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Thread: The AARlander Issue #20 June 2009 Awards Edition

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    The AARlander Issue #20 June 2009 Awards Edition



    Welcome to the AARLANDER , AARland's monthly publication ! If you would like to write for the AARlander , contact canonized or Avernite - everyone is welcome ! Also , what's the best way to support the AARlander aside from writing ? Give comments ! Put your comments in the AARlander: Comments and Discussion Thread for our writers to read !


    Code:
    Editor in Chief: 
    canonized
    
    Editors this Month:
    crusaderknight   comagoosie
    
    Assistant Editors on Staff: 
    Estonianzulu  ForzaA  English Patriot   Avernite
    trekaddict   General_BT  robou
    
    Secretary:
    Avernite
    
    Contributors for This Month: 
    Comagoosie  Capibara   The Yogi
    2Coats  phargle   Hardraade
    trekaddict  Saithis   Singleton Mosby
    
    Cover Artist: 
    robw963
    
    Other Writers or Contributors on Staff: 
    Judas Maccabeus  LeonTrotsky  Hajji Giray I  ElidioEmperor  TreizeV
    JimboIX  VILenin jeffg006  Myth  grayghost  Kurt_Steiner  KanaX
    Mettermrck  DerKaiser AlexanderPrimus  Atlantic Friend  demokratickid
    robw963  Degeme  Duke of Wellington  The_Guiscard  Alfred Packer
    Ksim3000  General_BT   Qorten  Cyrus_The_Great     crusaderknight
    monnikje   canonized  Snugglie   robou   DarthJF Sematary 
    Avernite  Grubnessul The Swert   Elidioemperor   RGB

    Last edited by canonized; 27-06-2009 at 21:59.

  2. #2
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    ACA Round 1 Results
    by Phargle

    Welp, it's been way too long since the ACA concluded, and it's time to unleash the results from my sweaty little hands. This is a significant time for us, since it's the end of the first new round of the ACA, and this is our chance to see how it's working out so far! It's also my chance to beg canonized to give me an extra ration of food in my cell. Without further ado, and with full acknowledgement that The Swert is way smarter than I am. . . actually, screw that. Let's not do this by halves! With tons of ado, here are the results!

    ADO! ADO!

    Rome made it through this cycle, but only just. The four awards go all over the classical world, with Favorite Narrative going to comagoosie for For Rome's Honor. . . is that right? For for? For for for. Anyway, he wins. Still in Rome, we see the Kurt_Steiner taking Favorite Comedy with Petius Nieblus, The First Dog in Rome, about a dog who may not in fact have been the first dog in rome, but who is undoubtedly the First dog in Rome. History-Book went Greek with The Games Gods Play: A Macedonian AAR by RossN, and Gameplay went unpronouncable with The Ilergetan Republic by Lofman. I don't know where Ilergeta is. It's all greek to me.

    EU mind-merged with EU1/2 this cycle, and the turnout remained robust. coz1 took on the mantle of Favorite Narrative with the blood-suckingThe Longest Night, a unique story that, so far, is not about the repurcussions of Spain not ruling the world. The Duke of Wellington added Favorite Comedy to his demesne with a win by Kanem Bornu - Out of the Sahara , while History-Book remained sophisticated and elegant with Paris ne vaut pas une messe! - A Huguenot IN AAR, by Milites, taking the prize. I don't speak French, but I like the way pas une messe sounds. I want at least three French women, or the closest thing we can get to French women without the volunteers being men, to say it to me, pronto. Do this, or I will never divulge the winner of Favorite Gameplay, which was The Audacity of Portugal Getting Romped - An Iroquois IN AAR, by Prawnstar, by the way.

    Hearts of Iron remained scattered and chaotic, with lots and lots of votes for lots and lots of AARs. The Favorite Narrative showed a lot of democracy, or perhaps legs, or perhaps both, when {LD}Firestorm won the category with Democracy's Last Legs: A US - UK DAIM AAR. If democracy is serious, the communism is hilarious, because Storm501 won Favorite Comedy with For the MotAARland (Soviet WIF AAR), an AAR I forever want to read as a 'Soviet WTF AAR'. Is that just me? demokratickid continues to persist with his insane Irish, winning History-Book with Ireland, Ascend!. . . maybe the GalCiv sequel will be Ireland, Transcend! Or maybe the Crusader Kings prequel could be Ireland, Collapse! The potential for spin-offs is great. Favorite Gameplay was familiar Remble, winning with
    The Setting Sun - Gotterdammerung, Japan 1944., an AAR that's not at all funny unless you think the word 'Gotterdammerung' sounds epiglottically hilarious.

    Crusader Kings had voting like Hearts of Iron - split! - without the high numbers. This meant lots and lots of ties. Favorite Narrative? General_BT** and Saithis, with Rome AARisen - a Byzantine AAR and Piety of the North Star, respectively. Rome AARisen just became the number-one longest thread in the Crusader Kings subforum, while Piety is totally hot if you ignore every third word. Comedy was also a tie between an AAR with the word 'Pronsk' in it and an AAR with 'William the Conquerer' in it, so you can see why they tied: It's Amazing wrote He's the Prince of the Pronsk, and he's finally made it! A yeAARly chronicle
    and gja102 wrote 1066 and all that: an England aar. History-Book was not a tie: tudor won with The Siwards - A Family Story, but Gameplay was. . . apart from It's Amazing winning this category too, we also have kadvael56 with The tale of CanAARias and Mr. Capiatlist with Homelands: Tales of the Anglo-Prussians. That's right, folks: with three votes, you too could be a Crusader King! Unless you're Saithis, in which case, you just can't.

    Darling Vicky was not quite as conflicted as the Crusader Kings. Narrative had a tie, sure, with volksmarschall's Saints and Angels on the one hand and Director's A Special Providence on the other. Those Vicky-voyeurs sure love their civil wars, eh? Favorite Comedy was won by comic maestro FallenMorgan with Oh Those Japanese!, the AAR that got the most votes of any this cycle. robou picked up another History-Book award for Carefully Applied Force: A Prussian AAR, which continues to creep its way out of the 1840s. And Favorite Gameplay was won by qwerkus, who has a really kick-ass name, because he wrote The real purpose of war: an alternate WWI gameplay AAR.

    That's it for this time, folks. Those are the winners, at least until The Swert examines my math and I get scolded and lose the meager rations canonized sees fit to throw into my pit. Some day, I'll learn to put the lotion in the basket. Until then, I'm phargle!

    **General_BT had already announced his intention to retire from the ACAs earlier this year and had asked his fans not to vote for him this round or subsequent rounds: he will not be collecting his award

    Phargle is a contributor

  3. #3
    Heartbreaker canonized's Avatar
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    CK Chalice
    by Milites

    Ah Crusader Kings. The game where nepotism, intrigues and outrageous boat prices for shipping your 1000 man strong army across the channel to capture that perfect little châteaux in southern France that would fit perfectly for your retirement rule supreme.

    It is a game of dukes, counts, princes and monarchs that in my experience have a habit of running after the first lowly wench their eyes fall upon the second they marry some obscure lady they most likely are related to from a far away country. But then again, my own experience with CK comes from almost exclusively playing as the Scandinavian countries…

    But nevertheless… such games produce some of the greatest AARs of our fair AARland and the fairest of the fairest are those where the player eventually put his foot down and exclaim, “Damn it! I’ve finished this piece of work… yay for me!” These rarities, the completed AARs of the Crusader Kings demesne, are every year put up for a vote in the glorious and prestige loaded CrusadAARs Chalice and the 2008 edition of this tour de force in excellent writing is what this short article will examine.

    The Nominees

    In a vote so close and filled with excitement that it had to be redone (!) five tales made it to the final ballot. Praise them with great praise for they are named here:

    Alfred Packer’s Norwegian humorous epos The Adventures of the Crovan Clan
    asd21593’s Byzantine intriguing tale of Eden on Earth… eh I mean, Heaven On Earth, Part 1
    Jestor’s narrative bombardment of history and pretty girls The Beautiful Girl and the History Class
    phargle’s proclaimed favourite for the golden accolade Knud Knýtling, Prince of Denmark (and other assorted tales)
    Lastly, but in no way the least deserving nominee, RGB’s Rus revolutionary mega campaign A Year's Education

    The race was close – no, let me rephrase that – the race was extremely close, and with so many great candidates it was only fitting! phargle was already perceived to be the clear favourite for the #1 position, but as the race became fiercer and fiercer there were rumours that floating through the chalice thread that he had gone mad with power and calls rang out for He-Man to come and put the creator of Knud Knytling down. RGB managed to fight his way up the ranks and even at times surpassed phargle. Vote followed vote and when the 100th and final member had put down his mark it was time to tally the votes cast. 100 votes and voters… that make it all the more possible for poor Milites to use some math to illustrate the narrow conclusion that followed.


