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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » The Logic of the Fantasy/Scifi Universe (Page 3)

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Author Topic: The Logic of the Fantasy/Scifi Universe
Grumpy old guy
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Okay MAP, I'm not about to enter a biology/haematology debate, I was just trying (crudely, I admit) throw up the possibility of 'genetically specific' diseases that could account for a lack of people of a certain race. Although, if I remember the stuff I've read on gene therapy, the use of a retro-virus can alter the gene sequences. So, perhaps by some impossible long-shot sickle-cell anemia might mutate.

Phil.
Medical expert I am not.

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Denevius
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quote:
Okay MAP, I'm not about to enter a biology/haematology debate, I was just trying (crudely, I admit) throw up the possibility of 'genetically specific' diseases that could account for a lack of people of a certain race.
Again, I'm just trying to imagine white authors dreaming of the future and coming up with ways that non-whites almost don't exist. Whether it's from war, disease, or interracial coupling that seems to target non-white physical attributes for elimination, somehow, some way, non-whites have to go in the imagination of our future world.
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Grumpy old guy
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Denevius, just exactly where in that quote did I mention a particular race or skin colour? In the post that quote refers back to, I specifically mentioned a condition that could account for the exclusion of all people with a celtic background in a story as well, and the last time I checked (in the mirror, actually) celts are predominantly white.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: It is my decision alone what I write about and who populates my stories. And, if I don't live up to the demands you insist on imposing upon me I don't care one wit. Because, in this instance, you're opinions matter naught to me. If you want the world to change you'll have to do something about it instead of telling me to.

Phil.

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Denevius
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quote:
I specifically mentioned a condition that could account for the exclusion of all people with a celtic background in a story as well, and the last time I checked (in the mirror, actually) celts are predominantly white.
How are most futuristic scifi narratives served in any way by concocting a means in which a specific race of people currently living on Earth are killed off?

Offhand, I can't think of one title where this works to advance the plot, whether it's a movie or a book.

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MAP
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Grumpy old guy,

Sorry for being so pedantic. I knew what you were trying to do, and that was why I was just going to let it go, but you just happened to pick a genetic disorder that I have studied up on extensively. [Smile]

Interestingly, I can see a scenario where the exact opposite selection could occur with Sickle Cell Anemia. Sickle Cell Anemia is a famous genetic disorder because it is the classic example of heterozygote advantage. Where individuals who are heterozygotes for the gene (in this case they have one sickle cell gene and one normal gene) are more fit to survive than those who are dominant or recessive homozygotes (have two identical genes for the specified trait).

In sickle cell anemia, heterozygotes have none of the problems of those individuals with two recessive sickle cell genes and also have an inherent resistance to malaria. So in regions where malaria is endemic, sickle cell heterozygotes are more fit than individuals with two normal hemoglobin alleles (genes). Thus, sickle cell anemia is actually partially selected for despite the fact that it is a devastating disorder.

So in your future, you could have an exceptionally virulent strain of malaria arise that we cannot control, and those who are heterozygotes for sickle cell anemia have an evolutionary advantage and would be selected for.

Thus having a population that is predominantly black.

Okay, I'm done. No more genetic lessons from me. I promise. [Smile]

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by MAP:So in your future, you could have an exceptionally virulent strain of malaria arise that we cannot control, and those who are heterozygotes for sickle cell anemia have an evolutionary advantage and would be selected for.

Thus having a population that is predominantly black.

Equally possible is that some new disease arises that sickle-cell heterozygotes are especially susceptible to. This would not kill off all blacks, but it would kill a lot of Africans.

DNA ==> RNA ==> enzymes in a direct chain of production; as a general rule, 'genetic defects' have an effect by producing a defective enzyme, so some particular biochemical process fails to happen. Carrier status may have a partial effect, such as MDR1 in dogs (carriers metabolize certain drugs less well than normals; homozygous affected don't metabolize these drugs at all, leading to a potentially-fatal accumulation from normally-safe dosages).

At any rate, by such methods one might target any relatively homogenous gene pool, with collateral damage possible due to genetic mixing (which humans do more of than any other species on Earth), as well as animal species that may have the same vulnerability.

