Some Molecular Self-Assembly Required


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Post June 30, 2009, 11:35:30 AM

Some Molecular Self-Assembly Required

Throw enough junk in the hopper, and who knows what you might end up with. In this piece, Mr. Tornello suggests that we have messed with Mother Nature for so long that She might have found ways to turn our carelessness against us. (Excuse me, I need to close the window. That pigeon is giving me a really dirty look.)

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Post July 01, 2009, 08:16:41 AM

Some Molecular Self-Assembly Required

I like the writing style in this piece - it is straight forward, a "I'm going to tell you a story thing without a lot of twists and turns involved." This is a piece of just honest fiction.
The thing that confused me was 11 paragraphs into the piece, the font changed to italics - so all of the thought versus speech stuff got jumbled up. This definately wasn't the writer's fault, but it made things confusing. Really, what is the best way for a person's thoughts to be shown in writing?
Unfortunately, the whole radioactive dyes and drugs mixing together to form an unusual brain enhancing evolutionary change is as old as Godzilla. And the paragraph that is seven up from the end is preachy. Sorry, it just is. Okay, the next three are also. The last sentence is a nice one.
It says he has one very neurotic cat - maybe she was a muse for this story? - And, by the way, saying a cat is neurotic is stating the obvious, they all are.
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Post July 01, 2009, 09:44:40 AM

radioactive comments

I took that from research. In Africa there are places where spontaneous fusion appears to have occurred in the distant past. I jammed this together with the time line that the FOXP2 gene seemed to have changed.

I was not attempting to use the Godzilla SCIFI escape clause.

If you look at some of the current literature there are links to the runoff and changes in sex organs of fish for one example. I took those and some of the new stuff coming out regarding nano based medicines able to break the blood brain barrier, and that's where the story came from.

re the cat, you have NO IDEA! This one is in a class of her own.

Thanks for the comments.

RT
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Post July 01, 2009, 10:25:20 AM

Italics fixed!

As was speculated, I missed a close-italics tag after the thought-paragraph for THE DETECTIVE (Richard's preferred designation for the character).

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Post July 06, 2009, 12:26:17 PM

Some molecular assembly required

As far as our cats, we must be even more neurotic than they, since we feed them. If you feed a dog, the dog says "He must be God" / If you feed a cat, the cat says "I must be God".

As far as the fish whose sex organs are changing - "Life will find a way."
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Post July 06, 2009, 01:34:17 PM

Re: radioactive comments

rick tornello wrote: I took that from research. In Africa there are places where spontaneous fusion appears to have occurred in the distant past.

Rick,

Well, you'd better hope it wasn't spontaneous fusion. We wouldn't be here, if it was. The 'Gabon Reactor' was actually slow fission. Much easier on the planet. And yeah, there's a difference. In the parlance of nuclear physics. . ."a Big 'Un."

Almost the same difference as the timeline between when this would have occurred and the development of land animals of any kind. Why not a GRB? We could have been hit with massive, mutagenic gamma radiation multiple times in the past. As long as it wasn’t too close, it would leave no evidence behind and would affect at least half the planet in a single shot.


rick tornello wrote: I was not attempting to use the Godzilla SCIFI escape clause.

Yeah Rick, ya’ did. The nasty old human technology and pollution not only made all the animals telepathic, it gave them the capability to construct full paragraphs like:
You and your kind caused this, by letting the waste from your factories and farms flow unheeded into the water and the soil. In fact some of you, yourself included, can do it too. You deny it. We all have restructured neural pathways based upon the nano carbon technology you introduced to the planet. It forced the rewiring of all our brains. A little molecular self-assembly, if you will.



I mean, wow. That wolf is really smart. Maybe we could see how they’re all telepathic from the nasty old industrial waste, but I have a little trouble seeing how they would know what caused it, let alone being able to articulate it so succinctly.

