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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old August 25 2012, 12:01 AM   #31
King Daniel Into Darkness
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Re: Transphasic shields in the novels

While I do agree novels should stay away from becoming fix fic, I really don't think it makes any difference whatsoever to "The Doomsday Machine" or any of it's spin-offs to swap out neutronium with hyponeutronium.

TOS hasn't really finished in Trek's expanded universe. There are always new adventures being slotted in, sometimes casting a new light on the 40+ year old episodes (Like "Forgotten History" building a story around TOS and TAS' time travels). The tapestry's always being tweaked.
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Old August 25 2012, 12:03 AM   #32
Pavonis
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Re: Transphasic shields in the novels

Well, it's just tie-in fiction, so no one is going to alter the TV shows, or movies.

But since no one is making the TV shows anyone, in a way, the authors of the tie-in fiction are the show runners. Their changes are as legitimate as anything the writers of the TV episodes made. It's all equally imaginary.
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Old August 25 2012, 12:31 AM   #33
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Re: Transphasic shields in the novels

And again, I should mention that the credit for "hyponeutronium" goes to Diane Duane, who coined it in My Enemy, My Ally. She didn't actually define what it meant, but it's obvious from the prefix that it means something "below" neutronium, presumably in density. And it was used as a material in a security hatch, somewhat like the door in "What You Leave Behind." So when that door was mentioned as being "neutronium," which is an absurdity in that context, I had the thought that maybe it was actually Duane's hyponeutronium and they were just calling it neutronium as a shorthand. And I actually ended up saying as much in The Buried Age.
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Old August 25 2012, 04:42 AM   #34
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Re: Transphasic shields in the novels

I have no problem whatsoever with Diane Duane using hyponeutronium as she was creating something new, not retconing another writers work. Also, Christopher is certanly free to use her creation as long as it's in the spirit that she intended. In The Doomsday Machine, however, Spinrad used neutronium so that's what should be accepted. Expamding the universe = good. Rewriting another persons work = not good.

SPOCK: Sensors show the object's hull is solid neutronium. A single ship cannot combat it.

SPOCK: Negative, Captain. Its hull is pure neutronium. There is no known way of blasting through it.

SPOCK: The object's neutronium hull makes sensor readings of the inner mechanism impossible.

Unless Spock is going to be portrayed as unreliable then the orignal work should be taken as it exists.
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Old August 25 2012, 06:12 AM   #35
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Re: Transphasic shields in the novels

Christopher wrote: View Post
^Except most of the references to neutronium, especially its use in DS9, make no sense. Neutronium is the stuff neutron stars are (partly) made of. It's so dense that a spoonful would have the mass of a mountain. Its own gravity would pull it into a sphere, so it couldn't have the shape of the Doomsday Machine. And if you made a door out of the stuff, like the door to the Dominion stronghold in "W.hat You Leave Behind," it would instantly plummet through the planet's crust and sink to the center. That is, if such a small amount of neutronium could stably survive at all, which it couldn't, because its own internal degeneracy pressure would cause it to explode back into normal matter.
Unless you can manipulate mass and gravitation to a large degree - such as when you generate a warp field, something everyone and his idiot brother can do in star trek.


About transphasic shields - their breaking thermodynamics is minor by comparison to warp drive, cloaking, transporters, etc breaking various other physical laws.
And explaining these shields in half-fantasy physics terms (this is star trek physics) is a LOT less convoluted than explaining some of the other trek tech.

You're welcome to try to come up with a relatively more plausible explanation for various trek tech.

But, if you want to be self-consistent and you claim that transphasics must be censored out of trek due to their implausibility, you should claim a LOT of other trek tech must likewise be censored.
I don't see you advocating warp drive or transporter censorship, Christopher.
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Old August 25 2012, 12:57 PM   #36
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Re: Transphasic shields in the novels

I'm faintly astonished to see such an irritated reaction to Christopher's subjective choice to retcon an incredibly minor piece of technobabble so that it's more scientifically plausible, without interfering in any meaningful way with the dramatic integrity of the episodes so being retconned. That's a much bigger emotional investment in whether it's "neutronium" than the episode writers in question probably ever had.
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Old August 25 2012, 03:15 PM   #37
Pavonis
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Re: Transphasic shields in the novels

Too bad Spinrad didn't just call the material "unobtainium", because then fewer people would be complaining about the addition of a little prefix decades later.
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Old August 25 2012, 03:47 PM   #38
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Re: Transphasic shields in the novels

"Fewer" people? Isn't there just one person complaining?

Actually it is remotely possible that the Doomsday Machine could've been armored in actual neutronium, if the neutronium could be encased in some kind of material strong enough to resist its degeneracy pressure -- similarly to how Robert L. Forward proposed that electron-degenerate matter (i.e. matter of white-dwarf density) could be encased in synthetic diamond (see my discussion of this in Ex Machina). The DM actually does look as if it's coated in some kind of shiny, smooth material (which is actually plastic sheeting on the original miniature, but it looks really neat if you don't examine it too closely). It's a reach, but it's within the realm of suspension of disbelief, given the super-advanced technology in play.

