Playing As a Stealth Aircraft

Now, there’s something about playing as an F-117 or B-2 in Command that is the exact opposite of pop culture stealth. The feeling isn’t a crazed “Ha! You can’t get me”. Rather, it’s a feeling of worry, that I’d be getting just a little too close to the radar, meaning it finally can get me…

F-22s don’t quite share this feeling, as they’re agile in addition to being stealthy. Note that I said “quite”-being the aircraft that takes on the toughest target is always nerve-wracking.

Given that I’ve seen accounts from the Gulf War from F-117 crews who were half-expecting stealth not to work at all, I think my feeling of dread is somewhat accurate.

The Saga of the Escort Cruiser

This all started off with me seeing a database entry in Command, and ended with me understanding a fascinating process of evolution in naval history. The British “Escort Cruiser”, beginning as a supplement to its large carriers, ended up replacing them.

(The most invaluable sources on these never-were ships were DK Brown’s Rebuilding the Royal Navy and Norman Friedmans British Cruisers, Two World Wars and After)

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the escort cruiser concept was conceived of as a way to increase the ASW power of a carrier task force, leave space on the deck for strike aircraft by putting the helicopters on a separate ship, serve as a potential independent force for the RN’s defensive ASW mission (extra-crucially after the large carriers were cancelled), and in desperation, be a staging ship for helicopter landings. Thus they were to be helicopter carriers with a SAM armament.

Early designs were called cruisers but had the size and would-be construction standards of a large destroyer.

(early escort cruiser, source shiplover on ShipBucket )

Later they grew bigger, to become “proper” cruisers.

(late escort cruiser, source shiplover on ShipBucket )

This design was not unprecedented. Similar ships with a similar role can be found in the Italian helicopter cruisers and the Soviet Moskva .

Due to the “issues” in the postwar British economy and military system, the escort cruisers were never built. The story might have ended there, except the still-larger proposals turned into the  actually-built Invincible-class .

HMS Invincible turned into an impromptu American-style power projecting carrier for the Falklands, and the rest is history. Now to describe my own experience

When I first saw the escort cruisers in the Command Cold War Database, it was an early build, the game didn’t have the marked “Hypothetical Unit” symbol it now does, and so all I was looking at was a cruiser I couldn’t find a name for, with a strange missile-only armament and helicopter deck. (At the time I didn’t even know the Italian or Soviet counterpart).

While looking around on ShipBucket and Alternatehistory.com, I found the escort cruisers with the hull numbers the DB entries matched. Then I, interested, looked up their history (and saw some discrepancies with their in-game portrayals that I noted in the CWDB thread, backed up with sources as is proper procedure).

It’s extremely fascinating to look at such a clear evolutionary process, from drawing to drawing to actual ship.

The Perspective That Destroyed The Technothriller

So, I have an additional theory about the technothriller’s fall. It’s not on the central level that Nader Elhefnawy argued (the fall of the USSR took away the biggest immediate driver), or my own speculation (high technology weapons became so common that they ceased being ‘new and exciting’). This is secondary to those.

The theory is that of a precedent that made it (even) harder to continue the thriller in its post-1991 climate. This is, for lack of a better term, the “high level focus”.

As Elhefnawy describes it:

“Rather than having his protagonist Jack Ryan conveniently turning up in the right place at the right time, every time, so as to dominate the narrative, the story’s action is widely diffused among a large number of organizationally and geographically dispersed viewpoint characters. (11) This includes a large number of minor ones, whose sole connection to one another is their playing some small part in the evolution of a common crisis; and whose sole function in the story is to provide a higher-resolution view of some particularly interesting bit of the larger situation.”

A lot of technothrillers would adopt this high-level focus. While I understand the reasoning behind it, I’ve found that more often than not, it’s detrimental. If I had to describe why, the two biggest reasons would be:

-The perspective-hopping gets in the way of a continual flow, turning it into a “this happened, then this happened, then this happened…” clunker.

-The large number of characters and plots make it harder to develop any specific one in detail.

Those are general critiques that could apply to any genre. Where I think the high-level focus amplifies the problem with the technothriller in general, and the post-1991 one in particular is:

-Going into a genre the author isn’t the best at writing. I’m especially thinking politics here, where it became an increasingly tinny “Stupid politicians getting in our way” at worst and flat at best.

