Need some ideas for ways to sneakify your fictional world’s defenses?
Look no further than Switzerland:
From the io9 article: “To interrupt the utility of bridges, tunnels, highways, railroads, Switzerland has established three thousand points of demolition. That is the number officially printed. It has been suggested to me that to approximate a true figure a reader ought to multiply by two. Where a highway bridge crosses a railroad, a segment of the bridge is programmed to drop on the railroad. Primacord fuses are built into the bridge. Hidden artillery is in place on either side, set to prevent the enemy from clearing or repairing the damage.”
As the article rightly points out, why would Switzerland be okay with everyone knowing they have such mechanisms in place in case of foreign invasion (or a more trendy zombie apocalypse)?
Simple. If an invading force is told of even a fraction of the kind of defenses you have, especially such well-planned and craftily designed defenses, and they are told by you, it is safe for them to assume that 1) there is more waiting for them that you did not reveal, and 2) their ass is grass if they ever invade.
Now, take what Switzerland did and apply it to, say, a whole planet. What kinds of crafty shenanigans would you implement in your world to make sure you are utterly prepared to defend your population against hostile forces?
Would you weaponize your volcanoes? Build entire underground cities with networks of tunnels connecting them, including a safety mechanism to flood said tunnels in case of a breach? Would you disguise anti-aircraft missiles as trees (or hide them in trees, if your trees are big enough)? Perhaps you’d bury air force bases or flying drones underneath the sands of your desert, ready to fly at a moment’s notice. Perhaps you could harness the power of your oceans to use as a giant water gun/drill, or in the event of a no-win situation, have a plan in place to make the whole planet’s atmosphere boil or go toxic.
Tell me, how does your fictional planet/country/city/neighborhood/household defend itself?
Sorry about the break in posts. Now back to your regularly scheduled mayhem! Part 3 of 4 in the werewolf tropes post series. Also, long post is long.
Almost as common as the moon is the modern interpretation that, as a supernatural being able to change its form, a werewolf should be able to use that shape shifting to regenerate and heal its injuries. Not gonna lie, it’s a damn cool concept. I don’t want to see it go away for a while. There’s just so much possibility.
Unfortunately, very few people realize just how much possibility there is with regeneration. Not all of it is good. Lemme ‘splain. (Side note: I was talking about this with someone else and don’t remember who it was. Speak up if it was you!)
When werewolves change form there are a lot of muscles, bones, tendons, and possibly some different cell types that get moved around, broken down, and reformed into the appropriate structures. It’s done in a very short period of time. Most literature and media portray the transformation as happening in a matter of minutes (again, an exception would be Ginger Snaps). That is a huge energy expenditure. I imagine there is a lot of heat and friction. Where all that heat and friction goes no one has yet addressed, including myself. Might be fun to speculate later, though. I’ll save it for another post.
With the werewolf’s body reacting so quickly to a change, and with the assumed high metabolism that goes along with it, one might think the body would react strangely to other “natural” occurrences. What happens if a werewolf gets a virus? Or a bacterial infection? Do the body’s defenses go into hyper kill mode to destroy the invading sickness? (Not that it’s likely they’ll get infected in the first place, but anything is possible. Technically we’re talking about a creature that doesn’t even exist. Just run with me here for a minute.)
My thought is yes. Werewolf catches the flu and they’ll still have to fight it off… they’ll just fight it faster than others. Maybe there is a dangerous fever spike as the body cleans itself. The virus or bacteria won’t have much time to replicate, sure, but the werewolf’s system is still going to overreact. Or what if there is an overreaction to an allergy? A poor werewolf allergic to penicillin gets a small dose from the hospital and boom! The body goes crazy. Where a normal human might just get a rash or feel a little strange, the werewolf might die.
The big, bad wolf could die of a minor allergy or infection. How humiliating.
This kind of overreaction wouldn’t be common, of course. Then there wouldn’t be any werewolves. They’d all pull an alien trope and die of a common cold. But the potential is still there, and I’d love to see someone address it. I don’t get the chance in my current novel. Too much other fun stuff happening in the story. Maybe the sequel?