Frex, let's target any significant melanin production: We not only kill off a big chunk of humanity (not only the dark-skinned, but also the black- and brown-haired); we also kill off all black or brown animals (skin or hair), possibly plus variants like blue (grey) and fawn depending on how much these dilutions are affected (if it targets the gene, yes; if the melanin production, no). In one swell foop, we've killed off 90%+ of the people and animals on the planet, and left the remainder with potentially substandard immune systems (in dogs, there's good evidence tying melanin production to immune health).

And of course we could instead target those with less than X-much melanin production, with inverse results (no more people or animals with both light hair and light skin).

[If my Node of Extrapolation were in charge, the world would have ended long ago... [Eek!] ]

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
Offhand, I can't think of one title where this works to advance the plot, whether it's a movie or a book.

Not a race, but everyone with a pair of X chromosomes:

The White Plague, by Frank Herbert.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_White_Plague

Hmm... now I'm wondering how it would have affected the oddities like XXY.

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extrinsic
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A prehistoric mass genocide extinguished the neanderthal race roughly 30,000 years ago. Scientists and scholars have speculated that some of their genetic legacy survives on in homo sapiens due to interbreeding.

Cultural ethnicities have been exterminated in the past as well. The Germanic Goth tribe nations effectively perished though intermingled with other indo nations across Europe. The Inca, Mayan, and Aztec cultures effectively perished. The mid Atlantic Native Nations perished, though Algic nations continue up and down the Atlantic seaboard. The Cherokee nation was nigh exterminated mid nineteenth century, but rebounded and continues a Native nation enclave in the Western Carolinas. The Lenape, Pamunkey, and Mattaponi continue as Algic Native nation enclaves. Canada's Ojibwe continue. Native nation reservations (enclaves) across the Americas continue despite efforts to extinguish their populaces.

The Firbolg, Nemedian, and Pict cultures died off hundreds of years ago. The Iberian nations, the Anglo and Saxon, the Norse, the Norman, the Frank died off, though their decendents live on in contemporary, somewhat homogenous cultures.

A family gathering at our patriarch's home hosts persons of most every global culture, assorted Caucasian, African North and Sub Saharan, Middle Eastern, Far Eastern, Hispanic, North Asian, Old World and New World, Pacific Oceana, Arctic, Sub Continetal Indian, and Native Nation Americas. None Antarctic. As well as a gamut of countercultural and mainstream cultural lifestyles and lifeways.

Several of our kin are of a worldy ethnic mix, all of us are ethnically mixed. Not mutts, nor mudbloods, but a melting pot of precious legacies and cultures.

The future of such nations are more likely than not to become further alloyed, though according to the precious materials proportions. Australia will have its own mixes, as will Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Mexico, the U.S., Israel, Italy, Spain, India, and so on.

Some countries will maintain a "racial" purity and ethnic stratification: Japan, Korea, Samoa, India, Caribbean islands excluding Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, small countries with a separatist cultural tradition.

The U.S. will end up with regional homogeneity: southeast, mid Atlantic, northeast, Appalachian, mid west, south central, subtropical, southwest, northwest, and California and Alaska, and so on according to ethnic proportions and regional resources and climates and cultural stratification. Like the Eygptian empire did over several thousand years. Like assorted Chinese dynasties did over several thousand years. Like the Roman empire did over several thousand years. Like the British Isles did over several thousand years. Like the Ottoman empire did over several hundred years. Like South America did over several hundred years. Enclaves notwithstanding.

[ July 11, 2014, 07:05 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Further, oxalate is a mineral that causes kidney and gall stones, forms nucleation sites in those internal organs. Safe preparation of the tuber requires mincing the flesh and several tedious soakings and washings with fresh water before cooking and at least two changes of cooking liquor to reduce the oxalate concentration to safe levels.

And even then it's not really safe. This may actually have been what caused the demise of the 'modern' central California Indians, who 1) had not been in CA all that long, historically-speaking, and 2) derived a major portion of their diet from acorns. By the time there was a significant influx of Europeans, the Yana tribes were already in a situation of "children raising children" due to early deaths from apparent kidney failure. (There exists an in-depth journal about the Yana by a pre-goldrush explorer; the Great Falls MT city library has a copy.)


quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Katniss eats snow to hydrate. Snow is an inefficient hydration source. Fine, light, champagne snow is forty times the volume of its melted volume. A liter of water needs forty liters of such snow. Katniss' activity level at the time is high and would need on the order of three liters of water per day to remain hydrated.

