Writing

What You Can Learn From Star Trek: A Taste of Armageddon

For those of you (hopefully few) who have not seen A Taste of Armageddon, it is set on and around the planet Eminiar VII.

The Enterprise is sent to open relations. They know little to nothing about Eminiar (Its location would make it a very valuable ally).

It turns out Eminiar and its neighbor (a former colony) have been at war for 500 years. The war, however, is being fought with computers. The linked computers determine if someone was “killed” in a simulated attack if they were they have 24 hours to report to a booth for their death’s to be registered.

The idea was that neither peoples were willing to give up the war. Nor were they willing to devote their entire economy to it, nor destroy so many things of such great value. So they found a way to have their cake and eat it too.

This episode has two great things of value for writers. The first is that the people of Eminiar thought the war they fought was just how things were done, to the point they only explained it when it became obvious that Kirk did not know what was going on (he asked why they were talking about a nuke going off when they enterprise detected nothing). They fought tooth and nail to keep things the way they were, it was not a good way of doing things but they saw no other way.

99% of people see the way things are as normal, you must keep that in mind.

Secondly, it asked very big questions without bashing your head with them, nor did asking them slow things down. Questions about the nature of war, why it should be fought. Really heavy ones.

Allegories can be powerful, but they are like icing on a cake. You first need a good cake, then you need to make sure you don’t weight it down too much. Subtly is the name of the game.

Making a Different World With Taboos

Technology, by itself, will not make your world feel alien. We live in a world where technology changes every day, waking up to new technology is normal, to make a world feel alien you need more.

The first thing you could do would be to get rid of a taboo. However be careful to understand both the logical and emotional reasons for the taboo existing before you do this. Taboos have far reaching consequences, make sure to not just change the surface level effects.

For example, the nudity taboo. One of the consequences of getting rid of it could be that our standards of beauty might change because we no longer can present a front that is anything but honest. I might be tempted to have this stem from a belief that honestly is important. If that was the case makeup could be seen the same way.

The next, as you might have guessed, is adding a taboo. This would be more tricky because you have to invent the reason for the taboo to exist, plot backwards from there to make it logical then plot forward for all the effects it would have .

In a classic by Heinlein, The Puppet Masters, one of the major plot points is that the only way to know that someone is not controlled by an alien is to see them naked. To wear clothing (more then a set of VERY short shorts) is to ask for a bullet to the head from a vigilante. Trying to talk congress into this goes about as well as you would think it would.

Even after the aliens are beaten this could not change because even if the US is clear, the rest of the world is not.

If you were to write a book set 100 years after the end of that book I would expect to see profound changes.

Revolutions

I am going to start by saying I am not a historian, and to please not quote me as if I were one.

That out of the way, if you are going to have a revolution in your book there are (a great many) things you should know. I am not going to go over all of them, I am going to go over some basics however.

If you are an American and have not gone out of your way to read history you probably don’t know much about any revolution except ours, and that is VERY atypical.

The American revolution is more akin to throwing off a foreign power then a normal revolution. If you want a more typical example look at the Russian revolution.

First, one thing all, or almost all, revolutions have in common is that they are rebellions against the people in charge, and their actions NOT the structure of the government. Meaning that you won’t convince millions of people to rebel because the leader is a monarch, but you might convince them the monarch is doing evil things and needs to be ousted. Once that is done would probably be okay with a new, and better, monarch. Look up the Newburgh Conspiracy if you doubt me.

Revolutions, in general, start with several decades of stupid actions by the the powers that be. They do a series of things that piss off large segments of society, not just the poor, or just the rich, but most everyone. And it does have to be a series, it can’t just be one action or choice.

Then something happens to push people over the edge, something so horrible that the government is thought to be irredeemable by at least a significant minority of people.

Once this happens, you have riots in the streets, the ruling class is killed and everything that represents them is destroyed. Often this means destroying needed infrastructure or killing people who work for the government doing useful things like making sure food gets where it needs to go.

This is anything but orderly, and after you often have chaos as dozens of groups vie for control, each with a different idea of who should rule and how they should do so. Most of the time the group that wins is the one that has the best combination of luck, charisma and brute force. This can easily make the new government worse then the old one.

Goals

Because your writing on your time, and it going to take a long time to finish, it can be easy to put off working on your novel, and in the end get little done.

What I find effective for myself is to set short term goals. I have a goal for most weeks, that I will get done with editing a certain section or write a certain number of scenes ect.

I also will have a goal for most days. For example as of the time I am writing this my goal for the day is to edit half one part (about an eighth or so) of my book with the edits from my latest round of alpha readers.

You won’t always make your goals, and that’s okay, but you need to try.

You also might need to set limits on how much you redo things. It is very easy to keep tweaking a section for much longer then it’s worth. During my first draft I made a rule to not go back and fix things unless they were something like proper nouns or numbers. More then that I let abide, and in the end I found it much easier to edit the whole thing when it was done. Sure I had a lot of problems, but they were easier to fix when I could see the whole picture.

It also helped my motivation to know I DID finish the first draft, I KNEW I could complete the book. Sure it may take a while but I was going to do it.