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Ask A Geek Anything, Issue Seven

Good afternoon, and welcome to Ask a Geek Anything. Lucky number seven is an explosive issue!  Here we answer all those questions to avoid getting woodchipped in Wisconsin.

Today, we bring in a super nerdy special guest with plenty of comic book experience: Declan Finn.

The question comes to us  from Ida NnoWho would win in a fight between Wonder Woman and Supergirl?

 FYI, Here’s a photo hint  to show just what great golden snitch this question is.


An image showing the various versions of Supergirl as her appearance and costume have changed. The versions are standing together as if they exist simultaneously. Commissioned art done by Ed Benes.

And that’s just Supergirl.

Take it away, Declan!

Ah, the eternal question: Who would win in a fight, Kirk or Spock?  The answer is always Spock.

Yes, I know it’s WW and Supergirl, but shut up.

But this is a classic superhero trope. Two heroes fight, either due to a misunderstanding, or because of mind control, or red kryptonite, or a civil war, or some other shallow, obvious plot device.

Part of the problem with one of these fights is that there are so many variables.  Are either one of these women depowered at the time?  Which variant of these characters are we working with?  Kara Kal-El? Power Girl from the alternate universe? The alternate universe Supergirl who can shape-shift? Diana Prince? Diana Troy? The Wonder Woman of the original DC universe, carved from rock, or the Wonder Woman of the new DCU born of Zeus?

If we were to depower them, the result is simple: Wonder Woman wins. Period. Why? Because Diana of Themyscira (Wonder Woman original) is such an expert in hand-to-hand combat that she’s beaten the tar out of Batman. She could take anyone in a straight up fist fight.

Now, a fully powered Wonder Woman versus a powered Supergirl would be another matter.  A Supergirl loaded with all the powers and abilities of Superman would have a variety of ranged weapons, from icy breath to lasers in her eyes, and the ability to fly.

Let’s stick with the original Kara Zor-El, she of the planet Krypton. Otherwise, we’ll be here all day answering all the various and sundry variables in that question.

The gut instinct is to say Wonder Woman.  Why? Because she’s one of the big three of DC Comics, and therefore always has to win.

The comic book uber-nerd in me says that Wonder Woman must lose, because in the DC vs. Marvel crossover of the mid-90s, Wonder Woman lost to Storm of the X-men simply because Storm simply pummeled her with electricity. Because apparently, Wonder Woman is somehow related to Godzilla.

Any truthful answer is “It depends.”  No, really.  Any real-world fight between two people would depends on a whole host of factors: surprise, weapons on hand, level of preparedness, etc. One Kryptonite pebble, and it’s game over for Supergirl.

But the real answer? It depends on who’s writing the issue.

From girl on girl comic book action to firearms– we aim to please. Pass the popcorn and take a look at what this writerly duo queried our staff.

Gowan Hunting  and Breda Bangbang asks us- What are good resources for writing about firearms use in fiction?  We’re not Larry Corriea, but knowing how many fans he has, we don’t want to embarrass ourselves!

I just received word that the Digital Pythoness, mistress of web research. She has an answer you can’t refuse.

First, let’s look at when and why it’s important to get that right.  Gun nuts are voracious readers, so a little respect in that arena will go a long way. Do I really need to point to Larry Correia’s career trajectory? Yes, he’s a brilliant writer, who writes excellent action and gun porn.  But getting the guns right can be the difference between catching on and not.   For action and mystery writers, this is as important as getting horse stuff right writing Regency. Also equates to the necessity of avoiding breastfeeding memes on FB at all costs. Trust me, it’s that important.

I suppose you don’t have to do this if you are writing Romance, but with more and more women heading to the range these days, you should at least taken the trouble to get the language right for that brief moment a pistol is waved around.  Even in SF, knowing the terminology can help to get a sense of weapon history. With firearms, we’ve had the same 1911 for over 100 years. It has gone forward with only a few changes, and some technology doesn’t need improvement to be effective in a wide array of times and places. Take a long look at Firefly and tell me I’m wrong.  Hand held screwdrivers aren’t likely to change much, either.

