Well, this just goes to show… er, something. Probably that writers can be nasty, nasty people.
Heh heh heh.
Aha… I guessed right! Will shut up now.
Whaddawe supposed to use, man, harsh language? Against those curlicues? And that kerning?
Game over, man, game over!
Good! The first step of communication has been taken!
I’m suspecting that these people are somehow related to the crew of the Hiawatha… I guess I will find out soon enough.
I like the script, too… writing longhand must take forever in their language!
Well, I suppose when you rely more on your sophisticated and recently-demonstrated-to-be-dodgy sensor equipment than on your good old Mk. 1 Mod. 0 Eyeballs and Eardrums, this is what happens.
I’m noticing that the firearms are a revolver and a semi-auto pistol, both “old school” for the story. Also, I’m kinda thinking tha they aren’t just walking up.
The font is based loosely on a Maori script I found, which, as I understand it, is a modern invention and meant to look decorative, rather than for everyday writing. We also saw it being spoken on this page, but the size was too small to look pretty.
On the subject of weapons… I was thinking about what futuristic weapons might look like when I was drawing this page. Not the “BFG” types that are popular because they are (so I am told) fun to design, nor a tiny thing that a spy conceals, but a basic handheld energy weapon. Now, I imagine it will come as no surprise to you all that I have never in my life fired or even held any sort of firearm. I only know rudimentary facts about them. But my question is, what would the design requirements of such a futuristic weapon be? I suspect many of you readers might have some insights into this that I do not. Modern pistols, for example, have the extended barrel in order to keep the bullet firing straight, something that a Star Trekkish energy weapon wouldn’t have to worry about. But how much of a pistol’s design is a product of mechanics and how much is ergonomics? I’ve often wondered if the STNG phasers would be awkward to aim, for example. What do you think? If you didn’t have ballistics to worry about, what would an ideal weapon shape be? Is there an ideal weight or size? Is me posing a question like this just too ironic, in light of recent debates here?
I believe it says: “FREEZE! FUNNY HAT POLICE!”
@Tara: I’d say that despite improvements in weapons technology in the last 25 years, the emphasis has been on ergonomics, portability and recently low maintenance. Assault rifles for example have remained at a certain minimum size for practical purposes and I doubt this would change in the next 25 years.
Love the progression of the panels on this page.
I also have no problem with weapons looking like that. (though the perspective on the left-side one looks a bit wonky? Might just be me.)
Tara – As far as pistols go, these are things you should consider:
1. It must fit comfortably and naturally in the hand and have its controls easily reachable, preferably with the same hand that is holding it.
2. Regardless of what it is shooting, if it uses ‘iron sights’ its inherent accuracy will be limited by the ‘sight radius’ – the distance between the front and rear sights. Longer is better. Longer barrels give small increases to velocity in firearms, but the real advantage to a 6″ barrel over a 4″ barrel is the longer sight radius. The increase in muzzle energy isn’t that important. Despite gun magazine hype, in the end, shot placement is more important than caliber or bullet velocity.
3. A pistol must also be comfortable to carry. Hand cannons like the Desert Eagle look good on the movie screen and are fun to shoot, but I’d hate to carry one all the time as a personal defense weapon. When your weapon is cumbersome and uncomfortable, you start looking for reasons to leave it at home.
4. Unless you are an assassin that likes to get in close, a pistol is a defensive weapon. It’s what you use to fight with until you can get to a working and/or loaded rifle or shotgun. All cops carry pistols, but when the shit hits the fan, they go to the shotgun or carbine in the cruiser if at all possible.
Then there are specific concerns about energy weapons:
If it’s a laser talking about, then one of the principal concerns will be the diameter of the focusing mirror. In simple terms, bigger mirror = longer effective range and more power you can put into the beam without melting the optics. You won’t necessarily need a long ‘barrel’ but it will be at least as big around as the size of your mirror. Say, 40mm or so as a reasonable size for something in the visible light wavelengths. Shorter wavelengths can use smaller mirrors for the same effective range, but there are limitations. As a rough speculation, I’d say you probably wouldn’t be able to go much past the near-UV wavelengths, nor would you want to, as the air itself will start attenuating the beam.
What this means aesthetically is that you’ll likely have laser pistols that look more like old style Super 8 and Beta camcorders or hair dryers in order to accommodate the optics, though there is no reason why you couldn’t have a compact ‘holdout’ style laser with a very short range that is as concealable as any modern spy’s slug thrower.