    With 33% of the votes phargle emerged the winner of the golden chalice while RGB with 32% (and 31 votes) came in on a close second. Jestor managed to wrestle the bronze chalice out of the hands of Alfred Packer who fell back to the EU3 forums to continue the next instalment in his most Crovanian epic. Great praise is in order for all the contesters – lift your hats or wigs to them – but AP also truly deserves respect for undertaking the great task of steering the voting in the right direction and continuingly posting as if he was a commentator on a million dollar horse race.

    Milites is the author of Paris ne vaut pas une messe!

  4. #4
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    Guess the Author - May
    by The Yogi

    Below follows this months most popular contribution to the Guess-the-Author: Analysis and Critique thread, and the comments it received. Note that at the time of writing comments, the identity of the winning writer was not yet revealed.

    A Moment of Horror: An Execution
    by Peter Ebbesen

    Say this if nothing else, say he was an evil man.

    The keeper's voice gently broke the silence, slithering through the bars, calling me, telling me that it was time, finally my time. No doubt, no despair, no enthusiasm, and no joy ever graced his face, nor found a home in his speech. He was, as ever, unaffected by the spectacle of life and death that day when he broke my reverie.

    The door to my cell swung open noiselessly on its well-oiled hinges, a sliver of wavering light from beyond illuminating the darkness in which I dwelt, as I rose to my feet. I raised the hood of my robes to cover my head and went penitently to join him in the corridor, bidding the cell that had been mine for these last days a final goodbye.

    The keeper had brought along two guards, great and muscular brutes, presumably as a precaution against my legend, for I had been a man of renown once, and much feared before so many things went wrong, but I had confessed and given my word, and even in my depravity my word was my bond still, a greater bond than ever before, my wows sealed in a pact unbreakable – they would not be needed this day.

    So many crimes to atone for, my accusers had claimed at the secular trial, the hypocrites. So many deaths every day of the god-blessed year, and they had chosen to single out my few murders? My experiments? My heresy? My unnatural acts? Accusing a baron over the loss of peasants? over wayward sons and daughters of the salt of the earth? The shit of the earth, I say. I caused more damage and ruination in my youth in the king's service, which could never ever have been worthy of any god's plan, no matter what the clergy said, and was lauded for it by all who mattered. My wrath grew, even now, to think of the unfairness of it all, but I clamped down the rising heat. My wrath was ever my servant, not my master, and I would go to my destiny as my own man.

    The ecclesiastical court had been so much easier to deal with – a showing of true remorse had voided the excommunication and granted the opportunity for confession. It probably wasn't needed, really, since I did then piss on their god, but I have found during my long life that it is best to cover your bases. If guilt be determined by intent, I was certainly a most guilty man, but why should not a man reasonably balance the power of God (or gods) and of demons? All this either-or seemed a conjecture of human frailty! When Barron offered me power to the left hand, did that not leave the right hand free to accept the church? A much more reasonable entity to deal with than human institutions.

    A flung root vegetable of some sort greeted my down-turned face as I entered the courtyard, soon to be followed by cries and jeers of the peasantry and a veritable airborne cascade of rotted produce and stones. My guards did nothing to protect me, it goes without saying, harrying me on towards the scaffold. Just for a moment I let my temper get the better of me – I straightened out, removed my hood, and with blood streaming down my broken face I stared down the mob. It was a feeble effort, no power was there in it but that of my personality, and soon the cries rose again: sorcerer, child abductor, heretic, witch, but I had steeled myself against mere words decades ago.

    I wondered then briefly what my accusers would have said had I told them I took their precious 'maid' for my own for a time during the war, binding her with my power, before I led her to her doom? She really was an awful example of the human race, but she broke well and, in the end, she burned well. Silly bitch didn't even have the guts to avoid her excommunication, she probably did believe in her own legend, and if I'd spoken up to my accusers I'd probably only have added to hers rather than my own in the end. I, who was once a marshal of France and always, to the end, a nobleman!

    A push – an insolent push to my back – set me walking the few steps to the scaffold where the noose awaited. No burning for me as a heretic, nor gentle beheading as befit my office. A common noose was to be my fate as a common criminal. If only they'd had the gall to use a good hook to hang me from, perhaps one of my own, worn with use, now that would have been shown style, but alas not. A pedestrian death in front of the crowd in Nantes was to be my fate.

    Sooner than expected, I felt the noose tighten around my neck, and I felt the beginning of hope arise. Surely, I would be rescued soon. Surely, Barron would grant me the power to burn brightly, ending in glory! Despair fled me! Nothingness? Who can possibly fear nothingness! And, if not, then soon, my absent friends, I shall return to the dust from whence I came and we will dine in glory on the day of the resurrection of the Lord. Either way, I would win! I cracked with laughter as the executioner, the laggard, got moving.

    And the ground disappeared under me. The noose broke my neck smartly and that was the end of the monster Gilles de Rais.

    Awakening alone in the earth brought on a feeling of sheer terror never matched in my living experience, but I have put such human frailty behind me, now. I live now to serve, and I serve well indeed, collecting and taking what is needed when nobody notices, a despoiler of life, love, and innocence, and when the last trump sounds, and when the serried ranks of angels take to the field, then I too shall marshal my armies, and I shall fight at the side of my master, the fallen angel Barron, and I shall have my revenge, for the clergy lied to me.

    COMMENTS

    Alfred Packer: Okay, I like the internal monologue. The opening line sets the scene up rather well and the story flows well right into the ending. Giles thinks he is off to heaven or will be rescued in life by the devil and instead he winds up a minion of Hell, which is a good twist.

    There was a good presentation of the mindset of, not just Giles, but medieval nobility (after all, he was only arrested after he held a Bishop hostage - he'd been suspected of the peasant murders for years without anyone of note caring).

    Since he is such an awful monster, I would have liked his moment of horror to have been more, I don't know? Horrific? He describes it all with the same intensity one might describe a well enjoyed turkey sandwich.

    I didn't quite understand the Joan of Arc references. I couldn't decide if he was claiming to have won her to Satan, deflowered her, driven her insane or was involved in her capture by the English. (or some combination)

    Granted, it is clearly implied in the end that this isn't stream of conciousness, but rather he is reflecting on his 'betrayal' by the Church, so the detached air is explaned once I reached that point.

    I thought it was interesting that he doesn't blame Barron, who also betrayed him...but then...it is also natural that he would target his bitterness at the ones he will get to hurt (at armageddon) rather than at the devil he is forced to serve.

    Stuckenschmidt:I like this story. First because of the medieval setting. But mostly because I`m a sucker for these "Inside a Madman"-stories. And the character`s depiction as sick and sociopathic beast was very good and consequent.

    Finally I have to say, that the author`s style is to my taste. Such as this line:

    ...but she broke well and, in the end, she burned well.
    It was at the end of the story that I realized he was talking about Jeanne d`Arc and I had to laugh about it. Very well made, indeed.

    I had nearly made this piece No. 1, BUT......as Alfred stated, there is not much horror. So I`d like to say: Good story but a little bit off topic.

    EDIT: I`d like to agree with Avernite, that this story was probably written by Peter :-)

    Rensslaer: Okay, I did really enjoy this. It had many points against it on a personal level -- I generally dislike pure monologue (and I was trending toward more intense dislike by the time his monologue covered his death!), the character was genuinely dislikeable and that made me question why he was the subject of the monologue, and I'm not a huge fan of vampire/zombie type stories.

    But I must admit, I was surprised and impressed when I came to the end, and understood why it was written the way it was, and why my reaction against the monologues' describing his death was improper and premature.

    I'll have to say this is my favorite of all of them.

    It was well-written, well-conceived, and kept my interest (I did get turned off by how vile the guy was, but so long as there's a point to his vileness, I can always forgive that). It also adhered to the challenge topic, which I believe is important now that these will be featured in print for an audience which doesn't yet understand GTA (it might not be best if our winner for the first round didn't even meet the challenge!).

    I was prepared to think that the story missed the challenge -- lacking a sharp moment of horror -- until the very end when I understood the man's horror was more than mere death.

    Very well done! Thanks!
    Avernite: Maybe it's my EU2 obsession, but it was nice to have an intro that made me (after a while) know exactly where we were, without being seperate. The story definately does that best of the three.


    The rest of the story also flows naturally from all that, but it does leave me wondering, what's the horror? It is exactly what he deserved, it is exactly how it should be, and it's fun to see it happen to the bad guy.

    Conclusion

    I think number 3 is the best story, in most senses, as it finishes the story, and starts it, all in one go. It does require a bit of obscure knowledge to fully appreciate, but then, who HASN'T had the event 'the trial of Gilles de Rais'?

    However, this was an assignment, and I don't fully think it had a real moment of horror. More of, as they say in German, Schadenfreude. The second story didn't really make me think of horror either, more of despair, sadness, or just the world hating someone.

    So, story 1 wins my vote, having two moments of horror, even if it is a bit unclear (as Peter Ebbessen said) how horrid it really is.

    As an aside, at this point I'm guessing also that story 3 was written by PE. The lack of following what you expect, while writing a good story, seems rather like what I know of his stories.

