MetaCognitions | Fictional Plot Devices

I’ve noticed something worth avoiding in writing anything approaching good speculative fiction: never explain too much, be economic with any explanation you do, and only explain, by showing, not telling, what actually needs explaining.

I notice a failure to do that in some of my earlier fiction of even a few months ago, much less from years back, not consistently, but often enough to cause concern. Mostly it happens with a piece that I spend only a couple of hours on, in total writing, editing, and proofreading time; almost always a hastily written piece or two when a deadline looms. That’s bad form when it occurs.

But what sort of things ought not to be explained?

For example, there are the Heisenberg compensators of Star Trek used by transporter technology, that offer a nod to the quantum mechanical problems of teleportation without being explained as to how they work, which is good use of rubber science technobabble that adds to, not subtracts from, the feel of the story.

It’s good to acknowledge real science even when not strictly conforming to it. It’s one of the hallmarks of any good SF franchise.

Another would be the Holzmann effect of Frank Herbert’s Dune series, using variations of that phenomenon’s name in different books of the series. It’s cleverly never explained in any detail, but serves the background and feel of realism of the setting very well. Again, a nod to science without spoiling the fun with an explanation which would likely backfire as seeming contrived and even less consistent with real-world science. As a plot device permitting rapid space travel and personal force-screens, enabling the plot by fostering willing suspension of disbelief, it works well for that reason.

From my own writing, like my Gods of Terra setting, both old timeline and the current reboot, there’s the Kurtz-Dunar effect, named for scientists Raoul Kurtz of Terra and Ranan Dunar of Sirug, permitting cheap, safe, and efficient surface-to-orbit and interstellar travel, and personal teleportation via short-range warps in space-time, among other things.

It’s annoying when I see something over-explained elsewhere and annoying when I do it myself as well, especially the latter.

After all, if I really knew how the Kurtz-Dunar effect, or ancient relic technology like hypershards, actually worked, I wouldn’t be using them as plot devices in my fiction, but instead building and testing working prototypes under contract from DARPA! and I am quite obviously not doing that . . .

So, the more shone, not told, and the more economic that is, only what furthers the story, the better.

That’ll do for me, one story at a time, no matter what region of space-time, and which space-time continuum, is involved.

Mr. Eccles Presents | Mindscape: Heredity, DNA, and Editing Genes

Published on Aug 6, 2018


“Blog post:… Our understanding of heredity and genetics is improving at blinding speed. It was only in the year 2000 that scientists obtained the first rough map of the human genome: 3 billion base pairs of DNA with about 20,000 functional genes. Today, you can send a bit of your DNA to companies such as 23andMe and get a report on your personal genome (ancestry, health risks) for about $200. Technologies like CRISPR are allowing scientists to edit genes, not just map them. Science writer Carl Zimmer has been following these advances for years, and has recently written a comprehensive book about heredity: She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity. We talk about how our understanding of heredity has changed over the years, how there is much more to inheritance than simply listing all the information we pass down in our DNA, and what the future might hold in a world where genetic manipulation becomes widespread.”
“Carl Zimmer is a leading science writer whose work regularly appears in The New York Times, National Geographic, The Atlantic, and elsewhere. He is the author of thirteen books, including a university-level textbook on evolutionary biology. He has been awarded prizes and fellowships by the National Academy of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Guggenheim Foundation, among others. He teaches as an adjunct professor at Yale University.”

Mr. Eccles Presents | Mindscape: Threats to Liberal Democracy

Published on Jul 30, 2018

Blog post (w/ audio player):…

“Both words in the phrase “liberal democracy” carry meaning, and both concepts are under attack around the world. “Democracy” means that the people rule, while “liberal” (in this sense) means that the rights of individuals are protected, even if they’re not part of the majority. Recent years have seen the rise of an authoritarian/populist political movement in many Western democracies, one that scapegoats minorities in the name of the true “will of the people.” Yascha Mounk is someone who has been outspoken from the start about the dangers posed by this movement, and what those of us who support the ideals of liberal democracy can do about it. Among other things, we discuss how likely it is that liberal democracy could ultimately fail even in as stable a country as the United States.”

