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Ramblings and Musings

My Life, My Times, My Doings and those of the Alternate History World. If you want an automatic copy of any new entries, please go to http://mail.changingthetimes.co.uk/mailman/listinfo/blogupdates_changingthetimes.co.uk and sign up. http://www.changingthetimes.co.uk

Friday, February 27, 2004

Coup D'Etat Website

Hi everyone, if you're reading this, why not drop me a note to tell me what you think. Meanwhile, I placed the Coup D'Etat pages here as the bandwhith on my normal site had finally expired.

Chris
posted by Chris  # 2/27/2004 03:33:00 pm

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Weird World War Two – A few PODs

Finnish War never happens: Let’s assume that the Finns offer guarantees that please Stalin enough so that he does not attack in 1940. Finland takes no part in WW2, which means that a northern prong looks far less possible to German strategists in 1941. German launches a massive drive for Moscow and the Baltic’s. Meanwhile, few people have any idea how bad the Red Army really is: The reforms of 1940-41 are slower and less complete. The German advantages last longer. Probable result: German win in 1941.

Mussolini joins in 1939: The west has the chance to mop up North Africa while the Germans are recovering from Poland. Germans can’t send much to help, so I suspect the Italians would have a few successes, but the allied naval might would eventually overwhelm them. There’s be less British forces in France when (if) Hitler attacks in 1940, meaning a quicker German victory and more bad Anglo-French blood unless something else changes as a result of the POD. Italy becomes a satellite of Germany earlier.

US refuses Lend Lease: The British are forced to conserve scarcer resources and attempt to do as little fighting as possible. They’d need to come to an accommodation with Italy and Japan in some fashion and seize the gold supplies of the governments in exile. However, most likely result is a British collapse in 1941 at the latest and a German Victory. Axis Victory.

Japan attacks the British in 1940: Converse of Scott’s Victorious Japanese Arms. British were weaker in the Far East than in 1941 and the Japanese won’t be fighting the Americans at the same time. The Japanese would probably mop up Singapore (which won’t be such a disaster because of less troops in the area) and most of the other British Far Eastern Territories. India would probably collapse. Australia makes a separate peace. Unless the US declares war, Axis Victory.

Hitler comes to power earlier: Let’s assume that Hitler somehow manages to forge a coalition that makes his ‘Beer Hall Putsch’ a success instead of an inglorious failure. If Hitler came to power in say 1926, he’d probably start preparing for war at once with the technology immediately available instead of WW2-level tech. The probable result would be a large German army with tactics not much more advanced than the 1918 army with far fewer tanks and guns. Assuming he gets as far as a situation comparable to Munich, the Czechs and Poles would be in a stronger position, while the USSR would have less ability to intervene. If war did come in say 1930, the result would be a smaller version of WW1 with France, Czechoslovakia and Poland in a coalition against Germany. Probable result: Someone in Britain or France develops better tanks and crushes Germany.

Japanese Biological Attack in 1939 succeeds: The Japanese tried to deploy biological weapons against the Soviets at Nomonhan with minimal results. Let’s assume they managed to weaken the soviets enough to allow them to recover and counter-attack. Fighting continues while Hitler devours Poland and then takes much of Stalin’s portion. Disputes over the booty lead to a German-Soviet war in 1940. Meanwhile, the west is panicking over Japanese biological weapons and the US is pushed to start a massive military build-up in the Far East, out-producing the Japanese so badly that even they can see a war is futile.

West demands a fair deal for Poland: Let’s assume that the western allies have an attack of brains and demand that Stalin allow Poland to have free elections, no occupation and their 1939 borders. Most likely result: Stalin breaks with the west.


West gets Poland, East gets Germany:
Let’s alter the above a little. Stalin gets most of Germany apart from the Rhineland; in exchange the west is allowed to occupy Poland. There are strict limits on the number of outside forces allowed inside the occupied areas. Now, the west comes out ahead, as in OTL the soviets were VERY untrusting of German units, no matter how much the GDR protested loyalty to Moscow. Poles, on the other hand, have considerable incentive to develop an indigenous defence force, while the French would be far more nervous about a Russian satellite so near and be a) far more committed to NATO and b) less inclined to believe their own communist party when horror stories are coming from refugees.

