Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Meet the Crew of the Barsoom Princess

I recently wrote a story for a contest at Mirable Visu. The story is called "The Barfight on Simplicity Genoid" and it is about an exotic dancer and two crewmembers of a spaceship called the Barsoom Princess.

EDIT: I have since lost the competition.

The feel I was trying to capture and exploit with Empire Beyond Mars manifested itself in this story almost unbidden. In other words, what I was trying to do with EBM (in serial form on this blog) seems to have just popped into this story and is working pretty well (IMHO).

Since I really like the idea, there is one story that already exists and I am currently working on another, I thought I should introduce the readers of this blog to the crew.

Genoid is my new word for space habitat. I intend to replace my own coined word, spabitat with genoid. Spabitat is a bit unwieldy.

The Barsoom Princess is something of a Q-ship. She began life as a cargo vessel and was converted to be a cross between a commerce raider, an anti-commerce raider, a smuggling ship and a blockade-runner. Her captain, Hugh Botha held a letter of marque from the government of the Confederated Earth Orbiting Worlds (CEOW pronounced see-ow) during the Terra-Jovian War. Now that that war is over the Barsoom Princess mainly smuggles, still with somewhat official sanction from the CEOW.

The crew is:

Captain - Hugh Botha
Ship's Computer - IYF-53-BASU referred to as Princess
1st Mate / Pilot - Falcon Butler
Engineer - Wynward Longnecker
Engine Knobot - LOP-32-QULO called Qulo or just Q
Weapons - Felton Lamy
Weapons Knobot - AEN-78-BIGU called Big U or just U
Communications - Wen Li
Navigation - Gaius Ganymedius Septimus

The computers and knobots. At the time of these stories computing abilities have advanced so far that many computers are self-aware. The AI technology that allowed self-aware computers and robots is called knobotics (a term I coined). In general, usage the robots that are self-aware are called knobots.

The standard cargo ship consists of a ship's computer and an Engine Knobot. The Engine Knobot is a redundant system that backs up all the functioning of the ship's computer with the added advantage that the knobot is mobile outside the ship. Long range passenger ships often add a human captain, but could also have additional human or knobotic crew. Since the Barsoom Princess is a Q-ship, she has a much-expanded crew.

Each knobot is programmed to develop a personality. There is no such thing as the Three Laws of Robotics because such broad concepts are useless for computers. Additionally, the checks that the Laws were developed to provide are not necessary. Knobots are so specifically programmed in their standard operating instructions and personality development that problems like questioning authority just do not come up. All three knobotic minds on the Barsoom Princess have affected female personas.

Captain Botha is South African by nationality and was born in the CEOW. He spent his early career in the CEOW Area Defense Fleet. After twenty years in the fleet, he joined the Long Range Merchant Fleet and became the Captain of the Barsoom Princess. Five years ago he accepted a letter of marque and the Princess was refitted and her crew beefed up. The captain is a large man with very dark skin, white hair and brilliantly white teeth.

The Princess ship's computer has developed the personality of an elegant and loving wife to her captain. Captain Botha was not her original captain, but his personality meshes well with the ship's and they get along like a loving couple.

First Mate and Pilot Falcon Butler. Like NASA tradition, the second in command is called the pilot, but unlike NASA, the ship flies herself. There is no human pilot, however in combat situations the Pilot is the one in direct contact with and responsible for giving the ship maneuver instructions.

Falcon was born on Earth and went to the US Air Force Academy. He is unusual in that he actually can fly a plane, in atmosphere. While in the USAF he was assigned to the Moon where he learned to play Flockball. He was assigned by the USAF to the Princess. While under Captain Botha's command he left the USAF and the USA to take up citizenship with the CEOW.

Falcon is tall and tan with unkempt hair. He has the swagger and banter of a pilot and lady's man.

Engineer Wynward Longnecker was born in The Belt. His mother was Hispanic and he has her dark features. He is average height and wears a crew cut. He is a genius with engines and almost everything to do with spacecraft. The trouble is he knows it. He considers himself an artist with the machines. His hobby is beer and he has a microbrewery in the engine rooms.

