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TV Tropes Monday: Repressive but Efficient



Tweet of the Day: When It’s Persona. When It’s Political 

How do you make oppressive governments attractive to the people other than by the use of terror by the powers that be?  You show them that their government is Repressive but Efficient. The streets are clean, the children well behaved, the trains arrive on time and your nation’s enemies cower before you. I mean it makes sense once you get rid of all the messiness of elections, the corruption of party politics and the loopholes in the legal system that what is left has to be the very model of efficiency.


WARNING: Rhetorical questions are rhetorical.

There are four reasons for this:

  1. If all you have is a hammer…Repressive regimes offer simplistic answers to difficult problems. Having a problem with violent crime or poverty? Scapegoat an entire ethnic, racial or religious group for your troubles. Mind you the process of suppressing, incarcerating, deporting or waging war on said group(s) or nation(s) is going to be expensive and often tends to backfire, but hey they are not hating on the Generalissimo. Which brings me to….
  2. The amount of resources dedicated to maintaining the regime tends to eclipse that allotted to other areas such as transportation or education. And even then, don’t expect the police, the army or in some cases the military police to be all that efficient. Fighting an insurgency (often prompted by the brutal oppression of a minority or subculture) is not the same thing as facing a professional army pressing on your borders. Nor can you equip or train ever larger forces to the best of your ability. The best rifle in the market may cost $100,000 per unit but when you have to equip over a million men, well, the $1,000 dollar version will have to do.  Not to mention the propaganda machine to complement the rifles never comes cheap.
  3. Over-centralization is another reasons for inefficiency. A political leadership already known for its concentration of power will invariably create a bureaucracy that puts an emphasis on loyalty to the state rather than efficient service to the masses.
  4. And finally, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Even the lowliest police officer or bureaucrat will get drunk on power pretty quickly. And that is a sure fire way to piss away resources (and people).

Yet people (including many authors) tend to confuse short gap measures during times of emergency with long term solutions to complex problems. That is why this trope survives to this day in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.


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TV Tropes Monday: Never Trust A Trailer



Tweet of the Day: Fantasy as Protest 

Trailers are meant to hook you in, but often they little or no correlation to the product sold because:

  1. The product is crap and if they show you that you won’t buy or watch
  2. The producers don’t want to spoil major plot points
  3. The trailer is made by another company that neither knows nor understand the product

Ergo it is a good idea to Never Trust a Trailer. The fact of the matter is that trailer maker walk a fine line between teasing a production and spoiling it. Show too little and  nobody has a clue of what it is your selling them. Show too much and they feel like they already experience the thing. Even the editing is a factor. The pace, the music and the order in which scenes are shown can radically change the way people think of the product. It can lead people to believe that a psychological thriller is a fast action summer blockbuster or a horror movie is really a fluffy children’s flick.

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Mass Effect/AEC: Chapter 7 (c.3)- Speakeasy



Tweet of the Day: How many people needed for a space colony?

Bailey & Willingham Metal Works,  3rd Factory District, Capitol City of Progress, Libertas, Sphinx System, Argos Rho Cluster, Attican Traverse September 6, 2197

Our footsteps echoed through the abandoned factories. The moonlight from Libertas five small moons filtered through the broken glass panes above us. Broken robot arms lay dormant on both sides of  the empty production line. The industrial decay clashed with Miranda’s blue sequin dress and my silver trimmed black tux. But something was amiss.

“Not a single speck of dust,” I said.

“I noticed. They probably employ maintenance drones to keep it that way,” Miranda said.

I nodded, “Talking of which.”

A blue spherical drone flew in our direction. It spoke after it scanned us, “Mrs. Lawson, Mr. Thompson-Ramos, please come this way.”

We followed the drone to a cargo elevator at the back of the factory. The elevator took us down several levels underneath the factory floor. As the doors opened a mixture of dance music and clatter of dozens of Quasar machines washed over us. Scantly clad waiters and waitresses walked pass with trays full of drinks. Above us dancers performed in floating platforms made of clear glass. Every single sinful activity the local government regulated or outlawed was on display.