So… back to regular regeneration talk. What is generally acceptable? Cuts, bruises, and broken bones tend to mend well without issue. This is generally accepted by authors and readers as reality for werewolves. I’ve read a few books where the regeneration process was used against the werewolf, such as not setting a broken bone and letting it “heal” in a crippling form, or using fire to cauterize an open wound so that there will always be a scar or permanent dysfunction. Cruel authors are cruel.
Regrowing entire limbs is a little excessive, though. Laurell K. Hamilton even had one of her shifters regrow its whole head! (Okay, so it was an ancient shifter, but come on. Really? A whole head? That’s just cheating.)
So what do mine do? All the minor stuff is no sweat. Might make them tired, but yes, they’ll heal cuts and bruises no problem. Broken bones aren’t going to instantly heal. That might take a day or two depending on how severe the break is. Super serious life-threatening injuries? You better believe my werewolves are lying down somewhere in a coma until that heals. The last thing I want to see is a werewolf deus ex machina where the should-be-dead wolf rises up one more time to lay the smack down on their enemy. No. Just no. You’re injured, act like it!
Badass, yes. Invincible, no. There always has to be a vulnerability, a way to beat the monsters, or the average reader loses interest. It becomes unrealistic.
If you have any favorites or hate-its about werewolf tropes, please leave a comment.
The next post will probably be another poll, but part 4 of this post series is coming soon. Last up: The Pack, and all the silly that goes with it.
Welcome back, little minions! Tonight’s article continues from the master list. I did a write up about moon tropes and what I did with them. Now it’s time to explore the product of the moon’s power over werewolves: their wolf form. Sorry, no TLDR note. If you don’t want to read it now, just come back later. It will still be here! 🙂
This has been all over the place in literature and cinema. You name it, it’s been done. Hideous man-wolf that has a more humanoid body. Fugly man-wolf that looks mostly like a wolf with maybe some gorilla arms or hands or something. Impossibly large, full form wolf. Normal sized wolf with demon eyes. Some kind of creature that doesn’t look like either a wolf or a man, but it’s got some teeth and fur and by God it wants to kill something. Mostly human looking dudes with extra hair, a funny nose, and some fangs. There’s a werewolf form out there for everyone’s preferences.
No one can agree on personality, either. Is the werewolf sentient? Does it know it’s a human in a wolf’s body? Is it fully aware but unable to control its actions? Is it completely unaware and consumed by rage at everything around it? In the last 2-3 decades it’s been much more popular to have the werewolf be in control of its actions, though it annoys me some of the things people think are real wolf “instincts.” Real wolves do not kill everything they perceive as threats. They don’t hunger for the kill all the time. And they don’t mindlessly attack, either. Real wolves are patient planners, and they often avoid threats rather than confront them. That doesn’t make for good story fodder, though. Uncontrolled rage is making something of a comeback. On the one hand I think it’s great, because we’re bringing back the raw lack of control to the werewolf mythos. On the other hand, again, it’s not very wolflike. I guess to the wrters’ credit there are a lot of humans filled with rage, so perhaps the human rage is set free when the human body disappears. The human side is free to rage once set free of society’s constraints.
I wonder how much better a werewolf would behave it was allowed a few sessions with a psychiatrist? Just wondering.
Anyway. My wolves. We’ve got a bit of everything going on here. Just like with the moon-driven transformation timeframe, pack alphas have the most control here. They are able to control the degree of the change. Want to imitate Anubis? You got it. Head only. Want to become a full wolf? They can do that too. Pop some claws to smack that smug beta wolf? Yessiree. The rest of the pack is not so lucky. They can change on their own, but it’s a slow process and they are likely to get stuck at some point during transformation (in my world, this accounts for the source of all the half-man stories). Alphas assist with the change, making sure it goes faster and mistake free. Once the change starts it can only be stopped or reversed by an alpha. Older wolves shift faster and with less pain.
The female werewolves? I don’t want to get into too much detail here as it will spoil part of a major plot line, but let’s just say female werewolves can kick some serious booty. I gave those bitches some superpowers. Bitches love superpowers. ^_^
Again, if you have any favorites or hate-its about werewolf tropes, please leave a comment. Some of your feedback has already given me ideas for the sequel
Tomorrow’s post (or later today, for some of you): Regeneration… not your best feature.
