I Know, I Know… But I Have A Really Good Excuse This Time

I Know, I Know... But I Have A Really Good Excuse This Time

And no, I haven’t been wasting all my free (non-work, non-school, non-writing) time watching Sherlock, Doctor Who, or playing Diablo III (don’t even mention Mass Effect Andromeda — we split up and it was not amicable. I’m planning to sue to try to get those hours of my life back). Nope, I have been studying calculus and numeric theory. Oh, and string theory physics, standard model, and quantum mechanics.


It took me two solid weeks of studying but I actually get this joke and think it’s hilarious.

By the way, have I mentioned I have been hired to teach high school English next year?


That’s right. I will be teaching English. Not science. Not math. Not any of the things I spend my free time studying. English. I have a degree in history and I’m teaching English.

My Scrivener research section looks like an odd mix of math and physics notes that even I can barely make sense of. When I started trying to parse chemistry and biochemistry I realized that regardless of what my IQ is, I can’t handle atoms and molecules. Leptons, bosons, fermions, strings, vibrations, and my pet theory that gravity isn’t a proper force — it’s the result of another force spanning multiple dimensions: that’s all relatively simple for me to sort out. Start mixing those together in atoms more complex than hydrogen and my head does this really interesting number that makes a migraine feel like a love-tap.

So, why am I doing this? No, not just because I’m a very special kind of insane. Not just because it interests me, either. And not just to make my lovely ex-husband send me a War and Peace length list of corrections. Nope, this is actually for a series. It’s probably the weirdest thing I’ll ever write but it’s one that just won’t leave me alone until I finish the thing (other writers will understand what I mean).


Seriously, it’s like this story — which started out as relatively simple — decided to throw a lot of challenges at me and, for some reason known but to Cthulhu, I am too much of a masochist to stop accepting them.

And that, my dears, is why I haven’t been blogging much lately. I’m good with history, languages, tactics, logistics, encryption, and computers but math and chemistry will wipe the floor with me every day of the week. Lately, I have just been either too busy trying to wrap my head around concepts that ought to make sense but just won’t or recovering from the headache that this effort invariably brings on.

That said, I will try to get better.

— G.K.

Throwback Thursday: A Cold War Vocabulary Lesson

I was scanning around for a topic to write about this Thursday and wondering if I was going to do something historical like “how to make daggers” or “the first fanfic G ever wrote” when the most Evil of Space Princesses posted this on her blog.


Really? Seriously? This level of ignorance is the product of an advanced educational system?

Suddenly, I knew what today’s entry had to be about. So, let’s all hop in our time machines — be they TARDISes, telephone booths, funky-looking steampunk chairs, or DeLoreans — and set the dial for August 27, 1980. We’ll avoid my neck of the woods since this trip puts me in my own time-line (I’ll be 24 hours old) and instead go hang out someplace cool. I’ll supply the chameleon circuits so we can waltz into the HQ of USPACOM without being noticed. Just remember — don’t muck about.

Things seem kinda tense, don’t they? Hear that chatter from EUCOM over in Stuttgart, Germany? And the calls from RDJTF — which will soon become CENTCOM — about the problems in Iran?

Oh, man, if only the poor bastards knew…

Notice how all the focus is on Europe and the Pacific, though? Now, guys, I know it’s been a while. Keep listening. Yep. There it is. I notice some of you look a little confused. West Germany? East Germany? What the hell?


Back during the 1980s, I often wondered where North and South Germany were. My excuse was that I was under the age of ten. I’m uncertain what someone who was born in 1969 would have to offer as a similar excuse for such breath-taking ignorance.

It’s 1980. The Cold War is still on, guys. There’s still a USSR in this time with missiles pointed at the US. There are tanks all over the Eastern Bloc nations. We have our own bases and our own forces in Europe to keep the Warsaw Pact from invading. NATO is a big deal instead of the joke we all know it will become. Article V of the NATO Charter is the life-line that Western Europe has clung to and the reason our boys are still there even though the Nazis were defeated well-nigh on forty years ago. It’s also the reason we have bases in Japan and the Japanese are praying we’ll keep the Chicoms from invading them and the Taiwanese (the Republic of China) is counting on us to help them keep the Chicoms from crossing the Strait and subjecting them to the good Chairman Mao’s Great Leap Forward that left millions dead.

Chicom? I see some of you looking confused again. Chinese Communist. It means “a person who is loyal to the People’s Republic of China — a communist government that uses repressive means including (but not limited to) censorship, state control of the media, re-education camps, imprisonment, torture, secret police, internal and interior-focused spy organizations, centralized control of the food supply, and centralized control of the economy in order to completely dominate the people it governs.” The PRC at this time does not allow people to practice religion, the press to report anything unfavorable to the government or to the Communist ideology, or the people to communicate freely with citizens of other countries. Chicoms are, by and large, ethnically Chinese but may also be Caucasian, Russian, Serbian, Arabian, Persian, Iberian, Hispanic, Chicano, Latino, African, Korean, Japanese, Amerindian, Indian, Vietnamese, or any other ethnic group or sub-group. Their primary identity is their loyalty to a political body — the PRC.


And, like these guys, they’ll kneel to whoever orders them. Unfortunately, there are no real-world Captain Americas, Thors, and Tony Starks to save them and those who wind up as collateral damage from their own raging stupidity.

