Naming an Army

This is another piece of mine on military unit names. It kind of follows along with the last one I did.

This is on naming the army. Not the overall title for the army as an overall organization, but naming the exact equivalent for “Field army“, or even “army group“.

For the etymology, I thought back to the overall theme, of a [villainous] group with a kind of bizarre obsession with the ancient and traditional. The name of an army/army group equivalent would be from a (likely ancient) language, the word taken directly as a loan rather than adapted. And it would not be any directly military-related one there, but something like “assembly” or “federation”.

The image invoked is images of ancient peoples, on the steppes or in the forests, the kind unfairly referred to as “barbarians” by outsiders, forming a coalition of their warriors to campaign. And the reason I got there, or how the name-developers got there in-universe, has to do with the nature of such ultra-large units.

Regardless of national culture or doctrine, extremely large units like army groups and/or field armies are always considerably more ad hoc than the smaller ones in the same country. They’re determined by resources and location. So if it’s ad-hoc, a little like an ancient coalition, that opens the door for it to receive the name of one.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Of course, the question is how much an author should use a possibly confusing author-coined name rather than a familiar one. It’s tough to answer, but is easier in that the names this term would be replacing are themselves looser and to many people more unfamiliar than clearer small units.


Grand Colonels And Naming Conventions

So, for one of my innumerable exercises, I created a military rank called “Grand Colonel”. Much as how “Lt. Colonel” is a step down from “colonel”,  “Grand Colonel” is a step above. While some research did find that some countries do use the rank senior colonel, it doesn’t quite match my use of it.

My “Grand Colonels” command divisions, putting them in the same spot as a major general. I still haven’t come up with a better name for higher-rank generals that doesn’t use the exact term. Maybe I’d fall back on it, or use something like ‘corpsmaster’. However, I imagined how weird and different the term “major general” might sound if across the English speaking world, we were used to going from colonel to grand colonel.

Or forget colonels altogether. Since “Colonel” comes from the Italian word for “column”, someone commanding a similarly sized unit could get a vastly different name. I don’t have the linguistic skill to say what it would be without resorting to a robotic-sounding compound name, but still. Language development is full of weird quirks that get accepted as being totally normal. They’re interesting to study.

I once saw a conlang rank of “sub-general”-is it between colonel and general, or is it something equivalent to Lieutenant General? Could two countries with the same language family have one ‘sub-general as the former’ and one as the latter? Why not?

(Also,  while the officers are fairly consistent, I have the enlisted ranks in the same organization have a weird sort of craftsman like rank, with ‘private’ becoming ‘novice’ and higher enlisted ranks becoming ‘apprentices’ and ‘stewards’. So a sergeant major becomes a ‘Grand Steward’, linking it back to the ‘Grand _____’ precedent established by the grand colonel.)

Rivet Counting Addiction

Help, my rivet counting addiction has been triggered yet again. The culprit this time is the Micromark Army Lists, a very large list of orders of battle that range from the historical to the purely theoretical, from the musket age to the present. On Wargamevault (great site), they’re cheap, and I’ve been snapping them up en masse.

Weird how my cautious mentality gives way. I’ll waffle and hesitate over a cheap e-book, but have been wolfing down these dry lists like crazy. I’ve tried to get novel ones, but there have been a few duds I probably should have seen coming (You mean an unreformed ex-Soviet republic is going to organize its military on gasp-Soviet lines [that I already know a lot about]? .) In spite of that, the novel ones have been pretty informative…

Which is a big problem. I’m worried I’ll get too bogged down in rivet-counting minutia. In my Command scens, I’ve never been shy about brushing aside a specific unit’s availability by giving it a fictional name, and I’ve become even more inclined since writing that post. In other words, I might make a fictional aircraft carrier too.

But somehow I’m struggling mightily to translate that pragmatism to prose fiction.  But I’m still trying, and I still have hope I can use the informative quality of stuff like the lists to my advantage while not turning into either an infodump fest (“oooh, X has two battalions of ___ per division, unlike Y who only has one, improving its firepower but also hurting it logistically….) or just stalling out.

