Frederick Zinn of Galesburg and Battle Creek to be inducted in the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame

A true American hero

I received an email two weeks ago informing me that a person I had nominated to the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame was going to be inducted this year.  Frederick Zinn was born in Galesburg, Michigan and raised in Battle Creek.  I wrote an award winning book about him, Lost Eagles, (University of Michigan Press) years ago.

Zinn was a true aviation pioneer.  Here’s a short summary of his life:

  • After graduating the U of M in 1914 he went to Europe, became embroiled in the Great War, and joined the French Foreign Legion where he was wounded.
  • He transferred to the French Air Service as an observer – making him America’s first combat photographer. It also made him the first combat airman from the state of Michigan.
  • When America entered the war, he was one of the first aviators to transfer to the American Air Service.
  • He was one of the original members of the Lafayette Flying Corps and was close friends with the members of the Lafayette Escadrille.
  • He established the first American observation training school.
  • He flew combat missions.
  • After the war, Zinn remained behind, initiating the search for missing airmen.  Up until this point, the military did not search for missing warriors. He recovered or identified the remains of 194 out of 200 missing airmen. He embodied the phrase, “We will leave no man behind.” 
  • He ran a successful grain and feed company between the wars.
  • In WWII, he worked directly with General Marshall to create the system for recovering missing airmen (the Missing Air Crew Report system). 
  • When he was denied the chance to find missing airmen, Zinn joined the OSS – the precursor to the CIA, as a counterintelligence officer.  His cover, provided by the Kellogg Foundation, was to search for missing airmen. 
  • He recovered countless missing American airmen during the war.
  • He performed several counterintelligence missions, well past the age of 50, during WWII. 
  • After the war, he was a state representative in the Michigan House. 
Zinn in his Sopwith 1 1/2 strutter in the French Air Service

If you live near Kalamazoo, you should consider attending the induction ceremony. Zinn was, and remains, a true American hero.  While I have a prior commitment that prevents me from attending the ceremony, I am pleased and honored that he is finally getting the recognition that he so richly deserves. 

The Tukayyid Salvage Bits Bags at Gen Con and Beyond

Our company, Creative Juggernaut, has been busy leading up to Gen Con. First, we produced hundreds of Stormcrow Tukayyid variants and shipped those to Catalyst for them to sell on their site.  Second, we produced a batch of Black Knight Tukayyid variants and got those off as well. For Gen Con itself, we assembled Tukayyid Salvage Bit Bags, (around 700) as a convention release. 

We jokingly called these “dime bags” in-house.  They are parts and pieces of ‘Mechs that were unfit for release to the public.  Some parts are partial casts, some are deformed in some manner, others have air bubbles (which look like damage).  Our company believes in being green and rather than send these off to the landfill, we packaged them for resale. Each bag is the same size as the Black Knight and Stormcrow, but are crammed with random parts.  The parts are from these two ‘Mechs, as well as some prototypes we did for a Marauder IIC, an UrbanMech, and a Crusader…but mostly Black Knight and Stormcrow parts and pieces. 

So what good are they?  These bits can be used on bases as battlefield debris for your ‘Mechs to be standing on or next to.  The bits can be used to make fallen ‘Mech objective markers for Alpha Strike games.  My personal use of these is for when a BattleMech is destroyed in a game.  Rather than tip over a model I have worked hard to assemble and paint (risking damage), you can use these parts to mark dead enemies and comrades on the field/map. 

I met one person that bought a few bags in hopes of getting enough to assemble a battle damaged Black Knight. No guarantees on such efforts, since the parts are randomly stuffed in the bags.  I appreciated his ingenuity and creativity. 

We didn’t announce these would be available at Gen Con because you never know until the last minute if they are going to be suitable for sale, etc.  As it was, Brent loaded up a piece of luggage with Tukayyid Salvage Bits and lugged them personally to Gen Con.  Things were so last minute, I don’t even have a photo of the bags right now. 

Eventually, once the dust settles from convention season, these will go up for sale on the Catalyst Game Labs website – along with the Stormcrows and Black Knights.  And yes, we are going to produce more ‘Mechs.  No, we cannot solve international shipping prices nor are we selling these directly – you have to order them from Catalyst.  Catalyst sets the sales price on these.  There is no way to preview them online, so there’s no picking and choosing – you get a random bag stuffed with random parts. 

