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Author Topic: Course on How to Build a Planet
AndrewR
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In case anyone is interested in a 16 week course on, basically, how to build a planet, check out this free on-line course starting Sept. 8: Imagining Other Earths.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Thank you, AndrewR.
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Reziac
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That looks interesting. I wonder if you can just audit the course and not do the homework? (Cuz I have zero interest in writing the prescribed papers)
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genevive42
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You can audit the class, no problem. But I think I started this class and found it less than helpful. If it's the one I'm thinking of, about half the lecture was spent on using mathematical formulas for explanation. I wouldn't mind that if it was necessary, but they spent ten minutes explaining in math what I could have explained in two sentences using words. The math did not enhance the explanation one bit.

The Astrobiology class actually does a great job of covering a wide range of information good for planet building. And I think there's a Highlights of Modern Astronomy that was really good as well.

Just my 2 cents.

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MattLeo
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Well, there's nothing like being able to do the calculations yourself.

Suppose you were writing a story about a civilization that lived on the polar regions on the inside surface of a Dyson sphere. Now having worked out that particular multivariate calculus problem myself I can tell you right now that this scenario is broken. There is no net gravity exerted by a sphere on any point of its interior. Centrifugal force might simulate gravity inside the sphere at the equator, but near the poles you'd just float away because the vector sum of the gravity from all the points in the sphere's shell would be zero.

Now that I've told you, you won't have to do this particular calculation; but what would you do if you didn't know?

The parameters of an equation can be grist for the imagination. One of my pet peeves in sci-fi are planets that all apparently have about the same gravity as Earth. The reality is that very few would have very close to Earth's gravity; you'd really notice a difference of 10% one way or the other, much less 20% or 30%. So one of the first things an adventurer would do before landing on a planet is consider the impact the surface gravity would have on his operations. Consequently if you have your characters landing on different kinds of planets, you'll need to know what it takes to have Earthlike gravity, other than making the planet exactly like the Earth it all its particulars.

The surface gravity of a planet is given by this equation: a = GM/r^2, where a = the surface gravity, M = planetary mass, r = planetary radius, G = universal gravitation constant. Mars is 71% of the density of Earth. It has roughly half the diameter, and so roughly 1/8 the volume, therefore it weighs 0.71 / 8 = 0.0875 as much. Multiply that by 4 (for the 1/r^2 component) and you get 0.35, which is pretty close to its gravity of 0.37 g's. Playing with the equation you can see that if Mars were as dense as the Earth, it would have a gravity of 0.5 Earth g's.

This kind of thing is not strictly necessary for storytelling. You might well assume that all the planets your characters visit are chosen to be very similar to Earth in every way. It's a bit of a stretch of the imagination, but most people won't notice; and the restriction that you can only have stories that might occur on Earth isn't that much of a restriction. But it's still rules out writing stories about planets that are very different from Earth.

Imagine in your story the characters want to land on a planet that used to to be exactly like Earth, but has had its surface stripped way leaving nothing but its inner core. What's left would be a ball of iron, nickel, and precious metals 70% of the diameter of the Moon and 2.3x the density of the Earth as it is now. There isn't any place where you can look up the fact that 160 lb astronaut would weigh over nine thousand pounds there. You have to be able to do the calculation.

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extrinsic
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Cosmological math is all well and good for accuracy and verisimilitude purposes; however, if basic natures like gravity, day length, year length, tides, and so on, have no influence (agency), they are moot. Also, broad world physical features usually lack in specific detail relevant to a plot.

quote:
MalttLeo:
Imagine in your story the characters want to land on a planet that used to to be exactly like Earth, but has had its surface stripped way leaving nothing but its inner core. What's left would be a ball of iron, nickel, and precious metals 70% of the diameter of the Moon and 2.3x the density of the Earth as it is now. There isn't any place where you can look up the fact that 160 lb astronaut would weigh over nine thousand pounds there. You have to be able to do the calculation.

That scenario misapprehends the results. The core density does average out to around 2.3 percent greater than Earth's overall density; however, take away all the rock and mantle overburden mass, the core's metal mass is only 11 percent of the whole Earth. Or of roughly 6.0 x 10^24 kg x .11 = 6.6 x 10^23 kg. Less mass, less gravity. Density is a factor, in that the inverse square law applies. Mass of a more dense volume has a greater localized effect than less dense mass, though negligible for the scenario due to little appreciable difference in distance from the whole mass. A person weighing 160 pounds on natural Earth would weigh more like 15 pounds if on the surface of its overburden-stripped core.
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genevive42
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I would have no problem with the class if they wanted to put the math in the class notes, but the information relayed was thin and smothered amidst mathematical formulas.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Cosmological math is all well and good for accuracy and verisimilitude purposes; however, if basic natures like gravity, day length, year length, tides, and so on, have no influence (agency), they are moot.

