Sunday, May 26, 2013

In Defense of Microculturation

Like any science fiction novel worth the name, my book Nakba is about all sorts of discombobulated and interesting things: over-urbanization, totalitarianism, personal liberty, Down syndrome, diaspora, and social decadence, to name but a few. But at its heart Nakba is more than anything else a defense of microculturation, and an argument for its necessity as our society moves forward into an uncertain future.

What do I mean by microculturation? It's the process by which people naturally gravitate to those like themselves, spit off from the mainstream of their society, and form their own self-contained “microcultures,” often geographically removing themselves from their original society to do so. This is an extremely natural, organic, and creative social process which seems to be a normal part of the human experience, and there are many examples of it in history. The Protestant Reformation produced all sorts of microculturation throughout Europe, spawning all shapes and kinds of Protestant groups from the respectable and mundane (Lutherans, Anglicans) to bizarre and extreme (Hutterites, Quakers). Many of these groups eventually fled Europe for North America, where they exist in some form until this day. Similarly, the early flowering of Christianity produced numerous interesting and odd sects, such as the Nestorians, Manicheans, Ophites, and Sethian Gnostics. These groups were forcibly suppressed or killed as heretics by the Catholic Church, which then had to struggle mightily to prevent (or subvert) the natural process microculturation in Western Christianity for the next thousand years.

On a *significantly* less religious note, left to its own devices - and without the iron fist of the Soviet Union to prevent “deviationism” - Marxism quickly microculturates, especially under pressure situations such as the Russian and Spanish Civil Wars or World War Two. Trotskyism, Hoxhaism, Bowderism, and Bakuninism are but a few examples. Also, the natural and organic spread of populations over a geographic area, such as the early aboriginal settlers of North America or the Bantu peoples settling sub-Saharan Africa, can also lead to microculturation, producing hundreds of distinct languages and cultures over time.

In fact, the only group that suffers under microculturation is the dominant culture, which looses manpower, influence, and - perhaps most importantly - control as more and different groups with opposing cultural assumptions splinter off from it. Even if microcultural groups are uninterested or disinclined by their beliefs to found rival governments or nation states, the large culture is invariably hostile to the creations of new “centers of power,” even if these centers are cultural rather than backed by force. Anything outside of its sphere of influence is, by definition, at the very least suspect, and more often viewed as treasonous, perverse, heretical, or some combination of the three.

This is why as the 21st Century moves forward, microculturation remains extremely controversial: because it represents a loss of control by a dominant, urban culture that is an increasingly worldwide phenomenon. In fact, microculturation may in the end be the one obstacle to forming a more-or-less unified world society, constantly challenging the concept that in the end we are all “one world” and “one people” (as the highly microculturated Rastafarians are fond of saying). Or, at the very least, that we all want generally the same things out of life, are willing to basically obey and cooperate with the similar power structures to get them, and are at least willing to pay lip service to the dominant international culture of this period.

Which is part of why I wrote Nakba, and why it's called the first book of the “Civilizing War.” Not only because there will be more books, but because I want people to get in the way of the sort of civilization that believes its mission is to be one of universally civilizing. The worldwide culture of the book, known as the Posthegemony, is a cartoonish exaggeration of our emerging worldwide society: rootless, shallow, urbane, controlled, self-congratulatory, unreflective, comfortable, self-indulgent, and above all terribly, terribly dull. It's opponents, both hidden on the Earth and scattered around the solar system in small communities, are known as Interesting People or Children of the Nakba (or “tragedy” in Arabic). To this point in the story they include renegade sex androids, people with Down syndrome, Berbers, Marxist-feminist clone sisters, and Martian Masai tribesmen – none of whom have much in common with one another, but none of which wish to be “civilized” by the Posthegemony, and are thus allies out of necessity.

In the next book you will meet many more microcultures – all odd and offbeat, and all opposed to being civilized by the Posthegemony - who will take their struggle into the asteroid belt as they continue their resistance. Because, in the end, the one great barrier to oppression is to simply and publicly say “no,” refuse to obey, and accept the consequences, no matter how severe. This is what the characters in my book do, and this is what we must do ourselves if we wish to avoid their fate as the early, bright days of the 21st Century invariably grind down into its old age and darkness - as they did in the last Century. We must not sacrifice our particularism to universalism, we must not agree to live like bees in a hive, and we must be prepared to accept the inevitable consequences of our refusal, whatever they might be. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Excerpt From Nakba

The following in an excerpt from my complete but unreleased novel Nakba. Occurring about midway through the book, it is presented for your enjoyment by the Raconteur. 

Mitchell Green: Mars, Arabia Terra

Big. It was big.

The sea of red spread out infinity in all directions, blurring the distinctions between land and sky. It made Mitchell feel incredibly small. In fact, the landscape of Arabia Terra – that vast, cratered plane of iron-colored soil and winding canyons in the north of Mars - was so immense that it dwarfed even the mighty hull of the Andrew Levitz, still steaming and glowing behind him from its violent entry into Mar’s atmosphere. Not for the first time he felt intimidated by this huge, open place. By the tall, russet-colored grasses that brushed gently against the outside of his safety garb. By the vast intimidating ceiling of firmament that pressed down upon him from every angle. By the ocean of genetically modified plant life that spread out before him in all directions, its monotony only broken by the distant black dots of massive Martian buffalo grazing in their thousands. It made Mitchell feel dizzy and sick just to look at it.

Mars was all so terribly large when compared to his normal world of cramped corridors, artificial light, and recorded bird songs. So… real. Yet Mitchell knew that much of the world he gazed upon had been created by the hands of men, just as his own had been. But it was also different. The Martians had used highly modified nanotechnology – a science his own people shied away from – to craft their home, whereas his people had relied extensively on Antigravity to create theirs; a science the Martians seemed to have lost. It had taken centuries of patient, never ceasing toil to turn some of the landscapes of the Red Planet into environments that could support a limited number of extremely modified species. Yet in many ways it remained as inhospitable to men as the hard vacuum of space, its promise of a new Eden seemingly eternally, tantalizingly out of reach.

A figure detached itself from the countless black dots in the distance and headed toward him with long, confidant strides. Mitchell knew that would be his Maasai contact. He hoped it would be his friend Sironka. They had worked together on previous trade missions, and Mitchell enjoyed his company. But there no guarantees: Martian-Maasai society worked in ways unfathomable to Mitchell Green, though he had done his best to study and understand it. He knew that they were nomadic, wandering across the northern latitudes of Mars much as they had Tanzania and Kenya on old Earth. He knew that they worshiped a god called Engai, believed that having a lot of cattle made you rich, and that most of their food came from those cattle. He knew that their society was grouped into “age sets” of people who grew up around the same time, that they were divided into twelve tribes, and that they were very tall and very tough. He also knew they were masters of genetic modification: the art of changing living things so that they were different.

