Before Dishonour....seriously?!

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by sosolidshoe, Jul 3, 2011.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't see what's wrong with the idea of Borg technology being sentient without an organic component. Isn't that the whole idea behind the Borg, that the overarching collective program enslaves the minds of the living beings it assimilates? And the walls gaining the ability to absorb matter into them is merely an extrapolation from the Borg's use of nanotechnology. If it's assumed that all their technology is assembled from nanites, then it should have the ability to transform or to deconstruct matter on a molecular level. It's basically your classic "gray goo" nanotech scenario. One may quibble about the extremes to which it was taken in Before Dishonor, but the underlying concept is sound.
     
  2. captcalhoun

    captcalhoun Admiral Admiral

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    Mac can't be Wolverine. he has a scar. and he's too tall.

    but he IS the best there is and what he does and what he does isn't pretty.
     
  3. David cgc

    David cgc Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I'm a bit disappointed that it wasn't depicted that way in the series. The borg ships should've been just as dangerous as the drones to an away team instead of just sitting there letting strange little creatures prance around their hallways and shoot out their nodes. Heck, the ships should've been considerably more dangerous than the drones. Prehensile hoses and robot arms snaring people and holding them in place like flypaper, hallways moving and reconfiguring themselves at the drop of a hat, grey-goo puddles of nanites flooding sections that were boarded or damaged like antibodies and assimilating anything that wasn't already part of the ship.
     
  4. captcalhoun

    captcalhoun Admiral Admiral

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  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    We did see a hint of that in "Q Who," the FX shot of the cube's damaged section beginning to repair itself, but that was never followed up on due to budget limitations.
     
  6. DonIago

    DonIago Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I'm actually skim-re-reading BD now, and I have to say I'd be quite curious to hear PD's own thoughts on it. His somewhat eccentric style of writing with regards to Trek is nothing new, it just reaches a new level in this book. As of page 183 though, nothing particularly outrageous has happened, and that's almost half of it. Obviously the Pluto thing is a bit OTT, but that may have been the point. Personally I find it tiresome when readers critique writing for being ludicrous or such without allowing for the possibility that that may have been the author's intention. Granted it's not (nor should it be) everyone's cup of tea, but just because one finds an author's style isn't to their liking doesn't make it a bad book.

    Unfortunately, I think a number of readers can't see past the death of Janeway to critique the book on any other level.

    I had a lot of problems with one of the Titan books...I think it was Sword of Damocles...because the author's style wasn't what I was used to in a Trek book. I doubt I'll go back to it as a consequence, but I can appreciate that the author was writing the book they wanted to write. Just because I didn't like their style doesn't mean it's a "bad" book; it just means it wasn't what I was looking for.

    It's ironic that people can read novels about a series that preached IDIC, but then dismiss anything they don't like as being "bad" rather than "different" or "not really what I was hoping for".

    So yeah, shame we don't have PD's take on his book; I'd be curious to hear his thoughts on what he was going for and what he thinks of the final product.
     
  7. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    Check out PAD's blog. He has discussed it there.
     
  8. Thrawn

    Thrawn Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    ^ AFAIK, he only commented that a lot of people that didn't like it they didn't like Janeway or Seven or the Borg, and that he thought it was funny people would've bought it in the first place if they weren't interested. And that it wasn't his call to kill Janeway, and that he didn't have any of KRAD's Q&A to read or read about while writing.

    All in all, not much. Nothing about the tone or the success, etc.
     
  9. sosolidshoe

    sosolidshoe Ensign Newbie

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    I'm not so convinced to be frank. The Borg were always presented as a fusion of organic and technological, and it was that fusion which defined them. In BD, there were essentially no Borg as we had seen them, there was a sentient cube puppeteering a number of disconnected drones and Janeway; it was not a Collective. EDIT: Indeed is it not specifically stated in First Contact that neither the Borg's organic nor technological components can function without the other?

