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  • #31
    Another Vorlon thing that touched Za'ha'dum was Kosh's piece inside Sheridan, of course...
    I'd agree that the simpler explanation of booby-trapped Vorlon origin things killing Shadows could work... except that their rules of engagement apparently excluded direct confrontation (the Vorlons bent the rules by joining the battles 1,000 years before, maybe in response to the Shadows using their battlecrabs to sow chaos, and they did it again only at Sheridan's insistence in "Interludes and Examinations". Only when Sheridan opened the door by attacking Z'ha'dum they actually started to fight it out openly).
    So I'm more inclined to think that such Shadow's belief was more a sign of their bitter enmity with the Vorlons, maybe an exageration for effect, or even simpler: They wanted to prevent John Sheridan from having an easy escape or an arsenal at his command on the ground... they just didn't think of the remote control way he achieved it.


    We could argue the many definitions of SF and never agree on one, which is something that writers, critics and fans have done for years. The one that mentions the "willing suspension of disbelief" was first made by Sam Moskowitz, and is one often quoted in discussion about defining SF.

    When it comes to defining Science Fiction I prefer those definitions that either don't mention fantasy or mention it in a qualified/restricted way, to draw a distinction between "straight fantasy" and science fiction.

    It seems that the acronym SF, closely related to the renaming of the field as "Speculative Fiction," has become a sort of all inclusive label that includes Fantasy.
    I am not impressed by The Matrix, but that's a topic we might address some day at the "Off topic" forum. To me The Matrix is another exampe of "science fantasy" that confuses the average person's mind about what SF is (same for Star Wars and Star Trek).

    When writing sci-fi one must "evolve" or predict science into the future
    I'm not fond of calling SF "predictive" at all. In my opinion SF writers aren't really trying to predict the future (those that believe their fiction is true are wacky... the results are things like L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology). Intelligent and well informed SF writers will many times extrapolate trends in science and society into fictions that become reality, but in many cases those would be self-fulfilling prophecies, where the stories inspire people to go in scientific research and test those ideas. In other cases they could simply arrive from the same information to the same ideas that researches get (remember that many hard SF writers are practicing scientists or started that way), the difference being that researchers actually make those ideas work, while SF writers turn them into stories. And writers like Benford sometimes take far out speculation from their own research (ideas they can't prove or test in the course of their work) as the basis for their SF too.

    Another tennet of modern Science Fiction: nanotechnology, a concept much misunderstood (the "machine phase nanotechnology" of Drexler is considered doubtful, even impossible, by many scientists), and sometimes abused as a deus ex machina (e.g. Jake 2.0, I saw a few early episodes and couldn't bear to watch more. It think it was a mediocre sci-fi TV show that deserved its cancellation), that has become part of the common motifs of SF.
    Such... is the respect paid to science that the most absurd opinions may become current, provided they are expressed in language, the sound of which recalls some well-known scientific phrase
    James Clerk Maxwell (1831-79)

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    • #32
      <<Another tennet of modern Science Fiction: nanotechnology, a concept much misunderstood (the "machine phase nanotechnology" of Drexler is considered doubtful, even impossible, by many scientists), and sometimes abused as a deus ex machina (e.g. Jake 2.0, I saw a few early episodes and couldn't bear to watch more. It think it was a mediocre sci-fi TV show that deserved its cancellation), that has become part of the common motifs of SF.>>

      Tell me what real nano is. I am interested.

      As for Jake 2.0, I could tell it was a stinker just by the commercials. It's was like a rip-off of My Secret Identity, only trying to be serious (sort of).
      Recently, there was a reckoning. It occurred on November 4, 2014 across the United States. Voters, recognizing the failures of the current leadership and fearing their unchecked abuses of power, elected another party as the new majority. This is a first step toward preventing more damage and undoing some of the damage already done. Hopefully, this is as much as will be required.

