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Re: [GZG] [OT] Books (Weber/White/Meier)

From: Eric Foley <stiltman@t...>
Date: Sun, 20 Jul 2008 15:30:37 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: [GZG] [OT] Books (Weber/White/Meier)

-----Original Message-----
>From: Oerjan Ariander <>
>Sent: Jul 20, 2008 10:53 AM
>Subject: Re: [GZG] [OT] Books (Weber/White/Meier)
>Eric Foley wrote:
>> >>Further comments below Indy's original message with spoiler warning
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>> >>HERE
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>> >>THERE
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>> >>BE
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>> >>SPOILERS....
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>> >>
>> >As for why the Bugs became a paper tiger after Pesthouse, it is
>> >simple: the entire Hegemony consisted of around thirty inhabited
>> >systems, against the Alliance's many hundreds of systems. Once the
Bugs had
>> >run out of mothballed SDNs to reactivate and send into battle, their
>> >reinforcements were new production units... and even though the five
>> >Hives could easily outproduce any *five* Alliance systems, they had
>> >chance in hell against the top five *hundred* Alliance systems.
>>Yeah.  And ultimately that was really the problem.  It's fundamentally
>>war book where the war lacks all drama once the good guys simply
>>the initial thrust.

>Oh, I certainly agree with that! The ISW4 books are basically a
>report from a StarFire campaign, where one side gets the upper hand and
>snowball starts to roll. Once that happens in a campaign, everyone can
>the writing on the wall - the only way such a campaign will survive is
>some of the other players change sides (ie., if the Alliance was to
>up) - and with the Bugs attempting genocide against both the primary 
>partners of the Alliance, there was literally no way that would happen

Yeah.  Which ultimately creates a scenario that, while it works very
well for the StarFire equivalent of a "dungeon crawl" module, doesn't
work as well for a pair of books that they expect us to buy in
hardcover.  In Death Ground suggested a lot of interesting suspense and
possibility that the Arachnids could have theoretically eaten everyone
in space.  Shiva Option basically reduced that to a nightmare scenario
that was never particularly realistic, and wound up reading like one
long bloody victory parade of various inventive ways to commit
interstellar genocide.	In that vein, about the only possible debate
would have been if Weber and White had done something like, I don't
know... slow down and grasp that maybe the wargamer's obvious answer to
simply nuke any sufficiently intractable species might not really sit
quite that well within real-world ethical considerations.  Imagine the
discussion that would happen if anybody suggested that we ought to
simply nuke the entire tribal areas of Pakistan and put Osama Bin Laden
out of our misery.  After all, it's not like we're ever going to make
peace with them, and they'd do the same to us, right?

[details of how the Arachnids failed to stack up industrially snipped]

>>and I suppose it was described as a situation where the Arachnids were

>>more dangerous than any other enemy the Alliance ever fought... but
>>at that, would it really have hurt the story to make the outcome a
>>more in doubt long term?

>It wouldn't have hurt for the books, but how? Once the landings in
>and Normandy had succeeded, what doubt was there left about the
>outcome of WW2? Even the Bulge was really just a minor setback in the 
>greater perspective...

I think it's pretty obvious and, given that they wanted us to pay money
to buy two hardcover books of this at one point, even necessary for the
sake of making a good story:  make the Bugs more dangerous, both at the
start and long-term, than they were in the modules, even if it means
breaking a few of the comfortable rules in Starfire.  Here's my list of
things I can think of that would have made the Arachnids both more
dangerous and even more credible as an alien species that simply didn't
operate the same way we do:

1.  Narrow the initial tech and industrial gap.  Thus, the Home Hives'
massive hyper-industrialization really _does_ make them easily capable
of out-producing even Old Terra, planet for planet, for the bulk of the
"Worlds Which Must Be Defended" if not all of them.

2.  Give them a larger support empire in addition to the five Home
Hives.	Maybe they don't need parity with the Alliance outright, but at
least enough that the giant reserve of superdreadnoughts was going to be
big enough that they represented a credible threat to wipe out the
Alliance before they could get their feet under them.  Screw this "oh
no, they ate a frontier colony" overblown pathos and project that out
to, say, overrunning Proxima Centauri after Pesthouse as a result, and
these two books probably get about five times more interesting just from
that alone.

