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Monthly Archives: October 2009

Cunard Liner Posted Missing!

From The Times June 12th, 1885

The Cunard Line has officially posted its Venus bound vessel Etheria as lost after her new drive system caused a massive explosion while leaving Earth orbit. The disastrous failure of the Nikola Tesla designed motors occurred within an instant of their activation and was witnessed by thousands in orbit and on Earth. Rescue vessels reached Etheria’s last known position within hours but so great was the destruction that little wreckage and no survivors have yet been found. It is believed that the entire vessel and all 4,212 souls aboard have been reduced entirely to vapour by the terrible detonation of the Tesla drive.

The first news of the accident received in London was contained in a Router message from announcing that the following telegram had been received from Singapore: The Singapore Highport Station reports in a heliograph communication that the liner Etheria has been destroyed in a violent explosion as she engaged her main interplanetary drive. The blast was extremely bright and has caused flash blindness in numerous station personnel but there have been no reports of damage to the station itself. Powerful telescope observation of the area of her last observed position has revealed no debris or lifeboats.

Within hours two vessels made the last known location of Etheria and have confirmed the worst fears. There are no survivors. What little wreckage that has been found may have been refuse jettisoned by Etheria prior to activation of her Tesla Drives.

LARGEST VESSEL IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM. The Etheria was launched from the yard of Messrs. Harland and Wolff on Ascension Highport on May 31 last year; this vessel has a length of 1882 ft. and a beam of 292ft. If stood on end it would have been more than five times as high as St. Paul’s Cathedral. In regard to gross tonnage, the Etheria, boasts 46,382 tons, Her displacement tonnage, that is, her weight if she could be taken up and placed on a weighing machine, is another figure, which is probably in the neighbourhood of 60,000 tons, and it is this figure, together with the enourmous capacity of her engines, that must be thought of in any attempt to realize the force of the detonation. The blow to which she was subjected must have been enormous.

These engines appear to have been the cause of the massive explosion that totally destroyed Etheria. The Cunard Line had hoped to produce a marked improvement in the speed of interplanetary travel by replacing the Ewing-Stewart Drive with an entirely different type of propulsion, designed by a Croatian American inventor named Nikola Tesla. Mr. Tesla was on the vessel and was killed when his drives malfunctioned. It appears that the vast majority of his plans and notes were also aboard. This and the secrecy attendant to the new engines will make reconstruction of the events that lead to this tragedy nearly impossible.

The Cunard Line have received the following telegram from the Queen: Osborne House, Isle of Wight, 6.30 p.m. The Managing Director Cunard Line Company, Liverpool. We are horrified at the appalling disaster, which has happened to the Etheria, and at the terrible loss of life. We deeply sympathize with the bereaved relatives and feel for them in their great sorrow with all our hearts.

The following reply was dispatched: Her Majesty the Queen, Osborne House, Isle of Wight. We are deeply grateful to your Majesty for the gracious message of sympathy. This calamity is indeed overwhelming in its magnitude and in the sorrow it must bring to so many hearts. We are taking the necessary steps to ensure the knowledge of your Majesty’s sympathy shall reach all for whom it is intended. John Burns, David Jardine And Company.

The Prince of Wales telegraphed as follows: – Osborne House June 15th. To the Managing Directors, Cunard Line, Liverpool. It is with feelings of the deepest sorrow that I hear of the terrible disaster to the Etheria and of the awful loss of life. My heart is full of grief and sympathy for the bereaved families of those who have perished. To this message the following reply was sent: Your Majesty’s gracious message of sympathy is deeply appreciated by us, and will be cherished by all who have suffered bereavement by the sad loss of the Titanic. John Burns and David Jardine, managers Cunard Line.

MESSAGES TO THE COMPALNY. GERMAN EMPEROR’S SYMPATHY. The managers of Cunard have received innumerable messages of sympathy from all parts. In most cases these have been fully acknowledged, but it has proved practically impossible to do so in every instance, and the managers of Cunard desire to express their appreciation of the many kind messages that have reached them. Among those who have communicated their sympathy are the German Emperor, Prince Henry of Prussia, the President of the Board of Trade, the Postmaster-General, and Lord Derby.

CONGRESS RESOLUTION. WASHINGTON, July 17th. The House of Representatives to day unanimously passed a resolution extending its sympathy to the relatives of those who met their death in the Etheria disaster.