A  human hostess approached us, “Mrs. Lawson, Mr. Thompson-Ramos, Ms. Nyte is waiting for you in the Velvet Lounge. Come right this way.” She led us past rows of Quasar machines, a security door flanked by batarian bouncers and into a small room painted in deep purple. A few scented candles, one per table, lit the interior. The thick walls thrummed with the music from outside. A woman dressed in a black rhinestone studded dress stood up to greet us.

“Mrs. Lawson, Commander Thompson-Ramos, it is a pleasure to finally meet you,” she said with an outstretched hand.

Miranda shook her hand, “Nyte?”

“Anonymity has its benefits, Miranda. Most of the people I knew from the old days, well, they are no longer with us, but…I’m working for a for a beeter cause these days,” Nyte said.

“I take it you two know each other?” I asked.

Miranda winced, “Yes she was one of my assets when I worked for Cerberus.” I put my hand over hers and smiled. “So, what are you doing here, Nyte?”

“Doing what needs to be done Miranda and that is why I needed to talk to the Spectre,” she said.

“I’m listening.”

Nye slid a datapad across the table, “We are well aware of your mission here, but there are a few things you should know before you attempt to retrieve your target, commander.” It showed a picture of Alana Petrova surrounded by a squad of body guards. “To get to her you’re going to need help. Our help.”

“And why should I work with you?” I asked.

“Do you know what the Lord Magistrate does with his political enemies?” she asked.

“Execute them?”

“If only. He declares them heretics, and under current Libertian law, heretics are outlaws, with none of the protections or rights guaranteed by  the Systems Alliance or the Citadel Council. And when that happens you stop being a person and become a thing. A thing to be used or sold as your owners see fit.”

My disgust dripped from every syllable, “Slavery.”

“Dissidents are sold to off-world slavers. A neat way to dispose of them with the added benefit that all profits going to the Lord Magistrates coffers,” Nyte said.

A not so little detail the ambassador forgot to include in the mission brief. Which meant either the Alliance didn’t know, or worse, it didn’t care. It also showed that Nyte had done her homework. I’ve worked with batarian abolitionist before….

I glanced back at the entrance, “You’re a Chainbreaker.” And the Chainbrakers were number eight in the Citadel list of top ten terrorist organizations.

Miranda chimed in, “I trust her, commander. And besides, Spectres do what they must to get the job done.”

A wry smile appeared on Nyte’s deep red lips, “Like working with human supremacist groups to stop attacks on human colonies or cooperate with well known crime lords to enlist mercenary gangs to fight a galactic war.”


“My mission has nothing to do with you or any other illegal activities on this world,” I said in a deadpan tone.

“True but,” she raised a finger” any attempt to extract Miss Petrova will harm our operations here. I want to avoid that, at all costs. If that means working with a Spectre, then so be it,” Nyte said with her eyes locked on me.

She knew how to push my buttons. I looked down at the datapad, “Can I keep this?”

“Of course,” Nyte said.

“Nyte, if you don’t mind, the commander and I would like to take our explore this wonderful club of yours,” Miranda said.

“Of course, you are my guests. The datapad has one time only comm number on it if you decide to cooperate with us. And no, you are under no obligation to work with us. If you decide to continue without our assistance we will not interfere. Things are complicated enough without having a Spectre as an enemy,” she said as we got up.

Outside we sat at one of the bars and ordered drinks. The datapad had little information except the photo and Petrova’s bio. But there was something about that image that looked familiar. I pulled the mission brief on my omni-tool, then sent a copy of it and data on the pad to Miranda.

“This is the same picture,” she said.

“One zoomed in on Petrova face, the other zoomed back to show her entourage. Look at the time stamp on the Alliance file,” I said.

“Zero eight, twenty-third, twenty-one seventy,” she said.

I took a long pull from my Mentirita, “Exactly. Which means our friends here leaked that information to the Alliance.”

“Could be,” she said.

“Do you trust her?”

Her blues sparkled, “She help me find Oriana. I owe her.”

“Well then, this mission just got a lot more interesting.”