They were not good guys. They were not sweet, cuddly kittens. They were brutal, murderous, power-hungry asshats who enriched themselves at the expense of their people. They gorged themselves on power and wealth while the average Chinese citizen went hungry. Their so-called noble ideology (which doesn’t scale at all beyond devoted communities such as monasteries where there are methods of population control and a larger community that isn’t bound by that ideology to support them — just look at places like Mount Atheos) led to the deaths of tens of millions of people.

Calling them “Chicoms” isn’t an insult. It isn’t a racial or ethnic slur. Anyone who thinks that is either 1) too young to have lived through the Cold War at all, 2) too stupid to use Google and therefore too stupid to be referenced as an expert on anything, 3) looking for a reason to be offended, or 4) some combo of the above.


Brought to you by…someone educated by hard-working teachers in the Poorest State in the Union™.

So, there go you. A new vocabulary word for you! Now, let’s go back to 2015. I need to see a man about a flying car…

— G.K.

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse: Starting the Rebuild

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse: Starting the Rebuild

Okay, so far we’ve covered a lot of ground in just surviving and eking out a safe space to keep on surviving. By this point, you’re well into the Zombie Apocalypse and it’s time to change the game a bit. Instead of just surviving, you want to begin focusing on living, growing, and thriving with an eye towards rebuilding a viable civilization and reversing the Zombie Apocalypse.

So, how do you do that? Well, it’s not that easy. It took humans well over one hundred thousand years to develop civilization. It took us close to three thousand years to build a society that was capable of technological, legal, social, economic, and political change and adaptation without constant bloodshed (hat tip to Greece and Rome for pointing us in the right direction). Luckily, we don’t have to re-invent everything (we already know a lot and have the whole “writing” thing down) but we will have to regain a good bit of lost ground. Things are going to go backwards for a while — they’ll have to. Our current system relies heavily on electricity and the wonder that is the internal combustion engine. Those things go “bye-bye” during the Zombie Apocalypse.


Oh hell no…you mean to tell me there aren’t any showers up in here?

Some of you probably laughed when I suggested raiding a library or making certain you stole or “gathered in” as many books as you could. Well, get ready to eat those giggles. Those books are going to teach you things like “how to find metals,” “how to smelt and forge metals into tools,” “how to generate electricity,” “what electricity is and how it works,” “why you really want to try to set up base not too far from a nuclear power plant because that sucker will *still* be generating electricity and all you need to do is figure out how the controls work to harness it,” as well as “how to build a sewage system (and you will need one),” and “how to deal with tainted water.”

This is the point in the Zombie Apocalypse when, if you’re recruiting people, you’ll want to risk reaching out to lone wolves to see if any of them are just gun-shy individuals who possess a lot of knowledge or useful skills but might not be able to small-talk their way out of a paper bag (like me). Case in point: if you need a system (damned near any kind of system) worked out or you need to understand how one worked before, I’m really good at that. I have a talent that borders on “freaky super-power” for seeing how different parts/units/things/subsystems are composed and how they interact with each other in the larger system. Computers, computer programs and languages, computer networks, legal systems (the framework, not the actual practice), medical devices, surgical procedures, organ systems, communication and transport networks, molecules, galaxies — to me, they’re all just different kinds of systems organized of various components and sub-components with certain behaviors and rule-sets that interact in predictable and logical manners (with the occasional emergent property or three) and they can be deciphered, understood, and explained. That means they can also be harnessed and manipulated (with stipulations).


…Dammit, tell Daryl not to bring back any more systems nerds unless they have their manuals or a translation guide with them.

But if you ask me which shoes go with a certain purse or to comment on the latest celebrity sex scandal…well, I’m less than clueless there. I have finally learned who the Kardashians are. I’m still not certain who Taylor Swift or Kayne West is, though, other than that Kayne interrupted some awards ceremony because he really likes Beyonce (who is a singer…I think). I don’t know what clothes look good on me; I care very little about that. I know a handful of actors’ names and it’s because they’ve played characters I really liked. Trying to engage me in small talk is…just don’t do it. It’s not a good idea for you or for me. Conversations heard in my house (I had to move back in with my parents) often go like this:

Me: *staring into space* What’s the oldest civilization? When was it started? The Egyptians were, what, 4000 BC?
My mom: I think they were around 2000 BC so civilization would be 4000 years old (she’s used to my random questions)
Me: Actually, wait…didn’t the Chinese have a dynasty that was a few centuries, maybe a thousand years before that?
Mom: I don’t know. But I don’t go into all that lost civilization from 10,000 years…
Me: No! Neither do I. I’ve got this idea for a sci-fi story set 10,000 years in the future so I’m trying to find a data point to extrapolate from on how garbled events from the current era would be to people living in 12,000 AD. Because even with video…
Mom: Well, even with video, that’s no guarantee. I have 8-track tapes that I can’t find a player for. There are VHS tapes but no one has a VCR these days…
Me: Yeah, true, but going digital did eliminate *some* of that. Still, there would be a lot of telephonic garble.
Mom: Okay…
Me: Because history is often like that telephone game. You know, where a kid whispers something to one kid who whispers it to another and another…
Mom: Yeah, I know.
Me: I guess I’ll go with the Chinese, then. Better chance for a closer data point to extrapolate from. Also, the language is more unified — modern Chinese is closer to ancient Chinese than modern English is to ancient Egyptian. Less drift. Makes them a better example to work from. Thanks!
Mom: …did you finish cleaning the kitchen?

