Saturday, June 28, 2014

Happy 100th Anniversary Pellucidar!

Well gents, it's embarrassing that it took me this long to figure it out, but this year is the one hundredth anniversary of one of my favorite pieces of fiction ever, At The Earth's Core, the first of the Pellucidar stories!

One hundred years and it's still entertaining retro nerds like me! Ain't that just amazing? It's certainly one of the biggest inspirations I received for writing, and considering all of the different forms of media it has had to compete with is an astounding testament to its staying power! Okay, I missed the precise time of publishing, which was in April, but at least I got the year right. ;)

Party time ladies and gentlemen! Keep reading your beloved pulp and drink your Ovaltine! Whooo! :D

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Samuel Baker: Globe Trotting Explorer And Hunter

Few people in the 1800's racked up more mileage on foot, trophies on the wall and achievements under their belts than English explorer Samuel Baker. Even for the time period when men made their livings by going to dangerous places and prodding some of the most deadly animals on land for fun, Baker stands out as one of the most seasoned, which is a major accomplishment.
One could almost consider Baker to be the English equivalent of our American Theodore Roosevelt. Baker explored and hunted in Sri Lanka, called Ceylon back in the day, India, Africa, Europe and North America all the while keeping an eye open for men of exceptional skill in the craft of hunting and singing their praises when he found them. In his many, many writings Baker goes out of his way to point out men who were capable of achieving great feats of all types all the way from the Hamran Arabs hunting elephants with swords on horseback to an American cowboy who outmaneuvered a bear into exhaustion from the saddle, exploits I will explore in more detail in other posts.

The number of hunting exploits Baker achieved himself are many and exhaustively covered in his books, but for now I'll cover the highlights.
One of his most famous styles he started in the Scottish Highlands and continued exercising on the island of Sri Lanka with wondrous effectiveness. What he did was have a pack of mixed-blood hounds that he trained himself to chase after stags of different types, and when the deer were brought to bay he would run the entire distance with a foot long knife. He would then grapple with the stags and drive his blade into the back or neck to sever the spine.

Quite a manly sport, what? The pack hounds he had under his command clearly held a great passion for the hunt equal to his own and he recalls each of his pack leaders fondly and with obvious love. One can vividly imagine the excitement he felt when he writes of rushing through the jungles listening to the baying of his hounds, seeing a stag standing at bay with its furry main bristling and waving its horns in a defensive manner.

These chases led through tangled jungles and over cold rivers. The rugged terrain required superb physical fitness in order to traverse while running at full tilt in order to reach his hounds in time. You can't help but respect a man like that and his dogs for that kind of hunting! I'd like to try something like that sometime, but I get the feeling PETA would throw a fit and call me all manner of horrible names.

The real danger for the dogs however came not from the stags at bay, but when they became lost in the jungle and were stalked by leopards. Baker laments how he lost many hounds to the claws and jaws of leopards that recognized the howls of lost dogs hoping to draw the attention of their master, only to be pounced on from above and slain.
One hound evened out the score though. Perhaps the best hound he ever had, Old Smut, which conjures quite different mental images today, was his oldest and most experienced dog, the grizzled canine equivalent of Lee Ermey. Baker tells us how from time to time Old Smut would go off into the jungle by himself and use himself as bait and then get into royally intense fights with leopards that attempted to eat him. Although Baker never saw any of the fights he heard some of them. I can only imagine what a huge hound fighting with a leopard would sound like!

Baker then recounts how Old Smut would return at night covered in lacerations and cuts but refuse any medical treatment or food, keeping to himself until he felt better. Good grief! That was one tough dog! Old Smut would often teach younger, less experienced hounds how to avoid being gored by stags and how to dart in at the right time, being smart as a whip in addition to being tougher than railroad tracks. So long did he survive in fact that near the end of his life almost all of his teeth were gone, having fallen out from age or being pulled out while dragging down prey. Baker often recalls how a brave stag at bay would fend off all of the other dogs only to be hit by the cunning Old Smut that saw an opening and brought victory to the pack.

The poor old boy met his end not while exacting revenge on a leopard or savaging a stag, but when the pack accidentally ran into a boar in thick jungle. Baker had a rifle at the time and heard the grunts of the pig, knowing how deadly they were but didn't dare fire. The jungle was so thick that even though he was often within a few feet of the animal, he couldn't see it and didn't wish to hit any of his dogs. Eventually the animal buggered off and the toothless Old Smut was cut wide open, having met his match in an intense fray and died shortly after.

Aside from this most impressive style of hunting Baker more often used smooth-bore muzzle loaders and rifles. Much of his writing on ballistics and hunting took place during the 1860's when rifling was being improved and cartridges were still being developed. At the time almost all bullets were of round lead balls, so much of his personal advice on their use is obsolete in the face of modern designs. For the time however this was cutting edge and offers a great insight to how weapons of the time were used.