By the rules you set forth in the story, as soon as we quit dumping the toxic wastes, the animals will lose the ability to do any of this stuff. After all, these abilities are acquired characteristics, and not reflected in the genotype. The next wolf generation won’t have the rewired nanocarbon brain, unless it’s exposed to the same evil concoction. Evolution isn’t macro, it’s a slow process where certain traits in individuals allow their offspring to outcompete the rest of the population and breed more of the same. Sometimes, of course, some environmental factor wipes out all but a few of a species, so when they repopulate, the new population is significantly different from the old because of the limited gene pool. Either way these have to be traits that are passed on to the next generation. FOXP2 might allow for better speech, but it would still be better-articulated squirrel and bear noises.

So though it was an interesting read, I thought the Secret of NIMH or even the Flash story Spoons, by our own Robert Moriyama had a better handle on how these things would work.

So much for the science quibble. I really did like the internal dialogue and the father-son dynamic represented in the story. His constant thoughts about his ex wife were also well constructed inasmuch as they were not overwhelming, though his internal struggle with them was something he was having to deal with. These tidbits added a lot to the depth of the character while adding a little something to the tale being told.

Though I still can’t figure out why the critters killed Fenwick.

Regards,

Bill Wolfe
"I am Susan Ivanova. . . .I am the Right Hand of Vengence. . .I am Death Incarnate, and the last living thing that you are ever going to see. God sent me."
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Post July 06, 2009, 03:14:23 PM

Re: radioactive comments

Bill_Wolfe wrote:
rick tornello wrote:...Though I still can’t figure out why the critters killed Fenwick...

Bill Wolfe[/size]


Um, it was a crime of opportunity (one car, on a lonely road that ran through an area with a large enough population of assorted critters). Also, he was playing Pat Boone's hard rock album on his car stereo. And his car was NOT a hybrid. And then there were the traces of blood and fur on his tires and front bumper from the miscellaneous critters he had callously run over in just the past week. (What? Did Rick forget to mention that?)

Would you believe it was a terrorist strike meant to instill fear through its very randomness? (Not only do the animals (at least collectively) have a better grasp of grammar than most people, they are also students of Che Iquana, the great lizard revolutionary.)

Re: the grammar, perhaps telepathic communication does not actually involve 'words' and sentences, but (per the operating theory of the Star Trek Universal Translator) common concepts. Hence the human 'receiving' the wolf's thoughts supplied the grammatical structure. OR the wolf is only a local node of a worldwide animal telepathic group mind, and the group mind has absorbed a great deal of knowledge from humans in range of its myriad parts (including those with knowledge of technology, drugs, nanochemistry, etc., as well as grammar).

Of course, this raises the question of how the group mind would distinguish the pseudo-knowledge (called "common sense" by the neo-'conservatives' up here, and "nonsense" by more rational and educated people) held by the majority from the actual knowledge held by the relative few. I guess them critters must be collectively intelligent enough to know crap when they smell it...

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Post July 06, 2009, 03:54:14 PM

corrections

Fission, my mistake.

Ya know, it's just a story. Since when does SCIFI strictly rely on the rational?
Enjoy it for the story.

Re the GODZILLA comments, I still decline to accept that that was my basis.
Telepathy or babble fish (sorry I had to), does anyone care? They communicated.

Thank you.

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Post July 06, 2009, 09:37:12 PM

Your Own Way Of Creating!

That's a great reply Rick!

Rick Tornello said
Telepathy or babble fish (sorry I had to), does anyone care? They communicated.

Thank you.


Create your own literary world the way you want to create it! Make up the reasons as you go along. I love it!

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Post July 06, 2009, 09:55:16 PM

This one reminded me a bit of that late-1970s flick Day of the Animals, centered on ozone depletion and suffering from B-list star repletion :roll: . I suppose I would have to agree that these kind of ecological cautionary tales are a bit long in the tooth. However, that doesn't mean they aren't still salient.

I would've preferred if this one stayed heavy on the police procedural, with the reader getting clued in as the detective hacked away at the investigation. I guess I could've done without talking animals (and why did the wolf speak English? Is RM correct that the listener creates the meaning of the communication?) and would've enjoyed a more nebulous ending where maybe the detective is finding himself forced to come to some incredible conclusions on the basis of evidence.

