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Author Topic: how plausible is this?
hoptoad
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Please tell me your thoughts on the following idea, whether it is clichéd or just plainy dodgy. Or whether the idea might have wings enough to fly.

SCi-fi:

On remote planet, a settlement encounters a problem and send signals off to Earth asking for advice as to how to proceed. They understand that it may take a generation to get a response, however the answer comes almost immediately. It takes the form of a series of strange and counter-intuitve instructions. They are told that it did actually take a generation to get the message but in the meantime the people of earth have figured out how to send data back through time to simulate an almost instant response. It turns out that, as an intermediary, the 'Earth; can send messages back and forth between the settlement and their children 25 years in the future.

But something terrible has occurred in the children's generation and the parent's generation needs to circumvent the effects by taking action prior to the events occurring. The MC's best friends' children turn out to be the the perpetrators of terrible crimes that all but destroy the community. The best friend declares that the messages are phoney and the fun and games commence.

Any holes? Any comments would be great.

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited November 27, 2005).]


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Jaina
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That blows my mind. If you can do it and make it so that I can follow it, that would be the coolest thing. I don't know if it's been done before but it would be a lot of fun to read!
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yanos
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My mind does quake at time travel (even for messages) and it would need some convincing that that is possible. The only other implausibility is that the friend says the messages are phoney. After all the future earthlings would be able to give names, dates and everything. It should be fairly straight-forward showing you are not from that planet and are from the future.
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hoptoad
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Okay, so what if the crux of the friend's argument is:
The messages are phoney, time travel, even for data, is impossible. He doesn't know how those sending the messages know the things they do, but whoever it is must have some sort of hidden agenda.

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited November 27, 2005).]


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Monolith
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I totally agree with Jania.

Figure out how that would work in your writing, and let 'er rip.

The way I figure it, you could alternate chapters between the future and the past, or even half the story/book to either as well.

Figure it out and post it on F&F. I would definitely read it. Sounds very intruiging.


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sojoyful
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I like your idea a lot. (Wish I had thought of it!)

Holes, eh? You asked for it. Whip out the magnifying glass, search for some holes! (Actually, some are not holes so much as they are questions or thoughts.)

As an intermediary, the Earth can send messages to the children in the future? We can already do that now. Just put a letter in an envelope or a time capsule and stick it in a safe deposit box or the ground and let it sit there for 25 years, after which your children will get it. You, however, will receive their response immediately after writing the letter, because they can send things back in time. (Think Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, when they're in the police station at the end.) So I don't see that as 'new' technology. But it sounds like the story hinges on sending messages back in time, not forward.

It sounds like there are two plots - the first is the problem occuring in the parents' generation at the beginning, from which they discover Earth's interesting new technology. The second is the problem occuring in the children's generation. My thought is that it will be hard to devote a story to both problems, but not implausible.

Ok, say an integer sequence represents time. At 5 the parents discover Earth's new time-related technology. Then, at 6 they receive a message from the children about the future problem, which happens at, say, 10. My question: Why does the message from the children come only after the discovery at 5? Why didn't they send the message to 4, or 2? Are the parents not supposed to know about the technology until they re-contact Earth? Is there some reason the message can't arrive until after 5?

If the best friends' children perpetrate the crime, why isn't that dealt with in the children's time? Is the message telling the best friends not to have kids? Why didn't the 'good' children send the message to themselves so they could stop the 'bad' children? Unless the problem is set in motion in the parents' time, getting the parents involved doesn't make sense. Why ask them for help, if the problem doesn't occur for 20 years?

A thought: The minute the folks in the parents' generation learn about this technology, there will be all kinds of people who will want to send things backwards to their parents or themselves. That's a definite reaction that you will have to address.

I am curious about this settlement's relationship with Earth. How did they get there? Are there other settlements? Why does it take so long to get responses (before they learn about the new technology)? It sounds like they don't keep in touch with Earth until there's a problem. Why not? Just some questions.

That's all I can think of now. It's a nice idea, and I think it is definitely plausible, after you answer some of these questions.

[This message has been edited by sojoyful (edited November 27, 2005).]