During is time in Sri Lanka Baker killed more Asian elephants than perhaps any other man, and although I don't know his exact body count, I'm pretty sure it ranks to over a thousand of the animals. This is extremely impressive given the weapons he had available were all muzzle-loaders and that he hunted them heavily in thick jungle and lemon grass that grew above his head. Whether due to youthful bloodlust or simply trying to thin out the troublesome herds, Baker collected a very high body count. What seems unusual is just how many he would kill in a herd, even hitting young ones and females. This wasn't done for ivory, as they barely had any at all.

Like in Africa the local elephants caused all sorts of problems for villagers trying to grow crops and occasionally stepping on natives. So troublesome were they that the government actually put out bounties on the animals, so any villager with long gun might take a crack at the herds and thin them out. This was before the idea of conservation existed and anyone who killed a large number of elephants was seen as performing a service.

Perhaps Baker realized that the volume of killing he was doing was wrong as he grew older, as in some of his writing he seems to condemn large scale hunting and wasting herds. He definitely disliked men ambushing them and then not going after the rest, simply content with a successful surprise attack. He knew it was far more dangerous to go into the thick stuff after a herd that was aware you were coming and capable of hitting you from the sides in a rush from only a few yards away.
For his elephant hunting exploits I will let you read his writing and recommend you come to your own conclusions.

Baker had a great number of close calls though that make for hairy tales even today. One elephant almost evened the score with the Englishman when he was hunting in Sri Lanka. Baker had been in pursuit of a rogue near a thicket, a patch of brush that was so impenetrable that even when he was within a few feet of a massive Indian Elephant, he couldn't see it at all through the foliage! This was almost his undoing, as the animal charged from extremely close range and struck him in the leg with one of its tusks. The bruising he got after that was something to be remembered!

His most famous encounter however was with an Asian water buffalo. Often regarded as the most deadly of bovines is the African cape buffalo, and with good reason, owing to its absolutely unbelievable resistance to death when its adrenaline gets pumping. Its distant Asian cousin however seems to be capable of offering some competition, as we'll soon see.

In his very early twenties and in his early trekking within Sri Lanka, Samuel and his brother, who is unnamed, were trekking through the open park-like country with a large convoy that was carrying their things. Whether this was part of when he was building his Ceylon home or not I'm not sure, as Baker was not in the habit of listing his the dates of most of his adventures, so chronology can be very confusing.

Anyway, he and his brother were on horseback and came upon Minneria Lake with a hundred of massive, grand buffalo wallowing in the water and mud. Their mossy horns swept back from their heads like tree branches. Baker and his brother couldn't resist the temptation of having a go at a few of these great beasts. However, two things were amiss. They were only armed with smooth bore twelve gauge muzzle loaders with a few lead balls apiece. Part of their convoy had fallen behind, and it so happened that their heavy guns were with that portion of the group. Although they waited for some time, the other men still didn't arrive and the two Englishmen lost patience and decided to try their luck with the twelve gauges.

The other problem was noted most specifically by Baker in his book The Rifle and Hound in Ceylon, as he admitted that at this time he was ignorant of the behavior of buffalo. Although he had shot them before, he had done so under different circumstances, and distinctly notes that his near downfall came from assuming that the buffalo acted the same under most circumstances.

As he put it "Like most novices, however, I was guilty of one great fault. I despised the game, and gave no heed to the many tales of danger and hair-breadth escapes which attended the pursuit of wild animals. This carelessness on my part arose from my first debut having been extremely lucky; most shots had told well, and the animal had been killed with such apparent ease that I had learnt to place an implicit reliance on the rifle. The real fact was that I was like many others; I had slaughtered a number of animals without understanding their habits, and I was perfectly ignorant of the sport."

So it was with suffocating arrogance and an insufficient weapon that he and his brother tromped out into the shallow marsh to bag a few water buffalo. Things didn't go terribly well from the outset. The marsh where the buffalo were was devoid of any cover and the hunters were instantly spotted upon their approach. Most of the animals formed a single herd and began to trundle off, but a few bulls held their ground and appeared to be ready to put up a fight.

One of these charged, but at a point it turned aside and for his trouble got a pair of lead balls in his shoulder, breaking the bone and hobbling him. He kept up his retreat in spite of the wound when something quite shocking happened. Seemingly out of spite, another bull even larger than the first, charged his wounded companion and struck him with such force that the already injured animal was thrown on his side and unable to regain his feet, while his assailant swaggered off across the muddy marsh.

This particular bull must have had a consistently foul mood, for as Samuel took after him, leaving his brother to finish off the initial victim, the animal would gain a hundred yards and then pause, watching Samuel slog through the water until he was almost within shooting range before taking off again. It was almost like the animal was taunting him out of disdain and it certainly worked. I've had a little bit of experience in wading through muddy water, and boy is it a hassle. There's a reason why people use boats when around water. So you can imagine Samuel running forth while carrying a heavy gun with the sun high in the sky and dressing in Victorian clothing might not make for ideal waterpark gear.