Agreed. But in hard science fiction these things often do matter. Even sci-fi that's really fantasy or horror masquerading as sci-fi needs detail that makes the story sound like it could really happen.

Details that create verisimilitude might just be set decoration, but that doesn't mean they can't spell the difference between success and failure. It matters whether a door in a movie spaceship appears to be made of metal onscreen rather than plywood. In a written story it matters whether preparations to land on an alien planet seem reasonable, even if the details of those preparations don't drive the story one way or the other. Unfortunately this means you're faced with the usual problem of how much detail is too much detail, but sticking with zero detail because that's safe does your story no favors.

As insignificant as these details may be to the story, from what I can see they really stick with sci-fi readers.

quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
That scenario misapprehends the results. The core density does average out to around 2.3 percent greater than Earth's overall density; however, take away all the rock and mantle overburden mass, the core's metal mass is only 11 percent of the whole Earth. Or of roughly 6.0 x 10^24 kg x .11 = 6.6 x 10^23 kg. Less mass, less gravity. Density is a factor, in that the inverse square law applies. Mass of a more dense volume has a greater localized effect than less dense mass, though negligible for the scenario due to little appreciable difference in distance from the whole mass. A person weighing 160 pounds on natural Earth would weigh more like 15 pounds if on the surface of its overburden-stripped core. [/QB]

You're leaving out the inverse square law factor in your estimations. Gravity is linearly proportional to mass and inversely proportional to the square of the radius. Also the density of the *inner* core is far greater than that of the Earth as a whole, possibly as much as 13 g/cm^3 vs. 5.5. The inner core is far denser than pure iron or nickel, possibly, it is thought, because of huge quantities of gold and platinum series metals.

The Earth's radius is on average 6371 km; the radius of the inner core is 1220 km or roughly 1/5 that of the entire earth. This means all things being equal, there'd be 25x the gravity. But since we're talking about only 11% of that mass, 160 lb * 11% * 25 = 440 lb. (obviously I missed a factor of 2 somewhere in my back-of-the-envelope estimations)

Let's work the equation explicity.

a = G * M / r^2

G = 6.6710^−11 N(m/kg)2 // Gravitational constant

M = 6.6 x 10^23 kg

r = 1220 km = 1220000 m = 1.22 x 10^6 m

substituting

a = 6.6710^−11 * 6.6 x 10^23 / (1.22 x 10^6)^2
... = 29.6 N/kg
... = 29.6 m/s^2

One Earth g = 9.8 m/s^2 so a/g = 3.02; so a man who weighed 160 lb standing on Earth's surface would weigh 483 lb standing on the inner core, to three digits of precision. That agrees with my rough estimate above.

Interestingly, this means that if you traveled down a shaft toward the center of the Earth, for the initial part of the journey your weight would increase because of the inverse square part of the equation. When you got to the inner core with its uniform, high concentrations of precious metals your weight would start to decrease. That's because the volume of the sphere beneath you would decrease as a cube of the radius. Thus the mass contribution to the surface gravity equation would be going down by the cube of the radius, which more than offsets the inverse square term. If you've done all your math right, you should be weightless at the very center of the Earth, which agrees with intuition.

Since Google understands physical constants like G, you can do back-of-the-envelope calculations for surface gravity by putting the parameters into the Google search box, like this.

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extrinsic
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I've read seventy or so science fiction novels this summer. Each one dialogue heavy, very little setting development, somewhat more character development, though the characters are more or less indistinguishable from each other as well as their voices, albeit external physical attributes notwithstanding, and event development somewhat more evolved; however, the dramatic action is mostly philosophical argument given in dialogue as lecture--diegesis and exigesis--heavy exigesis. Hard science fiction, soft science fiction, fantasy science fiction, didn't matter, summary and explanation lectures portrayed through dialogue.

But then science fiction owes a large part of its influences to Romanticism's summary and explanation lecture conventions. Realism and Modernism came later and haven't quite found their way fully into science fiction. Tel est la vie d'escritur. Verisimiltude matters when it authenticates a narrative's reality imitation, a feature Romanticism short-shrifts and readers enjoy.

