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Monday, May 01, 2006

This mercury fountain is oddly disturbing. Yet it's just an ordinary fountain that happens to pump liquid mercury.

I was watching Walking with Prehistoric Beasts yesterday with Hunter, and thinking how if you wanted to put your space travelers down on a weird yet convincing planet, the Oligocene epoch would work rather well. Want a convincing alien? Try an intelligent elephant. Or raccoon.

We all have built-in b.s. detectors. What's most convincing is usually what's true, or what used to be true. The Klingons of Next Generation Trek are convincing because they are essentially Vikings: they're all about honor and vengeance and dying a good death in battle. The Klingons of Classic Trek are less convincing, because no human society has ever survived that cherishes betrayal and deceit.

If you want a convincing alternate reality, often you don't have to go very far. My rule of thumb is: change one thing. Just because you have space travel doesn't mean you have to revert to Empire. You can have space travel without even having a world government. The US has colonies, Europe has colonies, the Chinese have colonies. Why not? It worked that way in the 18th Century, didn't it? And the less you change, the less our b.s. detectors will go off, and the more convincingly you'll be able to write your characters.

Of course, cartoons can work, too. Star Wars is still one of my favorite pictures of all time.


And just like the 18th century, those colonies will eventually turn on the mother planet and become independent entities...

But of course, before that independence there would be a lot of piracy and battles for resources and territory.

And who says it will be governments that make the big leap into space? How about multinational corporations that have privatized the exploration and industrialization of other worlds?

By Blogger Bill Cunningham, at 12:21 PM  

What kind of safety do they have around that fountain? Looking at that thing is like looking at a black widow. It's fascinating, but I can't stop thinking how dangerous it is.

By Blogger Erik, at 4:54 PM  

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