This continued for about a mile. So infuriated did the hunter get at this that he fired a frustrated shot, which of course missed, and reloaded his last lead ball. Cutting a corner around a creek however Baker managed to get ahead of the bull, which snorted in confusion when it saw its pursuer somehow in front of it at close quarters. Only fifteen yards away, Baker was almost drunk on smug self-confidence, aimed and plugged the bull in the chest with one barrel, fully expecting the animal to fall right over and give up the ghost.

That is when things really started to go bad. The bull didn't even blink as the chunk of metal pierced his chest. Instead his eyes shifted from cantankerous and sullen into blazing with righteous anger. Baker's confidence began to waver a bit at this point, as most animals and people tend to feel a wee bit under the weather when shot with a twelve gauge. Deciding to play it safe Samuel then fed him the other barrel at the same spot. Although blood freely poured from the twin wounds, the animal literally didn't even flinch. Instead it looked at him as if Baker had insulted his mother and began working itself up for a suitable retort.

Sammy was completely out of ammo by this point and realized that this could likely turn very nasty very quickly. He didn't retreat, as he knew that doing so would instantly bring a charge, and the animal would outrun him anyway.  A short plunge from the bull brought it to within ten yards and then stopped, perhaps mustering more rage before delivering the final blow. With little other form of defense he pulled out his hunting knife, which of course wasn't going to help all that much under those circumstances. The idea sprang to his head to alert his brother. He then gave a long, sharp whistle which he knew would summon his brother.

Now all he had to do was survive long enough for him to show up. The buffalo didn't appreciate his sounds though and further lessened the distance between them. He pawed the bloody water, bringing his rage to a fitful boil. Then a desperate idea popped into Samuel's head. Although he had no lead balls left, he did have some spare change! I am quite serious. After dumping a double powder charge down one of the barrels he took a handful of metal coins, wrapped them in a piece of torn shirt and rammed it all home. Again the bull rushed towards him, and he dropped his ramrod into the water, aiming his gun at its forehead and waiting until the last moment before firing.

It was then that his brother arrived at an angle and announced that he had sprinted the entire way after hearing Samuel's whistle, but only had one bullet left. Samuel then instructed his brother to hold his fire until the last moment and to aim for the brute's head, hoping that the combination of fire would convince the animal to quit kicking. As soon as this was said the bull charged. Both men fired, Samuel only pulling the trigger when the barrels of his gun were practically touching its forehead!

Down it went in a spray of foul water, having received an epic pounding to the skull.
Not waiting a moment to see if it was ready to throw in the towel the brothers turned tail and ran for all they were worth. All of that smugness that Baker had been filled with before had been deflated like a balloon. When they had gone a distance the paused to see if the animal was done. Nope! The bull was up again and slowly staggering after them, but clearly disoriented beyond all comprehension. I don't envy the headache he must have had!

In Baker's most amusing version of the event he said "On he came, but fortunately so stunned by the collision with her Majesty's features upon the coin which he had dared to oppose that he could only reel forward at a slow canter."
Don't you just love his patriotism?

Eventually the two found sanctuary in the branches of a dead tree that was in the middle of the lake and when darkness fell the two slipped away. The very next day Baker was back at Minneria Lake, now toting his trusted four ounce gun and ready to wrap things up. In a staggering testament to the animal's endurance, he could find no trace of it! Although it had collapsed repeatedly from exhaustion the day before it was now nowhere to be seen, and he never did catch up with that bull.

One of his greatest achievements of course was helping to discover the source of the Nile in Africa, which proved one of his most difficult tasks by far. He undertook his expedition in 1861 with his wife, Florence, although they weren't married at the time. I must take a moment to comment on Florence, as her relationship and history with Samuel is controversial and fascinating. According to them, Florence the daughter of a European of some importance, although I confess the intricacies of her origin leave me baffled, and I encourage those who are interested to click on the Wikipedia link below.

Anyway, supposedly she was kidnapped at some point and put on the slave market in Bulgaria. It is interesting to note that at this point in time England had made an amazing 180 degree turn on their slavery stance and began a campaign to stamp it out amongst most of the world, but had not yet influenced most of their fellow Europeans. It is said that while touring a slave market to amuse a Maharaja that Baker encountered Florence and sought to liberate her, which he did, and shortly after had a crude marriage outside of England. The legalities here are somewhat sketchy, giving the impression that the two had intimate contact before being wed in England in 1865, which made him a most controversial character in the area of nobility.

