What is a Langkah?

Langkah (Indonesian) - noun: literally step, move, pace, action, measure, stride, leap, foot, footstep, gesture, tread, footpace

In Indonesian martial arts, Pencak Silat, it commonly refers to geometric patterns on the floor used to train footwork and develop an understanding of the role of the lower body in maintaining balance and a base from which to generate power.

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Worlds of Fiction

I recently read Dr. Sleep by Stephen King. First, I loved the book. A great sequel to The Shining, and it was nice to catch up with Danny Torrance as an adult.

In one scene, though, there's this line: "He turned the basket so one end faced the newly arrived RV and flicked off the Glock's safety with his thumb."

Now, I do not claim expertise in firearms as one of my skills, but I grew up around them, and I shot a lot over the years. I certainly know enough about Glocks to know they do not have a manual safety. The primary safety on a Glock is a small tab inset into the trigger. If that tab is not depressed, the gun won't fire. As such, you don't "flick off" the safety on a Glock with your thumb or any other digit. You simply squeeze the trigger. Your trigger finger releases the safety as it pulls the trigger.

After I read that line, I thought, "What the hell? Glocks don't have safeties like that. Come on, Stephen!" That's what I thought. I see now the phrasing of it looks like I know Mr. King personally, but I don't. I've never met him, though we do have at least one friend in common. Misplaced familiarity aside, though, I figured someone of King's stature would have done the homework or someone in his circle of readers would have caught the error and pointed out before it made it to print.

Then I thought, "Wait. Glocks in my world don't have thumb-released safeties. This story isn't set in my world. Apparently Glocks in this world do have manual safeties."

This led me to a realization about fiction. I was aware of it on some level, but I had set up a false barrier for its effects.

Here's the thing. Fiction never happens in our world. Even if, like Dr. Sleep, 90+% of it looks like our world, it's not. Even if 100% of it looks like our world, it's not. Granted, there are exceptions to this. Alternate History comes to mind as a genre, but even then it's not our world.

As an example, in my own alternate history novella, Annie Oakley and the Beast of Chicago, Dr. H. H. Holmes owns a large building in Chicago two miles away from where the Wild West show has set up outside the fairgrounds for the 1893 World's Fair. The ground floor of the building contained Holmse's pharmacy and several other businesses. That much jibes with real world Chicago in 1893. In my research, though, I decided I wanted different businesses neighboring the pharmacy than those that did in the real world. So, in my world, Holmes's pharmacy sits between a jewelry and a candy shop. I forget what business really occupied those spaces, but in the world I created in the story, those are the stores.

Another example is in SEAL Team 666 by Weston Ochse, he has his SEALs using equipment and tactics that are fifteen years out-of-date because he doesn't want to compromise the safety of real SEALs by sharing the equipment and tactics they use now. So, while his SEALs are functioning in the current time, in their world, they use weapons and tactics the operators in our world consider outmoded.

Next time you're reading a novel, even if it has no supernatural elements and seems set 100% in our regular, day-to-day world, don't forget it is not our world. The author may have chosen to make the changes you spot to support the story, as I did in Annie Oakley, or to prevent bad guys from getting useful information, as Weston did in SEAL Team 666. I don't know, but I assume various other novels, TV shows, and movies intentionally change things about, for instance, forensics or police procedure for the same reasons Wes's SEALs don't use modern tools and methods. Sure, sometimes, it's because the author didn't know better and do proper research but, in the end, it doesn't really matter.

A story sets up its own world with its own rules, even if they closely mimic those of the world we live in. If a story violates the rules of its own world, that's bad. Bad author, no bourbon. However, if it does not violate its internal logic, even if it seems wrong in our world, let it slide. For all my gun-familiar friends who read, bear this in mind if you read Dr. Sleep, but also bear in mind that, maybe, the standard capacity of a 1911 pistol is 8+1 or 6+1 instead of the 7+1 in our world. For anyone reading this who's unfamiliar with those numbers, the first number is how many rounds the magazine can hold, and "+1" designates an additional chambered round. As long as every standard 1911 in the story has that capacity, it's not really an error. It's just the way that world works.

The Wandering Guru

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