atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#4497: It's an amazing confluence of events!

In the "I knew it!" department, my schedule for next week is going to be a doozy. I close Sunday (at 11 PM) and open Monday; basically I must go to bed as soon as I get home Sunday night because I have to be at work at SEVEN AM on Monday.

I expected this. I am not worried; I am not even apprehensive. Retail, holiday, blah blah blah, etcetera, and I am more than equal to the task.

* * *

All I'm going to say about this idiotic Sony Pictures thing, where they pulled that movie from distribution because North Korea threatened something-or-other:

The American left is so desperate to knuckle under to a nonfunctional communist dictatorship, they're starting to take North Korea seriously. We're talking about a country which cannot feed its people and which has almost no modern infrastructure. Giving in to their threats is an action of mind-numbing, epic stupidity.

* * *

Everything looks better on a full stomach.

* * *

According to John C. Wright, I am a mentat. "The idea of carrying all the information that goes into a science fiction novel in one’s head is not feasible for anyone other than a mentat," he says, and since I habitually write SF stories without consulting my notes-- No no, actually that's not true; I don't in fact have all my SF universe's details memorized.

But I also don't have an active notebook, either. I have a bunch of information written down in various places, though, and if there's a fact I can't remember usually I can remember where to look it up, which is half the battle.

For most of my writing, 90% of it is done in my brain. I only occasionally need to refer to my notes, and much of the time any external work done is mathematical in nature ("How long does it take a mass to fall three kilometers in a 0.04 g field? How fast will it be going when it hits?"). I tend to paint with broad strokes, then work out the fine details as needed. Sometimes what I want to do turns out not to be possible, in which case I end up rewriting the story--but usually that's not necessary.

Then again, my universe isn't as detailed as Wright's seems to be. (See above, "broad strokes".) I fill in the details as I tell stories, and it works well enough.

As of this moment, I have three basic continuities in which I write stories. The first is the biggest and most detailed (called "Builders' Legacy" for a variety of reasons) which dates back to my first real SF effort in 1979, when I was in 7th grade. I reworked the canon for that universe in 1999-2000, and the resulting stories are pretty good ones.

The second is the universe of PV Piss-Poor Judgement, which has one story in it right now ("The Fallers") and is aching for more expansion.

The third is the universe of my most recent effort, with the working title "Chandelier", about the guy marooned on an alien world with a taciturn energy being.

2 and 3 could probably be combined into a single canon, depending on how the dating system shakes out. They differ mainly in how FTL travel is accomplished; one uses a singularity-based alternate space, and the other uses a pseudo-space which is very fast and mostly foolproof. The latter is set in a time when Earth is a known place but exotically distant and mostly irrelevant to peoples' daily lives. The former is set in a time when Earth still has an iron grip on its colonies. You can see how one might be the history of the other.

(No, I don't really know. That's what makes it so exciting for me.)

The only notes which exist for these are the stories themselves, and a few comments here at the Fungus.

That lack of organization probably is not doing me much good, though. *sigh*

* * *

Today I got to see a little bit of blue sky. I forgot that blue sky existed, it's been cloudy for so long.

* * *

So last night Mrs. Fungus and I watched the first episode of Ascension, a three-part miniseries on SyFy. It was not very good.

The premise is that--in the 1960s--the American government secretly launched a huge spacecraft, Ascension, and sent it to Proxima Centauri, using (apparently, as they said it was an Orion-class ship) an Orion propulsion system. It's a generation ship, meaning that the grandkids of the original colonists will be the ones to arrive at Proxima Centauri.

This is another one of those stories where everyone is an asshole and there are no good guys, which was a mark against it from the very beginning. Another mark against it was that Tricia Helfer ("Six" from Battlestar Galactica) is in it. I can't stand her.

So, let me try to explain the love polygon: Six is the captain's wife who is having an affair with the first officer, whose wife is having an affair with the nominal protagonist, Gault. Meanwhile the captain himself was having an affair with a teenage girl, who turns up dead in the first five minutes of the show, but the girl was also going around with a "lower decks" guy her age. Gault is assigned by the captain to figure out why the girl was murdered. And while all this is going on, Six is scheming with the XO to displace the captain and give the XO the job, because the captain is given his position by the governing council and he serves at their pleasure, and can be replaced at any time. The dead girl's littlest sister is apparently psychic, the guy who is basically in charge of the belowdecks is a criminal who somehow got the dead girl a gun, and the whole story is intercut with the engineer back on Earth whose dying father was the man behind Ascension. There is a strong undercurrent, aboard the ship, of dissatisfaction from the younger generation over the fact that they have no choice in what they're going to do with their lives, because they were born on a ship bound for another star rather than on Earth, and so the kids are all angsty and upset. And full content warnings, of course, nudity violence language mature theme etc: "WE WISH WE WERE LIKE HBO!"


