The Ouroboros by S. H. Hughes


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Post December 17, 2007, 12:19:27 PM

The Ouroboros by S. H. Hughes

http://www.aphelion-webzine.com/shorts/ ... boros.html

This is an interesting piece.

Let’s start with the time travel premise. The past is mutable and the resultant ripple from a change can have disastrous effects. One can, however, exist outside of time (via the slipstream), and that is where the Ouroboros endeavor to fix time issues. Pretty standard sci-fi stuff. The only additional twist is that DNA has a “certain [temporal] flux in it”, which is not explained in great detail but plays a crucial role in the plot.

Stylistically, the story begins in a noirish fashion. The main protagonist seems a bit jaded as he and his team patch the damage done by a rogue agent. The denouement then turns philosophical. The nature of time and the purpose of the Ouroboros are explained. I didn’t find the transition seamless, although it didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the story.

As with many time travel stories, the concept is often difficult to follow and sometimes farfetched. But it held my interest, which is good.
"Even the straight arrow needs a crooked bow."
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jaimie l. elliott

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Post January 12, 2008, 08:48:27 AM

The Ouroboros by S. H. Hughes

well, this one was very entertaining and readable but i had several issues with it. the sidereal universes are always a cool concept, they worked well in stuff like The One, and they work well here. Sarah's explanation of how the universe works, kinda like a non-stop combo in a video game were a misfire on one button breaks everything down, was compelling.

however, and i'm not trying to be some bleeding heart here, it's obvious she's done some research on events and history -everything seemed correct to me. then why the blatant lack of research when it came to this Yip guy? his name didn't make any sense, and the province mentioned was the same - a minute on Google would have resulted in a much more accurate depiction.

so the story here is sound...it's in the details, which happen to be important, that problems emerge. unlike Jaimie i didn't find any harsh transitions herein...to me this wasn't noir to begin with or anything, i just hope the writer would have taken the time to make her research more consistent.

Sar

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Post January 17, 2008, 07:35:59 AM

Re: The Ouroboros by S. H. Hughes

Dear Jaimie, Neoadorable,

Many thanks for you reviews on my story the Ouroboros. I take all thoughts of readers seriously and so do appreciate your comments.

In relation to Jaimie’s remarks, I agree that time travel stories are tricky to do, so that’s why the “slipstream” and the DNA flux were invented, in order to move away from the standard grandfather paradox stuff and keep the reader on the character’s path. I think it’s easy to get tangled up in the consequences of time travel, and it pulls away from the story telling, although Terminator came back and killed hundreds of people in JC’s story, and that didn’t seem to cause too many problems…

However, I’m a little confused as to why Neoadorable thinks there is a “blatant lack of research” in relation to Yip Cheng Wang, and thought his name didn’t make sense. I named the character after Yip Man, a master in the Chinese martial art of Wing Chun, who taught a certain Bruce Lee all he knew. So although his name may have a certain odd ring to it, it is a real Chinese name.

As for the province of Hopeh (sometimes called Hebei or Hopei), it is a real province in northeast China and has a vast population. I used it, because it was one of the earliest regions in which a settlement began, as the drop off point for Yip is 1333 A.D., so I had to be sure I was placing him in an area that was at least populated at that time. Tai Sheng Village, of course, is a fictional one.

So, that’s a few words in my defence, however, I do honestly thank you both for the reviews, as at least the story stirred you enough to write your points down.

Many thanks again.


Sarah

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Post January 29, 2008, 11:10:32 AM

The Ouroboros by S. H. Hughes

no need to defend yourself, it's all friendly here! why you...heh j/k.

