Tuesday, August 01, 2006

New Beginning 29

Causality Violation

It is so hard to know the future and so easy to know the past.

That’s what Captain Enso said over five thousand years ago. His thought still holds up to the scrutiny of scholars and students when they teach and learn about causality violations and the nature of probabilities that govern time travel. Even now, when the Council of Five take time to survey histories, review the past decisions, and plan for the years to come, the words that Captain Enso uttered ring true. Knowing that the past transpired without serious error, without major disasters, without dead-end plans… knowing that our plans succeeded, well, that gave us the confidence to launch mankind into and beyond the galaxy.

At last count, one billion, forty-five million, two-hundred, seventy-three thousand and fifteen worlds each with populations of at least a billion humans have reported to Terra Prime and Sector Zed, Zed, Zed. No two reports are the same. They all have different histories and unique adventures to relate.

"Officer Gamelan! Quick, look!" Lieutenant Experian ran into the data room carrying an info-rod. It was one of the red ones.

"One minute. Busy." Gamelan didn’t look up from the console.

"It’s the new reports."

"Not. Now."

Experian ran over to the console and threw the rod down. "But look! It’s a new--"

" . . . one billion, forty-five million, two-hundred... Damn it!" He picked up the rod and rammed it deep into Experian’s nostril. The young lieutenant fell to his knees screaming.

Gamelan watched with grim satisfaction as the look of utter surprise on Experian’s face turned to one of horrified realization. Ah, how right Enso had been, all those years ago. He turned back to the console: "One . . . Two . . . Three . . . "

Opening: Dave.....Continuation: ril


Bernita said...

Afraid I'm lost in the nexus.

Anonymous said...

Me, too, Bernita. I couldn't get my mind around this opening.

This is another opening with a lot of words but not a single image to invite the reader into its world.

Anonymous said...

"Mine's about a guy who spent forty years in a Gorbuzian monastery contemplating the meaning of stone."

Absolutely hilarious!


Daisy said...

The debate over Captain Enso's theory rages on:

Philosopher #1: "As you can see from my 90 page paper published in this month's Journal of Really Obvious Philosophy, it is hard to know the future because it hasn't happened yet, and easy to know the past because it has."
Philosopher #2: "Well, yeah."
Philosopher #3: "True dat."
Philosopher #2: "What are you guys doing for lunch?"

the flying ghoti said...

Everyone else is tackling the big issue (namely that it's not a very arresting opening), so I'll nitpick: why "Sector Zed, Zed, Zed"? Is the future so very British that writing it "ZZZ" and letting the Americans pronounce it however they like is going to be a problem?

Also: Douglas Adams put Earth in Sector ZZ9 Plural Alpha to emphasize that we're an unremarkable planet in the "uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm." But if Earth is the center of this pangalactic megaempire, why would it go last in the alphabet? In Star Trek, Earth is in Sector 001, and why the hell not? Surely Terra Prime wouldn't go around calling themselves "Zed, Zed, Zed" just because it sounded cool.

Besides, using specifically British English like that draws my attention to a disbelief I happily suspend for most science fiction - in five thousand years, English will be deader than Jacob Marley's doornail.

(Okay, now I've outed myself as a total nerd. But it's total nerds you're presumably trying to sell this to, and nerds hate it when things don't make sense. That's probably the main reason science fiction is so damn hard to write.)

Dave said...

oh no, Ghoti - Zed, Zed, Zed, is even more geeky than that. It's not sector 001, it's sector 000 as in origin, as in center of the universe, as in zero on the x-axis, zero on the y-axis, zero on the z-axis.
Now that was geeky. But not as geeky as if the author including another Zed, 0, zero for time. (FOUR AXIS) After all, he or she is talking about a casuality violation - - time travel par excellence, schroedinger's cat, and killing your great, great, grandfather.

BuffySquirrel said...

So...because English will be deader than dead soon enough, we should all be using American English now? Because that, like, won't be dead?

Maybe the author is using English because they're, yanno, British? It comes naturally, then.

McKoala said...

At first I thought that the opening quote was very banal to launch a discussion. Then I got completely lost in the discussion. I'm not a big sci fi reader, though, so will bow to any opinions of those who are. Sorry.

As a Brit I would write: Sector ZZZ. I wouldn't spell it out. So that jumped out at me too.

BuffySquirrel said...

Zed's dead.

Bernita said...

And Nero Wolf and Archie arranged it, Buffy.

the flying ghoti said...

Buffy - my point was that forcing the reader to read it in Commonwealth English was entirely unnecessary. "ZZZ" would be pronounced "Zed Zed Zed" by a Briton, "Zee Zee Zee" by an American. (It would be pretty weird to write it "Sector Zee, Zee, Zee," don't you think?) My point was, don't force either pronunciation; it draws attention to the language, which for me is the kiss of death for speculative fiction. Just writing in British English isn't enough to do that, but stupid tricks that draw the reader's attention - like calling it "Zed, Zed, Zed" or having the ship's mechanic speak in a thick Cockney accent, that sort of thing - just make me say, "hang on, why are exactly are they speaking like that in the future?"

Dave said...

Flying Ghoti - when do you consider it acceptable to write in "accents" ?
I'm not talking about vernacular, I mean accents.

Dave said...

I want to thank y'all for the comments. I will use all of them. I apppreciate the reponses.

the flying ghoti said...

If a character is a Cockney, and speaks with a Cockney accent, then you'll want to communicate that. The more subtly you do it, the better, in my opinion - I find eye dialect really distracting when overused. But then, everything's really distracting when overused.

In a novel set five thousand years in the future, there is no reason to use a Cockney accent. That means don't use a Cockney accent to indicate that someone is generically working-class. Don't use an Appalachian accent for a hick from the Qzzzglrp Mountains. It's not only potentially offensive, it's silly. The Cockney accent is already starting to die out - the "Jafaican" accent seems to be taking over in the East End - so where will it be five thousand years from now? (Keep in mind Beowulf is only a thousand or so years old.) Don't remind the reader that you're asking them to believe against all reason that your characters are speaking modern English.

I'm a linguist. It's possible I find this more annoying than other people. It's also possible that other people find it annoying but don't know how to explain it. Who knows?

BuffySquirrel said...

I think, on reflection, what annoyed me most was the presumption that a British writer should have an American reader in mind while writing. Why should they? Why do you assume that they made a conscious choice to write "Zed" as some kind of proof of their Commonwealthness rather than doing it as naturally as an American might write "sidewalk", without any consideration for the British reader?