And speaking of evidence, I have a question: Would a police report include the finding that the victim died of a heart attack? Wouldn't that be in something like the coroner's report?
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Post July 06, 2009, 10:43:08 PM

response to last comments

I may have sent this as a PM, OOPS.


Yes, however the police would have a report too.

as for The Detective getting it, I never really said that, ...The outside came to him...
could have been an epiphany.

Not knowing anything about police procedures except when I was picked up a few times as a kid , I couldn't begin to go there.

One other thing that led me to this story, is the almost complete destruction of the wooded land and dislocation of the animals that lived there. And for what? We have tens of thousands of ticky tacky houses, in an ever expanding manner here, (I mean the construction is simply crap!!!). I was driving down a small country road when a few tree rats ran across and the idea began.

The above coupled with some of the articles in Scientific American sat in my head and I wrote the story as sort of, a what if the blood brain barrier were breached, and what if the foxp2 gene were altered. And, this being fiction and not hard science, I had some fun.

This not being other than a short story I attempted to work it in a few thousand words. Expanded, this could explain more of the characters, the science and all the points that have been made.

RT
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Post July 08, 2009, 02:41:07 PM

Re: corrections

rick tornello wrote:Ya know, it's just a story. Since when does SCIFI strictly rely on the rational?
Enjoy it for the story.


Rick,

Honestly, is it just a story to you? Why not get the science right? You have the world's best library at your fingertips. . .yeah, I'm talking about the internet. Why not get it right and mold your story around decent science? It certainly does no harm and it might just teach some reader the difference between evolution and mere environmental poisoning.

And there is a difference, after all.

One of the requirements from the 'Golden Age' of Science Fiction--a la John W. Campbell--was that the science had to be right. Well, I read almost all of that stuff and even when it wasn't right, at least it was current with the time. I would hate to think that I might have been subject to writers who could just make-up their science like it was magic.

Many of the folks who read your work won't know that they are getting made-up and flat-out wrong science. There's enough ignorance and blind stupidity out there without our kind adding to it out of sheer laziness.

And let's face it, with Creationism and other crap floating around out there, we have enough problems as it is.

Food for thought,

Bill Wolfe
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Post July 08, 2009, 04:28:44 PM

reply to the correct science dictum

Mr. Wolfe, Your point is well taken.

There is SCIENCE -fiction and science-FICTION. Both are legitimate venues for expression. One is a hard science approach with a story attached. The other uses science, history or whatever as a vehicle for the story. This story uses science as a vehicle, a cover if you will. This was and is not hard science. Everyone can take their own experiences, studies and related ideas and then feed it into the story. This allows a mental expansion of the make believe, or the picture being painted within the readers mind.

My story a year or so back THEY NEVER KNEW was based upon fact and experience, with possible outcomes, supposed. Some things were suggested occurred this past week with more to follow, I would bet. I had to delete a lot of the data in the story because it was too detailed. It sword cuts both ways.

This last piece was for entertainment and a little for the beasties getting creamed by the bulldozers where I live. If everything has to be by the book, why bother? (I'm not a tree hugger; well maybe a bit, the building and expansion is a shameful)

When I want hard science reading, I go to the physics books, the journals and monthly publications. When I want to be entertained, I read SCIFI. I write for the same reasons, to entertain and enjoy as well as put a question or two out there, sometimes.

Thanks, I'll WILL keep you comments in mind. I still insist it's a story not science. Enjoy it, or not. I hope you would.

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Post July 08, 2009, 05:36:13 PM

Defending One's Work

Richard Tornello wrote:
When I want hard science reading, I go to the physics books, the journals and monthly publications. When I want to be entertained, I read SCIFI. I write for the same reasons, to entertain and enjoy as well as put a question or two out there, sometimes.

Thanks, I'll WILL keep you comments in mind. I still insist it's a story not science. Enjoy it, or not. I hope you would.

Richard.


Wow! Way to defend your work, Richard! You really have grown as a writer and as a person over the last 6 months. I admire Bill Wolfe and his style of writing and all, but you definitely have a vision where you want to take your craft where as I'm still discovering my direction as a writer.