While the inverse square law applied to gravity is nontrivial, nonzero in terms of a few thousand kilometers, it might as well be zero for practical intents and purposes when on a local scale. Density has little influence in a two-body system. Object A's mass is its entirety; object B's mass is its entirety; their gravitational interactions are subject to their masses, not their densities.

An illustration of gravity as a product of mass, not density, is the fabled feather or lead weight scenario. In an absence of atmosphere and its consequent friction, both objects released from an equal height above a larger mass object will fall at an equal rate, actually gravitationally attracted to each other though. A balloon filled with air equivalent to the air it moves through and an equal-sized lead mass are a better example in an atmosphere, air resistance being equal.

[ August 23, 2014, 10:49 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
I've read seventy or so science fiction novels this summer. Each one dialogue heavy, very little setting development, somewhat more character development, though the characters are more or less indistinguishable from each other as well as their voices

You mentioned this project earlier; I meant to ask you how it was going. Tough sledding, evidently. Are you doing just recently published works or are you doing a more long-term survey?

quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
But then science fiction owes a large part of its influences to Romanticism's summary and explanation lecture conventions. Realism and Modernism came later and haven't quite found their way fully into science fiction.

I dunno. *Gateway* by Frederik Pohl comes to mind as a Modernist sci-fi novel, right down to its reliance on depth psychology. The New Wave stuff from the 60s and 70s pretty much was about bringing modernist literary sensibilities to sci-fi. Even old Golden Age warhorses like Heinlein (*Stranger in a Strange Land*) and Asimov (*The Gods Themselves*) were dipping their hooves in the water. As for Realism -- well finding actual Realist sci-fi and especially fantasy novels would be a tall order. Still I think it's reasonable to conjecture that Realism influenced Song of Ice and Fire, which while focusing on aristocratic characters de-mythologizes them and thumbs its nose at an notions of poetic justice.

The sameness you are talking about seems a real phenomenon to me. It's not a new thing though; pastiche is part of sci-fi's pulp literary DNA. Still, there's an art to rehashing stories like anything else, and some pastiche is better than others. A great pulp story is like a great Bollywood movie -- just like every other one you've seen, but somehow better. The downside of this is that while there's a lot more volume of sci-fi than when I started reading it in the 70s, I don't think there's much if any more diversity in ideas or style. It's not that sci-fi has gone downhill though; there's great stuff still being published and the bulk of the rest is more adequate than ever.

I just feel like it's about time for the Next Big Thing. In the 20s we had the advent of the pulp era; in the 40s the Golden Age; in the 60s the New Wave; and in the 80s Cyberpunk. By my calendar we're ten years overdue for a shakeup. I'm looking for sci-fi that feels more than well-constructed; I'm looking for something that feels like a revelation. Fantasy *has* gotten a lot more diverse since the 1970s; it has crawled out of the shadow of Tolkien. But I feel like it's time for a shakeup in fantasy too. It's been thirty years since Urban Fantasy got on its feet, and twenty since George R.R. Martin began draining the transcendent meaning from High Fantasy. I'm looking for a new revelation in fantasy too.

quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
While the inverse square law applied to gravity is nontrivial, nonzero in terms of a few thousand kilometers, it might as well be zero for practical intents and purposes when on a local scale. Density has little influence in a two-body system.

For spherical bodies it has none. A spherical body exerts the same gravitational force that a dimensionless point at the sphere's center would, everywhere outside of the sphere itself. Such a point would have infinite density. Inside the sphere at some distance d from the center, the parts of the sphere further from the center than d cancel each other out.

This by the way is one of the major engineering issues with a Dyson sphere. It has no gravitational interaction at all with the star it encloses because the vector sum of its interior gravitational field is zero. This static analysis of the gravity field doesn't require solving the dynamic two body problem; it's actually a prerequisite to solving a multi-body dynamic problem. Trust me, I got through two semesters of physics at MIT and six of advanced math. This is pretty basic stuff.

Fun Fact: the same mathematical result also means that the force fields in Doc Smith's Lensman stories can't possibly obey an inverse square law.

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
The New Wave stuff from the 60s and 70s pretty much was about bringing modernist literary sensibilities to sci-fi.

And I think that produced a different spasm of sameness, where it was all about Being Literary, and storytelling went out the window. After the initial mostly-self-proclaimed novelty I quickly learned to run away screaming whenever someone claimed to be writing "speculative fiction" rather than "SF/F". Frankly I found it not only boring but also self-important twaddle, and if it had taken over SF/F (rather than remaining a fringe movement), I'd now be reading some other genre.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Reziac:
And I think that produced a different spasm of sameness, where it was all about Being Literary, and storytelling went out the window.

