Hello, my name is…
1 - Charles - Pacifica - The Kingdom of Hawaii sailed into the new world after the Second Great Depression ended with a confidence few others matched. They built new islands, founded new colonies in space, and ultimately colonized the stars. They finally named themselves the Star Kingdom of Hawaii and have made a reputation for themselves in the centuries that have followed. Hawaiian merchant ships follow the trade lanes throughout Western Alliance space, and while their navy is small, it is capable. Hawaiian sailors are born to leave the land and are some of the best to make their way in the black. They are taught as children that the ocean can kill them at any time. They learn that there are very few old, bold sailors when they are young, and they take that bone deep knowledge into space with them. They learn to be cautious and observant, and that is often the difference between life and death in the unforgiving vastness of space. Hawaiian shipmasters are in high demand throughout the Alliance, and the best of them can demand salaries only the richest of families can match. I grew up with an Hawaiian shipmaster in charge of my personal spacecraft, and she never failed to live up to every bit of their reputation.
2 - Medron - The Mandalorian - I saw the first episodes of The Mandalorian this weekend, and I’m going to give it the biggest compliment I can think of. They tried to make it feel like Star Wars and they succeeded. They took elements of stuff we saw in the Star Wars films and showed them to us in new and awesome ways. They made it look and feel like Star Wars, while also being a new and good story that feels anchored in that universe. They didn’t try to reinvent or subvert the universe. They looked at Star Wars, what it built, and simply made a new and entertaining story based on those elements.
That is what most Star Wars fans want. That is why it is generating massive support amongst the fanbase, and now I am one of them.
I’ll further go on to say that this is the first Star Wars story to come out of Disney that would actually fit in the Star Wars universe I grew up with. The Mandalorian feels like it is placed after Admiral Thrawn was killed and the Empire collapsed into rival warlords fighting for the scraps. And then there is the New Republic trying to make something new and better but not people on the outskirts consider it more a joke. So the rest of the galaxy is stuck…doing…this…
It’s an awesome story and I love it. I give it two disintegrations.
Three. Four. Five. Really, Mando? SIX disintegrations? Darth Vader was RIGHT to add that little caveat to his contract with your predecessor. *sighs* Seven? Now you’re just showing off…
3 - Charles - Pacifica - The Juneau Panhandle was home to Alaska’s largest cities and warmest climate when the Second Great Depression began, and the capital city was a favored stop on Alaskan ocean tours. Most of the settlements all over the small islands filling the area had no road access to the rest of the continent despite decades of promises. The Second Great Depression dried up the tourism industry and left the government without access to the outside resources they needed to survive. The government fell into complete and utter chaos and effectively ceased to exist.
4 - Charles - Pacifica - Alaska was the most remote of American States before the Second Great Depression came upon us all. It was one of the most self-reliant of States when it comes to surviving on the one hand, but also one of those most in need of special imports to maintain the standard of living that had come with being American. It was renowned for deep, long cold spells that even a Minnesotan respected, but the vast Pacific Ocean heavily moderated the Juneau Panhandle’s climate. The inland parts of the panhandle could get cold, even by Alaskan standards, but Juneau was a year-long paradise compared to the rest of the State. That is why Americans flocked to it and built the capital there after buying it from Russia. And that is why other Alaskans considered them the wussies of Alaska. So when Juneau fell into chaos, the rest of the State shrugged and went on with their lives. Surviving in a land that wanted to kill you most of the year was far more important than whatever it was the politicos were doing in Washington, after all.
5 - Charles - Pacifica - Alaska’s standard of living fell hard during the Second Great Depression. The influx of American conveniences dried up quickly when the cargo ships missed a few shipments, but the land could provide if you had the skills. Most people did not have those skills. That was especially true in the Juneau Panhandle where government administration was the primary employment opportunity. Learning how to shuffle papers does little to prepare you for the end of modern civilization as we know it. The Second Great Depression was not truly that bad, but for many places it might as well have been. The Juneau Panhandle was one of those places, and it would never be the same afterwards.
