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New Maxims Revealed For The First Time

December 18, 2015

You cannot believe how hard it has been to wait on writing that headline. (If you are just here looking for the new maxims, they are at the bottom. Go ahead, scroll down, we’ll wait.) 

One of my favorite Christmas gifts every year has been the new Schlock Mercenary calendar. In fairness, I had to buy them as presents to myself. Still, they were one of the things I looked forward to every year. This year, as most Schlock Mercenary fans already know, Howard made the decision to not do a calendar. He explains his reasoning here. It boils down to really two reasons; decreasing calendar sales have made it no longer financially viable, and the Planet Mercenary RPG took up some of the cycles that would have been used to make a calendar. 

Part of the attraction of the calendars, of course, was getting to read new maxims. Each calendar included the next 12 maxims. Sometimes this meant getting reacquainted with old friends. 

Maxim 37: There is no overkill There is only open fire, and reload.

Other times this meant meeting new, never before read maxims.

Maxim 46: Don’t try to save money by conserving ammunition.

(My personal favorite for purely selfish reasons.)   

So, as we contemplated a year of no new maxims and someone else’s art work hanging in my cubical, I asked Howard to let me post the remaining maxims as a sort of Christmas gift for the fans. Someone named Tayler, but not Howard pointed out that 

Okay, you won’t be reading all the remaining maxims here. But, Howard was gracious enough to share a couple of the new ones. I also had a chance to talk to Howard a little about the maxims and how he felt about writing the last of them. 

[Rodney M Bliss] Originally “The 70 Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries” was titled “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Pirates.” Why the name change? 

[Howard Tayler] Because Franklin Covey AGGRESSIVELY defends their trademark for “The 7 Habits.” They sent me a cease and desist letter. 

[RMB] Did you consider fighting them?

[HT] Not really. Actually, the first use of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Pirates” predates their trademark filing by 3 years. But, they can afford a lot of attorneys that would have overwhelmed us. We would have lost

[RMB] If you had been able to win, would you have kept the name?

[HT] If I had been able to win I would have wrung every bit of concessions out of them that I could and then I would have changed the name anyway. When I got their letter, my first reaction was almost panicked. I was very upset, worried, and distraught. I showed it to some of my friends who are also authors. They gave me some good advice. Part of that good advice was that a new name would be better.

[RMB] A name that would be your own creation?

[HT] Exactly. I just substituted 70 for 7, maxims for habits and mercenaries for pirates. So, we really would have changed the name anyway.

[RMB] When you got the letter did it offer a sense of validation? The idea that if an organization as big as Franklin Covey was interested in you, it carried a certain amount of legitimacy? 

[HT] None at all. They just did an online search for “7 Habits.” From the very beginning Schlock Mercenary has been very searchable. 

[RMB] You went back and changed all references in the past strips. Why?

[HT] I wanted it to be internally consistent. Plus, I didn’t want to sell merchandise that had the banned name. And I really didn’t want to have to go back and reprint merchandise later. So, as we reprinted the books, we included the new title. 

[RMB] As you finished writing the last of the maxims, were you worried at all that you might need a maxim in the strip and not have the freedom to write a new one?

[HT] Not at all. Look at it this way. If there are 5000 strips and I used every maxim as a punchline, that’s 70 out of 5000 and that’s already too many. Seventy doesn’t sound like a lot, but to the reader it would start to sound ubiquitously redundant. I can still refer to them at a high level without making them the punchline. If I can make an average of four references to each Maxim, that’s 280 possible Maxim-based jokes with different references. That’s a huge number. 

[RMB] Was there any sense of loss when you wrote the last of them? 

[HT] No

[RMB] Some of the maxims are true. We just saw a story about John Fox, an officer in WWII who was awarded the Medal of Honor for calling down an artillery strike on his own position to stop an enemy advance, (Maxim 20: If you’re not willing to shell your own position, you’re not willing to win.) Some are false. Does that worry you at all? Do you feel a sense of ownership knowing that some of the maxims are bad advice?

[HT] Can you think of any book that is 100% correct? I wrote them this way by design. It’s important that they can be both right and wrong. And sometimes they are right in one situation and wrong in another. I’m not writing a business book. This is an in-world artifact. That’s the difference between writing a fictitious advice book and a real one.  

[RMB] You’ve done lots of non-comic stuff,  coins, Planet Mercenary RPG and the upcoming 70 Maxims book. Has that been distracting? 

