Alternate History and Economic Reality

Few industries are as ruthlessly grinding as mainstream automobile manufacturing. This makes alternate histories where the “independent” American auto companies stay in business extra-challenging.

Historically, most of the independents were wiped out by the Great Depression. After an artificial postwar spike thanks to demand after a lack of car production in the war, the survivors were forced to consolidate in the early 1950s after a production race between Ford and Chevrolet glutted the market.

Studebaker-Packard was out of the auto business in a decade. Nash and Hudson “merged” into American Motors (in reality Nash essentially kept Hudson’s dealers and obliterated everything else), and were only saved by investing in an inherently counter-cyclical compact just in time for the 1958 recession.

This could only happen once. Domestic compacts and imports moved in to hit AMC’s niche, and they were forced to play an innovation game with few resources for the remainder of their existence.

And that was the successful one. Kaiser Frazer fizzled out simply because it didn’t have enough money.

All this happened before the 1973 gas crisis, and before the bulk of emissions and fuel economy regulations came into effect. Tough business, the auto industry. This, combined with the inability of GM itself, much less a smaller competitor, to sustain a giant multi-brand lineup without large quantities of badge engineering, makes me skeptical of timelines where the independents stay active.

Strange Literary Tastes

I’ve found that I enjoy reading either “thrillers” that are utter trash or big, dry reference books. There really isn’t that much of a middle ground for me-it either has to be enjoyably interesting or enjoyably terrible.

I could think of a thousand reasons why that might be the case, but they seem to pale in comparison to personal likings of the moment. (Shrugs)

 

An exercise in excessive force

So, when repeatedly flipping through the Command scenario generator, I discovered the “South American Tuna Wars”. Reading more about it, my interest was raised.

(Long story short-Peru and Ecuador were seizing American tuna boats for unauthorized fishing in what was to become their Exclusive Economic Zones. In real life, the issue never progressed beyond small, often lifted sanctions before the US accepted the EEZ concept in the 1980s ).

It wasn’t making a scenario based on it (which would probably be either a nonviolent enforcement exercise in all plausibility) that held the most appeal to me. No, it was thinking of the concept for a deployment based on the notion that the two nations were preparing to sucker punch the Yanqui ships at any minute, and thus they needed a massive guardian force to counter that.

For basic screening, a few light warships, with endurance and then speed being the chief factors, would have done the trick. However, given their opposition in the early 1960s time frame, the following assesment was done by me.

  • Peru possessed a pair of cruisers. Therefore, a similar, if not bigger ship was necessary to counter them on the American side. For one editor experiment, I used a hypothetical surviving Alaska class, and for another, a conventional 8-inch CA.
  • Peru also possesses submarines, requiring ASW forces to have a surer counter. In an extreme case, American submarines themselves could be deployed.
  • Both countries have air forces, and therefore some defense beyond just increasingly ineffective AAA is necessary. A SAM warship, still fledgling even at this point, is a possibility.
  • Of course, there’s one ship that can do both ASW and air screening. Yep, they’re going to send in a carrier. Along with its immediate escorts, since what if they launched an attack on it?
  • And of course, the logistics vessels to support this armada.

And all for some tuna fish. This is a goofy exercise, but this take no chances and do nothing by halves attitude is a real one in real crises, and illustrates the reason for lopsided expenditures and deployments.

 

Working around a writing weakness

When looking around for new books to read, I remembered Tanya Huff’s Valor series, and got a new spin-off by, An Ancient Peace. Sadly, it wasn’t as good as the originals-my impression is that her heart just wasn’t in it. Or maybe my tastes have changed and it’s been too long since I read the original books.

Be that as it may, the books were little more than cheap thrillers with bad sci-fi tropes (apostrophe-ridden names, cliche alien design, etc…). But they were good cheap thrillers, and I bizarrely respected them more after seeing Huff’s background as a fantasy writer. She was not one with military experience, but was able to work around her weakness to an incredible degree.

How did she do that? By writing fantasy-adventurer situations with small groups and not conventional battles. The heroine takes part in exactly one big engagement, and it’s made deliberately short and vague before moving on to something she was more comfortable writing.  Such an admission of one’s own weakness is interesting and admirable, compared to numerous other writers who’ve overreached beyond their skills.

 

The Car Engine is Thirsty

Trying to get back into Automation, my cars have never been able to get that high mileage. This is for several reasons, including my own lack of skill. However, the two biggest ones are that I tend to have either a monstrous stereotypical American giant engine, or a stereotypical European displacement-tax dodging engine that revs like crazy to squeeze every last kilowatt out of its small frame.

Neither is conducive to fuel economy.

My own tendency to go to extremes exacerbates the problem. If not that, it’s a small city car engine. Even then, I tend to rev it to maximum power to get every last drop of-you see where this is going.

SaltyBet Tiering

So, SaltyBet had a major, once in a long while update. Watching the utter mess of a New Tier matchmaking is crazy. By the time the last few characters are manually tiered and the autotiering played out, it gets somewhat annoying. But it’s an unforgettable experience.

I was there for it. I loved it.

Ring the Gong Related Incidents

To be a bus driver in the infamous sport known as Ring the Gong is a terrifying experience. Cages separating the passengers and driver do not work-the fans are that bad. The only safe system is to remotely control the bus from a neighboring car. Even that is iffy.

Here is a sample report, courtesy of the ████████████. Such incidents happen around every game of the sport.

████████████████████████████████████

-There were two buses, each holding roughly fifty fans.

-One of the buses was found lying on its side about a hundred feet off the road, with skid marks and waving tracks. Seven fans were both alive and immobile enough to have not escaped already. These were taken to the hospital.

-The other bus was intact, stopped, and totally abandoned.

-One of the control cars, as is par for the course, sped away after the accident. The other tried to speed away but crashed itself. The occupants had long since fled.

-There was no sign of overt foul play.

-The seven survivors screamed at the paramedics to take them to the game instead.

 

 

The Settings With No Foundation

The urge to make so-called “Fixfics” is strong among many fanfiction authors. They range from well thought-out trimming of the excesses to destroying the themes of the canon work in favor of cheap wish fulfillment. Take a guess which is more common.

That being said, I’ve both seen and hoped to write multiple fixfics. It’s tough, and depends a lot on the setting. One of the reasons why people gravitated to the Familiar of Zero setting is that it had a unique concept and strong foundation (fantasy set in a Renaissance setting, detailed enough background) and squandered it on silly antics. That was a good setting for a fixfic. There are bad ones too.

Some settings aren’t just adverse to fanfics overall, but especially to fixfics. Exactly what clicked when I was struggling to come up with a plausible fixfic of the infamous The Big One, remembered I was having similar struggles with the equally infamous Gate anime, and saw how oddly similar the settings were for a technothrilller with only one awkward supernatural element and a fantasy.

Both are horrifically nationalist works. Both go a step farther than the common patriotic thriller and work extra-hard to keep their nations from facing the slightest actual threat. And, most crucially, both have horrible worldbuilding that’s either uninspired, in the service of said “prevent conflict ASAP”, or both.

This makes fixfics tough. An author has to change a lot to make it more plausible/interesting, but that begs the question of why they wouldn’t just go the full length and write an original story unencumbered by all the baggage the existing setting has?