    The Yogi: This is easily my favourite of the three. The first person narrative is expertly carried out, and the odd perspective of Gilles de Rais brought to life; yes, he’s a demon-worshipping serial killer of children, but he’s also a XV century French aristocrat and a XV Century Christian (in a way). That legalistic medieval approach to the Christian faith, so alien to us, the author has pat down, just like the savage contempt for the lowborn typical of the medieval French aristocracy. Gilles really thinks that once he has confessed, he’ll be home free, even though he “pisses on their God”. He has gone through the motions, and is so certain that will be enough to let him “dine in glory on the day of the resurrection of the Lord.” That genuine regret is required for absolution never occurs to him, and obviously the clergy never told him.

    There is humour here too, regarding Joan of Arc. She burnt well, indeed. The only thing lacking here, perhaps, is a bit of horror – Giles looks on to his execution with equanimity, and fear only materialises post-mortem, so to speak. But that fear is Gilles’s and not the reader’s – if anything we snicker a bit at him finally getting his just desserts.

    But that is all well, the assignment was “A moment of horror”, and a moment of horror there was in the story, so no gripes there really. To my mind, this is writing of a professional level.

    comagoosie: That was one epic last line, which seemed to brighten this piece. Overall, I didn’t like it. I didn’t find the unique spark, which clearly defines a story. It may be that I found it a bit boring. I don’t think I ever got to know the character. Right when he started to reveal himself, he died. A bit disappointing. That said, I do like the down-to-earth take. I had the feel of seeing the normal execution of a criminal. Flinging rotten vegetables only made it more believable. This is the most believable and simple story out of three (and I don’t mean it as a bad thing. Most of the time, the simpler you aim for the better the story is).

    Snugglie:
    Quote Originally Posted by Author 3
    Say this if nothing else, say he was an evil man.
    A good opening line always sets the tone, and this one makes the literary centre of my brain dance mazurka. Magnific.

    As for the story itself, I've never been very fond of monologues. Initially, as the narrator appeared to literally be walking towards his death, it also appeared mightily puzzling. Luckily for the reader, the narrator's more eloquent than sympathetic, so it becomes a good read anyway.

    I find this entry to be the hardest to critique, as I can't say anything in general about it. That'd be the format, yes, but that is a personal preference of mine rather than real criticism. I could say something about the language seeming a bit too formal or complex, but given that this is an aristocrat of past times that might be a directly invalid statement.

    As much as it irks me, I don't -- presently -- have anything more to say about it. Sorry about that.

    Storey:Probably the best written and most traditional horror story of the three. Many, many nuanced choices of words that I really appreciate in bringing the story to life. It feels like a lot of effort went into creating a clever and intelligent story that is filled with hints for the reader to stumble on in order to discover who the character is before he’s revealed near the end and no I didn’t figure it out. Really well done and I’d be hard put to find anything serious to criticize. Bravo.

    Peter Ebbesen: An internal monologue that persists through death is somewhat uncommon outside stock vampire-horror fiction and carries all sorts of potential problems with it and pure internal monologue itself is certainly not my favourite either, but the author manages to make it work – not without some problems - but it does work, and the reason it does work is probably that a thoroughly vile main character with no redeeming virtues whatsoever was chosen.

    There's an obvious risk to such a choice as few or none of the readers will feel the slightest sympathy with him (and if any do, you should improve yourself dammit), and even empathy is going to be in short supply, so it can work as a real joy-killer for some people. On the other hand, it means that the usual cop-outs such as “he was a good man who fell into bad company/made a terrible mistake/deserve a second chance” that can lead to a happy ending are utterly done away with.

    I really like it, but for a short story outside an anthology such as “Villains victorious”, conventional horror is “bad things happen to a good man” with “bad things happen to a bad man” hardly being worthy of notice – while it started gently and revealed the main character nicely along the way (and I was delighted by the description and attention to detail with regards to late medieval morality and religiosity), the story did not end up the way I had expected. An extra paragraph or two prior to the execution wallowing less in specific acts and more in personal justifications would probably have improved the story by making the paragraph following the execution – the real wallop/twist of the story - more powerful.

    Though there were lots of hints along the way, a summary prior to the execution of what Gilles truly cared about (and hence was a cause for his horror in the end) would perhaps have helped: being in charge of his own destiny, actions, and temper, being master rather than servant, relying on his own wits more than anything else – stuff like that. Then again, it might just have fallen flat to have a checklist before death followed by a “by the way, let's just cross off stuff from the checklist after death one by one to show he's been well and truly betrayed by his own way of thinking”

    The first line of the story: “Say this if nothing else, say he was an evil man.“, really says it all and is without shadow of doubt in my mind the best opening line in the last few rounds of Guess the Author due to the way it sets the scene.

    Overall, the story is very well written and the only major fault I can find is that the proper use of tenses, so strictly adhered to until then, is utterly lost in the noose paragraph: (My highlighting)

    Sooner than expected, I felt the noose tighten around my neck, and I felt the beginning of hope arise. Surely, I would be rescued soon. Surely, Barron would grant me the power to burn brightly, ending in glory! Despair fled me! Nothingness? Who can possibly fear nothingness! And, if not, then soon, my absent friends, I shall return to the dust from whence I came and we will dine in glory on the day of the resurrection of the Lord. Either way, I would win! I cracked with laughter as the executioner, the laggard, got moving.
    In my most generous moments I think it might be an attempt by the author to insert emotion by the narrator (who is remarkably short on displayed emotion in the “what's done is done” part of his story only letting feelings be visible to all in his final “that's how things are now” sequence) to show what REALLY mattered to him at the time, but if so, it did not work well, and I suspect it is just a mistake of tenses, the author running with the moment in his madness.

    Author: I guess that this story was written by me because that's what the majority, of those who've guessed at all, have been guessing. That puts me in good company whether I be right or wrong.

    I deem this story my favourite story of the three, beating out number II which was twice as long as needed and killed my love for it as a whole thereby, and number I which, while a very good attempt, needed more work for it to qualify as a really good story.

    The Yogi is the current coordinator of the "Guess-the-Author" Analysis and Critiques thread
    Last edited by canonized; 03-06-2009 at 13:58.

  5. #5
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    GtA June


    by The Yogi

    Below follows the most popular contribution to the Guess-the-Author: Analysis and Critique thread during the month of May, and the comments it received. Note that at the time of writing comments, the identity of the winning writer was not yet revealed.

    The topic for the entries was “An investigation gone wrong” .

    Alfred Packer

    An Investigation Into The Super-Natural


    I guess I am a hero. I didn’t really set out to do what I do, which is to save the world on a fairly regular basis. For I am the protector of my city. No one knows my name. I don’t do this for the glory or for the fame. I don’t want the accolades of the people. I am just a normal man, but a normal man with a gift.

    You see, I have a knack for hunting the demons that haunt this city. I have killed nineteen already and have suffered not more than minor injuries and the occasional fright. On occasion, it is true, I have soiled myself. I find no shame in that fact. These are terrible monsters after all and they would not hesitate to rip me limb from limb, devour my soul even, should I make a single false step. But I do not. I am always prepared.

    Whenever I hunt these creatures I bring along a rather sophisticated set of weaponry. I carry a baseball bat attached to the inside of my trench coat by means of a clever device. Tucked in my belt, I carry a very sharp hatchet. I have also procured a taser, which, to my considerable relief, is highly effective on these terrible monsters. The test of this little toy was nerve wracking and it took several hunts for me to screw up the courage to try it. After all, if it had failed to immobilize my foe, I would probably have died horribly. I also bring along garlic, and some wooden stakes.

    I know that these tools are supposed to stop vampires, but, contrary to certain television shows, books containing true occult folklore and lessons on the hunting of supernatural beasts of the night are few and far between. I’ve certainly never seen one and vampire lore is all I have to rely on. Both species are supernatural monsters, and I suspect the vampire legends are based on the night creatures, the demons, that I hunt. So, just to be safe, once I’ve dispatched one of the monsters, I sever its head with a hatchet and stuff the mouth with garlic. I also drive a stake into the heart of the beasts. It seems to work as I’ve never seen the same demon twice.
    Really, I don’t know much about these creatures or why they are here. I don’t really understand their physiology and their language, guttural and feral, is incomprehensible.

    I know they recover their dead. Or maybe the bodies dissolve after a while. Something happens to them. I've never stayed to find out. After a successful hunt, I typically escape the area as swiftly as possible. After all, I am one man and the sounds of battle might attract other demons. I like to think of myself as ninja-like. Striking suddenly and fiercely from the shadows and then retreating, victorious.

    I’ve contemplated taking a trophy, perhaps a severed head, back to my apartment but I’ve always decided against it. I don’t want that horned, misshapen thing in my house. It would creep me out. Plus, I don’t really know much about what happens to these things when they die. I’d hate to bring something home that can wake up and kill me in my sleep.