You were gracious and polite while still standing firm on your position that you obviously feel deeply. Impressive!

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Post July 09, 2009, 08:48:43 PM

I've been pondering this debate for a bit and have a few humble tidbits to throw out here that I hope make some sense.

I agree with Bill on this.

Richard, you've had a "what if" moment and now there's a story burning a hole in your head and you've got to get it out. That's great, but you ought not get in the habit of forgoing accuracy to achieve that.

In "Some Molecular Self-Assembly Required," despite your assertion that it was more fiction than science, the science featured too strongly to be treated in the manner you have so strongly defended.

I don't think it's necessarily problematic to eschew research in favor of telling an entertaining story, but I do think there are different approaches a writer can take to avoid putting faulty or otherwise questionable facts/science in a piece.

For this one, might not suppositions work? Characters hashing out just what the heck is happening with the animals. Searching the Web for info, finding obscure Web sites with outrageous assertions. Pondering them... The son indicated that there had been a few or several similar incidents around the world. What are the rumors? That way you could throw all kinds of ideas out there without claiming "this is what's happening." Not only that it creates a fun (ie, entertaining) sort of tension for the reader who will also be trying to make sense of the mysterious animal behavior.

One of the things I enjoyed about Stephen King's "The Mist" is that no one really knows what happened. There is one mention of a secretive military base in the hills and that's it. Make of it what you will. (The movie was far more overt and that kind of took some of the tension away for me).

That you want to entertain your readers kind of goes without saying, but I think we need to acknowledge that at least a segment of the readership is highly sophisticated and draws some enterainment value from the relationship between complexity and plausibility. At least in one case, a reader's entertainment was hindered to some extent when distracted by what he identified as questionable science.
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Post July 09, 2009, 09:14:04 PM

reply short and sweet

This ain't the Journal of the American Academy of Sciences. This is a SCIFI zine. If the readers can't figure that one out from the get-go, we are in worse shape than I thought.

I mean, really now! It's a story!!

According to the journals, 100K years ago, there about, the FOXP2 gene did make a change, and there was some type of natural fission in Africa, dates???. After that, IT'S JUST A STORY using bits and bights of history and science to bring it togehther, just like the take off on Donna Flor And Her 2 Husbands, or any of the others this month, last month or tomorrow.

If I wanted to write for a technically reviewed journal I would be writing about Chinese maritime history, or defending a PhD. or working on the effects of CYBER attacks on grid , not scifi.

20mg of valium might be in order here, for all!

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Post July 09, 2009, 10:10:32 PM

No need to shout. :D

I sense... exasperation.

As tenacious as your responses have been, I'm not convinced. I doubt anyone here thinks this is anything but a workshop for developing writers. I want to be a better writer so I have submitted material here in search of feedback. Yeah, it's great to get praise, but it's also useful to get constructive criticism, particularly if there is a factual error. When I'm done pouting, I sift through the commentary (if there is any...) and try to improve my piece. That said, I'm inclined to believe that many members of the community are well-educated, highly sophisticated people who probably enjoy reading fiction of any kind held to the similar standards of rigor as peer-reviewed journals.

By the way, I have no idea whether the science in your story is "good" or "bad." For all I know Bill is totally off base. But I suppose I take issue with your ardent defense that "it's just a story" so accuracy doesn't matter. Yes, you're absolutely right, we are only writing stories, tales, yarns, but I want to strive to be as accurate as possible even in the smallest details. If it's worth the keystrokes it's worth being correct.
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Post July 09, 2009, 10:30:43 PM

Warp drive, wormholes, etc. ...

Star Trek, especially The Next Generation, was famous for its technobabble, but was guilty of some whoppers in areas that did NOT depend on future technology. (Case in point: the episode where the crew encountered Montgomery Scott, preserved in a continuously-refreshing transporter buffer on the surface of a Dyson sphere. Problem: the Enterprise was falling into the star at the center of the sphere with both warp and impulse engines offline. Solution: the ship, large enough for a crew of about 1,000, is diverted using the maneuvering thrusters. Them there maneuvering thrusters must have had a ferocious delta-v to have made any significant difference at all...) As Richard says, the 'science', while often central to the plot, was never intended to be taken seriously.

