Sierra Foxtrot 12

Post #600, SF thoughts.
  • I know I've mentioned (what is incontrovertible) that Rey is easily as much a Mary Sue as Korra (or, before you embarrass yourself, as Ender Wiggin, Harry Potter, Kirigaya Kazuto, or Alucard). And that The Last Jedi was mean-spirited in its treatment of Luke—and Snoke. But I haven't mentioned how it makes the previous eight movies completely incoherent.

    If Force-ghost Yoda can lightning Luke's shrine, why couldn't Force-ghost Qui-Gon lightning Palpatine? If you can use hyperdrives to kamikaze capital ships, why does anyone ever do anything else? This is a setting where droids are cheap, plentiful, and generally considered less-than-persons; every battle would just come down to who mobilizes their droid Tokubetsu Kôgekitai first.

    Also seriously those bombers at the beginning: where are your Y-wings and B-wings? The Rebels Pirate Monkeys Resisty already have bombers that aren't sitting ducks while they attack.
  • Absolutely the champ of this anime season is Cells at Work, which has no business being as educational and entertaining as it is. About the only way it could be better is if viruses looked like Angels from Evangelion, and then vaccines were giant robots for fighting them, made from the same material. (I don't know if moe anthropomorphisms of cellular biology count as SF, and I don't care, either; I just needed to mention how great Cells at Work is.)
  • I was thinking that maybe the widespread gun-control in (the human parts of) my SF setting might not be possible with things like 3D printing of weapons, although doing that in such a way that the weapons are worth a damn is likely to remain relatively expensive. The "Liberator" (which can't actually beat metal detectors) has been compared to "holding a centerfire cartridge with a pair of vice grip pliers and hitting the firing pin with a leather punch".

    But then I realized that, given their firearms use caseless ammunition, and non-caseless isn't much good against their armor, they can enforce gun control by requiring a taggant in all caseless propellants, as we now require it in plastic explosives. It's likely to be very hard to make your own denatured octanitrocubane, after all. Presumably the high-end black-market gunrunners make their own taggant-free propellant, as do assassins.

    Of course, just because all the firearm propellant involves taggants doesn't mean they'd be stupid enough to stop using metal detectors. My future UN is an oppressive regime, not a straw dystopia.
  • Zledo don't have any gun-control; it's technically legal for their civilians to own artillery, up to things designed for taking out fortresses. It's never an issue, though, because they aren't allowed to store the ammunition in residential areas. (All their arms manufacturing takes place outside population centers, to reduce collateral damage in wartime—their Weaponeer Sodality all live outside of "city limits".) Even if they own isolated land where they can stockpile ammunition for their legally-owned artillery, the costs are still prohibitive. Aside from how artillery shells ain't cheap (one standard round for the M109 howitzer costs about $650), the liability and other forms of insurance would quickly outstrip any private budget.

    Technically speaking, the Second Amendment in our constitution applies to artillery; privately-owned cannon were once commonplace. About the only weapon it doesn't actually apply to are WMDs, because those can be used to overthrow a constitutional order, including the one the 2A is a part of, whereas the Confederacy wasn't even able to use artillery to quit this constitutional order. (And nowadays, just like zledo, it would largely be moot if we did legalize it, because of the insurance and liability costs involved—like, tens of thousands of dollars in premiums per month, if fire-codes actually allowed you to have it in a residential area at all.)
  • My NotUsingTheZWord approach to SF writing—where I say "volumetric display" instead of "hologram" and "fighter with prosthetic enhancement" rather than "cyborg"—might have some research to back it up. Apparently, interpreting that study with the appropriate sodium intake, reading words that indicate something is science fiction causes readers to read less carefully.

    That other study mentioned in that article, claiming lit-fic made its readers more empathetic, is utter nonsense, of course. People who read lit-fic can't even get inside the heads of the inhabitants of "flyover country"; SF readers can get inside the heads of Kzinti. Did the study get a false positive because lit-fic involves so much more silent-film pantomimic emoting?
  • I was unsure how to have Zbin-Ãld express the concept "for themselves" or "their own", since my other reflexive involved putting both the ergative and absolutive particles on the same word (yes they mark the absolutive—Indo-European originally marked all of its cases, too, and so does Japanese when it's bothering to mark them at all). "For themselves" is benefactive (not a marked case in Zbin-Ãld, it's the oblique case and "for") and "their own" is genitive (that one is its own case).

    Then it occurred to me I can make a word for "self" from the word assigned to "nature" (as in "natural world") by the word-list generator I used, since zledo have no concept of "nature" in that sense as a distinct thing—where you say "naturally" they say "expectably". Basically the construction in "for themselves" is something like "for their same self", and then "their own" is the genitive of "same self". I don't think "self" inflects for its referent's number, though, unlike in English.
  • Decided to give Zbin-Ãld gendered pronouns for all three persons. Or rather to inflect all their pronouns for noun-class/paradigm: although male names are in one paradigm and female in the other, they're not exactly "masculine" or "feminine" grammatical gender (their names are respectively "blue paradigm" and "red paradigm", among zledo, after the moons and the two colors their markings come in). In the singular, when referring to specific people, you use the one that goes with their name, so it matches their "gender" in that sense, but when speaking of a common noun ("a child", "the noble") or in the plural ("zledo") you use the one for the word that goes with whatever noun you're referring to.