The moon is to werewolves as blood is to a vampire. They simply can’t be separated. Sure, the moon might not hold as much sway in modern literature and cinema as it once did (seriously, what is this silliness with being able to transform at will?), but it is still central to the myth of the werewolf. Of course I had to keep the association for my novel.
With a few caveats.
I decided in my world that the werewolves would still be a slave to the moon, and I took it a step further. On the full moon the werewolves must transform. They have no choice, and the longer they postpone the more it becomes a danger… to them, and to everyone else in the immediate area. But they must also transform the day before and the day after the full moon. To me this only makes sense. On both of those days the moon is so close to full that it really shouldn’t make a difference. Its pull cannot be escaped. New wolves will have absolutely no control over it. Once they start there is a chance they can pause the transformation, but they can’t stop it or reverse it. Only the alphas have control over when or where, and even they must answer the moon’s call eventually, with the same risks as every other Joe Wolf. Sorry, my fuzzy little friends. No convenient escape as a wolf, or convenient pop-out-of-nowhere as a human.
Something I find a little strange is that almost no one in entertainment seems to address the time period leading up to the moon. I only remember one movie that addressed the entire month’s cycle (Ginger Snaps), and quite a few authors and directors will hint at things like increased smell or ravenous appetite, but that’s about it, and that sort of focus is only on new wolves. Apparently the hipster werewolves got over that silliness before it was cool. Seriously though, what happens to the rest of the body before that magical three day period of shiny moon-ness? Werewolves aren’t all smell and appetite. Does their human form suffer any changes, or is everything perfectly normal right up until that moon moment? Doo dee doo dee doo… oh snap I’m a werewolf! Most stories will tell you the person lives a normal life until they suddenly transform on the full moon. The explanation? It’s magical.
I think this is bullshit. And lazy.
Let’s pretend, for a moment, that werewolves are real, and that they really can completely rearrange and reform their bodily structure to go from man to wolf. Wouldn’t the body prepare for that? Wouldn’t it know the change was coming and prep itself for an intense three days of omg-what-just-happened? Of course it would. The body would go into super calorie hoarding mode. Metabolism would shoot through the roof. The poor human-form werewolf would want to eat everything in sight (and again, to be fair, this is commonly addressed with new wolves). Their hormones would also be all over the place. Cranky wouldn’t even begin to describe it. Maybe their body even begins a few preparatory changes, such as increased body hair or harder nails as much as a week in advance. Maybe their eyes pop early and become light reflective. It’s about energy conservation, right? Wouldn’t the body seek to minimize energy loss on those three days of WTFery? It could do that by addressing minor changes ahead of time and leaving the big stuff for that traumatic shape shift.
All this because that silly moon decided it would orbit earth and become a little brighter once every 28 days or so. The thing has the power to rise and sink oceans. Who’s to say what it could do to a werewolf’s body when combined with the reflected light of the sun (a magical catalyst)? The moon is still there the other 27 days of the month. It has time to influence more things than just the one big transformation party.
Sadly, pulling something “new” and “unexpected” seems to be a cliche these days. Everyone expects the changes. It’s almost refreshing to see things done old school, such as a defined lack of control and adherence to the moon’s schedule. Modern society likes to be in control. Werewolves are about a complete lack of it. That aspect of the werewolf needs to be re-emphasized.
Again, if you have any favorites or hate-its about werewolf tropes, please leave a comment. Some of your feedback has already given me ideas for the sequel 😉
Tomorrow’s post (or later today, for some of you): Wolf form, and all the nasty that goes with it
In which I let you know all my secrets. The ones having to do with werewolves, anyway.
So that this doesn’t become one massive wall of text, I’ll break it up into a few posts. There will be one post for each topic:
- The Moon
- Wolf Form
- The Pack
The post about the pack may or may not get a little lengthy… it’s hard to contain the intricacies of werewolf pack dynamics, function, and politics within one post, but I’ll certainly try.
What I want to know from you all is this: what are your favorite werewolf tropes? Which ones do you want to see disappear forever from movies and novels? Are there any you think hold promise, but haven’t lived up to your expectations?
Trope: a common or overused theme or device. Cliché.