atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#2239: *sigh*

Today's K-mart ad contains the Aluratek Libre eReader Pro.

Price: $99.


* * *

Found somewhere and shamelessly pilfered:

If you looked at this and thought, "gee, that looks like" you win an Internet. But not from me, because I'm fresh out.

Pretty much that's what Obama's been doing: stretching his anus in front of us. Whee.

Well, hell: he's got to fit his head in there somehow. I imagine those ears would prevent extraction for when he had to get up and deliver the teleprompter's speeches.

* * *

...I wasn't this bad during the Clinton years; honest I wasn't. I was able to hold my nose and "respect the office" even if I thought the guy occupying it was thirty-nine dollars of cheap suit containing ten cents of crap.

Then again, Clinton was a better President than Obama is. Besides, before Clinton we didn't have eight years of liberals saying stuff like "Chimpy McBushitler". The libs have lowered the bar (as they always do). Now that their guy is in the office we're all supposed to be respectful again, and dissent is no longer patriotic. Yeah.

* * *

It's a very low-key Sunday here, and I'm just as happy. Yesterday was a bit tiring.

I didn't do very much besides go get glasses and run other errands, but it feels like it was a lot nonetheless.

Then I had this dream that I'd picked out a hideous set of frames, and hadn't noticed it until I went on a trip somewhere. The frames were 3/8" all around and the temple pieces were wider. They were gold and silver toned, striped. Elton John might have worn glasses like these, once; maybe in the 1970s. After someone spiked his pre-show drink with an unholy cocktail consisting of Everclear, LSD, PCP, and Drano.

Okay: I hit Google image search, hoping to find a visual aid. THERE IS NOTHING IN REALITY WHICH IS AS UGLY AS THOSE GLASSES WERE.

In my dream, no one in my family had said a word about them. After I noticed how horrible my new glasses were, I asked my oldest sister, "Why the hell did you people let me buy these??"

...woke up, looked at the real-world new glasses, and actually breathed a sigh of relief.

Naw, I don't have a problem with anxiety; why do you ask?

* * *

Last night I ran out of H. Beam Piper to read. I had loaded 5 of his works onto the Aluratek--two novels and three shorts--and they're all done.

His novel The Cosmic Computer was pretty entertaining stuff. It's set in a star system where the Terran Federation (TF) had fought a war, and then left, leaving behind an incredible wealth of stuff which wasn't worth shipping back and a planet which was itself in the midst of a terrible economic depression. The main character is a young college graduate; a bunch of people pooled their money to send him to Earth for school, so he could a) learn about computers, and b) get information on the location of the ultra-secret computer "Merlin".

The young lad comes back with information that Merlin doesn't exist, and with an extensive list of abandoned and buried TF bases and equipment caches...and with the realization that all the stuff left behind by the TF includes a fully-functioning shipyard on another planet in the system; if the people who sent him to Earth could only be led into getting back to that planet and building some starships, then hauling luxuries to other worlds where people would pay a premium for them, the planet's economy would recover.

"Luxuries"? Local tobacco, a local brandy, etc, etc--in Piper's universe, luxuries are the best interstellar commodities. The people of the planet in the story sell their brandy to traders, who then make something like 1,000% profit on it when they get to Earth.

It's hard to find fault with Piper's use of economics, here. I purposely set up my own universe's FTL travel to be similar to his (multiple month trips between stars) even though the only works by him I'd read prior to this year were the various Fuzzy stories. Piper himself built his interstellar civilization on an analogue of the colonial period here on Earth, back when ships plied the oceans between Europe and its colonies; when I was reformulating my SF canon (in 2000) into something which made sense, that's the model I referred to when correcting some of the deficits in my work.

Europe would send finished goods its colonies couldn't make; the colonies would send back things Europe wanted or needed: spices, tea, gold, tobacco, cotton. Trip times were measured in weeks or months. (More usually "months".) As colonies grew and matured, fewer finished goods were needed from the mother countries. Eventually the colonies needed nothing; that's when independence movements began cropping up.

Piper's book suffered from one thing, a thing I call "the Harry Potter Cakewalk Syndrome". Okay, when I saw Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone it permanently turned me off from the entire HP phenomenon; the entire story was nothing but a chronicle of how everything went Harry Potter's way. At the end of the movie, the last straw was when Dumbledore essentially made shit up so that Harry Potter's dorm would win that prize thing. At that point, I thought, "What hardships did he suffer during this story?" And I realized that the answer was "Effectively none."

In The Cosmic Computer the main character faced personal danger twice, but I didn't feel it. Otherwise the story was a recitation of one success after another: he goes and does this, and it's wonderful; then he goes and does this other thing, and that's wonderful, too. He goes to this other place, and--whoops! brush war against pirates!--...and everything is wonderful.