    It is weird how all of this came about. You see, I was at my lowest point. I had nothing really to live for. My wife had left me. I was fired from my job and my daughter still will not speak to me. To be honest, I deserved all of that. I was lucky to avoid prison. Those days are long behind me now, so I will not dwell on the moral lapses that, oddly enough, led to my new role as protector: savior of the people, defender of the night.

    Really. when I reflect on it, it seems more and more clear that those moral lapses were not really my doing. Something was guiding me to my destiny. I had to be tested by fire, I had to be redeemed before I could assume my new role. Besides, losing all of those social links, social burdens even, freed me. Once I found my purpose, my redemption, all of those obligations would have only served as needless distractions. Potential weaknesses, even. If the demons knew I had a wife and a daughter at home, why think of the threats and hold they would have over me. I would fear to hunt because I would feel obliged to stay home and protect my wife and child. The cosmic good that was molding my destiny had to break those ties so I could realize my potential. Doubtless the humiliation and degradation I suffered when the lapses became public knowledge have helped make me a stronger person, a better hunter.

    Of course, as these events were unfolding, I knew none of this. I’d rented a cheap efficiency apartment in the low rent district but I had not yet gotten accustomed to being alone. Every moment I spent in that apartment was a torture. The accusations and tears of those I’d wronged ringing in my head. I spent most of my time wandering the streets of the city. The sounds of the city pushed most of those memories to the side. I moved everywhere as though I was being hunted, watched. I slunk in shadows. I pulled the brim of my hat low. I avoided all human contact.

    Over time, the voices grew louder. Too loud. They were accusatory. They were angry. I moved about in a daze, trying vainly to escape them. I did not know then that they were merely leading me to my destiny. Perhaps that would have given me some peace. As it was, I wandered the streets non-stop, day and night, for a week. I was delirious from sleep deprivation, hunger, and thirst. The voices made it hard even to think. I was still crying, though I was sufficiently dehydrated for tears to stop coursing down my cheeks.

    It was around midnight when I saw it. It was facing away from me, lurking behind a trashcan in the park. No doubt, it was waiting for prey to come along. It was one of the demons. I could smell the brimstone and hear the beast’s talons raking the can. Somehow, miraculously, it had not noticed me. The voices were rising to a crescendo. I could hear nothing, feel nothing. I had to make them stop. Rage was building in me, had been for days, with no outlet. Now this demon blocked my path. It would destroy me the instant it noticed my presence. I don’t know how the rock got into my hand or where the courage to approach it came from, though I do know I soiled myself during the approach. Courage is moving forward in spite of oppressive fear.

    When I struck it, the creature collapsed. I was on it in a flash, the rock rose and fell, over and over and over again. The voices in my head screamed with each blow, louder and louder. All the pent up anger, humiliation, and frustration of the last year exploded on the fell creature. When I was done, I collapsed next to the fallen monster. The voices were gone. For the first time, I felt free. The fact that I had battled and defeated a dread creature of the night had not fully registered. Indeed, it would not for many days. Even when I disposed of the clothing I’d worn that night, stained and ruined as it was with the creature’s fluids, and mine, none of it felt real. I would try to digest the event at night, but very little of the whole ordeal made very much sense. In time though, I would come to a better understanding of what was happening.

    You see, the voices returned. Slowly, to be sure, but over time the accusing voices of my past life returned and once more crowded out all else. I felt like I was going insane. I could not work; I could not really even talk. I certainly could not think clearly. The voices crowded out all else. There were so many of them, and they were so loud that it was only with a tremendous effort that I was able to recall the circumstances that had chased them away before.

    I remembered the peace and quiet after I had killed the demon. It was desperate and dangerous, but I had no choice. The voices had to go, and at the time I felt that death at the hands of a monster would have been preferable. I purchased an aluminum softball bat and slunk off to the park to seek out a creature. I hadn’t noticed any since my last encounter, but I was certain one would be there. I hid in the bushes along side the jogging trail and awaited my quarry. The voices in my head were at a fevered pitch, screaming as one. Night fell and I watched the trail. Only humans thus far, jogging, walking, talking together in groups, but I knew it would come. After all, its prey was plentiful this night and it would not expect another predator.

    Around ten o’clock, the park was empty by then, I heard it shuffling along the trail, moving swiftly. It must have been on the trail of a victim. It came shambling along, its breath, hard and raspy, tasting the air. I let it get a couple of paces ahead when I charged from the bushes. It let out a terrible screech as my bat connected with a disturbing 'clong.' It crumpled to the ground and I went to work, bludgeoning the horned beast until my arms could no longer rise in the air and its grotesque, mandibled head existed only in theory. Once more the voices departed, swiftly as I stood, admiring my handiwork, and recovering my breath. As carefully as I could, I fled the area.

    It was only now that I finally understood. The voices were not berating me for my past transgressions, rather they were leading me, prodding me towards my redemption, towards a new life, a new goal. The voices still return. Each time they begin to build, I plan another hunt. I reconnoiter the place. I work and plan as much as possible before the voices make rational thought too difficult. The voices, as useful as they are for steeling my nerves at the moment of battle, tend to cloud my thinking in the days leading up to a hunt.

    I know that I have a gift for stalking and battling these dread beasts, but there is no sense going off blind into the wilderness, as it were. For by now, I am doubtless something of an avenging angel in their circles and I have no doubt that any demon that manages to defeat me will be a legend amongst his horrid kind. I try not to establish any pattern in hunting grounds, for I do not want to give them much to work with. They would ambush and destroy me given the chance. So far, it is only they who have been ambushed, a trend I plan to continue.

    This night, I plan to destroy my twentieth monster. I know where this night’s beast can be found. I have given it much thought, and I am certain that these beasts also haunt the river walk at night, doubtless planning the destruction of some wayward couple out too late. It does not know that I’ve been planning its destruction.

    Ideally, it never really will get the chance to find out. While it patrols the shore, I will be there, hiding in the shadows. As I’ve done so many times before, I will strike from behind, like lightning. To be safe, I will open with the bat. It is the most trustworthy weapon in my arsenal, but, once the beast is subdued, I want to try out the latest addition to my arsenal: a Machete.

    I am always learning more about these creatures, it is, after all, my life's work. Someday, I may even find out why they are here and what they want. Ah, but enough for now. The moon will soon rise and I must be in position. Humanity needs me. I am off.

    Epilogue:
    BLAINESVILLE, FL – Florida’s most vicious serial killer struck again last night. The victim, Mary Dawkins, was attacked while jogging at the river-walk. Police Chief Worth stated the injuries sustained by the victim are consistent with the method of attack of the "Vampire Bat" has used in the past, with a minor new variation, which Police decline to discuss. Citizens are warned not to travel alone at night as all victims…


    Critique by Stuckenschmidt

    This is a good round. Firstly because there is no WWII-story

    But mainly because the chosen topic seems to have inspired the authors to write down good stories. And that`s the problem. The stories are hard to rank. All about murder. All with a twist.

    But we have to come to a decision, so let`s start.

    Rank 1: Author 2

    Did I say in the last round, that I`m a sucker for "Inside a madman"-stories ? Yes ? Good thing, because I am.

    First the good news. I love the whole story. At first I thought, it`s going to be a boring torrent of words describing the main character. But then the story gathered speed. It was the moment, when he said that he hears voices, that I realized, that he is a completely crazy murderer and his victims are not demons.

    I think that`s the one and only flaw in the story. The surprise effect is gone too soon and the end is not really a surprise, more of a confirmation (so the reader can say "I`m so darn smart I realized it in the middle of the story).

    But apart from this, the story is very good written. The main character`s description of his actions (especially his choice of crime scenes) are great. And while the reader knows already that he is a maniac, the character still considers himself as the nameless hero who saves the world. Now that I`m writing this: May it be, the early disclosure of the main character`s deeds is intended so the reader can regard him as a madman more intense ?

    Considering that I think this story is my favourite in this round. And that`s well-deserved.

    Critique by Rensslaer

    Author #2

    Wow. Just wow.

    I realized not too far in what was going on, because....

    I've actually had experience with people like this. Not murderers, but people who are totally delusional. There was this girl who would write to the politician I worked for (I would answer all the mail), and she kept trying to get a meeting with him to tell him these secrets she was hiding. No one would listen to her, but she was the one person in the world who really knew who killed President Kennedy! She wrote on and on about stuff that I'm sure sounded credible in her mind, but which sounded crazy to a normal reader. She was being killed by information! They killed her mother. We needed to talk to her before "They" found her too.

    The first clue, which didn't bear fruit until the guy started sounding obsessed, was the instruments he used in his peculiar trade -- nothing special. Ordinary household items and such. Not special tools, but normal things he had transformed and used as special tools. Interesting, but we read on...

    The trauma, the condemnation.... Might be part of a normal story, but there! There he goes off the deep end with talking about the voices. It becomes increasingly, horrifyingly clear what's going on. And yet it's certain that in his mind it all makes sense. He's got every little thing explained, and he's developed this whole story behind everything, like his own fantasy world brought to life in detail. Very much like what I know happens with mental people in real life.

