Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Swordplay: Time and Distance

I suppose that technically, these are two separate topics, but for swordwork in particular, they are intimately bound up with one another. Have you ever read books where it seems that the hero has all the time in the world to swing a sword around, or where one of the people in a swordfight seems unfeasible quick compared to another? It seems unrealistic that someone should have so much of an advantage, doesn't it?

It's not fiction, though. It does happen. I have had the joy of fencing against a few internationals now, and on occasion, it really did seem like they were moving twice as fast as I was. So fast, in fact, that I was stuck between moves while they hit me. When I attacked, it seemed like they had all day. They weren't really that quick, of course. They were simply slightly closer or further away than I thought.

Despite what some martial artists occasionally think, one thing is true: in the absence of contact to control an attacking limb/blade, if the other person is close enough, they will hit you almost regardless of what you do, because you simply do not have the time to react. If the other person is far enough away, by contrast, you will have all day to plot your defence.

That's why in swordplay, a big part of what the best people do is based on using tricks such as acceleration, rapidly changing direction (by bouncing in the case of much sport stuff) and generally creeping up to completely control the distance between them and their opponent. They show up slightly closer than you expect when they attack, and they keep you right on the edge of distance defensively, so that you think you're close enough to attack, but you aren't. So the next time you want one of your heroes to seem impossibly fast, just have him move forward a bit first.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Nature of Magic Blogfest

This is for the nature of magic blogfest over at Tessa's Blurb. I hope you enjoy it:

In general, apprentices to master mages get used to some rather odd things in the course of their duties. After all, when one’s teacher, mentor, and general employer decides that what he absolutely needs for his next spell is a flower recovered from the bottom of the Pit of Doom, or a tooth from an enraged dragon… well, it isn’t going to be the bloke in the dressing gown getting out the climbing gear and pliers, is it?

Terrance, apprentice to Ogilvy the Magnificent, knew that as well as anyone. Even by those standards though, the task that he currently found himself performing was so far outside any normal job description that it couldn’t be seen with a telescope. He would have been well within his rights to tell his master where to shove it, in fact. Of course, he would then have been reduced to a small smear of grease on the carpet, but at least that would probably have counted as constructive dismissal.

Terrance hadn’t done so, however, which was why he now found himself halfway up a crumbling tower, a long loop of copper wire over his shoulder, steadily working his way from handhold to handhold.

“Can’t you hurry up?” his master called from the bottom. “At this rate, Sithian the Slimy will be back before you’re at the top, and then what will I say?”

“Tell him that you were practising levitation and it went wrong,” Terrance snapped back. “Better yet, actually practise some and get me up there quicker.”

“You know I can’t do that. I have to conserve my strength.”

The really annoying thing was that it was probably true. After all, Terrance wouldn’t be climbing up another wizard’s tower, looking to siphon off magic straight from the receiving aerial at the top, if his master had strength of his own left.

As resorts went, it was pretty final. You didn’t steal another mage’s supply. Well, not like this, at least. You could build your tower higher if you wanted, to block out the signal. You could bribe one of the suppliers to get their quota thanks to an “administrative error”. That was normal, healthy competition. But running around with copper wire and a few hundred wands to serve as batteries was just... theft.

Terrance worked his way up another few feet of tower. All this because his master was too disorganised to check the fine print of his payment plan. Cut off, right before Terrance was due to take his test. How was he supposed to do a decent left-hand path reverse and emergency conjuration with no magic about?

Oh, and it had also put quite a big dent in Ogilvy’s Great Project, too, but Terrance was less worried about that. After all, that was what had caused the problem in the first place. Working day and night on it, powering up circles and weaving ancient runes in the air itself… hadn’t the old man ever heard of a fair use requirement?

Once one company had cut you off, of course, it took forever to get connected up to another. They’d spent the week trying everything: trafficking with dark powers that asked them to leave messages in the summoning circle after the agonized scream, petitioning the powers of light for a grant, everything. Nothing had worked. No one wanted to know. Even the endless junk-mail promising cheaper, faster magic had stopped coming through the post-box.

Currently, the tower was running off an old ring of power, but that wouldn’t last much longer, which meant…

Well, for one thing, it meant getting up onto the damn roof before the owner of this tower came back. Terrance swore. He was sure that he ought to have a safety harness, or a proper ladder, or something. If the Elven Safety Executive spotted them, they’d be in almost as much trouble as if they were caught by Sithian.

