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Category Archives: Opinion

Escape Pod, “Radio Nowhere”, and the risk of changing history

One of Escape Pod’s latest stories was the short story “Radio Nowhere”  by Douglas Smith.  This short story is a story of a man’s struggles with his lost love, and his attempts at finding her.  Liam is a science graduate student who is still living on campus. He currently works with a team of other students on maintaining and experimenting with a Particle accelerator.  However, he is still grieving the death of an old flame from 15 years ago.  He now relies on Drugs and alcohol to numb his pain alongside his female radio buddy Ziggy. however, a number of singularities make Liam consider if he can use technology to access the past, and save his long-lost love from her future death.

This is a great story, that connects with emotional pain and trauma that others have, as well as how they affect the people around them.  The story is very adult in nature, with large portions of substance abuse, as well as strong language.  I usually have issues with this kind of content, especially if it’s used for no particular reason But these elements bring that darker, imperfect nature to light for our heroes.  It’s helpful in showing how this pain and choices has made them who they are.

And the most important choice made in this book is Liam’s unwillingness to release his old pains and woes.  By holding onto them, they became a defining trait of his character.  He couldn’t imagine not struggling with them, even though he was in pain.  His obsession may have seemed singular and solely his own choice, but as the story confirms, it affected far more than just him.  Ziggy was caught up in it, and attempted to give Liam more drugs and alcohol to taint the pain, to very little effect.

Mix this unwillingness to give up the past with a particle accelerator, and you have a lot of trouble.  Particle accelerators are used to speed up particles, and experiment with them.  The devices are also meant to create singularities, or “black holes”, as we normally know them.  But what do black holes have to do with time travel?  Black holes have immense gravitational fields that are able to affect one’s ability to see, and process time.  The gravitational field would also affect the body’s process of aging.  So, a person can be in the field, and live eons longer than his brethren.  Now, the idea of traveling into the past via a black hole is more far-fetched because the person within the gravitational field does not have the ability to rewind time.

The basis for this idea is in the nature of the black hole, which is still not fully known.  Where does a black hole lead to?  Does it lead into Another universe?  Could it travel outside of our reality, and access it again at a different period in time.   This kind of questions are great to ask, but are really difficult to test.  So, almost all time-travel concepts that are based in black holes are simply “What-ifs”.

Back to our story, The story has two stages in it’s progression:  Before Revelation, and After Revelation. The Revelation is the idea that Liam could theoretically go back in time and save his love, Jackie.  We’ve already talked about how Liam was before the Revelation  After the Revelation, Liam’s obsession is only focused on a singular element; the Particle Accelerator.  It almost rips him away from Ziggy.  But what holds him back?

It is a simple statement made by Ziggy herself.  She mentions that “If (Liam) does this, (He) will lose the last 15 years of memories” as well as the implied friendship between Liam and Ziggy.   In other words, Liam would lose a lot of his life in order to gain one thing (Jackie).  Would the trade be worth it?  One of the key things about time travel is that it changes one’s own timeline.  If you go back and attempt to change something that causes you to desire to go back, then you could potentially cancel out what your goal was.  In other words, your attempt would stop it, and thus cancel the attempt.  Makes sense?

Most of us won’t be able to travel through time.  But most of us do wish we could.  We want a redo button that will change a moment in time that has come to define how we act.  And this is understandable.  But we also need to consider what are the costs of such choices?  What do we lose?  What would we have become if it weren’t for that singular event?  These are simple questions to ask before one even considers going back in time, if they even can.  But it’s also something to consider when asking about your past, and if you desire to change it.

 

 
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Posted by on 2011/08/24 in Literature, Opinion

 

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River Song, Science fiction, and the effect of “Spoilers”

In Doctor Who, one of the more recent popular characters is River Song.  Originally introduced to us as a mysterious figure who has a time-travelling history with past and future versions of The Doctor, she has gone on to be a character with mysterious future/history and far more importance than we could have every expected,  We really want to know more about Song and her history, especially since she has a special book that is a record of all of her crossings  and engagements with the Doctor.   We first meet her at the end of her life, and then in the middle of her life.  This crossover causes her to be told about her future.  Since she’s a traveler with The Doctor, she understands the importance of not revealing the future, and the linear nature of time progression.  As she would say, “Spoilers,”.

