Friday, December 31, 2010

V is for Vance and Van Vogt.

Another load from my collection. There really should be more Vernor Vinge books here, since they're bloody excellent.






Thursday, December 30, 2010

Underwater Oil Rigs

This seems like a good setting for near-future SF, something for Peter Watts I reckon:

Petrobras plans to turn science fiction into reality to extract oil from the vast pre-salt oil fields discovered off the south east coast of Brazil.


The plan is to construct 'cities’ more than 2,000 metres under water, containing machines, giant pieces of equipment and robots that could inspect the systems being used to extract millions of barrels of oil. Many operations would be fully automated while others would be controlled by humans at a distance.

Warhammer Prador Codex

The Warhammer Prador Codex can be found here, and I've also stuck a permanent link in the sidebar. Have fun with it!

This is a not-for-profit, free-source expansion to the world of Warhammer 40k, written by TheCyben and The_Grin_Reaper using all kinds of intellectual property from other, perhaps more talented but certainly less inebriated people. We thank them all, and remind you, the Prador Codex user, to support them by purchasing their books, games, models, Christmas albums and signed commemorative plates where applicable.

This FanDex is dedicated to five very important groups, without whom it would never have been made a reality. In no particular order of importance, they are:

The Whangarei Wargamers Games Workshop and the 40K design and writing teams, the Unholy Legions of Heavy Metal Sci-fi geeks of the world (and the net – cheers Wikipedia) and (with a whole group to himself):

Mr Neal Asher, the man who first imagined the Prador and brought them to life through a series of books which will one day form the core of our new religion...

Well, maybe not! But if you enjoy this 'dex, be sure to check out Neal's writing, and if you love his writing and enjoyed seeing the Prador chew through some Orks and Tau and such, perhaps you should start an army and join your local Wargaming club. They're not half as creepy as they look, I assure you!

One more time for the slow kids...

This is not an official GW or 40k product. It is not an official expansion of the Polity universe, or in any way endorsed by Neal Asher's publishers. This information is designed to be freely used, distributed and copied - if someone tries to charge you for it, first kick them in the groin and then get an adult to sue them black and blue. What YOU or ANYONE does with this 'dex is not the responsibility of TheCyben or The_Grin_Reaper, no matter what your mum says.

Enjoy responsibly, and kick arse!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

More Fun With Prador!

Here's some more from Andy Bryenton:

Key to the tactical difference between the Prador and other more conventional factions in 40k is the concept of chemical, pheromonal control and command. The most utterly alien aspect of the Kingdom, to me, is not the lack of compassion (we can see enough of that on the 6 o clock news among our own species, unfortunately), but the lack of free will.

To that end my ally in this project, Kurt, has helped by developing some tactical commands issued via pheromonal means, and a range of random consequences should any 'junior' Prador stray out of their elders' influence. Obviously in terms of canon, it's obvious that cunning individuals like Vrell can think for themselves, and know how to carry out a mission light-years from their old dad. But on the tabletop it adds a bit of narrative flavor if the scuttling hordes need to stay in some kind of cohesion, or else decide it's a good time to knock off some sibling competition!

Also included is the draft of the cover - my apologies for my awful artistic skill, but hopefully that's a menacing looking Second Child with some heavy weapons and a few cybernetic bits welded on...

For your perusal, then...

Pheromonal Commands and Chemical Imperatives

Prador orders do not take the form of spoken language, like the commands barked out by human drill sergeants or flickers of code as between engines of war. Prador utilize a language of chemicals and pheromones to control their lessers, commanding them against their will at a moment's notice. Indeed, free will is an unknown concept in Prador society, where the might of the elder generations is made manifest through their undeniable orders.

Chemical Imperatives may be used at any time by Prador equipped with them – even during the opposing player's turn.

When issuing a Chemical Imperative, roll a d6 for each Prador unit within 12”. On a 3+ they obey the chemical order given without question. On a 1 or 2, the shifting winds of the battlefield dilute the pheromones with the scent of blood and high explosives, causing confusion and panic. Squads who fail this roll are subject to Disobedience next turn.