We will do some social media posts when we know when they are for sale; but that is handled by Catalyst and there is no guarantee that we will gets a heads up.  I would recommend watching their web site since you now know that they have stock of our products. 

So what it next?  I’m sworn to secrecy, but there are some big things coming from Creative Juggernaut…BIG things. 

Summary of Gen Con 2021 – Thursday and Friday

The ‘crowd’ to get in to the main floor on Thursday. This is five minutes before the door opening. Way smaller than in previous years.

It was my intent to do my usual three-day Gen Con experience, but with a paired down convention, we decided to bail after two days. We simply had done all of the things we had planned. The following is a mix of personal experience vs. overall impression. 

So how was it?

It was okay. COVID definitely knocked down the convention’s hit points badly.  Everyone wore masks and socially distanced where practical.  Let me say this, you can’t have a convention and social distancing. Gaming, by its very nature, is a social experience.  People spread out fairly well on Thursday to get into the main hall, less so on Friday.  Aisles were congested at times but for the most part, people didn’t deliberately bunch up – but it does happen.  Some booths had lines.  Anyone thinking there was going to be strict social distancing at Gen Con was delusional.  The people whining online about it being a ‘super-spreader’ event were likely jealous they weren’t there and wanted to try and shame people that did go. This year’s ‘con-crud’ will likely be labeled as COVID this year, so prepare for that. 

I was hoping the experience would be like rolling the clock back 10 years to when Gen Con was 35k people or so.  It wasn’t.  There were far too few events for the number of attendees and the infrastructure (food-wise) was strained. 

Key things I noticed:

The crowds were smaller, as was the number of vendors in the main hall.  Gone were the big bags filled with games.  People were buying stuff, but with some of the big vendors not there (Fantasy Flight, Paizo, etc.) you didn’t see massive promotional bags that much.  Having said that, people were plopping down cash, which is good for the industry.  Some booths had decent lines to get in, at least on Thursday.  By Friday, more people were in the gaming area rather than the main hall.  Thursdays folks try to get in and purchase the new products first and foremost. 

The number of events was dramatically cut.  They were cleaning the few mini events down between rounds, to the point where I saw clear plastic sheets covering some of the maps.  Sanitary?  Maybe.  The events that were there, sold out fast.  I got into a game at Ares (Sails of Glory) because a guy bailed, but there were not a lot of events to get into in the first place.  No Masters and Minions tournament this year, not a lot for kids (we took my grandson with us).

The food situation was sad. Thank God for the food trucks.  They came through.  Restaurant-wise, downtown Indy has been devastated by COVID.  It was carry-out only at Steak and Shake.  I’m not a huge fan of their food, but for a lot of folks, going there is a tradition.  We were in two restaurants that were out of some food due to supply chain issues.  PF Chang’s was out of white rice – for example, Thursday night.  Many restaurants were simply closed, permanently.  Others only stayed open until 6pm due to staffing challenges.  You have to have places to eat for a big convention.  Again, the food trucks saved this aspect of Gen Con but if the weather had been bad or the crowd larger, it could have been a big issue.  

This was not the Steak and Shake experience many were looking for.

Some vendors bailed at the last minute – so there were weird gaps on the show floor.  It actually was a blessing so you could step out of the aisle to make calls or adjust your purchases.  It wasn’t helped that Gen Con kicked out one vendor, slapping up “No Harassment” signs on all of the doors.  I won’t go into the controversy, but it was ridiculous to have a convention exclude a vendor while preaching inclusiveness. This was a year that they should have embraced all vendors that wanted to come.

The booth demos were down dramatically.  I live for these because it’s a chance to test play games.  Steve Jackson was doing them but most places scaled them back dramatically or did away with them entirely.  That was disappointing and I think it may hurt their sales.  It was understandable given the restrictions.  My grandson loves wrestling and was looking for a game.  SRG games did do demos and they were fantastic; lots of crowd engagement, characters dressing the parts, etc.  They invited us to their tournament too, threw in some freebies for my grandson, etc.  The guys running the Supershow game demos deserve an award for making the con for my family. Result – we plunked down a good chunk of money with them and my grandson is running around wearing one of their hats.   

There were some convention exclusives, but they were limited.  Catalyst had a ‘megamap’ (rename suggestion was Jumbo-Honking Map) and they had Creative Juggernaut Bit Bags (our salvage parts) which were selling strong. The maps were incredible, large, and quite heavy.  Other companies like SRG had convention exclusive cards, which were great too. 