Engine Knobot LOP-32-QULO, called Qulo or Q. She is the nurturing mother type and handles most of the life support problems because she always wants everyone to be comfortable and safe. Her personality is like a stout mama-san. She is unassuming and likes to write poetry, which is actually quite good.

Mendelhanian Felton Lamy is Weapons. He is genetically engineered just like everyone from Mendelhan Genoid. His caste is military officer and is designated by his bright red hair and red eyes, as if you wouldn't notice his massive height, girth and strength. He was assigned to the Princess to help ensure Mendelhanian interests are supported by the CEOW.

Big U is the weapons knobot. She as assumed the persona of a ditzy amazon. She is very self-disciplined but the weapons on the Princess are not first rate, which makes her less effective than she normally, would be. She makes due with what she has rather than exploring improvements. The really unusual thing about U is that she was "married" to a human man, but they have since "divorced." She still misses him and is somewhat melancholy.

Wen Li is Communications, which deals not only with communicating across the vast distances and time lag of the Solar System, but also with encoded and encrypted communications, ECM, ECCM, subterfuge, camouflage, intelligence, counter-intelligence, etc.

Li was born on the Moon. He is tall with a paunch and although he is not strong, because he was reared in the low gravity of the moon, he is quite agile. He is very possessive about his area and position. He has a very high opinion of his own skills, with good reason. His parents were both very prominent politicians on the Moon and his mother was instrumental in the peace accord ending the Terra-Jovian War. Li and his wife are separated.

Gaius Ganymedius Septimus as his name implies was born on Ganymede within the Galilean League. He has "defected" from the League mostly because of personal and family issues rather than politics. He is fiercely loyal to Captain Botha, although no one else in the crew is sure why. By personality, he is also fiercely loyal to the crew of the Princess because they are his team, his crew, his family. As a member of a royal family of the League, he was genetically engineered to be smarter, faster and stronger than "normal" people. He has also been through military and political training.

"Navigation" as such is not really a required position on a Q-ship with the three knobotic minds aboard. He analyzes flight paths with Princess in light of the current intelligence estimate, relieving Li of that responsibility. For this he is supremely suited due to his history. By agreement, Septimus has also taken up the life support portion of the engineer responsibilities, which he works through Qulo.

What do you think? I really, REALLY need comments. Do you think it's a good idea and would you like to see more? If so, let me know.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Reading and Snow

The last poll ended with three people saying that Mystery was their favorite genre to read and one person who liked Fantasy best.

One of the best times to curl up with your favorite genre of book is the middle of a snowstorm. Here in northern Illinois it has been the snowiest season since 1981-82. Sure there is no snow now (actually there still are mountains of snow in the corners of parking lots all over, but those can last well into May) but there was a lot.

Each year I think can get by without a snow blower. Some years I regret it, but then it's too late. I have three good shovels, a pretty good system and a couple of helpers now, so if we don't get a 1979 or 1967 type snow I'll be fine.

Besides, my neighbor has a snow blower and he seems to really love using it. After he does his own he usually does mine (if I can't get there in time to beat him to it) and then he moves on down the block.

What do you do about snow? Do you shovel, snow blow, or snow plow? Do you even have a driveway or sidewalk to shovel? Do you live where there is snow? Do you live where there is so much snow that you could never remove it anyway?

Let me know, vote now.

The photo is of yours truly on our garage roof with my father (he's the one actually working) in 1979. We had to shovel off the garage roof so it wouldn't collapse under the weight. I was twelve and despite having fallen down in the photo, I did help.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Rugby Poll Results

The recent poll I had on Rugby in the US is over and these are the results:

Five people voted on the question of why Rugby isn't more popular in the US.

60% - The youth of America didn't grow up with it.

40% - There is no money in it.

40% - Because we already have American football.

20% - Too violent.

20% - Bad reputation

20% - Other

I think this is rather hopeful. The majority opinion is that Rugby isn't more popular because it isn't what we grew up on. I will hopefully deduct that if we had grown up on it, it would be more popular. Therefore the effort to spread Rugby to the youth of America should result in the kind of growth and acceptance that soccer has seen in the past twenty years.