Boundaries by Bob Bignell

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Post January 11, 2007, 09:34:30 PM

Boundaries by Bob Bignell

Space story along the lines of Star Trek. The beginning eases into the story with a problem that has just developed. And the story centers around that problem until the end.

I love space stories and did enjoy reading this one, but I found it to be a little typical. Trapped on a planet with their reactor about to blow up is nothing new.

The characters didn’t come alive with me. I could hardly visualize them and didn’t feel as if I were in the story, watching from within.

But I do see talent that wrote this story, an imagination that knows how to use English, and take a story to its end, stylishly.

I think a little more sensory input is needed. Show how Domine looks, show how worried he is becoming. Interject the sights and sounds of the station with the smell of ozone or a reference to the artificial atmosphere. Little details go a long way in getting the reader into the story.

All in all not bad!
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Post January 16, 2007, 01:56:16 PM

Re: Boundaries by Bob Bignell

I'm afraid this story never grabbed my attention. There was no hook in the first section save that something was obviously wrong with the reactors. The writing was competent, even good at times -- there were some great lines here and there -- but for the most part it just didn't sizzle. Also, the story was replete with typos that a good read through could have fixed. Such as this right at the beginning:

From billion of miles away, icy comets dart in and out of this planet’s orbit, forcing us to look inward as well as to what encircles us. It is --"

Like Megawatts, I can see that this is a talented writer, but the story he produced is rather bland.

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Post January 18, 2007, 12:52:03 PM

Re: Boundaries by Bob Bignell

Boundaries by Rob Bignell

Not a bad story, really.  It has a lot of potential in that it was much more about the people than the gizmos.  Our protagonist experiences growth throughout the story and is faced with a fairly well-defined problem which he attempts to solve.  The characters are consistent with just enough quirkiness to give the reader a sense of individuality—which is tough to do with a story this short.  Good job.  

But if this is a part of a greater work, there are some serious problems with the science.  I'll quote a few passages and take on the science one point at a time.

And yes, it is important.  I once read a story where the protagonist picked up a flashlight and defended himself with it by burning the eyes out of his assailants.  By burning the eyes out, I mean the eyeballs turned to little cinders and fell out of the victim's head.  And I mean just a regular flashlight, folks.  Seemed that when he was young, his mother told him not to stare into a flashlight beam because it would burn his eyes out.  And this is what he thought would happen.  

He also refused to believe it when people who read the story challenged it.  

Did I hear you chuckle?  Why would you do that?  This is simply a case where you know the science of flashlights and know that they just don't work that way.  

The first thing a writer has to do is to help the reader to suspend disbelief.  When you don't keep the science believable, it's an uphill battle for the rest of the story.

Okay.  .  .Geektime:

With a gravity of only 0.04, he easily moved along the tunnel’s outside railing to his destination, two-thirds of the way from the reactor. Outside, one could leap several feet into the air; inside, gravity plates kept the crew bound to the deck.

First of all.  .  .how freaking big is this place?  The moon's gravitational pull is 16%, or four times more than the gravity produced by only a fraction of the mass of the station.  It takes 222,111 cubic meters of rock to create 4% of Earth gravity at contact.  .   So this means there is this much mass under (within 27 degrees in any direction) him at any given moment.  Put it this way.  .  .if you dug up Mount Everest down to the magma and floated it in space.  .  .it would have a gravitational field of about 2.5% of Earth Normal.  .  .  .but only if you were standing at the peak.  Anywhere else on the thing would be less.

Now for the Gravity plates.  This is very  Star Trekkish and one of those things that sound good till you think about it.  Put it this way, if you have artificial gravity, you don't need a sublight drive and you can make all the electricity you want whenever you want.  So what do you even need a fusion reactor for, if you have gravity plates?  

Artificial gravity is just plain silly.  With fusion energy as your primary tech,  AG represents a leap in technology equivalent to the difference between the bull whip and the Stealth Fighter.  Gravity is curved space. Once you can do that, you have solved 99% of the problems with space travel.

"There’s no reason for it to explode," Mecanico finally said.
"Maybe an overload in his mending tool," Soroban said.
"The circuit would cut out first."
"Unless there’s an oxygen leak in there. The charge could ignite it."

Uh, dude.  .  .oxygen isn't an explosive gas.  It doesn't burn on its own.  To get an explosion in there you'll still need something like methane, or some other hydrocarbon.  Solids, like insulation and rubber, might burn really fast and hot in an oxygen rich environment but they wouldn't explode with enough force to send an object through a spacesuit faceplate—which is really hard to puncture.  I can think of fifty ways to make an explosion.  Pick one that would actually work.

"Helium-3 packs a hell of a lot of energy," Mecanico said. "They’ll be able to see us glow on Triton."

I don't know what that means.  [sup]3[/sup]He isn't really radioactive, so what kind of 'packing' are they doing?  

I know the whole thing is speculative, but I'm still trying to figure out if this was a D-[sup]3[/sup]He reactor or a [sup]3[/sup]He -[sup]3[/sup]He fusion reactor on the station, but either way the neutrons generated would be around one billionth of those in a D-D or a D-T reactor.  So I'm not sure what the problem would be.  

Loss of magnetic bottle containment simply means that the big accelerator just shoots the stuff out into space.  Unless some moron pointed the [sup]3[/sup]He accelerator at the ship, these things should pose no problem at all.

Neutrons will flood the station immediately after the breach. Only the shelters have a self-generated magnetic shield strong enough to stop them."

First of all, no matter what.  .  .the Neutrons will stop as soon as the power fails.  Worst case scenario you get a burst of Neutrons when the thing blows and then they stop.  You can all come out and play, now.

Sorry, Neutrons are. .  .uh.  .  .neutral.  They don't care 'bout no magnetic fields.  Go right through 'em.  Now, if you just had a whole bunch of water to put between you and the Neutrons (which are going to fly in a more-or-less straight line from the point of generation) you could use that as a shield.  Water is an excellent attenuator for these pesky critters.  Maybe if you had a big ol' pond in your three acre park that some folks liked to call an ocean.  .  .  .

There were a few more problems with this story but these are the most egregious examples of just plain distracting science.  And the point is to pull the reader into the story, not keep pushing him away by making him wonder if you know what you're talking about.

Hope this helps,

Bill Wolfe
Last edited by Bill_Wolfe on January 18, 2007, 12:56:01 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post February 16, 2007, 12:19:44 PM

Re: Boundaries by Bob Bignell

ok, Bill, that was a bit much for me, sorry heh heh. this is sci fi after all, so suspension of disbelief is a given. if looking for accurate science, it's the manual one ought to read. George and Dave, i also disagree with you. this was a strong story, with good, atmospheric setup that made one feel like they were with the crew at the edge of the solar system.

the characters were all apt, their multi-cultural names ringing true to me. some of the names also had hidden meaning to them, something i appreciated.

the story sure could have been stronger on events and driving force, but it was all put together competently and written with confidence, although i believe Dr. Artz changed from female to male suddenly? i may be wrong.

was VERY happy and glad the ending turned out alright for them.

excellent story, Bob, no wonder i liked it, we think alike: did all three jobs you list in your bio and your description of clients is sadly spot on!

Last edited by neoadorable on February 16, 2007, 12:20:42 PM, edited 1 time in total.

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