But these were mostly just words on a screen to him. He liked the Maasai. They were cool and alien; though Mitchell suspected that his own kind were as alien to the Maasai as they were to his. It was difficult to say. The skinny Martians were so easygoing and confidant that it was very difficult to say what they did and didn't find strange. Really, he would probably never know. The two groups of human beings had become very other – and possibly they were that way before either had ever left Earth. But such things were never spoken of. There were only three rules universally held by all of the scattered and diverse children of Earth, those Interesting People who in desperation had fled its safe, comforting biosphere for the unforgiving wildernesses of the void. The children of the Nakba: the Disaster. One, they didn't make war upon one another. Two, they didn't interfere with one other’s internal affairs; though, really, they didn't have to. The solar system was so unthinkably large that avoidance, rather than conflict, was the social norm. Trade, rather than conquest, its standard for interaction.

Three, they didn't talk to the Earth. Ever.

Before very long the figure began waving. Mitchell waved back. He could make out its characteristic red robe slung over a skintight, reddish-brown environment suit. The Special and the Maasai were such a study in contrasts that they could have made an excellent comedy team, he reflected to himself with a quiet smile. (He liked comedy teams.) Mitchell was dressed in a bright yellow, inflatable outfit festooned with pulsing lights and topped with a spherical dome for his head. He was short, pale, clumsy, and as generally incongruous with his surroundings as a parrot on the bottom of an ocean.

The Maasai, on the other hand, was fantastically tall and angular, looking as though he had been hand crafted from the rocks, grass, and soil that lay around him: all reds and browns and rags and dust. His face was covered with antique looking goggles and a breathing apparatus that wouldn't have been out of place in the trenches of one of the Earth’s world wars. He carried a long spear-staff with the air of a man who knew how to use it. His billowing dark red shuka contrasted against the brown and black skintight wrappings below it, giving him what Mitchell thought was a fierce, exotic look.

The lanky figure stopped a meter from Mitchell. It cocked its head and peered down regarding him with what the much smaller man guessed was curiosity or puzzlement.

Perhaps it was having trouble figuring out whether I am me or not, he reflected with slight amusement.

Then it reached down, clasping his forearm in greeting while simultaneously pressing its breathing apparatus into the flexible dome of his helmet. “Habari za safari?” boomed a deep voice through the plastic. How was your journey?

“Nzuri, asante.” Mitchell responded with a grin. Fine, thank you. It was his friend after all. He grasped Sironka’s arm in response, his smaller hand making it about half way to his elbow.

“Habari yako?” Sironka continued, still gripping his arm. How are you?

Niko salama.” Very well, thank you. Swahili speakers typically enjoyed greetings, and could go on this way for a while until all possible formal and informal greetings were used up. This suited Mitchell fine. He liked greetings too, and they were pretty much all the Swahili words he knew in any case.

“What have you brought us this trip?” Sironka asked, releasing his arm and gesturing back toward the Andrew Levitz. Sentience was translating now, sending completed words into his mind through his earbud. Mitchell frowned slightly. Sironka was, by Maasai standards, being slightly rude. Normally they would have exchanged at least another two sets of greetings. Then he shrugged. Perhaps, uncharacteristically, his friend was in a hurry. At least by his own kind’s standards.

Mitchell pointed back at his ship using his right index finger. On cue – and a bit dramatically, he thought again with a smile – the bottom two thirds of the craft began to disassemble itself; rectangular sections detaching and slowly drifting to the ground to hover obediently behind him. It was as if he owned his own herd of giant mechanical cattle. Which was rather the point.

“AntiG tech,” he began, counting theatrically on his fingers, “suitable for attaching to lifting platforms. Ceramic insulation to help harden your AIs, and near-sentience level semiconductor wafers to improve them. Blocks of pure aluminum, titanium, and surgical grade steel…”

Sironka nodded, looking impressed.

“…and that kind of stuff,” he concluded a bit lamely. Drama really wasn't his strong point. But the Maasai bowed sagaciously, as if he had made some excellent point.

“For you little ones we have next generation non-self-replicating nanoviruses capable of repairing cell structures after radiation exposure, “ Sironka responded grandly with a sweeping gesture outward toward his unseen home, “new extra-cellular matrix cultures for regrowing organs. Something new to prevent early onset Alzheimer’s that doesn't have the side effects of our old tech. And, of course, as much beef, grain, and frozen water as you can pack into your containers.”

Mitchell nodded thoughtfully. Those were good things. Alzheimer’s was the great curse of Specials, and even some Standards. You simply couldn't have enough treatments for it. The other two medical things sounded good too: great tech to have when you lived out in the vacuum. And it went so without saying that biomass and water were such prized commodities on a space habitat that he didn't even think about their value.

“Haya.” Okay. Mitchell knew that one without the help of his Sentience. Sironka nodded gravely, and then placed his index fingers on his chin, bringing them out and up slowly in Sign for smile. The smaller man beamed back appreciatively. Like every other kind of human in the solar system he knew a bit of Sign, and it was polite of his friend to pantomime his facial expressions. Otherwise it was like talking to a mask.
Sironka pointed out into the distance with his spear-staff, in a direction that the tiny AI inside of Mitchell’s safety suit informed him was southwest.

“Let us now go to the Manyatta,” he said. “It is not such a long walk. And you should stretch your legs after such a long journey.”

“Yes,” Mitchell responded simply, and the two of them strode out into the vast, russet emptiness, shipping containers following along behind them like a pack of huge mechanical dogs.     

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Kickstarter Could Have *Read It First*

I find this kind of insulting, actually. I filled out a very nice little paragraph under risks and challenges, and they didn't *actually* read it. They just sent a email asking me why I didn't explain what might go wrong under risks and challenges.

Ah, well. I tinkered with it a bit and responded.

From Kickstarter

Hi There,

Thanks for sharing your idea with us. I understand that delving deep and trying to foresee potential hurdles that you may encounter can be a difficult undertaking, even more so when you have to present those challenges (some of which may be personal) to a public forum. In the long run, the transparency you present upfront will help foster a better relationship with your backers down the line.

There's always the potential for snags with any creative project, things can go wrong, take longer to complete than expected, etc. It's hard for me personally to speak to what the challenges of your project are, but I'm sure if you dig deep and are honest, there's gotta be something that could be potentially difficult, or just a little bit of a struggle to undertake.

That said, could you update your project to reflect challenges or hurdles you may need to overcome in writing the book, publishing it and fulfilling your rewards?


From Me


I'm not certain I understand. I placed the following text under "risks and challenges" before I submitted the project:

"As general manager of Hero Games I've completed two prior Kickstarters and fulfilled our obligations toward their backers without any problems. The manuscript for An Unforgiving Land, Reloaded is completed, has been edited, and our cover image is ready. If any risks and challenges exist regarding the creation of this book, I feel they’re most likely to come from outside sources beyond our control. This might include my unexpected death or disability, a disaster at the printing facility, or the loss of printed books during shipping to our warehouse. Fortunately, my partners at Blackwyrm Books have significant contacts and resources that I believe would overcome any such difficulties in relatively short order."

I'm a professional. The book is read to go. I wrote it, it's been edited, and the cover is ready - all as indicated. The only problems I can think of are "act of God" type problems: I die, the print shop burns down, or the books get lost on the way to my warehouse – also as indicated in the above text while I submitted with the project.

