More Fuel Rats in The News


Sagittarius Eye is an Elite-based fanzine [sa] that is clearly a labor of love.

Delivered as a PDF, in order to allow greatest design flexibility, it’s a full-up magazine online. I can’t imagine how much work it takes to produce something like it.

When the Fuel Rats get interview requests, it’s complicated since there’s no leadership hierarchy to defer to. Someone gets a request and they decide who’s going to fill it, which sometimes frustrates journalists who feel like they are wandering around inside a cloud of Fuel Rats each of whom says “Oh you should talk to ${someone else}”

Sometimes it gets bounced to me, and I always try to have fun with it, and to rope in as many other Fuel Rats as I can. Because playing the media dance is glorious, if you want it to be!

In the September issue, CMDR Surly Badger is interviewed (a bit) about the Fuel Rats:

“I haven’t been doing much with the Rats lately,” he admits.

Whilst public records show he is more than comfortably well-off, Badger maintains a look on the edge of down-and-out, wearing an old leather bomber jacket over his pilot’s jumpsuit. On the shoulders, there is a small Fuel Rats patch along with one for Hutton Truckers and an-other for some paramilitary unit called ‘Led Zeppelin’. A gold pin on his lapel reads ‘M/V Longshot’ atop a small but very detailed rendering of an Asp Explorer.

I first started role-playing games in 8th grade, when one of the nerd gang came in with xeroxes of the original 3 book D&D set. To me, role-playing was fantastic fun – it let me think about things from a different person’s perspective, as though I were them. Eventually I developed so much familiarity with the process that it feels like I am sort of shrugging on a different set of clothing. Some of the roles I have played for long times are so ingrained that I even adopt alternative thought-patterns. For example, Ironbadger, my main WoW character for almost a decade – I know what Iron will do instantly, in just about any situation. He’ll stumble over it, fall off of it, or challenge it to a duel of honor. Maybe all three, in that sequence. His battle-cry “What’s the worst that could happen?!” came from a certain set of realizations I had about how to think about success or failure in the context of gaming.

The avoidance of rules and bureaucracy seems to have influenced the ‘Mischief’s’ political life as well. When asked about the apparent gulf between the Rats’ service to their fellow humans and supposedly self-serving anarchist politics, Badger downplays the conflict between the two:

Well, ‘anarchy’ isn’t chaos – it’s just a lack of formal leadership and hierarchy. We’re self-organizing based on our ‘Doctrine of Individual Excellence’, which basically says that each Fuel Rat is expected to act in a way most consistent with rescuing people and being really, really good at it. We sometimes have people join who think ‘anarchy’ means a lack of responsibility, but that’s almost exactly the opposite of the situation. We expect everyone to figure out what to do and to do their best, so we don’t have leaders or anything like that.

He continues with a wry smile: “I came up with that idea because I was lazy. I didn’t want to run an organization, and the kind of people who make great Fuel Rats aren’t the kind of people who like being told what to do.”

This was a really fun interview. We did it in character and I answered the questions as though we were chatting in the bar where the Fuel Rats hang out. You can picture it: it’s a dump, walls covered in precious – mostly stolen – memorabilia. Stuff that’s worth much more than it appears to be.

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Success or failure in the context of gaming: Success in gaming is not necessarily winning unless that’s why you’re doing it. You need to ask yourself “why am I doing this thing?” and if the answer is “for fun!” then winning or losing are not the issue, having fun is, which means that a glorious defeat is just as glorious as a victory.

I really love the format of being able to produce a fully-rendered magazine as a PDF. It’s so much more attractive and better organized than a typical web-page studded with ads and crap, and it says to me that there are still people with attention spans that can handle more than two pages of text. It looks gorgeous on a tablet! Give it a go!

Comments

  1. Curt Sampson says

    When asked about the apparent gulf between the Rats’ service to their fellow humans and supposedly self-serving anarchist politics…

    Why would anarchist politics be self-serving? I would think that successful communities without formal, elected (or not) leaders would tend to have individuals who are quite the opposite of self-serving, else how would the community work together successfully?

    Well, ‘anarchy’ isn’t chaos – it’s just a lack of formal leadership and hierarchy.

