When I Wrote It

by wjw on February 21, 2019

Some days I’m glancing at my Amazon sales numbers and can’t avoid reading the reviews.

There was one review of This Is Not a Game and the whole Dagmar series that said they were excellent books, but warned the reader that they weren’t in any way science fiction.

To which I can only respond: They were science fiction when I wrote them, baby!

Minx February 21, 2019 at 8:16 pm

I dunno, I remember there were miniature gas-powered generators for mobile phones in the first book. The drone used to resupply Dagmar appeared a bit too advanced what private military companies could field at the time, too. They overlooked all that.

DensityDuck February 26, 2019 at 9:13 am

Everything is faster now; it only takes a couple of years for the bleeding-edge SF to seem quaint, instead of twenty or thirty for the rest of the industry to catch up. (Although we’re still not quite at David Drake’s level yet.)

Etaoin Shrdlu March 9, 2019 at 11:25 pm

@Minx this was what hobbyists could do in 2003:


Keep in mind that the size of the aircraft, especially fuel capacity, was strictly limited by FAI rules, and since they were trying for an FAI record, they had to abide by those rules. By 2009, the only iffy part of TINAG was the ability to transition from forward flight to hover and back — it was certainly doable by then, just not efficiently (buncha extra motors hence weight penalty, or else some really weird thrust diverters and hence weight penalty), and so depending on where the drone was launched from it may or may not have been possible due to distance. A tailsitter would have solved that, but that’s not what WJW described, soooooo. . . . 😀

@DensityDuck reading Drake’s stuff always makes me cringe. I’m not sure which is worse, his detailed technical nonsense or STTNG’s “word salad” technobabble.

wjw March 10, 2019 at 12:37 am

The drone I described wouldn’t have needed extra engines, because the thruster arrays would pivot in various ways to produce hover.

It was an interesting technology that was in development at the time, with the arrays composed of small, cheap plastic fans, but I haven’t heard from it since.

Etaoin Shrdlu March 10, 2019 at 8:19 pm

There have been a few using electrics. Here’s one example:


The problem is, chemically fueled engines don’t have the instantaneous fine level of control, while electrics don’t have the fuel density — batteries never will (absent sci-fi). So you end up either needing both systems (weight penalty, plus lots of crap hanging all over therefore drag, hence lower range) or have to do some funky things with control systems like transitioning between horizontal flight and vertical hover (doable, but nontrivial, especially if you’re rotating the entire engine(s) — fragile, weight penalty for the hardware).

I’ve seen one with an array of EDFs on a sort of canard (and perhaps a second array on a rear wing, pretty sure it did but I don’t recall for certain) that rotate between vertical and horizontal (ergo, transition) that might sort of be similar, but again, low range because batteries. My own preferred solution is the tailsitter, but the transition is (*cough*) complicated.

All in all, I’d much rather be Spencer:


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