Yip's name doesn't make sense because it kinda mixes up various methods of transliterating Chinese characters. if you stick with pinyin then Wang is definitely Standard (and a surname, not a first name as you used it), while Yip is a Cantonese (i.e non-Standard) last name. Also, anyone familiar with Hebei won't have a clue what Hopeh is. Not wanting to be a stickler, but if you're writing about a place to a wide audience it's always better to stick with what most people will likely recognize. Beijing, for instance, can be known as Yanjing or Dadu, but 90% of readers outside northeast China won't know. even "The Loop/Chicago Loop" will confuse people outside the US, who'd be more at home with "downtown Chicago".

but don't think we're a bunch of overly-critical geeks around here, keep posting and submitting stories!

Sar

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Post January 29, 2008, 11:53:34 AM

Re: The Ouroboros by S. H. Hughes

A fair set of comments. Many thanks for your additional explanation. I’ll try to stick to the more common / standard names, as you have a point regarding writing for a “wide audience”. And no way do I think you an overly-critical geek. Hey, in the business of writing, if you can’t take the small critical punches, you get out of the ring, right?

Again, many thanks for your comments.

Best

Sarah

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Post January 30, 2008, 06:49:19 AM

Re: The Ouroboros by S. H. Hughes

A most intruiging story; however, there is one small thing I found a little odd. (It's not the names; they all looked perfectly fine to me).

The question I'm wondering about is what - aside from fixing the messes their own agents cause - does Ouroboros do?

It seems that they are the only group with any sort of time travel technology (aside from the unnamed aliens, who presumably would be spotted if they tried to do any temporal tinkering with Earth, hence the use of human agents) - and if they actually use it to change anything, then the entire universe goes up if it can't be fixed in time?

So the only possible use (insofar as I understand) of the time travel technology is to mitigate the effects of someone else using the exact same technology.

What am I missing here?

Sar

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Post January 30, 2008, 08:39:07 AM

Re: The Ouroboros by S. H. Hughes

Hi,

The story works on the premise that time is merely replaying itself, as the main character has already seen the “end” of earth and it being reborn again. The idea is, that time must be allowed to complete the same cycle again. However, if you think in terms of the “chaos theory” or the “butterfly effect”, you cannot be sure that what has previously happened, if given the same set of principles, will happen the same way again. This I think could even run as deep as the déjà vu experience that people sometimes get. If in one run through of time you stepped off a kerb too quickly and were killed by a passing cab, next time, given the exact same environment and set of events, could that inner voice or sense of déjà vu tip the scale and prevent you for stepping off that kerb?

The idea behind the story (remember it is fiction) is that the main events of history must take place or time, which is almost an entity in itself here, will rub out the earth’s entire existence. Who lives, who dies, in this time travel story, is irrelevant. The event is the concern.

In regards to the Ouroboros, it is not that anyone needs to know what they do, rather that they do it. Look at it this way. The Titanic, glorious ship, sank on its maiden voyage. Because it sank, rules change, the basics of wireless radio changed, lifeboats for everyone etc… However, had there been binoculars in the crow’s-nest that night, maybe the lookouts would have seen the iceberg long before the ship hit it, thereby avoiding the collision, but in doing so, might they have changed history? Ask yourself, would there have been a seat in a lifeboat for you on a ship in 2008, if Titanic’s fate had not occurred?

Now ask yourself, who took the binoculars away? You don’t know, the crewmember who was supposed to ensure they were there doesn’t know, but perhaps the Ouroboros do. If the Ouroboros did not exist, perhaps the chaos theory would win out in a rerun, making the binoculars available and so ensuring the ship didn’t sink. The event would not replay, it would go down a different path and therefore history would change and the event would not take place.

Look throughout history and you will find endless mysteries where disasters have occurred due to minor mistakes, something missing, some wire loosen, some metal scanner in an airport not detecting the knife down a man’s sock. The story is designed to make you ask why. And that is where I slotted in the idea of the Ouroboros.

I’m not a scientist merely a struggling (are not we all?) writer, but I hope that helps a bit.

Thank you for your comments by the way. I’m glad you didn’t find a problem with the names! Each reader to their own. However, I’m taking all the comments onboard for my next round of stories!

