Origin Story: Maxim 32

Today’s the final day of (the final hours, at this point) of the Seventy Maxims Reprint project. Here, then is a nice origin story for you, the origin of Maxim 32.

I was signing and sketching at GenCon Indy a decade or so ago when some young men approached the table. They were what a friend of mine likes to call “baby sailors”: relatively new members of the US Navy. One of them said “we have a suggestion for a maxim.”

I smiled. “Let’s hear it.”

“Anything is amphibious if you can fit it into an AAV.”

I chuckled. “That’s pretty good, but the term ‘AAV’ is too specific for Schlock Mercenary use.” Then I went silent, stared off into the distance, and I guess this made everyone uncomfortable because our Booth Captain, Darren, spoke next.

“Shhh… don’t interrupt him. The magic is happening.”

It’s true, I’d been wondering how this US Navy aphorism could be repurposed, but I had expected to be able to mull it over all day. Now, however, Darren had turned it into the promise of performance art. Did I curse silently? Maybe. I don’t remember, because I was panicking.

Still staring into space, trying not to show fear, I dove into the “formulae” for the maxims. I knew that many of the maxims were subversions of existing aphorisms. Several of them formed thematic couplets, like Maxims 2 and 3 (“a sergeant in motion” and “an ordnance tech in motion”) are a great example of this. And Maxim 23, “Anything is air-droppable at least once,” seemed like a good candidate for pairing with what the Navy boys had suggested, especially since “Anything is air-droppable” and “Anything is amphibious” were already pretty close.

All I needed to do was break the amphibious-ness in the same way I’d broken the air-droppability… and I think it was that moment, when I contemplated “breaking” amphibious-ness, when the final text arrived in my head.

“Anything is amphibious if you can get it back out of the water.”

A quick note. The United States Navy exists to keep things DRY. Everything except the hulls, really. The very idea of dropping something into the water that is not already a boat, runs counter to Navy thinking.

So it’s no surprise that those Navy boys were visibly horrified by my subversion of their aphorism. “That’s terrible” one of them said. And then they started to laugh.

And then I wrote Maxim 32 in my notebook, because obviously it was perfect.