“Quit India”: In 1943, there were many uprisings and disturbances in India. The Raj had the organisations well under observation and was able to head off much of the trouble and remain in shaky control. What if the disturbances had been much greater or the British had had less warning? If they lost control over the southeast of India, everything above there would be cut off, the princes might assert their own independence, china’s supply line would be cut and the British would be forced back to Karachi and Ceylon. If the rebellion managed that much, the British would probably have been pressed by FDR to abandon India and leave India alone. The result would have been a massive human crisis across India, China would probably collapse and the British would have lost the rest of the empire earlier.

No lean lease to China:
The Chinese nationalists were pretty much a lost cause, but the US sent tons of Lend Lease to them anyway. What if those supplies were rerouted somewhere? They could equip dozens of British Empire divisions, free French divisions, etc. The war might be won a lot sooner.

posted by Chris  # 2/25/2004 04:33:00 pm

Sunday, February 22, 2004

When UFOs arrive

Within the scientific community, the question is no longer whether extraterrestrial life exists, but if ET is smart enough to do long division. Scientists are of two minds regarding the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. Skeptics acknowledge simple life-forms might be found on other planets, but insist that intelligent life is unique to Earth. Their belief is based on the assumption that Earth possesses unique physical attributes, including a magnetic field that deflects cosmic rays and a moon that absorbs asteroids. Together, these protective features make Earth a rare safe harbor--one that nurtured the evolution of primitive life-forms into intelligent beings. The opposing camp sees the prospect for discovering alien life in more mathematical terms. Its touchstone is the Drake Equation, which links the probability of discovering extraterrestrial intelligence to factors such as the size of the universe and the number of stars with earthlike planets. With the discovery of each new planet beyond Earth's solar system--there are now more than 100--the odds of encountering intelligent alien life increase. Governments and international organizations around the world have taken notice of the changing odds. No governmental official has gone on record claiming that UFOs are real, let alone a threat. Yet with little public fanfare, they have begun preparing for the single most important event in human history: first contact. That is, the moment earthlings discover incontrovertible proof that they are not alone.


Read the rest at When UFOs arrive
posted by Chris  # 2/22/2004 01:16:00 pm
King of England?

This may lead to nothing, but in the weeks preceding Elizabeth the First’s death, Sir Robert Cecil kept a stage team of horses in readiness along the route to Scotland, planning to inform James of Scotland of her death before anyone could take advantage of the sudden power vacuum. Let’s suppose that something happens to one of the relay riders (say about mid way to Scotland) and the message is lost. Cecil has no idea what’s happened to the message and he’s expecting at least a reply, James has no idea he’s now the King of England.

Might something go wrong? There were a fair number of people who wanted a chance at the throne itself and, no matter how much it was apparent that the Queen wanted James to succeed her, she left no formal will. Someone might well have a chance to take power, causing a mini-civil war. The more fighting, the more unstableEngland will be, and Spain and France will try to take advantage of the fighting.

There’d only be a week or so before Cecil realised that something had gone wrong, but it would be harder and harder to keep the Queen’s death secret. A week might just be long enough for someone to strike for power.

Chris

posted by Chris  # 2/22/2004 01:10:00 pm

Friday, February 20, 2004

Website down, but I'll keep on writing

Cursed bandwith. All I was trying to do was sort out the baen site and they think I've overdone the bandwith. Grr. Anyway, here's a review of Wildstorm's new masterpeice, Coup D'etat, for your pleasure. AH fans who don't like this, there are three small AHs and one big one coming up in the next week or so.

Coup D'Etat: Sleeper. Free will. It's like butterfly wings: once touched, they never get off the ground. No, I only set the stage. You pull your own strings. - Al Pacino, in the role of Satan.

The first issue of the much hyped Coup D'etat plot begins with a disaster straight out of Independence Day. An alien shiftship is falling out of the Bleed (a dimension between dimensions) and is heading on an impact course to Florida. We see in a flashback the reason why – TAO, a supervillain with a very odd style. Tao isn't the kind of man to simply lay waste to a city for the fun of it, or steal nuclear weapons to gain power or money. He's far more interested in seeing what a supposedly civilized and democratic government might do if it accidentally came across some technology it is clearly not ready for. Surely, they'd at least test it extensively, and make sure they know how it works. Especially if this technology had access to the inter-dimensional bleed that regularly poured out problems and threats. Right?

