Sunday, October 26, 2008

Preface to The M-5 and other Trek texts

There is a problem with the Star Trek Universe:  it is not one, unified, universe.

The internal contradictions started to show up in the original series (ST:TOS) for things like time travel.  While the root of all problems Trek is not time travel, it has been the leading abuser as a plot situation.  Actually, just trying to figure out how such largely potent folks like the Organians could miss the inward collapse of the Klingon Empire and not rush to do anything about it... well... just look at the chaos there!  This goes for Charlie X and his overseers, the Metrons (we are so above it all, but please don't disturb our locale as we are so civilized we get our jollies watching to see just how primitive the primitives are and, gosh darn it, just need to make them go as primitive as we can think about), and others.  Damn for all their power they are haughty bastards unwilling to get their hands dirty.  But time travel and causality are huge problems.

Here's the idea: can you imagine the Enterprise going to investigate a collapsing star and MISSING another Federation Heavy Cruiser already THERE doing the same thing?  Because that is what is happening when that self-same ship flings itself backwards in time traversing some amount of normal space: it goes through the nearby region it was ALREADY investigating earlier.  If the Enterprise can't spot another Heavy Cruiser, then the Federation has far deeper problems running through it than a few hostile star empires, let me tell ya.  The only way that could be done... scratch that, it can't be done.  Even if you invoke a quantum universe transition, in which the Enterprise at the start comes out in another universe that had an Enterprise already investigating the collapsing star, they would *still* have spotted each other.  And saying 'it was going backwards in time' doesn't help as it still has a positive mass even with a negative time direction (which actually makes the entire thing, according to the Feynman diagrams, ANTI-MATTER and it only changes into matter when it flips its time vector back to forwards), and is going at a horrific speed which, yes, Federation starships can detect.  Are you telling me that the Enterprise could not detect an Enterprise, ship-shaped mass of anti-matter zipping out of the near orbit of the collapsing star it has come to investigate?

That makes no sense.

It cannot be rationalized away, save to say that the Enterprise that came out, came out at a DIFFERENT STAR out of all Federation sensor ranges... but that doesn't work, either, as the universe now has two mounds of energy where there was only one ONE before.  Conservation of energy doesn't allow for that.  That is, actually, a huge problem I have with time travel stories positing the same universe for going backwards and forwards in time: duplication of energy.  And, no, a future deficit does not make up for a current surplus.  What is required is a energy/mass (mass is just concentrated energy, after all, according to Einstein) *loss* at the moment the extra mass/energy becomes a part of the continuum.  And you can't do a 'quantum leap' along the same time path to put the ship somewhere else as the later vessel has expended energy and dumped waste heat out into space so it comes back with less energy than the Enterprise that came in at the beginning of the program.

It is a great plot device, don't get me wrong, but I'm left with a less than stellar (so to speak) impression with how it has been used.

Then there is the timeline of Star Trek.  It was a CF before the end of the first series.

As given by all timelines the warp drive by Zefram Cochrane pre-dates the Romulan sub-light war.

Why was it a sub-light war when the Federation had the warp drive?

And why did it end in a basic stalemate when the warp driven Federation starships could have made mincemeat of the entire Romulan sub-light infrastructure in, basically, a year.  And that with only a few lightly armed ships as they would be arriving before light-speed warnings could propagate.  Remember, that, as far as I can tell, the Federation had to give sub-space comms to the Romulans (somehow) so that a peace treaty could be made.  Without video.

Probably just some pranksters making up like they were Romulans...

Really, just what sort of imbeciles were running the Fleet, anyways?

Then there are uniforms... no... don't get me started.

I can understand why computer capacity is so retrograde!  Yup, you get a world war that destroys the modern system of trade bequeathed to the 21st century by the 20th and building computer chips tends to be a low order thing.  Basic survival turns into a high order survival concept.  That is how you get to having so much power (via warp drive, etc) and with so little in the way of automated systems.  Look at the modern US Navy, it has had a similar problem with crew size.  Yet you take the same basic designation of ship, say Destroyer (DD) and look at the 270 to 350 or so crew in the 1940's and look at a modern DDG or Aegis DD, and you come up with about the same size crew, a much larger ship (equivalent to a WWII era Heavy Cruiser) and the firepower equivalent (via missiles, not direct fire) of a WWII era Battleship.  Plus the damned things can knock out Low Earth Orbit satellites, too.  Basically you get the cost of a modern DD a ship with the throw-weight of a pocket Battle Cruiser and more capabilities for defending airspace than an entire squadron of ships had during WWII.  That in about 50 years.  The easy thing to build is the superstructure and power systems, and accurate weapons come a bit further down the line until their accuracy increases so much you need to redesign the entire thing and start over.

