete the circuit (which depleted uranium is, BTW, according to a U.S. Department of Energy study). The rails are hooked up to an enormous power source (a significantly scaled-down version of which would be necessary to power combat systems in the far future, anyway) which sends an electric current up one rail, through the projectile, and down the second rail. The current moving up and down the rail causes magnetic fields that interact with the electrons moving through the projectile (the interaction is known as the Lorentz Force, and acts in a direction perpendicular to the magnetic field and the current). The effect of the force acting perpendicular to the magnetic field and current causes the projectile to accelerate down the rails. Using longer rails causes the projectile to reach a higher velocity before leaving the rails, due to the fact that the Lorentz Force will be acting on the projectile for a longer period of time.

Now that the basic physics are out of the way, let’s examine how a railgun treats its ammunition. The projectile, in this case a depleted uranium pellet 14mm in diameter with a discarding alloy casing, is accelerated to velocities up to or beyond 3.5 km/s (in other words, definitely hypersonic). After some extended study, I have found that a smaller projectile (perhaps between 1 and 5 millimeters in diameter) would have a more practical result when considering the physics of the weapon’s recoil...since the momentum of the projectile is its mass times its velocity, but the kinetic energy is one half of the mass times the velocity squared. So a very small, very fast projectile could deliver a moderate recoil, but be carrying enough kinetic energy to vaporize upon impact and burn a large hole in armor and flesh alike. The current railgun proposals for naval warships utilize tungsten ammunition, though tungsten has a much higher melting point (3410ºC) than uranium (1132ºC) and lacks pyrophoricity (spontaneous ignition on contact with air). Consequently, a tungsten projectile becomes blunt on impact and is less effective in piercing armor. These differences caused me to consider DU ammunition for the ER3 in the first place.

So, in a nutshell, my descriptions of the ammunition liquefying and sharpening are not inaccurate. And in reply to Survivor’s mention of it being a cannon...yes, by our terms it would be. But that is by our terms. You would need a ‘cannon’ to kill from long distances when factoring in the advancement of personal combat armor systems in the far future. I did my homework before posting the intro, though I will honestly admit overlooking the projectile mass considerations with regards to recoil...stupid of me, I know. Other than that, I’m confident that such a weapon is neither impractical nor impossible. Also, unless I am wrong, the combination of DU and railgun technology is not popular in current SF (with emphasis on the phrase “that I know of”). This (I hope) makes the concept a bit more original, which is becoming harder and harder to do these days. I will not claim the ER3 is without drawbacks (the massive requisite energy source being one of them), but I will say that it is not something I just threw together when I wrote the first and second drafts of Overblind you see here. This idea has been rambling around in my concept notebook for quite a while. Thanks for all the helpful comments. I hope to complete the third rewrite and tie in all my unresolved plot points by the end of this week.

quote:
Posted by HuntGod:
I would love to read anything else you have.

There might be a few things I could send you that aren’t exceptionally horrid. Thank you for the interest. It’s good to know that my writing isn’t so terrible that it repels readers.

BTW, Merry Christmas, all.


Inkwell
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"The difference between a writer and someone who says they want to write is merely the width of a postage stamp."
-Anonymous

[This message has been edited by Inkwell (edited December 19, 2004).]

[This message has been edited by Inkwell (edited December 19, 2004).]


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QuantumLogic
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quote:
Anywhere from 18-70% of the DU usually oxidizes (depending on the type of impact). For example, direct impact yields 99% oxidization.
Would someone reconcile these two sentences, please?

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Inkwell
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The type of impact refers to the amount of kinetic energy transferred from the projectile to its target (based on angle of impact, trajectory, proximity, etc.), which would therefore determine the extent of damage and measure of total oxidation (combination of the vaporized DU particles with oxygen) of the penetrator/ sub-caliber round. In English...a head-on impact within the weapon's effective range will transfer more kinetic energy (the 99% figure), therefore vaporizing the round to a greater extent and increasing the total level of particle release and its subsequent combination with oxygen molecules. This is more relevant to our current anti-tank DU tech than the railgun tech I have proposed. I should've just cut the whole sentence out of the post, but I was typing in a hurry to get an explanation out (some of you probably caught the tense error with 'vaporizes') and was trying to summarize the info in my notes...which were not organized, to say the least. My notes are never very organized, with the exception of class notes, which I force myself to take neatly for mnemonic purposes.

I hope that answers your question, Quantum.


Inkwell
------------------
"The difference between a writer and someone who says they want to write is merely the width of a postage stamp."
-Anonymous

[This message has been edited by Inkwell (edited December 19, 2004).]


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QuantumLogic
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Does this mean the 99% figure is kinetic energy transfer rather than oxidation, and the oxidation is still in the 18-70% range?
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Inkwell
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I apologize. I should have put that little footnote in the latter half of the sentence. The 99% figure refers to an approximate oxidation factor, not kinetic energy transfer. They are connected, yet not the same. In fact, I'm not sure what the KE transfer measurement would be. Figuring that out is most likely beyond my knowledge of physics.


Inkwell
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"The difference between a writer and someone who says they want to write is merely the width of a postage stamp."
-Anonymous

[This message has been edited by Inkwell (edited December 20, 2004).]


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Survivor
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Eh, whatever. Just so long as you realize that this thing is a pretty dang big gun for an infantryman, even a power-armored infantryman. I would believe a 5mm round (though actually I don't see any good reason that the ammunition should be shaped like a conventional bullet, but that's a whole other story).
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