      Comment


      • #33
        Originally posted by Capt.Montoya

        We could argue the many definitions of SF and never agree on one, which is something that writers, critics and fans have done for years. The one that mentions the "willing suspension of disbelief" was first made by Sam Moskowitz, and is one often quoted in discussion about defining SF.
        Now, that's one bit of truth! When defining "good" music Duke EllingtonÆs maxim was that ôif it sounds good, it is good." This really works with any artistic field, I think. IMO, part of the problem with defining Sci-Fi is that there is no "bright line" between science fiction and fantasy. I think it was Philip Hose Farmer that had all the dead souls coming back to Riverworld through technology, and Anne McCaffrey created fire-breathing dragons through bio-genetics. There are a number of stories that can safely be declared Sci-Fi or Fantasy, but the majority fall in the middle. What seems like an extrapolation of science to one comes across as a flight of fancy to another. And after all, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." (IIRC, Arthur C. Clarke was credited with this.) All this is really why I like Speculative Fiction as a descriptive label.
        "That was the law, as set down by Valen. Three castes: worker, religious, warrior."

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        • #34
          Capt M-

          Kosh inside of Sheridan.......how did I forget THAT? Good one! But I still don't remember what we're talking about when we refer to booby traps. Shadow defense mechanisms, yes - but booby traps? Oh well, could anyone fill me in on this matter?

          Oh, another thing. It wasn't Eyes that the Cantauri prophet came to B5, it was Signs and Portents. That's what I get for posting in a hurry and not checking ALL my references. Would've thought someone would nail me for that one.

          Hey Kevin old pal, you're slacking off! haha!
          "The cat is not evil for killing the rat, nor is the rat evil for stealing the grain. Each acts according to its nature." Master Po - Kung Fu:TOS

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          • #35
            What is real nano?
            A very hard question. Most current researchers at universities, national labs and research centers are working with nanomaterials and nanostructures without any serious attempt at creating the Drexlerian nanobots. Also consider that the National Nanotechnology Initiative set for funding of nanotech research by the US government doesn't fund any project on molecular assembler "nanobots."
            Som examples of the kind of work I see as real nanotechnology is in the areas of carbon nanotubes, fullerenes, quantum dots, nanoparticles, nanostructures on electronics, nanostructures with DNA, molecular electronics (using molecules as circuits, instead of silicon). The field of carbon nanotubes by itself is very vast, they are being researched as fiber reinforcements for composite materials, in molecular electronics, as field emission tips (to replace cathode ray tubes as the electron source, which may find application in flat panel displays), in non-linear optics, etc. Many nanomaterials are being researched for medical applications, such as drug delivery and novel sensors for diagnostics, there are several nanoparticle sized materials already in use.
            The thing with nanosized materials is that their properties can be quite different from that of bulk materials (where the particle sizes are in the micrometer or millimeter range) simply because of size. Materials made from those nanoparticles have in most cases improved properties, sometimes new properties.
            The production of electronics, whether it is circuits by lithography or magnetic memory devices (e.g. hard drives) has reached a stage where it can be called nanotechnology (for example the lithography lines in advanced computer chips are now just 90 nm wide).

            The most common misunderstanding of nanotechnology is the "grey goo" scenario of self-replicating machines taking over and reassembling the all the world into copies of the nanobots (Greg Bear used that in "Blood Music" for example).
            Interestingly I found that Drexler himself is now coming against the "grey goo" idea (and he originated the warning against it when trying to foresee the ultimate implications of nanotechnological assemblers) and saying that the whole concept of self-replicating assemblers is not essential for molecular nanotechnology and it's not being developed.
            http://www.iop.org/EJ/news/-topic=763/journal/0957-4484

            Scientific American has a page that collects several articles and news on Nanotechnology.
            http://www.sciam.com/nanotech/
            The article "Little Big Science" may be a good introductory overview (I read it back when it was first published).

            I've always thought that the data crystals used in B5 might be a nanomaterial/nanostructure based memory device, maybe a molecular electronics based memory system. This is just a rationalization on my part, unsupported by any part of B5 canon as far as I know.

