Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Just Created a Facebook Fan Page

Per the advice of several friends, I've created a fan page on Facebook for "Matthew W. Quinn, Speculative Fiction Writer."

The whole "create a button to put on your web-site" thing produced something that would look extremely ugly with this background, so I'm just going to post a link instead.  If I can produce a better-looking arrangement later, I'll be sure to post it to make "liking" even easier for you.

Matthew W. Quinn, Speculative Fiction Writer

The more people who "like" this on Facebook, the better.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Friend Jon Reviews "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (2011)

My friend and co-worker Jon got the chance to see Transformers: Dark of the Moon in Atlanta the other night and wrote the following review:

http://georgiagamer.com/2011/06/review-transformers-3/

Jon told me they don't explain what happened to Mikaela (Megan Fox), although another review said there are references to an unnamed ex who is "bitchy."

Darn.  I actually liked Mikaela's character (I explain why in this older blog entry--it's not just because she's hot) and I hoped in the interest of having a coherent storyline, they'd at least explain this.  However, it seems as I feared, they just shoehorned the new character Carly into Mikaela's role with no explanation.

(I don't like to criticize without offering suggestions for improvement, so I suggested their breakup could come around if Mikaela's dad relapses into criminal activity and Mikaela refuses to cut ties with him--an entirely in-character action that would cause severe friction with Sam.  If the end of his first relationship that's survived so much has left him despondent and it's Carly who pulled him out of it, that would strengthen all the characters involved and explain the situation at the same time.)

Despite this, I'll probably end up seeing it.  I've been a fan of "Transformers" since I was a kid and apparently the destruction of the city of Chicago by the warring robots is pretty epic.

(At the office today, since I watched part of Ferris Bueller's Day Off last night, I suggested a funny in-joke where the actor who played Cameron Frye kamikazes a Deception in a Ferrari.)

Given how it seems the most popular page on my blog right now is the one about Mikaela, I imagine my loyal readers are very interested in Transformers.  Not only will I give you this review, but I'll also link y'all to my "fix fic" The Revenge of the Fallen Reboot, which is the second movie if I'd been making it.

I hope both of these help slake your thirst for Transformers action.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My "Will to Power" Post

I got a new newspaper job in mid-January, just in time for Sunday alcohol sales becoming a big issue in Georgia.  Many of my early columns dealt with the Sunday sales issue.

I ended up write a whole bunch of columns about Sunday alcohol sales, to the point I suspect my readers are sick and tired of hearing about the subject.  I think I'll content myself with writing columns about other relevant subjects until we get close to the fall vote in Johns Creek on whether to allow Sunday sales.

Here are the links, with some background material for each one:

This is a shock--I agree with Nathan Deal

This one was the first, around the time Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced he would sign a bill allowing local communities to vote on Sunday sales.  I supported Karen Handel against Deal in the governor's race, so the fact I was willing to back Deal was pretty darn significant.  I also decided to engage opponents of Sunday sales--most of whom base their position on their religion--on their own ground, to prove drinking alcohol is not something unholy and it is not in Christians' best interest to support state establishment of religion.

Continuing Sunday alcohol ban bad for the state

In this one, I made an argument in favor of allowing Sunday alcohol sales on secular grounds--open government (when the Republican caucus tried to bury the bill), tax revenue, and the like.  I also used a quote from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, whom I met at a Georgia Press Association function in the capital and asked about Sunday sales.

This one was the most popular in terms of Tweets and Facebook recommendations.

Both columns got me the attention of Georgians for Sunday Alcohol Sales, whose leaders asked for permission to send the columns to other newspapers in support of their cause.  I don't know if any of these ran in other newspapers, but Spalding County Commissioner Bob Gilreath did post my first column on his online newsletter/blog Griffin Journal.

Johns Creek can vote on Sunday sales this November

Eventually, thanks to Rich Sullivan and Georgians for Sunday Alcohol Sales, the Georgia House permitted a vote.  As I expected, the bill allowing Sunday sales passed.  Since the Senate had already passed it and Deal had promised to sign it, I figured it would be a done deal.

(That's not always a good idea, but this time it turned out all right.)