-Most crucially, in terms of threat to the main characters. If there’s a low-level focus and all you need to do is write a challenge to the individuals, that’s fairly easy regardless of how ineffective the threat as a whole is. A single SA-2 battery to a fighter plane, whatever the on-paper threat, is still a guided telephone pole-sized explosive heading straight for it. If on the other hand, one has to go all the way up the chain of command, it becomes harder to present a force with obsolescent equipment as a true threat. And since the conventional threats got harder to find after the Gulf War and fall of the USSR…

This is not to say that a high-level focus can’t be done well, or that a low-level one can’t be done poorly. However, I’ve found low-level works that aren’t the best quality to still be fun (and not in a so-bad-its-good way) that bad high-level ones aren’t.

Before I finish, I should give a recommendation/example: Raven One is a largely low-level work that, while not award-winning, is still a good military thriller.

 

The irony of Fallout 4

Fallout 4 was one of the main reasons I got a higher-end computer. I wanted to play it, and I even used its specifications as the baseline for what I wanted. That was last year. Now, I not only haven’t gotten it, but I have no more interest in getting it.

Why?

  • I know what happens. So the fun of a blind playthrough would be gone. This wasn’t the biggest problem. After all, my runs through New Vegas weren’t blind in the least. The second reason is more important
  • Fallout 4 seems to be the anti-New Vegas. New Vegas had a restrictive level design that encouraged players like me who just go through the story and don’t look for secrets. It also had extremely vast dialogue options. Fallout 4 is the opposite-set up for exploration but with extremely limited dialogue, with the horrible voice acting to boot.

So, because of that, I’ve let the wasteland pass me by.

Still, the computer was a good buy, it’s just ironic I never got what I originally planned.

Bad Fiction Spotlight: Rumsfeldia

What do you get when you combine what had been a decent dystopia, a politically charged reaction, a “nothing-but-spine” setup, and cheerleading? You get Rumsfeldia, an alternatehistory.com timeline that is-something.

As a counter to the numerous bad right-wing stories I’ve covered in this setting, Rumsfeldia is a bad left-wing story. Following on from its predecessor timeline, Fear Loathing and Gumbo, the story begins with the titular figure becoming president. Then he proceeds to unleash capitalism (as defined by the hard left of a hard-left message board), launches a horrifically botched invasion of Cuba, and then is overthrown by “Christian Values” crusaders, and the US is now totally fragmented and….

The timeline becomes more sensationalist and inaccurate. Yet its background could still have worked well as say, the backdrop of a GTA game. (They share the horrifically unsubtle left-wing “satire”, at least). That it stands entirely on its own means that it stays terrible, for there is nothing to to it but-fetish.

One of the things I was reminded of was the (in)famous Left Behind series, or at least the excellent Slacktivist commentary. This seemed strange at first, but it was an issue of tone rather than story similarity. Two themes stood out for me when applied to Rumsfeldia. The first was that Slacktivist considered them worse than other Rapture-styled apocalyptic fiction.

While he would have still vehemently criticized said works and their authors from a theological and moral perspective, there was more respect in that while those authors viewed it with horror, LB’s LaHaye and Jenkins viewed it with a sort of snide triumphalism. 

The second was the desire to feel oppressed. No one wants to be oppressed, everyone wants to feel oppressed.

I found the same basic idea through a lot of Rumsfeldia. While filtered through the exact opposite political lens, both it and the commentary have the same sort of apocalyptic fetish as the strawman falls, with cheering, and, in Rumsfeldia’s case, a two-for-the-price of one double punch of both social and fiscal conservativism on a notoriously left-wing board.

Rumsfeldia is also an example of logrolling, where the timeline gathers momentum. Everyone is too involved now to say “THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES! SIDEWINDERS DON’T WORK THAT WAY! RUMSFELD WAS A SIMPLE ESTABLISHMENT TYPE ECONOMICALLY AND NOT A PSUEDO-RANDIAN!” And if someone did, it’d be drowned out.

What I think is worse than the timeline itself is the the imitators it’s spawned, catering to the same fetish with even worse writing.

Two Layer Dream

I had a two layer dream earlier. I was in a bizarre hotel, alternating between sleeping and waking up. There was a loud and unusual bus driving past the window keeping me ‘up’, and then I woke up (no buses, just me awakening naturally).

I’ve definitely had two-layer dreams before, but that was the first I remembered most vividly.