All the best

Sarah

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Post January 30, 2008, 09:29:09 AM

Re: The Ouroboros by S. H. Hughes

Hi,

The story works on the premise that time is merely replaying itself, as the main character has already seen the “end” of earth and it being reborn again. The idea is, that time must be allowed to complete the same cycle again. However, if you think in terms of the “chaos theory” or the “butterfly effect”, you cannot be sure that what has previously happened, if given the same set of principles, will happen the same way again. This I think could even run as deep as the déjà vu experience that people sometimes get. If in one run through of time you stepped off a kerb too quickly and were killed by a passing cab, next time, given the exact same environment and set of events, could that inner voice or sense of déjà vu tip the scale and prevent you for stepping off that kerb?

The idea behind the story (remember it is fiction) is that the main events of history must take place or time, which is almost an entity in itself here, will rub out the earth’s entire existence. Who lives, who dies, in this time travel story, is irrelevant. The event is the concern.


I remember, yes. It's an interesting premise.

But something just seems - suspiscious about it. These aliens, for a start - do they re-start Oborous in every timeline? Why did they start it in the first place, if the original timeline didn't happen that way? And the vanishing of Amelia Earhart and the crew of the Marie Celeste are now historical events...

Basically, I get the impression that the protaganist believes the aliens - but that the aliens have been lying to the protagonist. It's easy enough with time travel to see the Earth destroyed and then to show the same person the Earth reborn - and the idea that the aliens have been shaping Earth's history to their obscure whims (whatever those might be, whether beneficial to humanity, detrimental to humanity, or in the end just plain alien) is intriguing. Also, given the number of rogue agents, this could easily be expanded into a far longer story, with this serving as the introduction - and then over the course of many more missions, or perhaps more sketching out of the out-of-time area that the Oborous inhabits between times, the protagonist slowly starts picking up minor inconsistancies, hints that the aliens hadn't been quite truthful, and finally either finds out what the aliens are really up to or thinks she has and goes rogue herself to try to stop them because they lied about what they were doing and she therefore feels she can't trust her duty anymore... there's definately the potential to do that in the story.

And if not, then perhaps a few of the people who went rogue followed that line of reasoning and that's why they went rogue.

In regards to the Ouroboros, it is not that anyone needs to know what they do, rather that they do it. Look at it this way. The Titanic, glorious ship, sank on its maiden voyage. Because it sank, rules change, the basics of wireless radio changed, lifeboats for everyone etc… However, had there been binoculars in the crow’s-nest that night, maybe the lookouts would have seen the iceberg long before the ship hit it, thereby avoiding the collision, but in doing so, might they have changed history? Ask yourself, would there have been a seat in a lifeboat for you on a ship in 2008, if Titanic’s fate had not occurred?

Now ask yourself, who took the binoculars away? You don’t know, the crewmember who was supposed to ensure they were there doesn’t know, but perhaps the Ouroboros do. If the Ouroboros did not exist, perhaps the chaos theory would win out in a rerun, making the binoculars available and so ensuring the ship didn’t sink. The event would not replay, it would go down a different path and therefore history would change and the event would not take place.

Look throughout history and you will find endless mysteries where disasters have occurred due to minor mistakes, something missing, some wire loosen, some metal scanner in an airport not detecting the knife down a man’s sock. The story is designed to make you ask why. And that is where I slotted in the idea of the Ouroboros.


And how many triumphs have occurred for the same reason? The discovery of penicillin because someone got mold growing in his petri dishes, for example? (I can't think of another off the top of my head, but there must be plenty).

I’m not a scientist merely a struggling (are not we all?) writer, but I hope that helps a bit.

Thank you for your comments by the way. I’m glad you didn’t find a problem with the names! Each reader to their own. However, I’m taking all the comments onboard for my next round of stories!

All the best

Sarah


Probably the main reason I had no problem with the names is because I don't speak Chinese.

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