Suppressing Fire! - any Prador of a lower Generation within 12” immediately fire their Railguns (not special weapon variations) at the nearest enemy unit. May not be used when locked in combat (8pt)

March or Die! - any Prador of a lower generation within 12” immediately make an additional run move on 2d6, taking all appropriate terrain tests. This move may not be used to assault enemies or exit combat. (3pt)

Shells Down! - all Prador of a lower generation within 12”dig into the dirt, effectively becoming living fortifications. Prador who are Shells Down benefit from a 2+ armor save, but cannot move during the movement phase after they re-emerge. (8pt)

Feed Me! - the nearest Prador of a lower generation is immediately sacrificed to regenerate a single wound on the issuer of this imperative. The Prador thus sacrificed must be of the right size – i.e. a Third Child must be sacrificed to regenerate a Second Child, a Second-Child for a First Child, and a Second Child or a First-Child for an Adult. Gulp! This imperative may not be played AFTER a Prador has lost its final wound to prevent its removal from the game. (10pt)

Feel the Hate! - all Prador of a lower generation within 12” gain the Preferred Enemy rule this turn against a single nominated race (usually the one they're currently fighting, if the Prador high command have gotten their chemicals right!) (5pt)

Disengage! - any Prador of a lower generation within 12” who are locked in combat immediately break free and move 3d6, away from the combat. The enemy may not pursue or consolidate, as if the Prador unit had just Hit and Run. (8pt)

Destroy Them! - all Prador of a lower generation within 12” gain the Furious Charge special rule for this turn (5pt)

Scuttle! - any Prador unit of a lower generation within 12” completely ignores terrain during its next movement phase, except impassable terrain. (5pt)

No Mercy! No Quarter! - any Prador within 12”gain the ability to fire into a combat which includes models on their own side, so long as those models represent Prador children of a lesser generation or human thralls. Failed 'to hit' rolls are counted as striking Prador models! (10pt)

And this....

Prador General Special Rules

Perhaps no other race encountered by man is quite so alien as the Prador – except the Tyranid hive mind, which may or may not be cosidered a 'race' at all. By turns inscrutable, violent and downright stereotypical (in that they really do eat people!), these xenos have a society as complex as that of Man, with technology easily equal to our own. That being said, the alien predispositions of the Prador are never more apparent than on the field of battle.

Eaters of the Dead – Prador may never consolidate or make sweeping advances – instead, they devour the bodies of the dead, crunching bone and armor with their grisly mandibles.

Merciless – The Prador have no concept of a 'right to life' – their Children are only allowed to survive so long as they prove useful. Any unit of Prador Third Children who flee from battle (failed leadership test etc) within shooting distance of a railgun-armed superior (A Prador of the First, Second or Adult generation) is immediately fired upon by that superior, regardless of whether they have already fired their railguns this turn.

Pheromonal Web – All Prador are bound together by the will of their Sire, with a clear hierarchy delineating the chain of command. Every Prador in your army, excluding Drones and Thralls, is subject to the rules for Disobedience if they are not at all times within 12” of a Prador of a higher generation, with First-Child Tribunes and Adults at the top, First Children on the second tier, Second Children below them, and Third Children at the bottom.

Prador out of Pheromonal Web range at the start of their movement phase must roll on the Disobedience table.

Disobedience -

When a Prador is out of Pheromonal Web range, or otherwise has to roll for Disobedience, roll a D6 and consult the table below:

1 – Slavish Devotion – the Prador continue with the mission plan, fearful of reprisal if they disobey!

2 - Where'd they go!? - the Prador must move toward a higher generation model this turn, and make no other moves. They may still shoot and assault as normal in the appropriate phases.

3 – Panic! - The Prador must move 2d6 scatter this turn, and make no other moves. They may still shoot and assault as normal in the appropriate phases.

4 – Run Away! - the Prador leg it 3d6 toward their deployment zone table edge. If they go over the edge they are removed from the game entirely. This move counts as 'fleeing' under the Merciless rule.

5 – Paralysed with Indecision – The Prador may not move, shoot or assault this turn unless compelled by a Chemical Imperative. If locked in comat, they may not attack or counterattack.

6 – Now's Our Chance! - Sensing weakness in their Elders or siblings, the Prador revert to their genetic urges and try to thin out their own numbers! The affected unit immediately shoots at the nearest other Prador unit, or if none is in range, makes its full move and then shoots at the nearest other Prador unit.