In spite of it all, Terrance soon found himself cresting the tower’s top, copper wire in hand. All he had to do was reach out to put it over the aerial, and they could start. Terrance extended his hand gingerly, trying not to think about the amount of power just a foot or so away. Several KiloToads at least.

“Get on with it, Terrance!”

“Yes, Master!” Terrance sighed and put the loop over the aerial.

The Elven Safety Executive does not in fact produce a handbook for stealing other people’s magic. Perhaps it doesn’t wish to condone such behaviour, or possibly it just knows that elves tend to get theirs from the wind, the trees, and copious amounts of singing Fol-de-lol (you didn’t think they did it for fun, did you?). If they did, however, it would contain one very important instruction.

Always wear gloves.

Terrance screamed as enough raw magic to shift half a city poured through him, his hand seeming to glue itself to the mast. He wrenched backwards, trying to jerk it free. For just a second, nothing happened. Well, nothing except blinding agony, assorted fireworks going off in front of his eyes and the faint sense that he could taste custard, anyway. Then all of that stopped, and Terrance achieved his aim. He threw himself back from the aerial.

Of course, back from the aerial in this case also meant straight off the top of the tower, but you can’t have everything.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Swordplay: The Four Types of Fight

It's Wednesday, so that means hitting people with swords. Today, the realisation that not all fights are the same, and that the swordplay (or other fighting, this makes just as much sense unarmed) will vary for each. There are lots of ways of subdividing things, but I think that it's probably best to think about four main situations:

  1. Sporting Contests. These could be fencing matches, kendo bouts, the medieval tournament or even some forms of gladiatorial contests (though those could argueably fall into my second category). Here, you will find circumstances designed to create an even contest of skill (matched weapons, safe/stable areas to do it in, referees and judges to decide when it starts) as well as ones designed to protect the combatants (such as blunted weapons, lots of padding, or simply the ability to give up whenever you want). The aim is not to kill or injure, but to demonstrate superiority while creating either fun for yourself or the crowd (though those can involve injury). The aim is to win by meeting set criteria. In swordplay terms, high levels of skill are needed, but probably not so much brute force.
  2. Duels. Again, these are what you could call a fair fight, since the idea is to have a contest of skill with a defined starting point as well as a predetermined end (though that could be either first blood or death). In some European duels, matched weaponry was important, and there were many conventions to obey. In other circumstances, weapons were whatever you brought. The point is more that this is a prearranged fight, usually one on one, with a set of defined boundaries. The aim is to win, thus demonstrating superior skill, the rightness of their cause, etc. The duel is the scenario where the aim is most likely to be killing the other person outright. Again, high skill levels will show up, with some very technical swordplay.
  3. Self defence situations. Not fair at all. This covers everything from someone trying to stab your character in the back to that barroom brawl. Generally, there are three scenarios. First, there is a bit of talking leading up to an attack, your character sees it coming and acts. Second, your character is too late, and has to react. Third (and closely related to the second one) is the ambush attack. The goal here is different from duels or contests, in that the aim for the character is to stay in one piece, rather than to 'win'. The main skill here is drawing the sword in the first place, and using it at very close quarters mixed in with unarmed stuff.
  4. Battles. Big, chaotic, and involving more people. They can be ambushes or set pieces, but for the character, they mean mostly going where everybody else is going and killing whatever is in front of them. Chance plays a huge role, because you can't defend every angle. Sword skills are likely to be less important than formation fighting ones, though one important subset is where you fight with the aid of someone else, who opens up opponents while you do the stabbing. The aim is usually to get opponents to run away, or force terms. Historical battles only rarely involved total casualties.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

He Lives in a What?

Ten alternatives to the traditional wizard's tower:

  1. A wizard's shed. After all, wizards are basically the sort of bloke who practises an obscure hobby in a potting shed, only without the long suffering wives to make them practise it there.
  2. A tower built up level by level as successive generations of wizards add one each. (I may use this in a minute)
  3. A wizard's camper van. Because all the best wizards are mobile, and probably hippies too.
  4. An infinitely enlargeable pointy hat, complete with interior decorations and floors.
  5. A wizard's sphere, bubble, or other strange shape. Because towers don't exactly say 'I can only do this because of the magic'
  6. A sunny garden, just the other side of a small portal.
  7. An upscale penthouse, at the top of a hotel or apartment block tower.
  8. A hole in the ground, taken from the last annoying little chap who refused to do courier work for him.
  9. The inside of a sleeping giant demon's tusk/horn.
  10. Your house, next Tuesday, because skipping forward in time is a sure way to make sure that no one is in. Only next Tuesday you will be, so now he has to do something about it.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Swordplay: Look, Both Hands

I think what I'm going to do with this little series is turn it into something a bit more permanent, in the form of a regular midweek post on something sword or martial arts related. Why midweek? Partly so it doesn't clash with blogfests, but mostly because that happens to be when I fence, so I'll probably be in the right mood.

