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

View Poll Results: Rate Tower of Babel.
Outstanding 15 23.44%
Above Average 29 45.31%
Average 19 29.69%
Below Average 1 1.56%
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Old April 8 2014, 12:20 AM   #136
JeBuS
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Re: ENT: Tower of Babel by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Sci wrote: View Post
All of which is a very elaborate way of saying that you don't invest emotional stakes into characters unless they could die at any moment.
Like I said, I think you've flipped the logic on this one. The logical progression of your end of the discussion, based upon my previous statements, would be that I only invest in characters who can't die.

Also, I don't think anyone's invested enough in supporting characters from the least-watched and least-beloved Trek show for CBS to care enough to stop Pocket killing someone like Reed or Hoshi. Or even T'Pol, really; I think her life is more ensured by other ENT novels than by having been on ENT itself.
That'd be a very narrow outlook. Their faces alone are bankable commodities, something very few TrekLit characters could lay claim to. They're safe because they're money. Or the potential for money.
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Old April 8 2014, 12:31 AM   #137
Sci
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Re: ENT: Tower of Babel by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!)

JeBuS wrote: View Post
Sci wrote: View Post
All of which is a very elaborate way of saying that you don't invest emotional stakes into characters unless they could die at any moment.
Like I said, I think you've flipped the logic on this one. The logical progression of your end of the discussion, based upon my previous statements, would be that I only invest in characters who can't die.
Your statement here makes no sense at all. You just spent several posts talking about how you don't feel any stakes involved in characters who are "safe," and that having "safe" characters is something tie-ins can't "rise above."

Unless you're trying to take my deconstruction of your argument and use it to imply that I am asserting the opposite principle. But I'm not saying you should only invest in characters who can't die. I'm saying that the idea that whether or not a character is likely to die as a result of the plot seems a silly and arbitrary standard by which to judge how invested to let yourself get.

Also, I don't think anyone's invested enough in supporting characters from the least-watched and least-beloved Trek show for CBS to care enough to stop Pocket killing someone like Reed or Hoshi. Or even T'Pol, really; I think her life is more ensured by other ENT novels than by having been on ENT itself.
That'd be a very narrow outlook. Their faces alone are bankable commodities, something very few TrekLit characters could lay claim to. They're safe because they're money. Or the potential for money.
I really don't think there are enough ENT fans out there to make those characters "money." Realistically, ENT is already dead aside from the Pocket novels -- no one's slapping Mayweather's face on plastic plates to sell them at the store, no one's making T'Pol/Trip Christmas ornaments. (Hell, the only ENT actor who has continued to have much TV/film success is Scott Bakula; the rest have only had TV guest star spots and the occasional minor role in a movie or two.)

I really question whether or not CBS views these supporting characters as being monetarily valuable enough to instruct Pocket not to kill them if Pocket thinks a book featuring their deaths would be profitable.
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Old April 8 2014, 12:33 AM   #138
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Re: ENT: Tower of Babel by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Sci wrote: View Post
an unused portion of that same bioscreen established that she eventually married Takashi Kimura and retired to Tarsus IV, where she and her husband died in 2246, two of the victims of Governor Kodos from TOS's "The Conscience of the King;" Christopher's use of Taskashi in Rise of the Federation is a reference to this unused portion of her biography...
Actually it was Michael A. Martin who introduced Kimura as part of NX-01's crew and Hoshi's romantic interest in The Romulan War.



JeBuS wrote: View Post
But putting "safe" characters into what are supposed to be life-threatening situations... well, it seems like a waste of pages, because you already know they're safe.
You could say the same about nearly any ongoing TV series, though. We always knew that Kirk or Picard or Sisko was never in any real danger of dying -- but then, we also knew that they don't really exist, that they're actors standing on sets and reading lines from scripts. Why should you care about any character who doesn't exist? You care because you use your imagination, because you choose to suspend your knowledge that it's unreal and let yourself believe for the duration of the story. Believing that a regular character is in danger is simply another act of willing suspension of disbelief, no harder than believing that something you know to be a Hollywood set with rigged pyrotechnic charges going off is "actually" a spaceship under enemy fire.

Besides, there are other kinds of danger and loss than just death. On a fundamental level, what's really at stake in any story is the risk of failure. Every story is about a character pursuing a goal at which they might fail, and if we get invested in their struggles, it's because we know how bad it feels to fail in pursuing our own goals. Casting that risk in terms of life and death is merely a metaphor. Death in a story is effective if it causes pain and sadness to the characters who survive, or to the audience. So it's the pain and sadness, the emotions caused by loss and failure, that are the real thing we fear. And other kinds of loss or failure can induce those emotions too.