Of course they would. And the resulting destruction proves too much for even the Authority to handle, and millions of human and alien lives are lost. Tao's plan works better than even he probably realized. As a result, the Authority makes the decision we've all paid to see... they're taking over the United States, because the current leadership has used up all its chances. The most intriguing thing about this decision is the fact that they do it with the full knowledge that Tao was behind it. Sure, Tao set the stage, but as John Lynch declares near the end, it was the government's fault for taking such an obvious and risky bait. Just because Tao gave them the technology, doesn't mean for a second that they wouldn't have used it had they gotten it some other way. That the Authority comes to the same conclusion is both refreshing, and also quite a bit frightening. It will be very interesting to see just how accountable the Authority will hold the country's leaders once they take over, and exactly who will take the blame. Something that many Wildstorm titles have is the claim that the President is really one of the lower officials, so who will really take the fall?

The characterisation is excellent. Tao comes across as very cold and harsh, providing a counterpoint to Holden’s near guilt at the carnage. Jack Hawksmoor is shown as a true leader, while the Doctor finally gets over his problems with using his powers. Here, he slows down time for the evacuation, allowing countless lives to be saved. To see him use his powers so creatively, especially in light of the painful reminder that he has limitations early on, is a real joy. Sadly, we don’t really see much of the Sleeper team beyond the first few pages, but, for those of us who don’t know them, it’s not a big loss. Hawksmoor’s grief at the losses and his desperate search for someone to blame struck a chord in me, although I’d have loved to see the discussion the team held about the Coup D'etat. The final page, the Authority’s announcement to the world, is one of the most dramatic cliff-hangers in comic-book-dom.

Personally, I can’t wait for next week…


COUP D'ETAT: STORMWATCH. This issue has the interesting touch of starting before the end of the first issue and taking the daring step of introducing us to a new character while developing the expanded Coup D'etat plot. There is only one plot in this book, but it’s very good. Whether it makes up for the artwork, which is so-so at best, is another question.

Its another normal day for the Stormwatch team. A super-powered villain called Baron Chaos (pretty much a copy of Doctor Doom) has taken over Bulgaria. From there, a little over half the issue is dedicated to showing the Stormwatch team carrying out a carefully planned and executed strike, slowly but surely wearing the seemingly invincible dictator. Through this scene Wright shows new readers how the team works, and highlights the names and abilities of nearly every member of the team. This allows for a completely accessible jumping on point for this series, without bogging the reader down with a bunch of exposition. Stormwatch defeats the villain and accidentally discovers his secret base, leading Santini (the commander of Stormwatch (weatherman) and the principal character) to grumble about how super-powered nutcases always try to take over the world. In one of the worse lead-ups (somehow one cannot imagine the Authority missing it’s cue), the team hear Hawksmoor’s broadcast, informing the world that they’re taking over the US. Adding insult to injury, the reader is treated to President Patrick Kent's response speech to the Authority's threats. Kent, an obvious mirror to Bush, goes straight to calling the Authority “evil” before making up a whole bunch of “almost-words” to try and sound smarter. Grrr.

Don’t let that put you off though. Santini is very quick to realise that his team (which fought and beat the Authority once before) will be target one in the takeover. The Stormwatch team abandon their base in the UN literary minutes before two members of the Authority arrive, to be greeted by the bases self-destruct system. Ouch.

The highlight of this issue, however, is Santini addressing his men as they are on the run from the Authority. This man is hardcore, and he doesn't sugarcoat anything. “If you come with me to fight the Authority, I guarantee some of you will die.” However, we also see a softer side of Santini, at least towards his men. He outlines a way out to everyone for whom it’s a possibility, no questions asked. It’s comforting to see that a man who later guns down the formerly great Baron Chaos (while bound to a chair no less) has at least some compassion inside of him. Having received the entire teams decision to come with him (no surprises there), Stormwatch evatuates Baron Chaos’s base – again seconds before the Authority arrive – and vanish. Somehow, we know that the teams will fight again.

This is a very interesting issue again, but it seems to be at an odd disconnect from the previous Stormwatch/Authority interaction. We know that the Authority were beaten in Stormwatch (4-6), and then there was a quiet discussion (#8) between Jukko and the Midnighter about Finland and finally (#19) Santini asked the Authority to help out with the Citizen Solider problem and the Authority obliged. So why did the authority over-react to Stormwatch and do it so badly? If only two members of the Authority were sent in the first time, both of whom had been beaten in the previous battle, did they not consider that they might be captured and held hostage? Santini’s decision to go underground might have been reasonable, but why not at least try to talk? The Engineer, the only member of the Authority who supported Stormwatch in (#5), helped the other to find them without bothering to argue.