I shifted my focus to Johns Creek and why it would be a good idea to pass Sunday sales.

Sunday alcohol vote this year in residents' hands

The Johns Creek City Council discussed Sunday sales one evening but didn't take any action.  In response, I wrote the above column.

At the next meeting, the council members agreed to put Sunday alcohol sales on the ballot.  This led to the following column, the last I intend to write on the subject for awhile:

Johns Creek City Council's alcohol votes will benefit city

Hopefully the votes in Johns Creek and other communities and the events that follow will show that Sunday alcohol sales are not going to be destructive to the cities and counties that allow them and will not infringe on Christianity.

About the title of this post, it's an allusion to the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.  Nietzsche discussed the "will to power," which according to the Wikipedia entry on the topic was in part the will to achieve.  Although I have no way of knowing the impact my writing had in getting Sunday sales passed at the state level, I do have it on good authority that my column exhorting people to tell the city council they wanted the chance to vote on Sunday sales was pivotal in getting it voted on.

I think I've helped accomplish something, even if in the grand scheme of things it's not that big a deal.

If any of you want to Facebook-recommend the above articles, that 'd be nice, although they're a little out-of-date now.  Definitely visit them, to increase the number of hits on the company web-site that come from here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Officially Contracted for "Coil Gun"

While I was grocery shopping this evening, my phone beeped me in the manner it does when I've got an e-mail.  I checked and lo and behold, it was the contract from Digital Science Fiction for my alternate-history/science fiction short story "Coil Gun."

I could either sign the contract, scan it, and send the scans in, or I could electronically sign the contract by initialing each page and putting my name, e-mail address, and the date on the signing page.  The latter was less complicated, so I did it.  I sent in the signed contract about 20 minutes ago.

Now for the edits!  The third Digital Science Fiction anthology is scheduled for August and they're working on the second anthology now, so it might be a bit.

$0.05 per word.  This is my first professional-level sale.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Movie Review: "Super Eight" (Spoilers)

Just saw the film Super 8.  Here's my review...


The Good

For starters, it's actually an original concept.  It's not a remake, it's not a sequel, and it's not an adaptation of something else.  I took pains to see it that I didn't take for X-Men: First Class
because I wanted to encourage originality.

The scene where the train crashes while the kids are filming the movie is very well-done.  In my opinion, it's one of the best scenes in the film.

Pyromaniac Carey (Ryan Lee), was hilarious, both his own behavior and how other people talk to him.  The best part of all was when the father Deputy Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) says that he doesn't dislike his son Joe (Joel Courtney)'s friends--although Carey does worry him.

I liked the character of Doctor Woodward (Glynn Turman), the ex-military scientist who attempts to help the creature escape.  I don't think I've ever seen a character quite like him before.  Even "Keys" from E.T. intended to study the alien, even if he didn't want to hurt him.

The alien was well-designed.  It looks like some kind of hybrid between a reptile and a giant spider.  No man in a rubber suit here.  Them giving it a humanoid face and facial expressions was good, even if it did look a bit like the Faun from Pan's Labyrinth.

I liked how the alcoholism of Louis Dainard (Ron Eldard), the father of Joe's love interest Alice (Elle Fanning) is portrayed.  He rages at his daughter for sneaking out and tells her to leave him like her mother did but then when she rides off on her bike, he drives after her, screaming that he's sorry.  Then he hits a parked car and can't immediately get out of his own.

Deputy Lamb's resourcefulness when detained by the Air Force was impressive.  He jacked an individual airman and stole his uniform, blew up a fuel truck to cover his escape, and then went around disguised as the airman to find out where his son had gone and retrieve Louis from military custody.

The scene where the human soldiers' heavier weapons go haywire and randomly shoot at things when they approach the alien's lair was well-done and foreshadowed by the alien's effect on electricity and the items that run on it displayed elsewhere in the film.  However, I could understand how this would affect heavier weapons like tanks since they'd be more electronic/computerized, but why are the Jeeps' machine-guns going off randomly?  I figured they, like the soldiers' rifles (that don't misfire), would be purely mechanical and not have any electric components to mess with.