On that note, I’d say that lasers are probably a waste of time as reliable personal weapons on a planet for anything other than fighting indoors. If it’s raining, or it’s dusty, or it’s really humid, or there is a lot of smoke, a laser is not going to be good for much except at very close range. There is also the idea of how you keep your optics clean under less than ideal conditions and how fragile any laser might be. You can drop a rifle, and unless it’s an older SA-80, it will probably be fine. Dropping something with delicate adaptive optics? I dunno, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it, which is what any warrior is doing when he takes up a weapon and goes onto the battlefield.
Particle beam weapons will likely be too big to carry as pistols, and even rifles might be questionable. They are after all hand-held cyclotrons. The other scary thing about a particle beam is that they are as deadly with radiation as with thermal and kinetic effects from the beam. Any solid object the beam strikes will cause Bremstrahlung radiation to scatter out from the point of impact. A beam powerful enough to cause injury will be powerful enough to give a potentially lethal dose to anyone near by. This means you could kill someone who was hiding behind a concrete wall or the hull of a tank just by zapping their cover and dosing them with secondary gamma rays. This cuts both ways, however. The operator of the particle beam is himself vulnerable to Bremstrahlung radiation simply from scatter off the atmosphere, and God help him if he has to shoot at something close by. He’ll give himself a slow miserable death from radiation poisoning even as he blows the other guy to steamy chunky salsa. To answer any follow-up questions on this point: no, barring magical force fields, you cannot wear enough lead to protect yourself from gamma rays. There is no such thing as a ‘radiation suit.’
Plasma weapons, in spite of their ubiquity in sci-fi, will probably be more useless than lasers. Essentially, unless you can find a way to confine the plasma at a distance from the weapon, they’ll be really really hot flamethrowers, and you’ll probably want to be wearing some SPF 1000 sunblock and a good pair of Oakleys when you shoot it. Think arc-welders turned up to 11.
couple things I would like to say about ethe pistols, since I’m the one who brought it up;
(History major speaking) Compare a classic dueling pistol to a modern semi-auto pistol. You will notice that one design especially has remained the same; slanted grip, curved as much as possible to accomodate the palm.
(Gun guy speaking) When you fire ANYTHING, be it a rifle, shotgun or pistol, the primary way to aim is to point your finger along the stock of the gun. This is even, to a degree, how you aim a bow or crossbow, so it’s been around for a while. IN FACT, it is the primary method for aiming a foil or rapier, but don’t try it with a broadsword, you won’t get the sword level comfortably.
So yes, TNG phaser=impractical to aim.
One thing I’ll note is the reaction of Aria as she seems to get skewered on multiple priorities (that of looking after Pat and performing her Jax Augustarian duty of making contact and doing survey team-like things).
Scavania basically seeing that nobody (bar probably Vessa) has a clue what to do more or less thinks to herself “sod all this “we come in peace” crap! Lets make sure we get through this in one piece” and does the right thing.
Purely going by non-scientific ‘cool looks’, I’ve always liked the antenna dish look for a raygun. (The artillery dishes in the Hoth assault scenes of Empire Strikes Back are one of my all-time favourite weapon designs, just because they’re such a throwaway background extra).
I’ve wondered if a handheld energy weapon could ever end up looking something like today’s digital cameras: a brick with a dish or round aperture in front. If you had sufficiently advanced aiming electronics, you probably wouldn’t be manually sighting along a barrel of any kind, and even if it’s a laser-like device there could probably be folded optics (I love my Minolta Dimage camera because of its folded optics – it’s so un-camera-looking that you wouldn’t think it would do anything).
Mind you a good grip is probably still an idea, so maybe something looking like just a handgrip . A barrel however does give you a very distinctive visual ‘point this end AWAY FROM YOU’ cue.
But then the idea of any weapon that you actually need to be within line-of-sight to do stuff seems a bit archaic to me. If you’re going to have projectiles, I’d imagine tiny self-guided cruise missiles which can do multiple changes of direction, so shooting would be more a matter of programming a destination position and getting well the heck out of not just the line but the zigzag path of return fire.
Alternatively, if you’ve got starships with warp drive and artificial gravity, which you do, that single technology and physics platform is likely to change *everything*. Specifically, unless the power demands are overwhelming, I’d expect some form of weaponised gravity field to become the weapon of choice. Shield bubbles, vectored tractor/pressor fields for cutting/lancing/stabbing, gravity reversals for yanking people away, flying, implosion/explosion fields, miniature black holes, portals into a nearby star for a toasty melty boom, personal instantaneous transport … the whole Doc E. E. Smith Lensman thing with the coruscating streamers of unfathomable energies. If you can manipulate spacetime, why not use that?
But that line of thinking, though logical, is sufficiently unexplored that it would make quite a strange setting, so I guess that’s why most space-combat SF cheats and puts in gunlike weapons, just so the tactics and look-and-feel of the battles are familiar to us.
Would be fun to imagine the combat tactics of gravity control though.