In Stargate, the original movie and the "SG-1" TV series, the "stargates" supposedly create artificial wormholes (but are really equivalent to really long range, more-or-less fixed-location "transporters"). Again, the "science" is central to / essential to the whole premise, and occasionally a major plot element, but aside from using (or abusing) scientific terminology, is not intended to be taken seriously.

Richard mentions some scientific facts, but only as a vague jumping-off point for the purposes of his story (which is, in essence, a Mother Nature Strikes Back tale in the tradition of (look up at imdb.com, if you haven't heard of these) "Frogs", "The Night of the Lepus"*, etc., etc., etc., etc., ....)

He wanted to have some justification, however thin, for the sudden coordinated action by multiple species (some rival predators, some normally prey). Now, assuming that the chemicals caused a mutation rather than a functional change in one generation, that mutation would have been highly advantageous (likely to "breed true")... On the other hand, in the continued and increasing presence of the mutagens, each generation would have had many non-viable changes, so...

The "talking", professorial wolf was a "telling, not showing" shortcut to explain things, the Mad Scientist's soliloquy to the Hero just before he turns on the Death Ray.

And to think poor Richard was upset when people WEREN'T commenting on his story! I bet he's sorry now...

RM

(*A real 'classic' that includes a scene where the protagonists crash a drive-in theater (sadly, some people will have to look THAT up in Wikipedia) and announce "There's a horde of giant killer rabbits coming this way! I need everybody to follow me!" (or words to that effect). (They need a bunch of cars to help them to ...) What makes the scene so wonderful is that ALL THE PEOPLE AT THE DRIVE-IN IMMEDIATELY DO AS INSTRUCTED.)
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Post July 09, 2009, 10:39:50 PM

To Each His Own!

I think the moral of the story is, "to each his own".

When thoughtful criticism if offered, as it has been here, it is up to the author to decide what works best for them.

For those who are definitive on correct science being applied to science fiction...great, you will not be satisfied unless the works you read and the things you write follow those principles.

And for those who love to tell stories without a shred of factual science, maybe loving the concept of making up their own science as they go along, they may not want to be bogged down with research and data and may only want to stretch their imagination.

I happen to enjoy reading both approaches and I'm still deciding what method I prefer using.

I haven't read anything as of yet by unforgibbon and don't know where to find his work, but I have read stories by Bill Wolfe and like his style very much. I have often thought he would make a great detective novelist.

But it is up to the writer to satisfy himself and to choose what works for him. You never know that someday in the future, advice a writer has heard on the forum which he immediately did not receive, may be applied to future literary works.

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Post July 09, 2009, 11:02:13 PM

resonce ad infinitum

accuracy?

But isn't the part of being an artist, the ability to bend the reality, the "given truths" if you will, and twist, meld, and fabricate it, to paint the picture?

I suggest, the Impressionist painters as an example. People like the art. Yet it's not photo representational, it is an idea suggested by paint strokes, or dots. No complaints today about it.

Regarding SCIFI

I suspend disbelief when I enter this realm. If the concept works in the story, I'm happy, whether it's mine or from another pen. If I'm interested in the technology, I might research it. I really do not care if the technology or history is spot on. It may be bent to make the story happen.

If I used cloaking, must I be technically correct in the discussion? Must I go into detail regarding light bending? Or, do we understand the concept and carry on with the story?

And, IT is a story, pure and simple. Let's say you do begin to ponder some of the suppositions, There is a possibility that the nano runoff could have effects that we do not foresee. The blood brain barrier could be breached and genetic consequences may or may not change the nature of nature as we know it.

If you have ghosts dancing with 3 dimensional people in one story and not have a problem with that Reality or Truth, what is it in this story that provokes such an interest in scientific accuracy?

To reiterate, this is a science-FICTION zine, and not a refereed scientific journal. Writers, artists, and that's what we are, have a right to take what they want from anywhere, and propose what they will.