6 - Charles - Pacifica - The Juneau Panhandle suffered greatly when the Second Great Depression ended the easy shipments of American prosperity. Government was the biggest employer, and paper pushing was the greatest industry of the area, and it effectively ceased to exist when Federal support ended. But the career government bureaucrats who lived there knew exactly how to weather a crisis caused by the failure of American Capitalism. Big Brother would always hold out a helping hand to those in need if everyone gave him the proper resources. So they quickly formed a new, more caring, collective of the people,, and collected all resources within their reach. And so the Socialist Republic of Juneau arose to save the people, and there was great rejoicing when the new government provided the necessities of survival to the people according to their need.
7 - Charles - Pacifica - The Socialist Republic of Juneau credits itself for saving tens of thousands of honest, hardworking citizens when the Second Great Depression brought American Capitalism crashing down in ruins. Their better, more caring, collective of equal voices provided the citizens with what they needed to survive, and led the way into a new and better world for all of Juneau. Well. For those loyal to the people, at least. Those who proved they did not wish to live within the rules of the new society by, for example, hoarding supplies the people needed, were placed on a small raft and allowed to leave so they would not be a further drain on the better society the collective was building in Juneau. The Socialist Republic of Juneau was truly benevolent in that way, forcing no one to live amongst them if they did not wish to abide by the collective’s rules.
8 - Charles - Pacifica - Unfortunately for the Socialist Republic of Juneau, there were a finite number of resources in Juneau itself, so they had to go forth and collect more from the surrounding communities. These selfless efforts saved many thousands of lives and the collective prospered as time went by and they added new communities. They also found less wasteful ways to cast out the disloyal as their power grew. Once they had access to continental land, they simply dropped those who would not fit in with their new society on dry land outside their borders and let them go off to find whatever life they wished to live outside the bounds of civilization. The Socialist Republic of Juneau had to focus its efforts on saving those who wished to work for the collective, but they always maintained an open immigration policy. Even those who left were welcomed back if they realized the error of their ways and returned to prove their willingness to contribute to the collective. There were always fields that needed plowing after all, and a single shift’s labor would grant any citizen a daily ration allotment.
9 - Medron - Pearl Harbor - This weekend was the anniversary of the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in a day that shall live in infamy. And it rated little mention compared to the Democrat Impeachment going on right now. I saw more posts on social media talking about the deaths of actors than Pearl Harbor. Some of those actors are my favorites, coming from shows I watched and loved as a young man. But none of what happens today ever could have happened without Pearl Harbor.
People forget how important Pearl Harbor was. It was a Sunday morning. People were going to church. Then Japan awoke the sleeping giant that was America and the whole world trembled at our outrage. We built the United Nations to end that threat and to stop another like it from ever coming to be. The United Nations has not lived up to that promise, but it was the kind of idea the previous generation of Americans had roundly refused to be part of. It took Pearl Harbor and the war it pulled us into to make Americans in general see that America could no longer ignore the outside world. That we had to remain involved out there if we were to stop another great war from happening.
We all grew up in the world that idea built. Pearl Harbor was the genesis of a movement that turned us from an insular nation that didn’t care about the rest of the world to a nation that fundamentally looked outward. Star Trek and Star Wars and so many other films and shows were successful because of that new world we built.
Pearl Harbor changed America in a fundamental way, and we must never forget.
10 - Charles - Pacifica - The Socialist Republic of Juneau was not a founding member of Pacifica. The networks had been ravaged enough that communications with the Lower Forty Eight was spotty at best for several years. But once they found out that their ideological friends in Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco had banded together, they jumped at the opportunity to join. Yes, there were Capitalist Pigs in Vancouver, and Royal Pigs in Hawaii, but they could be dealt with in time. What mattered was that, for once in America, The People’s Collectives were finally beginning to take a true measure of control. Their eventual victory was ensured. So Juneau simply absorbed all of the resources it could collect around it, and sent those who didn’t want to participate in the collective outside their ever-expanding borders. They acquired the entire Juneau Panhandle before the Second Great Depression ended, though found it impossible to expand into the rest of Alaska and imprudent to take any Canadian lands. So they sat back and waited. Their times would come. The socially selected leaders of Juneau had no doubt that their times would come.
