Thread: V
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Old July 16 2009, 09:51 PM   #22
Ancient Mariner
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Re: V

Christopher wrote: View Post
Samuel Walters wrote: View Post
You know all of this for a fact? From which examples of civilizations with interstellar flight are you basing these conclusions?
What a bizarre question. I'm talking about differences in energy usage, travel time and distance, and the like that are matters of fundamental physical law. Just because nobody's ever jumped off the cliff at the edge of Olympus Mons on Mars doesn't mean it's impossible to predict quite accurately what would happen to someone who did.

If you think you have to witness something directly to have any information about it, then you don't even understand what science is.
Come now, there was absolutely no need for an ad hominem attack about my understanding of science. It undermines rational discourse.

Besides, you weren't talking about laws of science, you were making assumptions about civilizations. Civilizations, and technological progressions within societies for that matter, don't follow any "laws" which would equate to laws of nature or science. Psychohistory, as compelling an idea as it may be, is not a science ... yet.

Christopher wrote: View Post
My point is that while you clearly have spent a lot of time researching this, and while you have a great resource of current scientific fact and theory, many of these ideas are conjecture.
No, they're not. That word does not mean what you think it means. It is not "conjecture" that our planetary system contains huge amounts of ice; we can see it directly. It is not "conjecture" that Sirius's own planetary and cometary bodies would be far, far closer to an inhabited planet of Sirius than Earth would be; that's just plain obvious. It is not "conjecture" that it takes energy to thrust against a gravity well; hell, you should know that to be an indisputable fact if you've ever so much as gotten winded going up a flight of stairs. There are a lot of things that apply to this discussion that we know for an absolute, indisputable fact, and it's those known facts that demonstrate the absurdity of the premise here.
I'm not debating the laws of nature or science, nor am I questioning scientific observations. My statement about conjecture, once again, applied to your comments about what civilizations might do with their technology. For example, the following are all conjecture:

  • "If I were a member of a civilization advanced enough to traverse interstellar distances, I'd either use robots or I'd use a replicator-type technology to extract hydrogen and oxygen from materials around me and create water"
  • "Anyone that advanced should be able to synthesize food or water and use robotic labor, and they'd have to have an incredibly robust and efficient industry that would easily outperform our entire planet's industrial output by a factor of thousands" is conjecture.
  • "it's unlikely that the life forms of one planet could gain nourishment from those of another planet; at best it would be like junk food, not very nutritious and toxic in excess."
  • The only way in which interstellar conquest makes any sense is if it's motivated purely by imperialism.
You even use modifiers like "should" and "unlikely." That hardly makes them factual statements. The point is, much of sci-fi is conjecture. What you're doing is no different than what KJ did for V. While these ideas of yours may have more current scientific theory and observation behind it, they are still conjecture.

Christopher wrote: View Post
You're twisting it. I'm not making some blanket statement about SF in general. I said simply that the idea of aliens needing to take our water is scientifically absurd. You claimed it wasn't, and I rebutted that mistaken impression. And it's got nothing to do with being "dismissive." I like Kenneth Johnson's V. I think it's a good story, a good allegory for the Holocaust. I'm just annoyed by the water thing and wish they'd come up with something more credible.

You're just not getting it. You're saying "If A were the case, then B could be the case." But the point is that A could never credibly be the case to begin with. No interstellar civilization is ever going to have water-scarcity issues, period. I mean, as I said, water scarcity doesn't arise because water ceases to exist, but because our ability to deliver and recycle it is finite. But if you have interstellar starships capable of supporting thousands of crewmembers, then you must have licked any and all water-recycling issues already, because those ships need effective water recycling far more than a planet surface ever would. The basic premise is just fundamentally self-contradictory.

Water scarcity is a trope from stories set in Earth's past and present. Some writers assume they can transplant such tropes whole to a science-fiction setting, but this is one trope that simply does not make sense in that setting.

You're also misunderstanding the question. The question is not whether aliens might choose Earth as a world to be conquered. Of course they could, for reasons of political or cultural imperialism or colonization, for instance. Maybe, possibly, you could justify food being a factor, say, if they had a need for live prey and our biology were reasonably compatible. But water would never be a reason for interstellar conquest. Water is just too damn commonplace in the galaxy for anyone to need to come to Earth specifically in order to obtain it. It's as nonsensical as Voyager running out of deuterium in "Demon."
What you missed, then, in my original statement -- and really the entire thrust of everything I have said -- is that it wasn't only water that brought the Visitors to earth. Water, yes. But food and furthering their imperialistic agenda. Hence the quip that "it's difficult to find good hors d'oeuvres on moons, comets or in orbits around stars."

In any case, even an alien-invasion allegory about the Holocaust still has room for commentary about the precious natural resources of our planet -- about how aliens would be willing to exploit us for them, even though we as a planet tend to abuse them. I understand that you don't like the water angle, such is your prerogative, but you've been using phrases like "monumentally stupid" to describe it which, unfortunately, is thoroughly dismissive and, frankly, inflammatory.

Still, I have to wonder, where do you draw the line with science fiction? Can't science fiction be improbable, simply to prove a point? Bradbury wrote about people breathing air on Mars, even when that was improbable -- yet you'd be hard pressed to find one who dismisses the Martial Chronicles because of his fuzzy sci-fi.

Christopher wrote: View Post
I can't say I've read any of your work but, as a career SF writer, I do hope you're spending as much time and effort on the human equation as you do on scientific research. If you do, then I may check out some of your work.
If a writer were doing that love story set in Paris, he or she would probably do enough research to get the geography, language, and culture of Paris close enough to reality to be believable. That doesn't mean the story would be about the geography, language, and culture of Paris. It just means the writer would be professional enough to do the research, even if it only contributes to subtle background texture. Because even if most readers won't notice that background texture, some of them will, and they'll be pleased by a story that gets it right and bothered by a story that gets it wrong.

So your interpretation of my comments is completely absurd and wrong. Whether the research is done right has nothing whatsoever to do with whether the focus of the story is on the material being researched. For your information, I care just as much about "the human equation" as I do about the science. But I reject the school of thought that the setting and universe of the story don't have to make sense so long as the characters are well-drawn. That's just as lazy as getting the science right but writing shallow characters. The setting affects your characters and their actions, so if you want to draw the characters richly and believably, you can't neglect their context.
Again, I commend your dedication to "getting the science right" but you contradict yourself. You claim that the use of water is a critically poor decision for V (in your words, "monumentally stupid"), and yet you also say, "I like Kenneth Johnson's V. I think it's a good story, a good allegory for the Holocaust." Clearly, sci-fi writers can still tell good stories, even if the science isn't 100% sound. Which, essentially, is my point. I agree, all else being equal, it's preferable to use a more scientifically sound construct. But it's not a fundamental requirement, either.
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