I’m great with systems and I know a lot of things from books. But I am so not the person you invite to a social occasion that doesn’t involve sitting around a table rolling polyhedral dice and arguing over saving throws. That’s why, in a Zombie Apocalypse, I’ll probably stake out a place as a lone wolf or with a group of people I know very well.


I am so going to have this printed on a t-shirt one day. Anyone else want one?

Funny thing is, weird, quirky people like me generally wind up being damned useful at rebuilding. So, you have to go out and find us because we are not going to be looking for you. We’ll build our own slice of heaven and fucking. stay. there. Forever.

And speaking of finding and recruiting people…now that you’ve established a base camp worth defending, maybe it’s time to come up with some hard-and-fast rules on how people can join your merry little band of survivors?

— G.K.

Techies And Writers And Herds of Cats

Techies And Writers And Herds of Cats

One of my daily reads is Sarah Hoyt’s blog and recently I’ve been going through some of her older entries (I’m looking for a post where she was talking about the review submission process…don’t ask) and I stumbled over several mentions of how getting us writer-ly types to organize and do anything in a uniform fashion is kind of like herding cats. Especially those of us of what she calls the Odd bent (and what I call the “awesomesauce” bent because, yay, more fellow NTs!) I’ve noticed this myself — especially back when I was submitting to agents and traditional publishers before I realized that was a chump’s game and decided to go indie. Each agent or agent house and each publisher has their own guidelines for receiving query letters and manuscripts and none of them are the same.

Considering the uniformity of the end product (mass-market paperbacks have very specific cover and print-set specifications) and the general consistency of editing software and screen-readers, you’d think that there would be some consistency. But you’d be wrong.

The only other area where I’ve encountered such a dizzying array of sheer anarchy is…the tech world. I still keep a foot in that realm (because it’s fun) and anyone who’s actually delved into code very far knows what I mean when I say that reading someone’s code can tell you everything you need to know about them. If it’s not human-readable, you know that they’re using a graphical interface to drag’n’drop elements into place and that they don’t actually know what they’re doing. They might have a cursory understanding but they don’t grasp the fundamentals and the principles. Or, they’re not a coder (and they’re not pretending to be — I had this happen a lot in my professional life) and you get the fun job of digging through a single-line (that is actually several thousand lines) of nested HTML menu items to find the one that isn’t closed properly so you can make the document strict XML compliant.

If the code has function names that are the same as variables, you know you’re deal with someone who has some experience but is still new to the game. Their comments and documentation will tend to be hit-or-miss but at least it will exist. If the code has function names that are purposeful and unique, you know that the commentary and documentation will be fairly good (or they will have outsourced it to someone who will be better at it, you hope) or it will be non-existent. If the function names are vindictive and the documentation has you going in circles, you know that you’re probably better off removing everything and rebuilding from scratch because someone high up pissed this person off and you’re dealing with a BOFH type who has decided to extract a pound (or ton) of flesh. In this case, there’s only one thing to do:

The issue is, some techies are going to be die-hard Perl scripters and everything is going to be in that. Others will prefer Python. Some never moved past C++. You’ve got your K-shell users, C-shell users, Z-shell folks, and then a quick shout-out to my peeps out there in Bourne-Again land (BASH FOREVAH!). There’s the Xwindows folks who are all about some KDE while others are hung up with their Gnomes and the rest of us are wondering why in Torvalds’ name you’re running Xwindows on a server — it’s not secure. People will cling to their text-editors and bitter fights will break out over vi versus emacs versus pico versus nano at which point G.K. boots to Windows (hey, if you’re going to run a desktop, run a freaking desktop) and opens up Scrivener. PHP devs will say you can do everything with PHP and seasoned HTML coders will snort and think about all the times they had to implement HTML/CSS/JS fixes to deal with a PHPlib error. SQL DBAs will laugh at all of them while they work on their next round of fiendishly difficult certifications.

As you can see, though…techies and writers — none of us can agree on how things should be. Oh, we all have our opinions on how they should be. Techies will even form consortiums, conventions, conglomerations, conferences, and write out long RFCs about How Things Should Be. Enough others will agree and we’ll wind up with this situation:

Which, come to think of it, is probably what happened in the publishing world.

Now, do I think that writers are going to eventually get together and decide on a uniform submission process? Hell no! Do I think publishers will eventually decide on one? Nope. What will probably keep happening is what’s been happening. It’s just interesting to see that two groups of people the average Joe Public considers diametric opposites (writers and techies) are actually very much alike.

And it’s cool to be both of them at once, yo.

— G.K.

Throwback Thursday: G.K.’s Vulcan Nerdcrush

Throwback Thursday: G.K.'s Vulcan Nerdcrush

I think it will come as a surprise to absolutely no one at all that I have always been a Trekkie. I started watching it when The Next Generation began airing. My dad was a bit of a nerd and it was considered family entertainment so we watched it together. Of course, I got far more into the show than he did so I kept watching it even after he lost interest.

