Cleopatra by E. S. Strout


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Post January 20, 2011, 04:36:00 PM

gino_ss wrote: How would you classify Star Trek and Star Wars? Science Fantasy?


Star Trek is space opera. It's probably the worst program ever for made-up science. They get almost nothing right.

Star Wars is medieval Sword and Sorcerer fantasy with space ships and aliens. Their science is a little better, but barely.

Both are laughingstocks in the scientific community. Of course, that same community sucks-up every smackerel of every episode.

Go Figure.

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Post January 20, 2011, 08:01:39 PM

Sci Fi Success!

Bill_Wolfe wrote:Star Trek is space opera. It's probably the worst program ever for made-up science. They get almost nothing right.

Star Wars is medieval Sword and Sorcerer fantasy with space ships and aliens. Their science is a little better, but barely.Bill[/size]


With Star Trek and Star Wars offering up such bad science, that's probably explains why neither franchise made any money. 8)

So remember kids, if you want to make any money as a sci fi writer, you must use exact science in your stories. :?


Disclaimer: No disrespect intended to my friend Bill Wolfe.
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Post January 21, 2011, 08:35:48 AM

star trek science

Holy crap, Batman - Did you read what Bill_Wolfe said about Star Trek???
To Boldly Go - In today's newspaper is a reminder about how 'bad' the science of Star Trek was. "You probably have a wireless communicator in your pocket right now...it was announcaed that a ...Conversation Mode could instantly translate English to Spanish...what Capt. James T. Kirk called a 'universal translator'..." Add to that the IPad - the thing Uhura was always handing to Kirk -
Come on, now! The best way to grade the science in a work of fiction is to see if it comes true - and it did with Star Trek over and over and over! Although it was originally billed as a 'Wagon Train to the Stars' Star Trek became a catalyst for new scientific thought and got us talking about the social issues which would cast the dye for the next 40 years.
Bill_Wolfe - don't even start with me. I'll be happily slapping my 18$ down to sit in the original captain's chair while the exhibit is here in Louisville KY.
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Post January 21, 2011, 11:28:32 AM

what Capt. James T. Kirk called a 'universal translator'
C'mon, BD -- we all know that Kirk's favorite 'translator' was the one he had in his pants . . .

Seriously, though, you may have a point, if the fiction becomes an accurate predictor of actual scientific achievement.

I recall seeing an interview with Leonard Nimoy, and he was talking about being on a set once, and having his cell phone ring . . . he flipped it out and looked at it, and said something along the lines of, "Omigod, these things are real!"
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Post January 21, 2011, 01:22:07 PM

I freely admit, I eagerly awaited every new episode of Star Trek. The same for every new episode of The Twilight Zone, Outer Limits and The X-Files. In retrospect, I think Mulder and Scully were far more believable characters than Kirk and Spock.

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Post January 21, 2011, 01:26:01 PM

Then on the other hand...

In the ST:TNG episode where Scotty was found in the transporter buffer of a ship crashed on the outside of a Dyson sphere, the crippled Enterprise-D avoided crashing into the artificial star by altering its trajectory using MANEUVERING THRUSTERS. Either the artificial star was really, really small, or a Galaxy-class starship has really, really powerful thrusters.

And they never did explain how it was that the restrict-everybody-to-Warp-5 policy they decided was necessary to avoid tearing space-time into cosmic confetti sort of ceased to matter...

And the cosmic superstring in ST:Generations bore no resemblance at all to anything in 'string theory' (I guess they just liked the term 'string'. Kinda like a kitten with a piece of yarn.)

Now, the interspecies fertility issue might have been explained in the episode where Picard and rival archaeologists learned that the major humanoid starfaring races all had been 'seeded' by a more ancient race, but otherwise, the biological / medical science was just as loosey-goosey. (A good shot of adrenaline cured the rapid-aging disease and even REVERSED ITS PHYSICAL EFFECTS IN A MATTER OF MINUTES?)

The TECHNOLOGY of Star Trek in its various incarnations may have inspired a lot of current gadgets, but the SCIENCE? Nah...

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Post January 21, 2011, 02:41:00 PM

“You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon? … It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.”

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Post January 21, 2011, 03:34:14 PM

Re: Sci Fi Success!

Mark Edgemon wrote: So remember kids, if you want to make any money as a sci fi writer, you must use exact science in your stories. :?