Some nice continuities did come though. We got a reference to Finland and the problems involved with hiding superheroes there.

My major gripe with this issue was the artwork. Neither Flint nor Apollo is as ugly as they’re portrayed here.

By the end of this issue I was aching to see the Authority come to blows with Stormwatch, only to have them miss each other by seconds. However, I'm a patient man. I can wait to see what happens without resorting to some silly melodrama.

Coup D'etat: Wildcats.
There are few words I can say about this issue that really capture my feelings, but only one comes to hand: WOW! The art, the story and the dialogue were terrific. Many kudos to the author.

There are three different plots in the comic. The first one is the authority’s ongoing Coup D'etat in the United States. We see some of the most spectacular artwork as Apollo, The Doctor and The Engineer take out different parts of the US infrastructure, identified by a news report (one of the nicest touches of the whole Coup D'etat series is the news reports we overhear) as the US strategic Defence system. One does wonder why the Authority would bother to take out satellites – not to mention how quickly they were replaced after Stormwatch 14-19. It’s a little hard to see what the doctor is doing, to be honest, the picture looks a little wrong, somehow.

The second plot is the reaction of two of the Wildcats, Cash Cole (also known as Grifter) and Mr. Dolby to the takeover. Grifter goes ballistic and convinces Dolby to join him in a stunt to steal a super-weapon from an arms dealer, which they obtain after an adventure. There’s also some interesting conversation between the two over what the Authority means to them personally. Grifter’s plan hits problems, though, when they discover the size of the weapon involved and Grifter tries to convince Marlowe to use his abilities to transport the weapon to the Authority’s home base. After some thought, Marlowe refuses, believing that the Authority's coup won’t last and then the world can continue along the lines Marlowe has planned for it. There’s an interesting argument between the two over what the role of a superhero is; Grifter being a traditionist, while Marlowe (ironically, like the Authority) defines it as helping to save the world in the long term. The two argue until Grifter leaves with a parting shot: “What makes you think they won’t come after you next?”

That leads nicely to the third plot. A contemplative Marlowe teleports himself on to the carrier (a stunt that the Authority should have managed to block by now, having been done at least twice before) and confronts most of the Authority. Marlowe and the Midnighter really don’t get along for some reason – The Midnighter acts more like a thug than normal in these pages (I suspect that many writers don’t get the full depth of his personality). Marlowe’s basic message to the authority works on many levels: No matter the philosophical right and wrong of the Authority’s actions (Marlowe appears to agree with them on some level), their actions will, in practice, have serious consequences. The world is a far more complex place than the Authority knows and their failure to understand this means that their actions will have catastrophic consequences. This does tend to follow previous problems the Authority have had; leaving Gamorra to the mercy of the reminder of the circle (Authority V2 #1) and making it impossible for a new president to appear in some other country. (Authority, V1, #13-17 Naivety). Marlowe is clearly far more of a thinker than Santini or the Authority, forcing the four Authority members to cling to their positions (for some reason the Doctor and Swift are not present), and the Authority are at a serious disadvantage. However, Marlowe is unable to convince them to stop and leaves with a parting warning.

As I said above, WOW! The artwork is far better here than the previous two issues. Apollo, for example, had the indignity of looking like a super-thug in Authority #13-25 and in Stormwatch (#5-6 + Coup D'etat). Here, he looks far more of a hero, as do the other characters. The picture of him blasting a satellite is a beautiful drawing. The cliffhanger page is fantastic – it made me want to read the conclusion at once.

The characters have also improved. The dynamics of the reactions to the Coup D'etat are very different; while Stormwatch had no choice, but to do their duty and react swiftly, Marlowe and co have the luxury of considering their actions before they do anything. Grifter’s preparation (apparently still held in reserve) of an anti-authority plan testifies to the skills and ingenuity of the character. There is little development of the Authority characters, sadly, but the most interesting development is that of Mr. Dolby. The common man (as far as I know, Wildcats is not among the titles I read regularly) is clearly scared of the Authority, being worried about the implications and having a bitter conversation with his mother, concluding that the Authority think they can do anything they want.