Now, I know what everyone’s thinking. No, I didn’t have a crush on Wesley Crusher. Ew. ST:TNG started airing when I was six or seven years old. I also didn’t have a crush on Data (though he was a favorite of mine) or Picard (though I thought he was awesome) or Q (though I thought he was hilarious if a little mean sometimes). It wasn’t La Forge, either (even though I liked Levar Burton because I was also a big fan of Reading Rainbow).

I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t anyone on the senior staff and it wasn’t anyone who was a regular guest or recurring character. At least, not on TNG. He also didn’t make an appearance until late in the series when I would have at least been aware of boys and mildly interested in them (albeit more in the academic sense because it took me a while to get into the whole “dating” thing and that was more the result of succumbing to peer pressure than any actual interest in the paradigm. Yeah, I did have interest in a couple of boys during my teenage years but it was always more a mental connection than physical or emotional. Kind of still is, now that I think about it).

And if that hasn’t given you all of the clues you need to figure it out, I don’t know what to do other than just tell you that the second major crush I had (the first being Haplo the Patryn from the Death Gate Cycle) was on Ensign Taurik from The Lower Decks (S7:E15) which aired when I was 13. The same actor who portrayed Taurik was cast as another Vulcan in Voyager — Vorik — who is also a character I really liked (though I didn’t have a crush on Vorik because, by then, I was way too busy with school and dealing with the soul-crushing grind of social norms that were alien to me to have much energy to spare developing a crush on a character from a TV show I was only half-watching while trying to wade through the mountains of homework I had. Yay for honors and AP courses that no colleges actually bothered to honor even when I aced the exams!)

Tell me he’s not at least a little bit cute. The actor is definitely not hard to look at. He’s probably married to some super model or something. That’s Alexander Enderberg, btw (and no, I don’t have that memorized. I just have amazing Google-fu).

So, there you go. For Throwback Thursday, one of my more embarrassing secrets revealed. I had a major nerdcrush on Taurik from ST:TNG when I was younger (kind of still do a lil’ bit). Nae worries, though. G’s Code is still in force (I will never go anywhere near anyone famous I like, admire, or respect unless I have legitimate business or financial reasons to do so which are beneficial for them because these people have enough fans who want a moment of their time and I refuse to be one of them). So help me Bob, we’ll never be in the same ZIP code and once I get my particle accelerator up and running, we won’t be in the same solar system so the chance of accidental interference will be less than negligible (I have done the math!)

— G.K.

We Didn’t Start The Flamewar — Part Five

We Didn't Start The Flamewar -- Part Five

*twirls drumsticks and adjusts shades before singing*

George R. R. Martin, Guardian, Stats ‘n’ lies, Twittermobbing, Puppycide
Torgersen, NoTruFenThenDom, Noah Warding Bloc

*chorus repeats*

I told you, the lyrics are the most difficult part of the post! If you don’t like ’em, find me a songwriter who can come up with better ones and I will be happy to turn that part of this series over to them because I fail at songing almost as hard as I fail at adulting.

So, on to part the fifth of this series wherein we will delve into the first part of Sad Puppies 3 (which is going to be a multi-part year since it is A Very Big Deal). As mentioned in my earlier entries, Sad Puppies 1 and 2 were “organized” (and I use that term loosely) by Larry Correia. Once again, to recap, the goal of Sad Puppies was to prove the following points:

1. The Hugo awards were politically biased, and dominated by a few insider cliques.
2. Authors who didn’t belong to these groups or failed to appease them politically were shunned. If authors with “unapproved” politics were to get nominations, the quality of the work would be irrelevant, and the insider cliques would do everything in their power to sabotage that person.

It would seem that, in light of this year’s events, Correia’s hypotheses have been proven, would it not?

At any rate, Sad Puppies 3 saw the mantle of organizing being passed from Correia to Brad Torgersen. Larry Correia considered the controversy that SP2 had raised sufficient to prove his point and was ready to call it quits. However, Torgersen believed that the Hugos could be salvaged and that by increasing awareness and continuing the work Correia had started, only this time by expanding the list to include more authors and to move away from ideology as the selection criteria and instead to go solely on the basis of “is it good or not?” with the discard qualification being message-fic/preach-fic (meaning that SP3 didn’t care a whit what an author’s politics were or what the story was about so long as it was good and wasn’t an anti-human sermon-fic in the SJW tradition). SP3 saw a huge increase in participation both among authors and among the public. However, as it turns out, much of the success was due to Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies campaign which will be covered in depth in a future entry.

The success of the puppy slate took everyone by surprise. However, when the Nielsen-Haydens knew days ahead of the official announcements that “their” people hadn’t made the ballots and the butthurt from Scalzi and the insider crowds started, complete with a libel-laden article that made its rounds through the mainstream media (with its layers and layers of fact-checkers, yo). The SJWs weren’t content to chalk it up to simple mathematics, no. After all, the WorldCon memberbase had been dwindling for years with the Hugo voting pool growing smaller and smaller, making it much easier for smaller numbers of people to skew the results. There’s probably some mathematical name for this phenomenon but I don’t know it so I’m going to call this the “Kiddie Pool Phenomenon.”

Now, most of us, when we were growing up, learned that, in popularity contests, victory often goes to those who show up. SP2 and the resultant fall-out established a strong case for the Hugos being little more than a popularity contest among the WorldCon membership and not “the” definitive award of great science fiction and fantasy literature as they purported themselves to be. Nathaniel Givens’s data analysis shows that there is a reason to believe that there has been a divergence between what the reading public considers “good literature” and what Hugo voters consider “good.” What happened with SP3 is that the two puppy groups managed to have a lot more people “turn up” than they (or anyone else) was expecting.