The scene where the alien is assembling his ship out of convenient metal items and a soldier is dragged into the air by his rifle was well-done.

The kids naming the chemical company that made the zombie-poison in their movie "Romero Chemicals" was clever.  For those of you not in the know, George Romero is well-known for zombie movies.  He was behind the original Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, the latter of which came out in the late 1970s and would be known to the kids.

The Bad

The movie was a bit slow in parts, especially toward the middle.

Also, the scene where Joe and his father have a confrontation in which he forbids him to see Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning) had some truly awful dialogue.  Deputy Lamb asks his son if they're clear and Joe says they're not.  He said they're never clear and made a reference his mother's death.  That scene could have been much better written and had much more pathos.

It's not clear why Alice's father doesn't want his daughter associating with Joe.  Deputy Lamb's hatred of Louis makes sense, as does not wanting his son to visit the home of an alcoholic.  Does seeing Joe bring up the guilt?  That's what the people on TVTropes seem to think, but it's not made especially clear.

Chunky filmmaker Charles Kaznyk (Riley Griffiths) flat-out says he has a crush on Alice but Alice only has feelings for Joe, but that's not foreshadowed in any way.  Yes, he says that's why he wanted her in the movie, but we don't see any crush-like behavior from Charles toward Alice after that.

Is Joe's release of his mother's locket when the alien ship starts pulling it in supposed to signify him getting over his mother's death?  Although he clearly misses his mother, her death does not appear to have affected him as badly as it has affected his father.

The Verdict

Creative, but a bit disappointing.  I'd give it 7.5 out of 10.

As an aside, there's a prequel comic explaining how the alien got here.  Here it is.

July 2 Edit: My friend Nicolas Hoffmann has posted this on his blog, the Dudeletter.  Here's the link.

Female Independence...In The Old Testament

I was reading on SGM Survivors about how Joshua Harris had apologized for some of the bad practices in the Sovereign Grace churches and found the following link in a discussion about the situation.

The Bondage of Betrothal

The article cites some passages in the Old Testament that openly contradict one of the sacred cows of the so-called "courtship movement" -- the notion that adult women must have some male figure in charge of them, be it their father if available, the pastor of the church or someone else if not, and he has veto power over their marriage decisions.

In I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Harris states that if one wants to ask a woman to marry him, he must ask permission of those "responsible for the girl"--until that point, I agreed with a lot what the book was saying about not dating stupidly, but that passage jammed down on my personal Berserk Button something fierce.  He later modified his position to be less controlling and reactionary in Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship, but the principle is still there, albeit expressed in a more benign and good-intentioned way.

(The father as a means of deterring scummy, dangerous men, not as owner of property to be passed around.)

Although the Biblical passages are linked within the article, I'll post the links here as well.  After all, the Bible should be the standard, not the words of a charismatic speaker or writer on one side of the issue or another.

Numbers 27-Daughters come after sons (as was usual in the context of pre-modern societies) but before other male relatives in inheriting property.  The need for a male protector was much greater in those days due to society being poorer and more violent, but the passage does not say to give the property to male relatives and insist they provide for/oversee single daughters until they are married.

Numbers 36-In which fatherless daughters who have inherited property may marry whomever they like, provided it is within the father's tribe (to avoid land being transferred from tribe to tribe).  I don't think land is really an issue now.

As the article states, there is no reference to adult women being treated as being under the authority/protection of a related male until they marry.  No references to male "covering" or any of that un-Biblical nonsense.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Another "Coil Gun" Update

I exchanged e-mails with Michael Wills from Digital Science Fiction this morning.  "Coil Gun" is slated to appear in the third anthology, to be released in August.  Although the first book, which is available now, is entitled "First Contact" and features aliens on the cover, it's not a themed issue.  None of the issues are themed--the title comes from this being the publication's first contact with the readership.

I also learned there will be print editions of Digital Science Fiction as well--Wills and company are working on the print edition of the first book now.  I promised my then-co-workers at The Griffin Daily News long ago, back when I was working on a collection of sold and unsold short fiction with a small press, that I'd have a book signing they could cover.  Hopefully I'll be able to sell many print edition copies of the third anthology this way.