SPOILERS AHEAD but I'm doing you a favor:

...only at the end of the first ep it's revealed that it is not in fact actually in space, but a vast underground bunker. This is revealed when the belowdecks crime boss gets blown out an airlock and lands in an airbag, to be sedated and carted off as the engineer guy watches from a balcony. The people on Ascension only think they are in space; in fact they are the subjects of a multi-generational sociological experiment and have been on Earth the entire time, isolated from the rest of humanity.

That does explain a few things. First, it explains how objects in the ship can be under a constant one gravity of acceleration without actually accelerating or spinning or anything.

If your ship can accelerate at one g, then the trip to Proxima Centauri--about four light years away--will take perhaps eight years. (More or less, plus or minus, your mileage may vary, light fuse and get away.)

If your ship cannot accelerate continuously--and please note that in 1963 we did not have the technology to build a constant-boost starship, much the same way we don't now--then to provide gravity you must spin the ship.

Ascension does neither, yet the people aboard are shown working and living in a 1 g field. I was thinking "Typical TV SF magical gravity device" until we got to the end of the episode.

Second, it explains how the people on Earth can know what's happening on the starship in real time. See, the episode begins with a celebration of the 51st "launch day", which is the anniversary of the ship's supposed departure from the solar system. 51 years is past halfway to their destination, so of course they're having a big old party. But if you're halfway to your destination, and your destination is about four light years away, that makes you two light years from Earth, and it therefore takes two years for your transmissions to travel back and forth. Yet the concurrent story, with the engineer on Earth, appears to take place in real time, and that was confusing.

I had half a thought about using creative editing and storytelling to erase the delay--like "current day" is actually two years from now or something--but it was inchoate, and when that guy got blown out the airlock he took that possibility with him.

(Of course the people running the project don't reply immediately to the people on Ascension when they call, since that would be a dead giveaway, and the people on the ship can do arithmetic.)

During a radiation storm, when everyone is in a "radiation pod" and sedated, the psychic little girl somehow wakes up and sees a man in a bunny suit taking her mother's (?) seahorse pendant, and apparently a gun is stashed in a bucket of sand. The bunny suit is insufficient protection from radiation, if everyone has to be in shelters. This is further explained by the ship being on Earth: there is no radiation storm, but--again--the people on Ascension don't know that and believe what their instruments tell them.

The guy being blown out the airlock? That's easy--the Ascension is pressurized to two atmospheres absolute, or one gauge. That's all it takes; that gives you the same fifteen PSI differential over ambient conditions that you'd have in space, and then it's easy-peasy to blow someone out an airlock into a 15 PSI atmosphere.

I can only hope in vain that the guy is put in a hyperbaric chamber and decompressed for a reasonable time period; having been born and lived his entire life in a 30 PSI atmosphere, at 15 PSI he'd die of decompression sickness within hours if he wasn't. (And yeah, "cause of death" would read "explosive decompression". That's what it is.) But this is the SyFy network we're talking about. *sigh*

I can pick apart this kind of thing all day without half trying. The degeneration of the shipboard society is handled badly, because the kids are acting like 21st century teenagers rather than 1960s teens. Remember their entire cultural matrix is based on the 1960s, and apparently they're not receiving any updates from Earth.

The engineer is buttonholed by a guy at the beginning who's writing his doctoral thesis on Ascension and talks about how the people aboard have been "isolated" for fifty years. It implies that there is no communication, because otherwise the shipboard society would know about things like the feminist movement and other things the academic mentions to the engineer. If the shipboard society is ignorant of the changes to Earth society, why does it resemble the society of 2014 with a veneer of 1963 on top? That makes no damned sense, and particularly aboard a starship with a crew of 600 there does not seem to be a lot of room for a criminal underworld and the coddling of adolescent ennui. A generation starship needs a bigger crew than 600, which means it needs to be a lot bigger than the ship shown.

Meanwhile there's also the problem of freedom. People are not free to choose their own mates, and mating is monogamic, so a eugenics board decides who you're going to marry. This fits with a reasonable facsimile of a colony starting out with only the resources they can carry, but then they dump their dead into space sealed into fancy coffins draped with an American flag. The state is totalitarian enough to control marriage, but lassez faire when it comes to miscgenation (as defined by "people having sex with unapproved partners"), the sudden discovery of banned weapons, and the distribution of resources; further a criminal underclass is allowed to function with no apparent sanctions.

The society, in other words, makes no damned sense.

As I said, though, "SyFy". That's probably enough.

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