[HT] It hasn’t been distracting at all. It has certainly been time consuming. But, I’m using time that I used to do other things to focus on these other projects. For example, much of my miniature painting time has been taken up by the Planet  Mercenary Art Editor work. But there’s a planned end to that work. I can suspend my hobby to focus on this for a while. But, it doesn’t really distract me from the comic, because it meshes perfectly with my work on the comic. 


For reference here are the official Maxims as listed on the Schlock Mercenary Wiki (with some additions from the 2014 and 2015 calendars) 

1. Pillage, then burn.
2. A Sergeant in motion outranks a Lieutenant who doesn’t know what’s going on.
3. An ordnance technician at a dead run outranks everybody.
4. Close air support covereth a multitude of sins.
5. Close air support and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart.
6. If violence wasn’t your last resort, you failed to resort to enough of it. 
7. If the food is good enough, the grunts will stop complaining about the incoming fire.
8. Mockery and derision have their place. Usually, it’s on the far side of the airlock.
9. Never turn your back on an enemy. 
10. Sometimes the only way out is through. . . through the hull.
11. Everything is air-droppable at least once. 
12. A soft answer turneth away wrath. Once wrath is looking the other way, shoot it in the head. 
13. Do unto others. 
14. “Mad Science” means never stopping to ask “what’s the worst thing that could happen?” 
15. Only you can prevent friendly fire. 
16. Your name is in the mouth of others: be sure it has teeth.
17. The longer everything goes according to plan, the bigger the impending disaster. 
18. If the officers are leading from in front, watch out for an attack from the rear. 
19. The world is richer when you turn enemies into friends, but that’s not the same as you being richer.
20. If you’re not willing to shell your own position, you’re not willing to win.
21. Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Take his fish away and tell him he’s lucky just to be alive, and he’ll figure out how to catch another one for you to take tomorrow.
22. If you can see the whites of their eyes, somebody’s done something wrong.
23. The company mess and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart.
24. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a big gun.
25. If the damage you do is covered by a manufacturers warranty, you didn’t do enough damage.
26. “Fire and forget” is fine, provided you never actually forget.
27. Don’t be afraid to be the first to resort to violence.
28. If the price of collateral damage is high enough, you might be able to get paid for bringing ammunition home with you.
29. The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy. No more. No less.
30. A little trust goes a long way. The less you use, the further you’ll go.
31. Only cheaters prosper.
32. Anything is amphibious if you can get it back out of the water.
33. If you’re leaving tracks, you’re being followed.
34. If you’re leaving scorch-marks, you need a bigger gun.
35. That which does not kill you has made a tactical error.
36. When the going gets tough, the tough call for close air support.
37. There is no ‘overkill.’ There is only ‘open fire’ and ‘I need to reload.’
38. Just because it’s easy for you doesn’t mean it can’t be hard on your clients.
39. There is a difference between spare parts and extra [parts].
40. Not all good news is enemy action.
41. “Do you have a backup?” means “I can’t fix this.” 
42. “They’ll never expect this’ means “I want to try something stupid.”
43. If it’s stupid and it works, it’s still stupid and you’re lucky.
44. If it will blow a hole in the ground, it will double as an entrenching tool. 
45. The size of the combat bonus is inversely proportional to the likelihood of surviving to collect it.
46. Don’t try to save money by conserving ammunition.
47. Don’t expect the enemy to cooperate in the creation of your dream engagement.
48. If it ain’t broke, it hasn’t been issued to the infantry.
49. Every client is one missed payment away from becoming a target.
51. Let them see you sharpen the sword before you fall on it.

And for the first time ever, here are two new maxims.

Maxim 64: An ounce of sniper is worth a pound of suppressing fire.

Maxim 68: Negotiating from a position of strength does not mean you shouldn’t also negotiate from a position near the exits. 

Howard has created a world rich in interesting life forms, galaxy spanning stories, lots of mayhem and of course, a daily dose of funny. Follow the daily adventures of his eclectic collections of maximally effective mercenaries at

This is the fifth and final installment of a series on Howard Tayler and Schlock Mercenary. 

Monday – Interview with cartoonist  Howard Tayler
Tuesday – Interview with Business Manager Sandra Tayler
Wednesday – A Day in the Life photo essay of the cartoonist process
Thursday – Howard Tayler answers pre-submitted Fan Questions
Friday – New Maxims Revealed

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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