    Wow. VERY well pulled off!

    Critique by Snugglie

    I'll read #3 before I make a choice, but I'm reasonably certain this will be my favorite of the round. Great expression of the craft!

    Author II
    Now this one is something special indeed! Almost most others probably got the deal rather fast, I spent the first paragraphs thinking "Oh jeez, what is this, Van-bloody-Helsing?", expecting a silly vampire-story. The turn it took was much preferred though, and the story of the delusional murderer is fascinating, to me at least. The way in which he describes his deeds feels real in the sense that he speaks frankly, says that he soiled himself but is not ashamed of it due to how dangerous his prey is, and in that he does not claim to be a hero. He is a man that happens to be at the right place at the right time and that is it. Or well, naturally, at least so he thinks. It is very well-done anyway.

    I am afraid I do not have much more to say, as I simply do not know what to critique on. The language appears flawless to me, the structure is tip-top and I do not see any plotholes. I apologise for my lack of constructive criticism, but making it my first choice might weigh up for that to a small extent, at least.

    Critique by Peter Ebbesen

    Author #2: An Investigation Into The Super-Natural

    This is not just well written, it is extremely well written for GTA. Through internal monologue we are introduced to our “hunter of demons” (and things that go bump in the night) in the following order of virtues by paragraph:
    1. Unsung Hero
    2. List of Deeds – with emphasis on strength of opposition
    3. Crazy Prepared (amateur level)
    4. Making things up as he goes along – first clear indication that the person is axe crazy.
    5. ..and onwards: every single paragraph adds a hefty dose of evidence that is very hard to interpret in the same way the main character does.

    Let me put it straight: I love the description of the strip-on baseball bat. I adore the careful description of how, post monster kill, he stuffs garlic in the mouth, stakes the body, and chops off the head with his hatchet. Just to be safe.


    However, as I am genre savvy in the “crazy fantasy” genre, it means that by paragraph 4 out of 21, what I strongly suspected from paragraph 3 has already been pretty much confirmed and the rest of the story brings entertainment from the joyful way the writer writes (and that's certainly something worth noticing!) rather than from anything of interest happening or being revealed. Apart from the enjoyment of the language used, the only thing of interest while reading was to see if the author would pull a neat twist at the end and show that the huge amount of setting up he had been doing was, in fact, misdirection – and hence that the crazy man was actually killing demons despite the story clearly pointing in the direction of an axe crazy murderer on the loose.

    --- That would have taken a lot of work to set up properly, but it would have made the story interesting again.

    Instead we got the much anticipated boilerplate “yet another victim of the X murderer, police baffled” ending. It works here as it does in any other story of the type, but it doesn't lift the story over the average for its type.


    Ignoring the possibility of doing a twist on the twist, It is hard to give advice on what the author should have done since the amount of information needed to trigger the aha! revelation will differ widely from person to person. Some people will get it by 3-4, others might take until paragraph 10 or so (the voices in the head part), it is doubtful that many readers will have to read further than that before they get it.

    Overall, damn good work and easily the entry I find most enjoyable this time around though not the most interesting.

    Further suggested reading: “Regina's Song” by David and Leigh Eddings for hints of the supernatural in connection with a serial killer (though not necessarily the ones you think of first) and “A Knight of the Word” by Terry Brooks, the sequel to “Running with the Demon” for a killer of demons and questions of absolute faith in one's actions.

    PS: I do take objection to the suggestion that this story really represent an investigation gone wrong. His investigation of the supernatural has not in any way gone wrong due to its results – the entire investigation itself is the result of mental state of the main character and the results are entirely consistent with said state – it hasn't gone wrong. Now, if the person had been on such an investigation before his life went to hell and back, then the end result could have been described as being the result of that investigation gone wrong, tragically diverted by the main character's madness, but it isn't the case as far as the story is concerned. The investigation is proceeding along the right path. There can be no doubt that further useful information will be uncovered.

    The Yogi is the current coordinator of the "Guess-the-Author" Analysis and Critiques thread
    Last edited by canonized; 03-06-2009 at 13:59.

  6. #6
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    Britain's god of Fire – The Avro Vulcan Strategic Bomber

    by trekaddict

    The Royal Air Force came out of World War Two with a doctrine of Strategic Bombing against area targets . The advent of Nuclear Weapons only reinforced this, giving birth to Air Ministry specification B.35/46, issued in 1947. Numerous entries were made, giving birth to the famous “V-Bombers” of the RAF. The Vulcan was only one of several proposals, but by far the most radical one. Originally envisioned as a tailless, almost flying Wing design, as Avro felt that only this would give the plane the wing area needed to achieve the range specified. After several years of hard work, and the crash of a related research Aircraft, the first Avro 698 made it's maiden flight on 30th August 1952. Initially the prototypes had straight-edge wings, which were modified before production began, mainly to give the aircraft better flight characteristics. During flight testing, which included strapping the a photographelanding gear with the Vulcan moving at landing speed and photographing the brakes while they attempted to slown down the aircraft, it turned out that the plane was by accident a rather stealthy design, with aparently only the fin not having radar reducing effects. The performance of the Vulcan was phenmomenal, which is proven by the upward barrel roll that was executed immediately after takeoff on the second public showing of the Vulcan.



    In 1956 the RAF received it's first operational Vulcan B.1, XA897, which was destroyed in a landing accident later that same year. The next Vulcan was not delivered until 1957, but after that the delivery rate increased. In 1960 the Vulcan B.2 entered service, giving the design a greater wing area, with the last Vulcan being delivered in 1965, after 45 B.1 and 89 B.2 had been produced.

    The Vulcan was an integral part in Britain's independent Nuclear deterrent, at first carrying the Blue Danube gravity bomb, the first production nuclear weapon of the United Kingdom. Later these were replaced by the Violet Club type of Nukes while the British struggled to catch up to the Americans in the area of Hydrogen Bombs, only to be replaced after five units to make way for the Yellow Sun Mk.1, which was in turn later retrofittet to take the copy of an American Mk.28 Thermonuclear Warhead. During the early and mid 1960s several Vulcans and Victors were retrofitted to take the infamous Blue Steel airlaunched missile that carried only a 1.1 Megaton warhead, but was a true standoff weapon. In the same decade plans were made to equip the B.2 Vulcans with the American airlaunched Balistic Missile system “Skybolt”, of which two would be carried under each wing, wile a stretched proposed Vulcan would have been able to carry up to six, depending on the type of mission. However, in 1962 US Secretary of Defence Mc Namara in order to tone down the role of the British deterrent, Skybolt was retained and a rapidly developed, parachute retarded bomb was developed in order to supplement the Skybolts and to keep the British deterrent intact until the Royal Navy took over with Polaris Submarines. The decision to adopt Polaris spelled the end of Britain's deterrent in the air and the end of the V-Bombers. The age of the Vulcan was not over quite yet, as even the unmodifed Vulcan B.2 could carry 24 thousand pounder bombs, and the secondary conventional role was the only one the Vulcans had until they were retired in 1982. The Vulcan had only one real combat mission ( thankfully ), which was part of the Falklands War. During the Black Buck missions, aeging Vulcans, slated for decomissioning later that year and literally falling apart due to lack of maintenance, took off from Ascension Island and bombed Argentine Infrastructure targets.





    These missions ended the era of Strategic Bombers within the RAF. Since then the Royal Air Force does not have any long-range striking capability, within the British military only the RAF truly has the ability to carry the war to the enemy. However, not all is lost, as one Vulcan is in the air again. Over a period of ten years the Vulcan XH558 was restored to flying condition, and can now be seen at air shows. Seriously recommended.



    trekaddict is the author of Against All Odds: The British Empire in World War Two

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    Why Did Lee Order Pickett’s Charge?

    by Hardraade

    If one was to put together a list of the finest military minds ever produced by America, General Robert E. Lee would have to figure very highly on it. In addition, while any number of generals could be put forth as the best ever, I don’t think that I’m wrong in saying that Lee would deserve to be considered for the top spot. For years he led his Army of Northern Virginia to victory after victory against a determined and numerically superior foe, and it can be argued that the Confederacy only survived as long as it did because of him. His tactics are still studied closely and he attained an almost mythical status in some parts of America that remains to an extent to this day. However, despite his unquestioned status as a brilliant strategist, and his idolization as the embodiment of the “Old South”, one’s mind always goes- if not first, then soon- to his greatest failure: Gettysburg. While it can be argued that Lee made a series of mistakes during the battle, one in particular is the most famous: Pickett’s Charge.

    Ever since first opening a book about the American Civil War, I have wondered what made him order that attack on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg. A frontal assault across nearly a mile of open ground against an entrenched and numerically superior enemy just seems so completely out of character for him. One would think that a commander of his skill would have seen immediately that the attack would be a hopeless one. Of course, we have the benefit of hindsight and accounts of the terrible consequences of the attack to shape our opinions, but I still believe that the charge should have seemed foolish at the time. In fact, his most senior commander, General James Longstreet, did immediately argue that the attack would have no chance to succeed and would even later go to great lengths to avoid having to actually order the attack to begin. He argued that Lee should find a way around the Union flank, but Lee was adamant not only that the attack on the Union center should be carried out, but that it would succeed.