    Thus if you say "people" (or "mortal men"), sõ'ã, which is in the same paradigm as masculine names, you use the "masculine" pronouns, but if you say "zledo", which is in the paradigm for feminine names, you use the "feminine" pronouns. It gets counterintuitive for Indo-European speakers when they leave the referent implicit and use one or the other paradigm seemingly at random, based on what particular word they were thinking of people as. I was thinking I might get some rhetorical effect out of it—like when you count humans with the marker for "small animal" in Japanese, to add oomph to concepts like "just one man"—but with only two paradigms, roughly evenly distributed, you can't really do that.
  • Between Life having "thinking muscle" and Annihilation having a telepathic, reality-warping fungus, can we just make a rule that you're not allowed to have the damned Gravemind in your SF movie? I mean come on people. Come up with something else. At least rip off a different video game (although even video games—*cough*—rip off the Gravemind). You haven't tried zooplankton that learned to fly by Social Darwinist witchcraft as your totally-science-fiction-and-not-fantasy antagonist or plot-mover, yet. Or a space pirate who was born a bug-lizard and became an immortal dragon.


De romanicorum theoriarum XII

Fantasy and SF thoughts.
  • Hoo-boy the new Lost in Space is so much wasted potential. First off, everyone is playing constant keepie-uppie with the Conflict Ball; the incessant bitching about John's re-enlisting was almost as tiresome as the contrived, interminably dragged-out refusal to mention what they were all so mad at him for. Second off, "Lisa, in this house we respect the laws of thermodynamics!" Maybe you don't know how quickly ice actually freezes (or rather doesn't)? And third off, Dr. Smith as a woman is unobjectionable, but Dr. Smith as a non-persnickety woman who at no point alliterates a string of insults is unforgivable.
  • "Cautious optimism" for Destiny 2: Forsaken. I think the supposed death of Cayde-6 is a fakeout; I also hope they'll do more than just have Uldren (and ideally Mara) be merely villains, rather than "wavering between the light and the dark". If they do something stupid like have Mara "bows to no one" Sov have been Taken by Oryx, or otherwise under the control of anything but her own agenda, well..."When it begins, you will hear the sound of children screaming—as though from a great distance."

    I find on playing back through, in "meditations" and with an alt, that Warmind really grows on you. I think I lost something about the experience the first time by shotgunning it (I did its whole campaign in like one evening); its only real weakness is it is damned short. Thus my cautious optimism: these people do more or less know what they're doing. It's actually said they didn't make Warmind (even) better because they were working on Forsaken, so it will presumably be pretty good.

    Not sure what to make of the addition of bows but the added class-abilities look pretty solid. Maybe I'll have a reason to do those missions that reward you with upgrade points that you don't currently need...
  • Decided to go back to orcs riding boars. The ones orcs ride are like javelinas the size of cows (I used the mass of the extinct true pig Notochoerus but the proportions of a collared peccary), with four vertical canines instead of curled tusks, while the ones ogres ride are javelinas the size of Hippopotamus gorgops (not a pig, but in the same sub-branch of the Artiodactyla). Of course for pigs to go nuts and periodically eat the people who've enslaved them is less shocking than for elephants; pigs are scary.

    Also gave the bugbears a "grim-hound" with a mass based on the high estimate for the short-faced bear (because my bugbears are Large); used the proportions of Daphoenodon robustus for the grim-hounds. Decided my setting's totem animals are prehistoric megafauna: the bears are short-faced, the "tiger" is actually Machairodus (the high estimates for whose mass are actually above those of Smilodon), the "wolf" is Epicyon (as are the dogs...), and so on. Since there's all this megafauna about, used the stats of wooly rhinos for wooly rhinos, then applied the "Giant" template to make Elasmotherium. Decided that my hill giants (giant humans, remember) ride them. Not sure who rides the mammoths (used the steppe mammoth rather than the wooly one, since it was bigger), but someone does.

    Gave the cats the elves ride the same mass as Machairodus but the proportions of Homotherium. Decided that rather than riding the giant hyenas ridden by the hyena people ("gnolls")—which are Dinocrocuta the feliform carnivoran, not Hyaenodon the, well, hyaenodont—the dark elves ride speaking hyenas with the same proportions, basically the crocotta (or leucrocotta) of myth rather than the leucrotta of D&D. (While percrocutids are not hyenids, the African civet demonstrates that the whole branch of the feliform carnivorans is set up similarly.)
  • On the subject of sizing things, decided that elves, dwarves, and gnomes have the sexes the same height but different weights, like the elves in 3e. Made the elves the same average height as Pathfinder elves, i.e. both six feet even. Also decided that male hobgoblins and male orcs are the same size as, respectively, male elves and male dwarves; female orcs and hobgoblins are smaller (because of their polygynous dimorphism), as are goblins of both sexes, while bugbears and ogres are bigger. Basically hobgoblins look like haggard, hard-bitten elves while orcs look like degenerate dwarves.
  • People have compared the difference between 5e and Pathfinder to the difference back in the '90s between Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition and the BECMI/Rules Cyclopedia version of (not-advanced) Dungeons & Dragons. In many ways the comparison is apt; not only does Pathfinder bring back many 2e elements that 3e had jettisoned ("treasure types", direct XP values rather than CR-to-XP conversion), it's also a lot more complicated than the alternative ("complicated" doesn't necessarily mean "good", especially where rules are concerned). On the other hand, all its sins on its head, Pathfinder isn't within a zettameter of as needlessly complexified as 2nd Edition was.

