Read the spellbooks

Is it just me or does no one in Hollywood read the standard spell books? Of course I understand that when you have Magician’s in the story you need to be careful that they do not become so powerful as to remove all conflict. But there is a range between ‘pick a card’ and unlimited supernatural power. If your going to have magicians in your story, you might have some idea what they are capable of.

Case in point is the ‘battle of the bastards’ on Game of Thrones. Our heroes are attacking at 2000 vs 5000. Bad idea generally, but you might be able to pull that off if you’re good. Our heroes do have a problem, however. The Bad guys have hold of the Commander in Chief of the Good guys half brother. But our good guys have a witch available. What does she do about this? Nothing. She sits out the battle doing nada.

Excuse me but this seems like exactly the sort of situation that calls for a bit of magic. Teleport him out of the castle. Change shape so he can walk out or so that someone can walk in and rescue him. Weave a mist around him. Good grief, do something. Dramatically our hero could refuse her assistance because of the cost (human sacrifice?) But it would be nice if she offered.

I don’t mean to harp on “Game of Thrones,” it’s just the latest example. Nor does everyone need to cling to the same set of spells or limitations on spell casting, but some evidence you understand the basics would be nice. At the least sight illusions, hold person, and a basic fireball are classics. There are lots of examples in classical literature and historical sources. Do your homework gang.

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The Chemical attack in Syria – is it any of our business?

Is it any of our business that Syria use chemical weapons? I’d say yes. Here is why.

A) Chemical weapons are prohibited by international law. The use of poison gas is a war crime, prohibited by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The United States is a logical enforcer of this law. We are a signatory to the treaties, and a permanent member of the UN Security council. We are also one of the few superpowers in the world and we have been considered the military leader of the free world since WWII.
B) Chemical weapons are a war crime and their use is intrinsically evil. While the United States cannot reasonably police every act of evil in the world, we do have the capacity of monitoring and punishing a limited amount of particularly evil acts. e.g. the resumption of slavery, the use of weapons of mass destruction, etc. As a well established war crime, the use of chemical weapons against civilians (including a hospital that was deliberately targeted) falls into this category.

C) The use of chemical weapons poses a unique risk of collateral damage to the international community. Collateral damage to nonparticipants in a war always risks military reprisals (see our declaration of war against Germany in WWI over their use of unrestricted submarine warfare.) The use of weapons of mass destruction risks extreme collateral damage to civilians. Some studies have shown that large scale us of chemical weapons could cause more civilian deaths than a nuclear exchange. In view of the risks posed to the world by the use of chemical weapons, the United States has a clear interest in strongly discouraging the use of chemical weapons.

From whom much is given, much is required. The military action taken by the USA was a logical and reasonable response to a the use of Chemical weapons by Syria. Following in the tradition of the old English empire using their military to abolish the slave trade, it it is incumbent upon the United States to use our status as a world power to punish obvious acts of evil like this.

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Standing FOR something

In “Heretics” Chapter 2, GK Chesterton writes: “Every one of the popular modern phrases and ideals is a dodge in order to shirk the problem of what is good. We are fond of talking about “liberty”; that, as we talk of it, is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good. We are fond of talking about “progress”; that is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good. We are fond of talking about “education”; that is a dodge to avoid discussing what is good. The modern man says, “Let us leave all these arbitrary standards and embrace liberty.” This is, logically rendered, “Let us not decide what is good, but let it be considered good not to decide it.” He says, “Away with your old moral formulae; I am for progress.” This, logically stated, means, “Let us not settle what is good; but let us settle whether we are getting more of it.” He says, “Neither in religion nor morality, my friend, lie the hopes of the race, but in education.” This, clearly expressed, means, “We cannot decide what is good, but let us give it to our children.”

I note this is a common problem in modern heroic literature. We have the Jedi knights who fight against the ‘evil’ galactic empire. But what’s evil about them? What do the Jedi stand FOR? The Avengers avenge but what are they avenging? It seems not even Captain America stands for ‘truth, justice, and the American way” anymore. The whole DC comics CW has a real problem in defining what they stand for. It’s clearly not traditional sexual morality. But what is it? This has led to DC comics vigilantes complaining about other vigilantes. Why? You don’t like them because they don’t have your budget? That’s absurd. If anything the fact that ordinary citizens are putting their lives on the line to fight crime and injustice (in the shadow of a corrupt police force) makes them MORE heroic than Batman, not less.

In the Tales of Tiberius, it was important to me to get a grip on what we are fighting for. I think every group of heroes needs a code. If it’s honor, what is honor? The bushido code may be imperfect, but at least it’s a code. I came up with the Imperial Ranger’s code of chivalry by looking at traditional historic codes of chivalry. I think it gives a good idea of what is expected of heroes. I’d love to see the Justice Society and the Avengers start coming up with oaths. What do you stand FOR? The classic boy scout oath could teach our modern politicians something.

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Santa Claus is NOT a lie

Santa Claus is not a lie. He’s a parable, a model. If you are saying Santa is a lie you are also calling Jesus a liar as he routinely taught in parables. There is a good reason for this. Fiction is a tool for disseminating the truth. A lie is something where, when you look behind it, you see nothing. With Santa when you look behind the curtain, you see something bigger more wonderful than you ever could have imagined or that could ever have been contained in a mere toy.

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Author Richard J. Stuart’s fantasy novel predicts the future

A year ago I published “Tales of Tiberius, the Christmas Adventures,” Featuring a novella “The Secret of Santa Claus.” In it a fictional psychologist argues passionately against the ‘lie’ of Father Christmas, trying to be helpful to children. I wish I could say that I was surprised when, a year later, I ran into a newspaper article in the Telegraph making exactly the same argument. The real psychologists could have been quoting from my fictional lecture.