    So the question is: Why in the face of opposition from his most trusted commander as well as the obvious tactical difficulties did he order this doomed attack? Unfortunately, we can’t ever really know for sure. The only way to get the true answer to the question would be to ask the man himself, but he has left no record. His report of the battle was brief and gave no insight into what he was thinking at the time and he never wrote any kind of autobiography or memoir. The only reaction to the charge from the man himself that we have is a very telling offer to resign sent to the Confederate government and the statement he made to the retreating survivors when he said, “This is all my fault.” In addition, no one really thought to ask about it during the period after the war. Ruminating on his decision would not have been in keeping with the idolization of the man going on in the South at the time and most Southeners spent their time trying to find someone else to blame for the defeat at Gettysburg; finally deciding on Longstreet despite his having greatly protested not only the continuing of the battle on the second day, but the attack on the Union center as well.

    It is for us then to ask ourselves why he ordered the charge and many theories have been put out there. I myself believe that his decision was based on a combination of factors: his aggressive personality and the mystique that was surrounding both himself and his army at the time. Lee was by his nature an extremely aggressive commander. That is not to say that he could not be patient, of course, but he was a man who wanted to strike at the enemy as hard as he could and drive them from the field, and he was loathe to leave the field to the enemy no matter the circumstances. I think that it was this mindset that made him stay at Gettysburg ready to continue the fight as the third day dawned despite the failures of the previous day. He had come north to win a great victory that he and others hoped would finally win Southern independence, and I don’t think that he could bring himself to leave the field after having struggled for it for two days now. His decision of where to strike next -the center- was likely based on the fact that he had attacked both Union flanks during the night of the first day and all through the second day, and figured that troops had been taken from the center of the Union line to reinforce those areas, thereby weakening it. Sound thinking perhaps, but it still should have appeared unlikely to succeed. That is where I think the sense of mystique that I mentioned earlier comes in.

    The Army of Northern Virginia entered the Battle of Gettysburg having dealt out two of the most decisive defeats of the war at the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. These two great victories combined with Lee’s earlier successes in the Peninsula Campaign and at Second Bull Run created a conviction in the South and within the army itself that Lee and his army were invincible that I believe Lee made the mistake of buying into. I think that he truly believed that his men would go successfully wherever he directed them and that the enemy could not stand against them. This was a notion that he was quickly disabused of as he watched his men getting torn to pieces by the defenders of Cemetery Ridge.

    Any suggestion of what might have made Lee order Pickett’s Charge really can be nothing more than conjecture and here I have only offered an opinion. The disastrous decision to order Pickett’s Charge is a baffling black spot on a military career that otherwise shines with one brilliant act after another. With Lee himself silent on the matter, the fact is that we’ll never really know what caused him to make such a tragic decision.

    Hardraade is the author of A Flash of the Lightning

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    Have you ever wondered what Hearts of Iron may look, sound and feel like in a hundred years time? What elements of technology may influence the way players play the game? Will there even be a Hearts of Iron in the future when we have transformed into star stuff and passed beyond the Great Veil? Will our descendants event care, or bother playing video games? Well, if they do and when Paradox Interactive eventually becomes a monopoly, here is how one such game of Hearts of Iron might play out, sometime, somewhere in the future.

    A long time to come, in a bedroom far, far away....

    Hearts of Iron 2109: War of our Forefathers


    ... there sat in a gaming-chair of encrusted gold and jewels, a young man dressed in a grey statesman uniform of a infinitely vilified, immensely detested and long defeated dictatorial regime. Stroking his immediately recognisable greased hair to one side, he fiddled with the itchy square shaped prosthetic moustache, perched between his nose and top lip. Across his chest, row upon row of meaningless replica medals from a forgotten era glistened with the artificial light of numerous 3D video consoles arrayed around his body, from left to right. The displays showed several screens each titled with its own label - Diplomacy, Production, Politics, Intelligence, Technology. Each showed its own visual array of information. Over the powerful musical strands of Wagner's - Ride of the Valkyries, a strained voice filled the airwaves of the comm-net. With growing impatience, user 'fewrer2093' moved the hover-mike closer to his mouth and shouted out .....

    “Rooommmelllll!”

    The voice boomed once more.

    “Rooommmeeeelll, this is 'fewrer2093'. Where are you?!?”

    Only the merest vocal inflection betrayed a hint of panic. Though faint, it threatened to rise and compete against the growing torrent of inner rage, barely being held in check. As before and for the last ten minutes, the familiar hiss of static remained present, casting it's mocking shadow over the wannabe conquer.

    Barely able to control his breathing user 'fewrer2093', struggled to restrain the growing feeling of desperation. Time was running out!

    “This is 'fewrer2093' calling Rommel, urgent. I need your battle report. Over!”

    Again only the stubborn reply of comm-net static reached his ears.

    “Von Manstein. Blaskowitz. Bock! Guderian! von Hammer... von Hammerstein-Eq... Hammerstein! Any general? Fieldmarshall? Colonel?! Major!!?”

    Nothing by static still graced the airwaves of the open comm-net channel. By now sweating profusely, user 'Fewrer2093' gathered his wits and bowels and bellowed out another speech, to no one in particular.

    “Where have my generals gone? Have my all my armies left me? Left me to fight alone?! Is there not one sole brave enough to report the situation on the Eastern Front?! The traitors!! The cowards! Back-stabbers!!! You are nothing without me! I am the greatest strategist to be born! The general who annexed Poland in HoI v39 scenario in less than five days. I completed Operation Sealion in two weeks, without the use of paratroopers or using gamey sub tactics. Hmph! You won't be laughing when I march into Washington and Moscow without your help!”

    As the last words fled the volatile recess of user 'fewrer2093's' mouth a small flashing light appeared on the bottom of the Politics screen. Screwing his eyes in effort, 'fewrer2093' examined the blinking dot. Moving the screen pointer by gliding his hand in the air, he held the arrow over the dot until a holographic tooltip appeared. An electronic female voice remonstrated its displeasure.

    “Comm-net voice communications are muted. To disengage, please select appropriate option.”

    User's 'fewrer2093's' face contorted. The message repeated. His cheeks turned red. The message repeated once more as 'fewrer2093' slammed a fist into a non-existent airborne button.

    “Drat. Blast!”

    Several more hair-cringing expletives rained from the mouth of the would-be-general.

    Suddenly the comm-net blasted into life. Hundreds of thousands of voices instantly converged into a storm front of indistinguishable voices! 'Fewrer2093' fought the growing agony along his temples, overcoming the urgent desire to press the mute button again. Finally one voice fought through the barrage, demanding silence. Pleading to be heard. A hundred thousand players across the meta-server went quiet.

    “This is 'van_Kleist112' to 'fewrer2093'. Reporting as ordered.”

    Limp with fatigue 'fewrer2093' sat still, unable to conjure up even a murmur.

    “Fewrer. I have bad news. The Kommies have broken through in the north and south and have pinned our centre. We need reinforcements fast!

    'fewrer2093' remained motionless, devoid of any ability to raise even a mite of energy. User 'van_Kleist112' called out again!

    “Fewrer are you there?”

    Still user 'fewrer2093' chose not to reply. Once more 'van_Kleist112's' voice relayed across the comm-net.

    “We also need to retreat!”

    The hornet's nest stirred.

    “Retreat?!?!?”

    There was a long dramatic pause before 'fewrer2093' cried out once more. His voice filled with menace.

    “Retreat!!!!!!!?!? You want me to give up the ground we have spent the last five hours capturing?!”

    The silence that followed could have deafened a nuclear explosion. Before 'van_Kleist112' could respond, a strong female voice came the apartment intercom system.

    “Nappy dear, its dinner time. Stop what you are doing and come and take your place in the dinning room.”

    Across the globe a million faces contorted in puzzlement. User 'fewrer2093' almost choked. Every player hooked into the meta-server paused and waited. Swallowing a huge ball of embarrassment user 'fewrer2093' finally responded.

    “Er, yes mom. I'm coming. Intercom off!”

    From the across the globe, from Washington to Moscow a million laughing voices could be heard over the comm-net. War on the Eastern Front would have to wait, at least until after supper!

    The End.


    2coats is a contributor

  9. #9
    Heartbreaker canonized's Avatar
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    Priorities in AAR Writing

    by Saithis

    One of the hardest parts of writing - not just AAR writing but all writing - can be coming to that inevitable, final decision as to what it is you are going to write. I know for many writers (myself included), the process is difficult and painful. Ideas flourish and blossom in your head like the Garden of Eden for creativity; yet, despite that, you only have two hands and so much time on your hands. There comes a time for every writer where she (or he) must sit down and sort through what will and will not be done.

