Nightwatch: Fly By Wire Pt1 by Dan Hollifield


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Post August 09, 2005, 11:55:50 PM

Re: Nightwatch: Fly By Wire Pt1 by Dan Hollifield

Nate, you are forbidden to hold back. Your earlier critiques of this one set me some high hurdles to leap. I want to know if I cleared the bar, or am I laying dazed and with a bloody nose unknowingly on the ground, somewhere in mid-course?
<br>Ok, but just because you want No-Holds Barred doesn't mean I'm going to look at this thing like a regular reader. I've watched it grow from wild brainstorming sessions to what it is today. I know things about what was intended, what was removed, and what was added to make people happy, on a daily basis. I'm not impartial, and I'm going to miss things others will see. Plus, some bits of this were at my suggestion, and I hardly want to call myself stupid, now do I?<br><br>But I'm also not one to say no to a friend, so I'll do my best to look at it like I'd never heard of Nightwatch, or the obsessed perpetrators thereof:<br><br><br>My first complaint is that the story starts too many times. That is, there is an initial opener with the redirection of Hubble, and that generates enough interest to want to know what could do that. Then, a virus attacks the internet & starts showing people pictures of a rock. Again, interesting, but essentially a second opener. Next, a lengthy news release, which could also serve as a beginning. Following that, the virus returns & threatens everyone, which is also a gripping opener. Still another interesting news release follows that, and even I can tell that reports of magnetic interference is covering up something important. Finally, Callow and Simon meet in the 6th opener, and in that give the gist of everything I really needed to know to start enjoying this tale. That's almost 3,000 words of stuff I didn't need to know to read the rest of the story.<br><br>That being said, my next point is also about story structure. I loved the epistolaries, if I use the term correctly. Viewing a story by through the eyes of their letters, ads, and speeches is wonderful. Unique, as far as I know for this genre, albeit a few of them are a little long. Prior to chatting with you about this very story, I'd never seen the inside of a chat room. It's a bizarre, yet challenging, environment, and a delightful addition to the story. The only detracting factor I can see to their inclusion is the need to constantly stop and explain what the "Sam-Hill" is going on.<br><br>On setting, sometimes the world is described using all the senses, and other times is "skimmed" over. I would have liked it to be more consistent. Plus, there are places where even knowing what's coming, I don't get. For example, I still have no idea what a lightsail looks like, or how it works. That example may not be fair, however, as they're not in this part much. <br><br>On character, based on what I see here in this part only, this Zod AI scares the bejeezus out of me. Knows all, able to take control over practically any bit of hardware, and has attitude to boot. It gives value judgments about the quality of response the humans are presenting. Plus, it talks even when it isn't needed, (it would have known that Simon and Steph left) and that means it's not above doing something counterproductive, or at least wasteful. I don't get a full sense of its motivations, or its limits, either.<br><br>Miranda Fanshaw is far and above the most complex Bond Girl… er, Nightwatch Lady so far. Bi-polar and everything. I want to know more about her, and how Tom could fall so head-over-heels in love so darn fast. Is it possible for a psychologist to so completely disconnect his analyst side when dealing with her? I didn't fall for my wife at first sight, so I'm uncomfortable with the notion.<br><br>My next quibble is that not much really happens in terms of plot in this piece of the story (Part 1). Certainly, there's a ton of people and equipment doing neat stuff, but I only care about the principal players and what happens to them. Selfish of me, I realize, but true. In those terms, Stephanie and Simon figure out what is going on, Tom meets a girl he falls for, trains to be an astronaut and goes into orbit, and then the story stops, until next time. To be fair, I know you're laying the groundwork for what happens later, but the average reader doesn't know where, or indeed if, this is really going.<br><br>Lastly (in broad stroke mode, anyway), there are too many names and places for my taste. I don't know which of them from this part will be important in the next.<br><br>Minor quibbles/line edits:<br>Hubble is thought publicly to be de-orbited, but in the "spotting Cthulu" news release, views from the Hubble are mentioned.<br>Your own lines in the chat scenes don't seem to advance the story, but how can one forget the "BRB, Rented Beer…"? ;)<br>I can only guess how an AI running since 1912 would speak, but would it really end a sentence with "however."?<br>Was it important that Zod confirm that the object is the same one that caused Tunguska? Callow already told us in the 6th opener that Stephanie figured that out.<br><br>There may be more, but I'm too tired to keep looking.<br><br><br>Dan, even though I've read this story almost a hundred times, I still get caught up in it, and have to keep reading until the end. That's pretty damn good, if you ask me. Did you knock yourself out on the bar? Hell, no. You maybe didn't clear it cleanly, but you got over the bar. That's what counts.<br><br>Nate<br>
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Post August 12, 2005, 03:37:29 PM