(Seriously, one piece of writing advice I picked up for someone who has a book out is to go many local newspapers and radio stations and get them to do stories about you.  Setting up a book signing and then contacting the paper to tell them you'll be in town and an interview would be awesome is a good way to promote yourself.)

Of course, this isn't something that will come to fruition for awhile, but it's good to have a plan.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I Just Made a Pro Sale!

I checked my e-mail this morning and found I'd gotten some really good news. The online publication Digital Science Fiction accepted my short story "Coil Gun" for publication.  Details are pending, but the company tends to produce eBook anthologies available on Amazon.com and elsewhere.  The first one, First Contact - Digital Science Fiction Anthology 1, is already available for purchase.

I'm excited because it's $0.05 per word.  At the current word count, this comes out to be roughly $250, which is much larger than the haul from my BattleTech story "Skirmish at the Vale's Edge" ($196) and larger than my other three payments combined ($105 for three stories, only one of which was actually published).  Plus, if I get a certain number of these sales at "pro" rates ($0.05/word plus), I can join the Science Fiction Writers of America and get to vote on the Nebula Awards.

The story takes place in a universe inspired by a challenge on my alternate-history forum.  The board member whose handle is reddie challenged board members to create a timeline where there was a cold war between the United States and "the apartheid juggernaut"--a white-supremacist but overtly Afrikaner state similar in size and power to the Anglo-Saxon Draka of S.M. Stirling's novels.  Think our world's apartheid regime on horse steroids, complete with our history's religious justification.

I started writing the timeline when I was studying abroad in Britain in 2006 and began writing the first short story set in that universe, "Picking Up Plans in Palma," the day after I returned home when I couldn't sleep.  I started writing "Coil Gun" somewhat later but actually finished it first.  What I ultimately ended up with was a cold war between the United States and the League of Democracies, this world's version of NATO, against the Indian Ocean-spanning Afrikaner Confederation and its allies in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, who form an organization called the Self-Determination Compact (this world's Warsaw Pact--they call themselves that because they view themselves as under siege by subversive Enlightenment values like secularism and democracy).

When it goes live, I'll post a link to where the anthology containing it can be purchased and then give you all a special treat--a link to the complete timeline of the Afrikanerverse, from the point of divergence during the Dutch revolt against Spain to the the decade after the war whose opening hours are depicted in "Coil Gun."  I was planning on posting it tonight, but I don't know what kind of edits Digital Science Fiction would require.  Changing the story might necessitate changing the overall timeline, depending on what's required.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm" Trailer Is Up

I found a Blizzard newsletter in my Spam box the other evening and it sent me to the following link.

http://us.battle.net/sc2/en/game/heart-of-the-swarm-preview/

That link in turn sent me to this trailer, which is also posted on the Blizzard web-site.



So much for the grand idea I had for an interquel novel taking place between the human campaign and the Zerg one. 

(I actually wrote a query and a long and a short synopsis, and e-mailed William Dietz, the author of Starcraft II: Heaven's Devils, to see if he could get me the hook-up with Blizzard.  He said with Blizzard, it's "don't call us, we'll call you."  And there was something on the site I overlooked that Matt Schafer found for me that describes how they don't accept unsolicited content.)

It seems the Zerg campaign begins immediately after Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty with a backstab by Dominion forces--Nova and a bunch of Ghosts bust in and try to kill or capture Kerrigan while she's still recovering from being, as some Battle.net people have put it, "fumigated."

Raynor at the very least survives to see Kerrigan obliterate her would-be assassins, but some of the promotional material asks the question "Where is Jim Raynor?"  Hopefully he'll survive.  Maybe I'm just being a hopeless romantic, but I'd like to see a happy ending for both of them.

Based on what we see so far, it doesn't seem like there's a lot of conflict between the Zerg and the humans.  Kerrigan apparently makes war on the Dominion forces seeking to cleanse Char and later wages "genocidal" wars with the Protoss (given how the Protoss exterminate the Zerg whenever they find them, it might not be the Zerg being the bad guys this time), but the campaign looks like she's reuniting the Swarm and assimilating dangerous wildlife to use their genes to create new Zerg war-breeds.  Something tells me it'll be primarily Zerg-Zerg and Zerg-Protoss combat, with the only anti-human fighting being at the beginning of the campaign.