    In effect, you have to put dozens of great and entertaining ideas aside for the sake of actually doing a couple of the ones you like. Coming to the long-term decision of that is hard. I myself have at least 10 AAR ideas I'd like to be writing right now, but cannot due to various reasons holding me back. Sure, technically I could write a dozen AARs simultaneously, but updates would be so far and few between that neither reader nor writer would enjoy the same level of enjoyment.

    With all of this in mind, I'd like to take the time to give my opinions to other prospective young writers and to the community as a whole. We all have to accept, no matter how many great ideas we have, that we only have so much time. Prioritizing which AARs will be 'best' is important to your success as a writer. The key issue is that there is no objective quality for 'best'. Best is what you, as the writer, enjoy most. It is what the fans enjoy most. Those two factors are the only important things, but at the end of the day, the former should always trump the latter. Even if everyone hates your AAR, you should write what you love and enjoy. At the end of the day, you'll always find someone who likes it too.

    There are other ways of prioritizing, too...say, for example, choosing a certain AAR you and the fans may not like as much simply because it's significantly shorter than your other projects and easy to finish. Originally, I intended Piety of the North Star to be a story solely of Skjalm Hvide, ended upon his death. More recently I decided to expand it beyond that, to include the whole of the Hvide Dynasty and its allies and descendents. With some projects it's easy to do that, but others you may find it easier to keep to the original scope. What started as my one-man Narrative has turned into a vast and epic project - had it not, I'd have probably moved on to something else by now.

    Picking a short, easy to write and finish AAR is one of the easiest ways of making a strong mark in AARland. Playing only one or two members of a family in CK; detailing a single war or century in EU3; a quick conquest AAR as Germany in HOI2. All of these have plenty of potential for being interesting, if done right, and are relatively quick and simple to accomplish. You will get through one of your shorter ideas while entertaining people at the same time.

    This doesn't always work though, and sometimes we shoot ourselves in the foot. Consider my three AARs:
    • Piety of the North Star: Originally a 25-30 chapter outline, now a planned megacampaign to extend into the 21st century.
    • Sakartvelo - Rose Jewel of the Caucasus: Project of unknown length, could end as late as 1824 but may end sooner.
    • Clash of Empires - The Great Game: MP AAR, will last until the group dismantles or we finish the scenario - whatever happens first.

    None of those projects are particularly short and in essence, 3 is a little bit over my standard carrying limit. I can technically update all of them to be up-to-date on a weekly basis but it gets tiresome. I'm starting to lose motivation and, I don't know about you guys, but losing motivation for one means losing motivation for all of them. If I were to start another AAR it might be different, but I've hit a point where I don't want to write for any of my three AARs.

    It seems that, even when you have three projects, you inevitably get stuck on a couple others in the back of your mind and go 'ooh, I really wish I could do this'. Next thing you know, you're spending all your time working on something for an AAR you can't feasibly write and not the writing you were supposed to do. Times like this, I ask myself whether or not the AAR writing is really worth it, and if I shouldn't drop one of my AARs to make it easier!

    So, the cruel cycle continues. The only clear cut solution is to invent a time machine so that all of these ideas can be written simultaneously. In fact, that's a good idea - any readers needing some work, I've got a cash reward for the first working time machine I receive. You know your duty - PM the working schematics to me and your future is secured for life.

    Saithis is the author of Piety of the North Star - the Hvide of Sjaelland

  10. #10
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    by comagoosie

    As all of you ought to know, the AARlander staff had its “company picnic” (vacation) this past May. The other writers and I walked on coals and toasted marshmallows at the beach! I even beat canonized at pool tug of war! Hence, no May issue and all of you can figure why. It’s May and you know what May brings, right? The answer isn’t spring flowers, but rather huge projects and tests. We all should know what real school life can do to forum life, not to mention extra curricular forum activities. Couple this with the ACAs and you got one heck of a month that is jammed pack.

    May is traditionally Advanced Placement month, and if there is one thing that I can generalize about forum members is that Paradox forums holds the top 20% of the collective intellect in the world. Saying that, I can also say that we are mostly high school and college students. AP tests are the one kind of test that can pit the mind of a high school student against a college student. Doing good on an AP test can oftentimes award that student with free credits to his or her college maybe even scholarship. That is why high school students that rarely study for normal academic classes will frequently put in that extra hour of studying for their AP classes. It could be the difference between a 3 or a 4, no money or money. Teachers know this and heap a mountain of review on top of us. My AP American History teacher gave me at least two huge packets detailing America from 1607-1980’s. It was ridiculous but my teacher wanted his class to get 3’s and above.

    If I can remember correctly, most colleges give their students their final exam in May. And if I hear correctly too, college tests are unbelievably harder than high school tests. So much so that a person that has never studied in their life, may have to convert a whole day just to brushing up on an entire class. This may be a scary thought, but if one wants to earn a degree and succeed in life, a few sacrifices have to be made. I’m not saying that the few hours gained by not putting together the May AARlander made the difference between two grade letters, but combine this and the time not spent on the forums, and maybe it could make the difference for someone.

    AARlander isn’t the only forum activity that was hit by the academic storm. AARs suffered generally. May was the month after the first round of the ACAs, so authors who put in the extra time and effort in an attempt to get that spare vote might find their creative mind exhausted. So May is the month where we are putting the forum on hold and either relaxing or hitting the books.

    I bet there is one thing that we can all agree on…summer is just around the corner.

    comagoosie is a contributor

  11. #11
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    Spanglish

    by Capibara

    Este mes, a petición de canonized… What am I saying? I should be writing in English! Something like: this month, on canonized’s request, I will write an article. Or stuff of that sort. Things like this happen when English is not your native language and you write in it. Sometimes it can be real challenging, especially when you are writing something narrative, something that not only requires basic knowledge of English, but a vast vocabulary that will allow you to write, if not a masterpiece, at least an AAR of good quality that readers will enjoy. That’s why I am writing this article (besides canonized asked me too ), I want to share my experience as a writer in a language which is not my mother tongue.

    Just a couple of weeks ago, I finally finished my first narrative AAR, Italy: Tales of Friendship, Treason, Love and Death, after a whole year writing it. Since the time I started to lurk around the AAR forums two years ago, I had played with the idea of writing a narrative AAR, however, I quickly went the other way and winded up with a couple of gameplay AARs, both of which enjoyed some success. It was finally last summer when I decided to take up the project that had been running around my mind for the last few months. After some days of thinking what would the plot would be about, I finally came with the idea: narrate the adventures of a young Italian soldier in the early fifteenth century. I must admit that I started the AAR with one idea in mind and finished with something completely different. This was possible thanks to my faithful readers, who, thanks to their intervention, gave Italy a new dynamism.

    But let’s get back to our subject. As I said before, one thing is speaking in English and other thing is writing in English. I must admit that sometimes I really got in trouble trying to find the exact words I wanted to use to express something. I mean, I could picture the image in my head, but I thought in Spanish and that didn’t help. I had to concentrate so I could come up with what I wanted to write. Of course, things got easier as the AAR progressed: the experience was doing its job. Nonetheless, some trouble remained throughout the AAR. I must thank robou for occasionally helping me as my editor; he really gave me a hand.

    I have spoken English since I was five years old, but I had never have such a good experience as the one I had writing this AAR. I had written in English before, but never this much. I learned a lot, my vocabulary definitely expanded and I am already thinking on writing a new narrative AAR, hoping to surpass the achievements of the previous one, hoping one day I can write in English just as well as I do in Spanish. So I invite all of those non-native English speakers out there in the forums to go ahead and write that narrative AAR you have in mind but don’t want to start for fear of what the others can say or because your English is not good enough. Don’t be afraid! It won’t be easy, that’s for sure, but you can do it. There are plenty of readers that will support you, help you and give you tips to improve your AAR. Read other narrative AARs so you get an idea of what do you want to write and what style you want to use. Read a lot, that will really help you. Your collaborations to AARland will be appreciated, there is always something new to learn from the AARs that are written. So don’t be shy, and to come to engross the lines of wonderful writers that populate the rooms of AARland.

    Capibara is the author of Italy: Tales of Friendship, Treason, Love and Death

  12. #12
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  13. #13
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    EXCLUSIVE HOI3 Preview - Part I
    by Singleton Mosby



    Early last Wednesday afternoon I was still a hard working employee, once in a while taking a peek at the Paradox forum to see how the HOI3 writing contest progressed. But then something caught my attention “HOI3 preview is ready in your Press-account”.
    A long story short; I went home right away, too bad for my boss, installed HOI3 and drooled like a Paradox fan should. Having read about half of the dev-diaries and seen the screenshots I had the feeling this game was going to rock even more then its predecessor had. Hearts Of Iron III is my personal most anticipated game of 2009.



    Back then I didn't decide to write a full-blown preview of the game. I would perhaps mention some of the new fancy options of interest to the After Action Report-writer (if any) in the coming AARlander but that should have been about it. I have never seen myself as a proper game (p)reviewer as I tend to miss a lot of important things and tend to play differently from the current gaming-youth. Yes, I use the 'pause' button a lot....getting old or something.