For now though, some thoughts on the other thing your hero could be doing with that spare hand: using it to hold the sword. Two handed swordplay is common in all sorts of literature, mostly of the sort where the sword is almost the size of the hero. How common is it really though, and is it an efficient way to use a sword?

The first point is that there are swords out there that need to be used two handed thanks to sheer size or weight. The Japanese No-Dachi, for example (basically a bigger katana) or some of the larger European swords. Dei Liberi's longsword method, for example, mostly shows two handed grips when not using a shield. It's also the preffered grip for some martial artists using things they could hold one handed- the katana in particular.

What you have to remember is that this does have an impact on the swordplay. It allows for greater power, but will reduce the available field of movement, and limit the use of the off arm with a shield or second weapon. Some figures disliked it a great deal, most notably the Japanese sword master Miyamoto Musashi, generally reckoned as that country's greatest ever swordsman. His school was based on two swords, but even for the single sword, he recommended the one handed grip for anything except moments requiring a lot of power.

Few Chinese or European dueling blades are made with the second hand in mind. In fact, it would limit the use of the fingers in manipulating them. Medieval european blades are a trickier call. Slightly shorter or lighter early examples are clearly intended for at least some one handed use. Yet in my own training with a slightly later style longsword, I found that it was a little too heavy for total one handed use, particularly since the style uses a lot of attacks in opposition and counter cuts, where the extra leverage of the second hand helps.

I'll see you later in the week, when I'll be looking at the four basic kinds of fight.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Swordplay Two: One Hand or Two?

An issue dear to my own heart here, since I'm a modern sport fencer more than the rest of it. You read fantasy literature sometimes, and the hero is holding a sword one handed, waving it about, and fighting solely with that sword. That is certainly what we do when we fence, because that is what the rules tell us to do. Is it what your hero should be doing, though? Should they be holding a single blade one handed, holding two blades, carrying a shield, using the sword two handed, or something else? For today, we'll deal with holding something in either hand. (Two handed weapons to follow).

A single one handed blade is common in fencing mostly because it became the prominent mode of the later European duel, where the emphasis was on making things very even to force an advantage in skill to prevail (I'll be talking about duels and battles later). It also shows up in some other sword schools when you have a relatively light blade to hand, but nothing else. That doesn't mean it represents the most effective approach to swordplay in all circumstances.

In a lot of cases, your hero should be doing something with their off hand. They might hold a short dagger, or a lighter sword (the Japanese katana/wakizashi combination, for example, or the sword and knife of western rapier stuff or escrima). They might have a cloak, to let them tangle the opposition blade. They might even use the spare hand to grab or trap the opponent's arm/blade after an initial parry. This is the lock and block stuff of Filipino systems, but also shows up in longsword work after the initial clash.

Or they could hold a shield. Shields are a special case. They are not passive. You don't just sit behind them. You actively look to deflect with them, or trap blades with them, or hit the opponent. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Not all cultures used them. The Japanese seem to have eschewed them in favour of that second sword, for example, while the Spanish favoured rapier and dagger. Note that they can even show up in environments with fencing weapons. Early rapier masters who came over to England from the continent got lots of followers, but lost several fights with broadsword and buckler experts.

So don't have your hero doing nothing with that back arm. Unlike fencers, they don't get carded out of the competition if they happen to put it in the way, or grab a sword hand, or punch someone. With two hands, they can kill twice as many goblins, after all. (I'm expecting letters from conservationists shortly).

Friday, 18 March 2011

Swordplay 1: The Type of Sword Matters

Since there's been such a good response to this idea, here's the first post. I'll only be trying to make one point in each one, to keep things clear (and to give me plenty of posts while I'm caught up with other things). Point one is simple: the sword's construction matters.

To put it another way, a katana is not used in quite the same way as a european longsword, or a rapier, or a Chinese Jian. It is not designed to be. It is used primarily two handed (though I'll be posting on that shortly) with pushing or drawing cuts in a slicing action, rather than the neat thrusts of a rapier or the hacking strokes of a machete. It is much sharper than something like a longsword (where grabbing the blade is a workable possibility with a gauntleted hand), but also much lighter and less likely to get through steel plate.