The disaster that has overtaken the Etheria is a forcible reminder of the existence of natural forces which from time to time upset all our calculations and baffle all our precautions. The Etheria has been peculiarly unfortunate in suffering an event of exceptional severity upon her maiden voyage. Details are as yet very meager and very contradictory, but there is too much reason to fear, from the later messages, that the ship has exploded, not without serious loss of life. Everything had been done to make the huge vessel indestructible, and her owners believed her to be so. It may perhaps be doubtful whether any precautions could ensure that a ship shall be indestructible by such a terrific shock as that caused by the disintegration of her own extremely powerful engines.

It is all the more striking because it has occurred upon one of the best-known and most frequented regions of space, the most traveled highway of the solar system, and because the ship is the latest and most elaborate triumph of engineering science. It is probably well for their peace of mind that few travelers across the void realize the extent to which disasters are a constant preoccupation and anxiety to the commanders of great ships. There arc probably few who could not tell of hairbreadth escapes all unknown to the passengers under their care.

We owe it to patient research in a delicate and difficult branch of science that the Etheria’s loss was observed by so many stations both in orbit and on the surface of the Earth. These stations were able with wonderful promptitude to make known her distress and to summon assistance. But for telescopy and heliography the disaster might have assumed proportions which at present we cannot measure; and we should have known nothing of its occurrence for an indefinite period. Many a well-found ship has in fact disappeared in the high dark without leaving a sign to indicate her fate. Thanks to the multiplicity of powerful apparatus, it is now hardly possible for any vessel to be lost on any frequented route without being able to communicate information and to summon help. The advantages conferred by this abridgment of space are enormous. No vessel need be alone, none need vanish without a sign from human ken, and in none but crushing and instant disasters need any despair of help. This is surely one of the greatest of the many boons conferred upon humanity by patient, persistent, and often very discouraging inquiry into natural laws, carried on, at all events in its initial stages, by students animated only by love of knowledge. But few besides experts have the faintest conception of the difficulties to be overcome, or of the mental and moral equipment needed to overcome them, when the hints were few and obscure, when every instrument had to be called out of the void, and when hope of gain, if considered at all, was infinitely remote. It is hard to wring these secrets from Nature’s close reserve, and when man has done his best ho is reminded from time to time how much remains beyond his knowledge and his control.

Nothing, in fact, should be overlooked that offers any prospect of helping to avert those dangers of Interplanetary travel, which are so forcibly brought home to us by the catastrophe that has overtaken the splendidly built and equipped Etheria.

East Riding Miniatures

East Riding Miniatures does a range of extremely useful figures for 15mm. These include a variety of nice livestock useful for many periods as well as some well cast weapon fittings such as a 9 pdr QF gun and a Maxim machine gun, both on shielded pedestal mounts.

I ordered a fairly large number of farm animals and more than enough hounds for a large 15mm Fox Hunt. The sheep, cows, and pigs all look great and will provide the Hive with food for many new hivemembers! I also bought a number of frogmen warriors. I had been looking for amphibian tribesmen for the oceans of Venus. I’m still not certain if I want to go the frog route. Should I decide on frogs for Venus these will form the core of that army.

The castings are uniformly nice and scale well. They fill some gaps and are reasonably priced. Tony of ERM was extremely helpful. When the order was mysteriously delayed in transit he was in constant contact via email and provided excellent customer support. I look forward to filling out the herds and flocks of Cornwall, so that my alien invaders have something to eat!

Splintered Light Miniatures

I ordered from Splintered Light Miniatures I think Sunday Night. The figures arrived TODAY. I only made a small order, just to see what their products are like. I had asked around the web and was uniformly told that their service is great and their miniatures matched that.

I was truly happy with both service and substance!

I only ordered five packs: Armed and unarmed starship crews, Terror Birds, Komodo Dragons and Lizardman Cavalry. All are excellent. The Terror Birds come in two poses and are well detailed. The lizardmen look fearsome riding bipedal dinosaurs. For spaceship crews the influence of Firefly seems to have landed with Splintered Light as it has so many other places. This isn’t a bad thing and the SLM sculpture has done very well indeed. I also really liked the Komodo Dragons. Now if they would just make Dr Quest and Race Bannon in 15mm I could game out one of my most favorite Hanna Barbarra cartoon adventures!

Actually I really hope that more prehistoric animals get added to the line (If a Megatherium showed up that I could use as a cavalry mount I would immediately order about 50 of them!)

Great work from a company that provides amazing service, great figures and reasonable pricing.

Keep it up!