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TV Tropes Monday: Call Back



Tweet of the Day: The Four Types of Character Flaws 


One of the many problems of a longrunner is that keeping everything in continuity can become a bit of a hassle. Enter the Call Back, one of many ways a writer can acknowledge past events in-universe. But this is more than just a simple mention, the Call Back uses a past element in the current storyline, thus keeping it relevant to the ongoing story. In fact, one of my pet peeves against longrunners is the failure to use this trope effectively.

What happens on your popular sci-fi show when the teleporter malfunctions again (why don’t they find a safer alternative is beyond me, but hey, drama)? Often they come up with a convoluted, techno-babble filled method to fix it, ignoring every other time they had a similar problem. A call back to an earlier episode when they had a problem with the same technology might help them fix this in a simpler way or even avoid the problem all together. Doing this robs the narrative of weight because it lacks a sense of history. Things happen and then are quickly (and conveniently) forgotten.

So next time you are in a bind, oh gentle writer, remember to do a little Call Back to your past writing.


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TV Tropes Monday: Easy Logistics



Tweet of the Day: SF Obscure: Galactica 1980


An Army walks on its stomach.

Napoleon Bonaparte

But people carrying jerry cans, fueling tanks, handing out ammunition, driving trucks or loading ships is not very sexy. Better to get on with the action, hence you go an deploy the trope of Easy Logistics. That is, ignore all that boring, messy stuff and get right to the action or hand wave it away and leave it as part of the background for someone else to deal with.  But as Napoleon  noted and army walks on their stomach, or it used to. Today it runs on jet fuel, spare parts, ammunition for dozens if not hundreds of different weapons platforms (from soldiers all the way to heavy bombers), and of course food/water. Which means that a good way to heighten the tension is to avert this trope and dig into the consequence of inadequate supplies. After all even the most powerful tank is useless without fuel or ammunition. A million men underarms are a waste if you can’t get them to and from the battlefield.

So as tempting as as this trope might be, oh gentle writer, should consider giving it a pass.

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TV Tropes: Predatory Business




Tweet of the Day: Writers of the Future Recap, Part 1: The Story


Need a Big Bad ™ in a story set in a small town? One that incorporates all the evils of the modern world? Bring out the Predatory Business! A soulless corporate entity that cares nothing about tradition, human interactions or community is the best villain to have in such setup. Throw in either a well meaning city-slicker who has to learn a lot about love, the value of human life and you’re good to go. Or maybe the representative of said business is a smarmy, cowardly former member of the community. Who better to help the masses betray their way of life than someone who was born to such life. If he is a local big shot, like a politician or business man, even better (or worse).

Of course, this also creates some visceral emotions. We all love cheap prices, but nothing of real value is cheap. So, do your characters want to buy soda by the lot or do they want that cool lemonade the kids make every summer? That is for you, o gentle writer to decide.

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Space for Rent: The Privileged Mocking of “Safe Spaces”


I find it painfully hilarious, as in I don’t want to laugh at due to seriousness of the subject, that those that decry “safe spaces” are the very people that don’t need them, or at least believe they don’t crave them. But are not our homes, schools, and job places supposed to be “safe spaces” of one kind of another? Have you ever heard of black student unions, gay bars, and other places where the marginalized gather away from the constant barrage of insults, slurs and outright physical abuse?

It is so easy to mock safe places when you always feel safe in your person, in your words, in your attitude. When you can afford a front lawn a mile long and five mile wide to keep the paparazzi at bay, travel in private jets and dine at the most exclusive locations around the world without catching a whiff of the those who work tirelessly to make sure there is nary a blemish on the landscape.  That you can walk the streets with a rifle strapped to your back or a pistol on your hip because that makes you feel safe. Or how you ensconce yourself in a media bubble that reinforces your world view while excluding any and all ideas that might contradict it let alone any facts that may pop said bubble.

Because it all boils down to one thing: power. And safe places (no quotes necessary here) either rob the privilege of their power or force them to share that power.  That is the real issue here. So before you chuckle at “safe spaces” from the comfort of your living room, well, look around, Bob, who sets the rules in your house, in your “safe place”?



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