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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Fudging things a bit...

   
Author Topic: Fudging things a bit...
TheoPhileo
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Here's a short scene of dialogue between two characters in my WIP.

One of the characters, Al, works for a federally funded (U.S.) group researching methods to repair sight for the blind. It's pretty experimental, with a low-probability of success, but they just made a large breakthrough. I kind of fudge through some things to fit my plot (ie. make him effectively unemployed for a year). Are the details concerning this group and its federal funding believable? I gloss over it pretty quickly, but I still want it to be plausible. If it's not, how could I make it more true to real life?

This is my protagonist Phil (POV) speaking to his brother Al on the phone. I think it should make sense out of context.

* * *
“Al, how busy are you next week?” I asked.

“Next week? I’m free for the next twelve months, at least.” He did not sound happy.

“What do you mean?”

“They let off the whole team. We reached the milestone they wanted, but a year ahead of funding. There’s no money for the next stage yet.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Shouldn’t investors be knocking down your door now that you’ve proven what you can do?”

“We haven’t gone public. Federal project, remember? You wouldn’t believe the hoops we had to jump through just because we finished early. I don’t understand how our government gets anything done at all. I’m basically out of work until they let us start up again next May. And then they’ve only allocated funds for part time employment.”

My brain started moving a thousand miles an hour. I had no idea how we were supposed to learn his new technology on our own. Now it looked like we would not have to.

“What if I could get you a job?" I asked. "You and the rest of your team?”

[This message has been edited by TheoPhileo (edited August 08, 2004).]


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Survivor
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Hmmm...have you done any research on advanced vision repair technology and science? Because that field's gotten pretty advanced in the past few years.

Anyway, it is semi-realistic to have federally funded research groups, though for medical applications that stuff actually tends to happen at research hospitals associated with major universities and such (which get a lot of federal funds after all). There are also...things of the sort that you seem to be describing do happen, but usually they seem to happen right before a breakthrough, not right after one. "Seem" is probably the operative term there, though. All things considered, I think approvals for the medical procedures involved might play a greater role than funding as such. Experimental medicine does cost a lot in ordinary terms, but it is really the availability of good test subjects that limits these things.

I think that you should familiarize yourself with advanced vision repair and replacement technologies, and the various institutions that are important in the field. Pay attention to what they're thinking of accomplishing in the next decade (through unclassified research, of course). Try to stay ahead of the curve.


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Christine
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Ok, apparently the federal government will cut you off if you finish a project, at least until they can get the next round of work pushed through the budget process, but government employees know this and so they pretend they're not finished yet so they don't get fired. (No, seriously, I'm not even close to kidding.) Nobody is stupid enough to just say, "Oh, I'm done, so you can let me go now." because they know the system and they know how to get around it. You just pretend you're not done.

And for those of us who haven't worked for the govnerment (I got that from my husband) it really doesn't sound like something that would happen. Maybe it's because we're naive, but perceived truth is often more important than actual truth, especially in fiction. BOttom line...it is fiction so the government can work however you want it to Heck, set this 100 years in the future and you've got no way for anyone to complain.

My initial gut reaction, though,w as that a guy who just made a serious breakthrough (techniacl, medical...?) would easily find another job. He's not going to be unexmployed for the next 12 months or probably even 2.

How important is the specific breakthrough to this story, just out of curiosity? Survivor suggested that you do research on vision breakthroughs, which may be important, at least at a curosry level. It just seemed from this scene that you shouldn't wave your hands over that particular issue, especially since your wording sounds a little strange to me. It almost sounds as if you're lumping all blindness into one category, but there are dozens of things that can go wrong with a person's eyes, none of which can be fixed by the magic lenses we call glasses or contacts. I'm having trouble thinking of a technological or (especially) medical breakthrough that wouldn't be a bit more specific. Technological a little bit more....if it was some sort of thing like that viser what's-his-face the chief engineer on Star Trek TNG wore that basically saw for you.

That was long-winded. Point is: I agree with SUrvivor, go and do some homwork.


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Lorien
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I'm not a genius when it comes to federal funding, but assuming it's in the form of a grant, it doesn't make sense that he is unemployed. If you write a grant for 5 years, that would include salary funding for 5 years. So, even if he's spent all the other money on the grant, there should still be salary left. And, if not, then he should be able to make it look like there is work left rather than leave himself without a job. So, I guess you would have to create a situation that did not allow him to do those things. And, if it were so successful, and he is really into the research, why isn't he pitching this to get private/corporate funding?

Plus, if this guy is so brillant (or lucky) that he made these great breakthroughs a year ahead of schedule, he should have no trouble finding a job. But, maybe that's your idea so he can work with someone else?

Hmmm, I think that answers your question. Good luck!


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TheoPhileo
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Thanks for the feedback. I will look into vision repair technology, though that's not really the issue. (My breakthrough here has to do with feeding visual signals directly into the brain, not eye correction of any sort... though who knows what's out there nowadays.) This is the technology I need in order to make breakthrough #2, which allows for all the problems that make up my primary plot conflict (If you read my first 13 to "Virus" you might be able to piece that together ). It's truly a sf piece, but I'm fighting as hard as I can to keep it very contemporary, all taking place in the next couple years (the War of Terror may actually play a key role).

A lot of what you said were the things I'm concerned with, but I was not sure what exactly would be a problem and what wouldn't. I think y'all have helped point me in the right direction... (more comments still welcome, of course).

[This message has been edited by TheoPhileo (edited August 08, 2004).]


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Phanto
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A lot like Russia in communist days, at least from what I've been told. There everything was a lie and didn't really exist -- the food and money was like that, too.


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Survivor
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Yeah, we already have the video direct into the brain thing solved. You'll have to figure out a different breakthrough.
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TheoPhileo
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quote:
Yeah, we already have the video direct into the brain thing solved. You'll have to figure out a different breakthrough.
Really? Hey, if it already exists, then my book is more believable. All the better.

Survivor, how do you know so much about everything?

[This message has been edited by TheoPhileo (edited August 08, 2004).]


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Christine
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Survivor, would you mind providing a source on that? Last I'd heard that was something being worked on but not yet solved.
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TheoPhileo
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He's right. I found some impressive stuff. Actually, it's already commercially available in Portugal. Still primative compared to what I want for my book, but all the hard work has already been done. I didn't even try researching it originally because I thought it was waaay to advanced to be real. My book just became frighteningly plausible.

Check out this site:
http://www.dobelle.com/wired.html
or Google "visual neuroprosthesis"

[This message has been edited by TheoPhileo (edited August 09, 2004).]


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Survivor
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As TP mentioned, commercial availability is still limited, and the bandwidth is pretty low (this is a problem with the size of the actual brain implant required--they're working on putting that on a chip or something).

It's enough to allow a blind person basic direction finding and obsticle recognition, but not what we would consider true vision.


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Robyn_Hood
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Maybe funding shouldn't be the issue. I found this article through a bunch of googling and it raised some interesting thoughts about applications for the technology we already have. Sine this is a government project, perhaps things are put on hold for political reasons...You know how things are in an election year

http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/WEBONLY/publicfeature/jun03/bio.html


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