Nevertheless, I have no desire to be difficult. So I've replaced the above text with the following.

“As general manager of Hero Games I've completed two prior Kickstarters and fulfilled our obligations toward their backers without any problems. As the manager of Indie Press Revolution, I have assisted publishers in fulfilling several others. The manuscript for An Unforgiving Land, Reloaded is completed, has been edited, and our cover image is ready. What remains is for us to complete is the layout, convert them into ePub and .mobi formats for eReaders, print at Lightning Source, and then shipping them to our backers.

Fortunately, developing, printing, and shipping books is what I do for a living, so I'm confident these are not significant obstacles. If serious any risks and challenges exist regarding the creation of this book, I feel they’re most likely to come from outside sources beyond our control. This might include my unexpected death or disability, a disaster at the printing facility, or the loss of printed books during shipping to our warehouse. Fortunately, Blackwyrm Books has significant contacts and resources that I believe will overcome any such difficulties should they arise.”
I hope this meets with Kickstarter's approval.

Jason S. Walters

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Three Peroids of Survivalist Literature

I don't believe I've ever read an article or a book analyzing survivalist fiction as a distinct sub-genre with it's own literary qualities, artistic goals, and objective merits. Of course it's easy to see why. The sort of people who enjoy performing that kind of abstract literary zoology tend to also be urbane, liberal academics, who either instinctively dislike the entire idea of the genre, or find the sorts of people who read and write such books to be so inherently repulsive as to be unmentionable. Hence the lack of McFarland publications entitled things like "Preparedness Or Paranoia? A guide to the work of James Wesley Rawles" or "Boston T. Party: a guide to the fiction and non-fiction of Kenneth W. Royce."

There have, of course, been endless seminars, essays, and books on the post-apocalyptic genre. I even helped write some of them. But "survivalism" doesn't seem to have received academic, or even extensive amateur, attention as its own unique endeavor. So, since I am perhaps uniquely qualified to do so, I'll try to give the subject a least a cursory analysis, and hope that those of you reading this will add your own observations to mine.

Survivlist fiction as a genre can be reasonably broken up into three distinct periods: early (or "Atomic"), middle (or "Ecological"), and modern (or "Economic"). These designations are by no means definitive, though the periods do seem to build upon their predecessors, with ideas going in-and-out of style over time as with any other genre. Thus a reader is almost as likely to find survivalist fiction in which society has collapsed due to nuclear war during the Ecological period as he is during the Atomic period, while the during the Economic period he is less likely to encounter it as the Cold War slowly vanishes into the rear view mirror of history.

The initial Atomic period of the genre occurred during the 1950's and 60's. It produced such memorable works as Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon (sited as an inspiration by such later writers as Brin, Rawles, and Forstchen) and George R. Stewarts' excellent if downbeat Earth Abides; one of the first novels to interject ecological issues into the post-apocalyptic genre. It also lead to the creation of a whole lot of astoundingly awful cinema, with a few gems tossed in amongst the rubbish (Vincent Price's The Last Man On Earth and Harry Belafonte's The World, The Flesh, and The Devil come to mind).

While Nevil Shute's On The Beach falls into the same period and is certainly an excellent example of post-apocalyptic fiction, it doesn't qualify as part of survivalist canon, as its characters all accept the inevitable doom of the human race and commit suicide in various ways. This runs contrary to the basic theme of the genre: an advanced but corrupt inevitably society falls, forcing ordinary people to perform extraordinary feats of courage and ingenuity as they attempt to rebuild a new, often better world from the ashes of the old. Though the characters often face shocking hardships and tough ethical choices, the tone is generally upbeat. In the end principled, intelligent, and civilized people win out over self-serving, short-sighted, and degenerate ones.

For these same reasons several pre-Atomic period novels must be excluded from the genre of Survivalist literature, even though they would seem at first to merit inclusion with it. DeFoe's Robinson Crusoe, Johann David Wyss' Swiss Family Robinson,and Jack London's short story To Build A Fire, are all excellent examples of stories about survival (or in the case of London's story NOT surviving), but none take place after the destruction of the protagonists' entire society. In fact, in each case the protagonists are trying to stay alive so that they can return to a society they know to still exist, removing one of the core motivations of characters in Survivalist fiction: the driving urge to rebuild the world as a better place.

The second, Ecological period of survivalist literature took place during the 1970's and 80's. While the Atomic period generally relied upon nuclear devastation as its triggering event, this second wave of stories broadened its focus to include other, more abstract (and often magical) themes - though typically these include some sort of "mankind punished by nature for his transgressions" ecological theme. Some of this era's more memorable works include Niven and Pournelle's Lucifer's Hammer,John Christopher's The Death of Grass (Okay; it was written in 1956. But they made it into a movie in 1970) Steven King's voluminous The Stand, and S.M. Stirling's quasi-magical Dies The Fire.

This period also saw the creation of many interesting (though not necessarily good)survivalist films and television shows. These include The Road Warrior, Damnation Alley, the American TV series Ark II, and the (much better) British series The Survivors.

Of course no discussion of Survivalist literature from this period is complete without mentioning David "I hate rural Americans" Brin's 1985 The Postman. To be very straightforward: I loathe this book. Not because it's badly written. Brin is, in fact, an excellent science fiction writer, and I am quite fond of some of his books (the Uplift series in particular). But Brin uses the Postman to project his subconscious fears of rural Americans onto a wide screen (literally, since the book was turned into a crappy Kevin Costner film). In his mind it's Survivalists who somehow cause the apocalyptic event, though how this happened is never clearly explained. By being reactionary gun nuts, apparently. Civilization is only maintained by University of Oregon graduate students and, of course, that modern utopia known as California. And, of course, it's the knuckle-dragging rural people from places like eastern Oregon who can't wait to swoop down barbarian-style on their more civilized urban cousins, who are (naturally) totally able to take care of themselves in style after the apocalypse.

[Take a clue from Niven, Pournelle, Forstchen, Rawles, and (frankly) me David: it's definitely going to be the other way around. Bubba and Jose just don't do cannibal army.]

The Survivalist literature of the "modern" or Economic period reflects current economic concerns about hyper-inflation, the instability of global markets, the unpredictable effects of information technology on human society, and a general sense of urban decay due to overabundance. As I mentioned in the last post, James Rawles Patriots is a good example of this type of type of novel, though possibly it isn't a good novel artistically speaking. William R. Forstchen, on the other hand, is an excellent writer, and while his novel 2009 One Second After isn't as packed to the gills with technical information as Patriots, it's quite a good novel. Based upon several years of intensive research and interviews, it examines what might happen in a “typical” American town in the wake of an attack on the United States with “electro-magnetic pulse”(EMP)weapons. It's set in a small college town in western North Carolina and is a cautionary tale of the collapse of social order in the wake of an EMP strike. The book was cited on the floor of Congress and before the House Armed Services Committee by Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, chair of the House Committee tasked to evaluate EMP weapons, as a realistic portrayal of the potential damage rendered by an EMP attack on the continental United States.