This unique story of River Song is a grand story, and a unique character development for any time traveler.  It explores one of the most interesting ideas science fiction’s understanding of time and time travel;  how would a person react if they had the ability to know their future?  Could they change it?  Or would they unknowingly walk into it?  Foreknowledge is also a fascinating exploration of the theological debate between Free Will and determined future.

A great recent example of this was the recent TV action drama Fast-Forward.  Even though this show’s concepts decayed as they reached the finale, the original concept of the show explored this in great detail.  The entire world received a flash forward towards a set point in time that revealed their future actions.  Many of the flashes revealed actions that people are ashamed of(I.E. Alcohol Abuse, Sexual Affairs, etc), while others don’t receive flashes at all.  What does this mean?  Can this future be changed?  In the end, the series does eventually put the characters into a position that they regret knowing about.  But that is only one answer of the time.  Time travel is a cornucopia of unique possibilities and probabilities.  I’ve only been able to get a basic understanding of time travel complexes, theories, and ideas that surround this reality-changing idea. But I’m enjoying every bit of it.  I just don’t want spoilers about my own life

 
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Posted by on 2011/08/23 in Opinion, Television

 

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Following Falling Skies: The steal of the “Skitters”

This post is based on major spoilers from the show, so if one does not desire to be spoiled, skip this post.  

The skitters are the enemy.  Plain and simple.  They destroyed the basis for human culture, and decimated our ranks.  They enslaved the children, and wiped out all others.  It’s hard to say that these creatures have any of what we would call “humanity” or “mercy”.  But as we watch, the show reveals a much more layered enemy, which has problems, conflicts, and values.  It turns out that the Skitters are harnessed creatures, created via the harnesses which contaminate the children, and allow them to be used as pawns and weapons.  This includes Ben and Rick, who seem to have recovered to a certain degree, but are still affected by the genetic traits of the Skitters.  They can trace the radio signals that we assume are used by Skitters to communicate.  This gives them unique value for the 2nd Massachusetts.

Here is what is important about the Skitters. Their desire (Or the one placed within them by the currently unnamed third species) is to either A) harness kids, and b) kill adults.  The constant of these two of these elements is either the destruction or theft of the victim’s “humanity”.  This removal of humanity is the worst threat they can do.  Skitters, we are told, “Do not want us there”.  They desire the destruction of the very thing that resists them; the human spirit.  Humanity has no desire to just back down.  And that is what makes this show brilliant. It plays the human spirit against the enslaving race who wants nothing else but to destroy and remove the human race’s spirit permanently.

 

 
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Posted by on 2011/08/14 in Opinion, Television

 

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Following Falling Skies: Hanging on to our humanity

As I’ve been digging through my thoughts and feelings about this first season of Falling Skies, I’ve found myself returning to two major themes: the nature of man, and the nature of skitters.  And as I look at these two opposing forces, I can see the metaphoric principles that are underlying in the conflict.  I found an interview with Mark Verheiden, one of the producers of Falling skies in Entertainment Weekly, where he defined Falling Skies as a show about “people who are trying to hold on to their humanity”.  And that is an excellent definition of the show.  Every conflict, every element, everything that the 2nd Massachusetts have done was to hold onto the humanity that defined them.

In an apocalyptic setting, humanity has everything removed from them that they know and love.  Housing, basic food sources, neighbors, media, even the idea of total security disappears.  So, what do these people have left?  They have themselves, their relationships with friends and family, and the hope that they’ll somehow get out of this.  Now, many people will let one or more of these desires take over themselves, and their very being.  These desires are very good, in and of themselves.  However, when people are left alone in their desires, they have a tendency to become encompassing, and eventually take over the person’s life.  It’s when a person comes into a community of others that they are able to focus and use these desires for the better-ment of all.