Here are some excerpts from the fictional Edward Johnson.:

“I want to say in conclusion how vitally important it is at this time of year to keep children grounded in reality. I’m pleased to say that we are making progress keeping nonsensical religious displays off of public property. None the less, many people at this time of year insist on filling children’s heads with nonsense.”

“…the story of Santa Claus is nothing but nonsense. The sooner they stop believing in Santa Claus, God, the tooth fairy, and,” he paused frowning at the front row, “most especially elves, the better. Scientific thinking is the only path to truth. The sooner they accept that the better off they will be. They will be better children for it and you will be better parents.”

Here are some comments from the actual articles highlighted in the recent Telegraph article:

Writing in the respected journal The Lancet Psychiatry, they argue: “If they (parents) are capable of lying about something so special and magical, can they be relied upon to continue as the guardians of wisdom and truth?”

Defending the claims, Prof Boyle, from the University of Exeter, said: “The morality of making children believe in such myths has to be questioned.

“All children will eventually find out they’ve been consistently lied to for years, and this might make them wonder what other lies they’ve been told.

“Whether it’s right to make children believe in Father Christmas is an interesting question, and it’s also interesting to ask whether lying in this way will affect children in ways that have not been considered.”

Is there really any difference here?

Where these professors go wrong is in assuming that Santa Claus is a lie and once that lie is discovered, the children will be left with nothing. The novella “The Secret of Santa Claus” makes it clear that nearly the opposite is the case. The Secret of Santa Claus is that the truth is greater than the story, not smaller. Santa Claus is a model not a lie. When we tell our children that Santa Claus brings them toys on Christmas day we are making the complex simple for young minds. After all, what child under five would really prefer eternal life and an end to suffering and disease, than a toy? But someday they will be old enough to understand the truth and on that they, our children should be overjoyed with happiness, not disappointed. The true story of Christmas is, as John 3:16 puts it, that God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. What has happened is far greater and more wonderful than any toy could ever be.

It’s hard to say in a sound bite what you’ve spend years working to explain in an carefully crafted novella. I hope if you are reading this you’ll pick up a copy of Tales of Tiberius the Christmas Adventures and get the rest of the story.


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On Dragons

I’ve been watching the previews for Pete’s Dragon. I haven’t seen the film but it looks like the local police and or angry mob is going to try and kill this Dragon with shotguns. I have to wonder if anyone has explained to them what “Dragon” means. Especially a dragon that shows any signs of all of using magic. Elliot can turn invisible. So we are talking about a 10 ton wizard who can breath fire, is in all probability impervious to shot gun fire, except perhaps a direct hit by a shotgun slug and may be able to do things like summon warriors, throw lightning, do mind control, etc. And you want to go after him with the locals armed with shotguns?! Are you out of your mind?!?

Here is a tip. If you MUST try and kill a dragon (they are not all hostile), especially a magic using dragon, that is a job for the army, not the police. And by the army I mean ALL OF THE ARMY. Send every A-10 we have!!!! Be prepared to use nuclear weapons. Yes I mean it. This is a job for laser guided armor piercing missiles, not shotguns.

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Constantine, John

I’m enjoying the show, but it raises some interesting points, magically speaking.  I have to agree with Papa Midnight that John is all over the map, magically, and not in a good way.  People wonder why I spend so much time on ‘religion’ in talking about Tiberius.  Truth is, if you are serious about ‘magic’ you can’t avoid the topic.  The ten commandments aren’t just secular laws, they are spiritual laws as well.  John would do well to gain a bit more focus and respect the old laws.  You don’t strengthen your spirit by committing adultery all the time.

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Double or nothing

Inspiration is a funny thing.  I’ve had nothing all week, then this morning I wake up with the second half of a story I’ve been stuck on for years, and a new character for my new project.  Go figure.

Sort of interesting taking on a new project.  It’s coming along a bit slowly, but it’s starting to fall into place.  Almost as if each day I’m meeting a new member of the crew.

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Two Dragons? Me and Anne Mccaffrey?!

This is wierd.  I just found out that Anne Mccaffrey wrote her Dragonrider’s books IN THE SAME HOUSE THAT I LIVE IN?!?!  See her son Todd J. Mccaffrey’s biography.  I’ve never been a particular follower of Anne Mccaffrey, though of course, everyone in the field knows and respects her writing.  I think she rejected one of my short stories one time.  I could be confusing her with someone else, I’ll take a look and see if I still have that rejection letter.  We do both write about dragons, though I don’t think our attitude towards them is quite the same.  (Although not all of my dragons are evil).

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Blame the equipment?

One thing I’ve learned in studying military history: be skeptical when you hear someone lost a battle because of bad equipment.  e.g. you hear a lot about how obsolete the Devastator was and how this lousy plane caused us to lose so many people at Midway.  The same people sing the praises of the Fairly Swordfish, even though the Devastator was obviously the better plane.  Yes the Avenger was an improvement, but a few Avengers were around at Midway and they got shot down too.  The problem was flying torpedo bombers into a hornet’s nest of Zeros, not the airplane.  I also here nonsense about the P-36 being such a terrible obsolete plane fighting against Zeros when French pilots fighting against Me-109’s are on record praising the same airplane.  Yeager notes that pilot quality is a key factor in dogfights, odds are a lot of the problems attributed to aircraft issues are really problems caused by inexperienced pilots having to fight veterans.

That’s not to say that equipment is never an issue.  e.g. the Sherman tank wasn’t upgraded properly and that did cause problems late in the war.  Just be skeptical when you hear someone blame the equipment.  Look around, did anyone else use that equipment successfully?  Does a history writer not want to blame the troops?  Double check.

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