Drat.  I was hoping she and Raynor would team up and take down the Terran Dominion once and for all.  I even had a scenario I suggested on Battle.net for a campaign mission where she brought down the Dominion Ghost Academy and found Raynor's son, who was taken as a child into the Ghost program, and brings him back to his father.  It would be a good tie in with the books--little Johnny Raynor is mentioned in Liberty's Crusade--and would tie the expanded-universe in with the actual games.

(Blizzard, if you do intend to use this plotline, don't junk it because someone else came up with the idea and you fear lawsuits.  I promise here, in view of the world, that I didn't suggest the idea to you.)

Nothing definite on the release date, just the usual "we've got high standards and we'll release it when it's ready."  Not that there's anything wrong with not releasing products prematurely--far from it--but I would like to know when it comes out.

(My computer can't run the first game as it should be run, let alone this, but I could always play it elsewhere.)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

World-Building Tip: Daily Life In...

I was listening to the Writing Excuses podcast on non-traditional settings at the gym the other night and they brought in author Saladin Ahmed, an Arab fantasy writer who writes stories set in a fantasy version of the Middle East (the main example being Throne of the Crescent Moon), not the standard fantasy version of medieval Europe that most high fantasy or epic fantasy stories are set in.

Saladin discussed world-building with the hosts and one thing he said had been very helpful to him was a series of books entitled Daily Life In... that dealt with different historical eras.  I made a note to myself to find these books and then forgot about it until this morning.

I just requested several books from my local library system, including Daily Life in Civil War America and Daily Life in Victorian England, which are part of a series on daily life in different historical periods.  Given how Andrew Sutter's environment is more like the Civil War U.S. or the Western frontier, books on that topic will be appropriate, while Grendel's capital of Norridge and the advanced civilizations Andrew will encounter in the later books after he crosses the Iron Desert are steampunk and therefore books on Victorian England will be appropriate.

It might even be a good idea to buy some of these books, although the actual Greenwood Press Daily Life series does not appear to have had a large print run and the average price of these books is $30+.  Still, if I was willing to shell out $50 for the BattleTech codex Clans: Warriors of Kerensky for research purposes (and at some point I need to write some more BattleTech fiction, since I got paid $196 for my story "Skirmish at the Vale's Edge"), these books might be worthy investments.

Luckily the local public library has a lot of them, so I can just request them whenever I need them.  For those of you who have access to good public libraries and are interested in improving your world-building, I'd check these out.

In addition to books dealing with daily life in the time period you're interested in writing about, primary sources from that time would also be a good idea.  I also requested The Civil War Notebook of Daniel Chisholm: A Chronicle of Daily Life in the Union Army 1864 to research what life in a more organized army would be like--it will be useful to improve the Merrill-army sections of Battle for the Wastelands and will be especially useful in the later books of the series where we see Grendel commanding troops in the field and Andrew rising through the ranks of another army. 

Bernard Cornwell based a lot of the Sharpe novels on The Recollections of Rifleman Harris, the memoir of an enlisted man in the British Army of the Napoleonic Wars.  I might try to get hold of that one as well--even though the technology in the world of Wastelands is around 50-60 years ahead of the Napoleonic Era, the two Sharpe books I have read (Sharpe's Tiger and Sharpe's Triumph) provided me with lots of useful bits of information, including stuff on the use of bulls for transporting heavy goods and how Napoleonic-era armies actually had smoke-bombs for infantry use (to mask advances under fire).

I hope you all find this useful.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Christian Democratic Party...In Utah?

On my alternate-history forum, a young fellow (not yet old enough to vote) whose handle is MormonMobster (and whose real name is apparently Ryan Darby) has decided to found a political party.

You can stop laughing now.

MM, being Mormon, is fairly socially conservative, but he's rather left-wing in his views on other topics.  He said it seemed contradictory that Mormons could return from church where verses from the Book of Mormon that had very left-wing (in his opinion) messages and then vote Republican.