Consider "The City on the Edge of Forever." Kirk's own life was never really in danger there, but the stakes for him were extremely high because of the pain and loss and guilt he had to face. Or consider "Duet." Kira's life wasn't in danger, but the emotional stakes there were intense. Okay, both of those outcomes involved someone dying, but it was someone else.

That said, I will concede that there were places in Tower of Babel where I may have made it a little too easy for certain characters to get out of trouble. I wasn't entirely satisfied with how I resolved Archer's crisis on Babel and Val's on Rigel IV, because I was afraid the solutions just fell into place too easily. So I can understand why the stakes may have felt too low. I'm definitely trying to punch things up more in Book 3.
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Old April 8 2014, 12:40 AM   #139
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Re: ENT: Tower of Babel by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!)

While Reed is one of the few members of the original ENT cast whose ultimate fate is entirely unknown, I really hope he doesn't get killed off any time soon. He actually might be my favorite character from that era now, thanks to the ROTF series. I already liked him back on ENT, but he's gotten a lot of focus so far in ROTF, and Christopher has done a terrific job of developing him. I'd be really bummed if he were to die.
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Old April 8 2014, 03:15 AM   #140
JeBuS
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Re: ENT: Tower of Babel by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Sci wrote: View Post
Your statement here makes no sense at all. You just spent several posts talking about how you don't feel any stakes involved in characters who are "safe," and that having "safe" characters is something tie-ins can't "rise above."
I think perhaps you've misunderstood me from the start. It certainly appears you've gone through a logical progression, starting from the wrong position. I'll try to sum up what I've been saying.

There are characters in TrekLit that, through franchise tie-in reasons, are safe from harm. They have a guardian angel looking out for them at all times. As a reasonably intelligent reader, I know this going into the book.

As a result of this, there are characters in TrekLit that are more likely to die. If an author can't kill one of the "safe" characters, somebody has to die. These are the Redshirts. There is a veritable Spectrum of Red(shirt). This scale goes from the (hitherto) nameless security guards who accompany a mission, only to get stabbed or blown up, all the way up to the almost main characters, who are fully-fleshed characters, but whose lives (and deaths) serve only to provide "teachable moments" to the safe characters.

What's the point of investing in these redshirts, whether on the weak end of the spectrum or the strong end? Their lives don't matter, in the long run, except in how they affect the lives of the safe characters. Whether they live or die doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is what happens to the main characters as a result; how these redshirts enrich the main cast.

This is such a huge, gigantic, gaping trope, that seeing it used with such frequency in a single novel detracts from it.

Christopher wrote: View Post
JeBuS wrote: View Post
But putting "safe" characters into what are supposed to be life-threatening situations... well, it seems like a waste of pages, because you already know they're safe.
You could say the same about nearly any ongoing TV series, though. We always knew that Kirk or Picard or Sisko was never in any real danger of dying -- but then, we also knew that they don't really exist, that they're actors standing on sets and reading lines from scripts.
But we're no longer talking about the television shows, are we? Television shows which belong to an era that has long since passed, where there were never really any consequences from one week to the next. This is literature, where an actor isn't signed on for a seven year deal, plus movies. You can do whatever you like, as an author, but you're playing the tired tropes instead.

Besides, there are other kinds of danger and loss than just death. On a fundamental level, what's really at stake in any story is the risk of failure. Every story is about a character pursuing a goal at which they might fail, and if we get invested in their struggles, it's because we know how bad it feels to fail in pursuing our own goals. Casting that risk in terms of life and death is merely a metaphor. Death in a story is effective if it causes pain and sadness to the characters who survive, or to the audience. So it's the pain and sadness, the emotions caused by loss and failure, that are the real thing we fear. And other kinds of loss or failure can induce those emotions too.

Consider "The City on the Edge of Forever." Kirk's own life was never really in danger there, but the stakes for him were extremely high because of the pain and loss and guilt he had to face. Or consider "Duet." Kira's life wasn't in danger, but the emotional stakes there were intense. Okay, both of those outcomes involved someone dying, but it was someone else.
And this is what you've done repeatedly: offer up someone as the sacrificial lamb on the Spectrum of Red(shirt), in order to affect change in the main cast. TROPE!

That said, I will concede that there were places in Tower of Babel where I may have made it a little too easy for certain characters to get out of trouble. I wasn't entirely satisfied with how I resolved Archer's crisis on Babel and Val's on Rigel IV, because I was afraid the solutions just fell into place too easily. So I can understand why the stakes may have felt too low. I'm definitely trying to punch things up more in Book 3.
Well, I thank you for that.