I couldn't agree more (with the whole point Mark was making, that is). Of course, 'Reality Shows' make a lot of money, too. But that doesn't make the stuff anything more than base, worthless dreck.

Remember:

"Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." (H. L. Mencken)

Crap sells, but it's still crap. Both of these franchises are a lot of fun, and I enjoy watching them. Bad science is only a detractor, it's not a story killer.

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Post January 21, 2011, 06:32:55 PM

the biological / medical science was just as loosey-goosey. (A good shot of adrenaline cured the rapid-aging disease and even REVERSED ITS PHYSICAL EFFECTS IN A MATTER OF MINUTES?)
I don't know how many times I've felt this, but you so often saw Kirk and McCoy standing over some apparently lifeless walk-on, and:

MCCOY: "He's dead, Jim."

And I just want to yell, "Well, aren't you gonna try to revive him? What kinda doctor ARE you??"
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Post January 26, 2011, 03:11:25 PM

Quite a story. Reminded me of a movie in which two computers--one Soviet and the other American--got together and took over the world. The writing was good except for a few typos; I could not find much to nit pick about.

This story opens up so much debate about the future of computers, stem cell research and the application of one to the other, that I think a critique on the content of this story is appropriate.

I believe that computers---computer science with high-level language developers---will give us machines that speak, act, feel and listen as if they were human! This will be more with the software developers than with hardware, I believe. We will not be able to tell the difference between the machine speaking and a human! And, I don’t think intelligent machines are too far off!

I had the good fortune to be around programmers and engineers from a large and well established computer manufacturing company once. When the company I worked for upgraded its old control systems by buying a state of the art industrial computer, the computer manufacturing company sent in many of its engineers and programmer to train us, and make minor adjustment to the new computer as it started to control the plant.

This was in the early 90s, and I became friendly with one of the computer engineers. He never said anything about his company’s R&D department---which he worked in but was on loan to another department for a year. I never knew why. One day he told me that if I saw what was being developed in their labs, I would shit my pants? I never asked him any question since he was under a confidentiality agreement with his company and I liked him. And didn’t what him to shun me for the remainder of his stay with my company. I really liked him because we were both Pittsburgh Steeler Fans. Go Steelers!!!!

A question can arise with regards to stem cell research, computer programmers and hardware designers. Will it be the programmers or the hardware designers or a combination of the two plus some derivative from stem cell research that will be planted in and grow; and interface with a computer’s central processing unit, data base and DDLs, just to name a few. An if it is stem cells, will it still be considered artificial intelligence?

What’s in the future for us? Only those who been there know!!!!
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Post January 26, 2011, 09:46:37 PM

What’s in the future for us? Only those who been there know!!!!
HAHAHA! Irritatingly true, too . . .

http://www.livescience.com/health/06032 ... chips.html

and, Megawatts, look up "Turing Machine" or "Turing Device." You've just about got the definition, when you said,

I believe that computers---computer science with high-level language developers---will give us machines that speak, act, feel and listen as if they were human!


I think legal troubles might stop such things -- but only for those who obey the law.
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Post January 26, 2011, 10:30:34 PM

Thanks Lester,

I did read about that, but have forgotten it. I think I was at work on the 12-8 shift. That was never a good shift to read seriously. I never could
remember what I read, and I usually just skimmed over articles about science. If I found something the interested me, I'd put it aside. However, I usually forgot about it anyhow!!

What do you think about technique over technology?
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Post January 27, 2011, 01:08:41 AM

Re: Sci Fi Success!

Bill_Wolfe wrote:
"Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." (H. L. Mencken)

Bill Wolfe[/size]


It's worse than that! Many an executive has made a fortune *banking* on "Average". I'll leave it to my betters to name names, but there are specialists out there who have mastered "but if we do it wrong this way, we'll make so much more money!"

It's a tossup - other times the writer was right all along, but when the exec wins the particular game he's playing in psychohistory, it sends chills down your spine.

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Post January 31, 2011, 08:36:20 PM

My thanks to all who read, commented or offered critiques on Cleopatra.


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Post January 31, 2011, 10:19:05 PM

Say what?