11 - Charles - Pacifica - The Socialist Republic of Juneau ran into the same problem that every socialist nation ran into during the centuries before we developed fabricators. There were never enough resources to feed and clothe those who did not wish to work to generate them. They could always expand and acquire other peoples’ resources for a time, but sooner or later, they always ran out of other peoples’ money. Juneau ran into that problem within a decade of the formation of Pacifica, and those who formed their workers’ paradise had to quickly decide how to encourage people to generate more resources Juneau needed to survive. Luckily for those involved, the government employees they used to be were always exceptional at labeling and organizing things. So if resources were becoming increasingly expensive, and if human life was becoming comparatively cheap, the only way to balance the two was by putting an expensive price on human life. The medical costs to keep a person alive. Their food costs for a lifetime. What it would cost to keep them entertained. The average cost a person would impose on Juneau over the period of an average life. The debt every person owed Juneau for giving them life. They called it the Life Debt.
12 - Charles - Pacifica - The Socialist Republic of Juneau Life Debt was originally imagined as the debt every person owed Juneau for giving them life. It was a running average, applied at birth, or the creation of the Life Debt system, to every person in Juneau. It could be adjusted as time went on, based on the average costs, or on specific activities of the individual person in question. If they caused trouble, or generally caused more expenses for Juneau, their Life Debt could be increased. While if they did valuable service that helped Juneau, their Life Debt would be decreased. Every service from plowing the fields to performing government paperwork decreased the Life Debt, with the obvious goal being to perform your assigned service until you zeroed out the Life Debt and earned the…right to life itself. The key concept was that a person’s life belonged to Juneau until they achieved a Zero Balance. That was the secret of the Life Debt system. Its greatest strength and greatest weakness at the same time. It was the goal that all people in Juneau sought, and far too few achieved.
13 - Charles - Pacifica - The key concept of the Socialist Republic of Juneau’s Life Debt system was that the very lives of those who owed a Life Debt belonged to Juneau. Juneau fed and clothed them. Juneau sheltered them. Juneau schooled them. And the schooling process including sorting the children into the jobs they would be most proficient at performing for the good of Juneau. Juneau assigned their service based on the very best algorithms the government-trained bureaucrats could generate, and those services worked off that Life Debt. The other key concept was, of course, that the majority of people could never work off the Life Debt. That would defeat the entire point of a system meant to formalize the public debt of all to the State. There had to be some Zero Balancers, to act as a beacon for all the other workers, of course. But they had to be the right people. Most people could not be trusted to know how to be their best person on their own. Most people needed others to tell them what to do, or they would never succeed. So Juneau took care to pre-sort those who would be allowed to gain Zero Balance status and those who would be kept in Life Debt for the rest of their lives, and then pass their Life Debt on to their children. For the good of the people, of course.
14 - Charles - Pacifica - Those who achieved Zero Balance status in the Socialist Republic of Juneau’s Life Debt system were the most prestigious citizens of Juneau. They were the people everyone else aspired to be. High government workers. Sports stars. Musicians and dancers of the highest caliber. Poets and people of high social awareness. Members of the families who created the new Juneau in the first place. They were the high class of Juneau society and could spend their ration cards at the best markets with the freshest of foods, sitting on the counters, waiting to be picked by such worthy individuals. Zero Balance shopping centers sported the very best imports from their Socialist friends in Pacifica, and their recreational centers had only the very best availability, gleaned from the very best candidates in the country. A Zero Balanceer could be guaranteed to have the best of everything in Juneau, as long as they did nothing to incur a new Life Debt. They were granted the most freedom of all citizens of Juneau, and at the same time were more slaves to the system than anyone else. Because former Zero Balance celebrities were always in high demand in the recreational centers should they fall from grace.