3.  Give the Bugs better stealth.  After all, half the problem with real
bugs is finding them.  Whether it involves staying within the
comfortable Starfire tech trees or not, this could have been an
excellent area in which to give the Bugs tech advantages that we
couldn't match without necessarily giving them complete parity (at least
early on) somewhere else, and perhaps their methods of stealth would
best even be hard enough to reverse-engineer that it takes some time (or
even never) for the Allies to match or counter it.  For that matter, it
also would fit the World War II in Europe analogy all the better given
the German over-reliance on submarines.

Now here comes the part where we start breaking Starfire rules, but in
which we make the "Bugs with nukes" more truly reflective of "BUGS with

4.  Make the Bugs capable of inhabiting a broader range of planetary
real estate than we can.  After all, real life insects are, numerically
speaking, the most successful species in the earth's history because the
little varmints simply don't care that badly about what kind of
environment they live in; they can make do basically any place. 
Extrapolate that out to the Bugs.  Maybe their willingness to not care
about individuals and greater biological adaptability extends to genetic
experimentation and/or easy mutation so that they can almost as
cheerfully inhabit methane planets as they do the nitrogen-oxygen worlds
that we prefer, with minimal (or even no) artificial aid.

5.  Make the Bugs, since they care very little about individual comfort
levels, quicker and more inventive at turning a planet around from first
landing to productive industrial world than we are.  Thus, they don't
colonize so much as they "infest", and just as it doesn't take a real
life bug colony very long to overrun something they want, it needn't
take very long for the Bugs in the book on an interstellar level to do
it either.  While the colony worlds wouldn't be the equivalent of Home
Hives or anything, they could still be dangerous, productive, and make
the Bugs a lot harder to root out in the end.  This would have also
involved making the Bugs less tentative about exploring and colonizing,
but I don't have a problem with that.

6.  Make the Bugs more capable of industrially exploiting a planet than
we are, both on established worlds and by more easily transporting
mining equipment that their natural capability to burrow can use to both
more quickly mine metals and fuels near the surface as well as
establishing deep core mines, thus even if you don't narrow the number
of planets they actually have, what they get out of them in their
complete lack of caring for environmental consequences or mine worker
safety is a lot more than the Allies do.

Combine all of these things together, and the sheer voracity of the Bugs
suddenly becomes a real threat while still keeping the feel of _Bugs_. 
While the Home Hives could still be critical hubs, the Bugs' momentum
early on could have turned into a real nightmare.  Visualize this:  an
Arachnid "egg infestation" fleet sneaks into a star system that the
Alliance has generally not cared about because they think it's useless. 
They drop a few large crates of eggs onto several planets with a few
babysitters to guide the young as they start to hatch and just enough
modular industrial equipment to help them mine the planet's resources as
they hatch a near-endless supply of easily expendable workers with
easily-portable equipment that enhances a Bug's natural ability to dig
and burrow in order to build the perfect out-of-the-box mining colony. 
Their emissions in doing so might well be minimal enough that the Allies
never discover they're there until Bug starships are starting to base
themselves there out of the blue, and while they might not quickly get
finished industry on-site, they could at the very least be quickly
efficient enough in this "worker ant colony" that they can swiftly
exploit a planet's raw materials and send them home to the Home Hives to
multiply their industrial capabilities much more quickly as long as
they've got planets to infest and exploit.  Multiply that across a whole
star nation that's just found a whole new sector to infest, and you've
got both a much more horrifying enemy that's a lot more dangerous, but
they're also a lot more interesting and bug-like than what showed up in
the books.

I mean, maybe I'm tooting my own horn a little too much, but from where
I'm sitting I just made their Arachnid concept about five times more
interesting in about an hour of brainstorming.	Give me a publishing
contract and a military advisor to help write the battle scenes while I
spend more time thinking up what cultural things could have made them
more interesting and I'm all set.  (And if anyone else with access to
this list writes it, you're all witnesses that I deserve concept
royalties. ;)


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