Re: Nightwatch: Fly By Wire Pt1 by Dan Hollifield

Given FBW's structure, I think a book version would have to be reworked so FBW becomes the 'framing device' for earlier (and some later) stories. That would mean that we might get a short FBW segment followed by one of the other stories, followed by a longer FBW segment, etc., with the thriller-cliche date and location stamps to nail down the sequence and timing.<br><br>Of course, 'The Peacekeeper' already has lengthy flashback segments, so things could get messy (or messier) ...<br><br>Robert M.
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Post August 17, 2005, 11:45:24 PM

Re: Nightwatch: Fly By Wire Pt1 by Dan Hollifield

There's one other thing that's been bothering me about a minor element of the backdrop of Nightwatch for a very long time, but I'm no expert on this particular item.<br><br>Junkyard Wars was cancelled last year already, right? Scrapheap Challenge, I believe, is still running in the UK, but JW is only in reruns here.<br><br>If so, why would, years later, people still be into JW as much as they are? (I'm trying to not give away exactly what year these tales are set.) Stephanie was remembered from her amateur trials two years ago (which, BTW, implies that there is a pro circuit as well).<br><br>Am I off-base on this?? Anybody an informed fan??<br><br>Nate
Last edited by kailhofer on August 17, 2005, 11:46:22 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post August 18, 2005, 12:51:53 AM

Re: Nightwatch: Fly By Wire Pt1 by Dan Hollifield

Nightwatch *is* in a parallel universe.
<br>It is? I must have dozed off during that part of the mission briefing.<br><br>I understood it to be in our real world, just some years in the future.<br><br>Whenever possible, I try to set things in the real world, so I don't automatically think alternate universe when I read a setting. Personally, I prefer settings like a real hotel in Chicago, between the lanes of a real highway south of Duluth Minnesota, in a real northern Wisconsin town... places like that. Even in "Alligator Tears" the turtle lived in the 'real' world before coming to the swamp.<br><br>I prefer to use the theory that special, magical places actually exist, but people are just too dumb or too wrapped up in their own ordinary existence to see major magics going off or dragons flying about town. At least, that was the premise of my young adult Warbled Witch stories, if I ever get one of them published...<br><br>Back to Nightwatch. Sorry. I was just worried that the stories were dated before they even began by mentioning the show. A revival would be just fine by me (and would fix any possible embarrassment). I've been watching reruns and it's really grown on me.<br><br>Nate
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Post August 18, 2005, 11:14:39 AM

Re: Nightwatch: Fly By Wire Pt1 by Dan Hollifield

To the extent possible, the locations I use are real -- place names, distances, descriptive details if I can get 'em. Words in foreign languages are also genuine, although the grammar may be completely wrong; foreign names are based on names of real people (sometimes with given names and surnames mixed 'n' matched, sometimes not -- Stephanie's Mossad tutor in krav maga and small arms skills has the same name as a real Israeli woman (but is NOT her)). The description of the hotel in The Peacekeeper is complete fiction, but the hotel itself is real (likewise the M.M.C. hospital).<br><br>So, yeah, my Nightwatch universe is in the near future of 'this' world, mostly with what I consider to be realistic technology (based on stuff currently under development, or at least feasible based on my layman's understanding of things). The situation in Darfur is / has been much as described in The Peacekeeper -- unfortunately. And who knows -- maybe the current disarmament of the IRA could lead to a backlash five or ten years from now ...<br><br>Robert M.
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Post August 28, 2005, 12:17:38 PM

Re: Nightwatch: Fly By Wire Pt1 by Dan Hollifield

Finally, the whole idea of the Tesla beam ships is a little silly. From your description of the particle beams, they don't have to be mobile. As a matter of fact, they would take so much energy to run, you'd probably need a nuclear reactor dedicated only to them. Don't forget, the magnetic field lines of the moon are just babies compared to the Earth's. You have to work a lot harder to produce electricity on the moon and motors don't work the as well, either (about 30%, I think. . .tried to look it up but couldn't find it).

And once you leave the magnetosphere (10 to 15 planetary radii from the core) electric motors and generators don't work at all. These ships would have to be huge flying batteries.
<br>I know a lot about the potential theories but almost none of the actual science involved. Let me ask a few questions, if I may, because I have a story where electrical generation in space is very important to the storyline. Plus, I helped Dan brainstorm over some of the ship designs (though, not this one), and want to make sure I didn't tell him something stupid.<br><br>That electric motors won't work in deep space is news to me, but when it comes to producing power, couldn't the "huge" generators that are loaded into the beam ships be radioisotopic thermoelectric generators? RTGs have been around for a long time, but that's about all I know about them, save what I could decipher from the Wikipedia article:<br>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioisotope_thermoelectric_generator<br><br>Each one that we have now doesn't produce all that much power, right? But if the "huge" one was a series of existing ones or a new, bigger one that we haven't used before, couldn't it still work? Everyone assumes that the king of electricity needed a lot of juice for his Tesla Gun, but Dan's story doesn't actually quantify how much power is required. <br><br>Even if those bits don't provide enough energy, couldn't they be supplemented by solar power collectors or even electrodynamic tethers (as batteries, not propulsion) enough to do the job and still not relegate Dan's Tesla Beam ships to the "silly" category?<br><br>Nate
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