    In addition, the Borg's nanotechnology has always been presented as Constructors, rather than Smart Matter. By which I mean; the individual nanoprobes are nonsentient robots designed to construct or reconstruct macro-scale technology according to preset programming or direct instruction. The technology itself is not actually made up of nanoprobes.

    Regardless, it was actually the horribly contrived "trauma" nonsense I was referring to, the concept that the big bad Enterprise was so mean to the poor little cubie-woobie that it somehow metamorphosed into a sentient creature bent on revenge. First, refer to the argument I make above as to why I find that dubious, but second and more than that, we've seen cubes "experience" circumstances as "traumatic", perhaps even moreso, than were presented in Resistance, yet none of them turned into melty-walled emos.

    Anywho, I've just finished Greater Than The Sum, and my sense of despondency has lifted enough after the experience to attempt the Destiny trilogy next. I really enjoyed this one; the technobabble was much more plausible, the characterisation was much more consistent, and the concept of planetary geological processes resulting in evolved intelligence was inspired. Furthermore, it felt like a Star Trek story, although I realise that's a subjective concept.

    Hell, I wish they'd put this story up on the big screen in place of Nemesis :p
     
  10. Thrawn

    Thrawn Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    ^ Just in case you hadn't made this connection yet, Christopher is the author of that book. So that's good then :)
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Except we know the organic components can be separated from the technological and still survive -- look at all the drones who've been liberated, from Picard to Seven to various others. So why can't the reverse be at least possible? Sure, it would be an exceptional circumstance, but that's exactly what BD established it to be. It was very explicitly not the way Borg technology normally works; it was a mutation, a last-ditch adaptation in order to survive.


    Do we know that for a fact? I don't recall it ever being explicitly stated. If universal assemblers can form themselves into any desired construct, then how could you tell the difference between a conventional macroscopic device and one made of nanotech "cells"?

    And is it even a reasonable conceit to assert that they aren't made of nanites? The problem with the Borg is that, as originally conceived, they were a rather backward concept. The idea of cyborgs being just humanoids with clunky machine parts stuck on them was outdated from the very beginning. When ST finally caught up with the concept of nanotechnology in FC and VGR, all they could do was tack it onto the macroscopic technological approach they'd started with, creating an awkward hybrid. But even so, FC certainly gave me the impression that the Borg components on the assimilated Enterprise crew were grown from the nanites injected into the crewmembers. They did what they could to retcon the silly walking junkyards of TNG into something more biomechanical.


    I have no idea where you're getting "emo" from. You seem to have a misconception about what the word "trauma" means. It doesn't mean hurt feelings, it means serious physical and/or psychological injury. It's the Greek word for "wound." (Watch any police procedural or medical show and you'll hear all sorts of talk about blunt-force trauma, traumatic brain injury, and the like. Trauma is serious business.) Anything that is violently attacked and nearly destroyed is certainly traumatized, in the physical sense and presumably in the psychological sense as well (like a soldier suffering post-traumatic stress disorder -- for your own sake I certainly hope you wouldn't be so foolish as to call one of them "emo" to their face).

    And what happened in "Resistance" was a new and different situation from previous Borg defeats. Previously, the organics and technology were destroyed together, or some organics were liberated while the technology was destroyed. This is a case where the organics were destroyed but the technology survived intact. So it's not unreasonable that the outcome might be different. The way I read the situation was that the cube was nearly destroyed and did what Borg always do in a crisis: it adapted. That's what the Borg do. When they're defeated, they adapt to the problem and come back again. Since this was a different situation than we've seen before, it's natural that the resultant adaptation would be one we hadn't seen before.



    I'm glad you liked it.

    Nahh, I liked Nemesis. Except for the dune-buggy chase and the made-up-particle-of-the-week weapon.
     
  12. j3067

    j3067 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I think this makes a lot of sense. The concept is also part of the VOY episode, "Drone", during which the Doctor's mobile emitter is hijacked by nanoprobes. Before Dishonor just runs with these concepts ad absurdum.
     
  13. Kestrel

    Kestrel Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Glad you liked Great Than the Sum, sosolidshoe!
     