What do you think about technique over technology?
Megawatts, I don't know if you intended this for me, or just to the general audience . . . and in either case, I'm not sure I understand the question . . .
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Post February 02, 2011, 01:39:26 PM

Technique over technology is a phrase that I heard once. I’m not sure if it’s the correct label to use but let me give an example: In Viet-Nam one night a zapper ( A Viet-Cong who would sneak in with explosives ) managed to get into our camp. We guarded out perimeters with manned bunkers built with sand bags, and in front a large fence protected it from APGs ( Rocket propelled grenades ). And we had starlight scopes, search lights and patrols out walking the perimeter. And we had “intrusion” devices set out in what was called the killing zone. The intrusion devices sounded like a geiger-counter when it detected movement. Yet, with all this technology the damned zapper got in. I heard the phrase “Technique over Technology” from an officer a few days later as he tried to explain how the zapper got in.

Another example: I worked for Bethlehem Steel once in Johnstown during the early 70s. An engineer I knew was a fighter pilot during WWII. He told me about the German ME-262 jet fighters and how it overwhelmed his P-51 mustang squadron a first. But, within a month he and his fellow pilots figured out how to shoot them down. One technique used: They would fly above the MEs, then dive down toward them. The speed of the mustangs
because of the dive then would be equal to the MEs, and for many miles the mustangs could hold that speed! And at that higher speed, the mustangs easily dominated the MEs for the mustangs could out maneuver an ME-262 at any speed. There was some other techniques the mustang pilots used, but over the years I’ve forgotten what the engineer said.

Technique over Technology? The underdog winning? Out gunned, out classed, out trained, but win!!

We all know about this type of senario----it's often seen in sports---but do we ever stop and really think about it?

Some might say that in the case of the P-51s against the MEs, that the P-51 was better technology!
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Post February 02, 2011, 05:46:44 PM

Some might say that in the case of the P-51s against the MEs, that the P-51 was better technology!
I agree absolutely -- maneuverability has often been used to superior advantage over armament; self-evident here.

Technique over Technology?
I'm not about to exclude either one, but I'm a little partial to the use of instinct.
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Post February 09, 2011, 05:14:36 AM

Nice story, until the concept of genetic memory gets thrown in without explanation. While you could make an argument for some kind of generalized species specific knowledge----say the kind that lets birds know where to migrate---having cloned cells remember something that their former host knew is highly unlikely. And in science fiction, if you want to introduce the "highly unlikely" you have to take extra time to make it plausible. That means inserting some techno-babble. It doesn't really have to make complete sense. It just has to sound good.

For instance---think of entangled particles, separated by space, in which one is polarized and the other also reacts more or less simultaneously. You could hypothesize the same behavior in human neurons. I.e. if a human neuron ten years ago detected a certain signal such as the sound of a voice, then a clone of that same neural tissue could also detect the sound via some sort of connection that is independent of time and space. This could be used as a biophysical basis for telepathy, too.

There is another way that you could tell this story that would make use of the reader's skepticism about genetic memory. Turn the story into a mystery. Have the AI remember things it should not remember if it is a clone. From this, deduce that it was not a clone at all----the entire fetal brain was stolen (and the mother killed in the process). Stealing a brain of a near term infant would be much easier than trying to clone one, since a laboratory would have difficulty simulating the intrauterine environment with all the complex hormones that determine fetal development. If the AI has a stolen brain then a good case could be made for it being human---and having the rights of a human being. That elevates the crimes of the development staff from theft of cells and negligent homicide of the mother during a second (unnecessary) amniocentesis to kidnapping, enslavement and the homicide of the mother during the kidnapping via C-section. You could even throw in a grisly death at the hand pf persons unknown in which the fetus was cut from the womb and vanished. That would make what the AI does in the end even more justifiable.

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Post February 09, 2011, 01:36:45 PM

Re: Cleopatra by E. S. Strout

Thanks, McCamy. Your comments are much appreciated. I admit to a degree of literary license with the concept of genetic memory. I found that this was the best way to reach the ultimate conclusion of the story. The true study of genetic memory is better entitled pseudoscience, where we find such terms as race memory and savantism.

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Post February 09, 2011, 07:20:31 PM

Re: Cleopatra by E. S. Strout

I've been thinking more about genetic memory. You could make a story about an AI with wetware crafted from stem cells which experiences something like genetic memory of its donor---and maybe even other people who have received cloned neural tissue made from the same stem cells. If the AI has been designed to do something physically impossible like faster than light speed travel, then its augmented function could also allow it to go backwards in time to a point when all of the cells with the same DNA were together and then move forward again to the present when those cells are part of different minds having different experiences. This would create a kind of hive mind.
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Post February 10, 2011, 02:36:15 AM

Re: Cleopatra by E. S. Strout

McCamy_Taylor wrote:I've been thinking more about genetic memory. You could make a story about an AI with wetware crafted from stem cells which experiences something like genetic memory of its donor---and maybe even other people who have received cloned neural tissue made from the same stem cells. If the AI has been designed to do something physically impossible like faster than light speed travel, then its augmented function could also allow it to go backwards in time to a point when all of the cells with the same DNA were together and then move forward again to the present when those cells are part of different minds having different experiences. This would create a kind of hive mind.