Now look at the Star Trek universe: powerful ships, massive, large crews and lack of automated control systems.  The entire galaxy appears to be on the slow upgrade path for computers as even things like Voyager don't have enough automation for a ship their size, but they have a significantly smaller crew than previous vessels per size.  Only, what?... a century and half or so between ST:TOS and ST:VOY? And the USN has done *what* in 50 years?

Nasty, huh?


What this means is that no two people will ever use the exact, same timeline for making a Star Trek story.

That means an attempt to get a half-way rational timeline into place and restricted to one universe (although with allowable exceptions for alternative universes) with a single, unified timeline will cut some programs out of it.  Quite a few, actually.  And fans will ALWAYS disagree on what is cut and WHY it is cut.

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Much of what I write is 'back-filler' in the story line: parts that will serve as auxiliary to it but serve as writing reference materials while writing it.

Also, this is not an Action/Adventure story, by and large, although some takes place in it, that is for continuity of story, not intention of storyline.

The absolute, number 1 deadliest thing is to make a 'talky' story, right?

'Always write about what you know' is the principle, right?

Ok, I will write a story centered on the project meeting as the central part of the storyline... painful, absolutely, dreadfully painful.  Project meetings tend to be undramatic, although I do my best to spice them up a bit.

As part of the storyline I am doing the one thing that no one has done since ST:TOS - Follow up the original stories.

That is *not* the 'lets repeat the same storyline with a new ship' of ST:TNG first season... lets face it, if some of the things that were done in ST:TOS did NOT have any impact, then ST:TNG actually *is* an alternate history... the DULL alternate history.

My objective is to start cleaning up the 'loose ends', cut the detritus from the timeline and start getting a coherent basis down to write about.  That means I get to apply known physics and basic principles to Star Trek and carry them through.  So applying the square-cubed law becomes a basic principle that needs to be used... even though it is something that nearly everyone overlooks in life and even in the sciences.

Not all the sciences however.

One storyline that becomes the basis for this work is that of Richard Daystrom and his M-Series computer system.  I am 'playing' a bit with the story, the idea and just how such a man can see a 'revolutionary' system and have the problems he had and NOT have any impact on the rest of the timeline.  Think about what he started on and what he did, then ask 'how could he have been so misguided'?  Or was he?  For all the talk about 'mind-melds' and 'empaths' and all the lovely work done via the holodeck systems and by that neuralizer,  no one has, yet, actually bothered to lay down a scientific basis for personality, thinking and the modes of same.  Well if we can't do that with decades of having handy tools like Myers-Briggs around, then it is no wonder that the future doesn't want to:  might find something out, and we can't have that.  And for all the humanoid 'aliens' left over from scattered Preserver goodies, is there any wonder the actual outlook of so many species is limited by that?  Well if you don't have a baseline, how can you measure the differences?

From that I speculated on the actual background of the ST universe and timeline and its underpinnings... and see a lot of work to be done on the underpinnings.

Lots of work.

Take the lack of description of the economic system in the ST universe.  I count at least a dozen major different types of transaction.  Now look at the EU trying to get everyone together on a common currency... and some Nations starting to see it as a 'raw deal' for them.  Then look at the proposed lack of system in the ST universe.  Can you imagine a 'unified transaction type' from, say, Klingons to Tellerites to Andorians to Vulcans to Tholians to Orions?


What I can imagine, however, is a 'hard currency' with local differentiations via trading markets and exchanges.  Because of its standing, in the modern world, the US Dollar became a standard for transactions even when it ISN'T the standard of the local currency.  The Star Fleet uses an interior 'credit' as a means of exchange which is, apparently, attached to resources (possibly work).  It is standardized and widely used in the Fleet.  The Fleet would measure its resource needs in 'credits' and then ask the Federation Council to help gather that across all systems.  The 'credit' becomes a 'hard currency' with known values and resources attached to it.  It is a 'standard' currency but not a 'standardized' currency demanded across all worlds.

That is how you get Capt. Picard saying that future economics is 'complex'.  A socialist, communist or fascist system is not 'complex'.  The Federation has a 'complex' economic system.  What is the economic system of Earth?  It is 'complex' as no one thing describes it everywhere at all times.