  14. sosolidshoe

    sosolidshoe Ensign Newbie

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    To your first counterpoint; I can see where you're coming from, but the validity of this point hinges on whether the cube was possessed of enough sentience and intelligence to actually adapt in the first place, which I still contend runs contra to what we've seen from the Borg previously.

    To your second; no, it has not been explicitly stated, as is the case with most Treknology, we must make logical inferences from the information that is available and what we can see on screen. Whether the original Borg concept was backwards or not isn't really at issue, they are an established fictional race with established features, and none of those established features support the concept of sentient cubes.

    To your third; I am aware of what trauma means, my emo comment was meant as a joke; I assure you I do not regularly use words like "cubie-woobie" :p Regardless, I still cannot see why this is a unique situation. There have been numerous instances shown where massively damaged cubes have been cut off from the Collective with most or all of their drone populations killed, particularly during the war with 8472, yet those cubes were never shown as anything other than inert technology. Wreckage.

    I just keep coming back to the same thing; there has never been any prior indication that cubes are sentient, or that they need to be so. The Collective consciousness is the Borg, without that, nanites become dormant, drones revert to individuality or die, and without those to maintain it - technology becomes inert. For me personally, it's simply too much of a stretch to assert out of nowhere that, well, actually, cubes are sentient see? And they're made up of nanites, see? Oh yes, and they can also puppet drones, and make "pseudo-queens", and suck people into walls, and and and etc etc.

    Agree to disagree I suppose.
     
  15. Scout101

    Scout101 Admiral Admiral

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    I liked it better when it was called The Wrath of Khan ;)
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But since this was specifically and intentionally a situation we haven't encountered before, we can't really definitively say it's inconsistent with what we've seen previously.


    I think the concept that the Borg have sapient AI is a logical inference from what we've seen, and the concept that they don't is not a logical inference. The Borg have always tended more strongly to the cybernetic than the organic. We know the Queen must be a program rather than a living being, since she re-embodies elsewhere after a given body is destroyed. More broadly, we know that sapient artificial intelligence exists in the Trek universe, we know the Borg have existed long enough and spread far enough that they've surely encountered it before, and we know that the Borg assimilate any technology they find useful.

    For that matter, we have multiple precedents in the Trek universe for even a non-sapient computer spontaneously evolving sentience in the right circumstances: Moriarty, the "Emergence" entity, Voyager's EMH. So even if we stipulate to your premise that a Borg cube's cybernetic systems are, for whatever reason, no more intelligent to start with than a Starfleet computer mainframe, that still doesn't rule out the possibility that they could become self-aware in unusual or extreme circumstances.


    Yes, that's exactly the difference. In those cases, the physical technology was massively damaged along with the organic drones, or instead of the organic drones (for instance, in "Collective," the technology was fried but the juvenile drones survived). The technology wasn't just wreckage because the drones died, it was wreckage because the technology itself was physically destroyed, taking the drones with it. This is the opposite case, a circumstance where only the organic components of the cube were neutralized and the technology left essentially unharmed.


    Even if that were true (and I don't agree that it is), that was the whole point of the story: that what we were seeing was something new resulting from extraordinary circumstances. There was never any indication prior to "Elementary, Dear Data" that a holodeck character could become sentient, but it happened there, and happened again later on.

    But you're making the entirely unsupported assumption that the collective consciousness consists solely of the organic minds within it. When have we ever been given any reason to believe that? We've always been shown that the Borg are a complete symbiosis of the organic and the technological. It's completely misunderstanding them to treat the technology as mere support for the biology, when all along their actions have shown just the opposite, that their organic components (drones) are treated merely as subordinate adjuncts to the governing machinery. Or, at most, that the Borg consider both biological and technological components to be of equal and interchangeable importance.


    All of those are extrapolations from things we canonically know to be true. We know their technology includes nanites and is grown by nanites, therefore it's not a fundamentally incompatible premise to posit that their technology could be fully nanotechnological. Even if most Borg technology isn't, this was an outlying cube that Resistance already portrayed as having some differences from most Borg populations we've seen (such as being sexless by default), so who's to say it couldn't have had some unusual variant of Borg technology as well?