One would think that the WorldCon crowd, though a bit surprised and maybe a little upset that their favorites didn’t make it that year, would be thrilled to see their convention growing and perhaps on the cusp of flourishing again, right? After all, the SP3 slate consisted of a lot of truly diverse authors including several Latino and Latina writers, many women, people of high melanin content, people of LBGTedness, and probably a few demi-elven-dwarven-dragon-half-vampire-werewolf-Sith-Jedi-wizards of non-indeterminate gender born under a new full moon in comparison to the lily-white slate offered by the SJWs themselves in previous years.

The success of SP3 kicked everything into high gear but isn’t due solely to SP and Torgersen’s efforts. So, we’ll talk about Vox Day and Rabid Puppies and their role in this in the next entry in this series so stay tune!

— G.K.

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse: Meeting Other Groups

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse: Meeting Other Groups

If you’re lucky enough to have survived the initial Outbreak, gotten out of the population centers, and found (or started) a group of your own, eventually, you are going to run across other groups of survivors during your wanderings in search of a safe haven to set up a permanent (or semi-permanent) base of operations. These groups will have their own social and leadership structures and you will need to be prepared to deal with them and to size them up quickly so as to not find yourself and your own group at a complete disadvantage. Some groups will consist of good people and you may want to combine forces or form an alliance or pact with them even if you don’t merge your groups together (which can carry its own problems since merging command structures can be very problematic even in a non-high-stress environment). Others will be harmless either because they lack the ability (due to lack of access to weaponry or numbers) to harm you or they lack the will to do so. The last group, the largest group, is the Asshole Category and they have various degrees of “avoid,” “destroy,” “kill on sight,” or “nuke from orbit.”

Small, Friendly Groups

The fact of the matter is the most common group you’ll run across will be the small, friendly group. Now, they will be wary if they’ve survived very long but so long as everyone is careful, it’s clear that everyone is free to go at any point, and no attempts are made to take anything from anyone, communicating with them and establishing relations with them should be easy and straightforward. Most of these groups will be family groups or friends who are living a nomadic lifestyle as they search for a safe place to hunker down. The smallest groups may be willing to integrate themselves into a larger overgroup. They may also be open to forming a loose confederation in exchange for a mutual defense agreement, trade, and access to food, water, and medical supplies. You will want to exercise caution and discretion before taking them in, though.

Large, Friendly Groups

If you have established your own base of operations and are scouting or if you and your group are wandering in search of a place to secure and settle down, you may run across a much larger group. This group may have its own scouting parties out who are either tasked with actively recruiting members (in which case you may be asked to consider joining if you meet their requirements and needs), with merely keeping an eye on people passing through their territory, or with keeping trespassers out. If you are approached by a scout who announces himself and provides tangible evidence of the existence of a larger group and the guidelines for joining, consider hearing him out. Make certain that the outlines for any trial period are clear and include the right to exit the community with the provisions and gear you brought in to it (or an equivalent amount), that there is either a set date for the trial period to end or a set event to conclude it after which your group would be considered full and equal members with the same rights as everyone else, and that all members of your group will be granted a single orientation meeting where all of the rules, laws, mores, and enforceable customs of the community will be outlined along with their punishments. A reasonable question-and-answer session should follow that session to make certain everyone understands what they’re getting into. If you decide not to join with this larger group, request a meeting with a trade delegation at an external location to discuss opening trade with them. Keep in mind that trade can include news as well as goods and services.

If the group does not have those things prepared, then they really aren’t prepared to absorb outsiders. You should point that out to them and suggest that they reconsider their recruitment drive until they’ve organized their immigration policy better. You might still consider going with them but you will want to negotiate to keep as much independence as you can and insist that they retain their own. Co-existence and cooperation should be the goal while you work out your relationships.

Friendly Itinerant Groups

No matter how far along you are during the Zombie Apocalypse, you’re going to come across wandering groups. These groups will differ in that they have given up finding any place to permanently settle down and are content to keep moving. For some of them, safety may be in staying mobile. Others may have mastered the art of trading and become peddlers. A rare few may have even formed mobile societies or tribes much like the Tuatha’an from The Wheel of Time. Your first contact with these groups should be cautious until you know their ways. Once that’s established — they’ll have developed ways of detecting and dealing with others — you can open relations with them. However, they will probably not join your group or form any kind of lasting alliance beyond non-exclusive trade. Still, it is wise to give them some supplies, any news or warnings you can provide, and then let them go on their way. If this is their first time through your established territory, just let them know who you are and where your base is (or where your outpost is if you don’t want your permanent base to be a known location for outsiders), what territory you claim and who your neighbors are and your relations with them, and then try to establish a good rapport with them. It’s always better to have friends, after all!