Terry Sofian


The VSF contest has gone better than I expected. There are currently six contestants. With a few hours left perhaps one or two more will arrive. To view the entries you must sign onto the Yahoo group at http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/Hivequeen/. This should keep bounders, blighters, spammers and other ruffians at bay!


The value of a good gaming group

I wrote this a few years ago after a particularly . . . interesting weekend. My firends from the group still meet, although not as often as we once did.

The Value of a Good Gaming Group

One thing that most of us in this hobby have had to deal with is the prejudiced opinion of outsiders that Gamers are reality challenged geeks that cannot function in the real world and that Gaming itself has no practical value. The relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina give a tremendous example of how these statements are false.

My region has a facility designed to coordinate communications between the Incident Command System and health care providers such as hospitals, nursing homes, health departments and clinics. The facility is not routinely staffed but counts on a duty roster of volunteers from a variety of other organizations to make it operational. When I took the management position there in July of this year one of my biggest worries was how to staff the facility if those volunteers, all of whom have emergency management responsibilities at their full time jobs, are tasked elsewhere.

This was exactly the situation I found myself in on Saturday when the call came to activate the center on Sunday Sept 4th. To complicate matters it was also a holiday weekend and many other people were out of town.

Lacking any other resource I called upon my friends, men and women that make up a long standing gaming group. As with many gaming groups the people involved are a diverse lot, with educations ranging from high school to advanced degrees. None of them work in emergency response or have any background in professional emergency preparedness. Several are software engineers, another works for a publishing company, and my wife is a corporate travel agent. All of them came down and hit the ground running that Sunday morning.

Before I could even think of things, such as spreadsheets and databases, they began to appear on the center’s computer system. Within hours we had established a huge spreadsheet of medical professionals willing to staff our regional reception center. Transportation companies had been contacted for the use of vans, busses and even cabs to move evacuees to appropriate medical clinics or temporary housing. Messages flashed out over HEAR radio and the web bases EMSystem to hospitals in ten counties in two States. Hundreds of phone calls were facilitated. Resources were located and methods to ensure they got where they were needed were found.In the critical first hours only two other professionals and myself, were available to work in the center. If we had been without my gaming friends’ assistance I doubt the center would have reacted as quickly. Not a single phone call was dropped. No data was lost and no request for information or assistance went unanswered. All through Sunday and Monday these in people stood in and made the center fully operational for an extended period for the very first time. Incoming information was collected and rapidly evolving information streams were directed to a variety of facilities.

By stand down on Monday evening we had written and road validated directions to the reception center, built spreadsheets for transportation, durable medical equipment (such as wheel chairs and walkers) and other resources and the medical workers list had grown to several hundred persons. Over the rest of this week staffing has been done by a talented group of other people as well, since all my gaming friends are gainfully employed and cannot leave their day jobs for extended periods. Some have been able to come in for a morning or an afternoon shift. One came in and did sterling work setting up two new fax machines and other electronic equipment, a job he did with polished efficiency.

“Well begun, half done” is an old saying, but no less true for its age. The communications center was truly well begun and that laid a foundation for future success. We never got behind the events. Our decision loop was always positive, We could even look ahead and begin long range planning. If these concepts seem familiar to many it is because they are often used in gaming, and in all honesty many of the skills we used those first two days were ones learned in years of simulations and role playing. We acted as a team because for years we had role played as one. We knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses and were able to seamlessly establish tasking to make best use of them. I’ve been in emergency response and planning for over fifteen years and worked in many Tactical Operation Centers, Incident Command Posts and Emergency Operations Centers. I would be hard pressed to find one that was as free of friction as ours was. Was this entirely due to our being gamers? Certainly it wasn’t. I have absolutely no doubt that being gamers gave them the skills to do the jobs we were tasked with and made us a team that got the job done.

Hundreds of people will benefit from the work my gaming group did and they will never know it was a bunch of “gaming geeks” that made it happen


I spent the weekend at Archon in Collinsville, Illinois. This is the St Louis regional SF con. We had over 1900 in attendance. Tom Kidd was the artist guest of honor and he does some absolutely stunning artwork. In terms of Alternative History he does covers for most of the 143X series of novels in which Eric Flint has sent part of West Virginia back to the 30 years war. he also did the very steampunk-like cover for Fitzpatric’s War. He has a blog with many excellent links here http://kiddography.blogspot.com/.

Since I am staff for the convention I didn’t get to do any gaming myself but it seemed like a good time was being had there. I did notice a huge upswing in Steampunk costumes.