15 - Charles - Pacifica - The vast majority of people in the Socialist Republic of Juneau never achieved Zero Balance on their Life Debt, but that does not mean they had horrible lives. Those with the highest Life Debts often did perform the worst of the jobs, and could only spend their ration cards in the lowest of the markets. But the lower your Life Debt was, the better the places that you could go to were. Fresh fruit or bread was not an uncommon sight in the higher class markets, and day-old bread sent down from the Zero Balance markets was always available for those who worked well and had high social awareness. They could even choose their service to Juneau from the available openings, and few who gained that amount of comfort and control over their own lives would do anything to risk it. They were the stable middle class of Juneau, and the public face they broadcast to the world of the standard of living their better and more caring society could build for everyone.
16 - Medron - Merry Christmas - Merry Christmas from John Clark and Cameron of Wolfenheim.
17 - Charles - Pacifica - The Socialist Republic of Juneau sent their Zero Balance celebrities to the world to show everybody the opportunities to be had in Juneau. And they broadcast the lives of those with low Life Debts to show how even the everyday man and woman on the street could live. What they did not tell the world was how the vast majority of those with Life Debts lived. Those had to tell the story of Juneau on their own, which they did. They were small in number at first, running away from their new Socialist paradise as control tightened, but far more would follow them in time. People who desperately wanted to be free of the Life Debt that controlled their futures purchased or built illegal boats and ran for freedom in Canada or other American States. They told a completely different tale of the living conditions most people “enjoyed” in Juneau, and gave the nation a public black eye that could not be ignored. Or allowed to continue.
18 - Charles - Pacifica - When those who owed high Life Debts to the Socialist Republic of Juneau began running for freedom elsewhere, the leaders of Juneau were enraged. They had built a better and kinder society, and those peons were trying to make it look bad by spreading stories of slavery and abuse. After Juneau had fed them and cared for them all their lives. They could not be allowed to tarnish the workers paradise, so Juneau created a new kind of service to the State. The Debt Collectors. Those who ran from Juneau were labeled as In Default and their cases turned over to the Juneau Debt Collection Service. The Debt Collectors were recruited from only the most stable households in Juneau, and their families gained access to the very best opportunities the State could provide. It was how Juneau took care of those they empowered to go anywhere in the world to find those In Default of their Life Debt and return them to Juneau for their day in court. Of course those charged with failing to pay off their Life Debt rarely won, and the normal punishment was to serve out the remainder of their Life Debt in far more secure facilities than those they had escaped before.
19 - Charles - Pacifica - The Socialist Republic of Juneau’s Debt Collectors were soon embroiled in controversy as people fleeing Juneau pleaded for help. Juneau made the simple case that their only goal was to collect the debt those In Default still owed. They could always pay their Life Debt off, but failing that, it was Juneau’s duty to secure them to ensure further payments on their Debt. Though penalties and other costs had usually ballooned their Life Debts to many times what they had owed before they fled, making it impossible for most to pay even with outside resources. They stuck to their claim that it was simple and legal debt collection, but stories continued to spread, and Juneau’s reputation suffered. Especially outside their fellow Pacifican paradises. Then the Knights Errant began interfering in their Debt Collection, calling them out as glorified kidnappers no better than the ancient slave hunters, and tensions soon spiraled up into open gunfire in the streets. That was too much, and the Juneau Debt Collectors were quickly outlawed throughout most of America and the Western Alliance not long after. Juneau never forgave the Knights Errant for that.
20 - Charles - Pacifica - Once the Socialist Republic of Juneau’s Debt Collectors were outlawed in most of the world, they were transformed into more of a secret police or spy agency. Trained to blend into the outside world, they went out to hunt those who had run out on their Life Debt in secret. It was a dangerous job, as most States placed a heavy prison sentence on known Debt Collectors, and the Knights Errant made it one of their primary duties to stop them when discovered. But there was never a shortage of volunteers for the service. The perks were legendary. They could eat at the most expensive restaurants, drive the fanciest cars, and attend the best society events, and all of their expenses were billed to the Life Debt they were assigned to track down. Debt Collectors lived a life even better than most Zero Balancers back home, with even more freedom to do whatever they wanted. The only requirement was that they continue securing Life Debts for Juneau, and in return any questionable activities would be overlooked. It was all done in service to Juneau, after all, and extremism in defense of the State was simple patriotism.