There is such a thing as too much research, after all, especially if it’s misdirected research.


Lore Pileups

Two years too late, I rediscovered the craziness, madness, and improbable victory of Twitch Plays Pokemon.

The viewership understandably dropped after the novelty of the first Red run. And there was something else I found, something sad but not unexpected. Forced lore.

The original run had organically developed memes and lore, from the Pidgeot to the ATV Venomoth, to of course the Helix Fossil. Later, everyone was trying to build up the lore from the start.

In other internet fandoms, however small, this sort of lore pileup happens a lot.

  • The Infinite Loops started off as a pure crackfic Groundhog Day for the lols anything-goes story-and then developed into a cosmology.
  • The Big One was a forum what-if about a nuclear end to WWII that turned into a massive historical “epic” spanning back to the 300s BCE.

Lore pileups make sense only to the “in-crowd” while turning off outside fans, and seem a lot funnier than they can be. While in some ways unavoidable, they’re a sign that a work is jumping the shark.

Fleet Actions, Historical and Otherwise

In June 1961, the USN and JSDF prepare a series of provocative moves into the Sea of Okhotsk. Well, in real life they didn’t, but in my Command scenario “The Okhotsk Bastion”, they did. The Soviet forces there are somewhat historical, save for a hypothetical carrier and its assorted aircraft.

The actual scen is very slow (it is after all, an anti-submarine scenario with very limited equipment), but I went to the editor, rearranged the small JSDF task group and the southernmost fleet of subchasers, and got-the biggest fleet engagement since World War II.

To put this in perspective-it was between three Japanese ships and eight Soviet subchasers. The former’s “fleet” consisted of a recent yet still low-end frigate, an IJN-surplus anti-sub vessel, and a coastal minesweeper with a deck gun. The latter had medium and small ships. No ship in the engagement had more than 1,400 tons displacement. None had anything bigger than a 120mm turret.

The JSDF lost the new frigate. The Soviets lost one large and four small subchasers. There were limited aerial engagements.

Book after book would be written on the engagement.

When you have such a small sample size, the data will be obsessed over.

This explains why so much naval warfare has been theoretical-not just since World War II, but since the development of the steam engine. A combination of rapid technological progress mixed with few samples (thanks to both the high capital costs of ships and Anglo-American naval supremacy) has made wargaming and simulation crucial.

So when looking at alternate history Command scens, it’s interesting to see how influential they might have been in their timelines that never were.


The Plant Locations

So, this is a sort of follow-up to my previous post detailing where to put the auto plant that never was. I have three weird locations.

-The first location violates the criteria of “near a large” city, but is unconventional enough- Hagerstown, Maryland. While it’s in a small, remote area, it’s at a major railway hub as well. In fact, one of the “problems” with the Hagerstown plant is that a large Volvo parts factory is already there-showing the location’s appeal to actual car makers.

-The second is even more unusual, to say the least. I only found out about it when I was chatting about the possible auto plant locations. There was a proposal by mayor Robert Wagner to attract a car plant to the Brooklyn Navy Yard when it closed. That’s quite-interesting.

It could technically work, but I still have skepticism. The traffic problem for suppliers is, however close the yard is to an expressway, still something I view as too big an issue. I still can’t see the plant lasting more than one, or if it’s incredibly lucky, two industry downturns.

-The third is in Hartford. The main reasons are the unconventional location, existence in an ultra-urbanized state, and railroad links.

The Mystery Of The Plant Location

So, I have a dilemma about the location of an auto plant for one of my fictional endeavors. This illustrates a problem with trying to be too detailed.

Car plants have been everywhere, but note the emphasis on the past tense. It’s no secret that, in the US, the remaining factories are clustered in either the Midwest or Deep South. Proximity to the gigantic number of suppliers that any plant depends on is a crucial factor, as is an existing auto industry.