However, one of the interesting things about One Second After is its portrayal of the apocalyptic economic effects on the United States by an EMP. With communications, transportation, refrigeration, and manufacturing effectively eliminated, the country goes through a series of "die-offs" over the period of one year, leaving only about 20% of the population alive nationwide. (This is an average. Food-rich Iowa had the highest survival rate with a 50% die-off, while New York city and Florida had a 95% die-off from its fighting among the large populations, high elderly population, and so forth.)

What makes Forstchen's scenario all the more horrifying is that a) no one is directly harmed by the atomic blasts that generate the EMPs, and b) The book contains a brief non-fiction afterword by United States Navy Captain William Sanders about EMP, which includes references to the reports of the United States EMP Commission. Chilling stuff!

We are far from done with the Economic period of Survival literature. Whether based (as I believe) on realistic fears about hyperinflation, or on imaginary, subconscious, and possibly even xenophobic terror of economic globalization, I expect that more and more books like Patriots and One Second After are in the offering. Let's just pray that they continue to be speculative fiction... and not autobiography or prophesy.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

[Review] Patriots: A Novel Of Survival In The Coming Collapse

Note to all: After a long absence due to work, parenting, and general burnout, I figured I would begin re-immersing myself in the world of blogging by reviewing survivalist literature, post-apocalyptic novels, and survival “how-to” books. I read and own an extensive library of this sort of work, and am a “prepper” myself (survivalist is basically a pejorative term), so I’m uniquely qualified to judge the genre. Though I feel some trepidation about making my first review James Wesley Rawles’ rather extreme Patriots: A Novel Of Survival In The Coming Collapse, here goes:

You can’t really talk about survivalism in Modern America without mentioning James Wesley Rawles, the editor of Rawles has a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Jose State University with minor degrees in military science, history, and military history. A former U.S. Army intelligence officer who held a Top Secret security clearance, he achieved the rank of Captain, attended the Army NBC defense officer's course, as well as Northern Warfare School at Fort Greeley, Alaska.

In other words: he’s no Homer Simpson.

Rawles is very knowledgeable, very hardcore, and very Christian, and this comes through in his novel. His characters consider daily bible study to be an important part of the post-apocalyptic lifestyle, which makes a certain amount of sense. Who would you rather have watching your back in a firefight: a hardcore Evangelical Christian, or the guy who camped next to you at Burning Man? It’s not a difficult question to answer.

Patriots plot goes something like this: a decade before America collapses due to hyperinflation, a group of students at the University of Chicago form a survivalist group. They are uniformly athletic, competent, and religious, though not homogeneously so. Rawles’ protagonists include Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, and at least one Jew. Through hard work and constant investment they purchase, stock, and fortify a small farm in rural Idaho. They also train constantly as a military unit and purchase identical matching equipment. Collectively this dozen or so men and women are known as The Group, and later as the Northwestern Militia.

When The Crunch (as the collapse in Patriots is called) happens, the various members of The Group make their way from Chicago to their compound in Idaho, where they work together to survive the collapse. As the novel progresses they find themselves working with other militia groups to patrol and protect the Idaho countryside, first against looters and roving gangs of criminals, then eventually against a United Nations-sponsored totalitarian government determined to impose its will on a devastated America.

But that’s not really what the book is about.

In the tradition of Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (a tradition Rawles alludes to several times in the book), Patriots is really non-fiction disguised as fiction to make it palatable to a larger audience. (Several online reviews have accurately described it as a "survival manual fairly neatly dressed as fiction.") But where Rand used her novel to outline her philosophical ideas, Rawles uses his to provide a staggering amount of survival information. I’m betting that much of the content of his non-fiction work How To Survive The End Of The World As We Know It has been packed into its substantial 384 pages.

In fact, I’m going to buy a copy and find out… which may be the whole point of Patriots, come to think of it.

The information in Patriots ranges from selecting proper clothing to long-term food preparation to creating homemade anti-tank weapons. And, of course, gun info: lots and lots of lots of gun info, including proper maintenance, caliber size, modifications, manufacturer quality, and proper safety. In fact, there is so much information in Patriots that it interferes with Rawle’s writing style. A character never takes careful aim and fires at a marauding biker. He “zeroed cautiously in on the target using a Zeiss Conquest 24-power scope mounted on his custom manufactured stainless-steel bolt action A-Square manufactured in Chamberlain, South Dakota. It fired a wildcat 500-grain .470 Capstick cartridge designed to take down dangerous African game at distances of 200 yards or less.”

Okay, I made that last bit up. Still, his writing style can be very districting - though if you’re interested in these sorts of things, it can also be very interesting.

Another interesting aspect of Rawles’ book is its focus on ethical behavior in post-apocalyptic situations. His heroes are devoutly, un-ironically religious. The pray regularly, hold bible studies, and try to apply their Judeo-Christian faiths to the situations they find themselves in, touching on some interesting questions that are seldom mentioned in the genre. Should you pray for the souls of rapists, murders, and other assorted scum-of-the-wasteland after you waste them? Is it vital to show charity in a survival situation? What is the ethical way of disposing of goods taken from looters in a situation where there is no law and order? What are the proper roles of marriage and sex under such circumstances?

These aren’t problems that I’d considered before reading Patriots, and I think they are definitely worthy of consideration. Additionally, whether consciously or unconsciously, Rawles’ work examines the role of Judeo-Christian faith in maintaining a coherent, principled society during periods of social disintegration. (Not an unreasonable proposition, given the Catholic Church’s role in European society during the Dark Ages.) Because his characters are devout, they see themselves as part of a greater historical tradition, one that does not end or even greatly change when their society falls apart. Or, to put it another way: a Christian or a Jew does not cease being a Christian or a Jew when their government collapses, and must behave accordingly even under the worst circumstances.

This seems like a Big Wisdom to me, and one I’m going to give some thought to.

Religious questions aside, James Wesley Rawles and I aren’t really the same kind of Prepper, or at least his characters and I aren’t. His heroes are highly trained and affluent urbanites that had the foresight to prepare for worse case social scenarios. I think the rural, minimalist “post-apocalyptic” lifestyle is worth living in its own right, and that preparedness is simply a logical part of that lifestyle. Instead of spending countless hours and a small fortune getting ready to live that kind of life, it strikes me that his characters would have been better off living that life well before The Crunch happens, even if it made them poorer and a bit less prepared in advance. There is a certain rhythm to things, after all, and it’s a lot less shocking to know that the power grid is gone when you haven’t lived on it for years.

I’m giving Patriots four out of five radioactive skulls. If it weren’t so insanely informative it would get three for Rawles’ mediocre writing style and his characters general inability to comprehend irony, but he somehow turns these defects into virtues.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Flattering Review

Got a very nice review for An Unforgiving Land from an author I respect on the website of a magazine that I also respect:

How to describe An Unforgiving Land? It’s a book of short stories set in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert (best known as the site of Burning Man). These are horror stories. But what makes them unusual and evocative is that the horrors rise right out of the rocks and sand and flora and fauna of the desert. A Judas horse, trained to help men bring in herds of mustangs, realizes it’s turning its own kind into dog food — and rebels. Hunters encounter a cat that is … well, just a little bigger and wilder than all the rest. A lonely old lady invites a pack of coyotes to do a deed that she herself cannot. Even the meth cookers are a little crazier, a little more violent, and quite a lot stranger in this bleak land. But if you’ve spent time in the desert you’ll almost believe these things could be real. The author knows whereof he writes. He has a ranch in the Black Rock desert and he sent me this book after reading some of my high desert ramblings in Backwoods Home. The book could have used one more proofreading (spellcheck leads you astray sometimes, guys) and just FYI several of the stories are definitely R-rated. The book carries an “over 18″ caveat. But it’s a damn good creepy read.