We see these themes constantly appearing in Falling Skies.  Tom Mason’s primary desire is to find his son, Ben.  However, being the second in command for the 2nd Massachusetts, and having Captain Weaver limit his choices tempers that desire.  While him his fellow fighters gather around him, and desire to help him find Ben. It also allows for a community to provide a voice into his goals, and make the best possible choices.  In the end, Mason’s goals couldn’t have been reached without the 2nd Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, we have the individual John Pope.  A bit of a loner, he is an Ex-convict, and a loner. He had gathered himself a gang in the earlier months of the invasion, and was then captured by Mason and the 2nd Massachusetts.  But his independent nature has turned his desires towards self-fulfillment.  Pope normally finds that through the slaughter of Skitters, oddly enough.  That makes him a threat.  he relies on no one else, which keeps him in a dangerous position.  The same can be said about Captain Weaver, whose personal desires and drug use have put him in a dangerous leadership position, that makes him sporadic and uncontrollable.  He seems to act independent of other’s opinions,and not relying on others for consolation or advice. His unwillingness to listen to the reason of Tom Mason also hurts his relationship with the whole of the 2nd Massachusetts.  Even though these two men are contrasted in their desires and positions, they are hindered by the same problem, a lack of community

The contrasting character types of Mason and Pope/Weaver act as the base for how humanity can act.  Humanity has always been designed with the need for community.  If a person neglects this need,  they will likely become lonely, narcissistic and random.  Eventually, they will be hard to rely on. However, if one consistently returns to a community, whether it be small or big, they will find far more meaning from what they do.  Canadian Philosopher Rene Vaulier once said that “To work for Community is to work for Humanity”.  This communal aspect is one of the key to the survival of humanity.  If we live without others, we are nothing, but if we live with others, we will find strength, and purpose for one’s life.

 
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Posted by on 2011/08/13 in Opinion, Television

 

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Biology and Science Fiction

In travellings across the internet, I’ve tried to discover the best sources for the conversation about science fiction.  My recent find was the blog Biology and Science Fiction This blog is a unique source for opinion about science fiction and the genetic and physical possibilities and impossibilities.  Peggy is both well-read, and intelligent.  She brings a great deal of intelligence to her writing.  I do sometimes disagree with her opinion, but that doesn’t remove the value of the blog. So, if you wish to discover a good science fiction blog that tries to make you think, check out this one.

 
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Posted by on 2011/08/12 in Opinion, Other links

 

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“In Time” and the value of time itself

A new 4 minute trailer was released for the science fiction film “In Time”, starring Justin Timberlake and Olivia Wilde.  I saw this really long trailer, and was enamored by the concept.  I just don’t like Justin Timberlake in it.  He has a bad reputation for being just sex appeal. Anyway, the concept of time as a currency is fascinating, because it emphasizes many points that are worth considering.  The plot implies that in the story, humans figure out how to control the definite aspects of human growth, and of life itself.  It’s disconcerting.  Could man get to that point, and more importantly, should they even go in that direction?  It overrides the mortal nature of man, and puts him in a position that could make almost god-like.  This kind of power would corrupt all of humanity, and put them into a position that would cause many to break the normal moral code, potentially going into the areas of time-stealing, infanticide, and even population control.  So, this film has a really interesting concept that I am excited to see make it onto the screen.  However, I am not excited about Justin Timberlake and the expected R rating.  The trailer already revealed sexual content that will probably not have much purpose to the overall plot.  So, I hope the directors make the film worth watching for all people

The film will come out in October 28, 2011.  Check out the trailer here.  I will probably reviewing this film in the weeks following it’s release

 
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Posted by on 2011/08/01 in Opinion, Upcoming films

 

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Neurologica: bias in science fiction, and Space ships??

I found this fascinating perspective on science fiction from the Skeptic Stephen Novella’s blog NeuroLogica about human bias, and the influence of certain ideas on our spaceship designs, and how we assume certain technologies and their use.  I found that Stephen Novella brings a bit of perspective to an assumed subject that I certainly would not have thought of.

First let’s take some common examples from science fiction, such as the Starship Enterprise. The decks of the Enterprise are oriented parallel to the direction of acceleration, which means that people standing on the decks are perpendicular and the force of acceleration would “push” them horizontal to the deck. The same is true of ships of all sizes in Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and many other popular science fiction shows…….

…….In order to accommodate the odd ship design of having decks parallel to the direction of acceleration, while still allowing passengers and crew to walk around normally, science fiction writers have had to invent both artificial gravity and “inertial dampeners.” They need to provide a force of gravity perpendicular to the decks, and they need to eliminate the force of acceleration horizontal to the decks (accept when needed for some dramatic tossing around the bridge).

You can find the Article here.

 
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Posted by on 2011/07/31 in Opinion, Outside ideas

 

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