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Spaceman
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Be very careful of paradox. You could potentially get into a lot of trouble.
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luapc
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I think this is a great idea, and would make for a great story. The only thing I would worry about is that the twist will make the readers feel cheated. Especially if you spend a lot of time talking about a technology that is bogus in the beginning, getting the readers interested in it, and then pull it out from under them. You would have to give the reader enough clues or doubt about what's going on without giving it away. I imagine that it will be difficult to pull off, but worth the journey and effort if you do.


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pantros
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I love temporal fiction. Any story that weaves through time and is followable gets my vote.
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franc li
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However individuals may feel about time travel, it is a staple of science fiction fare so I wouldn't worry about it on that basis. The part I find improbable is that these people could be so far away from earth that information takes a generation to travel. I mean, we can already send information the speed of light. How is the space travel done?
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franc li
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Also, what is the nature of the problem they need help with? It seems pretty short sighted to send a colony out so far without being self-sustaining. How many colonies does earth have? And doesn't knowing about the problem with the kid mean the other people may have some ability to change that outcome, or try? Is the kid problem a Hitler grade problem or what? Does the parents' efforts to curb the kid cause the problem? Or are they just evil [TM] people?

[This message has been edited by franc li (edited November 28, 2005).]


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hoptoad
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franc li good points.

I am worried about the 'too far for fast communications' thing myself. At the spped of light a two way communication may take 20 years to reach earth and twenty to return. Is 20 Light years too far for colonising? Or alternatively, is it inconceivable that there may be some potentially inhabtable place that close by?

( I smell the foul odour of research in the wind. )

Perhaps these people are used to thinking about distance in terms of generations rather than minutes, or days or years. Is the 'generation ship' idea, too far fetched?

Surely it is better and more cost effective to send a generation ship to a distant inhabitable planet on a journey of 150 years than to terraform a nearby planet over 10,000 years.

Is this colony being the product of a generation ship project a stupid idea? I just don't want to introduce the idea of faster-than-light travel or even near-lightspeed travel. I'd rather make it more like the challenges of discovering and colonising far lands in the 1000's - 1400s. A kind of fatalistic courage.

Think of Marc Polo's father. He left for China on a three year journey but got delayed by wars in the regions he passed through. His journey lasted nine years. In the meantime, his wife died, his son grew up considered an orphan, the trips backers wrote the journey off as a bad investment. There were risks, terrible ones, and there were few who were prepared to take the risks -- but there were a few.

Edit:

luapc: I don't intend to cheat with this story, but thanks for flagging it early. I would, however, like the reader to have a dilemma as to which side they agreed with. Whether to believe and follow instructions that purport to be from the future without absolute proof or to err on the side of caution a risk the consequences.

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited November 28, 2005).]


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hoptoad
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I guess you will see it in F&F.
Look for: The Janus Glance (working title)
Thanks.

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited November 28, 2005).]


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Monolith
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Wasn't the 'Janus Project' in the movie "Judge Dredd"?

I like the title, but from where I saw 'Janus' used, I'm sorta expecting clones somewhere.

Just my thougths. But couldn't you use clones if the generation ship takes too long to reach the desired planet??

But then what do I know, it's your story.

I'd love to see the begining.


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D_James_Larkin
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quote:
I am worried about the 'too far for fast communications' thing myself. At the spped of light a two way communication may take 20 years to reach earth and twenty to return. Is 20 Light years too far for colonising? Or alternatively, is it inconceivable that there may be some potentially inhabtable place that close by?


You are only limited by your imagination.

In 'Dune', they folded space to cover huge distances in the universe. What if in your world they stumbled onto some ancient communication device/method that pops a hole through the space-time continuum and can literally broadcast everywhere at the same time because they are no longer subject to time itself. Everything everywhere is instantaneous in that ether-space. (This is starting to sound like some of the elements in my book.)


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sojoyful
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What if their ability to travel long distances was related to their ability to manipulate time? Before they figured out how to use it for the communication you suggested, they had already been using it to slow down time to travel. It was only 20 or 30 years later that they further developed the technology and discovered a way to use it to communicate with previous/future generations. If you do something along those lines, then both technologies will be related.
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franc li
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If your story is about whether to believe the future communication or not, the other stuff will work itself out. And Janus is a perfectly legitimate greek myth name. Not being familiar with Judge Dredd, I certainly didn't get that vibe. But again, if you go with a colony ship there is the problem of what sort of information they would need from earth. I guess someone with important information could have unexpectedly died. Like the recipe for medical nitro glycerin or something. Nice, but not a daily life or death deal, and somewhat dangerous to figure out on your own. I have no idea if there is such a problem to nitro glycerin. I'm just brainstorming here.