    As for "puppeting drones," that's what they always do -- the drones are merely peripheral devices controlled by the collective consciousness. I don't know why you'd think that's anything new. If you mean the technology manipulating a dead drone body, zombie-style, we saw something very like that happen in VGR: "Unity." The Doctor inadvertently activated a backup power cell in the dead drone he was autopsying, causing it to rise up and flail around. That proves, canonically, that it is possible for a drone's cybernetic components to cause it to move without there being any living tissue within it.

    As for making "pseudo-queens," how is that any more implausible than their ability to assimilate people in the first place? After all, the Queen is simply a specialized drone that contains the Royal Protocol, the software that's essentially the Borg Queen's consciousness. Homecoming/The Farther Shore already established that the Protocol can be downloaded into an assimilated drone. There may be some variations in the way it occurs in Before Dishonor, but there's nothing about the basic premise that's implausible or inconsistent in light of what's been established about the Borg in the past.

    As for the walls being dynamic and mutable, able to change shape or suck people in, I've already pointed out that we have canonical precedent for this going back to "Q Who," when we saw a damaged portion of a Borg cube healing under its own power, morphing back toward an intact condition. So that ability has been implicit in what we've known about the Borg quite literally from the beginning. This was merely an extrapolation from existing canonical precedents.
     
  17. AuntKate

    AuntKate Commodore Commodore

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    If that were the case, why bother with the organic component at all? Seems like it is more of a problem than a help. And I didn't think that the Queen's little naked head in "First Contact" offered much of a threat without the organic component--it was probably screaming for a body to restore it.

    In "Drone," those were nanoprobes from the future, where the Borg may very well have evolved into more mechanical beings.
     
  18. David cgc

    David cgc Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Because then they wouldn't be Borg.

    Nope, they were Seven's present-day nanites. All the future stuff was harvested or extrapolated from the emitter.
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't know why you'd draw that conclusion. Even the mutated technology in BD still needed to assimilate organic bodies to function at full capacity. It's simply a variation on the same theme. The Borg are and have always been a hybrid of the organic and the technological. Their whole mentality is one of collectivization and assimilation. They wouldn't think to pose the question in those terms, either organic or technological, one or the other in opposition. It's their fundamental nature as a species to think in terms of unifying different things into a homogeneous whole. Where you see an option of organics or technology, they would be incapable of conceiving the or and would only see it as an and. Both organics and technology have potentials and benefits, and it's the Borg's fundamental drive to assimilate anything that can be of use to them. It would never occur to them to reject one option in favor of the other; they want it all.


    Huh? I think you have it backward. The head was the only organic part. The body seemed to be purely cybernetic; in Voyager ("Dark Frontier," I think), we saw it assembled from distinct parts.

    Besides, that head is not the Borg Queen. The Borg Queen is a software protocol that pervades and coordinates the entire collective. The physical body and brain of the Queen is merely its current server. When one "Queen" drone is destroyed, the software (Royal Protocol) is downloaded into another suitably prepared drone/server, which becomes the new "Queen." This is how Queens keep coming back after being destroyed. (It's possible that the Collective keeps a stock of clones of a couple of particular drone genomes that are known to be suited for running the Royal Protocol, one that resembles Alice Krige and one that resembles Susanna Thompson.)
     
  20. sosolidshoe

    sosolidshoe Ensign Newbie

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    I am of the opinion that one should not depart significantly from an established characterisation; if a writer wishes to do so, they must do so in an evolutionary fashion and in a way that makes sense in the universe. I remain unconvinced that this is the case here.


    But what need do the Borg have for sapient AI? If a component of the Borg is in contact with the Collective, then it does not need to be individually sapient to function, and if it is not, the evidence would suggest that the Borg place within that component a very narrow set of commands and procedures designed solely to re-establish that contact, or failing that, to prevent Borg technology falling into the hands of others.

    Further, from what we saw in "Survival Instinct", they have specific protocols in place in order to avoid autonomy.