In cases where two or more Prador units are locked in combat with enemy forces and one of them rolls this result, ALL Prador in the affected combat assualt EACH OTHER this turn, while the enemy may choose either to stand there and watch (after all, it's quite entertaining) or leave the combat and 'consolidate' away 2d6”. As they are not involved in the combat any more (internecine war is very single minded), no enemy models make any attacks or counter attacks this turn.

Prador locked in combat who roll this result count as (5), Paralyzed with Indecision.

Moves caused by Disobedience allow Prador to flee from combat – if they are locked in combat and are then forced to move (i.e. by Panic, Run Away, Where'd They Go?), they suffer a number of wounds equal to the number of enemy models who were in base to base contact with them. These may be saved as normal.

Monday, December 27, 2010

More Gamer Stuff

Here's some more gamer stuff from Andy Bryenton:

The first test game has come and gone, and it's been a great success. Very narrative rich, very exciting, and quite a close victory for the Prador, which is satisfying.

As I explained before, taking a complex and savage race like the Prador and turing them into a Warhammer army has meant inventing new unit types and battlefield roles for what would seem to be in your books a very versatile and non-unit-bound species.

I've tried to base the whole structure on the hierarchy of Third, Second and First Children, with the big, legless Adult hovering at the top of the pyramid.

So... here are the categories:

HQ (command units)
Adult Prador
First Child 'Tribune' (Delegated mission leader... he'd better hope he's successful!)

Troops (Basic units, usually in groups of 10-20)
Third Child Interdiction Squad (medium range railgunners with a couple of heavy weapons)
Third Child Assault Squad (code-named 'Eliminators' by the Imperium)
Third Child Scouts/Infiltrators (Code-named 'Intruders' by the Imperium)
Human Thralls (fitted with suicide bombs for extra nastiness!)

Elite Units (Rare, S.A.S - equivalent troops and tactical command groups. Ususally in small groups)
Second Child Tactical Commander (Leads units of Third Children. Code named 'Executors')
Second Child Shock Troops (Heavy, shock-assault elites. code named 'Eviscerators')
Spatterjay Thralls (Feel no pain, have no fear... virus-infected Thralls which are hard to kill)

Fast Attack (Outflanking, surprise attack and fast response units)
Prador Attack Drones (bladed, high-atmosphere insertion anti-personnel weapons)
Prador Gun Drones (code named 'Eradicators' - anti-armor rapid deployment drones)

Heavy Support - (Heavy weapons, defensive units and tank-killers)
First Child Tankhunter (a First Child of lower status than the Tribune, deployed in the role of tankbuster and long-range heavy railgun / particle weapon support)
King's Guard (I had to put these guys in! What's heavier in hand to hand combat than a huge, armored, Spatterjay-Virus-mutated Prador with a bad attitude? That's a rhetorical question!)
Thrall Barge (A hovering Thrall control, processing and deployment vehicle, lightly armed with point defense masers. For extra horror, it can enslave enemy troops and core out their living brains on the fly!)

This army list closely follows the pattern of other Warhammer 40k armies without being too powerful or too weak. The unique tactical facet of the Prador army is its pheromonal web of control and command, in which a strict hierarchy must be preserved. On the tabletop battlefield, lower-order Prador cannot stray too far from a commanding 'officer', lest they become subject to randomly determined disobedience effects, up to and including killing each other instead of the enemy! The plus side of this is a set of instant-effect Chemical Imperative orders, obeyed without question or the burden of morality...

For example, in the test game, the poor old Adult Prador was under seige, shot down to one remaining wound by a heavy tank. Just before he could be charged by a rampaging Daemon (yep, there's gonna be some wierd crossovers in this thing!) he successfully issued the pheromonal command 'Feed Me!', devouring the Second-Child commander of a nearby unit and re-gaining one wound to weather the assault.

Another unit successfully issued the 'Show No Mercy!' command, firing into a melee which included their own troops. While Prador casualties were high, the enemy were routed by attrition.