Finally, I'm taking someone who has no interest in the Fleet, is not a crew member but a private citizen, who has a well known name for her time and has sought to establish her own identity separate from that name.  That takes a very strong person to do that.  She also chose a field that is not a standard one for ST universe characters, but wholly legitimate for the entirety of the ST universe.  She points out the major flaws in USING all that lovely high tech.

It breaks down.

It is fragile.

If it stops working you need a replacement.

Replicators expend energy to move atoms around of given types to create things, which is, actually, an expensive proposition energy wise.  That is why you replicate meals, not starships.

Thus the final, and perhaps, nastiest part of the ST universe comes to light: it doesn't work too well away from high energy sources.  Her field takes her far away from that support structure so she gains an entire suite of skills that your average or even above average Star Fleet Officer, even at the highest echelons, is lacking.


Final notes:

The writing is not structured into chapters.

The writing has material that will serve as reference to the main work in it.

I will be updating on that post as necessary as I finish more of the work.

I have not done a 'sanity check' and continuity appraisal of it at this point.  It is 'as is' without it.  There are fixes that need to be done.

Forget about grammar, spelling and style.  It all needs a 'sanity check'.

No I have not developed the characters greatly.

No there is no 'love interest' or sex in the story that does not fit with characters and situations.  Basically, it doesn't happen 'on stage' or even 'off stage'.  Plenty of purveyors of that in the world, you don't need me for it.  Don't ask me about the 'sexual orientation' of the characters: they haven't bothered to tell me.  Don't blame 'em one bit on that.

Yes there are 'sub-plots'.  I do not play them up.  They are part of a larger 'world' or 'universe' which has 'many stories going on in the big city and this is one of them' sort of deal.  Its a big galaxy.  This is one story in it.  Detritus is present from the rest of the universe.  I am discriminating to tell this story, but the rest of the universe still sneaks in.

Characters will NOT act stupid to advance the storyline, thus requiring me to trash my own concepts of what is going to happen.  I have done that TWICE already.  I like that.  That is the way I ran my various RPG worlds and they were fluid, yet coherent.  Characters making reasonable, comprehensible and within their competence is very interesting.  It does not stop wrong decisions from being made.  Bad decisions will be made.  Unknown consequences of half-way decent decisions will happen.  I will do violence to a storyline rather than to the integrity of a character and have fun while doing it.  When I do that I get a consistent story line and timeline, I like that.  It makes me think to make sure I have a good understanding of what is happening.  I expect that just like most of the people playing in one of my RPG worlds will be at sea because it is a 'world' in which they are members.  They didn't get to be heroic because they were players, and a few got heroism thrust on them unexpectedly and realized it is hard work.

I expect most readers won't care for these things and will be, like most players in my worlds will find this very challenging to absorb.  Even those who couldn't handle it admitted that they had never played in a world that WAS a world, not a series of scenarios.  Their actions *mattered* and they never, ever, ran across that before.  And a lot of them became very, very, very careful about what they did.  They tended to survive.  Their enemies were played out to their 'by the book' intelligence as interpreted by me.  You don't need to be smart to be 'street wise' or work out methods to keep yourself and your people alive.  That is a stark contrast I offer in this story.  Some will not like that, but it is an important point to make about our future.

I am writing because this is an interesting topic and idea.  I have one or two I look at in my works.  I am not doing this to write good fiction, but to play with ideas.

And I like the ST universe... even if the bulk of the programs are not so good to awful because of its episodic format.  It is a horrible format for a universe.  Space Opera would be better... infinitely better, really.

I have no 'day job'.

I write because it is fun.  It is interesting.  It gets my semi-functioning brain working.

No I have no intention on 'selling this'.  It is not a commercial product.  I want no money for this and don't seek any.  You can't pay me for it, either.  If it ever did get published it would be 'at cost' for the materials to print it and the time to do that.

I have lifted ideas from others.  At least I hope I have!  They remain their ideas, which I lift in the finest fan tradition going back decades at this point.

Yes I have a larger universal context for this story, and it is coherent, wide ranging and hopefully that will never, ever play in this.  Nothing gets revealed all at one shot: there is no master tome to find to explain it all.  If you think you hate that in a book, just take a look at your ordinary life.  The Holy Bible never told me how to change the oil and filter in my car.  I needed a specific manual for it.  It came with the car.  Still looking for the universe's user manual... it has got to be around here somewhere... these after-market ones just don't cut it.  Thus I do it as I go along... apparently a lot of folks are doing that. 

Welcome to this world.

Where we get to see how so many things could go wrong to make things turn out like they did.

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