Catch And Release by Daniel C. Smith


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Post December 28, 2011, 10:52:10 PM

Catch And Release by Daniel C. Smith

Well, usually I complain of preachiness when I read something like this, but in this case, I can't. Yeah, the message of our environmental folly is there, but it's overwhelmed by the main character's -- character -- his personal integrity.

I remember a really great line from Chanur's Legacy, by C. J. Cherryh: "Never shoot at anything you can't talk to." The main character in this story understood the importance of that.

Very good story; it went fast and was easy to read, and the introspective viewpoint puts you in close touch with the character's feelings. Very nice descriptive work, also.

This one works.
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Post January 31, 2012, 01:27:04 PM

Re: Catch And Release by Daniel C. Smith

Whew... alright, I've been perusing through the most recent edition of Aphelion for quite awhile now, and now I'm compelled to actually leave some reviews.

A big fish story will always appeal to a fellow fisherman, so in the end I enjoyed this one. There were a couple nice moments that added depth, such as Griff's "database" (which I can definitely see happening to an isolated prison guard) and the description of the creature and it's dark, murky environment. And while I don't know if it was intentional or not, I liked the use of the name Maru for a character who is out on a "whaling" mission. I also enjoyed how it was left ambiguous as to whether the critter was intelligent or not; did McAllister disobey orders because he personally felt killing the critter was wrong, or simply because he was afraid to kill an INTELLIGENT being?

That being said, there were a few awkward phrases and grammatical errors, but not enough to really detract from the overall story. My major quibble comes from the dialogue between McAllister and Maru regarding this "first contact", which suggests that this ia the first lifeform observed on Europa. Maru even jokes that luckily it isn't plankton, because "there's nothing sexy about plankton."

This passage really took me from the story. McAllister observes a very large (200m+) critter on his third expedition, and only after a series of unmanned probes previously explored the Europan ocean. Yet this is the FIRST alien contact? It stands to reason that such large organisms would need a significant food source... so where IS the plankton? I would think a routine sampling of Europan water would find millions of single-celled critters swimming about. If McAllister's "fish" were the first macro-organism identified, I think it would make it much more believable and strengthen, rather than diminish, McAllister's discovery. Like Maru said, plankton isn't "sexy", but I would think it must exist.
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Post January 31, 2012, 03:33:22 PM

Re: Catch And Release by Daniel C. Smith

Nice commentary, Tristan, and welcome aboard! Hope to hear more from you, and maybe some story submissions as well.

Good point about the food chain. Something else should have shown up, and there should have been a variety there.
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Post January 31, 2012, 04:18:01 PM

Re: Catch And Release by Daniel C. Smith

Lester Curtis wrote:Nice commentary, Tristan, and welcome aboard! Hope to hear more from you, and maybe some story submissions as well.

Good point about the food chain. Something else should have shown up, and there should have been a variety there.


Silly boys. Europa had a rat farm ecology. That's where you raise rats to use their skins for small, ugly leather goods, and feed them the skinned remains of the preceding generation... (What's that you say? You would have literally diminishing returns because you are removing some of the organic material (in the form of skins), so each successive generation would be smaller (in size and number)? Well, EUROPAN rats -- er, large, possibly-sentient ocean life forms -- have very efficient metabolisms, and absorb organic compounds from the hydrocarbon content of the oceans and atmosphere, so they can live as cannibals indefinitely.

Would you believe...
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Post January 31, 2012, 07:48:52 PM

Re: Catch And Release by Daniel C. Smith

Robert_Moriyama wrote:
Would you believe...

No. I wouldn't. :wink:

Seriously, though . . . a large, complex organism doesn't just evolve by itself. By the time anything gets that big, it's environment will have spawned thousands, or likely millions of other species -- an entire ecology, in other words. There are too many jobs to do to sustain an ecology: nitrogen cycles, carbon cycles, etc. -- and no one species can do all those jobs.
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Post January 31, 2012, 08:07:37 PM

Re: Catch And Release by Daniel C. Smith

Lester Curtis wrote:
Robert_Moriyama wrote:
Would you believe...

No. I wouldn't. :wink:

Seriously, though . . . a large, complex organism doesn't just evolve by itself. By the time anything gets that big, it's environment will have spawned thousands, or likely millions of other species -- an entire ecology, in other words. There are too many jobs to do to sustain an ecology: nitrogen cycles, carbon cycles, etc. -- and no one species can do all those jobs.


Of course, you are assuming that the creatures evolved on / in Europa, instead of being seeded there (along with some form of self-sustaining food supply) by The Big Giant Head during a pit stop en route to the Third Rock From The Sun. Seriously... if the science / exploration (/exploitation) teams HAD NOT found evidence of simpler life forms, maybe it's because they weren't there to find. (Less Occam's Razor-worthy alternative: the creatures and their sustaining ecosystem were seriously limited in range, and Our Hero was the first who happened to cross their territory. Viz. the teensy (relatively speaking) areas on Mars with (maybe) occasionally-liquid water...

If the creatures are not 'vertebrates', one would not necessarily find a 'fossil record' of past, larger ecosystems (everything just dissolves into the soup, which contains a lot of organic compounds ... but so do some interstellar gas clouds, comets, etc.).
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Post January 31, 2012, 08:23:32 PM

Re: Catch And Release by Daniel C. Smith

I'll concede that, an alien being an alien, I shouldn't just assume that a "normal" food web must exist... and after posting my comments I did realize that, possibly, the critter was not only alien to McAlister, but alien to Europa as well. However, considering that the theme of the story was one of environmental conservation, it doesn't make sense to me to have the critter itself to be invasive.

I guess my point is that the author could have avoided such speculation by just throwing in a line or two that clarifies this critter as being the first macro-organism/intelligent life found, rather than the first ever life discovered on Europa.

And thanks for the welcome Lester. I actually did have a short story published here in April(?)-ish of last year, entitled "Field Work." I am notoriously slow as writing goes, but hopefully I'll have more stuff in the near future.

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