If the problem is simply nit picking over scientific minutia, which might not take away from The Story, and if one suspends disbelief as I suggested earlier, then there really should be no problem.

How many angles can dance on the head of a pin?

Enjoy the story, any story, think about it, ponder, smile or frown and disagree. But to think that people would think this story is hard science, a bear and a wolf working together, tree rats attacking a car, in the opening of the story no less; THAT assumption really calls for a suspension of disbelief.

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Post July 09, 2009, 11:03:29 PM

Hey Robert,
I have a question regarding those TV series. Do you know for a fact that the writers didn't intend for the audience to take the science seriously? Did they reveal that in interviews or something? Or are you assuming that must be the case given the ludicrousness of it (which would allow you to enjoy the shows without any angst :D )?

I know that sounds kind of challenging, but I'm not trying to be. You're making a strong point so I'm curious.

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Post July 09, 2009, 11:51:11 PM

Re: resonce ad infinitum

rick tornello wrote:If I used cloaking, must I be technically correct in the discussion? Must I go into detail regarding light bending? Or, do we understand the concept and carry on with the story?


I would argue that if you choose to provide an explanation for how cloaking works it ought to be plausible.

rick tornello wrote:If you have ghosts dancing with 3 dimensional people in one story and not have a problem with that Reality or Truth, what is it in this story that provokes such an interest in scientific accuracy?


The difference, at least in terms of the exchange we're having, is that the ghost story doesn't try to explain the appearance of the ghost, whereas it seemed Bill took issue with the explanation you gave for the change in the animals.

Give me cloaking and ghosts and magic and superheroes and carnivorous rabbits any time. I accept them at face value and with relish because I too suspend my disbelief. I don't need explanations. However, if an author decides to provide the science behind some aspect of a story, unless it's supposed to be silly, ie, not intended to be taken seriously, I assume the facts are correct and want the explanation to be plausible. Honestly, most of the time I'm not gonna know, but there have been rare times when I've caught outright mistakes and it really undermines the effect for me.

All of that said, I agree with Mark. We all approach this craft differently and that's the way it ought to and has to be. My point in joining the debate was simply to express my opinion on the issue and engage other writers, nothing more.
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Post July 10, 2009, 12:08:07 AM

I knew you were going to say that...

unforgibbon wrote:Hey Robert,
I have a question regarding those TV series. Do you know for a fact that the writers didn't intend for the audience to take the science seriously? Did they reveal that in interviews or something? Or are you assuming that must be the case given the ludicrousness of it (which would allow you to enjoy the shows without any angst :D )?

I know that sounds kind of challenging, but I'm not trying to be. You're making a strong point so I'm curious.


...Because I'm psychic. Call my 1-900 number and I will prove it at length (at $3.99 for the first minute, and $1.99 for each subsequent minute. A real bargain!).

Most writers for TV series know about as much about science as, say, the bastard offspring of Dubya and a certain former Governor of Alaska. They probably read the series "bible", then break some of THOSE rules, and the series "science advisor" (fellows whom I often wanted to smack upside the head) would say, "Sure. Whatever." This is why Steve Austin could run 60 miles an hour without having his (non-bionic) hip joints disintegrate or without falling on his ass (Martin Caidin's books were considerably more realistic) or lift a 600-pound engine block with his one bionic arm without blowing out his non-bionic back and shoulder (or worse, read at super-speed because he had a bionic eye and his bionic hand could turn pages really really fast).

No doubt there were, and are, exceptions, but I would contend that the writers did not, as a rule, care if the 'science' in their scripts would make Von Daniken blush, or if they DID want the 'science' in their stories to be taken seriously, they didn't KNOW how bad it was.

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Post July 10, 2009, 07:20:31 AM

reply good morning

Give me cloaking and ghosts and magic and superheroes and carnivorous rabbits any time. I accept them at face value and with relish because I too suspend my disbelief. I don't need explanations. However, if an author decides to provide the science behind some aspect of a story, unless it's supposed to be silly, ie, not intended to be taken seriously, I assume the facts are correct and want the explanation to be plausible. Honestly, most of the time I'm not gonna know, but there have been rare times when I've caught outright mistakes and it really undermines the effect for me.