She's right about the editing of course: THAT was less than stellar.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


For those of you who are interested in roleplaying games, I present chapter four of my book Posthegemony: Terra Nomenklatura for your reading pleasure.

Then you will cry for me.
Copper beeches pour fire
On my warlike dreams.

Through dark underbrush
I crawl,
Through ditches and water.

Wild breakers beat
My heart incessantly;
The enemy within.
Oh let me leave this world!
But even from far away
I'd wander – a flickering light –
Around God's grave.

-Else Lasker-Schuler

Now that you know where you are, what you are, and who you are, it’s time to talk about where you’re going: space. The Big Empty. The Final Frontier. Horror Vacui. You know: the huge, empty place where it’s really, really easy to avoid any annoying assholes you don’t like.

How are you going to get there? Now THAT’S an interesting question. How will you live and where will you go once you get there? Even more interesting.


This game is informed by the author’s interpretation of Ron Edwards’ theories of how roleplaying games work (The so-called GNS Theory: Gamist, Narrativist, and Simulationist. Which has sense been replaced by his far more complex, compelling, and difficult to understand Big Model Theory… but I digress.) Posthegemony is thus a deliberate attempt to reconcile a freeform method of playing which emphasizes collaborative storytelling (Narrativist) as the primary goal of the game with the more traditional structure typically used in Star Hero. [On the offhand chance that you give a fuck, this would be mostly Gamist-Simulationist: Gamist in the sense that the HERO games often boil down to beautiful ballets of mathematically choreographed violence which define the winners and losers, and Simulationist in the sense that Star Hero games typically take place in an immersive, highly-structured imaginary setting.]

And so on: blah blah “infinity symbol” blah.

Hopefully, in a game of Posthegemoy the players tell most of the story and make most of the decisions, with the GM/Antagonist acting as more of a “brake” that prevents them from always getting their own way, thus forcing dramatic situations and danger upon the PCs. He is also there to remind them that there is a “map” to be followed: the general outline of the story has already been written, but it’s their very important job to put muscle and flesh upon the skeleton they’ve been thoughtfully provided with.

After all, stories are like men: without all the interesting soft, living organic stuff, they just lie there dead.

Mission Flow Chart


Meeting Up Yes Yes Yes
Decision/Destination No No No
Hull Yes Yes Yes
Life Support/Personnel Support Yes Yes Yes
AntiG Yes Yes Yes
Sensors/Communications Yes Yes Yes
Defense/Offense Yes Yes Yes
Ship’s Computer Yes Yes Yes
Medical System Yes Yes Yes
Assembly Yes Yes Yes
Provisioning Yes Yes Yes
Escape Yes Yes No
Afterward Yes No No


Posthegemony is played in periods of activity known as Missions. At a minimum these include Meeting Up, Decision/Destination, Spaceship Components [Hull, Life Support/Personnel Support, AntiG, Sensors/Communications, Defense/Offense, Ship’s Computer, and Medical System], Assembly, Provisioning, Escape, and Afterward. (Each Spaceship Component counts as a different Mission.) These Missions take place in a set sequence, except for Spaceship Components, which can be done in whatever order they like.

The PCs can also create their own Missions should they chose to. For example, the PCs could decide that their best bet for accomplishing their Escape Mission is to infiltrate and disable a nearby Producer-Consumer Army Spaceforce base, or that they need to abandon their current homes for security reasons and move the center of their operations somewhere completely different. In either case, the Antagonist should allow the PCs to create their own Missions, so long as they don’t interfere dramatically alter the course of the game.

Before a Mission begins one PC becomes the Lead Protagonist, describing what happens in the form of a story. The players may select a Lead Protagonist for each Mission in any manner they chose, though having Skills that suite the Mission is certainly a wise criterion. The GM takes the role of the Antagonist, forcing the Lead Protagonist to make Skill Rolls whenever she exceeds her Narrative Mandate: the right the Lead Protagonist to describe and determine the events that take place during a Mission. The Antagonist may decide that Narrative Mandate has been exceeded at any time. There must be at least one Skill Roll made by the Lead Protagonist during each Mission, and the only PC that gets to make Skill Rolls during the Mission is the Lead Protagonist. However, the other PCs can use their Skills to make Supporting Rolls to help her, should they wish – though they must narrate how their actions help her to succeed, not simply make a roll.

The GM should feel free to give the Lead Protagonist a +1 bonus to her Skill Rolls should she do a good job narrating a Mission. Furthermore, upon successfully completing a Mission, the PC receives a precious, precious Hope Point. The two exceptions to this are the Missions Decision/Destination and Afterward. But more about these things later.

Meeting Up

Before the game can begin in earnest the PCs must first meet one another. This can be done in person, over the Web, through trusted third parties, or have even occured at some point in the past, assuming the Lead Protagonist can spontaneously create a compelling story explaining why. Furthermore they must be able to identify one another as Interesting People: a dicey proposition, given the dire consequences if they are discovered by Sentience.

Potential meeting locations might include a workplace, nightclub, a Sepak Takraw team, or on a fan-chat dedicated to a favorite member of The Hundred. They could be neighbors in the same Scraper, or meet while on vacation, floating above the abandoned wilderness on a huge AntiG Airship. Any of a wide number of Skills might be creatively employed to gather them together, including Acting, Bribery, Bureaucratics, Charm, Computer Programming, Conversation, High Society, Oratory, Persuasion, and Streetwise.

Since this represents the beginning of the game, the GM can select the Lead Protagonist from among the PCs, should they not be able to so themselves. This particular PC will likely turn out to be the (nominal) leader of the group, as she is the one who has helped to bring them all together. Also, unlike other Missions, all of the PCs should be allowed to endanger themselves by making non-supporting Skill Rolls, as the very process of finding one another is extremely dangerous.

Additionally, in this particular Mission it may be necessary for the Antagonist to assume the role of Lead Protagonist, as the players may have some trouble getting “into the groove” until they’ve interacted with one another for a while. Should this be the case, a Hope Point (see XXX) should be awarded at the end of the Mission to each player who displays particular ingenuity or narrative ability. Also, under the circumstances any PC will have to make an Interesting Person Roll should they fail a Skill Roll.


The PCs’ second mission is the exception that makes the rule: they need not select a Lead Protagonist, there need be no Skill Rolls, and no there will be no Hope Point awarded. Instead, they should use this time period to decide where they will go once they escape Earth, and to create an outline (with the GM’s minimal assistance) of what they will need to do to accomplish that escape; which is, after all, the crux of the action in the game. It is during this Mission that the GM outlines for the PCs the Missions they will have to accomplish.