    I think having two rulesets, one more accessible and one more geared to the hardcore enthusiast, is a good choice; Wizards/Hasbro could've been the owner of both but they decided mindlessly aping MMORPGs and having non-combat challenges become harder if you got creative was the way to go. It'll be interesting to see if Pathfinder 2nd Edition just irons out some crinkles or goes the "Island of Dr. Moreau" route; some of the differences between Pathfinder and Starfinder are alarming if they indicate a shift of design philosophy. Still worth a look. If they mess it up, it's not like the Pathfinder SRDs (or the SRD app I have on my phone) are going anywhere.
  • Krypton, unlike Lost in Space, features very little wasted potential, although they really need to do more (and better) with Adam Strange. The fact they actually use the Superman theme is a nice touch. (The fact Justice League uses the Batman theme, and also, in a more understated way, the Superman one, is also a nice touch. Though actually having it be noticeable that they used the Superman one would be nice.) The fact the credo of the House of Zod involves kneeling to no-one was well-received, as well.
  • Not directly F/SF related, but relevant to a lot of it so it's going here, is, people often don't realize how unrealistic many treatments of women in combat are. Mainly, they don't understand just how much stronger men are than women (the average man has fully 50% more muscle mass than the average woman). And I think that is because people don't roughhouse with the opposite sex, much, after the early teens. Guys might remember being beaten up by girls (who didn't require special training) or girls being better at sports than them, from around the age of middle school. They might not realize that, about a decade later, they get a huge growth of muscle. Adult female athletes perform on par with high-school male athletes—the big growth of muscle happens usually in the early to mid-20s, after high-school.

    Which is not of course to say that the opposite view, that no woman could ever beat a man in combat, isn't also unrealistic. Give a girl a halberd and she might be only worth two men with swords instead of three, but that still means she can trounce any one man with a sword. The thing is that realistically, any armed person is actually quite dangerous—hence also why yes, you do actually have to use lethal force with enemy soldiers. (Also many men have serious psychological issues with being willing to do harm to women, which isn't something we should be in any hurry to do anything about. The real reason Alex Armstrong loses to Olivié Armstrong in FMA, for example, is that she's fighting him willing to kill, and he's not; remember, he later goes literally toe to toe with a homunculus she needed a tank to fight.)
  • Lot of fantasy doesn't understand what a soul is. From Warhammer to Nanatsu no Taizai ("Arthurian Dragon Ball"), you've got demons able to consume and annihilate souls. (Yet in Nanatsu no Taizai they act like the Demon Tribe have the same right to exist as those who don't eternally annihilate innocent people as a part of their metabolism. It's like Tokyo Ghoul on steroids: if you eat people, you are basically never going to be a "victim", sorry.)

    Now, some of the confusion certainly comes from the fact "soul" is also the pre-scientific term for "life-force", and demons eating that is unobjectionable. But that excuse isn't there for Japanese works, because the Chinese conception of "soul" involves the two elements hún (Japanese kon, 魂), meaning the mind/essence part, and (Japanese haku, 魄), meaning the life-force animating part. Demons can only consume the second half of the compound konpaku soul.

    The only thing I can think of that really understands what destroying the other kind of "soul" would entail, is Shakugan no Shana, and it doesn't understand that that's what it's doing. Having your reference to "to be" (which is part of what a soul is) stolen by Crimson Denizens, deletes you from all of time and experience, as though you never existed.
  • Realized it's actually better to go back to the reduplicated tense/aspect particles, to mark the Zbin-Ãld causative; verbs also switch to the opposite declension in the antipassive. All my moods, I decided, are made with adverbs ("possibly", "ideally", etc.); even the negative is made with the "not/no" that also makes "nobody, nothing" etc. when used with nouns and pronouns. I think I can make the yes-no interrogative with "any" ("Did you see?"="See at all?"), and then the other kind of interrogative with "what".

    Was thinking I needed to do something convoluted to achieve the subjunctive, but really, I can just have the actual word "if" introduce one clause and then "then" or "and" introduce the other, in that kind of subjunctive. Then for the imperative, hortative, and jussive senses of subjunctive I can just have a construction of "I beg/ask/command you and you [do X]". Maybe the more "clipped" version is just a statement, maybe in the future tense? "You'll go there." That's the more polite imperative in Navajo.