J. Wilde has it covered. I’ll just add that when we weld or cut with lasers. We condense the energy of the beam into a focal point with a lens. If not focused at the correct distance, immediate power loss.
I believe that slug throwers are going to be portable weapons of choice for a while given the compact energy source of a chemical reaction. That what it all boils down to: a portable energy source.
@J Wilde: Thank you, you are awesome! That is very helpful. Lots to think about.
@Zhub: Yes, I was thinking that a weapon from the future might just end up looking a lot like what we have now for those reasons.
@Nate: I agree, artificial gravity is such a game-changer. I’m sure there are ways to use that technology that I can’t even dream of, much like we could never have predicted all the technology that came out of the space race, or the way that the internet has changed our lives (I never would have imagined I’d be publishing comics online!). Galaxion isn’t so much about the technology so I don’t really explore that, but it’s neat to imagine.
Hm. Would not a military officer belonging to some high-tech society have a uniform that is essentially bulletproof, at least when considering old school weapons? And same ought to go for the rest of the team, their clothes would likely be VERY resistant against cuts and projectiles (at least projectiles from small old school firearms).
But then of course, the team all have unprotected heads. So much for high tech protective clothes .
Tara – you’re quite welcome! While lasers would probably not be very effective dirtside, I’d say they might be the preferred weapon aboard ship. They don’t ricochet, they don’t emit atmosphere contaminants, have no moving parts that would be concerned with lubrication in a vacuum, and if you build in a ‘standoff’ distance for conduit, piping, and vital systems at some remove from the bulkheads and paneling, the likelihood of a missed shot damaging something important is reduced.
As a real world example, the Ustafish’s small arms locker emphasized .45 caliber pistols and 12 gauge pistol grip shotguns over rifles. We only had 3 M-14 rifles, of which only one was capable of fully automatic fire. The point? .45 rounds and 00-buckshot are less likely to penetrate a high pressure steam pipe, 4500# air header, or 3000# hydraulic line, to say nothing of the pressure hull, over a high velocity rifle round.
IllvilJa – Yes their heads are unprotected, but they’re also small, hard to hit targets. People trained in firearms are trained to shoot at center mass first. It’s the biggest target and filled with vital organs. The ‘stopping drill’ demands at least two rounds in the chest, and then, if that doesn’t drop the assailant, putting one or more rounds into the pelvis. If they’re wearing body armor, it’s probably not covering them there. If they’re hopped up on meth or crack and shrugging off chest wounds, a hit that fractures the pelvis will make it impossible to stand up no matter how amped up they are.
In any event, Zan’s probably thick-headed enough to survive a hit to the dome with nothing more than a bruise and a headache!
I love the word ‘slugthrower’. I want to see a SF setting which has guns that toss actual slugs. You know, the squishy kind.
This is why I probably wouldn’t make a good hard-SF writer.
@J.Wilde and IllvilJa: Furthermore, the kind of weapon the may carry could dictate their behaviour. For example, in Northern Ireland during a riot in Belfast, a section of British soldiers were advancing up a side street towards a t-junction when a terrorist armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun spun round the corner up ahead at said t-junction, fired off a two to three second burst wildly before vanishing again. The theory being that due to the high rate of fire and perceived inaccuracy of such a gun combined with the technical and physical superiority of the British, the man chose “spray and pray” and a tactical retreat rather than stick around and try his luck! In the event, one of the dum dum bullets hit one of the soldier’s flak jackets but didn’t penetrate.
Thankfully a debate about 5.56 vs 7.62 ammunition hasn’t broken out yet although there is still time!!!
@ Nate – I agree that a whole new physics can be a game-changer. However, I’m a big believer in the “correspondence principle”: new physics must line up with old physics where the old physics has been proven true. IJS that if you’re going to be manipulating gravity, you’ll be dealing with energy levels equal to the mass required to produce a given gravity field. E still equals MC squared, after all
That’s not a showstopper for futuristic energy/exotic weapons, per se – one can, for example, tap into the “dark energy” that makes up roughly 70% of the total mass-energy of the universe (I’m not making this up!) but I see a problem if anything should go wrong with that tap. If it should malfunction so that the weapon “overloads”, even a handgun or personal repeller field potentially becomes a planet-destroyer. MULTIPLE safety systems would have to be perfected before such devices get sent out to field use – REGARDLESS of the people who will be using them.
