Month: December 2017

Review: Quantum Leap (8/10 stars)

Sam Becket is working on a DoD funded project to time travel. If it worked it would send him back in time to inhabit the body of anyone, so long as it was within his own lifetime (so no going back before he was born). The project was being shut down, so he took a chance and used it on himself. It worked, everything but the part about being able to get him back when they wanted to. The show is about him leaping around time, inhabiting the bodies of various people from the 50’s to the late seventies. They can talk to him through Al, a hologram of his friend in the future that only he could see. Each leap he had to fix something, then he would leap out (almost all the episodes are one leap).

The show is a good example of using the vehicle of science fiction to tell very human stories. The things he fixed were often about changing people, or having someone not make a mistake that hurt them or others. For example in one he was sent back as a rich man’s servant. The rich guy was foreclosing on a mission around Christmas time. His job was not the save the mission, his job was the get the rich guy to WANT to save it, to see that money was not everything. He was there to save the mans soul. What he was sent to do were often turning points of people’s lives, trying to convince people to do right, but not forcing them to.
It was thoughtful and insightful about things in ways that modern
Hollywood isn’t anymore.


The Two Kinds of Thinking

There are two kinds of thinking. Normal and deep.

Normal is taking the directions you were given to go somewhere. Deep is when you push deep into a subject and truly understand it, you go well past where most people would think would be enough. You understand the traffic patterns and the entire city map, you know why you were given the directions you were given.

If you want to be a writer you have to be a deep thinker. The only way to make a setting feel real is to make it deep and wide, you won’t show but a small part of it but you can’t just think about that part.

A society is not a jumble of unconnected things all taking place at once, its a complex system where everything touches everything else. Morals effect clothing, but so does utility and the economy. You can’t get everything but you should aim to go deeper then the average reader, so deep that your reader will never see the bottom.

The same goes for your characters, think about what motivates them, why they have their mannerisms, what their biggest disappoint in life was.

Again you don’t have to show everything, showing the tip is enough.

What You NEED to Know About Science

One thing that people think about science fiction is that you have to be an expert in engineering and physics to write it. You don’t, you just need to know where the stoplights are are.

By stoplights I mean things you can’t do, or if you do you must do with forethought.

As for the laws of physics there are really only a handful you need to be wary off. This is not saying you can’t violate them, but if you do it will have a big impact on your setting and you should think about it.

The first of course is faster then light travel. I will say that technically are a few ways around this that do not violate the laws of physics, but they tend to require exotic matter (matter with negative mass) or something equally unlikely.

Also be aware that you would be hard pressed to find a way to go faster then light in the real universe that would not also work as a time machine.

The second of course is time travel. Violating causality is probably the first or second thing most scientists would say if you asked them for a list of impossible things. No plot element causes more problems, for the love of god if you use this think it out.

The third is conservation of energy and momentum. Also known as not getting something for nothing. If something is being powered, where does it get the power? If something is moving what pushed it?

You don’t have to do math but if you have a machine doing something think about the kind of power it uses and what that means. If you have a ship move half the speed of light that takes a lot of power, it does not matter what kind of drive system it uses.

Lastly try not to go against the grain of science. By this I mean make your fake science SOUND like real science. Science in its most basic form will be the same in a thousand years as it is now, the thought processes will be the same because we will still be studying the same thing (the universe).

Review: The Dark Forest (4/5 stars)

I finally got around to reading The Dark Forest, the sequel to The Three Body Problem.

Before I go on I will say that I am going to be spoiling the hell out of The Three Body Problem and will be give some light spoilers of The Dark Forest (only the very start of the book though).

The Three Body Problem was set in the current day, or at most in a few years in the future. It very much resembles exploration sci-fi, or a good mystery. You get hints about what is going on, and the truth is revealed only slowly.

The Dark Forest is different, it is set first in the near future, then a little bit in the future then centuries from now. We see the results, both social and technological, of what happened at the end of the last book.

I feel the best science fiction is defined by the problems it presents. In The Dark Forest we have a society that has almost all of its scientific progress blocked, we can make things bigger and more efficient but can’t make any real basic advances thanks to the sophons. We know that an alien invasion is about four hundred years away, they have a fleet of a thousand ships and are much more advanced then we are or can become.

The central problem is that again thanks to the sophons we can’t have any secrecy, they can literaly see anywhere and can decode anything we can encrypt. Our only advantage is that we can use deception, they can’t (they read each other minds, so keeping secrets is just not in their nature). But how to use that advantage? The U.N.’s answer is the wallfacer project.

The wallfacer project uses the one place we CAN still keep secrets, the human mind. They give four people almost unlimited power and authority, and immunity to all laws. They are then asked to come up with a way to win the war, the only restriction that they can’t tell anyone.

I won’t go into more detail, you really should read it yourself, but I will say that Cixin very much does not neglect the social aspect. What kids of stresses we would be put under, what that would do to us as a people ect.

In some ways it resembles older scifi that explores consequences more and uses action less.

On Goodreads