    Bit this is not how the writer chose to introduce these new "features"; it is strongly implied and, if memory serves, once stated outright that Borg cubes have always been this way. The writer did not merely create a new scenario, he retroactively applied the results of that scenario to all previous Borg appearances.


    The Cube seen in "Unity" was damaged, but intact, and functional enough that what was apparently a minor repair to a single subsystem resulted in the vessel's reactivation, along with its remaining drone compliment. The Cube was cut off from the collective. I believe it is later implied that the "electrical discharge" which caused the Cube to shut down was actually an 8472 weapon. If Cubes have always been sentient and capable of self-repair and activation without input from the Collective consciousness, why did this Cube not effect necessary repairs itself and bring the deactivated drones back online? Why did it not simply grow a new Interlink Node?




    I concede the principle, but not its applicability in this case; by making these new abilities retroactive, the author is not suggesting that this is a unique scenario, and in doing so asks the reader to engage in mental gymnastics to explain why we never saw this occur on screen, or in any prior fiction regarding the Borg.

    I do not suggest that the Borg are defined by their organic component, however I do assert that, based on everything we see prior to the events of this book, that the biological minds of the drones are a core part of their guiding consciousness. The whole point of the Borg is not that they are AI, or technologically advanced humanoids, but that through a synthesis of mind and machine have created a new state of being and, alas for everyone else, a rather limited perspective on other forms of life.

    The collective itself is a synthesis of all of its component minds; could an artificial mind be a part of that synthesis? Of course, but the specific suggestion that the Borg's space craft are artificial minds, and almost always have been, is what I'm taking issue with.


    Aha! Hoisted by your own petard(sorry, I've been waiting to use that one for months :p); in your own book, you explain the sexless drones as a function of them being "vat grown" rather than assimilated, and that the prevalence of said drones was a function of their distance from the core of Borg territory, in order to guard against them returning to individuality in the event they are severed from the collective. Even if the author had used a similar reason, which they did not, to explain the actions of the Cube, why would the Borg create a failsafe which specifically causes the rise of an individual consciousness under the same circumstances? Surely they would have followed the same pattern as with other instances of isolation; basic directives to return, or to self-destruct.

    I disagree. Drones are not puppets to the Collective in the same sense as they were in this story. Specific drones may be considered disposable if necessary, and they may be controlled by the will of the Collective, but they are also part of the collective; in this case they were simply macro-nanites, tools being directly manipulated by the singular intelligence which arose from the Cube. I'm not disputing that the mechanism would not allow such a thing, I'm disputing that Cubes have the capacity to do it.

    The queen is even more implausible since, again, this is not the Collective instituting the established system to give rise to a new queen, it is the Cube creating for itself a method to control drones, and to gain knowledge from Janeway.

    I disagree, the abilities you discuss are entirely within the abilities of Constructor nanites which are conducting repairs to an existing structure which has been damaged. In addition, in every other case that we've seen, serious and extensive damage has always required the aid of drones to repair, yet the Cube in BD simply consumes its own mass and does its best impression of a T1000. The ability to repair damage is not in question, the ability to absorb people, or even entire starships, into the physical structure of the vessel, in seconds, is what I'm questioning, and such an ability is not a reasonable evolution of the Borg's abilities, not in a single stage.

    No matter how much pressure natural selection places on a fish, it cannot become a mammal in one step. If the writer had tones down the abilities and implied they were new, or they had developed gradually over a multiple-tome storyline, or even if they had been foreshadowed in other books by insinuating the Borg had assimilated such technology, then the circumstances described in the book would not be nearly as implausible; but to go from the Borg as seen in Voyager to the Borg seen in BD without any significant intermediary steps is exactly that.

    In contrast, I can read your book, read the "evolved" abilities of the Einstein/Frankenstein Borg, and see a logical and plausible progression from the Borg seen before.

    I maintain that you must have that connection, that progression, no matter how extraordinary the circumstances of your story, because otherwise it hobbles my willing suspension of disbelief.
     

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