Sadly, though, the First Child commanding the front-line assault got out of line, and his disobedience cost him his life. He rolled 'Paralyzed by Indecision', and was powerless to stop a group of heavily armored humans slicing him limb from limb!

So, short answer, things are rolling along nicely. Another of the Northland Wargames Alliance has voiced his intent to raise an ECS force to crush the Prador menace!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Perfect Husband -- Lisa Gardner

Jim Beckett was everything she’d ever dreamed of … But two years after Tess married the decorated cop and bore his child, she helped put him behind bars for savagely murdering ten women. Even locked up in a maximum security prison, he vowed he would come after her and make her pay. Now the cunning killer has escaped—and the most dangerous game of all begins.

My mother left a copy of Hide by the same author with us in Crete. I picked it up, knew in about two pages that it was a good one, and wasn't disappointed. It's always great to discover another author who already had a long list of books to her name. Back here in Britain I picked up three for the price of two at Waterstones and started with this one since, of the three, it was the earliest published. Again it was a book I polished off very quickly and really enjoyed. Touches here of Minette Walters and Karin Slaughter. Recommended for those who like police procedurals and serial killers.

Who Reads my Books: Kerri & Guy Slaney

Hello Mr Asher,

My name is Kerri Slaney and my husband Guy and I are both big fans of your books.

He's a civil servant working for DFT in Transport Security and I'm a commercial scheduler for a few niche channels like CBS Reality & the Horror Channel.

Guy's been a fan of your for many years and is more interested in sci-fi whereas I've always been more of a Pratchett girl. That said a couple of years ago on holiday in Scotland he'd bought along Prador Moon and Alastair Reynolds House of Suns, so I read both and adored them. I read Prador Moon twice that week and have enjoyed all the series, particularly Brass Man.

We're really a geeky couple, so I've attached few pics of our library of books and Guy's Mr Crane character from the Champions Online which I think is rather spiffy.

Best wishes and Merry Christmas to you & your family.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Santa Claws Brought this for Richard P John.

Who Reads My Books: Huan Tan.

Here's Huan Tan -- he's the one on the right!

I thought I had better give you a short Bio. Currently living in Ireland and working for the Irish Sea Fisheries Board as a Fisheries Technologist. What that means is that I get to try and introduce new technology to the Fishermen. That could be as simple as another net design or as complex as sticking satellite tags into giant bluefin tuna and seeing where they go.

I have been working for this company for the last 12 years but before that I was a fisherman for 10years, I fished and drove boats around the world, Japan, Australia, Tahiti, Solomon Islands, Guam and New Zealand and the Flemish Cap were all places that I fished or delivered boats through. This gave me a great interest in marine life and is partly why I enjoy the Spatterjay series so much. There is plenty of weird stuff in the sea that hardly ever gets seen by people other than fishermen or avid documentary watchers. Especially the real deepwater stuff >1000m.

I also spent time as motorbike mechanic, a short order cook and a plastic double glazed window maker.
These days I like to spearfish, ride motorcycles and shoot firearms.

Funnily enough nearly all photos of me in the last 20 years or so have of me holding a fish..... Goes with the territory I guess. The backstory to this pic is that it was taken aboard a Norwegian research vessel called the G.O.Sars, way up past the arctic circle. We were doing some mad experiments to see if we could develop fishing gear that had a reduced environmental impact. Since then people have discovered that trawling is actually beneficial to some bottom types, a bit like ploughing a field I guess.

That cod was a big one, and went to make lots of pieces of boiled cod for the crew.

I hope this helps


Huan Tan
County Cork

Friday, December 24, 2010

Paul Cornell on E-books

Thanks to Neil Mullins (Skar) for directing me to this. Paul Cornell has some quite apposite things to say about the e-books market and piracy etc. Here's the first two of his nineteen bullet-points:

1: Publishers have always thought that when you buy a hardback, what you're paying more for is the chance to own it on the day of publication. Paperbacks are cheaper because they come out a year later. The reading public, on the other hand, always thought what they were paying more for was the extra physical mass and quality. (Actually, a hardback costs, one publisher told me, only from 50p to a couple of pounds more to make.) So obviously publishers think an e-book, out on the day of publication, should cost the same as a hardback. And obviously the reading public think it should cost less than a paperback. From this difference in perception stem all subsequent horrors.