The art area was much thinner.  I spoke with a few vendors there and they were selling well, so the cash was flowing. 

Costumes were few and far between this year. 

Miniature games were dramatically cut.  One thing I look forward to is walking through the game hall and marveling at the mini game terrains and set up.  This year it was almost non-existent.  Even the big Camospecs diorama was not present – there weren’t enough staff to cover it.  This visual experience at Gen Con was sadly missing. 

Friday – the main gaming area

It was hard to find people when you can’t see their faces because of masks and their badges were flipped backwards half of the time.  I did get to meet a lot of fans, sign stuff, have some fun conversations. Likewise there were some fans I simply couldn’t find in the crowd because, well, we all were dressed the same and wearing masks. 

Thursday afternoon, the open gaming area is quite open.

One benefit to the reduced crowds was that you could get into Paint and Take with no line.  It was repositioned in the gaming area and we got in mid-day on Thursday.  That’s a little disturbing too.  Usually you have to wait for a while to get in.  Games Workshop donated paints and minis this year, limiting you to choose between one of two minis.  Still, they were pretty awesome and actually did some coaching/selling of the contrast paints for newbies, which was brilliant on their part.   

Paint and Take – Friday at 10am. Lots of empty seats

I checked out the indy press scene and saw a lot of new products. None really captured my attention other than having some intriguing or bizarre premises.

Some vendors simply were representing companies. I wanted to pick up one game that I can get for $135 online.  In my FLGS, it is $145.  At Gen Con, where I thought I would pick it up, it was $178.  Sorry, the business is going to go to my friendly local game store guys. 

This was my first time getting a hotel downtown, which was fantastic.  I did have a creepy encounter with a guy following me back to my hotel after drinking with some of the Catalyst guys. I could tell this guy was not a convention goer.  It took me back to the Gen Con Milwaukee years in that respect.  Overall, I can’t complain.  I honestly didn’t expect much this year.  I did manage to squeeze into a few games (thank you generic tickets and no-shows) and came home with a backpack of reading and gaming material for months.  I can’t help but wonder if vendors that didn’t come this year will bother next year.  I also wonder if downtown Indy will recover enough to support a convention as big as a normal Gen Con.

Review of Nueces Reprise by Mark Greathouse

I have been reading westerns recently because their stories transcend the genre.  A western tale easily can be migrated to a science fiction or other setting.  I snagged a copy of this at the Rally Against Censorship recently and it finally worked its way to the top of my reading pile.  It is the second book of the Tumbleweed Saga, the emerging legend of Luke Dunn, Texas Ranger. 

The book is a wonderful read, picking up almost immediately after the events of the first novel. I won’t spoil the story other than to say that the plot thickens.  Many of the characters that you are introduced to in Nueces Justice are back, with more depth added to their backstories.  Some seemingly minor characters in the first novel, emerge and stand on their own.  The ensemble cast is part of the mystique of this series. Everyone has a motive, many of which conflict with the others – which is where the conflicts arise…and there are a lot of conflicts in this book – true to the western genre.

Some authors chop off the heads of characters as if they were George R. R. Martin. Mark is not above killing characters, including those that have redeemed themselves. In fact, their redemption makes their deaths all the more poignant. He’s not a butcher like some writers, but puts a notch in his author’s pistol only when necessary and impactful.   

As with the first novel, Greathouse is a master of crafting a plot that is far from obvious. Just when you think you know what is going on and then you find yourself in a new, unexpected place. That is the mark of a good storyteller.  Handling ensembles of characters and complex plots requires a firm yet artistic hand, one that Greathouse possesses.

The author does his research, right down to the idiosyncrasies of the firearms being used. He stays true to the western genre, weaving in bits of real history with his fictional characters. His heroes are far from perfect, as demonstrated at the end of this novel – which I really found myself enjoying. 

Nueces Reprise doesn’t stand alone – you need to read the precursor novel.  Fortunately both are a good investment of time.    

Review of the True Crime Series Manhunt Season 2 Deadly Games

Eric Rudolph from Manhunt Season 2

As a true crime author, I have a trust of law enforcement.  It’s not a blind trust, but one borne out of experience.  When I saw the film, Richard Jewell, that trust as far as the FBI was shaken.  