That's an overgeneralization if I ever heard one. I'm as much a fan of the "Good Old Stuff" as anyone, but you're seriously going to flush Harlan Ellison down the toilet (or rather his work)? Ursula K. LeGuin? Philip K. Dick? Anyhow the point is that sci-fi certainly has had it's modernist period. Modernism is by nature experimental, so some of it was bound to fizzle. But not all of it.
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extrinsic
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The Romanticism conventions still holding on in fantastical fiction are narrator summary and explanation lecturing, as opposed to Realism's emerged reality imitation convention. Scene development emphasized over lecturing. Modernism extended reality imitation emphasis, though lecture narration continued among the movement. Nor has lecture vanished in Postmodernism. Writers will write what they write. Partly, readers of prior era classics are comfortable with lectured narration, though delighted by well-crafted reality imitation when they encounter it. Unfortunately, reality imitation is challenging to develop the skills thereof; consequently, few master the method, the rhetoric actually, of the art.

Modernist sentiments and ideals and beliefs inherent within Realism, Modernism, and Postmodernism are another matter. Each stepped closer to individual and specific portraits of events, settings, characters, though less so progressed toward reality imitation. Another factor distinguishes each and lends a literary movement its distinctive departure from other movements.

Romanticism's benchmarks orient around poetic justice and a revival of predetermination emphasis. Realism revisits free will, though with an individualized objectivity toward poetic justice. Modernism reinforces free will, slips loose from poetic justice without complete detachment, ever conscious of self-enlightenment regarding an individual's roles in and for society. Postmodernism continues the recognition of free will, lessens poetic justice's emphasis further, and most so individually self-awarely challenges and questions priorly presupposed notions of propriety.

The overall trend moves further toward a sense of morality as an individual's right to choose and acknowledging individuals' community-wide responsibility to society as the bases for respectful moral conduct. In other words, the shifting landscape of what constitutes morality is at the center of literary movement movement.

The narrative content boils down to the complications and crises that conflicted individual and social morals cause. For world buidling purposes, the physics and the physical appearances are less important than the world's cultural and consequent social morals. How a setting's physical geography influences the action then is a matter of how the geography influences the people in place.

Hydraulic cultures, for example, have less concern for water scarcity than a desert-locked culture. Wasting water in the former may mean nothing. In the latter, wasting water may be tantamount to a capital crime and a mortal sin. The desert culture will express a variety of water conservation beliefs--superstitions--and traditions and customs the hydraulic culture cannot appreciate.

The hydraulic culture will have its own, based on the places they live. For example, maritime fishing territory rights handed down from generation to generation, and straying into a neighbor's territory a sacrilege deserving summary execution. Never mind poaching someone else's traps or nets or marshland shellfish territories. Similarly, a person building a dock that intrudes into a common waterway is also subject to summary demolition. Morality need not be enforced by law, but by belief, custom, and tradition. Generational blood feuds have started over less and developed into global wars.

Edit: Realism and reality imitation are not per se real-world reality; more so methods of evoking reader sensation of reality no matter how impossibly fantastical. After Samuel Taylor Coleridge's willing suspension of disbelief principle, J.R.R. Tolkien's exotic secondary settings principle and Lucien Lvy-Bruhl's participation mystique principle shape reality imitation, part writer craft and part reader experience effect brought to bear.

[ August 25, 2014, 03:37 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
I've read seventy or so science fiction novels this summer. Each one dialogue heavy, very little setting development, somewhat more character development, though the characters are more or less indistinguishable from each other as well as their voices

You mentioned this project earlier; I meant to ask you how it was going. Tough sledding, evidently. Are you doing just recently published works or are you doing a more long-term survey?
My primary goal of this reading binge is assessing and contrasting and comparing method and style. A thought occurred to me that slang dialect is very much part of contemporary culture. I want to see if a reason and intent for it is apparent, rhetorically. Or is the language merely a product of social influences, like television's ephermeral discourses have contaminated prose.

I've suspected for years one reason why one writing consensus diminishes or outright disparages plot and structure generally is because, as simple as dramatic structure seems on its surface, it too is a challenging tyrant, difficult to master. I'm close to a conclusion that plot's difficulties are a reason why writers shy from mastering it.

Style, now, I'm also near a conclusion writers as well shy from its esoterica and mastery.

One of my writing mentors started me on a path toward understanding reality imitation methods. The general principle espoused is that a well-crafted scene contains conversation, action, description, and narration. I'd at the time already appreciated at least those modes are essential for scene writing, reality imitation; however, the reinforcement was inspirational.