So, on to actually answering our question.

Not that long ago, I would have told you to go to a gun store- or better yet, a gun range, and ask around. heck, I’d tell you to go to that gun range, rent a gun, and fire some rounds yourself. If you love action and you’ve ever thought of picking up a pen, do it anyway. Heck, even if you never write a word, punch some holes in paper with .22 caliber fun. I wouldn’t call it clean fun, but it’s an experience every remotely responsible person should have. BUT. Remember that you are responsible for your own safety. Be sure you get some solid instruction on how to fire that weapon, learn the four rules (my favored variation on the three rules), memorize them, write by them, and live by them. The range will usually have a person present who has instruction experience, who can show you the ropes. IF they don’t, go to another range. It’s a common enough feature that it should be a given.

If this is not feasible, or if you are a completist by nature like myself, there are also lots of resources for both the initiated and uninitiated that do not require getting dressed and leaving your computer.

For beginners, to knowledgeable–  The classic is The Anarchangel.  He has a multi-part series on introducing writers to the wild world of firearm use. He covers a wide range of good things, from  the technical terms you MUST get right, and the tricks and tropes that will give you a bit of respect from the gun nut contingent. His name is well known in the gun blogosphere. He also covers reloading (bullets), some gunsmithing stuff, building your own AR, and a whole bunch of topics by whim. Search his blog. There’s something for everyone.  He’s also a very busy guy.  Keep that in mind if you try to contact him. Be polite. He does not suffer fools gladly, in the “internet security professional with a military background” sense of flaming death if you mess with him. He doesn’t get angry, he gets angry and whimsical.

LarryCorriea  Do I even need to say it? He has depth, and covers the basics– and different sorts than the Anarchangel. Very different voice, and a lot more general writer’s advice that’s good for the soul, if triggery to the butthurt.  If you are strong of soul, be not afraid and learn from the master.

Here is his advice about gun stuff, and legal issues about shooting people.  Both useful tidbits for a writer. Because it is helpful to know what is before you throw it out the window for that next yarn.

So what about anatomy of a gun? What if I want just some basics about what the pieces parts are called?  The University of Utah is here to help.  No I’m not kidding.  It’s a great site, and even works well for those with limited resources.

Now for what is smart and what is not for handling firearms and self defense? Sure, Anarchangel and probably Larry might cover that here and there, but it’s not something they focus on.  But there is a site that goes into real world firearm and other self defense advice.  I recommend it for practical application as well as research for writing.  It’s called, fittingly enough: Fight like a cornered cat.

Yes, it’s purple. It’s a website for women learning about self defense. If you are a guy, put on your big boy pants and forget what you know. You can still learn things here, they just don’t assume you know anything… and that is especially helpful for a writer.  Even if you know what you are writing about, you can forget about the simple stuff, the basics. And they don’t just cover the basics here, Id’ say basic to intermediate.

But what you need to know about guns, isn’t all just stuff to get from shooters. There are also more generic skills like situational awareness and basic fighter stuff that is just kicking around. Since that is outside the scope of the question proper, I’ll just leave one link and be done with it.

He also talks about the dangers of bringing a gun to a knife fight.  🙂


The last thing to leave you with… is how far is too far. How good is too good? Well, this article gives you a good idea of just how fast you can fire, and how good you can get with nearly constant practice.  But remember what you are aiming for is believability, and that… is a tricky subject in it’s ownself.

In case you want to write a hard boiled detective adventure in contemporary Chicago, keep in mind the gun laws have changed. The issues are complex, and misinformation abounds. Yep, we celebrate Posner Day in the Windy City for a reason.  So here’s an article that clears up a lot of misconceptions about the new laws.  Remember, politics in Chitown goes both ways. There are a lot of pragmatists hiding in that lake of blue.


Last but not least– you want to write about odd guns, like the .23 caliber french revolver.Try this link. [Or this one.