It's when you get to the later uses of "neutronium" in DS9 and VGR, as an armor material on doors and stuff, that it becomes implausible, because of the sheer weight and density of the substance. That's where it's handy to think of it as a shorthand for some kind of material that isn't literally neutronium.

Hmm... now, Memory Alpha makes the claim that "Since 1942, it has been used in various science fiction material to refer to a super-dense alloy or a trans-uranic element on the periodic table." However, the OED's SF terminology citations site doesn't quite agree with that. There's a reference to a "neutronium hull" in a 1931 Jack Williamson story, but most of the references cited there (except the ones from Trek novels) are referring to the actual neutron-star kind of neutronium either literally or as a metaphor. (The 1942 Hal Clement reference to cities of neutronium is in a story about beings that live in the core of the Sun, so it's certainly not about a material that could survive in M-class conditions.)
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Old August 25 2012, 04:09 PM   #39
Pavonis
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Re: Transphasic shields in the novels

Ok, there'd be exactly one person fewer complaining. But who am I to complain about someone complaining? It's just sad that such a minor detail has been fixated on.

Make that one person less, not fewer.

Last edited by Pavonis; August 25 2012 at 04:35 PM. Reason: Grammar
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Old August 26 2012, 11:38 PM   #40
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Re: Transphasic shields in the novels

Christopher is, of course, free to white Trek however he wants (within the confines of canon) but I just don't see the need to try to "fix" elements of TOS. TOS is fine as it it. Writing a story that expands what we saw in an episode would add background and make the whole thing richer. Changing what the original author wrote, in this case Norman Spinrad, just seems counterproductive.

If you're going to change what has come before in order to make it more scientifically accurate (or plausible) then Trek as we know it will pretty much be undone. No FTL, no transporters, no human/alien hybrids, no psionics, no universal translator, no phasers. The list goes on.

I read and watch Trek for stories about humanity and how we can grow as an individual and a species. I'm not looking for a science lesson. Too much of Trek is simply absurd from a scientific perspective. And that's fine. It's not absurd in a Lost in Space/Red Dwarf/Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy sort of way. Trek is relatively believable within the confines of it's setting. There's eye rolling moments to be sure (The Counter-Clock Incident, One Little Ship, Threshold) but for the most part the "science" is believable enough that it doesn't take me out of the story.

We should be going forward, not looking to repair or fix or alter what's already been done. Leave the original authors work to stand or fall on it's own and let's move out into the great unknown.
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Old August 29 2012, 08:58 PM   #41
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Re: Transphasic shields in the novels

Pavonis wrote: View Post
Ok, there'd be exactly one person fewer complaining. But who am I to complain about someone complaining? It's just sad that such a minor detail has been fixated on.

Make that one person less, not fewer.
Speaking of "less" versus "fewer," I think we should write to Justin Bieber and get him to release another song retconning why he sang about "One Less Lonely Girl" when in the grammatical context of the original song he could only have meant "One Fewer Lonely Girls."

I realize the way he said it originally was an artistic choice, but it just doesn't stand up to grammatical scrutiny.

In all seriousness I like Christopher's work and I have no problem assuming "neutronium" is shorthand for some more reasonable hull and door material. People talk like that all the time in real life... We describe tube TVs and monitors as "CRTs" even though Cathode Rays went out of fashion as a display technology decades ago.
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Old August 29 2012, 09:01 PM   #42
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Re: Transphasic shields in the novels

^Couldn't he have meant that that one girl was less lonely than she'd been before?
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Old August 30 2012, 08:20 PM   #43
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Re: Transphasic shields in the novels

chrinFinity wrote: View Post
Pavonis wrote: View Post
Ok, there'd be exactly one person fewer complaining. But who am I to complain about someone complaining? It's just sad that such a minor detail has been fixated on.

Make that one person less, not fewer.
Speaking of "less" versus "fewer," I think we should write to Justin Bieber and get him to release another song retconning why he sang about "One Less Lonely Girl" when in the grammatical context of the original song he could only have meant "One Fewer Lonely Girls."

I realize the way he said it originally was an artistic choice, but it just doesn't stand up to grammatical scrutiny.
Also, Gotye should re-title his famous song "Somebody Whom I Used to Know" and Felicia Day should re-title her latest "I'm the One Who's Cool"...
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Old August 30 2012, 08:22 PM   #44
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Re: Transphasic shields in the novels

"There Isn't Any Sunshine" by Bill Withers
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Old August 31 2012, 07:05 PM   #45
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Re: Transphasic shields in the novels

Christopher wrote: View Post
Yes, and if you'd open your mind for a moment you'd understand that real science offers a nice, handy, reasonable explanation for why it was only a one-off advance. If you're unhappy about it being swept under the rug, then you should be glad that real science explains it so handily, instead of being a jerk to me about it.
Nah, I just figure Star Trek has some way of getting around real science and go with it

Christopher wrote: View Post
Which surprises me, since even within the episode, the Borg adapted to the armor pretty quickly,
Yeah, but that was because they assimilated Admiral Janeway.
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