I've since expanded on the principle to include introspection--especially viewpoint agonist thoughts and attitude reactions to stimuli--stimuli itself: sensations visual, aural, tactile, olfactory, and gustatory; emotion as attitude reaction and a sensation itself, how summary and explanation matter when they matter, exposition as introduction, recollection as both introspection and reality imitation, and transition as at least a stepped process as well as foreshadowing and a number of other writing principles.

Reading this summer has been productive analyzing those and other writing principles for effectiveness, from across the literary opus--back to the beginnings and across genres--how writing principles are deployed or not, and whether they are used skillfully or incidentally.

I'm close to realizing a new voice and method that I seek; however, I am on the horns of a conundrum. The voice of prose for the last hundred or so years reflects the everyday slang of conversational discourse--a discourse community made ever more monocultural by broad and easy access to audiovisual dramatic arts that has become pervasive in prose. A rigid grammatically exacting voice could be too formal for reader enjoyment, on the one hand. On the other hand, rigorous conformance to current Standard Written English grammar need not be formal and thus may be appealing solely from its reading and comprehension ease.

As to method, particularly as pertains to structure, I have new insights from this summer's reading that also reinforce what I've learned before. Number one on the hit parade is reinventing current events, reimagining them as novel expressions of the human condition. The Deepwater Horizons oil spill in the Gulf gave me appreciable insights into how a news cycle reflects a narrative's structure, how public interest is titilated then wanes once a satisfying complication satisfaction presents. For examples, a narrative about a nascent serial murderer akin to the Columbine massacre perpetrators, though defused by edgy dramatic action involving well-intended but misguided malefactors and vigilantes; a police drama where a militarized police force runs awry, from a new recruit's perspective--the drama being that the recruit is a bully who is naturally drawn to law enforcement. I'm in the later development stages of a narrative that asks what virtue does war have: antiviolence violence--a necessary evil!?.

[ August 27, 2014, 03:49 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Reziac
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Katherine Kerr (author of the Deverry cycle, presently 15 books) on "modernism", genre, and related notions:

http://www.deverry.com/roman2.html
http://www.deverry.com/roman3.html
http://www.deverry.com/epic.html

Generally, I agree with her. What we have in recent and "speculative" SF/F is on the one hand less genre and more imitation of modernism's navel-gazing, and on the other a lack of the... foundation, perhaps, that writers of a generation or two or three ago had as a matter of course.

Extrinsic, have you taken notes on each of these 70-odd books? Perhaps those observations deserve their own thread.

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
For examples, a narrative about a nascent serial murderer akin to the Columbine massacre perpetrators

For the record, such events are not "massacres". They are loud, messy suicides. Most unhappy kids fantasize about checking out and performing "I'll show you how much you hurt me!" by hurting those who hurt them. A very few act on it.
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extrinsic
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I believe Kerr has no handle on what constitutes Modernism as a literature movement. Modernism is a departure from and an extension of Realism, which was a reaction to and a departure from Romanticism. What distinguishes Modernism is a kernel of, not navel gazing, but a close distance narrative, aesthetic, emotional, and psychic in the sense of access to character thoughts.

Which accomplished writer or another mastered the aesthetics of Modernism is neither here nor there, only that they approached a rhetoric of reality imitation from individual and specific perspectives. Priorly, narrators lectured moral codes, as an outgrowth and departure from folk tale and fable and religious writing. Rationalism's philosphical--not literary--bent intervened between folk literature with partynomic moral behavior's information, caution, castigation, and control intents based on their attendant religious writing, and Romanticism, which revisted the patrynomic overtures of the past. Realism went beyond Rationalism's free-will right and responsibility philosophies, and Modernism and Postmodernism followed suit in their own lights.

Modernism is a misnomer in the sense that it is somehow a product of a modern time and sensibility: modernity, a belief that all things new are valuable and virtuous, and all things old are valueless and vice ridden. Neither is valid, old is tradition, custom, and belief preserved in the present, neither inherently valuable or valueless nor virtuous of vice ridden in and of itself. Same with all things new. Strong traces of Modernism and Realism, etc., appear in ancient texts, The Homeric Cycle, Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus, for examples, as well as in Romance era texts. The reality imitation feature of Realism most prominently.

Realism and Modernism's most pronounced departure from Romanticism is simply a shift from narrator perception viewpoint to viewpoint agonist perception reported by a narrator, a turn from an exterior world observer looking on a subject externally to an interior observer looking out and in, as deep in as the mind can go.