Lone Wolves

From time to time, you’ll run across an individual or a very couple who, for whatever reason, have struck out on their own. They might be nomads just passing through or they may have established a small base camp. However, no matter how friendly you are to them or how welcoming you seem, they may reject any offer to join your group. At best, they’ll just be skittish and wary. At worst, they’ll be unfriendly. Your best strategy here is to move along. If they happen to set up in your territory (without them knowing it) and are not causing you any problem, leave them be. Simply let them know that they are in your territory and that you just want to know who they are and why they wish to be left alone. Their reasons could range from a simple disdain for other people or an inability to deal with social conventions well (like yours truly here) to having suffered some very bad experiences in other groups and taking a rational “wait and see” approach before deciding to put themselves at your mercy. So long as you have adequate guards, lone wolves are not a threat.

Nutty Normals

In the midst of a Zombie Apocalypse, you’re going to find people who are out to prove that “de Nile, she ain’t jes’ a river in Egypt.” At best, they’re harmless farmers who think that the undead are just sick and that a cure is coming Real Soon Now and so they’ve kept the zombies locked up securely in their barn. So long as no Drama Queens break the lock and chain, everyone’s fine. At worst, they’re psychos who are trying to build a little slice of Pleasantville where everyone can have barbeques and cookouts and parties and cotillions without having to deal with the fact that the undead are trying to eat them just outside of whatever flimsy barricade they’ve built up. If you come across a community where you’re asked to surrender your weapons before entering, you may have stumbled on a den of nutcases led by someone in denial (at best) or a man who’s building a harem and your women are fair game (at worst). This is why establishing the rules for trial membership is so crucial — if you are ever asked to disarm yourself, you need to be very wary. There needs to be a damned good reason for it and that reason needs to be explained to you before you surrender your weapon.

Warlords

Strongmen who can gather other strongmen and toughs to their cause will win out early on. They’ll establish tribal structures and set themselves up as warlords. They will also kidnap women whose sole purpose will be to take care of the “needs” of the warriors. Any time a warlord’s army conquers new territory, the men will be executed and the women will be held captive. These are some of the worst kinds to deal with because the only way to handle them is either to kill them or to be so much stronger than them they won’t take you on. In the midst of a Zombie Apocalypse, you are not going to have the resources in manpower to imprison or rehabilitate them so, really, crippling them or executing them is about the only way to defeat them. Also, depending on how long the women have been held, some of them may have succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome and you may simply have to kill them as well.

That said, if you can outgun them and you can make it clear that they live only by your sufferance and that their leader keeps his place only so long as he doesn’t piss you off (and you will have to get in his face and make it that clear), then you can keep them on a leash somewhat. However, it is a bit like keeping a rabid dog on a leash so caveat emptor, dude.

Restorers

You’ll run into these types often enough — send them away or along and do not get involved. They’re a special case of denialist who believe that they and their group are on a mission to restore the world (or the United States) and that anyone who opposes them must be destroyed. Make it clear that you are simply trying to survive and that you wish them all the best but that you have your family to look out for. You do not want to get dragged into a fight for territory or resources unless you absolutely have to.

Scumbags

Your group will eventually encounter scumbags. They might be individuals who were kicked out of another group or they might just be drifters who have made a living of preying on innocent survivors. Regardless, the only thing you can do for them is send them on to the next life. Hold them only long enough to find out if they really are part of a larger group (scumbags will occasionally form warlord bands) that poses a threat to your group and then get rid of them. Permanently.

So, with all that said — where’s the best place for you to set up a base of operations? Well, we’ll talk about that next time!

— G.K.

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse — Who To Take

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse -- Who To Take

…and who to avoid and why.

Early on, if you’re a decent person, your impulse will be to try to save as many people as you can. And, if the Outbreak looks like it’s going to be contained and controlled and a promising treatment developed soon, that’s not a bad idea. However, if the Outbreak overwhelms civil authorities and you find yourself in the midst of a full-fledged “The End Is Nigh” apocalypse, you’re going to want to be a bit pickier about who you save and who you leave to fend for themselves. Now, bear in mind that this is just a list of guidelines and suggestions and not a hard-and-fast Gospel so with your grain of sodium chloride ingested, we shall proceed.

Those To Save

Defenders

This is my wall and I’mma guard it, k?

It’s a simple fact that any group is going to need a good number of defenders. These are your Ricks and Dales. Almost all the able-bodied adults (male and female) will be called on to handle defense but there will be a couple of them for whom defense of the group is going to be a primary calling. Leadership might also tend to go naturally towards them or it might not but they will generally be mostly concerned with strategies that ensure that the group survives over the long term and that the people within the group have their talents and skills used in ways that benefit the group’s chances to survive.

That said, the defenders will tend to get so focused on survival that they will forget all about living and growing. They do suffer from tunnel vision and can adopt something of a bunker-mentality wherein anyone outside the group is not to be trusted. They will need the occasional break from defense to something else in order to keep this from happening.

Builders

Is Jim gonna have to smack a bitch?

Builders are good, too. These are your mechanics, your carpenters, your handy-men. If you break it, they can fix it. Most of them will have worked with their hands before the Outbreak but some of them will not. Those who weren’t handy-men (or women) before the Outbreak will generally have a way of looking at things or seeing potential in a place or in items and inventing something that makes you remember the scene from Apollo 13 when the NASA guys managed to make the “wrong” CO2 filter fit in the CLM opening so the crew wouldn’t asphyxiate on the return trip (it was awesome). You’ll want these people around because they’ll make life so much simpler and they’ll be able to repair, replenish, or just flat out invent and innovate their way through the Outbreak. Sometimes their hair-brained ideas will blow up in your face but sometimes those ideas will lead to breakthroughs that make Salk look like a slacker.