            Now about what is Science Fiction, I tend to go with Damon Knight's definition
            "Science Fiction is what I mean when I point to it."
            The truth is that for SF readers and writers it's easy to recognize what SF is.
            Phillip Jose Farmer's Riverworld saga had reincarnation of souls, true... but maybe not if you read the very last book, I won't spoil that for any that haven't read the series (it's a very good one, and I think it has been republished recently, worth looking for it).
            I do agree that there can be a fine line between Science Fiction and Fantasy, and some fine examples of SF can be called Science Fantasy (Jack Vance's "Dying Earth" series reads like fantasy, but a point embedded in the books is that the magic used in that world is the result of science developed centuries ago), but there is a line, and even if it is crossed sometimes and is hard to define there is a difference. Science Fiction deals with the probable for the most part, the suspension of disbelief is justified by speculation on science (if the technology is so advanced as to appear like magic the story has to contain some information linking it to science for the reader to accept), while in fantasy the speculation is not bound by it, magic requires no explanation, the reader just accepts it, things that are technically impossible, or even contradict scientific knowledge form part of fantasy but can't be part of science fiction (unless you provide a very good explanation).

            Since we are into definitions: I side myself with those that use the term "sci-fi" to refer to film or other media. Given the examples of most sci-fi movies and TV programs (and overall programming in the SciFi channel) I am of the opinion that sci-fi is inferior to written SF. You could say that I am a hard-science-fiction snob.

            Jake 2.0 used nanotechnology as a deus ex machina (Jake could interface magically with any technology and had superhuman strenght and speed), I wanted to see if it wouldn't but it did, and there were some stereotypical characters and storytelling so I gave up in disgust. His use of "nanotechnomagically enhanced" habilities was transparently subordinated to the plot (he wouldn't use his force before taking a dramatical beating for example). It pretended to be more like "Six Million Dollar Man" than "My Secret Identity" BTW.

            Going back to B5: the lower gravity in Mars was another detail glossed over (the actors may have had to walk funny to simulate it), JMS gave an ad hoc explanation (something like: the characters had been on Mars before so they knew how to walk right under the lower gravity). I think that simulating partial gravity may be the hardest special effect to achieve (I have not seen it done convincingly) so I don't hold that against B5. They indeed tried to be close to real science.

            BTD: The idea of booby traps came from Andrew Swallow, when trying to explain why Shadows would think that touching anything Vorlon related would kill them he suggested booby-trapped Vorlon origin items as the basis. As I said above I don't believe that was the case.
            Such... is the respect paid to science that the most absurd opinions may become current, provided they are expressed in language, the sound of which recalls some well-known scientific phrase
            James Clerk Maxwell (1831-79)

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            • #36
              Originally posted by Capt.Montoya
              {snip}
              BTD: The idea of booby traps came from Andrew Swallow, when trying to explain why Shadows would think that touching anything Vorlon related would kill them he suggested booby-trapped Vorlon origin items as the basis. As I said above I don't believe that was the case.
              They obviously were not Germen's attacking Britain or had some American military training.
              Andrew Swallow

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              • #37
                Wow, Cap'n Monty, you wrote a novel there. Yeah, I didn't think nano was just "nanites" like in the contrived plot in TNG concerning the Borg. It's just small stuff, in layman's terms. Hmmm...

                As for hard sci-fi...I do not like it much, and let me tell you why. My late father read a lot of hard SF and probably understood it all. The problem with written SF is that the writers are mainly preaching to the choir. I get lost sometimes reading the stuff. The characters always seem...detached, like the technology and science is the focus. I don't know if Heinlen is considered "hard" (I wouldn't) but I loved Starship Troopers. I still can't believe it was written in 1959 (or published at least). I tried to read the Rama series after my dad suggested it (this was when I was still in high school) and I just couldn't get into it. I am not exactly a "sci-fi fan." More like a fan of wonderful, character-driven shows with a larger-than-life story, which most of the time is sci-fi. So there it is.
                Recently, there was a reckoning. It occurred on November 4, 2014 across the United States. Voters, recognizing the failures of the current leadership and fearing their unchecked abuses of power, elected another party as the new majority. This is a first step toward preventing more damage and undoing some of the damage already done. Hopefully, this is as much as will be required.