Some people are quite suspicious as to whether he did in fact actually liberate her in the way they indicated, and it's easy to see why. At the time the idea of a dashing English hero rescuing a white damsel from a life of slavery by Ottomans or other members of the Middle East was a most epic story, and he may have fabricated portions in order to make himself seem more heroic. I personally ride the fence on this particular subject. On one hand, Baker is certainly not one to have told lies, as he is often brutally honest in his books when detailing his personal opinions and adventures. At the same time this may have been one occasion where he switched a few things around to save face or some other reason.

I still scratch my head over this issue, and will leave it up to my readers to come to their own conclusions. It is known however that due to their close contact while gallivanting about many persons of power in England, including Queen Victoria, who believed that they had participated in sexual relations before official marriage, and refused to grant the two greater honors or attention as a result. Even so, Florence was of no weak spirit. She accompanied Baker on his entire trip through Africa and every other adventure he went on, enduring astounding physical hardships that would have tried the wills of most men.

Indeed, she spoke a variety of languages and Baker directly attributes her shrewd intelligence for their success in their exploration of the Nile. The adventure there is far too large to discuss even a tenth of his exploits in this article. Suffice it to say that if someone wants a real, true and gritty story of someone entering the heart of Africa, they should read about it in several of his books in the links below. However, if you're someone who can't eat breakfast without thinking something is racist, you'd best refrain, as you'll be horribly offended by the writings of this abolitionist. Some of his comments are certainly controversial, but in his time he was a knight in frigging shining armor, for he believed heavily in abolition, and most of his annoyance stems from the fact that the Africans fought him every step of the way to preserve slavery in their countries. So it is not for the faint of heart.

I also find it interesting to note that at the same time he was travelling through the savannah on his quest the American Civil War was taking place over slavery as well. He makes no comments on this, but as it has no bearing on his trek, it makes sense that he'd have left it out. Not to mention that his location made it rather hard to read up on news from across the Atlantic. Although he made no move to squelch the slavery on his journey, adhering strictly to exploration, which absolutely baffled the natives, the tribes and Arabs viewed him as a spy sent to scout out things in the interior which would then lead to English soldiers coming in to stop the slave caravans.

After his expedition he did in fact later on lead a military group into the interior with the mission of suppressing the slave trade. Perhaps the native suspicions were warranted after all!

His writing style is fairly typical of the era from adventurers, most often very factual and not meant as action stories. Some of his hunting stories get repetitive, especially when speaking of hunting Indian elephant, although some of his tales about hunting from the howdah are quite interesting. If you read his stuff you may feel inclined to skip portions, which is quite understandable as it can drag on at times.

Overall Samuel Baker led an extraordinarily colorful life, exploring and hunting on multiple continents while seeking to bring the skills and knowledge of others to civilized society. He was a sportsman that was nothing short of a legend in his own time and is well worth remembering.

I hope that you all found this article informative and entertaining. Be sure to check out the links below for Samuel Baker's writings, which you can download on the Kindle for free.
Happy hunting!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hello Inspiration, come right in!

Most of the ideas that I come up with are slowly molded over a long period of time. I'll come up with tiny idea and research the crap out related subjects, allowing it to develop and be refined until I get a solid, coherent idea. That's how Primal Frontier came along, and that one took a good while to form.

Last week however inspiration formed almost overnight. Being an unapologetic nerd, I'm interested with things that are a bit off of the wall, so it was only a matter of time before I got interesting in Steampunk. No, I haven't taken to wearing overly complicated gadgetry, but it sure does look fun!

Anyway, I began thinking about how I could do another series based in a Steampunk setting and how it all would work. My first obstacle is that I can't help but have technology make some sort of sense, and a lot of Steampunk stuff is... well... just gonna say it, confusing and random. Not that I mind terribly, but when I make something I'm wired to have it make some level of sense.

Then one night last week I sat up in bed as inspiration struck after only a few weeks, and so strong were the technology developments in my head that I had to hop out of my bed and write them down. The very next day at work I somehow developed a very deep, complex and fascinating setting that seemed awesome. I ran it passed one of my compatriots who swiftly found the concept compelling and had a great deal of potential. Then I ran the technology aspect passed another friend of mine, and to protect the innocent, shall simply call Waldo.

Waldo is amazing with internal mechanics but when he looks at Steampunk stuff his head hurts, because it makes almost no sense to him. However, running my concept past him almost instantly sparked his imagination because it was not only practical, but something he hadn't seen before and made sense. Coming from him, that is a very good sign! We very quickly began talking about ways to refine it and got around to talking about nuclear power systems. Now that is fun!

The thing is still in its infancy and needs a heck of a lot of work done to get it anywhere near ready for writing, but keep your eyes open. Sooner or later, I'm going to be writing some Steampunk stories lads!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How my writing is coming along thus far

Well, things have slowly but surely been getting along in my writing subjects and I am glad to say that I am steadily increasing my rate of productivity.