Last edited by JeBuS; April 8 2014 at 03:27 AM.
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Old April 8 2014, 04:28 AM   #141
Sci
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Re: ENT: Tower of Babel by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!)

JeBuS wrote: View Post
What's the point of investing in these redshirts, whether on the weak end of the spectrum or the strong end? Their lives don't matter, in the long run, except in how they affect the lives of the safe characters. Whether they live or die doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is what happens to the main characters as a result; how these redshirts enrich the main cast.
This is a really bizarre way of looking at things, because it basically denies the possibility of investing in any characters in any work of art who don't die.

There are always some "safe" characters and always some "unsafe" characters, because there will always be some characters that need to survive to the end of the story. Does the fact that Fortinbras survives The Tragedy of Hamlet but Hamlet does not, mean that you won't invest into the Hamlet character? Does it mean that Hamlet's life only matters insofar as how it impacts Fortinbras?

And let's accept your premise that we know some characters may die and some may not. Why does that mean that the ones who may die only matter insofar as they impact the ones that may not? Why are you unable to invest into those "unsafe" characters' emotional journeys the same way you would a "safe" character's journey? Why does being "unsafe" render the character's life meaningless? Why do you only apply meaning in terms of their impact on "safe" characters?

Why don't the characters just matter to you, period?
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Old April 8 2014, 04:32 AM   #142
Christopher
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Re: ENT: Tower of Babel by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!)

JeBuS wrote: View Post
Christopher wrote: View Post

You could say the same about nearly any ongoing TV series, though. We always knew that Kirk or Picard or Sisko was never in any real danger of dying -- but then, we also knew that they don't really exist, that they're actors standing on sets and reading lines from scripts.
But we're no longer talking about the television shows, are we? Television shows which belong to an era that has long since passed, where there were never really any consequences from one week to the next. This is literature, where an actor isn't signed on for a seven year deal, plus movies.
But the point is, it's all imaginary. The "consequences" in a work of literature aren't real, because the "people" they happen to don't exist except as words on a page. You just choose to pretend that there are stakes that matter. You use your imagination to invest in the story, to set aside your knowledge that the stakes are unreal and allow yourself to believe in them. That's the same whether what you're ignoring is the guarantee of survival for the characters or the fact that the characters don't exist anyway.


You can do whatever you like, as an author, but you're playing the tired tropes instead.
I assure you that's not my intent. Granted, this particular installment in the series didn't feature the highest personal stakes for most of the main cast (Trip being an exception, I think), and that was a source of concern for me; but at the same time it seemed reasonable to follow up the first novel, which established the characters' new situations and relationships and showed their growing pains, with something where the characters' situation was a bit more stable, where the focus was more on the larger political and social process on the one hand and on the smaller personal stuff on the other. It would get boring if every story were just "Oh, we're all gonna die" over and over again. This is the first time I've had the luxury of writing a full series, aside from my Hub stories in Analog, and that means I can play a long game and modulate my approach from book to book.


And this is what you've done repeatedly: offer up someone as the sacrificial lamb on the Spectrum of Red(shirt), in order to affect change in the main cast. TROPE!
I honestly have no idea what you're referring to here. Who have I "offered up?" What sacrifices are you talking about?

And let's clarify something: The person who's ranking characters by how killable they are is you, not me. I don't plot my stories based on such a simplistic and narrow-minded formula. Death is not the only story device that has worth or power. It's just one tool in the kit. There are plenty of ways characters can grow or change or fail or suffer in meaningful ways without dying. In fact, I think death is often a lazy ending for a character arc -- it doesn't really resolve anything, it just stops things. I mean, a character's death can't have a future impact on that character's development, because they don't have any more beyond it (unless they get resurrected, but that's a whole other conversation). It's only meaningful to the extent that it affects other characters' arcs.

So frankly I don't give a damn who's killable and who isn't, because I'm not only concerned with action and danger. As a rule it's more interesting to keep characters alive because then you can keep getting them in trouble and seeing how it affects and changes them. Sisko having to live with the choices he made in "In the Pale Moonlight" is a much more interesting story than if, say, he blew himself up to prevent them from happening. Basically, a writer's job is to torture one's characters, and you can't torture a corpse.