His ultimate goal was to create something equivalent to the Christian Democratic parties common in Europe, although he didn't want to actually call it a Christian Democratic Party on the grounds it would alienate non-Christians and get confused with the Democratic Party.  Another suggestion was the People's Party or Christian People's Party, but in addition to the religious issues, a party with "People" in the name might sound Communist.  He ultimately went with the American Revival Party or Revivalist Party, since the goal is national revival and the name invokes the religious-type revivals as well.

Here's the party's Facebook page.  Obviously I'm not endorsing the party's political positions (well, most of them--I can support ending the Drug War and wiser use of tax dollars), but here are some reasons I'm promoting it...

1. His strategy is to contest races at the local level and build from there--he seemed to think a party with these views would be competitive in Utah and the Mountain West.  With the federal election system working the way it does, third parties tend to weaken the party they're most akin to and strengthen the one most opposed to their views.  Witness the Greens costing Gore Florida and the Libertarians costing Bush New Mexico in 2000.  One of the sanest things someone from FreeRepublic ever said was that third parties (he was focusing on Libertarians) should start at the local level rather than running in federal races they won't win and tilt the election to the Democrats.  This strategy should be encouraged, if anything to encourage more political diversity at the local level and discourage premature state/federal efforts whose biggest effect is to be an electoral spoiler.

2. Pursuant to #1, should the grassroots strategy work, it would provide additional political choices to Americans, especially those whose views don't match up with the existing parties well.

(Someone who thinks religion should be an influence on public life won't fit well with the Democrats most of the time, but someone who thinks religion should be a left-wing influence and not a right-wing influence won't fit well with the Republicans.  And one person who was socially conservative but fiscally liberal said he'd be glad to find something that matched that basic rubric that wasn't fascism.)

3. I sometimes feel sorry for the (Christian) Religious Left.  There aren't very many of them and they get attacked by both the secularist left (which doesn't like religion in politics) and the Christian Right (who come off as believing the RLs are heretics--see this link that explicitly calls them that).  Although many members of the Christian Right claim persecution, despite being local majorities in a whole lot of places, I think the main national response to a Christian environmentalist critique of SUVs, generally summed up as "what would Jesus drive," was laughter.  Granted, the American cultural elite doesn't have a high opinion of Christians (or at least certain varieties of Christians) generally, but the "Religious Right" is numerous and influential enough in the places where it's strong that they can blow it off.

4. This party, if it gets off the ground, would draw off both Democrats and Republicans of a Religious-Right orientation.  Given my political views are right-wing but secularist, anything factionalizing those two would be in my opinion beneficial.

5. Even if this ultimately fizzles, this would be a good experience for MM--it would help him learn how to organize.

Although MM seems to think Utah and the Mountain West would be the best places for this party to develop, he might find a surprisingly-good reception in the South.  Mike Huckabee, after all, carried most Republican primaries in the area and although he was a religious conservative, he was less right-wing on other issues.  People on FreeRepublic called him a "Christian socialist" and a "pro-life liberal," frex.

The actual discussion was on the thread Hypothetical Third Parties: Utah.  You'll need to get a site membership in order to view the thread, but there is a lot of information on MM's rationale to be had there.

(I'll message him to suggest he put his strategy/rationale on the Facebook page as well, plus some contact information.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Revolution and the Levee-En-Masse--In Westeros

On my alternate-history site, the board member whose handle is Faeelin asked why there isn't enough left-wing fantasy.  He said a common trope is a lone hero with an aristocratic bloodline (even if he's raised by peasants or something that makes him more down-to-earth) who defeats evil and establishes a more benign  but still-feudal order.  He quoted the British author Charles Stross:

My problem with high fantasy is this: I come from a nation that has a real, no-shit monarchy and aristocracy. Consequently you get to learn about this stuff in high school, and see its stilted echoes on the TV news every week. Monarchism, the default political stance of high fantasy, sucks. We have a term for its latter-day incarnation: we call it "hereditary dictatorship", and point to North Korea for an example. From the point of view of most of the population, your typical fantasyland is not a utopia. Anything but! And to make matters worse, the traditional format of a high fantasy novel is that some source of disruption threatens to destabilize the land; it is up to the hero (usually it is a 'he') to set things right and restore the order of benign tyranny to the world. Fantasy, in short, is frequently consolatory, and I don't get on with it.