You might think it can't make that much difference, and that many things would be the same. That is true at a basic level, and we will discuss them too in due course. Yet the differences matter. Take me when I'm fencing. I fence sabre. I'm good (well, not that good. 247th in the british rankings at the last count) with a sabre. Yet I am far less effective with an epee (it's the stabbing and the emphasis on bladework) and positively rubbish with a foil.

Far too often, though, people write sword scenes as though it doesn't matter what the hero is using. They pick up a completely unfamiliar sword and they know how to use it. They do the same slashes, thrusts and parries, regardless of whether they're using a short Roman gladius or five feet of German two handed sword. So the next time you're writing, think about the weapon your character is using. Are you getting its feel over? Is it the right feel for the character?

Thursday, 17 March 2011

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Swordplay: Introduction

It occurs to me that I'm in something of a unique position as a fantasy writer, in that I know a good deal more about sticking swords in people than most. After all, I've practised modern fencing, Historical European Martial Arts Systems, some Chinese stuff, some Japanese stuff, and even a little Filipino stick work. In the past, a couple of people have even asked me for tips on writing their fight scenes.

As such, what I'm going to do in this short series of irregular articles is give those of you wishing to inject a little more knowledge into your sword based scenes some information and ideas to play with. It's not going to be a comprehensive guide, and in several cases, I'll just point you at other things, but hopefully, it will be of some general use to you.

I'm going to keep these posts quite short, but with any luck your next fight scene will be a little more fun because of them.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Broken Hearts Blogfest

This is for the broken hearts blogfest. I wanted to do something with assorted heroic types (hence the not-entirely-dissimilar-to-the-grey-mouser character), but then I realised that they aren't the sort to get upset over wives, girlfriends or assorted other significant others. So what would they get upset over? The result is this slightly odd variation on a breakup. Enjoy.

“Thief!” Yrng the Barbarian stared across the interior of his yurt at the small, grey clad man who on the other side of it holding a sword. Holding his sword. “Villain!”

“Look-” the grey clad type began, but Yrng cut him off with a glare. This stranger dared to steal his magic sword, and he wouldn’t have the decency to wait for Yrng to finish declaring what he would do to him?

“I shall rend thee,” Yrng promised. “I shall crush thee. I shall-”

“Yrng.” This voice was a feminine one, though with a faintly metallic edge to it. Although that was understandable, under the circumstances. “He’s not stealing me. I’m leaving. There’s a difference.”

Yrng stopped in mid-declaim. “Leaving? But... you can’t.”

The sword turned so that the elaborately worked hilt was level with Yrng’s features. “I’m sorry, but I’m breaking up the act.”

“But… but… why?”

The sword rose and dipped slightly. Had it possessed shoulders, it would probably have been a shrug. “I just think it’s time.”

“Time?” Yrng’s eyebrows narrowed like two caterpillars getting to know one another better. “What sort of a reason is that?”

“The sort where she’s trying to spare your feelings, possibly?” the grey suited man suggested.

“You stay out of this.”

“Sorry.”

“Yrng,” the sword said, “he’s right. I didn’t want to say any of this, but I’m… well, bored.”

“Bored? But we got to fight those goblins only last week. Lots of lovely hacking and slashing.”

“But that’s just it. It’s always hacking and slashing. Frankly, dear, your swordplay isn’t up to much.”

“And his is?” Yrng demanded, glaring at the other man.

“Yes,” the sword purred. “He can do proper pris de fers and everything.”

“Why you…” Yrng started towards the little man in grey, only to find the tip of his sword… his former sword, at his throat.

“Don’t make this difficult, Yrng, dear. We both know that you have other options. All right, so your other choice is a bit of a battleaxe…”

“It’s a battleaxe, it’s meant to be.”

“…but you’ll get by.”

“So that’s how it is?” Yrng demanded.

Another bob of the hilt. “That’s how it is. Sorry.”

“Well, I hope you’ll be very happy together. Wait. No I don’t. I hope he chucks you into a lake or something.”

“Well, really,” the sword said, before turning in her new owner’s hands. “Come on. We’re leaving.”

They left. Yrng stood there for a minute or so, seething quietly. He didn’t need that glorified letter opener. She was right. He had plenty of other options. Yrng went over to a chest at one side of the yurt, digging out a huge, double bladed axe. He swished it through the air experimentally.