And for the record, everything is a trope. So calling something a trope doesn't exactly constitute a condemnation. It's impossible to tell a story without tropes. A trope is simply a motif, device, or technique for telling a story. What you're advocating for here -- placing lead characters in genuine danger -- is also a trope. And freely killing off lead characters can be just as cliched or formulaic as rendering them immune to death. No trope is automatically good or bad; they're tools, and the quality of a tool is in how it's wielded.
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Old April 8 2014, 04:39 AM   #143
JeBuS
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Re: ENT: Tower of Babel by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Sci, do you always purposefully ignore points when you discuss things, or is it a special behavior that you only pull out for me? As I've been saying, this is about problems with tie-in literature. Last I heard, Hamlet doesn't qualify.
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Old April 8 2014, 04:47 AM   #144
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Re: ENT: Tower of Babel by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!)

JeBuS wrote: View Post
As I've been saying, this is about problems with tie-in literature. Last I heard, Hamlet doesn't qualify.
And I've been saying that it's a false distinction. Either way, it's about the willing suspension of disbelief. You're just more willing to suspend disbelief about certain things than about others, and that's a matter of your own priorities rather than a failing of one genre or another.
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Old April 8 2014, 04:53 AM   #145
JeBuS
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Re: ENT: Tower of Babel by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Christopher wrote: View Post
JeBuS wrote: View Post
As I've been saying, this is about problems with tie-in literature. Last I heard, Hamlet doesn't qualify.
And I've been saying that it's a false distinction. Either way, it's about the willing suspension of disbelief. You're just more willing to suspend disbelief about certain things than about others, and that's a matter of your own priorities rather than a failing of one genre or another.
It's certainly a distinction, but as with most personal distinctions, I'm not sure how it could be false. It's one reader's opinion, in a review thread, about a specific aspect of a novel. However, I do think it applies to tie-in novels to a greater degree than others.
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Old April 8 2014, 04:57 AM   #146
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Re: ENT: Tower of Babel by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Honestly, I don't really care if a character can die or not. Hell, right now on book 4 of 12 published books in The Hollows, book 8 of 14 published in the Dresden Files series, book 4 of 6 published in the Kate Daniels series, the third in the Hunger Games trilogy, and first books in the Divergent and Under the Never Sky trilogies. In of those case I already know that the characters will live at least until the end of the current books, but for me that has no effect on my investment into the characters. When the characters find themselves in a life threatening situation, for me it's not a matter of will they survive, instead it's how are they going to get out of this one.
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Old April 8 2014, 05:22 AM   #147
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Re: ENT: Tower of Babel by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Well I guess I unleashed a mini-firestorm. To avoid going over things that have been discussed in detail I will simply clarify my opinion regarding the level of dramatic tension in "Tower of Babel" : despite your many talents as a writer ChristopherI felt that the villians were too easily defeated, the perils facing the heroes were too easily solved and that was never a moment that the outcome of events was in doubt. The notable exception was the Saurian and Trip\T'pol\Section 31 storylines. Those kept me guessing and were subsequently my favorite sections of the book. You have already promised to up your game in the next book, and I plan on holding you to that promise .
Looking forward to your next book.
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Old April 8 2014, 05:49 AM   #148
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Re: ENT: Tower of Babel by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!)

JeBuS wrote: View Post
Sci, do you always purposefully ignore points when you discuss things, or is it a special behavior that you only pull out for me?
No. I just think that your arguments are built on absurd premises, and so I go after your premises instead of digging at every outgrowth of them.

As I've been saying, this is about problems with tie-in literature. Last I heard, Hamlet doesn't qualify.
And the argument I made by bringing up Hamlet is that you are applying an arbitrary standard to media tie-in novels which you probably don't apply to non-media tie-in works.
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Old April 8 2014, 05:55 AM   #149
JeBuS
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Re: ENT: Tower of Babel by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Sci wrote: View Post
And the argument I made by bringing up Hamlet is that you are applying an arbitrary standard to media tie-in novels which you probably don't apply to non-media tie-in works.
Then your comparison is without basis. There is no reason to expect any character in a single standalone story to survive. Whereas with tie-in novels, one expects the main characters to always survive, with the exceptions to that being truly exceptional.

I don't deny that the standard I'm applying is arbitrary. But that doesn't negate its basis.
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Old April 8 2014, 05:58 AM   #150
Sci
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Re: ENT: Tower of Babel by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!)

JeBuS wrote: View Post
Sci wrote: View Post
And the argument I made by bringing up Hamlet is that you are applying an arbitrary standard to media tie-in novels which you probably don't apply to non-media tie-in works.
Then your comparison is without basis. There is no reason to expect any character in a single story to survive.
Oh, don't be silly. Of course there is. The instant you recognize what kinds of genres and tropes are being drawn upon to create the work, you can start making predictions about which character is or is not likely to survive to the end.

I don't deny that the standard I'm applying is arbitrary.
Well there you go then.
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