Faeelin asked why there's not a lot of high fantasy depicting peasant pikemen butchering mounted knights and the like.  There are the novels 1632 and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court that feature a strong denuniciation of feudalism, but those are time-travel and more science-fiction than fantasy.

We got into a big discussion covering various topics, including how exactly one could organize a more democratic order in a feudal society like Westeros, the realm of A Song of Ice and Fire, and the possibility of a successful peasant revolt there.  The board member whose handle is Thande (whom I actually met in person when I studied abroad in Great Britain) said the peasants wouldn't have sufficient armor and weaponry and even if they outnumbered the nobles' armies ten to one, they'd still get massacred.

In response, I cited the Battle of Mello, which I first read about in A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century.  Here's the the Wikipedia article on the battle, although I would really recommend people read the book anyway.

At the battle, the peasants formed a real battle line with archers behind the infantry and reserve cavalry instead of simply being a big mob that would break and run before the nobles' cavalry and get exterminated.  The nobles refused to attack the peasants at first and instead captured the rebel leader via treachery.  They attacked the demoralized, leaderless peasants then and massacred them.  Had the peasant chief not fallen for the nobles' lies, the peasants would have had a real chance at winning.

So I theorized a successful Westerosi peasant revolt would either utilize guerrilla tactics or would have assistance from sympathetic nobles, as the peasants at Mello likely did.  I then devised a scenario that would take place later in the storyline, perhaps after the main events of the series are included.  Here goes...

Basically Rickon Stark, who was taken away by the wilding woman Osha for his own safety, ends up inheriting the North since Robb is dead, Jon has joined the Night's Watch (and is a bastard besides), Bran is crippled, and the other Stark kids are girls.  The Starks are less high-and-mighty over the peasantry, since nobody seems to care that Arya Stark rough-houses with commoners' sons, and if Rickon spends a lot of time among the wildings, he might develop a much greater connection with the lower classes and outsiders of Westeros.

When Rickon becomes Lord of the North (or King in the North, although the Northern cause is in really bad shape at this point), he is more willing to lend a sympathetic ear to lower-class elements who want more rights or representation in governance.  Bonus points if these elements played a significant role in fending off attacks by the Others or the Ironborn and feel they've earned it.

Rickon Stark agrees to these reforms and the other nobles attempt to intervene, seeing this as a threat to the entire social order.  Rickon responds by calling up a full-blown levee-en-masse in the style of the French Revolution, not just a feudal levy of knights, men-at-arms, and whatever peasants they can dragoon.  The northern population, thanks to generally tougher conditions and having to fend off Others, the Ironborn, etc. during the events of the prior novels, makes better soldier material anyway and Rickon Stark would have professional soldiers to train them.  The North is also naturally defensible thanks to the Neck and Moat Cailin, so it would be easier to hold off any invasion from the south.

Rickon Stark becoming the Westerosi version of Simon de Montfort, who rebelled against the king in the name of barons' rights, agreed with lower-class people who used the same arguments against the nobles, and established an elected parliament for both the nobles and commoners, would be kind of cool.  Heck, if we really want to risk Mary Sue-dom for Rickon, perhaps he not only defeats the nobles' attempt to restore feudalism in the North, but becomes a Napoleon figure and invades the south to impose his more enlightened regime beyond the Neck.

(It might be more realistic if Littlefinger, who doesn't have the class pretensions of the other nobles, rose to his position largely on merit, and thinned out the ranks of the Great Houses something fierce with all his shenanigans, took advantage of the destruction of the nobles' armies in the north to pull some kind of coup in King's Landing.  He could then come to some kind of arrangement with Rickon, perhaps via his apprentice/creepy-Catelyn-substitute Sansa Stark.)

Feel free to use this as a fan-fiction idea.