Damn. Who was he kidding? With a grunt of effort, Yrng threw the axe from him. It thudded into the central pole of the yurt, splitting it neatly in two. Still, at least the falling fabric of the roof meant that no one could see the tear that rolled down Yrng’s cheek.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Aaron M Wilson: The Many Lives of Inez Wick

I first ran into Aaron as part of the Hive Mind writers' collective (quite a peripheral part in my case, because I keep forgetting about it). This collection of short stories is published by a slightly different collective, under the Everything Feeds Process Press label. It can be found here.

From the blurb: The red LCD display quickly counts down. There is no time to waste. The polluting, resource-degrading plant is set to explode. Eco-heroine Inez Wick has only minutes to escape. As she traverses the dark recesses of the dirty plant, she flashes back to a younger self, sixteen. Her father had just died in an oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, and she had just broken up with her boyfriend. She remembers oily ocean water and flames, her footprints in the sand filling with black water. Flames were chasing her. They were jumping from one oily footprint to the next, up the beach after her. Snapping back to the present, she must get out of the plant. The exploits of Inez Wick could not end, just now. Too many others needed to pay.

My Thoughts: This is a strongly themed little collection of short stories, with the clever idea of taking the alternate life paths of a single character as a way of exploring a variety of mostly environmentally based issues. Inez Wick appears at different stages of her life as everything from eco-terrorist to academic to simple bystander in plotlines that touch on everything from petrol use to water pollution, but which never lose sight of the need for a decent story, and seem as prepared to take on the extremes of environmentalism as humanity's effects on the planet.

It's a fast read, and never gets too bogged down. Aaron certainly has the knack of plotting things well, and for playing around with different facets of his main character without ever losing the sense of her being a single human being. There's a nice mix of action, development and message too.

There were a couple of small irritations for me. The whole text needed much better proofreading, and while the arrangement of stories probably makes sense from a point of view focussed on the rhythm of the book, it does make it much harder to follow any of the alternate history strands with any confidence. Also, since the majority of the pieces are reprints, there's the sense of not having gotten that much that's new if you've read Aaron's work before.

So should you read it? Being so strongly themed, the answer to that will come down at least partly to your interest in green issues. Assuming that you have at least some interest, however, it could be worth giving this one a try for a fun little read with some interesting points to make.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Catch Me If You Can Blogfest

I haven't done many blogfests recently, but since this one doesn't require anything new, it's quite an easy one to get involved with. Here's the start of my WIP.

Brian Northington was in the local library. Given that he was a sixteen-year-old boy, that is a fact that might take some explaining. After all, it was an age at which the young men of Nether Wrexford generally engaged in the more traditional pursuits of hanging around on street corners, trying to acquire alcohol to which they were not entitled, and utterly failing to attract the attentions of the sixth formers from St Mary’s School for Girls down the road.

They did not spend their time in libraries. Or if they did, they at least pretended that they had gotten lost on their way to a party somewhere. Brian, however, clearly hadn’t heard about this, because he was currently ambling his way through the place’s shelves, his jeans and hooded top attracting some muted glares of mistrust until the library staff recognised his dark tangle of hair and slightly gangly good looks as familiar.

He had become a regular in the Nether Wrexford library for two reasons. The first was that it got him out of a house where shouting at him seemed to be the preferred method of communication, and where his elder sister Claire was currently crowing about her A-level results to truly unbearable levels. That they would be enough to get her into Oxford to study law was admirable enough in its way, Brian felt, but not really a reason to remind him of the fact every five minutes. Brian’s parents occasionally accused him of not thinking enough about what he wanted to do with his life, but if the alternative was Claire, with a complete life plan that almost certainly ended in world domination, Brian felt he was better off as he was.

The second, and rather more important, reason Brian was in the library came in the form of the noted early twentieth century reptile expert Sir Archibald Mathers. Or at least, in the form of the collection he had bequeathed to the place. Having Mathers’ actual form there would have posed something of a problem, given that it had last been sighted twenty years previously, inside a crocodile he had been studying on the banks of the Nile.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

We Have Ways of Making You Laugh

Horrible torture isn't the most obvious of topics when it comes to comedy, yet in so many comic fantasy/other comedy things the hero either finds themselves captured or needs some information from a passing minion. How do you get the most from the scene without raising the rating considerably and/or completely disgusting people? Here are a few options:

  1. Trickery. Everyone loves a suitably thick henchman and/or muscular hero type, so getting them to admit something through their own stupidity is always a fun choice. As in "You can't fool me. I'll never tell you that the treasure is under the big statue."
  2. Threats. Actually doing horrible things to characters isn't funny or suitable for the genre. Threatening them with horrible things is perfectly acceptable, particularly if they are suitably blase or cowardly afterwards. Throwing them into a big pit of spikes doesn't work. Showing them on the edge, asking questions about how they managed to get all the points quite so pointy does.
  3. Embarrassment. Given the genre, you will be embarrassing the characters on a fairly regular basis anyway, but as Tom Holt shows in Overtime, a hat full of cold custard can do the job perfectly well when it makes a henchman look a bit daft in front of his workmates.
  4. The lion's day off. Pick a terrible fate. Now make something go wrong with it. The lion they are to be thrown to is on holiday. The scorpions were all taken by a passing experimental chef to be honey roasted. Prachett does this to great effect in Sourcery, where Rincewind is thrown into a snake pit with a rather non-violent snake, and gets to meet Nigel the Barbarian.
  5. Kidnapping. It is legitimate for villains to kidnap assorted wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, elderly uncles and hamsters. It is practically in the job description, in fact. This falls under threats. See above.
  6. The Vogon option. Terrible poetry, singing etc. is fine. As is showing pictures of your holidays until someone's brain melts (see Pratchett's Eric). This can get very surreal. In one episode of the wacky races (at least I think it was) Dick Dasterdly famously brainwashed his competition by showing an endless loop of the other cartoon he was in- Stop the Pigeon.
  7. Various forms of mind control. Particularly the truth spell/drug that then makes the characters reveal irrelevant but embarrassing facts.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Why the Test nations are killing cricket.

The cricket world cup is going on at the moment, and with it has come a discussion on the number of teams involved in the tournament that I feel shows something fairly depressing about the way the sport is structured at the international level.

You see, the group stages feature a number of teams (such as the Netherlands, Ireland, Zimbabwe and Kenya) which do not currently play test cricket. Yet because they are being beaten consistently by the major cricketing nations, there have been calls to reduce the number of teams involved in the tournament to just ten, presumably consisting of Australia, New Zeeland, South Africa, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, England, the West Indies (which only ever exists to play cricket, but there we go) and one other.

Aside from the rights and wrongs of this individual situation, I feel it is indicative of a wider problem in the attitudes of the game. Cricket is currently run as a sort of private club, focussing primarily on those nations considered good enough to play test cricket. Those nations receive a large share of TV revenues, and get a considerable say in the way the game is run.

They also get a lot of control over whether another nation gets to join them, and that process has become less about the standard of cricket in a country than about the politics of the ICC. Bangladesh's failure to win a game for many years when they were first given that status (and their current wins come, if I'm not mistaken, over Zimbabwe in the years before it withdrew from tests and the West Indies at a point where their first team was on strike) can be seen as evidence that they were given that status too soon largely to prop up a bloc of votes from the subcontinent.

Now we see moves to exclude other 'associate' members from even the major one day tournaments. This seems at odds with any desire to genuinely spread the game, and does significant harm to those countries on the cusp of that level of attainment. Many Irish cricketers, finding that they are of a standard to compete at or near the top level, yet lacking the opportunity to do so, have set about qualifying for England. Ed Joyce has played for Ireland, and then England, and then Ireland again. Dirk Nannes' Dutch passport lasted only so long as the Twenty20 cup before last did, before he reasserted his Australian credentials.

For examples on a national level, look at the Irish team as a whole. There was a burst of enthusiasm for the game there after the last world cup, with the result that several of their players could turn pro for the first time. Participation was up, yet they cannot go any further in cricketing terms than they have. Or take Kenya, which reached the semi finals several world cups ago. They went nowhere from there, and have now subsided back to minnow status. This is usually blamed on internal problems, but given the difficulties that routinely beset cricket boards the world over, that hardly seems to be sufficient. Instead, at least some of the blame must fall on lack of opportunities at the international level. If a child knows that he or she can go nowhere in the sport, why will they take it up?

The long term effects of this will be simple. The game will not grow to be a major sport in any country where its international players are treated as second class citizens by the game's ruling body. As other sports achieve prominence in traditional test nations that hitherto focused solely on cricket (and the effects of American sports on the various islands of the West Indies shows that it will happen) the game will decline. And all because a few members of the existing club want to keep it to themselves.