So when I saw season two of Manhunt – Deadly Games was about Eric Rudolph, the actual Olympic  Centennial Park bomber, I was intrigued. 

Apparently both works were filmed at around the same time, which is wild given that some of their sets and scenes are eerily similar.  The acting is different and many scenes play out quite a bit different in the TV series, but this is a complex story that goes far beyond Richard Jewell. 

Eric Rudolph set off a number of bombs, including the Centennial Park bombing, before he was driven to ground in the forests of North Carolina.  He survived off the land and with help of locals for a long time before law enforcement finally apprehended him. 

There’s some creative licensing that has been done with this season of the show, much like the Unabomber one.  Some aspects, such as the timelines of the key events have been fudged for the series, but that makes it a little more engaging. After the Richard Jewell film, there was an uproar about the portrayal of Kathy Scruggs, the reporter who broke the story of Jewell.  Her portrayal in this series is more compelling, but far less complimentary.

Rudolph is a completely unlikable character.  Unlike the first season, we don’t get much about his background to make him at all relatable.  In that aspect, it likely mirrors real life.  Ted Kaczynski, who could generate some sympathy as to how he became the Unabomber – Rudolph comes across as merely a sociopath with no moral compass. 

Still, the series of worth watching.  I liked the film version much more than this, but the series goes far beyond the events of the movie which really does manage to hold your attention and pull you in.  It is on Netflix and I recommend you give it a chance to grow on you.    

To my friends that served in Afghanistan…

The events of the last few weeks have no doubt been disturbing, if not, infuriating for you and your loved ones.  I wanted to say this, clearly and concisely…your time there was not in vain. 

You put your lives on the line for the rest of us.  Your efforts prevented dozens, if not hundreds, of potential terror attacks.  You preemptively prevented terrorists from killing other Americans.  There are few things more honorable than protecting your family, friends, and homeland. You traveled far from home, lived a life under constant threats and stress for us.  Those of us that weren’t called or didn’t serve, were shielded by your service.  We all owe you a debt of thanks.  You have mine.

Many of us believe you deserve better than what our performance has been in leaving Afghanistan. 

Was it time to go? Probably. It was never a matter of the decision to depart.  What matters is the execution of that departure.  It is nothing short of a debacle. Calling it anything else is an insult, and the majority of Americans who witnessed it unfold on television.  Lives have been lost and more may be as a result of one of the worst planned and executed military operations in US history since the Battle of Little Bighorn.

Your service is not reflected by the events unfolding over there right now.  You are not defined by the actions currently taking place.  You did your job, and for that, I am thankful as are millions of others.  You do not bear any taint from what is taking place right now. Your service was not wasted.  You did your duty with honor and dignity. 

The fact that so many civilians in Afghanistan want to leave and come here is a testimony to your roles as ambassadors of our great nation. Many are willing to lose everything because they saw the kind of country and people we are because you were there. Even though you may not have been there in years, you are still saving lives…those of the civilians who are risking their lives to come here. Each civilian saved that comes to America is your greatest living legacy. 

We owe you more than our appreciation and sincere thanks. We owe you accountability, both in the government and the military. The people that unfurled this poorly conceived operation need to be held responsible. It is not vengeance or blame-setting; it is our solemn responsibility to you to ensure that such a disaster does not happen again.

We do not owe this just to you, but to your loved ones who have also endured hardship and strife as a result of your service. Men and women do not go to war alone, their families are impacted as well. We owe them as well to get some answers to how this happened. People must be held accountable – period.

You can hold your heads up high for your service in that strife-filled country. Your honor is sterling and remains, as always, intact.  None of us believe your service was anything short of honorable and in the finest tradition of the United States.  We, as citizens, need to take action to evaluate the intelligence, planning, decision making process, and execution of this catastrophe. This is our call to duty, to ensure that this kind of horrid affair does not occur again. 

Blue Dawn – My Favorite Parts

My conservative political thriller

There’s an old joke about writers.  “You should write a book you like, because you are going to have to read it about 20 times.”  There is some truth in that.  As an author, you need to craft a story for an audience.  That doesn’t mean that you give them what they want to expect, but you have to understand your reader’s demographic.  In the case of Blue Dawn, it is a conservative political thriller – so my audience is people with conservative leanings. 

