TNB Night Owl – Schlock Mercenary

Schlock Mercenary board game, photo by AlienMotives

A little recognition is due… the Owl was in the first stages of being written tonight when a comment from Grant Naylor brought to mind that Schlock Mercenary had never been discussed.

Schlock is a webcomic, akin to the previously discussed Axe Cop. Unlike Axe Cop, however, it’s one of the oldest surviving internet-only daily strips, with its origins in the year 2000.

The strip’s namesake character is Sgt. Schlock, a carbosilicate amorph. It doesn’t really age, it can consume just about anything (although it has a preference for Ovalkwik) and and it adores its plasma gun. The strip has long, complex story arcs in the joke-a-day format and has worked to incorporate known science into the “future space mercenaries” humor. It’s inspired games, such as the Capital Offensive board game and the Schlock Mercenary RPG. It’s been nominated for multiple Hugo awards. It inspired a series of novels by John Ringo. Most notably, however, it has the maxims.

The 70 Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries is a fictional book which has been used repeatedly throughout the series for punchlines, philosophy and plot movement. The Maxims have been featured on t-shirts, on calendars, and in a moment of coming full circle, were turned into a book for a Kickstarter promotion. Examples include:

#18: If the officers are leading from the front, watch out for an attack from the rear.

#29: The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy. No more. No less.

#35: That which does not kill you has made a tactical error.

#43: If it’s stupid and it works, it’s still stupid and you’re lucky.

The 70 Maxims are one of the defining aspects of the comic strip… but they nearly didn’t happen. They were originally intended to be a handful of jokes, with only seven of them existing. They were turned into seventy by a lawsuit threat from a distinctly non-fictional source. The original book referenced was “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates”… and Stephen R. Covey was not thrilled.

The options were simple. Continue along without changes and be sued, stop making the habit-related jokes, or modify the book title and make it his own. The third option was wisely chosen.

Almost 19 years later and now being supported through his comic strip, Howard Tayler, the strip’s creator, has thrived by learning a different habit long taught by the U.S. Marines: improvise, adapt, and overcome.

Question of the night: Have you ever participated in a Kickstarter or GoFundMe-style project?

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.