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bear by san

March 2017

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bear by san

just a nuisance. ashamed that she's used to it.

Wikipedia is also where every crackpot on the Internet got tired.

I wonder if, at some point, it will work like that experiment tar_pith once told me about, where they got a bunch of amateurs to stick a pin in a map where they thought a crippled Russian sub might have sunk, and took the average of the guesses. (IIRC, it came up more accurate than a couple of expert opinions, but memory is fallible.)

(Why, yes, I do keep clicking through to the Talk pages on Wikipedia entries to watch people argue. It's edifying.)




Two things that occurred to me as points of discussion/things to remember over the long weekend.

(1) When writing characters, remember that everybody is crazy.

By which I mean that we all have our quirks and traumas and triggers and socially unacceptable behaviors.

(2) It's the details that make things spring to life, but it doesn't have to be all the details. I personally find it kind of reassuring when a character empties a chamber pot or mucks out a stall occasionally; it makes me feel like I'm dealing with a real world. A lot of pulp fiction doesn't consider these things (How does Kimball Kinnison fry those steaks in space? Are we managing open flame on a space ship? Who pays to boost that side of beef out of a gravity well? That's some pretty expensive ribeye.) and that's fine--such books are meant to be read within the conventions of the genre they're written in, and it's often extremely edifying in a deconstructive sort of way to apply different reading protocols to them--but in the end a bit disingenuous to hold them to a different standard. (I personally think it would be kind of silly to read Temeraire as a rigorous alternate history, for example; it's not in any wise an attempt at same, and it's kind of like judging an Old English Sheepdog by the Great Dane standard. Okay, they're both dogs....)

Which isn't to say that deconstruction and subversion are useless. Heck, it's all I do. Just that, if we are judging one breed by another breed's metric, we should be aware we're doing it.

Also, these little details can serve as grounding and worldbuilding and character business. Handy stuff, that. This is the kind of world in which people spin, you see, and this is a character who would so such spinning....




I used to think that joy was the break between sorrows
like peace was the break between wars

Comments

(Why, yes, I do keep clicking through to the Talk pages on Wikipedia entries to watch people argue. It's edifying.)

I highly recommend the talk pages for John Byrne. Hours of amusement.
There's a bit in one of Delany's essays where he mentions a suggestion from Sturgeon--imagine the scene as fully as possible, but only write the details that the relevent character would notice.
It's a nice trick. On the other hand, it assumes a very tight limited POV, and it also causes a lot of bad writing, carried to extremes--for a couple of reasons. (1) writers use it as an excuse not to exposit or ground the reader in the story, creating confusion and a white-room, surfacy feeling and (2) we notice a lot more than we realize we notice, consciously.

It's a useful tool for deciding what telling details are, certainly. But not the only hammer for the job, so to speak.
I had to rewrite four novels after I figured that one out. :-P
...where they got a bunch of amateurs to stick a pin in a map where they thought a crippled Russian sub might have sunk, and took the average of the guesses. (IIRC, it came up more accurate than a couple of expert opinions, but memory is fallible.)

...A similar method was used in locating the USS Scorpion (though the Wikipedia entry doesn't cover it); the search team leader took 'bets' from the members of the search team as to where the Scorpion might be, building a probability map based on the 'betting' (the dollar value of the bet being a measure of the better's confidence in his guess). They did several rounds of betting as the search progressed, and found the sunken sub a) where their probability may said it was and b) far from there the admiralty's conventional wisdom said it should be.
Isn't that mad? I love this stuff.
If you can find a way to get politics, position, and status out of the equation (in the Scorpion case the team members self-assigned the values of their opinions through their bets), glomming the knowledge of experts can yeild surprising results. :-)
(1) When writing characters, remember that everybody is crazy.

Yeah! That.
How does Kimball Kinnison fry those steaks in space? Are we managing open flame on a space ship?

In the history of science fiction, there really should be at least one spaceship that's blown up and/or cataclysmically disappeared because some hotshot tried to grill a steak and forgot about the oxygen percentages in the on-ship atmosphere . . .
Oh yes, there should be.

It's amazing how much energy we put in to ignoring the amount of energy we put into getting food into us. I wonder if it's a holdover from the fifties and the food pill. *g*
I don't know if there is one specifically related to steak or cooking, but there is/was a whole subgenre of engineering hard sf where mistakes like that were the feature of the story. (Including the personally dispised "Cold Equations.") Heinlein had any number of secondary characters who almost caused disasters through forgetting that they weren't on Earth.
Heinlein had any number of secondary characters who almost caused disasters through forgetting that they weren't on Earth.

Hm. Were these mistakes made because of certain assumptions about the writing of science fiction—that it is not unremarkable to cook a steak in deep space—or the kind of mistakes that secondary characters would make because they're idiots?
Oh, it was aknowledged in the stories that the mistake was almost made. He also didn't assume that they were always idiots, often a character would be a tourrist who was in a new and very different sort of environment who wasn't stupid, just ignorant. I think you could count the penultimate scenes of "The Menace from Earth" as a combination of pride driven stupidity and and new environment ignorance.

I want to say that Niven included some of the "stupid ground pounder mistakes killing people in space" though it may have been solely in the history of the setting never in the actual action of the story. It has been 10 or 15 years since I read most of his work in a go. I know he talks about it whenever a ground born individual interacts with a Belter.

There are a lot of SF stories where someone almost makes a mistake like that, only to be stopped by more experienced characters, and I am pretty sure that I've read ones where those sorts of mistakes actually cause the situation that has to be resolved, but I can't recall any names off the top of my head.
I love Wikipedia. Where else could you get such a frankenstein's monster of a mix of snobbish elitism and snobbish anti-elitism (FSF fandom excluded)?