2: British publishers are faced with an additional cost for e-books in the form of V.A.T., Valued Added Tax, currently set at 17.5% of the sale price going to the government, set to rise to 20% next year. This tax doesn't apply to printed books. I asked Ed Vaizey MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, if this was going to change, and was told there were no plans to alter the V.A.T. rate at the moment.

Railgun Launched Scramjet

Here's another interesting one from my brother Bob:

In April, President Obama urged NASA to come up with, among other things, a less expensive method than conventional rocketry for launching spacecraft. By September, the agency’s engineers floated a plan that would save millions of dollars in propellant, improve astronaut safety, and allow for more frequent flights. All it will take is two miles of train track, an airplane that can fly at 10 times the speed of sound, and a jolt of electricity big enough to light a small town.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Of Interest to Gamers.

Recently got a couple of emails from Andy Bryenton that might be of interest to gamers here. The first is this one:

I just thought I'd add to the already bulging overflow in your inbox (damn those 'gentlemen's pills' dealers!) with a request for some minor assistance. Oh, and the usual congratulations on an ever-growing series of post-cyber-awesome novels so sharp you can use them to peel diamonds..

As an unrepentant geek, I'm compiling a 'Codex' (a rulebook for the popular* tabletop wargame Warhammer 40k) for the Prador. My hope is to enable Warhammer players, of whom there are more than could be deemed healthy for any society, to download this resource for free and enjoy a bit of cross-franchise slaughter. There's quite a bit of crossover between your fans and players of 40k, and the need for models is easily addressed with enough sculpting putty, resin, plastic guns and superglue.

Of course it's my intent not to utterly mangle your creation in the process! So if there are any links you can think of to relevant images, rest assured that I've trawled through all your books for data about weapons, tactics, technology and limitations of the Prador in battle.

I just thought it'd be nice to tell you that relatively hard-working geeks are busy expanding your universe in a very strictly not-for-profit, just for the fans kinda way!

I won't bore you too much with details, at least until it's done. And at that point, you'll probably wonder how the hell my little crew got it so wrong...

Just rest assured that very soon, somewhere, some Space Marines are gonna get eaten.

*popular, at least, with the kind of guys who will fight for the honor of Darth Vader in a pub argument, tend to grow ill-advised goatees, and wear t-shirts which say 'You don't have to be the Kwisatz Haderach to work here but it helps'.

I supplied a little bit of info (basically graft a spider's visual turret on top of a fiddler crab. Maybe you guys here have your own ideas? Then I asked if I could publish his emails (well, not the next one, but I don't suppose he'll mind).

Go for it! I'd like to make the final codex available to everyone for free, and the more people who can participate in this bizarre little experiment the better!

Due to the way the tabletop game works (and you may have seen those strange GW stores full of tiny, spiky models), I've had to use a little artistic license in shuffling First, Second and Third Children into units like 'Heavy support', 'Basic Troops', and 'Elite warriors', which in the 'real' Kingdom they are unlikely to have. For sheer shock and awe it is my intent to make an ancient Adult available as a commander, even though from what you've written such a being would be infinitely cunning and cautious, thus unlikely to leave its sanctum. Damn thing's gonna have armor that you could crack tanks open on!

Armament is running to variants of railguns, with various nasty particle beam weapons as heavy tank-busting clout. Once again, the constraints of putting the pure idea of Prador into the framework of a 60mm model game are kind of like straining single malt through a gym sock... there may be a slight change of 'flavor'.

Pictures, I assure you, will be forthcoming!

And thanks for taking an interest in the old, obligatory 'what me and my mates did on our holidays'! If and when the modeling part of the project produces a resin-cast Prador First-Child Warrior with twin-linked Decimator railguns, I'll send you one...

What do you think about this?

Gary Gibson on E-books.

Here's another way of looking at the whole issue ... with tongue firmly wedged in cheek.

I would like to make 'a modest proposal' concerning the ebook market, given that I agree fully that authors should get paid for their work. I should know, I'm one of them, and yet according to some we are about to be inundated by a vast wave of piracy that will see artists and creators of all types rendered destitute.

Now I must confess some of my sins.