But for this particular plant (which, like many, has seen better days), the criteria is:

-It’s a foreign transplant, so probably not in the Michigan area.

-At the same time, I don’t want it in the countryside. The reason is…

-This is the main issue. The plant I want to be located near/in a large city. One that is so big, diverse, and inherently healthy regardless of the national economy that closing the plant would, while still being painful, not be a crippling blow. In fact, among many locals, the factory would seen as a clunky anachronism, and it should just hurry up and close so that the space can be used for something more productive and profitable.

I could use a fictional city, but it wouldn’t really work if it was that size. (A small town I can easily make up and put anywhere, but a city that could absorb one to two thousand job losses-not so much).

Or I could just be vague, but a part of me likes weird details.

Five Minutes of Typing

This is an exercise to see how much of a story I can type in five minutes.

_ _ _

The acquisitions didn’t make sense. They were just prestige ones, ones for the people at Berill to say they’d gotten a piece of their old enemy. Wilson doubted the plants would be producing for much longer-a few years, before either being sold off again or closed down.

Even if they lasted, they were still being downsized-that much was certain. Berill needed them to be profitable, or at least try to be. And it was harder than ever to manage such an unwieldy conglomerate.

So, Wilson left.

The Basics of Ring the Gong

For years this has sat inside my mind, being revealed only in conversation with family and friends. But now-now it can be shown in full.

I give you-the story and rules of Ring the Gong, a fictional sport I have made.

Ring the Gong was invented in 1879 by a British proto-sociologist named N. Amadeus Cobwell. Cobwell saw increased industrialization, increased mechanization, and increased automation (even in his time). To this, he theorized that the gift of manhood, the skills that allowed “humanity to flourish in its prime” would soon be lost, with catastrophic consequences for all of civilization. To counter this, he invented Ring the Gong.

The game has gone through innumerable rule changes, but the basics have not changed since Cobwell’s day. The players go into a huge pit that has padding (ideally) and netting on the sides to enable an easy climb. To score a point, a player must climb up to the top of the pit and ring a gong at the top-hence the name. At the same time, each team must prevent the players on the other team from doing the same. The players carry mallets in various shapes and sizes, and the game is very violent. Cobwell intended for nothing less.

Cobwell died playing his sport. The initial rules included two players on horseback on each team. On April 2, 1882, Cobwell was knocked into the muddy ground by an opposing player, and then trampled upon the head by one of his own team’s horses. The game went on for twenty minutes before the players even noticed his predicament, and he died several hours later.

But the sport did not. In the 1880s and 1890s, the sport continued hesitatingly. But it was not until the 1920s that it both flourished and developed into political gongism. One of the reasons why aficionados of Ring the Gong turned to political talk was because the game itself was becoming a circus. With both teams wearing identical seersucker suits, players banging the gong repeatedly, and lots of smoke and alcohol, it was hard to tell what was going on. Another was that, in the aftermath of World War I, political gongism-with its min-max philosophy, offered a way to solve conflicts.

The idea being that the state would be replaced by local communities centered around Ring the Gong teams, overseen by an international league/federation. The Gong Association was founded to great aplomb in 1919, and reached its height with the first World Season in 1932. Only seven hundred deaths happened during it.

Meanwhile, the game was forming into a genuine sport. A player nicknamed “The Mighty George” wore a distinctive striped suit-soon he founded an entire team, and uniforms developed. A rule was made-and enforced- that stated that players could only ring the gong once per trip up and that play stopped once it was rung. Positions began to develop.

From there, the unified history of Ring the Gong stops. My various concepts range from it being a slightly unconventional sport with the same focus on safety to a bloodbath free-for-all. But in all forms, teams are armies in their own right, with waves of brave-though-unintelligent fans backed by heavily armed better-trained “sweeper” commandos.
The effect of Ring the Gong on geopolitics is also varied, but the basics of the sport itself have not been-everything involves excessive violence and people climbing up pits to ring a gong and hit each other.