Light Source by E. S. Strout


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Post June 24, 2012, 09:54:09 PM

Light Source by E. S. Strout

Gino has treated us to another fast-paced space opera in his customary style. I think these stories would be better if he would slow down and work on better characterization, though. The best we have here is of the main character, who comes across as impatient and a little tough; the rest have no 'inner person' to them, if you will, and Paula has just a tiny bit. Not enough. Interpersonal conflict is only of the most superficial variety, and inner conflict within characters is pretty much missing completely.

One thing stopped me right away:

The attaché case's lock was a shiny, featureless black square that glinted in the tenebrous light. "Spook Central," Paula whispered. The lock disintegrated in a shower of glittering particles.


When I read that, the first thing I thought was, "Isn't that going to be a little rough on the station's air filters?" Sorry. And, I know, a gram or two more or less of airborne detritus won't be noticed aboard a large installation. It seemed like an odd way to make a lock, though.

Another thing I noticed was that Paula's field of expertise had no part in the solution to the problem -- she just happened to be the only person around who could communicate with the other party. This doesn't hurt the story; it was just something I noticed.
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Post June 24, 2012, 10:01:34 PM

Re: Light Source by E. S. Strout

Lester Curtis wrote:Gino has treated us to another fast-paced space opera in his customary style. I think these stories would be better if he would slow down and work on better characterization, though. The best we have here is of the main character, who comes across as impatient and a little tough; the rest have no 'inner person' to them, if you will, and Paula has just a tiny bit. Not enough. Interpersonal conflict is only of the most superficial variety, and inner conflict within characters is pretty much missing completely.

One thing stopped me right away:

The attaché case's lock was a shiny, featureless black square that glinted in the tenebrous light. "Spook Central," Paula whispered. The lock disintegrated in a shower of glittering particles.


When I read that, the first thing I thought was, "Isn't that going to be a little rough on the station's air filters?" Sorry. And, I know, a gram or two more or less of airborne detritus won't be noticed aboard a large installation. It seemed like an odd way to make a lock, though.

Another thing I noticed was that Paula's field of expertise had no part in the solution to the problem -- she just happened to be the only person around who could communicate with the other party. This doesn't hurt the story; it was just something I noticed.

May I say Lester, this is a fabulous review/critique. You lay your points in there with helpful suggestions on how to make it better. I'm sure Gino will appreciate this. I know I do! :wink:

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Post June 25, 2012, 07:46:38 PM

Re: Light Source by E. S. Strout

Thanks Lester. I welcome all critiques and absorb them as I continue to (hopefully) grow as a writer. Light Source was written in 2004 and was sequestered in my disorganized filing system. The term space opera I save for such dreck as Star Trek, although I'll admit I never missed an episode. Perhaps Bill will favor me with one of his incisive critiques.

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Post June 25, 2012, 08:01:15 PM

Re: Light Source by E. S. Strout

Hope I didn't offend, Gino. To me, 'space opera' is a sub-genre, not an insult. Your stories aren't as melodramatic as some space operas, but what you have in common is a quick-to-read style with a lot of action, and not as much emphasis on character.
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Post July 10, 2012, 08:56:24 PM

Re: Light Source by E. S. Strout

Lester Curtis wrote:One thing stopped me right away:

The attaché case's lock was a shiny, featureless black square that glinted in the tenebrous light. "Spook Central," Paula whispered. The lock disintegrated in a shower of glittering particles.


When I read that, the first thing I thought was, "Isn't that going to be a little rough on the station's air filters?" Sorry. And, I know, a gram or two more or less of airborne detritus won't be noticed aboard a large installation. It seemed like an odd way to make a lock, though..


I also stumbled a bit at that spot. However, well, I'm tempted to say I didn't give it a second thought. In fact the thought I gave was along the lines of : "Well, It's a Paula Whatsernameagain story. Technooigy need not make sense." So in a way I have learned to have rather low expectations on these stories regarding science an technology. May the author decide whether that's a good thing.

Now if had given that passage a moment of thought, I might have realised that the lock in question is more like a seal, useful until it is broken once, and therefore an audible passphrase it not much of a secutity risk. As for the glittering particles, what is going on there is, I think, screenwriting. If in visual media you wanted to show a lock disintegrating, you'd do so visibly, so that the audience will notice. A shower of glittering particles might be a good choice. So while you might question whether it might make sense to build a lock as described, in the context and iconography of visual media - movies, tv, video games - it does make sense to portray a lock that way.
And for readership having grown up to that iconography, it might make sense to use it in a written story.

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Post July 11, 2012, 11:06:01 AM

Re: Light Source by E. S. Strout

Thank you Vates. Nice job filling in for Bill Wolfe. The lock on the attache case is pure science fiction, of course. As usual, I welcome all critiques and hopefully learn something from them.

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Post July 11, 2012, 11:09:06 AM

Re: Light Source by E. S. Strout

I would assume that the particles in question were (a) very small, and (b) might sublime into vapor (non-toxic, of course).
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Post July 11, 2012, 12:03:13 PM

Re: Light Source by E. S. Strout

Robert_Moriyama wrote:I would assume that the particles in question were (a) very small, and (b) might sublime into vapor (non-toxic, of course).

Well, for starters, it's obviously nanotech. I'll say mostly carbon in composition, because, if it has to actually function as a lock (keeping the case from being pried open) carbon can be more than sufficiently strong. The big problem is in getting the carbon molecules (or maybe crystals) to let go of their bonds.

Is it an active or passive device? Has to be active; at least the part of it that waits to detect the unlocking signal. Carbon makes decent electrical circuitry, and I think it could get its power from random static charges in the immediate environment. The proper signal can trigger a cascading event of some sort that causes the bonds to release.

It would be monolithic until broken; if it were to open on a simple linear seam, that would present a weak point to be exploited by someone trying to break in to it. That's why it shatters into tiny fragments. And carbon is readily capable of producing shiny surfaces, thus the glitter.

Having it sublime into vapor would certainly be a neat trick; carbon in a gaseous state would just harmlessly latch on to the surrounding air molecules; no cleanup needed, and no possibility of reverse-engineering the lock from its remains.

Gods, I think I need a life . . .
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Post July 11, 2012, 07:14:02 PM

Re: Light Source by E. S. Strout

Good topic for conversation. The inevitable outcome of unlocking the attache case by whatever means was to provide Dr. Lynch with vital information she needed to know.

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