The PCs are very much aware that in the past groups of Interesting People have used all sorts of things to create the hull of their spaceships: Scrapers, seagoing vessels, lengths of oil pipeline, shipping containers, tanker trucks, and amusement park ride components, to name but a few. Basically anything that can be made airtight, able to withstand the pressures of the vacuum, and can be treated to block radiation is a potential hull for an AntiG powered spaceship, so long as it is large enough to hold its passengers and any supplies they wish to bring.

Spaceship hulls can also be made from scratch, assuming the PCs have the expertise, can locate the necessary material, and have a secret location to assemble them at (see Assembly). Useful Skills for acquiring or creating a hull include SS: Engineering, PS: Engineer, KS: Outer Space, Electronics, Inventor, and Mechanics.

Life Support/Personnel Support

You gotta breath. Well, unless you’re dead or an inanimate object; in which case you’ve got other problems. It also helps to not be frozen solid. The PCs’ ship will need appropriate amounts of air and heat if they are to survive in the cold vacuum of space. There are any number of different ways to accomplish this. Compressed tanks of oxygen. Specially programmed Fabers. Reprocessing machines. Maybe just a whole fuck-ton of houseplants. In short, whatever the GM finds reasonable.

Additionally, personnel support systems will have to be constructed for the ship, so that food can be dispensed and waste disposed of. These could be as simple as crates of Spam and buckets to piss in, or as complex as an automatic food dispensing chefbot and a complete green water/gray water/black water sewer system.

Useful Skills for creating Life Support/Personnel Support include Computer Programming, Systems Operation (Life Support Systems), Systems Operation (Personal Support Systems), SS: Life Support, PS: Engineer, Inventor, and Mechanics.


Anti Gravity is a funny old technology. Hypothetically the size of the power plant doesn’t matter: an AntiG engine designed for a Floater could theoretically lift an Airship. However, while the size of the engine doesn’t matter, the amount of energy sent through it definitely does. With AntiG tech the speed of the gyroscope within the engine is what produces lift, and that speed is generated by ever increasing amounts of power. Also, generally speaking the larger the engine, the sturdier the construction. While it may be possible to lift an Airship with a Floater engine given a big enough power plant, it’s likely that the engine’s components would quickly disintegrate under the strain. Typically an Airship is equipped with no less than three large AntiG engines, two power plants, and a massive battery bank so that it can descend slowly to earth in an emergency.

So, in practice, a spaceship needs a big engine. Better yet, three.

Useful Skills for acquiring or creating a hull include Electronics, SS: Engineering, PS: Engineer, Inventor, and Mechanics.


What’s out there? For that matter whose out there? Does anyone want to talk to you… or maybe just be insulted by you?

Without Sensors the PCs won’t be able to find wherever it is they’ve decided to travel to, or to tell that anyone is trying to stop them from getting there. Without Communications they can’t talk to anyone who may already be there… or the Producer-Consumer Army Spaceforce, should they like. The Lead Protagonist in charge of Sensors and Communications will have to go through the difficult and dangerous process of acquiring (or manufacturing) the necessary equipment if the PCs are to succeed in their quest to leave the planet.

Useful Skills for acquiring or creating Sensor and Communications equipment include Electronics, Systems Operation (Radar), Systems Operation (Metal Detectors), Systems Operation (Sensor Jamming Equipment) Systems Operation (Wireless Digital), Systems Operation (Radio), Systems Operation (Satellite Communications), Systems Operation (Communications Jamming Equipment), Inventor, and Mechanics.


The Posthegemony doesn’t want to you leave utopia. After all, staying in utopia is what is best for you. If you simply have to try, they want you dead: and the Producer-Consumer Army Spaceforce is just the faceless bureaucracy to do the job. Safely and at a comfortable distance, where they don’t have to actually see anything nasty happen.

In this Mission the Lead Protagonist must acquire arms and defenses for the spaceship. These can be anything the PCs think appropriate, though particularly foolish or ridiculous should be punished by the Adversary during the Escape Mission, while particularly clever and inventive solutions should be rewarded (see below). None of the defensive or offensive systems the PCs acquire need to be described in rules terms so long as the Lead Protagonist can acquire them in the coarse of the mission.

Useful Skills for acquiring or creating Sensor and Communications equipment include Electronics, Systems Operation (AntiG Forcefield), Systems Operation (Missiles), Systems Operation (Lasers) Systems Operation (Projectile Weapons), Inventor, and Mechanics.

Ship’s Computer

HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Slave from Blake’s 7. Computer from Star Trek. Unless you want to get all Soviet Lunar Lander and control your ship with levers, wheels, and other steampunkesque miscellany, you had better integrate some sort of computer into your ship. In fact, the use of AntiG technology means that you have to: it’s simply to complex to be controlled by anything as slow and simple as the human mind. So you have some complex choices to make. Do you use something simple and easy to control like a Com, or something complex and independent like Personal Sentience? If you chose the later, is Personal Sentience really… well, personal? Or is it just Sentience? Your PCs may have to find out the hard way during the Escape Mission, or possibly before.

Useful Skills for acquiring (or creating), installing, and operating a ship’s computer include Computer Programming, Electronics, Inventor, PS: Electronics Engineer, SS: Engineer, and System Operations (Ship’s Computer).

Medical System

Sensitive Stephen Maturin from Master and Commander. Irascible “Bones” McCoy from the original Star Trek. The annoying holographic Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager. Any ship going on any expedition needs someone with some sort of medical training. And, whether he’s an EMT-B fresh out of training or a veteran neurosurgeon with decades of experience, he’s going to need equipment. What sort of medical system (or “sickbay”) the PC’s ship will have for their uncertain journey into the eternal night is the job of the Lead Protagonist in this mission. It could be as simple as a first aid kit bolted to the wall or as complex as an autodoctor.

Useful Skills for acquiring (or creating), installing, and operating a sickbay may include Paramedics, SS: Medicine, Systems Operation (Medical Sensors), and Systems Operation (Surgical Equipment).


Now that the PCs have acquired all of the components necessary to build their spaceship, they will have to find a place to put them all together and assemble them. (Unless they’ve devised a clever way of creating their ship out in the open right under the nose of Sentience. It’s been done before, though not in some time.) The Lead Protagonist in this Mission will have to describe the process through which all of these components are gathered into one place and assembled… all in complete secrecy.

Useful Skills for the Assembly Mission might include Bureaucratics, Bribery, Concealment, KS: Logistics, SS: Engineering, and Security Systems.


You’ve got your spaceship built. Now what are you going to put inside of it… and how much space you do you have really? Potential items might include food, weapons, clothing spacesuits, seeds, mining equipment, robots, solar panels, fertilizer, precious metals, android sex slaves, Fabers, Floaters, Coms, frozen fetuses: anything, really, that the PCs think they might need either to create their own civilization, or buy their way into one already created by previous generations of Interesting People.

Potentially useful Skills for the Provisioning Mission include KS: Logistics, Systems Operation (Personal Support Systems), Survival, and Trading.


