I shamelessly used most of the Sci-Fi clichÃ©s, but I always kept a deep respect for real science, and real drama. This conflict eventually became an issue I couldnâ€™t avoid any longer about 1985. The editors of Sci-Fi for a generation have fallen in love with their own â€˜literaryâ€™ wisdom, which is far off the mark, and deceptive; more on the order of pandering profitably to the lowest common denominator: people who comprehend neither science nor drama. The dirty little secret is that you canâ€™t pay to make Sci-fi fans attend a Real Science Presentation, which I used to present at Sci-Fi Cons with a Physics professor partner from Guilford College (now deceased early and much missed). The problem with SF is that the more liberties you take with reality to make a story possible at all, the less meaningful becomes whatever human point the story makes, which is the only one worth making. This Sci-Fi habit is a direct descendent of 1920s Pulp Fiction â€“ and they just moved the exotic locations further off when the old ones became tired from being better known in the real world, and eventually off-world. As the planets ran out, determined uninhabitable, well, then, on to the stars, and when they got too far off, we skipped off to Fantasy which isnâ€™t anywhere at all, and we get to use magic spells. So Tarzan of darkest Africa morphed into Jon Carter of Mars and there he got ray-guns instead of boom-sticks and spears, and could then fly around on Pterodactyls, instead of wearing a loincloth and swinging from the trees on vines. Note that the babes in briefs didnâ€™t change: thatâ€™s the key! And if the heroines wear overalls today, thatâ€™s only because itâ€™s politically correct.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â These kinds of things donâ€™t bother me at all about Comics, because Comics has been slowly, painfully, and steadily working itself UP FROM Pulp and juvenilia, while Sci-Fi digs itself deeper into it, rabidly denying its roots. When I asked around, about the multiple authors now featured in 500-page potboilers of today, my source suggested they had fallen so far that they were copping rejected Hollywood and TV scripts and they had to list all the contract script writers and revisers in the credits. This isnâ€™t a statement about me at all, but about a corporate merchandising background which has slunk under a damp rock.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The trouble with casting pearls before swine is that when they elect you Man of the Year, all you get for it is a lifetime supply of chitterlings.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The trouble with bashing Sci-Fi is that itâ€™s like whacking a piÃ±ata without a blindfold; when it busts, the candy that spews out is like the stuff Uncle Einar sends us on Christmas from Baku, which is inedible â€“ even the dogs refuse it.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â So, enjoy:
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1. Humans become infinite in number and Rule the entire universe. (Frank Herbert, Dune+etc.). That isnâ€™t a miracle, itâ€™s a disease. Second, it requires infinite time to happen, which nobody has. OK, Man is Special â€“ but only because humans think so. The universe doesnâ€™t, and it doesnâ€™t make exceptions to fit collective egos. We have to pay our way. This also takes infinite energy, while we donâ€™t handle limited energy all that well even on one planet. We canâ€™t feed the people weâ€™ve got.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Or, wonâ€™t. Wonâ€™t evokes realism, not sci-fi. And canâ€™t evokes real science and real policy which always translates into pain for somebody.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 2. With â€˜enough energyâ€™, we can travel faster than light and visit far worlds, which are always woo-woo exotic and have â€˜culturesâ€™ which always looks like academic and intellectual hot stuff, but isnâ€™t. No real or credible science evidence nor engineering has ever been observed which supports this. The only known and confirmed entities which move even AT the speed of light have no rest mass (photons). As a â€˜realâ€™ non-zero mass approaches the speed of light, the mass thins to infinity along the direction of motion, expands infinitely at right angles to motion in a surface, the original mass becomes infinite, and Time, subjectively, for it, slows to infinity. See Einstein. And Quantum Theory. Warps? Forget it. Same energy problem. You can curse it, but you canâ€™t top Physics. The breakthroughs will come, but not from Sci-fi.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 3. Spaceships have â€˜force field generatorsâ€™ which provide artificial gravity which enables people to walk around inside (but not outside) as if they had good sense. Please. Gravity isnâ€™t a force, itâ€™s a structural curvature of four-dimensional Spacetime caused solely by the existence of Mass and density. (Einstein et al.). Some stellar-mass and black hole disturbances in spacetime can cause â€œgravity wavesâ€ to propagate through spacetime, but they also move at the speed of light and have no rest mass either. In fact, they donâ€™t even exist, independently of Spacetime. Bill M., A fellow I grew up with who majored in physics, kindly explained all this to me in 1963, that dark age. There is â€œno force at distanceâ€ to Gravity. To generate a â€œgravityâ€ at 1 G, you will need a simulate a mass comparable to the mass of planet Earth, and then â€˜arrangeâ€™ it so it forms a plane surface. And then drag it around with you. No, no, Nanette.