When I started in December of 2013 I set a goal for writing a minimum of 300 words per day, as writing within time blocks just wasn't working. I'm ADD to the point of absurdity, so time schedules don't work that well. Thus, over the course of a week I might get 2,000 words written down for a novella.

Why yes, that is an embarrassingly small number. Baby steps lads, baby steps! A few months ago I upped the ante and was getting a steady rate of 1,000 words down per day, or at least 500 if it was a busy work day. I'm glad to say now that after about six months of writing and treating it like a professional, I'm now on average cranking out 2,000 to 3,00 words daily, which is around a tents of a full sized novella!

I'm working on addressing my faults, and I feel no shame in admitting that I have them. Sometimes linking an event or transitioning from one plot point to another gives me trouble, or figuring out how to resolve an issue takes place, but it seems to be getting better. Thus far my dialogue is wooden. But wood can be carved, and hopefully I can have some conversations that don't feel like they are being delivered by robots!

I am pleased to say that many of my beta readers find my action and description to be superb. It is tricky at times to balance the action and exposition while making the exposition interesting, but I think I'm hitting that balance for the most part. Heck, just today I ended up writing more than I meant to by getting caught up in explaining some backstory to flesh out a specific element. Yay!

Naming people, places and things is easily one of my most difficult angles, as every time I try coming up with a name it sounds silly or forced. Although it's also quite possible that I'm just being nitpicky and being overly self aware because I'm the one at the helm. Almost never do I ever call out named things in other stories, so it might just be me.

It is also quite fascinating in how I keep switching between story structures. Initially I tried to write like Robert E. Howard, where the plots ran fast and smooth without any lulls. While I've succeeded in some of my stories in doing that, I've also found that I'm straying into travelogue territory, writing out longer journeys where other events happen at a somewhat slower pace, very much in a H. Rider Haggard story. It follows the journey and the events that take place rather than just having pulse pounding action for every second. Then again, both of those types have their place in my series!

I have noticed that in my attempts to keep my stories lean and devoid of any useless elements that some of them are almost anorexic! I've found that if I trim things too close that I end up not just giving my stories haircuts, but end up cutting off chunks of their cheeks! Yikes! I think I need to ease up just a little bit and not try to have my novellas so tight that you could bounce a dime off of them.

I've been learning lots of things about myself and am working on all sorts of different story telling styles and at different angles, and it's quite an adventure itself to see how I'm improving and what I can continue to work on. I am thankful to say that some elements are getting easier as I practice more, like the aforementioned writing speed. Hopefully by the end of this year I can be cranking out 5K words per day- or more! Story elements are getting resolved more quickly and I'm encountering kinks less often as well as story ideas forming more rapidly and more intact.

I have a handful of stories finished as of today, one of them up to 45K words long. With luck I'll have my very first novella out before September. They do require touching up however. Editing is far from easy and being objective about my own writing is quite a challenge. I'll have to touch up paragraphs, switch some words around and check grammar.
Also, as a side note: Writing linguistics for non-existent peoples, even just individual words, is frigging hard!

My very first story, The Hunter from the Red Hills will be my introductory story, showing of the origin of my main character, some history on the world and setting, and set the stage for the adventures to come. If everything goes as planned for the Kindle system, this one will be free so you all can see the style and setting.

I am still wondering how to sell my other stories, as for a good while I will have to use the exact same book cover for quite some time. That stuff is expensive! And yes, it's the one on my main page for Primal Frontier. What do you folks think? Should I lump a handful of stories into an anthology for five or six dollars? Or should I release them individually for a dollar a piece? So far my minimum word count for each story is around 22K pages, which translates to almost a hundred pages on the Kindle system. Tell me what ya'll think!

All in all, things are looking quite well, although I still have a ways to go. And as another side note, although I'm focusing the bulk of my energy on Primal Frontier, I do have plenty of other ideas rattling around in my head. I've got a seed taking root in my head for a Steampunk setting and a handful of stand alone horror and action stories that set my skin to tingling!

Well, that's all for the moment folks. Can't wait to keep cracking away, whoo hoo!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Stomping Land: Day One

Well, as of June 1st I purchased the new game The Stomping Land which I've been looking forward to for months, and thought it would be fun to talk about the events that took place on my first day of playing in just about the precise way they took place. So much of this will be in the form of my thoughts as I blunder about in the new game world.

Day 1: I started out my new grand venture by selecting single player mode so that I could figure out the basic mechanics without being immediately murdered by any fellow human beings. The game started alright and I took the form of a tribal warrior with some awesome body tattoos, a short ponytail and a stone hatchet. There I was on a sandy beach, with the ocean on one hand and the dark, brooding forest spreading out before me. I felt very much like a castaway and felt it would be best to not run immediately into the thick foliage on what might very well be Skull Island from King Kong and decided to stay on the beach for the time being.