So, in six days, it’s the final battle for Washington. I can’t wait…



posted by Chris  # 2/20/2004 02:55:00 pm

Friday, February 13, 2004

Population Frozen

Let’s suppose that some mad genius – or even a covert government op of some kind – decided that the world was too overpopulated, or feared that current birth trends would see their nation overflow with people or be overwhelmed by immigrants from somewhere that had too many people. That person/team uses a biological weapon, akin to the one from ‘Drakon’, to cut down the birth-rate. No matter what happens, 98% of women in the world can only have two pregnancies. After that, they’re sterile.

What might happen then?

Chris

posted by Chris  # 2/13/2004 04:33:00 pm

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

BAEN ISOs ON CD 

As you may be aware, Baen has granted permission for me to copy the CD ISOs and share them with anyone I want – on the condition that I don’t charge for the service. They are shared here. However, if you want them on CD, I am allowed to charge for the CDR/CDRW (your choice) and the postage. If you want a copy of any or all of the discs, drop me an email.

Payment: You can pay me in three ways. 1) You can pay me the money via PayPal (www.paypal.com). 2) If you live in the UK/ROI, you can send me a cheque. BRITISH MONEY ONLY! 3) You can purchase a few Baen Ebooks and share them with me. I’ll meet the rest of the costs.

Please Note: I will be unable to produce any CDs until the 12th of February. However, feel free to email me at any time and we’ll discuss terms.

Chris

posted by Chris  # 2/04/2004 08:12:00 am

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Superheroes and Mutants in the Real World? 

Superheroes and Mutants in the Real World?

Some discussions on several boards and list recently have discussed the possibilities of the real life existence of superheroes, both mutant and alien in origin. Would, they asked, be like the marvel universe with massive anti-mutant discrimination, the wildstorm universe with the heroes openly interfering with the government, or the DC universe with the heroes treated as, well, heroes.

I suspect that there may not be as many changes as have been anticipated. Why would the mutants band together against us normals? There have been no cases – as far as I know – where one group of people have banded together without some dissent. Many of the successful pre-ACW blacks that were free opposed emancipation, as they feared it would upset their achievements. Even the United States has some dissent within it.

Just how much use in a military situation mutants would be is questionable. Someone with the ability to turn invisible would be a neat trick, but could they fool a heat detector or a scent detector? Someone who could fly, with no other special abilities, could be simply shot down. Few mutants are really that powerful.

A situation like that shown in ‘The Authority’ is unlikely. I always figured that the authority was a seriously bad team – as far as teamwork went – because they kept arguing. They all held strong personalities and were very powerful, but they did not train together or had a strong leader (since jenny sparks died – I kind of lost interest after her death.) The net result happened in ‘Stormwatch: Team Achilles’ #5-6’: Manipulated by the merely human Stormwatch (unless you count Jukko’s uneviable and unwanted power of feeling others pain), they are defeated one by one when Stormwatch uses advanced techniques and strategy.

‘Stormwatch: Team Achilles’ is probably the best indicator of the effects of Super Powered Beings (SPBs in the Wildstorm universe). The first issue makes the point that “fighting a super-powered opponent need not be a death sentence” and continues in that vein. Mutants may add a touch of surprise to military operations, but they may offer no real advantage in the long run, not to mention being single people and easily influenced, compared to a group.

Just how ordinary people would react is unclear. A lot of people would probably be afraid of them, but how is that different from the fear that many people feel about immigrant communities? I suspect that open ‘racism’ would be rare, see Alara’s ‘All About Eve’ for a possible take on the existence of mutants: http://www.alara.net/xbooks/allabouteve.html

A final detail that was not discussed was how the mutants came into existence. Genetic mutation, a possibility, might lend itself to increased strength, better senses, and telepathy, but I don’t think that most of the X-Men are in any way realistic. Artificial enhancement is probably a better bet, with strength, pain resistance, better senses and much more (http://www.baen.com/library/0671720856/0671720856___4.htm) being added onto a group of volunteers, but I can’t see them developing super-troops with the ability to fly and x-ray vision. (Though think of the lawsuits the girls could press against the poor boys who ended up with that power and no way of proving they’re innocent.) Alien/Human hybrids are impossible, so let’s not speak of it again. (Shut up over there, lol.)

posted by Chris  # 2/03/2004 02:36:00 pm

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