This is the pivotal, Gygaxian moment of the game. The one where you either soar away on wings of Randian self-reliance, escaping the grasp of the Posthegemony, or tumble to your doom in a flaming, Nathaniel Brandeneqsue wreckage!

Okay – it’s not that Gygaxian. But there is just one roll (though the GM is free to ignore it should he chose). In this Mission the Lead Protagonist describes how the PCs break free of the Earth’s gravity well in their AntiG spaceship. Of course, the Antagonist will inform her that the Producer-Consumer Army Spaceforce has fired a brace of deadly missiles at their beloved ship (not to mention beloved selves), and the Lead Protagonist must in return describe how the defenses constructed in the Defense/Offense Mission defeat this attack… or at least try to.

In the end this mission all boils down to a single roll. The GM should work as hard a possible to make this moment exciting and suspenseful, but not necessarily deadly. (After all, if the PCs have done a good job of narrating their story they shouldn’t be punished for it!) Any number of Skill Rolls could be used for this climactic event, including Computer Programming, Combat Piloting, Systems Operation (various), or should all else fail a simple DEX Roll while feverishly gripping the ships controls! The other PCs may use Supporting Rolls or spend Hope Points to help.


The final Mission isn’t really a mission at all. In Afterward, the Lead Protagonist narrates what the PCs “did” after they escaped from the Posthegemony. This could be anything from a suspenseful cliffhanger to a lengthy description of how the characters successfully founded a colony and lived a tough but satisfying frontier existence. The player should feel free to be as imaginative as possible, with the GM and other players lending as much assistance as they see fit.


“Failures of perspective in decision-making can be due to aspects of the social utility paradox, but more often result from simple mistakes caused by inadequate thought.” – Herman Kahn, futurist (and the model for Dr. Strangelove)


As a setting Posthegemony: Terra Nomenklatura isn’t intended to be combat intensive. Quite the opposite, in fact: the Posthegemony isn’t a particularly violent or dangerous place. Unless you’re a member of an underground fight clique, you’ll probably have no idea how to brawl and no experience with violence of any sort. (Yes, yes: I supplied a sample PC with combat abilities. Have the fuck at Tamerlane.) In any case, it was my strong desire when designing this game to steer away from the wargame roots of the HERO System, highlighting instead the sometimes-neglected use of Skill Rolls and the interactive use of Supporting Rolls within a narrativist framework.

To keep things simple combat in Posthegemony should be conducted like this: the PC makes an Attack Roll using the standard HERO System combat rules. (You know: OCV, DCV, and all that jazz.). If she succeeds her opponent is knocked out, dead, or whatever works narratively for the story. It’s treated like any other Skill Roll: if the PC fails, she didn’t manage to hit or hurt her opponent in any way. She has to make an Interesting Person Roll, since her intended victim has gotten away to call the RoboCops.

Unless an opponent is a RoboCop or otherwise remarkable, his DCV is always 3 for the purpose of making this roll. If the opponent is a RoboCop, then the GM and players are going to have to decide whether to enact an actual combat using the HERO System, or use an optional method described on page XXX - whatever makes your bloodthirsty munchkin asses happy.


Hope is the most noble of all emotions. Love, Hate, Wrath, and Sorrow are all more robust and powerful, but without fragile, weedy Hope they cannot function. It is the lubricant that permits the machinery of the human soul to function. The characters in Posthegemony would seem to be trapped in a hopeless situation, surrounded by a perfected, authoritarian utopia so subtle and all pervasive that rejecting or defying it would seem to be a clear indication of insanity. Yet what differentiates Interesting People from normal producer-consumers is that they still have Hope in their hearts: the Hope that they will one day be free.

Hope Points can be used in various ways. They can be spent like Experience Points at any time to buy or improve Skills, permanently turning them into three Character Points for each Hope Point. They can use them to influence dice roles by lowering or raising the result of the role by one for each point spent, depending on which result the PC finds desirable. This may be done before or after a roll. They can also be spent to force a re-role of a result the PC doesn’t like: for each point, a role can be redone once.

A PC doesn’t have to spend Hope Points on herself. She can also donate them to or spend them on others at any time, as she sees fit.

Interesting Person Rolls And Points

Each time a PC fails a Skill Roll during Mission in her role as a Lead Protagonist (see page XXX), her player makes a Interesting Person Roll to see if Sentience has discovered her deviancy, and decided to arrest her or not. If she “fails,” it automatically goes up by one, making her better” at being an Interesting Person. If she “succeeds,” the happy robots with weapons built into their arms haul her away to a very private movie theater where her eyes are sewn open so that she can watch torture-porn until her mind disintegrates… but I digress.

In addition to using Hope Points, when a character “succeeds” at her Interesting Person Roll, the other players may choose to “spend” Interesting Person “points” to buy that Roll up so that she “fails,” or to force a re-roll at a cost of one point. However, “spending” an Interesting Person Point simply means that the other character’s Interesting Person Roll goes up for every point spent to buy up their fellow’s Roll or force a re-roll. In short: every time you help someone else get away, it makes it more likely that you will get caught.

Additionally, when characters intervene to prevent one of their fellows from being hauled away for ReEducation, they must narrate how, precisely, their character has acted to prevent it. As always the Adversary/GM should feel free to reward or penalize based on the quality of this narration.

"Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don't always like." - Lemony Snicket


When Interesting People are captured and taken away by RoboCops to be turned into Uninteresting People, they are taken to ReEducation. Of course, no one is really sure where or what ReEducation might be. Rumors abound: it’s a hideous torture facility filled with maniacs a la the film Hostile. It’s a boring medical facility manned by androids, a sterile research lab, or a dirty prison filled with Batman’s rogue’s gallery. No one is certain what THEY do to you there, either. Do THEY torture you with knives, shoot you up with drugs, or hook you up to machines. Do THEY lock you into sensory deprivation tanks? Surgically implant alien parasites in your brain?

One thing is for certain: when you come back, you aren’t you anymore.

Normally speaking, in game terms when a PC succeeds at her Interesting Person Roll, and that roll isn’t somehow corrected using Hope Points or some other means, she is removed from play: dead, for all intents and purposes. However, there is no reason that the remaining PCs couldn’t launch a Mission to rescue her from the fiendish clutches of ReEducation. If they chose to do so it is up to the Antagonist to determine what, precisely, ReEduction really is.


RoboCops: the polite policemen of the Posthegemony. Named after a beloved religious figure from the 20th Century and armed with non-lethal weapons that stun and restrain, they are common to every public space, and are well thought of by the vast majority of Producer-Consumers: though no one is certain whether these androids are intelligent in their own right, or simply marionettes of Sentience. Bland, courteous, and always ready to lend a hand, RoboCops spend the great majority of their time directing traffic, helping old people across the street, keeping drunken and/or stoned hoi-paloi from injuring one another, and assisting in the aftermath of natural disasters. In fact, hauling terrified Interesting Persons away for ReEduction is a fairly small portion of their job portfolio.