Not to belabor this too much more, but when I read SCIFI I assume all reality is potentially off the table. And any "science" is there for effect, true or otherwise. It doesn't have be "silly". It might hint at something allowing the story path to continue.

However, and just the opposite, when I read a technical journal I would hope that the facts are just that, facts.

That's about it.

This has been fun, but I must conduct some paying efforts today.

hosta lumbago.

RT
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Post July 10, 2009, 12:00:07 PM

Re: reply good morning

rick tornello wrote:This has been fun, but I must conduct some paying efforts today.

hosta lumbago.


I just love starting something. I've done it more than once. The whole point of the argument is. . .now pay attention children. . .DON'T EXPLAIN THE SCIENCE IF YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND IT.

Don't get me wrong. We all love stories where you push the button and go faster than light. Call it WARP drive or Star Gates or Hyper Drive or Star Drive or Grey Space or Worm Holes. . .you get the point.

Just DON'T explain it unless you can. . .which--by the way--you can't. And all is well.

If this story just read: 'Due to the chemicals and pollutants you've been dosing us with, we Animals now can telepathically communicate and coordinate our efforts with (at least) human-level sophistication and verbal ability. . .

Well, nobody can say the science is no good because nobody said anything about science. Not really, anyway.

Push the button. Tell the reader that the gizmo does what it's supposed to do. And forget about it. But if you try to explain the science. . .DO IT RIGHT.

No. 1 It does no harm. The folks that know will say: "Well, that's plausible." and the folks that don't know a jet engine from a WARP drive will say: "Sounds plausible."

Either way, nobody is distracted from the story because you just had James Bond flap his arms really hard and fly out of the trap. No rocket boosters, no special suit. . .just flap his arms really fast. Which is basically what Rick did with this story.

No. 2 One of your major demographics for SciFi has to be the NASA/PhD/MENSA geeks who are bound to know more than you about what you're writing. Why exclude them since you could just as easily write the same story with proper science if you weren't too freakin' lazy to look it up?

And that's what it comes down to. We're just too lazy to do the research and get the KNOWN science right. The make-believe stuff like FTL and nano/pico/femto technology are all in the realms of fantasy, so they're up for grabs.

But Rick, ya' hadda' go and write an explanation. Why? Why explain how it worked? Besides the fact that you had a pretty cool title going on, of course. It sure doesn't add to the story and for some of us, it's a real detractor.

The thing to remember is that this is a forum for learning what works in a story and what doesn't. Try not to get too defensive, just learn from it and try something a little different, next time.

It's what we're all here for, after all.

Regards to all,

Bill Wolfe
"I am Susan Ivanova. . . .I am the Right Hand of Vengence. . .I am Death Incarnate, and the last living thing that you are ever going to see. God sent me."

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Post July 10, 2009, 12:29:53 PM

I come down on the "enjoy the story" side. Which I did.
We all watched and enjoyed Star Trek, TNG. ant the rest of the spinoffs. We didn't question warp drive, transporter beams. tractor beams or dilithiium crystals. And who cares how a phaser works, either on stun or kill, as long as the sucker does the job.
My two cents.

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Post July 10, 2009, 01:20:31 PM

To Gino

Stated quite nicely, and without the least bit of hypercriticalness or the reiterating call for overexactingness in what is essentially a story, not science and not a theory proposed to the world community.

Thank you, very much.