    The best software development groups I’ve worked in have been essentially anarchist: even if we had formal leaders that was pretty much ignored and we made decisions and came to consensus as a group. There was far less chaos than in other projects I’ve worked in; it worked well because, despite the minimal formalities, the groups had a lot of discipline.

    Now that I think about it a lot, perhaps most, formal process is put in place as an attempt to compensate for lack of discipline.

  2. says

    Curt Samplson@#1:
    Now that I think about it a lot, perhaps most, formal process is put in place as an attempt to compensate for lack of discipline.

    I agree. In computer security we often see layers of policy that amount to trying to get people to do what is obviously the right thing, even if they don’t want to do it (e.g.: reliability assurance in programming) Do you have to write a rule that every major subsystem should have a test-harness that checks its expected behavior, or do you want to have programmers that understand that that’s a good way to develop systems?

    When the Fuel Rats started to become a success, I realized that I did not want to be in the center of that whirlwind and I needed a way to step out of it and still have it be self-sustaining and nurturing. The “We Have Fuel, You don’t” motto was crafted to project self-sufficiency and was deliberately anti-heirarchical (there is a personal relationship between the Fuel Rat and the pilot they are rescuing) You have to have programmers that are proud of the reliability of their code, not programmers that are proud of the quantity of their code.

  3. Owlmirror says

    The “We Have Fuel, You don’t” motto was crafted to project self-sufficiency and was deliberately anti-heirarchical

    I have to say, that motto sounds like a taunt.

    After long seconds of brainstorming, some ideas that look better to me:

    [maybe too long]
      • You Lack Fuel; We Shlep Fuel; You’ll Have Fuel

    [short]
      • Fuel to the Fuelless

    [longer]
      • Hope for the Hopeless, Fuel to the Fuelless

    [pithy again]
      • No Fooling, Just Refueling

    [arg! pun! kill it quick!]
      • It’s Always April Fuels Day

  4. avalus says

    Awesome stuff like this makes me want to buy a new computer and try that game. That and I want to just jump somewhere in the galactic halo and just … dunno, enjoy the silence. *

    It’s Always April Fuels Day
    Perfect!

    *Oh I just remembered: Good late Stanislav Petrov memorial day. We are still alive!

  5. says

    The best software development groups I’ve worked in have been essentially anarchist: even if we had formal leaders that was pretty much ignored and we made decisions and came to consensus as a group.

    Yes, my experience is the same. You can have a leader when you are paying your workers a wage for doing a job they hate—then the leader’s job is to force the workers to not slack off and oversee the quality of the products they make. But this model no longer works well when you have a group of people who are enthusiastic about their work and who each have their own ideas about how they want to do their part of the project.

    When I joined my first debate club, even though we had a formal leader, he wasn’t ordering others around. Instead, we made decisions by discussion and voting. The so called leader was simply the guy whose responsibility was to organize various events. We divided jobs, and each person was responsible for deciding how they wanted to do their part. For example, one of my jobs was to make advertisement posters for events organized by the debate club. It was up to me to decide what text to put on the posters and how the finished poster would look like. Then, after I had been in the debate club for a few years, the old leader retired and the new one who replaced him attempted to actually behave like a leader and give orders to everybody else. He even tried to tell me what text I should put on the posters. My reaction: “You are not paying me a salary; hence I see no reason why I should obey your instructions. I’ll either make the posters on my own the way I want to, or I won’t work at all.” I simply ignored all the orders he attempted to give me, and instead I did what I wanted. I saw no reason why I should obey him. He wasn’t paying me. He wasn’t even a better debater than me. He got the title of the leader only because nobody else wanted the job (debating is much more fun than organizing debates, hence nobody else applied for the leadership position). The end result—he complained that I didn’t follow his instructions; I complained that he tried to order me around. Then he just kicked me out from the debate club. I didn’t feel like quitting debating, so I joined my second debate club.

  6. John Morales says

    [not on topic]

    Delivered as a PDF, in order to allow greatest design flexibility […]

    And maximal frustration.

    I understand the basis for and purpose of PDF and its utility, but boy, do I hate it as an user.

    No reflow, and too many incompetent creators. Zooming and scrolling, pointlessly.

    (What I seek is content, not fixed layout)

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