The Industrial Revolution's emphasis on mass production aided the change, though subtler and more profoundly, a relaxation of censorhip allowed for the new form of expression, simply, oh my, psychic access to thoughts, mind reading, a black magic theretofore prohibited in much of the Western World and still prohibited in large parts of the world.

Like plot and any writing principle, a literary movement's distiguishing conventions are largely not worth the effort for many to figure out. So many auditors have vaguely formed ideas and concepts of what they are. Consequently, any given writer, reader, critic, teacher, researcher, etc., may--will overlap one with another in their writing, reading, or analyses. Presently, overlaps in writing are a strong trend; many recent narratives have a strong trace of Romanticism, a strong trace of Realism, a strong trace of Modernism, maybe a trace of Postmodernism, and a mishmash of other undefinable wandering lost in the dark.

Not to say a narrative must fit only one camp per se, only that intent and method miss a mark set intentionally or short-shrifted nonconsciously, and meaning and reader effect suffer.

On the other hand, one of Romanticism era's standouts was rigid conformity to the form, formula, and its genre expectations. The so-called penny dreadfuls of the mid colonial era period did exactly that. Category romance genre inspired by Harlequin Romances do too, today, a rigid formula with exacting conventions. Readers consume them wholesale like breathing air.

To assert that fantastical fiction somehow is Modernism misses Romanticism's influences and predominence in the genres. A portion of mid twentieth century science fiction did stray into Postmodernism territory, but never left behind Romanticism's conventions of lecture, poetic justice, and patrynomic moral codes of the past.

Maybe on its surface Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land does question and challenge presupposed notions of sexual mores, among other institutions--Postmodernism--but the novel overlooks, nay reinforces and forgives Romanticism era's patrynomic codes of the times past and present that hold on to this day. The only overt allowance the novel makes for Realism and Modernism is the dialogue-heavy narrative, about eight parts in ten, that lectures as narrators of old did, though from viewpoint agonist's speech, it is still tell--diegesis and exigesis, barely a mite toward Realism and Modernism's core reality imitation--mimesis--emphasis convention.

Yes, I took notes of my reading this summer, journal comments that I'm not inclined to share. They are uncensored and unabashed assessments of faulty and weak style and craft.

[ August 26, 2014, 09:13 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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extrinsic
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I suppose I ought best connect literary movement to world building--without making too farfetched a stretch.

Reality imitation degree of setting development and external character physical attributes is pivotal in literary movement movement. So-called exposition blocks, what I know as summary and explanation blocks are common in Romanticism. Realism, etc., its expression in later movements, takes setting description into viewpoint agonist attitude realms and leavens portions out when they matter to a viewpoint agonist at the moment and location and in the dramatic situation.

For example, if a lush forest is a setting, Romanticism might either limit setting description to naming that a forest abuts, say, a field. The adjective "lush" is emotionally neutral in that use. Though if describing an alcoholic, "lush" takes on an emotional attitude dimension.

Development of a forest's emotional meaning to a Romanticism narrator might be based on a general community perspective of the forest widely shared within the community, and consume a larger amount of word count--several sentences, paragraphs, maybe pages.

In the Romanticism mode, viewpoint agonist emotional attitude is described by the narrator as a direct and tagged discourse report, overtly narrated from an external perspective. James saw the forest as a deep, dark mystery: tangled undergrowth, gale-twisted trunks, impenetrable canopy only insects moved freely through, bird flights above, an occasional dart into the top layer, black shadows shifted below. Largely neutral emotional attitude and objective description. An agonist viewpoint mode leaves out the attribution tag "James saw."

Realism's reality imitation mode pre-positions "James" as viewpoint agonist, and both reflects the visual sensation and the emotional sensation of James as reflector, special emphasis on the emotional sensation of the moment, and subjective attitude.

These features fit into world building by developing the settings of a world as influential to the action: their agency. Preparing a world's settings involves developing its biomes' qualities, basic nature and their influences--behaviors in the sense a biome is behaviorally alive or dead, though dramatic movement regardless, from active influences. Climate, weather, physical geography, geology, perhaps cosmic qualities gravity, sunlight, day and night length, tides maybe; botanicals, fauna, time's impacts, artifacts, milieu in the sense of cultural forces influencing and influenced by places and people, and idiosyncracies, especially idiosyncracies--"telling" details that evoke place's powers of reality imitation from readers experiential imaginations, and emotional reactions to them.

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Modernist sentiments and ideals and beliefs inherent within Realism, Modernism, and Postmodernism are another matter. Each stepped closer to individual and specific portraits of events, settings, characters, though less so progressed toward reality imitation. Another factor distinguishes each and lends a literary movement its distinctive departure from other movements.