The description of the snow Katniss eats suggests the snow is a midway density, still on the order of twenty times the volume of its melted volume. Icy slush is about four times the volume of its melted volume. Further, eating snow is problematic from loss of core body heat and impacts on digestion, also may cause intestinal cramps. Hydrating with snow is time and effort intensive.

With realworld snow, this is not the case. Because in winter all our outdoor pipes freeze up, I have to use snow to water dogs (and last winter, also pigs), and I have many Montana winters of experience using snow as the dogs' primary and often only water source. And because MT's winter is a series of rapid freeze/thaw cycles, we often get to see exactly how much of yesterday's snow became how much of today's water.

Slush contains no air (it is part ice crystals, part water), so the ratio is 1:1 (but you don't want slush in your bucket; come nightfall when it freezes solid, it will break the bucket). Snow that's been partly melted and refrozen is about 1:2 or a little better. Dense deep-cold snow is about 1:3; light fluffy snow is around 1:6 when halfway packed (no special effort, just the natural packing from being moved with a shovel).

In the real world, when you eat snow you grab a handful and compact it before chowing down, which brings it down to around 1:4 even if it's the fluffy crap. And you don't just eat a handful and call it done; you consume it as you go, all day long. (Not too much at once, to avoid getting chilled.)

If you carefully avoid packing the snow and only consider today's pristine snowfall which hasn't experienced ANY melting (no matter how cold the air, it always melts a bit at ground level, and a little on top as soon as any sun hits the surface) yeah, then you'd see very inefficient ratios, of value only for calculating precipitation.

So yes, speaking from lengthy and realworld experience, you can get by just fine on snow alone. The drawback is that you sacrifice some body heat to melt it, but if you're active and reasonably insulated, that's not a huge difficulty. (Big dogs run 'hot', and usually prefer snow to water, even in well-below-zero temps.) The big advantage is that you don't have to carry water with you. Every team of running huskies in the world uses snow instead of liquid water; you can't carry a practical amount (nor the weight) of water on a sled, let alone the fuel to thaw it... every single time you want a drink. (20 working dogs = 20 gallons or more per day.)

[BTW I am a canine professional, and I keep a large kennel -- 50 dogs on average.]

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Denevius
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quote:
The White Plague, by Frank Herbert.
I haven't read it, but the point of that book seems to be *specifically* the killing off of women by, who I guess, is the antagonist.

How is "Hunger Games" served in, however you want to explain it, the disappearance of non-white physical characteristics in favor of white physical characteristics in Panem? How does that push forward the plot of the novel?

quote:
The U.S. will end up with regional homogeneity: southeast, mid Atlantic, northeast, Appalachian, mid west, south central, subtropical, southwest, northwest, and California and Alaska, and so on according to ethnic proportions and regional resources and climates and cultural stratification.
Suzanne Collins seems to claim that interracial coupling has been going on in her world for hundreds of years, so there is no southeast, mid Atlantic, northeast, Appalachian, mid west, south central, subtropical, southwest, northwest, and California and Alaska, and so on. There is only Panem.

A Panem that produces a Katniss with olive toned skin and black hair that isn't biracial, that isn't a minority, but isn't specifically said to be white, though there are white people in District 12 in blonde hair blue eyed Peeta and Katniss' mom.

How is this not a plot hole? How is it that hundreds of years of interracial coupling managed to erase non-white characteristics while still maintaining a white race to be the District's version of the bourgeois class?

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extrinsic
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The plot holes for both toxic tubers and snow for hydration are from how they cause complications of effort, time, and physical effects. Eating either causes those effects, yet Collins drops them in offhandedly. the toxic tubers would have debiliated Katniss for several days. The snow eaten at least for a noticeable time span: brain freeze and mild digestive distress at least. She's not acclimated to snow for hydration the way cold-climate adapted beings are.

Collins goes into an adequate amount of detail how Katniss and implies the other gamers treat surface water with iodine; but not the impacts of toxic tubers and snow!?

[ July 11, 2014, 09:01 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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extrinsic
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Hunger Games' milieu suits general target audience sensibilities, such that artful ambiguity, intentional vagueness, spans the rapport indices of the audience and avoids overt controversies. No more; no less.