My first order of business was to figure out how to make things and I began whomping away at a tree until I got a single piece of wood. This I dropped, being unsure what to do with it and then saw one of my favorite dinosaurs saunter into view: A stygimoloch! My first dinosaur in game, whoohoo! How gracefully it moved, making all sorts of strange sounds which I am glad the design team worked so hard on.

So of course my first instinct was to sprint at the thing and smack it over the head with my stone hatchet. This... was unwise. The animal was completely unimpressed by my attack and proceeded to chase my tribal arse, and was swiftly beaten down face first into the dirt. Sixty seconds in and already I had met my untimely demise at the horns of a two legged herbivore. Master survivalist here!

I respawned shortly after that and decided it would be best for the time being to not throw rocks at the huge saurian so that I wouldn't again end up as filth to be scraped off of the bottom of their feet and again tried my hand at making things. Again I started whacking away at the trees on the beach. Then, rather by accident, I made an extraordinary discovery! You see, at first I laid down one piece of wood, then, acquiring a second, I thought "Hmmm, I shall make a little pile here so that I know where all of my wood is should I be needing it."

Then, upon setting the second piece of wood down on the first, something amazing happened! Instead of there being a little pile of logs, there was now a tiny basket! Wonder of wonders! And when I looked closer at it, I found that it was a box that contained items, at the moment just wood. Although it sounds silly on text, you would not believe what sort of childish joy this discovery brought me. I then discovered that the more wood I put into a single box, I could get more options for building things. Something about crafting in games is unrealistically fun.

I had the options of making a torch and a cage, but not much else, which I thought odd, seeing as how I knew there were many other items in the game that I could make. I wanted to build a fire as night was closing in, but was unable to. I read something online saying that this was a feature not available to single player mode, and thus took my first steps into the multiplayer world. I wasn't disappointed by the behavior of my fellow man.

Soon I was acting amongst other humans and hoping that I wouldn't be immediately murdered by the first person I saw. That didn't work out so well. Anyway, after querying my fellow players about how to build anything besides a torch or cage and was informed that I had to chop rock away and add it to the supply box. Chopping rocks with a stone axe! Of course! I swiftly built myself a firepit and ignited a glorious blaze.

At last, I had made one of the greatest discoveries in the history of mankind, the creation of fire! The power immediately went to my head and declared myself chief over the entire island, demanding the loyalty and service of everyone on the server, as I was the Fire Shaman. This... did not work well. I mentally sighed and worked on making my campsite. Luckily I was in an excellent position, as I had rocks and trees very close by right there on the beach and proceeded to make myself a tepee and all sorts of weapons such as a bow, arrows, bolas and a spear. Heck yeah!

However the arrows seemed to be made by Nerf, as I dumped arrows at passing herbivorous dinosaurs and they didn't even seem to notice that anything was happening. Well. That was a bit of a downer. I continued tinkering with the items, giggling like an idiot as I was actually having fun, and then I looked up and soiled my loincloth.

Standing right there was another tribal guy riding atop a carnotaurus, which is just a bit out of my league. However, I was not deterred! I bravely charged... into my tepee and offered him everything that I owned in exchange for not being horribly mutilated. Luckily he was so impressed by my bravery that he gave a nod and rode off, clearly not wishing to start a fight with the likes of me. Phew!

Having gotten a decent handle on the basic weapons and tools I decided that I was ready to forge on into the depths of the jungle and explore! Through the misty leaves I ran, stalking like a panther through the undergrowth. This island is huge! Ah, but then I found a river and something that caught my attention: A cave! I knew that in the caves there were healing herbs which I could use to mount dinosaurs and ride about like the physical incarnation of awesome.

I happily entered the yawning cave, looking for the tell-tale sign of glowing herbs in the darkness. Then I fell off of a ledge and plunged into an underground lake from which I was unable to find any escape. The problem with the inside of the caves is that there is virtually no light, so I couldn't see a bloody thing. Unable to find my way out I did the only reasonable thing I could think of: I swam to the bottom of the lake and let my lungs fill with water.

Luckily I was able to respawn at my tepee. Hooray! I had to rebuild all of my tools, but I was sort of alright with that. After rebuilding my gear I decided that it would be best to stick to the beach and ran along the left side of the beach. This time I just wanted to explore and pounded out on the right side of the beach, finding a decent fishing spot where I began trying in vain to hit one of the stupid fish with my spear. I thought I was alone, but got a small hint that I might not be completely lonesome when I heard a reptilian roar behind me.

With my loincloth feeling suddenly heavy, I turned and saw that gent riding the carontaurus again who was far too close for comfort. I then jumped into the deep water while squealing like a stuck pig as the gentleman laughed his tail off and asked me to come out, promising that he wouldn't hurt me. I was slightly less than convinced, but he managed to talk me into coming out to help him with something. This is the part of the game where you have to eat in order to not starve, and he couldn't cook his own food while riding his mount and wanted me to help him out. Still being a noob however, I had some trouble fixing him a meal and he sort of ended up starving. Oops.