    Over the weekend I saw a few early previews pop up. None of them were suitably comprehensive and it seemed like they were written by guys who must think; “What's this? Hearts of Iron....I have heard something about it, didn't these games have something to do with WWII?”, and write a concise preview about the feel of the game they have played for a feel hours.
    Thus, I got the feeling I shouldn't keep it all to myself. After some contemplation and a brief discussion with myself I concurred, and thus decided I had to write a preview as well.

    This preview will be different from the others however. I will aim for it to be more comprehensive at several important points and thus this will be fairly long read. It will be different as well as I am addressing another audience: Paradox/HOI fans (instead of a cross-section of gamers) and writing from the same perspective.

    I have played HOI2 for hours on end, wrote several AAR's and did some simple modding as well. But please, keep in mind I am no preview writer like the others, next to that my memory is letting me down sometimes (I should have remembered to press ctrl for the combat menu). Lastly I will sometimes sound more critical then the average reviewer, more critical as I expect so much of it. In the end you will see I am also far more positive as HOI3 is turning out to be a damned good game.


    Where to start ?


    With a game as big as Hearts of Iron this is probably not a strange question to ask. Without a doubt, the most frequently played scenario will be the 1936 one as Germany, '39 being a close second. But for a challenge “June '44, Gotterdammerung”and “Feb '43, The Tide has Turned” are good options as well. I have to admit I dreamed of an EUIII style 'whenever you want campaign-start’ for a while but this would have been far to labour-intensive for Paradox to implement.
    As you will probably do, I miss a 1940 'Fall Gelb' scenario. This should thus be high on the list of the modding community after August 4th.



    For those new to HOI there is the tutorial, I say those new to the game but I think it is wise if anyone takes a look at each of the six short, and funny, tutorials. A ‘strange man’ will explain to you the different tasks ahead. Tasks, which can always be handed over to the AI either at the start or during the game.

    After 'the strange man' has lead a newbie through his first glances at the complex system he is best off to start with one of the four quick-start scenario's. In each of which he only has to take care of a certain part of the labour.



    But that is not what I did, to be honest I wasn't wise enough to head my own advice and go through the tutorial. I plunged into the 1936 scenario as Germany right away. Unfortunately I couldn't remember everything about the HOI2 game-mechanics and had to retrace my steps in order to refresh my memory with the tutorial.

    Half an hour later I was back at the start. Building my first custom divisions, going through the countless screens of tech and the warnings I found in the top-left of the screen. Let's take a little survey of all I encountered.




    The Map


    The first thing you look at having started a scenario is the map. It looks very nice in my opinion. Zoomed out you only see the regions and borders, rivers and seas but when you zoom in the map changes smoothly. Regions break up into several provinces and the unit counters reveal additional information. The number of provinces is staggering as well, we are talking about as much as three times as many provinces as in the previous HOI. Let's dream away thinking of the vastness of operation Barbarossa this time around.

    Ok, not all province names are spelt correctly. Some are positioned a bit too much to the north or south and some coastlines don't exactly match. And I would wish for a bit more difference between the different types of provinces on the map.

    But the important thing is; the map is strategically sound in most areas. Let's take a closer look at Holland.



    The main Dutch defence has always taken the advantage of water into account. The centre of Holland is defended by the rivers to the south and the artificial and obsolete 'Waterline' to the east, later bolstered by an additional line of defence on a series of hills more to the east; 'The Grebbe-line'. Now, if we take a look at the map we see the province of Amersfoort blocking up all roads into Holland. Defending this province and digging in your troops should stop a German advance. The riverline of Maas and Rhine (combined) constitute your southern defence (Rotterdam and Den Haag should be north of the river) and give an easy front to defend: Fortress Holland.

    What I missed on the map were the Urban-areas. There are some in Western Europe and Great-Britain but they are lacking in such profound places as Leningrad, Stalingrad and Moscow. Even NYC isn't an urban area. I sure hope this will be mended before release.

    As you expected the different layers are all there again. This way I found out about the lack of supply for my troops in Eastern Prussia. Not until I managed to build some convoys was this problem solved.


    Customizing your divisions.


    From the moment I read about the division designer I wanted to try this out. A little 'gadget' which adds only a little extra immersion perhaps, but is certainly a lot of fun. Now you can spend your well-earned Cuban IC's on that second division to defend your island. You can mix and match every type of unit you have researched or bought blueprints of. Customisation is the big word!

    Will this 'gadget' be boring quickly? Perhaps it will, perhaps it won't. However you now get the option to either build a lot of 2 brigade units or less 4 or even 5 brigade divisions. Creating, for example, a heavy battering ram by including heavy and even super heavy armour will give your forces supreme shock value and hitting power. Keep in mind, however, super-heavies are terrible slow. Add some extra artillery and engineers for additional defensive staying power or build several garrison units composed of a single garrison regiment and a battalion of MP to keep the dissent down and the guerrillas at home.



    In multiplayer game the division designer will be a good friend. Imitate a certain German dictator by fielding a great number of armoured units which aren't even worthy of bearing the title 'divisions'. Or trick your opponent into thinking two armoured divisions can be stopped quite easily. He doesn't have a clue you have composed them of five regiments each, three of which are heavies.

    All of a sudden the division designer turns out to be a very interesting addition, if you ask me.
    Last edited by canonized; 24-06-2009 at 11:57.

  14. #14
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    HOI3 Preview Part II: Being mauled by the AI
    by Singleton Mosby

    Quickly I realised the 1936 game I was playing wouldn't give me the impression of Hearts Of Iron 3 I wanted for many hours. Hence I returned to the scenario-menu and chose Republican Spain by simply clicking on the map. Only later I found out this early build wasn't yet stable enough to provide me with this.

    1938. The Spanish Civil War is drawing to a close. But perhaps there will still be something to save for the Republicans. A better way to 'taste' the new combat system can't be found. Within two months the AI completely smashed me. Lines were pierced and my troops evaporated, I was completely mauled. But, I had fought!

    On the divisional level not much has changed since HOI2. It worked fine it will work fine again. Move to click and ctrl-click for a support-attack or strategic movement order (how stupid of me not to find out I had to press ctrl and thinking this part of the game wasn't implemented yet). Air commands are a little bit more elaborate. You can decide to operate in a certain region, province or decide on a certain radius from a province. The last option is the most interesting: you can set the unit to operate in a V shape area from a certain radius behind a designated province. Thus, you know where you want to break through, bomb everything in and behind that province.

    The major changes to the combat system are on the higher levels however. First a proper unit hierarchy is added. You don't build HQ's anymore; you simple create one when you need one. Attach units to a new corps or a corps to an already existing army. All the way up through Army, Armygroup and Theater command. Same goes for the fleets and air wings.



    I had to clean up the hierarchy of my units beforehand though as I didn't want any divisions to be directly attached to the armies or army groups.



    With the hierarchy in place you can decide to take command at a higher level. This will probably come in handy fighting on the Eastern Front although I haven't experienced warfare yet at such a humongous scale.

    Several orders can be given to a corps. Attack or Blitz (don’t worry about being flanked!) a certain objective or several objectives. This thus leaves us two methods for the attack. The regular method on the divisional level, and the new method at corps level. Through some inside information from Paradox I found out however they are currently adding a few more ways. No promises yet so we will have to see. I most certainly hope they will try to implement the TOAW (the Operation Art Of War) method of arranging an attack on a province in detail.

    The other options at corps level are: defend one or more provinces and stand at the ready at a certain location. The same orders can be used for armies. But keep in mind you can't give an order to a unit lower on the echelons once you have given an order to the corps or army.
    So far I have only used the corps command orders to defend certain locations or, reassemble a corps after a long drive through Poland during which the divisions ended up all over the place.


    A corps is ordered to attack the German lines, all subordinate units are highlighted.


    After my first experience with the combat system playing as the Republicans I deemed taking the helm at the other side would be a simple walkover. How wrong could I have been! During several hours of play I fought an enervating battle for Spain. In the south my Nationalist troops were being driven back from Granada as far as Seville. In the north, around Barcelona I could hardly hold the line as well. Only on the central front, around Madrid, were my troops victorious. In the end I managed to cut the enemy in half and drive on Seville to aid my beleaguered and battered troops. HOI at it's best! Even though the grand-strategy of the AI didn’t make much sense. Instead of going for Seville they should have created a strong defence. The strategic AI, however, is one of the things Paradox is still improving before release. And already it was giving me a hard time at ‘normal’.

    The war was over too early however, without a message or event (same thing I experienced playing as Poland). Madrid and Barcelona had fallen to my arms but in the south the Republicans had a good chance of capturing Seville. Valencia was still firm in their possession. My campaign against Poland, Fall WeiB was over just after I captured Warsaw and cut the Polish army in half, the Reds hadn't entered the war yet but got their slice of Poland all the same.

    Last edited by canonized; 28-06-2009 at 11:22.

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