                Comment


                • #38
                  Originally posted by Capt.Montoya
                  {Way too much interesting and relevant information to quote in a meaningful way }
                  Some great thoughts, and the info of the state of nano technology was very interesting. About science fictionà IÆm thinking that I couldÆve made my previous point better. Farmer and McCaffery I was mentioning as stories where traditionally fantasy elements were presented and shown to be technology based. I was seeing them as a stepping stone to stories where elements that could be considered fantasy arenÆt specifically explained as technology, but could turn out to be part of the natural universe we live in once our understanding and science catches up. To me, that seemed to be the category that telepathy falls into. Is it fantasy or science fiction? Another recurring item would be computers with souls (ôAdolescence of P1ö, ôThe Moon is a Harsh Mistressö, ôThe Jesus Incidentö, ôThe Two Faces of Tomorrowö, etc.) Again, fantasy or science fiction? Some people believe that these items must be fantasy because they could never fit within the natural universe, others believe that it is an inevitable progression, and many are open to the possibility. ThatÆs where I feel that there isnÆt a ôbright lineö division û different peopleÆs classification of the elements. I mentioned in an earlier post that ôThe Moon is a Harsh Mistressö was one of my all-time favorites. In my mind, itÆs hard science fiction, but thatÆs because I can believe in the possibility of a conscious being developing from computer technology. Likewise, I can believe in the possibility of empathy and telepathy (I admit, I have a harder time with telekinesis J so that ôfeelsö a little more like fantasy to me.)

                  BTW, I havenÆt been posting here long, but I appreciate everyone accepting me into discussions that are really thought provoking and fun! Thanks!
                  "That was the law, as set down by Valen. Three castes: worker, religious, warrior."

                  Comment


                  • #39
                    Incoming Opinion

                    Really, its all just a means of conveying the story anyways - and its thought prevoking, so whether its organic-warships, telepaths, jumpgates, aliens or really big explosions in space, its a heck of alot more interesting than watching a collection of drab, uninspired soap operas or cop shows.

                    Bottomline = Damn good story telling.

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                    • #40
                      More thoughts on Hard Science Fiction and some on telepathy

                      Have you heard of how hard SF has inspired people to get into a scientific career?
                      Count me in among them (it wasn't the main inspiration, but it helped).
                      I don't read hard SF analyzing it for fidelity to science, I do catch up a few slip-ups or liberties sometimes (particularly when they refer to chemistry, my field of study), I have learned a few science facts from SF, but in many cases I'm just lef wondering at what point in the ideas presented the division between real science and speculation/extrapolation is.

                      In lots of good hard SF the science is an invisible background. To go back to Ann McCaffrey's Pern, I read that before she wrote the story she carefully developed the scientific background (even as far as calculating planetary orbits) with the help of editor John W. Campbell. Similarly Hal Clement's "Mission of Gravity" had a lot of thought behind it that is not exposed in the book, but constrains and decides some parts of the story to make it consistent with the science behind.

                      The Rama series is better after the first book I think. Clarke is a great big idea writer but he is still sometimes deficient in character development. The sequels are later works, and in collaboration, I think that's why they have better character development.

                      The "classical" hard SF, around the 1940s to the early 1960s did have problems with characterization. Heinlein started his career back then and has always been considered a "hard SF" writer. I think he was an exception to the rule of deficient character development for the most part. Heinlein is usually credited with making the exposition of science behind the story better, more seamless, maybe that's why you don't perceive him as a hard SF writer Z'ha'dum Dweller.

                      The "New wave" of the 1960s elevated the literary standards of SF (that movement also introduced the term "speculative fiction"), their intent of reforming the field succeeded in making characterization more important. Many short hard SF stories are still "story ideas" where the characters are sketeched just enough to carry the story, but in most novels by hard SF writers the characters are now quite well developed.

                      An early example of a character driven story where a lot of thought went into building a world and an ecology based on real science is the Dune series.

                      Gregory Benford is a good example of hard SF writers that have good character development. Michael Flynn's near future hard SF series about going back to space through private ventures (Firestar, Rogue Star, Lodestar, Falling Stars) is a very good story that tries to be close to real science and also has lots of character development (so much that at times it overtakes plot development in my opinion, only an inconvenience if you didn't care to know what happens to those characters).