I then tried claiming his fearsome mount as my own, but that didn't quite work out. Then shortly thereafter an anklyosaurus rumbled from the forest and charged the animal. A terrific battle broke out, both brutes slammed into each other, shaking the earth beneath their mighty tread. In the five seconds we'd been together the carnotaurus and I had built up a strong bond, much like this girl from high-school that I had one conversation with and knew that it was true love, although she disagreed vehemently. (Not a true story there, relax) Although I knew it was a fools hope, I began charging in to aid my dinosaur friend, spear held in front of me and ready to impale the armored beast.

Then a second anklyosaurus came out and I turned tail back towards the safety of the ocean, terrified urine marking my trail. A most dignified exit. So, I was alone again and tried making a new campsite. Then a stranger came into my camp. Now, on one hand I try to be a nice person and not slaughter strangers on sight. On the other hand, this is an MMO, and Murder is the most popular sport out there. However, this actually worked out and we two became allies, working together and enjoying the camaraderie. Hooray!

The two of us then decided that it would be wise to acquire herbs and get dinosaur mounts so that we could reinforce our camp and become feared warriors. Like shadows we slipped through the night, evading other hostile tribesmen and aggressive dinosaurs. I concede that I felt so cool as we stalked through the undergrowth, acting like primitive commandos. My companion managed to get some herbs from a cave, but none respawned for me, so we began heading further along the beach towards another set of caves we knew of. However, someone else had built a small tribe there along the beach. Even worse, they had captives in cages strewn along the beach.

Savages they were! Capturing and caging poor players, leaving them inside to rot. We began preparing for war. My companion acquired himself a herbivorous stygimoloch as a war mount, and another disgruntled player joined our small cadre. We then rushed into battle to release the captives and slay the slavers. I wasn't of much help, but we actually kicked their arses. Our leader's dinosaur got killed, but he survived. In fact, we didn't lose a single man! We destroyed the cages and I plunged into the cave as our leader tried coaxing another fellow down from this waterfall, who seemed to be an innocent bystander.

I got my herbs at last! And then things went downhill fast. The guy from the waterfall who was supposedly innocent was in fact part of the tribe we had just butchered and killed my two friends, then got another recruit who managed to ace me as well. That didn't go well. Our leader signed off, it being quite late but I was a bit delirious and kept playing. Ironically enough after being murdered by another player I respawned near the waterfall just in time to see the savages trying to capture another poor sap.

Here was an opportunity to avenge myself and my tribe! I brought out my stone axe and began charging across the sandy beach. Like a hot wind I swept down, believing that I would be on top of them before they knew what was happening. I was confident that soon I would rend my enemies apart with a ferocious whirlwind of axe strokes. One man seemed to see me and jumped aside, which I presumed was him retreating in terror from my mighty oncoming onslaught.

I raised my axe into the air, ready to bring it down upon my opponents head and split his skull, spraying his brains across the beach and thus avenge my fallen comrades! Then the other fellow lassoed my legs and I fell face first into the sand, making one or two rude comments about his parents as he dragged my sorry butt across the beach like a sack of embarrassment. I clawed at the ground helplessly, enduring what was easily one of the most embarrassing online gaming moments I've ever had in my entire life. As I was pulled around his companion began building a cage, of which I was placed and trapped in. One of them then referred to me by a popular name often used to designate a submissive position within a prison system.

Scarcely before have I felt like such an awesome warrior followed by such cataclysmic ownage. It is easily one of the most silly moments I've ever experienced in a game. Things were pretty poor after that point, as I wasn't able to cut my way out of the thing. So much for the mighty tribal warrior shtick!

So, first impressions of the game are actually not too bad, as I did actually have quite a bit of fun. The crafting has a strange charm to it and the map you explore is huge. Some of the mechanics need work, since the arrows don't do crap at the moment and hit detection can be a bit dodgy, but this is a brand new release after all so some kinks are inevitable.

I'll letcha know more as I play some more later on! Busy busy week!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What Kind of Gun to use for Dinosaur Hunting?

Seeing as how I've spent so much time fiddling around with illogical and absurdly fun ideas in my head when I should be working, I decided to type a few of them down for the amusement of the masses.

Although I've not yet had the pleasure to hunt abroad with a rifle or shotgun, I've found the concepts fascinating since childhood and have devoured all the literature within grabbing distance on the subjects. And, given my current writing subject, I couldn't help but wonder: What would I use in dinosaur hunting today?