Physically RoboCops appear to be large, headless men with silver skin. In pace of a head, their body projects the hologram of an oversized yellow sphere adorned with a simple “smiley face” that always faces the viewer, no matter where she stands in relation to it. RoboCops dress in simple blue jumpsuits with an insignia on the front left pocket, and wear a utility belt that holds zip-tie restraints and medical supplies. The RoboCop’s non-lethal weapons are built directly into its arms.

In game terms, RoboCops aren’t meant to be fought: their job is simply to come and take you away when you “succeed” at an Interesting Person Roll. Of course, the PC can narrate his doomed attempts at escape, and the Antagonist can obligingly counter-narrate just how doomed it is: whatever floats your mutual boat.

Optionally, however, the PCs could fight the RoboCops that are sent to take their friend away, or attempt to rescue her before she reaches ReEducation. They might even succeed… at first. Sentience only dispatches two RoboCops to perform arrests, and they are very tough, but not indestructible. However, there is effectively an inexhaustible supply of RoboCops, and Sentience will exponentially increase the number it sends until the Interesting Person is apprehended.

But some people just like to destroy robots. So a character sheet is supplied.

Val Char Cost Roll Notes

20 STR 10 13- Lift 400 kg; 4d6 HTH damage [1]
14 DEX 8 13-
13 CON 3 12-
13 INT 3 12- PER Roll 12-
0 EGO -10 11-
20 PRE 10 13- PRE Attack: 4d6
5 OCV 10
5 DCV 10
0 OMCV -9
0 DMCV -9
4 SPD 20 Phases: 3, 6, 9, 12
10 PD 8 Total: 5 PD (0 rPD)
10 ED 8 Total: 5 ED (0 rED)
7 REC 2
0 END -4
15 BODY 5 Total Characteristics Cost: 69

Movement: Running: 12m
Swimming: 4m

Cost Powers END
15 Android Body: Cannot Be Stunned
15 Android Body: Does Not Bleed
10 Android Body: No Hit Locations
60 Android Body: Takes No Stun (only takes BODY)
10 Tireless: Reduced Endurance (0 END; +1/2) on STR
12 Tireless: Reduced Endurance (0 END; +1/2) on Running
2 Tireless: Reduced Endurance (0 END; +1/2) on Leaping
1 Tireless: Reduced Endurance (0 END; +1/2) on Swimming
49 Riot Shield Projector: Barrier 12 PD/12 ED (1m long, 2m high, 1/2m thick), Non-Anchored, Mobile (+1/4), Reduced Endurance (0 END; +1/2) (65 Active Points) Activation Roll 14- (-1/2), Restricted Shape (rectangle; -1/4)

60 Internal Weapons Package: Multipower, 60-point reserve
3f 1) Shock Baton: HA +5d6, Reduced Endurance (0 END; +1/2) (37 Active Points); OIF (-1/2), Hand-To-Hand Attack (-1/4). Total cost: 28 points
3f 2) Magnetic Bola: Entangle 4d6, 4 DEF, Takes No Damage From Attacks (+1/2) (60 Active Points) 10 Charges (-14), Limited Range (40”; -1/4). Total Cost: 30 points.
4f 3) Sonic Stunner: Blast 6d6, NND (defense is Hearing Group Flash Defense; +1) (60 Active Points) 10 Charges (-1/4), Limited Range (40”; - ¼). Total Cost: 40 points.
Total cost: 70 points.

5 Computer Link (Sentience)
1 Fringe Benefit: Local Police Powers

12 +1 Overall

1 Combat Driving Programming 8-
3 KS: Emergency First Responder Programming 12-
3 KS: Posthegemony Law and Procedure Programming 12-
1 Language: Basic Mandarin Program 8-
3 Paramedic Programming 12-
3 PS: RoboCop Programming 12-
5 Tracking 13-

Total Powers & Skills Cost: 281
Total Cost: 350

300 Matching Complications (50)
5 Hunted by Sentience (Frequently, More Powerful, Watching)
25 Psychological Complication: Must Obey Sentience’s Commands (Very common, Total)
20 Psychological Complication: Unimaginative/Prone To Rote Behavior (Common, Total)

Description: RoboCops are the powerful, almost indestructible, and annoyingly polite law enforcement androids of the Posthegemony, tasked with keeping the public safe… and Interesting People in ReEducation. In combat they have a variety of choices. From its left hand, the RoboCop can project a Riot Shield to protect itself. This is generally done in crowd control situations, but it can be deployed at any time. It can also choose from three different types of imbedded offensive weaponry in its right hand. It can retract the hand and extend a shock baton capable of delivering painful blows, fire magnetically launched bolas to entangle opponents, or produce blasts of sonic energy capable of knocking targets out without hurting them.


“Nearly all creators of Utopia have resembled the man who has toothache, and therefore thinks happiness consists in not having toothache.... Whoever tries to imagine perfection simply reveals his own emptiness.” – George Orwell, Why Socialists Don't Believe in Fun

My favorite science fiction exists as social metaphor. So does this game.

They say that for liberals, utopia lies always in the future: for conservatives, in the past. I don’t believe in utopia. The Earth was not conceived as a speculative real estate deal for Heaven; attempts to force the creation of the Shining City On The Hill in our world have invariably resulted in cruelty, butchery, oppression, hypocrisy, and genocide to one degree or another. It is far better to fight such schemes, no matter how noble sounding, than to be party to their inevitable, hateful results.

With that said, the characters in Posthegemony are attempting to flee their society, not fight it. There can be no fighting utopia. It would probably be immortal to do so. The vast majority of producer-consumers love the Posthegemony, which provides them with excellent healthcare, limited personal responsibility, long lives, delicious food, and limitless entertainment. They don’t care that their existence is crowded, restrictive, and soul-crushing, any more than most modern urbanites care about such things. The PCs can publish all of the John Zerzan-esque manifestos they can write, release endless destructive computer viruses, and blow up Scrapers until they die from fertilizer poisoning. They can assassinate authority figures until they get carpal tunnel in their trigger fingers, or passively resist with endless patience and ingenuity.

It’s not going to change a damn thing.

Since the PCs represent either that tiny remnant of humanity whose very nature rebels at the sort of society they find themselves in, or whose own doomed utopian visions conflict with that of the majority, the only moral choice is separation and departure, rather than rebellion. Waging an insurrection against the Posthegemony would be no more ethical than Ted Kaczynski sending bombs to astronauts, an environmental activist destroying a car dealership, or an x-urban refugee burning down a power plant. As abstractly satisfying as such violent gestures surely are their meaning is completely lost on the vast majority of people, who are invariably unsympathetic even when they do understand.

They are also evil, as they neither teach nor correct.

Posthegemony: Terra Nomenklatura is at its heart a reaction against the urban utopian paradigm that has come to dominate most aspects of our emerging “worldwide civilization.” Or, to be more accurate, it is a process through which people can examine the effects of that nascent new order upon the individuals and cultures that it consumes. It presupposes a state that many in history have faced - stand, fight, and be martyred, or flee into a hostile, uncharted wilderness to build an uncertain future – and challenges them to be clever and to make the hard choices.

Because, in the end, that is all that stands between free men and slavery: cleverness, and hard choices.