Romanticism's benchmarks orient around poetic justice and a revival of predetermination emphasis. Realism revisits free will, though with an individualized objectivity toward poetic justice. Modernism reinforces free will, slips loose from poetic justice without complete detachment, ever conscious of self-enlightenment regarding an individual's roles in and for society. Postmodernism continues the recognition of free will, lessens poetic justice's emphasis further, and most so individually self-awarely challenges and questions priorly presupposed notions of propriety.

The overall trend moves further toward a sense of morality as an individual's right to choose and acknowledging individuals' community-wide responsibility to society as the bases for respectful moral conduct. In other words, the shifting landscape of what constitutes morality is at the center of literary movement movement.

And if I were analyzing it in terms of morals and society, I would have put it precisely the other way around -- that the more "modernist" and post-whatever it becomes, the more it relies on external force -- I suppose what you call "community-wide responsibility" to achieve its goals -- the force of law and regulation rather than individual morals. Whereas to my eye, the pre-modernist focuses more on individuality and individual responsibility, and is far less deterministic. I don't think it's coincidence that the modernist movement paralleled a growing mindset that nominally decries conformity and authority but in fact enforces both to a far greater degree than what it replaced (and which I would pin on the French Revolution as the Inciting Incident).
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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
quote:
Originally posted by Reziac:
And I think that produced a different spasm of sameness, where it was all about Being Literary, and storytelling went out the window.

That's an overgeneralization if I ever heard one. I'm as much a fan of the "Good Old Stuff" as anyone, but you're seriously going to flush Harlan Ellison down the toilet (or rather his work)?
Having met and observed the man in action a few times, I just might. [Wink]

I read a bunch of this newfangled "speculative fiction" when it first came to prominence, and my overwhelming reaction was -- it's bloody boring. It talks a lot but it doesn't say anything. And that was back when I'd read anything with words, and the only book I'd ever bailed on was Travels With Charley.

Dangerous Visions had the dubious distinction of being the only anthology to date where I wound up skipping some stories, and not really liking any of them. If the main body of SF/F had gone that way, I would no longer be reading it at all. And yes, there came a point where I no longer read Le Guin (whom I'd really liked) -- the anthology with "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" did me in. Since you mention Dick, I'm not sure what sent me away from this former favorite, but at some point, I did stop reading him.

What's good for "Literary Fiction" is not necessarily good for SF/F.

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Robert Nowall
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I've got a theory that, way back when the concept of Science Fiction was created, that it spent a little too long next to the science magazines and science literature of the day...and that effected how it is presented and received down to this day.

To a certain extent, the British counterpart of Science Fiction spent that same formative time frame too close to the "lit'ry" scene...and, since it was eventually melded into Science Fiction as we know it today, it, too, had an effect on it. Some of the "New Wave," as it was called, came out of Britain.

I came across SF just as this, er, "feud"," such as it was, was starting to die down---the early 1970s. The "New Wave" as a movement died off, brought about by less-than-stellar box office, you might say---but several of the writers survived to write compelling (though still literary) work. And literary standards and practices have reemerged with newer writers.

*****

Aside from that, I enjoyed most of Dangerous Visions...lost interest in Le Guin's later work, the New Yorker period...and have great affection for Dick's short work and some novels, but have never had the nerve to read many of what are considered his greatest works...

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extrinsic
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I believe several common misapprehensions about what "literary" means are bars to where this discussion has turned. "Literary" in its simplest definition is literate expression, using alphabet letters and words, "literate" meaning persons able to read and write. Literature, likewise, is writing made and able to be read. I don't believe anyone here is illiterate and believe many Hatrackers are hyper-literate.

On the other hand, "literary" is taken to mean sophisticated, well-read writers and literature scholars and their professions.

The polemic use of "literary" often low-brow snubs sophisticated, high-brow writing above and beyond general comprehension ease. Writers in particular disparage sophisticated writing they cannot or will not understand, as much because the concepts of interpretation and intent and craft, etc., require more effort than they want to commit as because of artistic jealousies. Such resitances and jealousies are not exclusive to one or another low-brow or high-brow consensus. Oh the disparagements I've heard and read of "genre" fiction, of "literary" fiction.

I often visit art galleries in the company of low-brow sophisticates. A common sentiment expressed about some works is "It must be 'art' because I don't get it." Interpretation and explanantion at length won't bear understanding fruit at the moment. Some dig their heels in and refuse to understand at all: immediate, automatic, total, and permanent denial. Tel est la vie: such is the life.