Piper's book didn't go to the extreme of the first HP movie, though. It wasn't all wine and roses for the main character; it's just that the conflict that existed was muted. I could see places in Piper's novel where there were hooks for conflicts, but no actual conflict; where there were hooks for good description and place setting, but tokens hung from them. Having read the Fuzzy books that Piper actually wrote, I know he was a better writer than that. This smells of a bad editor pissing all over the book: "Gotta edit this for the juvenile market! You can't have this and that in a book for juveniles! They won't read this boring crap, so let's just cut it!" *sigh*

This book really had some good themes in it, and the foundation of the plot was first-rate. It could have been a great SF novel; instead it was an entertaining read. That's acceptable, I suppose.

* * *

Before 2000, the canon for my SF universe was pretty shitty. I don't mind saying it; most of it had been generated in my early teens, when I knew more about "THIS IS SO COOL!" than about, y'know, the how and why of writing interesting stories.

Too much of what I wrote had the "gee whiz" factor but not enough actual knowledge of the workings of writing.

...then my niece gives me a story to read, and I go through it, and say, "Why the hell couldn't I write like this when I was fifteen?" (She's 19 now.) But after I got through my initial surge of unfounded and unbounded enthusiasm and confidence in my writing, I realized that This stuff is good, but not THAT good and started working on improving it. Hell: when I was 14 I knew my dialogue sucked ass.

It sounds terribly self-serving to say this: I had talent, but not experience; so when I wrote my stories I wrote them without a framework of rules. If I wanted the characters to get somewhere quickly I just made up an excuse for it to happen. I'd throw in things just because they sounded neat. I'd add characters at random, as they were needed or occurred to me.

By the time I got out of high school, the whole thing was a mess. The universe was full of holes, and it was overburdened with an excess of stuff, half of which couldn't be justified with anything even remotely approaching what we think of as "science", and the other half which was tenuously supported with the basics of real science. And I'd gotten tired of it; I had other themes I wanted to explore by then and I couldn't be arsed to think about how I could explore those themes in an SF setting.

It languished.

Around 1987 I thought it would be neat to build a Hypercard stack which contained all the information on that universe; my thinking was that everything had gotten too complex to keep in my brain, and that was why I'd lost interest. I was going to get a Mac emulator for my Atari ST and then build the stack; but I never did. (Not even after I bought a used Mac SE in 1993.)

In 1999 TSR came out with its Alternity game system, and I decided to make a campaign setting out of my SF universe.

...that did it. I started going through everything I knew about the universe, writing it down as I went, in order to generate the "player's guide". I never did complete it, but it solidified enough of the details that I could excise the crap and keep the good stuff. A lot ended up in the wastebasket, and a lot more ended up being changed almost beyond recognition.

What I ended up with was a basic but servicable framework of "future history" from around 2020-3000 AD. The original canon had gone to at least 11,000 AD but I realized there was absolutely no reason or justification for such an extensive timeline. It got compressed, and it hasn't suffered one iota; it makes much more sense this way.

The original overriding story--the theme, I suppose--was completely scrapped. I left a few things in place from it, and a new story evolved to fit what was left. Not only is the new story better; it's actually kind of thought-provoking, at least for me.

Left in was the rule that all questions are answered. Everything has a reason and an explanation; I don't cop out and say, "Well, there's no way for us to know that." First off, with the kind of universe I built, there's no way to justify that shit. Second, it always ALWAYS pisses me off when anyone pulls that crap. Arthur C. Clarke loved to do that, and it never failed to make me want to go to Sri Lanka and hit him with a tire iron.

(His best stories, IMHO, didn't do that.)

A question may not be answered in the story which poses it, but it will be answered somewhere. Always. (This is also a bare-faced attempt to get people to read other works of mine, if-and-when. Heheh.)

FTL may be beyond the pale of actual science, but I left it in, because I need fast travel between stars. If it takes 51 years to travel from Earth to X, it's no good for the kind of stories I want to write. I generated an FTL system which leans heavily on the nonfiction parts of Robert Forward's book Indistinguishable From Magic for physical theory; the rest of it I pulled from an anatomically unlikely orofice, but it sounds reasonable.

I shook out the interstellar colonies and put many of them around stars which, y'know, wouldn't fry their planets with UV and X-rays. There were a few I refused to change, but I came up with plausible ways for those stars could have habitable planets. ("Plausible" meaning that other hard SF writers have used them.)

This is the only part of my SF universe which is in danger of being outstripped by reality. With all the new science being done looking for exoplants, we'll soon know whether or not the stars I selected have planets around them. In this case I will plead "artistic license" since I do not want to rebuild the entire universe again solely because it disagrees with a cruel reality.

90% of the canon deals with events after 2100, so I've got 90 years before I have to worry about that. For the other 10%--again--I can plead "artistic license".

Ironically enough, the first story I wrote in this revamped universe was similar in thesis to Piper's Cosmic Computer: a young man helping his world "rise from the ashes", sort of. It's a lot more complex than that (and simultaneously a lot simpler) but the themes of civilization versus anarchy, good versus evil, etc, are all part of that story. Economics play a big role in my story, the way they do in Piper's.

That might be part of my disappointment that CC wasn't better than it was. It was already pretty good; but having written a story with the same kind of general theme I can see how it could have been better, and done right it could have been excellent.

No, I am not going to write a "reboot" of The Cosmic Computer.

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