You also have to be prepared to read your story over and over again. It wouldn’t do to write a novel that you didn’t enjoy reading yourself.  Trust me, the editing process is one of long hours, self-reflection, accepting critique of your work, and staying true to your ideals.  The adage that everyone has a novel in them may or may not be true – but I assure you, not everyone can endure the editing process. 

Warning – you are about to enter a spoiler-zone, so bail if you haven’t read the novel yet. 

So what are the story elements I enjoyed the most? 

The Sons of Liberty (The SOL)

The original Sons of Liberty were provocateurs, protesters, and trouble makers for the British crown in the United States.  They were responsible for the Boston Tea Party.  As a historian, I wanted that connection to our past in Blue Dawn

It didn’t feel right to just have them exist.  So in the context of the novel, they arose out of the ashes of the Fall/Liberation – only to get squashed by the Newmerican government. This made them the underdog immediately.  When they were reborn, they were wiser, craftier, and even more potent of a force for liberty…at least that is how I portray them in the novel.  As I move into the third novel of the series (which is being written right now), we will see a grittier side to the SOL.

The Time Hops in the Story

One thing I am doing with all of the Blue Dawn books thus far is giving readers a glimpse into past events with characters, that reflect on who they are at the time of the book.  With Charli, for example, we eventually see the fate of the President she was protecting.  For Jack, we learn more about why he is the way he is.  These time hops can be jarring for a reader, but in the end, I think, they provide some real depth to the character that might otherwise just be explained in rather bland text. 

Blowing up Big Tech

There is a trinity that props up Newmerica.  Politicians, the mainstream media, and Big Tech. It is an unholy alliance as I portray it.  In the novel, this allows the fall of the legitimate government to the progressives.  Negating Big Tech in the novel requires the destruction of Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s HQ’s. I toyed with a lot of technological ways to take down these companies, but those solutions were dull.  This, after all, is a most uncivil war being waged.  So I resorted to good old-fashioned explosions in the novel.  This is not about the buildings, but about the people. The technology cannot be maintained and managed without human control and once those employees that survive are filled with fear, they will be hesitant in operating the technology that aids the government. Terrorist attack?  Yes.  Far-fetched?  Let’s hope so.  Realistic?  Yes. 

Mt. Rushmore

Someone sent me a message saying, “We would never destroy Mt. Rushmore.”  I don’t believe that for a moment.  We have had over a year of statues being destroyed, dismantled, and cast aside. Nothing is sacred right now. I thought including Mt. Rushmore, both on the cover of the novel and in the story was important. The Hall of Records behind Lincoln’s head is a real thing. I wanted the characters there, at a real place, something that everyone would recognize. 

The Takeover of the Studio

The takeover of the TV studio was a strange joy to write.  I love the line about, “You have guns…you’re terrorists.” “Guns don’t kill, I kill.” I like this 2A positioning in the novel.  I also liked the “Shit, this kid just pissed himself.” For me, that was a touch of realism that makes the scene a little more authentic. 

“God Bless America”

At the end, when the NSF trooper lets the heroes go free with “God bless America,” it is significant. One it is a patriotic moment (guilty as charged!)  Second, it shows that not everyone in the Newmerica government is an ardent follower.  We live in a world where few things are black and white.  Many things are gray. The same applies to the characters, even the small bit ones.  

That simple line conveys hope.

Review of The Blueprint of Liberty: Why And How We Could Restructure The United States In a Way That Pleases Everyone And Preserves Freedom by Alu Axelman

I try and avoid political non-fiction, but having had a phone call with the author, his premise caught my attention.  This is a short book making it a fast non-fiction read – but the topic is anything other than light. What Axelman does with this book is layout a detailed case for secession in the United States.  As a historian, I found the concept intriguing enough to pick up the book and managed to finish it off in just a few evenings of reading.

To be clear, I don’t personally support the premise.  That doesn’t mean that Axelman doesn’t do an admirable job of making his case.  There were a few times where I found myself in such agreement with the case he presents that I was actually challenging what I thought; which is what good writing can and should do.

He does a remarkable job of highlighting the philosophical and cultural differences that exist between the left and the right in America. Rather than resolve these, he contends that resolution may not be possible.  Thus, the solution, is a division of the United States.  He goes so far is to present a new Constitution, which is more Libertarian than traditionally conservative (at least in my opinion). 

His case for secession is seductive, because it allows both sides to rule in the manner they desire.  He even tackles the roles of the military in such a split, as well as how basic services would be administered. 