It may just be that this information has to come out of the blue in the normal stream of things.

Or, they get to the planet and it turns out that they need cockroaches and need earth to send them the genome for a cockroach.

[This message has been edited by franc li (edited November 29, 2005).]


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hoptoad
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Thnaks people,
I think I have plenty to go on with.

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Leigh
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I honestly think that it would totally work. I don't really know Judge Dredd myself so it would be something new to read Hoptaod. A writer can make anything work, as long as they have the imagination and committment behind their drive to write
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hoptoad
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One last comment:
The name The Janus Glance comes from a poem by Byron which also contains these words (which prompted the idea, truth to tell):

O Time, thou beautifier of the dead,
{...}
Time, the corrector when our judgments err,
{...}
Time, the avenger! unto thee I lift
My hands and heart and eyes, and claim of thee a gift...


[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited November 29, 2005).]


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wbriggs
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This plot is a lot like that of Timescape by Gregory Benford. It worked for him and may well work for you too. I think it sounds cool.
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hoptoad
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WBriggs.
I just took a look on Amazon.
Sounds scary similar.

Thanks... I think.


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franc li
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I don' t think it sounds overly similar in setting and plot, though the theme is probably the same- do people "believe" in the information from the future or not?

Are you familiar with John Titor, by any chance?


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luapc
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Don't worry about something being similar. With so much written and readily available with the Internet and other media, it's likely that any idea will be similar to another one. What you do with it to make it seem fresh is what matters, and I think you have the basis of an interesting story. Don't let similarities with some other writing stop you. If writers did that, we'd never write anything new at all!
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'Graff
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Just an idea for you, and a quick question:

Perhaps you'd like to touch on a Macbeth-like story, where the MC's friend's children cause the problem because the message from earth was received?

Also-- how does Earth know about the problem? I could see getting a reply earlier than expected (send out a message, expecting to wait 40 years, being pleasantly surprised by the fact that, hey, it only took 20 years to get a response!), but how can the message from earth come before any distress-call was sent from the colony?

Or maybe this is just slipping very quickly over my head. I could be misunderstanding something.

Maybe you'll find some enlightenment in my confusion.

-----------
Wellington

[Edited: because I was being incoherent...]

[This message has been edited by 'Graff (edited November 30, 2005).]


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franc li
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Hmm. Maybe I should read MacBeth. Though I guess there is an ancient myth from the middle east to a similar effect. Death in Baghdad or something along those lines. Guy gets a prophecy about death, and in fleeing from it runs right into it.
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sojoyful
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Sounds a little like Oedipus' father, who sent his son to be killed because of a prophesy saying that the son would kill him. Of course, if he had never sent him away in the first place, it wouldn't have happened.
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hoptoad
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I guess it taps a lot of these sort of myths and legends.

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franc li
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But had you decided to go with the causal loop idea?
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hoptoad
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I wonder what happens if he succeeds in killing the kids.
Maybe he tries to justify/defend himself by retrieving the communiques only to find that they are gone without trace. No evidence exists that the 'extra' communique was ever received. After all they were never sent.

In fact that communique now only exists as a memory within the electrical impulses of his brain. So he is, technically, the possessor of a false memory, a confabulation. It really did happen but it also really didn't.

In that eventuality both he--'I've received a message from the future.'--and his friend--'No you didn't you are a mental case' -- prove to be correct .

I am not trying to cheat, just that there would be a history to the flow of energy within his mind. It would become a fragment and as Nietzche might say, not insane, but abandoned to the dionysian aspect of the universe.

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited December 02, 2005).]


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Survivor
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Well, you can do that but if all the other consequences of the message disappeared then so would his memories of it, so it's a little inconsistent.

There is a serious problem with the plausibility, because if the message is able to affect the past, then the future from which the message is sent will cease to exist before it can finish sending the message. Card uses that one in Pastwatch. Even if you don't use the same causality model he used, you still have to explain why they aren't constantly being bombarded with messages from potential futures. Sending a message has to be extremely difficult and rare, blah blah blah.

Once you work out the model you're using, the trick is just giving the reader a rewarding story in exchange for suspending disbelief. That's always the core trick.


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