On the other hand, what little "ethnicity" that is exhibited suits audience sensibilities adequately. Ethnictity is not a plot feature of the novel.

Narratives that do portray ethnicity as a plot feature, such that at a risk-reward index. Controversy starts and builds buzz. Even Jim C. Hines' public opinion position about lifestyle representation serves that marketing function: part packaging, part promotion, part publicity, and each driving advertising. Collins didn't take those risks. Debut writers are advised to avoid those risks.

Note that Jim C. Hines' agent firm JABberwocky emphasizes countercultural motif representation and publisher DAW accommodates those narratives.

Room enough for all opinions, only the caliber of the narrative making any meaningful difference. Take risks, raise controversies, be consistent, though, and preparation for success is begun. Or take no risks, raise no controversies, consistent, though. Or anywhere between, consistent though.

[ July 11, 2014, 09:26 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Denevius
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quote:
Hunger Games' milieu suits general target audience sensibilities, such that artful ambiguity, intentional vagueness, spans the rapport indices of the audience and avoids overt controversies.
I think to say that she avoided "overt controversy" is to willfully ignore all of the controversy that surrounded the series over the racial makeup of the characters.

It's willfully ignoring minorities who saw the success of a mega-book series with a minority character, a rare occurrence, and having that enthusiasm trampled upon first by the director calling only for a white actress to play the lead role, and then by the author herself who claims that Katniss was never intended to be a minority or biracial.

Because what this looks like to minorities is that race doesn't matter, as long as the white race gets the lion's share of representation in the medium. *Then*, it doesn't matter.

So, perhaps in the circles many of you defending the racial makeup of "Hunger Games" exist in, there was no overt controversy. However, within minority circles, there was a lot of controversy, a lot of angst, and a general sense that, once again, society is asking them to see white characters as the "everyman", while it balks at the idea of forcing white consumers to accept non-white characters as the everyman.

I can link a dozen sites making a similar point. So I think it's disingenuous to say it wasn't an overt controversy, but I suppose you can say that those opinions don't matter as much in your worldview.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
MattLeo, apart from a few archaic terms and outmoded phrases, French is no longer de-rigueur in diplomatic discourse. And, I'm sorry to say, that according to your argument, the majority of writers writing the majority of works of fiction, literature and fantasy are at this moment, what did you say? Ah, yes, looking foolish. Really?

More and more this is reminding me of a group of people railing against the way the world IS and NOT doing anything themselves to change it other than to point the finger at others and say to everyone else, "You oughta . . ."

Grumpy.

This has got depreressing. No matter how I try to take
what you say seriously, and turn the discussion away from politics and toward craft, you replace my opinions with a straw position and use that as a launching point to rail against politics you don't like - with a generous side helping of ad hominem.

I get it now. You've hijacked Denevius's thread to vent about people you don't like instead of talking about writing. Well I'm done enabling that behavior.

By all means carry on writing exactly the way you always have. Don't even consider changing a thing if you find that upsetting. It's not as if anyone else has the power to take your head out the dark place you've stuck it anyhow. It's your choice. It's always been your choice, and people pointing out you have OTHER choices isn't tantamount to persecution.

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extrinsic
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This debate could carry on ad nauseam until the end of time and satisfy nothing. For every opinion position a host of opposition will rise and likewise a host of opposition to those numerous oppositions ad infinitum. And no one's opinions be changed one iota. Craft and aesthetics are choices free will allows.

Criticism is too an infinite host. Negativism, however, reveals as much about a critic's biases as those the critic denounces. On the other hand, celebrate negative criticism for defining audiences and for marketing advantages.

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
The plot holes for both toxic tubers and snow for hydration are from how they cause complications of effort, time, and physical effects. Eating either causes those effects, yet Collins drops them in offhandedly. the toxic tubers would have debiliated Katniss for several days. The snow eaten at least for a noticeable time span: brain freeze and mild digestive distress at least. She's not acclimated to snow for hydration the way cold-climate adapted beings are.