The author makes his case solidly with prose like:  “The United States is becoming increasingly divided and polarized. This polarization is augmented by federal laws that prohibit States from governing themselves. With each passing year, the laws that govern all 300+ million people in the US are becoming more similar, while ignoring how unique we actually are. As time passes, it will become increasingly evident to progressives as well as conservatives that a peaceful dissolution of the union – and independence for each State – is the only way to truly satisfy the dramatically different populations which comprise the union. Consider the avoidance of a violent civil war to be a bonus benefit of secession. If you don’t want to secede, at least give conservatives the nudge they need in order to leave the union.”

Powerful and thought provoking stuff to say the least!

I found myself agreeing with much of the early part of the book, but less with the solution. It didn’t feel right…yet.  I stress the ‘yet’ in this. Sometimes this kind of work is dependent on the historical context and current events.  While the present-day events don’t necessarily push for the solution that the author presents, that doesn’t mean he is wrong.  Having started a book titled Texit, about Texas splitting off as its own nation again, forces me to concede that this line of thinking may very well gain momentum in the politically charged environment that we find ourselves in. If that is the case, then Axelman is a visionary.  Only time will tell. 

If you have had thoughts along the lines of, “Maybe we should just pack up our stuff and form our own country, with our values,” then this is a book I highly recommend.  It is not a piece of fantasy, as evidenced by the extensive footnotes of support.  This book grabs you hard, shakes you, forces you to reflect on the world around you, and lays a possible foundation for a roadway to political sanity.

The Characters of Blue Dawn

My first political thriller

In Blue Dawn, the government is overthrown at the beginning of the book and the the event itself essentially creates the characters of the novel. The characters are a byproduct of the progressive coup d’etat that takes down America and all of its institutions. Taking down the USA means replacing it with Newmerica. The thugs that seized power, ANTIFA, become Social Enforcers, a new generation of brown shirts.  Any ‘radicals’ (i.e. conservatives) are rounded up and their leaders sent off to Social Quarantine camps – under the auspices that it is for their own good.  The book takes place five years after this violent change, where almost all traces of old America are erased.  Our flag, our money, our history, our anthem…they are all thrown aside for symbols representing a true woke state. The characters are forced to react to all of this change, and in many ways, that defines them. More importantly, many of them lead the fight to reboot the nation and bring back America.

Good books have plots and stories, but ultimately are about characters. Those in Blue Dawn are diverse and provide a glimpse into the setting where their stories take place. Blue Dawn is not about a single character, but an ensemble of interesting people. Given the breadth of the story, it was necessary to tell it from a number of angles.

The characters are what drive their individual stories. Their stories are intertwined, allowing for some interesting combinations. 

While the events create the characters, it is the characters that drive the story.  So here’s my take on the key characters:

Andy. Andy is everyman. The core of this character is that he is a loyal son.  His father was a rebel, of sorts, and paid a price for that independent streak. Like so many of us, there is a part of him that wants to be like his father, but can’t find that path in life. Also, like many people, Andy doesn’t want to see or deal with the big picture issues of Newmerica. It is easier to look the other way or pretend things are not happening. Bit by bit, he is drawn into the anguish of trying to survive in this rebranded nation. Andy comes to grips not only with his father’s past, but his own destiny. His sister Karen, well, she’s a piece of work.  In many respects, this novel is his story first and foremost.  Andy is all of us at one point or another. I always pictured John Krasinski playing Andy.

Andy (in my mind)

Charli. Charli carries a burden that unfolds in the novel. She was assigned to protect the President and in many ways, failed; though it isn’t until late in the book that the reader understands what really happened. She has been living in the shadows ever since the Fall. She has to come out of that hiding essentially to protect Andy – and in the end her arc brings her back to where she started. In my mind, if anyone was to play her part in a film, it would be Ronda Rousey – though she would be a great fit for Caylee as well.

Admit it, she’d make a great Charli

Raul. On the surface the Youth Corps sounds like a wonderful thing. Raul joins and is idealistic. Like so many people he sees Newmerica as a good thing. As a writer I had to address a different perspective of Newmerica – and Raul is that vehicle.  His attitude remains that way until circumstances change.  Once he is impacted, once his life is threatened, his perspective changes. He is thrust into a set of circumstances far beyond his grasp. His actions start riots. He morphs into a very different person, which is a wonderful character arc. Raul represents the masses who buy what the media and the government tell them, hook, line, and sinker.