However, the two types of builders exist in a very yin-yang relationship. Sometimes they get along great and you’d think they are all speaking a language that no one else knows. Other times getting them to work together makes herding cats look simple.

Teachers

Just because I’m old doesn’t mean I’ve gone stupid, son

Teachers are those who have knowledge and can pass it on to others. And, yes, everyone is going to be a teacher in some form or fashion during the ZA. However, the elderly and women who are pregnant or with young children will generally be the primary teachers in your group just because that’s how the resources are going to fall out. That said, if you stumble across someone who is a biologist, a chemist, an engineer, a physicist, an astronomer, or has other highly advanced knowledge of the sciences like that — save them unless they are completely irredeemable because that knowledge is fucking invaluable.

Thinkers

What? It’s true

Thinkers come in all shapes and sizes. They’re not just the verbose, lettered, bookish types who can quote all manner of esoteric arcana at the drop of a hat like me. Some of them are the surly, crossbow-wielding type who could track the wind over rocks. The commonality is that we all live in our heads, we tend not to deal well with other people, social graces escape us completely, we’re way outside our comfort zone dealing with “teh feelz” of any kind, we tend to act quickly and sort out how we feel about it much later (if ever) and some of us can rationalize damn near anything even if we know it’s immoral and unethical.

Still, we generally come in useful, we’re fairly low maintenance, we pitch in and help out, and aside from the fact that we have a tendency not to socialize, we’re not bad people.

Workers

You can count on us for anything

These are the people who don’t fit into any particular category above or who maybe kind of fit into some of them but not completely. They may not be specialists but they work hard, are honest, do their share, make life easy for others, are fun to be around, and genuinely care for the rest of the group. You need them if you’re ever going to have any hope of rebuilding the world. These are people like Glenn, Beth, T-Dog, Carol, Martinez, Michonne, Tara, Tyreese, Carl… They aren’t perfect but then, no one is.

Those To Avoid

Drama Queens

Avoid. Avoid. Avoid!

It doesn’t matter how close you are to them, how long you’ve known them, how much you care for them, or how skilled they are — drama queens are going to be more trouble than they are worth and they are going to get you killed. In the ZA, the energy they consume is going to be greater than that which they contribute. Their need to be the center of attention and the constant siren-call of their psyche for self-reinforcing immediate gratification is going to get you (and everyone else) eaten by the undead. Avoid them. Avoid them at all costs.

Syphilitic Donkeys

Heed my advice: don’t stick it in the crazy

If the population drops by 90%, there’s going to be chaos. Yes, you are going to need to concern yourself with reproducing and that means you are going to have to start thinking about things like genetic variability and possibly considering alternate marriages like line marriages (as from The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress) or something like that to avoid the bottleneck (or Founder’s) effect which can happen if things get really, really, REALLY bad (like if there are less than 10,000 people in the world). However, even with those “alternative” schemes in mind, adultery cannot be tolerated. Men and women who have committed to a relationship — in whatever form that takes in your group — have to be faithful. If they’re not, then that behavior can’t be tolerated.

It’s not actually the sex per se that is the problem — it’s the secrecy and betrayal. Minus those, it wouldn’t be a problem.

Egomaniacal Totalitarian Messiah Wannabes

Bet you thought I was gonna post The Governor

You will run into more of these than you would have believed. Most of them will be very charismatic, persuasive, and charming or will be able to claw their way to the top of a power structure and use their influence over the muscle to maintain their power base. If you happen to stumble across a group like this, get away from them and put as much distance between you and them as you can. They will wind up destroying their group and killing whoever is with them once their ego is threatened and, in a ZA, their ego will be threatened.

There is one last group of people — the largest group of people, actually. They are the Questionables. Some of them can be saved and some of them can’t. It will all come down to your individual experience with them.

In our next entry, we’ll go over some of the forms of groups that you’ll encounter might take and how to deal with them and their command structures.

— G.K.

I’m Still Here

I'm Still Here

I’m sorry if I’ve not been posting — I’m working on a few things that will be going up over the next couple of days. Also, there will be some updates to my stories coming soon-ish. However, I’m trying to find some stable gigs to pay the bills and I’m in the middle of finishing up some edits for my publisher (just doing the last of them now, Vic!) So, until tomorrow, enjoy this very cool image that has been gathering dust on one of my drives:

I’m certain that no matter where we fall in the current brouhaha over everything (flags, guns, monuments, media, history, rockets), we can all agree with the sentiments expressed above and can all stand united as one in saying that sometimes, we need to give Mother Nature the finger right back when she gives us crap like scorpions.

Just sayin’.

— G.K.

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse: The Initial Outbreak

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse: The Initial Outbreak

(Earlier posts in this series: Surviving the ZA and Preparing for the ZA)

Okay, so, chances are that you may be stumbling across this guide during the early days of the Zombie Apocalypse. How will you know if there’s a Zombie Apocalypse (ZA) in progress? Well, first of all, it will be all over the news. Secondly, I’ll put up this helpful little graphic that I’m basing on the Department of Homeland Security’s Terrorism warning graphic thingy (totally the official name):

If it goes to OMGWTFZABBQ (aka “Red”) then there’s a ZA in progress. Grab your guns, grab your gear, and get ready to get the hell out of Dodge. Do not go to the nearest Four Seasons hotel and cry because that’s not going to do you or anyone else any good.