One other possibility lies with ranged nonlethal weapons like tranks and tasers would be the “smart gun” – not something that would aim for you, but something that can dial its trank dosage / taser voltage depending on what it’s pointed at. Given object-recognition software in use today and Moore’s Law to continually shrink computers, I could see a 22nd / 23rd century taser equipped with a miniature camera and “person recognizer/body mass calculator” program, allowing it to decide whether it’s pointed at a big burly guy or a little child and adjust its output accordingly (or even not fire at all). Network the guns to something that can seperate hostile from innocent bystander (probably requiring a human or advanced intel to make such judgements) and you can potentially eliminate those bits of mealymouthed Pentagonese like “collateral damage” and “friendly fire”.
Of course, when going up against an unknown species with an equally unknown chemistry, even smart tasers and tranks can become either lethal weapons or as useful as harsh language…
More possibilities: bullets that are guided by your gun to hit where you are looking with your aiming eye. Of course, the gun need to ‘filter out’ too abrupt eye moves and disregard them so it does not have to divert the bullets on their way in a too steep curve (as too wild maneuvering would lower their speed and thus their impact on the target), but the ability for a gunner to just ‘look at the enemy’ and then quickly shoot a burst that actually hits there without spending time aiming is useful.
How to determine what the gunner look at? The gun may look externally at the eye movements (potentially inaccurate) or even better (but far creepier) the gun is via some cybernetics fed with the vision of the gunners eyes. The visual nerve signals together with input from a camera on the gun itself ought to give it a good enough idea of where the bullets are in relation to where the gunner focus his/her eyes in order to guide the bullets accordingly. Poor target.
J. Wilde: Shooting rounds in the pelvis if two rounds in the chest does not bring down the enemy? Yuck, quite a reminder how awful war is.
@Andrew Yes, the power requirements for a warp drive are pretty freakin’ insane if current physics holds, and yes one of the side effects of any effective spaceship warp drive is pretty much that every vessel becomes an effective planet-killer if the crew so desire (just ram at relativistic speed and foom goes large chunks of the scenery). This would have all sorts of implications for space traffic policy – much like if suddenly every car could take down a city. Again, not many SF scenarios explore this, though I suppose it would resolve into something like Cold War politics. C J Cherryh in her Merchanter series did memorably have sequences where station folk are very very nervous of any ship entering a system because you never know if it’s going to decelerate or not.
Handheld planetkillers would be an even nastier problem. It’s interesting to think about the implications of energy densities. At the moment we’re all worried about what if oil runs out, but if we got something like working cold fusion tomorrow, we might have even bigger problems if a glass of water could make an H-bomb. Uranium fission is sorta politically controllable, though MAD gave us all nightmares (ah, the ’80s) – but deuterium or hydrogen fusion, not so much. And dark energy if we ever got to that – um, eep?
nice discussion about the weapons – but i guess the technology part is drifting away somehow… anyway, as Andrew Crisp pointed out: weapons are going to get more and more smart – why dont make the logical conclusion and go up to combat robots – their faster and can be armoured & equipped with whatever you like; and I guess if it is possible to create real AI, it must be possible to keep it at bay, or just give the robot the intelligence (and loyalty) of a dog, so no big deal.
Another point, which has not been considered so far: in many cases (like here) a gun is used to threaten (and by this try to avoid further escalation) so it has to be recognised as a weapon or it would be useless…
But back to the start – the current gun desing is ok from my point of view, I also like the kind of “zoom out” effect when the general realises that she lost this round… maybe we now can find out why these people are that pissed off?
With reference to robots and combat…
I doubt we’ll see robots become an essential part of combat – at least I *hope* we don’t. Even with teleoperated stuff like what’s been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are already huge dilemmas being confronted by robotics ethicists. Imagine the problems once the robots start being able to decide for themselves when and when not to fight…
Back to the page, and an interesting side-note: I came across a copy of the original Galaxion graphic novel in the GN section of the local comic shop (Strange Adventures, for the curious). Snapped it up, and I can certainly see a lot of differences (and similarities) in the storylines up to this point.
One thing I noticed – in the old GN, there’s a scene where we see a bunch of butterflies appearing, shall we say ‘ominously’? (How can a butterfly be ominous, I wonder?) And in the final panel there looks to be a swarm of bugs gathering above Our Heroes…
So, Tara, should I break out “Flight of the Bumblebee” for the next page? ^_^
@Andrew: If you have the old graphic novel (which for comparison purposes I call “The Black Book), you know exactly what is going to happen next!
Only the first volume. Strange Adventures didn’t have the others (though I’m seriously considering begging them to stock the current version…). So past that, I have no clue whatsoever
Not to toot another webcomic, but Schlock Mercenary has covered most of the future weapons discussed here, from gravity guns to cee-sabots. I wouldn’t have posted, but since the discussion was on weaponry, and I started thinking “Hey, I’ve seen this stuff before…” I thought I would share.
If you have never read Schlock, be careful clicking these links; 10 years of archives.
@Tara: (am keeping mouth shut)
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