Hitch's Books

Another collection:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Computer Problems

Okay all you computer literate guys out there. I'm tearing my hair out here. I click on Picture Manager and get 'click-2-run configuration failure'. Any ideas about how I deal with that? I keep running into a brick wall.

Who Reads My Books: Hitch.

My name is Vaughan, but I get called and prefer to be called Hitch. It took many years to create the aura of Hitch, lots of hard work, nagging and, "Just call me Hitch, it’s less gay!" Suffice to say I am not overly keen on my actual name as it doesn't really relate to me. I don't dig sheep, have a Welsh tenor’s voice, or drive Ivor the Engine down the windy tracks each and every day, nor am I Welsh. Yes, my parents hated me :) They actually called me Vaughan because, and I quote, "It cannot be shortened when you are at school". Trouble was, my last name is Jackson... so yeah, who the fuck cared about Vaughan – I was Jacko for years... shudder.

What am I like? Well, I have an ego but I am cool with it (that may be the ego talking though). I love music, reading, gaming, the daughter and the GF (Who also rates you as possibly the best modern – and living – Sci-fi author) though perhaps not in that order. I have been a broadcaster on community radio back in Sheffield, UK, and on various Internet Radio stations (the future of mediocrity). I have also DJ'd in a club, been a sales manager, sales director, butcher, carpet-fitter and worked on Doncaster Racecourse telling the gypsies to fuck off or we would have them! Brave or suicidal? You choose. My last job was as a Chef. Right now I am looking for work and hoping to find some soon. Need someone to work for you in Scandinavia Neal?

I was/am English, depending on who you ask. If you ask me, I am now Norwegian. I live in Trondheim with my girl, Emma, and my daughter. I moved here about six years ago and regret not one bit of it, although in the winter we often contemplate moving somewhere with white beaches and clear green seas.

My website, is my only outlet to the world these days, well, that and Twitter (@hi7ch) and anyone that wants to follow me, please do so! We may not have much in common but I am sure I will annoy you into heated debate at some point – I have a habit of doing this.

Been reading the wonderful works of Mr Asher here since the floppy, laminated, Runcible Tales (Writer of the Future) book and to the best of my knowledge have all his novels and a couple of short story collections. None of them are signed though so Neal, get your arse to Trondheim, I'll cook then you come for a drink with us, and do a book signing over here? Hey, I can try can't I? :)

What I miss? Hmm. I am 42 (Which works well with my nickname!), look 35, or so the ladies say, not me. Should probably work as a comedian... Pink Floyd rule! Love all books, prefer hard Sci-Fi over most. Am a massive Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy fan, hence the chosen nickname. Once met Douglas Adams. Want Herodotus: The Histories, for Christmas. Write short stories and occasionally and stick them online. Erm, that has to cover most of it, surely?

Pics attached, feel free to scream upon viewing.

And the Final (?) Installment of the Vaudefest.

And more...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Breaking Dawn -- Stephenie Meyer

This was a bit of a struggle for me at first because, well, I’m male. The running round and the frocks and all the other palaver of preparing for a wedding hold about as much interest for me as … um, I was about to write ‘watching paint dry’ but that’s wrong. Watching paint dry wouldn’t irritate me as much. The ensuing wedding I skipped through, hoping to get to something interesting. But I have to say again that this is because I’m male. I can understand (sort of) how it was necessary to write this because a huge proportion of the readership of the Twilight series wanted this pay-off. I could have done without the first chapter or so.

After that things picked up very nicely. I’m not going to give any spoilers here, but I roared through the rest of the book and when I put it down I was satisfied. It worked. The series completed. I enjoyed it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Non-Smoker Writes...

Here's a pretty balanced view on smoking. Go read it all.

A year to 18 months ago I was a non-smoker who was anti-smoking - not to the extent where I would challenge strangers who were smokers or seek to embarrass them, but certainly someone who supported the evermore restrictive practices placed upon those wishing to smoke.

So it was one of the most unexpected shift in my thinking over the past year to become pro-smoking - or rather pro the right to choose to smoke.

H/T Found a Voice

vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins' book collection.

Hey Vaude, I recollect that you did send me quite a few images before. If you still have them on file can you send them again?

Here are Vaude's books (thus far):