Caylee. As an NSF operative, she is beyond the law. Operatives do the dirty work of the Newmerican government. There is a formality with her, almost a politeness, even as she is kicking ass. Her world is binary, as is her thinking. When the Secretary turns on her, making her a target, for Caylee there is only one way to go. Caylee is the flip side of the same coin that Charli is cast from. The difference is in the motivation.  Caylee is fairly linear in her thinking – things are not gray but are black and white. If she isn’t fighting against you, she is fighting for you; she’s that simple. The person I would cast for her role is Gina Carano.

If you think of Caylee, picture Gina.

Jack. Jack, like Charli, has some extreme baggage from the night of the Fall. It took a while, but Jack is all about turning the tables on the people that took everything from him. It has taken years, but he finally has all of his pieces right where he wants them on the game board. Jack is playing the long game.  Jack is badly damaged by the events that took place. The difference is that where most people would have wallowed in self-pity, Jack is a person that converts that inner rage into action.  Since he can’t have his family back, he’ll setting for getting his country back.  I always thought Kevin Costner would be cool playing him.

Karen. Okay, her names says it all. It was too hard to pass up.  Karen was willing to throw her father and brother under the bus for her own gain. She represents the woke people out there, without using that term. She reflects everything in her life in terms of how it impacts her. The damage done to others, that means nothing to Karen.  Her values are so flexible, they practically don’t exist. She is a person that sees Newmerica as recognizing and elevating her stature in the world, and that makes her a true believer.  Newmerica gave her something she craved – power and authority. Like the people on the internet that spend their days attacking others, her sense of being and validation is solely based on the havoc she causes.  Her arc is not complicated, and in the end, oddly satisfying.

Some characters, like the President, Vice President, and NSF Secretary are archetypes of real people. I thought it would be distracting to use their names and would only sour people to the story. Having them remain nameless is part of the Newmerica model, where people are depersonalized. These are people you know from the real world. It isn’t necessary to say their names in the book. Besides, the Newmerica government is all about labels, so their names, after five years, have become unimportant. Newmerica packages human lives like products that they position and market to an unsuspecting or uncaring public.  These are my high-level perspective of these characters. They are near and dear to my heart.

Breaking in the Game Room – Desperate Measures

Drew, double checking the rules for our first game – which was a lopsided affair in favor of the Republic of the Sphere.

I had over one of the WolfNet gang, Drew Bethards, to inaugurate my game room.  I would have liked to open it up for a group of players, but with the whole, ‘crazy person threatening my life’ thing, I needed to be careful about who comes over. 

We played three games of the same scenario of Alpha Strike, each time refining it a little more.  We were playing the Desperate Measures scenario from the ilClan Sourcebook.  I hadn’t gotten a copy yet (I’m assured it is in the mail) but Drew had and we fought the battle of the Republic’s Old Guard against the Falcon Guard. 

We played it as Alpha Strike and we both felt that it would have been much better in Classic BattleTech.  I really wanted to play Alpha Strike because the pacing is better, especially since I was running nine Republic ‘Mechs.  We had to tweak the rules, breaking the attackers up into waves of three that had to roll an 8+ to enter the map.  When you come on at 3-1 odds right off the bat, it was devastating.  We also elongated the map to make it more of a distance slug for the attackers. We also allowed two of the Falcons to shield Malvina Hazen who was unconscious during the entire set of three games (thank Kerensky!)

The improved version – the initial rush down the field to the ring of debris protecting Malvina

It oddly worked close to fiction in the final game, with my ‘Mechs slowed down by the debris field, and piling up on top of each other to make mounds of debris.  I did kill Malvina before she could wake up, so it wasn’t purely historical.  No, I will not rewrite the novel to fit the game play. 

The pile of dead ‘Mechs in the middle kept growing, both in width and height

The bottom line is that with any printed scenario, you need to be willing to balance it so that both players have fun – which is what we did. 

We had a lot of fun talking BattleTech stuff as well as Creative Juggernaut.  Some of the debris you see on the map are half-molded Urbies we made.  Yes, the kids at Creative Juggernaut are working hard on the minis and the upcoming salvage bags, as well as some surprises in the coming months. 

Best of all, the game room is officially broken in! We had fun, talked gaming, and rocked out some miniature carnage.