If we assume that some memories are encoded in RNA (I suspect this is completely wrong and rather Lysenkoesque), we might postulate that memories of this type might be partially replicated along with the DNA during the cloning process. (But maybe that only applies to flatworms.)
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Post February 10, 2011, 01:50:40 PM

Re: Cleopatra by E. S. Strout

Robert_Moriyama wrote:If we assume that some memories are encoded in RNA (I suspect this is completely wrong and rather Lysenkoesque), we might postulate that memories of this type might be partially replicated along with the DNA during the cloning process. (But maybe that only applies to flatworms.)



Robert.

The flatworm thing has been pretty thoroughly reversed. Turns out that if you clean the maze between experiments, the new critters can't follow the slime trails and don't do any better whether they were fed the ground-up 'learned' wormies, or not.

Loved the Lysenko reference, though. Surprising how many folks think that's a valid evolutionary method.

Sillines.

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Post February 10, 2011, 04:15:46 PM

Re: Cleopatra by E. S. Strout

Bill_Wolfe wrote:
Robert_Moriyama wrote:If we assume that some memories are encoded in RNA (I suspect this is completely wrong and rather Lysenkoesque), we might postulate that memories of this type might be partially replicated along with the DNA during the cloning process. (But maybe that only applies to flatworms.)



Robert.

The flatworm thing has been pretty thoroughly reversed. Turns out that if you clean the maze between experiments, the new critters can't follow the slime trails and don't do any better whether they were fed the ground-up 'learned' wormies, or not.

Loved the Lysenko reference, though. Surprising how many folks think that's a valid evolutionary method.

Sillines.

Bill


Read a story a long, long time ago called "The Lysenko Maze", in which scientists were somewhat startled when their lab animals DID start to inherit acquired traits... (or something like that).

In a sense, human children can 'inherit' certain acquired traits from their parents -- obesity, for example (since their tastes in food are largely learned and ingrained by their parents' habits). Bigotry, for another (viz. the song from the musical 'South Pacific', in which the male lead laments that "they've got to be carefully taught" to look down on other races (in pondering his reasons for not considering a permanent relationship with his native-girl lover). But those examples illustrate 'nurture over nature', or learned behavior trumping or overriding innate behavior, so...
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Post February 10, 2011, 04:18:01 PM

Re:

McCamy_Taylor wrote: Nice story, until the concept of genetic memory gets thrown in without explanation. While you could make an argument for some kind of generalized species specific knowledge----say the kind that lets birds know where to migrate---having cloned cells remember something that their former host knew is highly unlikely. And in science fiction, if you want to introduce the "highly unlikely" you have to take extra time to make it plausible.


From a writing perspective, I see the problem more as an inaccurate use of a known theory than anything else. Genetic Memory means something. And it ain’t what was portrayed here. It goes way beyond just being implausible. It’s flat-out wrong. Wrong word used for something else.

It’s like writing that someone pulled-out his cell phone and shot his attacker with it. You know, a cell phone is a firearm that shoots bits of metal at high velocity with the intent of doing damage to the target. One of those things.

And if someone complains that. . .well. . .cell phones don’t do that, but pistols do. . . The only answer many authors give is that this is a work of FICTION. They say that details don’t matter.

The problem is that the reader knows what a cell phone is, and apparently the author doesn’t, and can’t be bothered to research what those thingies actually do. Part of good writing is to use the right words. Cell phone is just flat-out wrong in this situation. However: gun—handgun—pistol—blaster—even stapler, are possible ‘right’ words.

NOT the same thing, btw, as saying your character set the gragnap to kill mode, and then fired a prebnor beam that stopped his attacker. Why? Because gragnap and prebnor can be anything the writer wants, whereas a cell phone has a meaning that doesn’t include shooting people.