RT
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Post July 10, 2009, 01:47:50 PM

response to personal attack

Mr. Wolfe:
Lazy?
Are you here with me, monitoring my work?
Or as in Being John Malkovich, insidiously being me?
Please keep your personal attacks and let's stick to the issues and not the person. That's not the way to win arguments with thinking people.
Respectfully,
Richard
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Post July 10, 2009, 01:52:10 PM

Some assembly required

This seems to be the eternal struggle in SciFi: SCIENCE fiction vs Science FICTION (and yes, I said that in an Aphelion critique recently – but it’s always nice to be quoted). Every writer has the responsibility to draw their own line in the sand.
H. G. Wells, for instance, drew his line 3000 years in the future with machines that had no real basis in the science of the day.
Arthur C. Clark, however, drew his line in the very near future, actually giving a name to the phenomenon he explained: the C-belt.
Asimov, on the other hand, saw into the distant future where robots walk among us, never mind the specifics of what kind of fluid flowed through their veins or how a robotic brain physically worked. He was interested, instead, in the mental battles that might surface in such a mind.
Earlier than that, of course, Lovecraft created the Elder Ones: beings from a different star system which crash landed here on Earth and occasionally woke up to the distress of mere mortals. What their starships looked like or if they were in stasis on their trip was of no matter to Lovecraft – only the horror of their presence.
Interesting to see the struggle played out on the field of a webzine, however.
Mickie D. "When all else fails, hit it with a stick." (3rd century Shinto saying)
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Post July 10, 2009, 06:17:06 PM

Re: response to personal attack

rick tornello wrote:Mr. Wolfe:
Lazy?
Are you here with me, monitoring my work?
Or as in Being John Malkovich, insidiously being me?
Please keep your personal attacks and let's stick to the issues and not the person. That's not the way to win arguments with thinking people.
Respectfully,
Richard


Oh nonsense, Rick. I said we.

It's one of our problems as writers. We get lazy, at times, especially when we're writing about something. . .anything. . .that we don't know much about and don't take the time to research it. It's endemic to the craft, itself. And it's also one of the dead giveaways of an amateur--which most of us are.

Far from being a personal attack, it's an observation gleaned from countless hours doing what I hope others will do with my prose. . .reading. I read a lot of professional fiction and even more amateur fiction, and see the same kinds of things over and over again. The pros do the research, whether it's street names or the way some street gang really thinks and talks.

Read biographies of successful writers and you'll find that many of them will travel around the world, delve deep into societies, interview prisoners and monks and soup kitchen volunteers to add real color and flavor to their writing.

It's not enough for them to just say: "Well, it's just fiction. Most people don't know what a junkie thinks about in the period when the high has faded and the Hunger is about to begin, anyway."

No, the best of them go and find some junkies or ex-junkies and do the research. And that is one of the reasons that they are professionals. It's not the only reason, of course, but it's important.

If you took my words to be a personal attack, I apologize. But I would ask that you re-read my post as an attempt to highlight--with both your story and your later posts--one of the true boundaries between a good tale and something any of us might be able to sell to an actual paying market.

You can sell a story about pollution and run-amok technology making the affected wildlife telepathic, intelligent and pissed at us about it, but you take a much greater chance of rejection if you don't do the research.

My little purview is science. But if I wrote a story about an airplane pilot (which I know nothing about) I would hope that I would just write something like: "Soar Skylar performed his pre-flight checks like he shaved his too-handsome face--carefully, deliberately and with precision."

As the writer, I can't be wrong about the pilot, but I could sure be wrong about the details. If I start telling the reader how he did the checks, which buttons he pushed and which readings he confirmed. . .I'd better get it right. If I don't, then some pilot out there is going to wonder if I'm saying that good old Soar was a lousy pilot, or if I was just a lazy writer who couldn't look up a preflight checklist. I have then lost the reader, all of a sudden he's out of the story, and I may not get him back at all.

Don't know about you, but if I write a story, I need all the readers I can get. I want them to start it, read it all the way through and hang onto it for as long as possible once it's done. Why turn one away because I had to go and get too detailed?

So laziness in a writer is a fair thing to highlight and to expound upon in this forum. Like I said, we all are guilty of this literary crime. And we all need to watch out for it if we want to improve in our craft.

Besides, don’t forget that this is free advice, and it’s worth every penny I’m charging you for it.

Bill Wolfe

"I am Susan Ivanova. . . .I am the Right Hand of Vengence. . .I am Death Incarnate, and the last living thing that you are ever going to see. God sent me."
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