The number of firearms, cartridges, bullet types and powder mixes are seemingly limitless, but I've given a good bit of thought as to what I would take if I were to somehow be transported to the Cretaceous or thereabouts!
One of my favorite novellas is the story A Gun for Dinosaur by L. Sprague de Camp, and is a fascinating contrast to Ray Bradbury's A Sound of Thunder, and Camp did a bit more research than most for guns in fiction, but being an unrepentant nut about firearms, I couldn't help but notice his misconception regarding the idea of shock value when dealing with big game.

I can't fault Mr. Camp too much however, as at the time this was an extremely popular theory and holds a considerable amount of sway even today. But I shan't bore the lot of you by ramming a sharpened stake through the heart of Shock Value, and simply say that the .600 Nitro Express is NOT a prime choice for dinosaur hunting.

My first choice would be the Marlin 1895 Guide Gun in 45-70 loaded with Garrett 420 grain Hammerhead rounds. These things are dynamite!
Although the Ghost Ring sights ought to work just fine, I'd prefer a fiber optic front sight and a much smaller rear aperture, just being what I prefer and what I'm used to. I've not fired a Guide Gun yet, but I've handled one and boy did I want it! The action was smooth, it snuggled up to my shoulder like a flirty date (Not that I'd know what that feels like) and pointed naturally.

Not sure how I feel about the .450 Marlin. It can safely be loaded to higher pressures and still push heavy 45 caliber pills, but it's hard for me to see a use for it with the 45-70 around and still slaying grizzlies and elephants. My opinion is divided on that one!

Ah, but who can forget the 50 Alaskan? That massive pull pusher is today capable of slaying anything that walks this earth and has the vote of anyone who has used it.
I can't help but mention some of my favorite developers, the gents of B&M Rifles and Cartridges. They aren't a company, but rather a few gentlemen using their expertise to make the best platforms and cartridges possible for taking down big game, and boy do they deliver! They actually have some of the only bolt actions that I salivate over, incorporating a great many features that are sadly remiss on so many guns today.
Take a look at some of these bad boys!

Also for those who might doubt the potency of the 50 Alaskan, here is an interesting story where Belt Mountain brass bullets were employed against an elephant. By the way, Belt Mountain bullets are way up there for monster penetration in big game. Those things are beasts!

I'm one of those nuts that doesn't fiddle around with controlled expansion hollow points. I like rolling with solids, particularly hard cast bullets or Belt Mountain Punch bullets. Maximum penetration please! If I'm going to be tracking down those ancient lizards, I want to be able to him the vitals from any angle I'm presented, and I want to do it fast.

Although not my first choice, a pump action twelve gauge with slugs wouldn't be too bad. I'm annoyed that ammunition manufacturers haven't made many decent deep penetrating slugs, although I would love to be proven wrong about that. If you know of any great penetrating twelve gauge slugs, please let me know!

Although I'm not a big fan of the AR-15 platform, would most certainly not turn my nose up to using it chambered in the .450 Bushmaster or the .50 Beowulf. Ten rounds of either of those would be pretty darned vicious in a carbine package and should be all the firepower anyone darned well needs!

But yeah, in the end I personally would stick with a Marlin Guide Gun in 45-70, as I could handle almost all jobs with just that. Love that setup!
Although I likely wouldn't have need for a sidearm, most lacking the power to do the job of killing large birdtilians and I probably couldn't take advantage of their power anyway, I would certainly feel safer packing a S&W Governor loaded with .45 Colts, preferably fat 300 grain flat nosed bullets. Those should be just dandy on smaller saurian out on a dinosaur shikar.

What I'd be hunting on shikar there would depend a lot on where and when I would go, although I personally would be less inclined to go after the huge theropods. I'm quite partial to the idea of going after some of the huge crocodiles that were prowling around at the time. A deinosuchus or sacrosuchus skull would look mighty intimidating above the fireplace, wouldn't you say?
Ahhh, the idea of visiting the ancient African continent holds a great deal of appeal to me! Along with the usual sauropods and such, that era held all sorts of fascinating crocodile species. A documentary came out not long ago about the staggering variety of crocodilians that once roamed there, filling all sorts of niches in the food chain. Fascinating stuff! Not to mention that Spinosaurus and Suchomimus were abroad there at the time.

If in the Jurassic I'd like to find an Allosaur, as those gents are underrated. Great balance of size, speed and ferocity by all accounts. After all, they've been nicknamed "the lion of the Jurassic." What trophy collection would be complete without at least one lion, eh?
But before the paleontologist nuts bark over how I only care about the hungry carnivores, there are a few herbivorous species I'd be interested in collecting. For some reason the Kentrosaurus really strikes my fancy. Something about the different shapes of the spines and plates along its back are appealing, and it would more than likely be able to outrun me in any case. I'm not exactly Harry Hot Heels.

So, what about you gents?
What would you use if you were to go on a prehistoric safari? What would you hunt? Where would you go? Please, share your thoughts!