ETA: Acclimation is not really an issue, any more than it is if you consume an iced drink on a hot day. You do not suffer from either brain freeze or digestive distress, unless perhaps you swallow big lumps of snow, which is no different from swallowing ice cubes (and about as practical to accomplish). Too much very cold water at once can cause reflexive vomiting, but we're talking a quart or more chugged very quickly, which you can't manage with snow.

And if gastric distress were an issue -- dogs are rather more subject to gastric upset than are humans. And they can eat snowe a lot faster than you can. [Smile]

One suspects the real story when such distress happens is a combination of dehydration (from simply not consuming enough) and perhaps altitude sickness. And 'brain freeze' is a side effect of rapid consumption, not of the consumption itself (possibly an abnormal reflex akin to migraines, as only a minority of people are affected):
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice-cream_headache#Anterior_cerebral_artery_theory

quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Collins goes into an adequate amount of detail how Katniss and implies the other gamers treat surface water with iodine; but not the impacts of toxic tubers and snow!?

I think this is a more general problem, which I've griped about before and elsewhere ... that most authors have at best superficial clues about extreme climates. Most get both desert and arctic conditions laughably wrong (I say, having lived half my life in Montana, and the other half in the SoCal desert). Characters run around in the desert sun at 120F degrees with inadequate clothing and insufficient water; characters run around in -40 temps and blizzard conditions with only gloves and no hat. The authors clearly have never tried to walk in loose sand while wearing sandals, or in deep snow or while wearing an eskimo suit. They have clearly never worked outdoors under such conditions. They know some superficial things from watching documentaries and occasionally from common sense or from vacations in such regions, but that's about it. (And the same applies to their treatments of farm and ranch work, which of course derives from that most are city folks without hands-on experience.)

So the effect in the writing is somewhat patchwork; characters seem to know some things necessary to survival in their environment, but not other things that anyone with actual experience would think about as a matter of course. I haven't read The Hunger Games but I think your complaints are examples of this.

Of course if the character is ignorant about survival methods, that's a different patch of cactus, but in that case let 'em suffer the consequences, and either learn better or die of it.

[ July 12, 2014, 08:34 PM: Message edited by: Reziac ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Thanks, Reziac, for the great information about hydrating with snow.
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Denevius
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It's interesting. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the release of ENDER'S GAME. I hadn't planned on watching the movie, not because of the controversy, but because the previews really just weren't very compelling, and I really and truly think it's time for Harrison Ford to retire. I have not enjoyed him in any movie probably since 'The Fugitive'.

But I flew to America abruptly last month as a result of a family emergency, and on the plane they were playing ENDER'S GAME, and I figured, "Why not?"

When you go into a movie with low expectations, it's not hard to be entertained. But I have to admit, it was a cool movie. But what I found most engaging about it was: 1) Harrison Ford nailed the role, though I'm not sure if his portrayal was true to the book or not, as I haven't read it in at least ten years; 2) Someone involved in the making of that movie seemed to decide to create a future that more closely represents what the actual future of the human race is most likely going to look like in reality - diverse.

They even had Ender repeating an Arabic phrase, which was like, "Whoa!" Perhaps they were trying to over-compensate because they predicted the political/cultural baggage that came along with making the movie. But it really was a pleasant surprise that a movie featuring the future of the human race wasn't 95% white, 5% other. It's good getting the science right in scifi, but it's also good getting racial diversity based upon current racial population of the world right as you stipulate about the future of mankind.

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extrinsic
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Ender's Game and The Hunger Games films are more or less faithful to their respective novels. Like with any film adaptation of written word narratives, they short-shrift internal discourse in favor of visual and audio spectacle.

Written word internal discourse content that takes up a few paragraphs or more filmmakers cut, and use a brief "reaction shot" in place of internal thoughts and emotional responses. Written word's ability to delay or suspend story time and expand narrative time film cannot manage easily either. Films generally rush past written word content filmmakers think is repetitive, too. A net result is film condenses or excises philosophical and temporal and thematic signficance and emphases that written word luxuriously develops.

The Ender's Game film portrays Wiggin more proactively heroic and a mite more peevish, almost bratty, than the novel, loses the self-doubts and internal crisis struggles and moral crises and agonist and character basic nature, personality, and behavior four-dimensionality the novel artfully develops. Same with The Hunger Games, film generally. That's film. Tel est la vie d'escritur: Such is the life of writing. C'est la vie: That's life.

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