(Okay Rick, we’re not talking about a cell phone with a built-in gun—There’s an App for that!—we’re talking about a regular cell phone as we know it, now. Okay?)

Same with genetic memory. Gino read something about a real (if theoretical) thing, but then made it do things that it just can’t do. Ever!

Refer to my first critique. Gino used very specific numbers for speed and accelleration that added nothing to the story but they didn’t make any dang sense. My question is: Why?


McCamy_Taylor wrote:That means inserting some techno-babble. It doesn't really have to make complete sense. It just has to sound good.


McCamy, you had to know I’d challenge this one.

Other than the mind or actions of a psychopath, why doesn’t ANYTHING really have to make complete sense? I say it does, but only if you want to hang-on to as many readers as possible. Characters who don’t act in a believable way—with no explanation—are not believable characters. Isn’t that one of the points of this whole writing thing? Same with plots, descriptions (“The desert air was humid, as usual. Cowboy Bob hated monsoon season in Death Valley.”)

Why not make your stories make as much sense as possible, within their context?
I guess I need your definition of techno-babble. “Warp speed now, Scottie!” isn’t techno-babble, in my book. Nothing technical about it. Works fine.

“I fired my rockets and went from zero to lightspeed in the blink of an eye.” Is just bad science, not techno-babble. What’s yours?

McCamy_Taylor wrote: Stealing a brain of a near term infant would be much easier than trying to clone one, since a laboratory would have difficulty simulating the intrauterine environment with all the complex hormones that determine fetal development.


Which points out some more bad plotting. They didn’t steal brain tissue, they only stole the amniocentesis sample. You don’t have to kill the mother or the infant to do that. There are plenty of neural stem cells in the amniotic fluid. So why didn’t they just keep the sample they already had and work from that. She freakin’ gave them everything they took with them.

gino wrote:Tharp said. "Wow. Can you grow an entire brain from one cell?"
She chuckled. "We're not that good yet. It takes about a tenth of a gram of fetal stem cells, either from aborted remains, or through the amniocentesis procedure."

(and later)

"While our doctors were working on Mrs. Webster, that person removed the amniocentesis needle, placed it in a sterile container and left."


All they had to do was say: “Thank you, Mrs. Webster, we’ll let you know what our tests show.”

You still sure that things don’t have to make sense, just sound good?

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Post February 10, 2011, 07:54:37 PM

Re: Cleopatra by E. S. Strout

This debate about science is what scares me about writing scifi sometimes. I get so afraid I'm going to screw it all up and look like a hack.
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Post February 10, 2011, 08:57:16 PM

Re: Cleopatra by E. S. Strout

Iskoday wrote:This debate about science is what scares me about writing scifi sometimes. I get so afraid I'm going to screw it all up and look like a hack.



Gino,

You are NOT a hack. You write freakin' great stories. You just put too much in there. (Thus Spake Zarathusra.)

There was no reason to kill the mother & child in this one. Not the way you set it up, anyway.

Try for something more reasonable. Use nonscience instead of bad science. It works great.

Simplify.

IMHO

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Post February 10, 2011, 10:11:37 PM

Re: Cleopatra by E. S. Strout

Iskoday, do not fear sf writing. Look at all the critiques I've received on Cleopatra. Much more informative than negative. I accept these as learning experiences. Welcome the critiques, there us a wealth of useful information there. Research is easy with the internet. Keep writing. To quote Leon Uris, I write for my own enjoyment.

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Post February 10, 2011, 10:39:21 PM

Re: Cleopatra by E. S. Strout

I apologize to both Iskoday, and Gino.

I think this time I'll blame it on the new format, where I have trouble--at my advanced age--seeing the fonts.

Yeah. . .that's the ticket.

I replied to Iskoday as if it were gino's post.

What? Is it time for pudding? I hope it's butterscotch. . .

Where was I? Oh yeah.

All I can say is that I've corrsponded with both, privately and publically.

Iskoday is a VERY good writer, and I've told him so.

That I confused a post of his with gino's, could even be a compliment.

That's what I get for 70+ hour work weeks.

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Post February 11, 2011, 12:34:34 PM

Re: Cleopatra by E. S. Strout

Bill,

I hope Iskoday gains as much from your critiques as I have

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Post February 12, 2011, 07:36:37 PM

Record Numbers

Congratulations Gino for reaching such high post numbers of a story topic! This is probably in the top 5 of all time. Your story must be compelling to solicit so many responces.

Good work!
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