21 - Charles - Pacifica - Those on the run from the Socialist Republic of Juneau lived difficult lives. Most ran to Alaska or Canada, where Knights Errant or Salvation Army outposts waited to help anyone who managed to cross the border. From there they traveled to other American States outside Pacifica where a land of opportunity awaited them. Opportunity and danger. Someone who owed a Life Debt to Juneau never knew what day a Debt Collector would show up to collect them. It could be the new deliveryman stepping onto the curb, or the girlfriend they’d known for months. The hair stylist or the hotel receptionist. The Debt Collectors used every cover under the sun to hide their true natures, until the time came to bring in a Debt. Some took on secret identities and hid every day of their life, and others lived their life and story so publicly that it was almost like a dare aimed at Juneau to do something about it. Every last one of them received help from the AI Council, almost always in the form of a permanent AI companion who guarded them day and night.
22 - Charles - Pacifica - The Socialist Republic of Juneau never made a profit on their Debt Collector program. Bringing back runners and making them work off their Life Debts never recouped enough resources to justify the costs of capturing them. But it was never truly about money. It was about punishing those who ran. It was about showing the other Life Debtors that those who ran would be tracked down and returned, even if it took years, and then they would be punished. It was about keeping those with Life Debts too scared to run at all. It was a terror campaign, conducted by a Rogue State, and both the Western Alliance and the AI Council officially declared it so in open committee. But they couldn’t actually stop it. Juneau was one of those unique States that declared it wasn't a member of the Western Alliance, or the United States of America, but was a member of Pacifica. And extremely rich States like Portland and San Francisco blocked all efforts to deal with them. They funded Juneau and their political support in the halls of power kept Juneau alive and well as the years stretched into decades and beyond.
23 - Medron - Merry Christmas - Merry Christmas from John Park and Kara of Wolfenheim
Wish You Were Here.
24 - Medron - Festivus - Yes, I know, I’m a day late, but I’ve been thinking about the whole Festivus thing all day and decided that I had something to say that would fit. One of the things you’re supposed to do with Festivus is “Airing your Grievances.” And it comes to mind that I have a rather fun one to look at this year.
Many of you know that I am a writer. I have written stories most of my life. I don’t in fact remember a time when I HAVEN’T been writing stories. They started out as fan fiction. Star Trek. Star Wars. Transformers. BattleTech. I’ve actually published multiple fan fiction supplements and organizational rules compilations for BattleTech over the years. Rules. Both fan rules and official rules organized in different ways. Fan Fiction Sourcebooks. Stuff I wrote or adapted because I loved the game and wanted to give other fans the ability to play more of if they wanted to.
I even published something called the Human Sphere, which was a Forty Year Update step forward on the old FASA BattleTech universe. The quick and dirty background there is that FASA went out of business for a while, other companies took over the license, and took it in ways I didn't like. The Human Sphere was my little way of taking the FASA BattleTech universe that I loved and moving it forward in a way I enjoyed.
It served me well as a blue print for what I would need to do when I finally decided to start writing my own Jack of Harts stories. It taught me how to build a universe of interlocking parts and how to keep things straight. Mostly. My Jack of Harts stories sell because I first practiced writing fan fiction to make myself a good enough writer that people would be willing to buy my stories. That’s a fancy way of saying that practice makes better. ;)
But, there is a grievance here. You see, there are people out there who do like me. I have earned some of them through righteous reasons and my own actions and words, and some people have groomed others without any involvement of my own. They tell stories that do not reflect on me, but on the me who lives inside their mind. This Straw Medron is a very bad person according to the stories I hear. Many, many stories. A liar and a troublemaker in some. An asshole in others. Well, even I can be an asshole at times, so there may be a kernel of truth there. ;) But one story I recently heard is that this Straw Medron claims the Human Sphere is the canon future of BattleTech and that anything anybody else does is wrong.
So my Trial of Grievance for this day is with this Straw Medron that people tell stories of. The Human Sphere is Fan Fiction. It always was. It always will be. The claims of this Straw Medron are the creation of others, and have no relation with my own thoughts on the matter. Period. End of Line.