The first news reports may be confused because, let’s be frank, journalists are communications majors — not infectious disease specialists, doctors, or biologists. However, even they will be hard-pressed to screw up reports about people who were pronounced dead suddenly reviving and then biting those around them. The civil authorities may attempt to suppress the stories for a short time in order to prevent mass panic or to put their own forces in a position to try to contain the outbreak and keep it quarantined. If they are successful, then the ZA will be averted and the whole thing will probably be classified and we’ll never know about it.

However, the US government can’t even keep the Secret Service Agents Gone Wild under wraps and they can’t keep the Chinese out of their own “secure” networks so color me skeptical that they’d be able to actually contain a ZA itself and keep it secret.

In the early stages, the best play is to follow the advice of the wise Douglas Adams: Don’t Panic. Pack your gear. Pack your guns. Plan your escape route and at least four meet-up locations. Communicate your plans to your friends and family. Go ahead and stock up on non-perishables if the stores aren’t sold out. Continue to report to work but keep a pistol with you at all times and to hell with the laws and any “gun-free zones” because zombies don’t care (this applies only during an active ZA — if a ZA is not in progress, obey the law or work to change it and respect the rules of any private establishment or opt not to enter it unless you can convince the owners to change their policies). Keep your car filled and an extra gas can filled in case you need to split in a hurry.

If you start hearing reliable reports that the outbreak has breached quarantine or see such evidence for yourself, then vacate your home and all populated areas immediately. If social collapse begins to encroach on your region or seems likely, retreat is advisable — sooner rather than later.

How will you know when the collapse is coming or if the outbreak has breached quarantine if there are no reports? Well, a zombie-plague will probably have an extremely high fatality rate — something on the order of at least 80% and probably closer to 95%. Hell, it might even be up there with rabies which has a fatality rate of 100%.* You are going to have a high number of people either sick or dead and thus not reporting in to work. Assuming a rate of 75% (the lowest figure I’m going to go with for a ZA), that’s 75% of people who aren’t there to work in power plants, who aren’t driving delivery trucks, who aren’t running the trains to deliver fuel, who aren’t operating the control stations along the grid, who aren’t monitoring the communication relay networks…


The death toll will look something like this…

The electricity will become unreliable. Internet usage will become unstable and then cut out. The lights will go dark. Television transmissions over cable and satellite will end. Popular broadcasts over the airwaves will cease. The phones will go dead. At this point, communications will fall back to the early twentieth century (at best). Radio and line-of-sight. You may be able to get on the HAM radio network and keep in contact with people or on a CB radio. If you have a UHF device, that will work, too. However, powering those devices is very quickly going to become an issue because, as I mentioned, the electrical grid is going to shut down. It can’t run unmanned for very long. You need to get out of town before the lights go out. I’d suggest getting out as soon as you start hearing reliable reports of a massive increase in death toll or seeing the effects yourself. Chances are that the major metros will be hit first and worst early on. New York will stop broadcasting. When that happens, it’s time to get out.

Now, where should you go? The suburbs? No. You want to get out further than that. And don’t be stupid and go to Yellowstone or some other major national park. Thousands of people are going to have already thought of that and will be there ahead of you. Get out to the closest rural area you can that has a constant source of free-flowing water — a river, a stream, whatever. If you own the land, great. If you know the owners and they’ll let you stay there, awesome. If no one owns it, fine. If it’s claimed already, move on. You want to find a place where you can forage and hunt, construct a reasonable defense against the zombies, see them coming, but that isn’t so attractive that someone else will kill you for it.

Also, this is the point where you need to start berating yourself for not planning better and promising that, once you’ve survived this thing, you’re going to fix that.

In the next post, we’ll look at who you should consider having in your group and who you should definitely not take along for the ride.

— G.K.

*By the time the disease is identified, the government will have announced how the symptoms can be identified so that people who have it can be placed in quarantine because — believe it or not — the government does actually have a vested interest in keeping things like a ZA from wiping out its citizens. So, taking even a low-ball figure of 75% fatality (and assuming a 75% transmission rate via indirect contact or 100% via direct contact like biting), if the disease breaks out of its quarantine and the dead start rising, there is going to be a very swift exponential increase in body count where the bodies don’t stay dead.

The exact formula to show this is (bN)(S/N)Z = bSZ and was published by Robert J. Smith? in “Mathematical Modeling of Zombies” (University of Ottawa Press, 2014). The key problem is that zombies never reach a stable-state with humans like other diseases do so there is never a drop-off or plateau on their side unless humans kill enough of them or contain them successfully for long enough.

Also, logically, there are only a few forms a zombie-plague can take. It will need to have the infection rate of something like the flu — perhaps a mutant strain of the Spanish Influenza of 1911 — or the measles. It will need to have the fatality rate of rabies. It will need to affect the brain and nervous system like rabies and meningitis. So, it will most likely be a virus or bacteria with a long incubation period (up to 14 days before onset of symptoms) during which it’s contagious and spread through airborne spray (sneezing, coughing) or touch (door knobs, handshakes) the way the cold and flu are now. Then the symptoms set in and the person dies from them. Post mortem, the person reanimates and then continues to spread the disease by biting others (the way rabies is spread).