Or you want to write about the latest military hardware that civilians can know about without concern of a drone strike… where do you find out about it, outside of an issue of Jane’s? [Military.com] has the answers.

So that exhausts that question, just about. So how can we eclipse even this epic time spanning question oabout firearms?!  Take it up a notch and give us some Deathrays! Our next inquiring mind asks:

What gauge wire is optimal for Tesla death rays? Do you need to use silver bus bars ala Doc Smith or will copper suffice?

The Universal Prognosticator would like to thank you for  question.

First, we must consider the size of your death ray.  The wires should not be less than 4/ 0000 or 40 AWG.  That is the limit of what is available in residential homes. And using copper at assumes a single use sort of death ray, suitable for taking out small to medium sized buildings. Less than that and you may as well be doing surgery.  Some mad scientists worry about the device self destructing after use, some don’t. Copper is fine for those who don’t mind a little fire to add to their apocalyptic glory.  However, a late breaking post on the Mad Scientist’s Board suggests that plating your copper with palladium and using vented ceramic insulation could solve your problem without the need to source pure silver.

Silver bus bars assure more power per shot thanks to efficiency, as well as not melting the insulation after a single use, without the added expense of palladium. Gold is even better, of course, but you’ll probably want to invest the extra coin into the flawless 4” ruby lens.

However, if you are willing to go further, research suggests that carbon tubes or carbon foil having some interesting conductive properties. That will be less likely to melt, insulation will be less of an issue. I cannot find data on this application, so you will have to do experimentation on your own. Please send data and pictures. We enjoy a good show.

One last question to fill out our assets…  How do you get top death rays? By reaching for the feminine mysteries, of course.

From Vanna St. Tracts von Land, – Where can I find a good corset for my costume? I keep seeing references to breaking in a corset. What does that mean?

Lady WaspWaist presents the answer.

Depends on how far you are willing to go, or how much you want to pay.  These days, you can find a serviceable bustier on amazon.com. Be extra careful with the sizing chart and double check that you can return the product if it does not please you. However, if you really want it to fit, you are better off going to a specialty undergarment shop, such as Schwartz’s in Chicago or Sunny J’s in Plymouth, MI. Why pay the overhead and leave your abode? Because they will do alteration for a small fee, or even free.  Some of these places will have corsets though they are more for the, ahh bdsm crowd, which may or may not be what you want.  For what it’s worth, those sorts of stores will have what you are looking for– maybe.  I find that for fetishists shops, you are either buying a cheap product, or… paying for custom work, which is  more than you’d pay for my next suggestion.

However, if you really insist on a real corset, and only a real corset will do, and you want it historically accurate and made to fit your body, (who doesn’t?) you attend a Ren Faire.

You ask the nearest wench to guide you to a corset maker. There are probably several, so look over the products for sale and choose wisely.  Especially go with the person who makes you feel the most comfortable, since they will probably examine your assets for fitting purposes.  Those I’ve met are mostly female, but I’ve seen men in the business, too.  Yes,  you can also find them at SF/Fantasy conventions, especially where cosplay artists are prominent, but that is more hit or miss. Ask the cosplayers or the hucksters for who might be into this.

IF waiting for a local  Ren Faire takes too long, you may have to make it yourself.  Google will help, but renfaire seamstresses are very generous with their information.  Best to check them over with other costumers  you know  to make sure what you are doing is safe and reasonable!

As for breaking in a corset, do keep in mind that the boning, or whale bone is mostly straight when you buy it.  Your body, is most emphatically not, no matter how skinny you are. The whale bone which is actually baleine, more flexible than what we imagine bones to be, or in these times, reinforced aluminum or other sturdy, but slightly bendy material. It slowly bends as you use it, to fit to your shape under pressure. This happens over time, but for most modern products it happens in less than a week, that is five to six wearings. Then again, I used to wear mine for somewhere between eight to twelve hours straight, so YMMV.

Thank you, Lady WaspWaist for your lively expertise. Lucky number seven is a wrap!


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