Some will in time come to appreciate more difficult works and be all the more satisfied for working out a conundrum of confusion over appeal into a personal reasonable interpretation accommodation with intent and meaning. Because they realize any given work appeals to them or not is their right as well as duty, as well their right and duty to deny a work is art: maybe mere artisan craft, maybe under-realized, maybe, in fact, trash, according to their rights and lights. Tel est la vie.

Now, Determinism is merely a cause that determines an effect. No more, no less. An apple that lays on a counter longer than its expiration span rots and becomes alcohol or inedible, cause and effect: determinism pure and simple. Determinism is a fundamental axis of plot, causation, an essential causal relationship without which a narrative is dramaless. Determinism is universal to the main literary movements Romanticism, Realism, Modernism, and Postmodernism, not necessarily a convention of Impressionism, Naturalism, nor Dadaism and its correlary movements.

Predeterminism is another matter, despite its root word similarity to determinism. Cause is itself predetermined, preordained, fated, destined, etc. A convention of Predeterminism is accident of birth, or foreordained birth during the Romantic era. A high-born Caucasian free male in Europe was considered preordained, predetermined a noble person who could do no evil and possessed of a responsibilty to correct and control naturally misguided low-born subjects and high-born women and children, and man or woman or child chattel, and anyone beneath his station, sometimes misguided persons above his station.

Low-born persons, bonded persons, women, children, were considered naturally wicked and needful of a master's control and correction: his rule. As well, a high-born person who strayed from the noble path and fell into disrepute was subject to the judgements and condemnations and corrections, even castigations, maybe capital punishments of his peers or betters. That is Predeterminism in a nutshell, a convention of Romanticism that later literary movements diminished to varying degrees in favor of free will.

Rationalism's free will philosophy applied to contemporary eras allows a commoner or even a person under obligation duress, say debt or contractual identure in lieu of financial or other compensation, may exercise free will--free of predetermination, free of fate, free of destiny though not per se free of determinism--and not per se be treated automatically as naturally wicked. Rationalism's free will re-arises in Realism to a degree, more so in Modernism.

Free will is an individual exercise, not bound to a social moral code--community-wide mores for suitable public behavior. Exercise of individual free will as posed in Modernism is directly in conflict with community mores standards. That's the underlaying drama of Realism and Modernism, the underlaying complication wanting satisfaction that otherwise superficial surface action packages. An individual clash of free-will desires with social moral code expectations.

Now, whether any given writer mastered Modernism's conventions whenever and tells an entertaining story is a matter of individual tastes. Free will of an auditor.

To cite Phillip K. Dick, for example, as a master of Modernism's challenges overlooks strong Romanticism traces in his works, more so technique than moral cultural aesthetics, though that Dick mastered reality imitation and Modernism conventions is no less valid.

Actually, the clash of Predeterminism and free will is a center of The Man in the High Castle, its underlaying drama, though thematically mainly about the interpenetration of true and false realities, which also clash.

A claim that Dick fully realized the totality of his nonconsciously expressed meaning is short sighted. As an alternate history novel, the novel is imaginative, though at times the craft runs obliquely into mystical psychedelia. The main shortcoming of the novel for me is a lack of focal attention on a protagonist viewpoint, more external and overt narrator than internal and covert narrator, and numerous, nonfocal viewpoint agonists. That's to me a consequence of too large an inspiration packaged into too small a container, a common shortcoming of narratives generally, and one which narrative of old conventionally followed, like Romanticism, less focused on later Realism's reality imitation emphases.

[ August 28, 2014, 03:46 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Grumpy old guy
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G'day. I've come late into this discussion but one thing caught my attention:

quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
One of my writing mentors started me on a path toward understanding reality imitation methods. The general principle espoused is that a well-crafted scene contains conversation, action, description, and narration. I'd at the time already appreciated at least those modes are essential for scene writing, reality imitation; however, the reinforcement was inspirational.

Perhaps I'm blessed, at least in this area, in that I've always thought that a scene should deserve to include all of the POV agonist's sensory awareness as well as their reaction to the time, place and moment. I guess what I'm saying is that when writing a scene, be mindful of the POV character's likely reactions to everything that is going on around them.

As for accurately portraying the physical realities of the universe as we know it I am reminded of a quote about journalists: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story. The other side to that coin however is that if you are going to introduce hard science into your story, make certain it doesn't contradict what is currently known. Yes, MattLeo, I am agreeing with your sentiment, but not necessarily the need for it's constant inclusion in the story.

Phil.

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