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 4. Creatures will be mutated up to order, really â€œchangingâ€ them to something â€œmore evolvedâ€. Sorry, but existing genetics isnâ€™t about Â â€˜advancingâ€™ mutations. We donâ€™t advance anything (whatever that might mean) using genetics. Evolution cannot be experimentally engineered forwards yet, and possibly never. Itâ€™s not the DNA, itâ€™s the successful subsequent genome expression interaction with the total environment which we donâ€™t yet understand even on the planet we have. What we do is force reproduction to a limited set of characteristics advantageous to us, and ignore the rest, winding up with a lessened species which canâ€™t survive without artificial environments. Are We Not Men? With animals, breeding for docility and cooperation inevitably diminishes brain size and species level of intelligence. Dogs are great socialized companions, I rescue Basset Hounds, and I love mine deeply, but Wolves, from whence Dogs come, have larger brains and display not only a significantly deeper intelligence, but one which is fine-tuned to its natural survival in the wild. The Russians have replicated this in the lab with Siberian Foxes. Forty generations gets you affectionate, cute pets who canâ€™t survive in the wild. I tried this once in a published story, and the underlying message, which nobody heard, was if you could do that, from DNA, youâ€™d have no imaginable concept about what youâ€™d get as result. You might get something cute that could take you apart like a ten dollar watch from Macao. â€œTo Serve Manâ€ (Nelson Bond) was a SF story about a cookbook, and well said, too.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 5. Sci-Fi has dragons, with riders, in a â€˜normalâ€™ atmosphere, and TV Sci-fi movies have large Pterodactyls flying in ordinary air.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Once again from the top: For the love of God, Montresor: Physics.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The largest flying living creatures today in our atmosphere, of one Barr pressure, are very large birds â€“ the Andean Condor, the Kori Bustard,Â and the Trumpeter Swan; Â all in the range of 14.5 kilograms mass, with wingspans of around 4 meters. Nothing larger, heavier, and why? The answer is two entities â€“ the energy required to power airborne flight against gravity, and the density of the atmosphere. Oxygen helps too. There is a fine old equation to cover this and it works for everything both alive or manufactured, from Bumblebees and gnats to 747 jumbo jets and Airbusses.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â So how could real pterodactyls in the real past fly? Easy, Alteresio: the air pressure was higher in the Jurassic and Cretaceous â€“ now believed to be as high as 3.7 â€“ 5.0 Barr at sea level and dropping. The Pterodactyls died out before the final dinosaurs. (Levenspiel, Oregon State, 2000). Big 100 kg pterodactyls with 12-meter wingspans and predator dispositions fly fine at those pressures. So let us prey. In this recent theory, now being explored for corroborating evidence (and finding it), Earth may well have began with atmospheric pressure in the beginning like Venus â€“ 900-1000 Barr, which CO2 was gradually absorbed by the oceans and by the processes of continental drift recycling over four billion years. Venus had neither sufficient water nor continental drift, so its still 900 Barr of CO2 there. On Earth in the Carboniferous, six-foot cockroaches flew. Today, one and a half inch cockroaches fly, but not well. So, sorry. And the eagles didnâ€™t carry the Hobbits, either. Boo! The only thing The Eagles carry is a tune. Hotel California! Those Shoes! 4.0 Barr pressure isnâ€™t appealing, either.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 6.Â Stargate Universe, now on TV, has a crew accidentally â€˜gatedâ€™ onto a mysterious ship which is an unknown distance very far away, and which is steering its own course through Ferdinand Feghootâ€™s time and space, FTL and all. Yawn â€“ another â€˜lost in spaceâ€™ retread. But the kicker is that the human â€˜crewâ€™ hopes to take control of the technology which built the magic ship. Man beats machine! This isnâ€™t about superior technology. Itâ€™s about human egotism. Something closer to realism might be that genuine superior technology might not even be recognizable asÂ technology, and it can almost certainly be assumed to be as dangerous to us as the intersection of I-85 and I-40 is to Deer. Entertainment â€“ theyâ€™ve got young and fulsome babes, and a mad scientist, too. Would the Rockettes help? Wayne Newton as MC? Tune in next week. The gates are instant transmission lines point to point with no time lost, either.
â€œScienceâ€ TV Programs
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 6. The Andromeda Galaxy is going to crash into the Milky Way and cause cosmic damage. â€œWE will see total chaosâ€¦ Â Itâ€™s moving a million miles an hour!â€, excitedly exclaimed the Hot Babe commentator. Black Holes maneuvering like linebackers! Quasars!
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The Andromeda Galaxy is Two Million light-years away, and even if it moved at the speed of light, it would still take two million years to get here (duh) and WE wonâ€™t see anything. Donâ€™t stay up for it. Worse, a â€˜million miles an hourâ€™ is only 0.27% light-speed so it will actually take more than 500 million years to get here, which is the same time-span on Earth as between now and the Preambrian Period, from which nothing has survived alive to see anything today, and we wonâ€™t be around 500 million years forwards, either. So let it rip! SRO!
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The Sure bet: buy your comics from Acme and carry them off with pride. At least the artwork requires talent and craft, and that has never failed me since WW2.
M.A. Foster is the author of several science fiction novels including Gameplayers of Zan and The Morphodite. He spent over sixteen years as a Captain and Russian linguist in the U.S. Air Force and has seen and done more than most of us will do in two or three lifetimes. M.A. has been a patron of Acme Comics for almost twenty five years and is always a welcome and familiar face that brings cheer and credibility to these dark and uncertain times. Mr. Foster was also the originator of the name "Lord Retail" for which Jermaine is eternally grateful.