Make no mistake. I am glad that I wrote the Human Sphere. Others enjoy it, I enjoyed my time making it, and it helped make me a better writer. I will always cherish it. And I hope that any of you who see a story you want to write, will do it and publish it so others can read it. I fully believe that Fan Fiction is the breeding ground of writers. We learn to tell stories by telling stories of characters we like. Don’t let others shame you by saying it is bad writing. I guess that’s another grievance there. Hehehe.
So go forth and write. And perhaps, one day, you will find your own Jack of Harts who will drive you to write stories about him that other people will actually buy…
25 - Medron - Merry Christmas - Remember the reason for the season.
26 - Medron - Whamageddon - Did you make it through the gauntlet of Whamageddon this year? I fell on Saturday this year, but for those of you who have survived all the way to the end, I give you the gift of…Wham…
27 - Medron - Merry Christmas - Merry Christmas from Cameron and Kara of Wolfenheim.
Yes, my friends, there are Twelve Days of Christmas, STARTING on December 25th. We aren't off this ride yet, my friends. :)
28 - Medron - Merry Christmas - Merry Fourth Day of Christmas from Kristina and Dawn of Wolfenheim.
Looks like they are having a snowball fight. Have you had a nice snowball fight this season? If not, maybe today is a good day to try. I’d be happy to join the festivities.
29 - Medron - Merry Christmas - Merry Fifty Day of Christmas from Megan and Anna of Wolfenheim.
Do you want to have a snowball fight? This is how you start a snowball fight.
With a pair of smiles and hidden snowballs…
30 - Medron - A New Year is Coming - Many use the season of Christmas and New Years to reflect and consider the year we have come through and the year we are going into. New Years resolutions are common, and commonly not followed through on. One of the reasons I try to avoid them in general. But this year may be different.
You see, I try to maintain a carefree and happy attitude most of the time. That covers a far less carefree attitude underneath, one that has some rather particular thoughts on how things should be and what to do when things aren’t right. I would probably rank on at least one or two spectrums if they’d done testing in my day. And I don’t always have the quietest of responses when something doesn’t work like it’s supposed to work. It is a temperament I have dealt with most of my life. One way I found to mitigate it is to maintain a carefree and happy attitude most of the time.
Life is good. It’s not worth bellyaching over the small things.
It doesn’t always work. Sometimes the small things pile up into a large enough crap sandwich that no amount of telling myself “I’m living the dream” will work. At which times I either walk away to let it roll off my shoulders, or give my righteous two cents about the situation. Not always in the quietest of ways, either. People I thought were friends have left when I let those two cents slip out.
That is one reason I treasure everyone who has seen that side of me and is still a friend. Those who work with me despite the sometimes persnickety precision of my particular passion. You know. That whole writing thing that seems to take up a large percentage of my mental processes most of the time.
I am truly thankful for all of you. And if there are New Year’s Resolutions out there that I think would be good to make, one would be to make it more abundantly clear how I feel on that point in the coming year.
31 - Medron - The Audacious Affair - One of the great inspirations for my stories is World War II. Many of the class names, ship names, and companies in Jack of Harts come from World War II, and I tend to spend a lot of time trolling World War II sites for interesting bits I can put in my stories. The Avengers, Hellcats, and Marauders are all named after World War II fighters or bombers for instance.
And when it came time for me to write about the British Royal Navy in my most recent story, I trolled the web for information on them as well. Hence was named the HMS Audacious, British Royal Navy Victory-class dreadnought. And then since I tend to write more about fighters, I needed a good British World War II fighter to play with. So I wrote it in.
The next step of course is to get the amazing Stephen Huda to make the cover for the story so it will look good. I give him what I want, along with the theme, and some reference pics, a scan of the truly horrible chicken scratching that is my art ideas, and he goes hog wild and makes me a cover far nicer than I asked for. The story has this scene where American Avengers and Hellcats are supporting some British fighters in defense of Audacious, and Stephen Huda made that scene come to life.
Here is a small sample of the art he delivered mere days ago, showing Wing Commander Lance Evans plowing the road for HMS Audacious in his Spitfire space superiority fighter, in service to King Henry the Ninth, monarch of the British Commonwealth.