                      A great collection that gives an overview of the development and breadth of hard SF is "The Ascent of Wonder" edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer. The introductory essays to the anthology and notes for the stories are available online:
                      http://ebbs.english.vt.edu/exper/kcramer/aow.html
                      It's an anthology that I have in my collection, it took me several months of on and off reading to finish. I mention this here because the notes on McCaffrey's "Weyr Search" are the ones that alerted me to the hard SF background of the world of Pern.

                      Now, I have a marked preference for hard SF, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy other kinds, nor that I think a story is worthless if it stems from scientifically impossible concepts. I really enjoy many works published during the "New Wave" and still read those authors.
                      In the end what matters is that the story is good.


                      Now back to the topic of telepathy on B5:

                      Going with the thoughts I put above I'd say that telepathy can be science fiction if the concept is rationalized and shrouded in some scientific justification (however tenuous and debatable that may be). In Babylon 5 it was justified as a genetic modification by the Vorlons, but the actual mechanism for telepathy left as a mistery. Given the assumption that the Vorlons have millions of years of advancement the magic of telepathy is accepted as suficiently advanced technology. I can live with that, I agree with Cronan, it really is a good means of conveying the story and damn good storytelling.
                      Such... is the respect paid to science that the most absurd opinions may become current, provided they are expressed in language, the sound of which recalls some well-known scientific phrase
                      James Clerk Maxwell (1831-79)

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                      • #41
                        Speaking of the Vorlons, two questions:

                        When will we ever see a female Vorlon? (they do exist, I can dig up the jms quote if necessary)
                        And why are there no Vorlon telepaths?
                        Last edited by CRONAN; 06-16-2004, 11:36 PM.

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                        • #42
                          Yeah, Heinlen never struck me as hard. I mean, I almost read Starship Troopers in one sitting. How can you not get into the Johnny Rico character? It is a great book. Too bad the movie was "modernized" and we got the jackass doctor kid with the damn computer and a babyfaced punk as Johhny.

                          I noticed that later in his carrer, Heinlen turned into something of a dirty old man. Look at the premises of some of his later books.
                          Recently, there was a reckoning. It occurred on November 4, 2014 across the United States. Voters, recognizing the failures of the current leadership and fearing their unchecked abuses of power, elected another party as the new majority. This is a first step toward preventing more damage and undoing some of the damage already done. Hopefully, this is as much as will be required.

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                          • #43
                            <<When will we ever see a female Vorlon? (they do exist, I can dig up the jms quote if necessary)>>

                            He said the concept is irrelevant, but that some do appear as female.

                            <<And why are there no Vorlon telepaths?>>

                            ...
                            Recently, there was a reckoning. It occurred on November 4, 2014 across the United States. Voters, recognizing the failures of the current leadership and fearing their unchecked abuses of power, elected another party as the new majority. This is a first step toward preventing more damage and undoing some of the damage already done. Hopefully, this is as much as will be required.

                            Comment


                            • #44
                              Weren't all the Vorlons telepathic? Or was anything ever said about it? It was implied that the Vorlons had a telpathic link with their ships. Ulkesh's ship started tearing apart bay 13 during the big attack, so it was definitely in contact with Ulkesh, although I suppose it may not have been via telepathy. But in the novels it sure seemed like the Vorlons have a mind link with their ships. Lyta also claimed the Thirdspace aliens were all telepathic (not that it has anything to do with the Vorlons), but personally I've always perceived the Thirdspace aliens to be more similar to the Vorlons than the Shadows.
                              "The cat is not evil for killing the rat, nor is the rat evil for stealing the grain. Each acts according to its nature." Master Po - Kung Fu:TOS

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                              • #45
                                <<Weren't all the Vorlons telepathic?>>

                                Hence my ellipsis.
                                Recently, there was a reckoning. It occurred on November 4, 2014 across the United States. Voters, recognizing the failures of the current leadership and fearing their unchecked abuses of power, elected another party as the new majority. This is a first step toward preventing more damage and undoing some of the damage already done. Hopefully, this is as much as will be required.

                                Comment

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