“Yascha Mounk received his Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University. He is a Lecturer on Government at Harvard, a Senior Fellow in the Political Reform Program at New America, and Executive Director at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. His most recent book is The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It.”

Logico Fractatus | Hypertwist & Other Monstrosities

Vanakkam. I’ve more images this time, courtesy of Frax Pro on my iPad. These are a bit strange-looking, mostly closely-zoomed Julia sets chosen from weird regions of the classic Mandelbrot set, as is the image used for this post’s graphic header above.

Tf. Tk. Tts. or in marginally passable romanized Tamil…

naan pooyittu varaenga







Swirls Down Below

Mongo Fiction | the Last Dance (conclusion)

Meenakshi fell to the floor, fatally injured, as she took the shot. She met Than’yhidre’s gaze one last time, her lips trying to form words. “ … all yours now … ” she seemed to say, the rest indecipherable as the light of consciousness left her eyes and all went silent for the briefest of moments.

From nanobots housed in her bloodstream, Than’yhidre extruded two yutagaatku, a pair of Kai’Siri knives with handgrips like archaic brass knuckles but braced against her forearms. She was never, ever, entirely unarmed. “You utter refuse!” She growled beneath her breath as her ruby eyes showed purest and utterly focused rage, “You killed her. My cousin! You. Killed. My. Cousin!” That last resonated in the chamber as she leapt with perfect timing.

She had done this many times before on camera, but there would be no audience to which to directly simulcast this event.

She moved gracefully as she spun about and then took out a synthedroid, splitting it from crotch to crown with a perfectly choreographed slice upward to its torso.

“You garbage! You took me. You sold me like chattel. You stole my past!” Her implanted fangs were clearly visible as she smiled, her gaze cold and lethal as the void. “So I’ll take something from you!”

She spun, easily blocking an arm of a multi-limbed synthedroid before driving a knife upward, first into its jaw and from there into its metal skull and nanooptical brain core instantly “killing” it.

She stood her ground as Shad3 drew a weapon from behind its desk and fired, missing her as she moved again and severed the broogh’s weapon hand with one swing, then parting head from neck with another. It was over in seconds, as bodies littered the room, unmoving and silent.

She flicked her weapons clean of blood and machine lubricant before restoring them, nanobot by nanobot, to her bloodstream.

She also took with her footage of the struggle and files of the company’s data taken after it.

In the week that followed, Than’yhidre arranged for and attended Meenakshi’s funeral before taking her shuttle back to Sirug.

Her producer looked up from her desk as a package of data was slapped down in front of her. Than’yhidre was there, looking down on her. “Than’y, what is the meaning of? …” she tried to say.

Than’yhidre had another idea. Those can be dangerous.

“Here’s enough footage to last one more episode of the show as per my contract, my final episode, with enough of smoking gun evidence to convict the entire ring that took me from Terra many years ago. I quit. I’m through with televised combat, through with this whole fucking industry.” She hissed. “And my name isn’t Than’yhidre — it’s Lavyani Arulpragasam. I’m Tamil, Tellusine, not Kai’Siri. And do pray that you don’t try to make me come back. If I step foot in this office ever again, it’s with enforcers of a tribunal to drag you out of here in cuffs for contract violations. Yes, I do read the fine print, and I’ve made enough money in this vile, rotten business to afford good lawyers, too. Goodbye!”

Than’yhidre – Lavyani – turned and left the room the way she entered; graceful, proud, and angry, leaving behind the only life she’d known before going back to Terra. And now the show was over. She was free now. And free she would remain until she drew her final breath.



Mongo Fiction | The Last Dance, Part 8

Meenakshi and Than’yhidre woke in silence, save for the sound of dripping water in a puddle from overhead pipes in what appeared to be a dank cell, complete with paracrete walls, and vaguely smelling of moss. 

“Where?” Meenakshi began, then recalled the stuggle with the synthedroids. “Oh. They must have taken us here. We are likely In the stronghold of the enemy. It was that one ‘droid we missed, waiting just out of sight, that stunned and brought us here.” Than’yhidre offered, “Let’s see what our options are, any chance of our getting out of this alive and in one piece. Hmmm. They’ve been careful, but not careful enough. We can overpower the guards here, but I’d like to meet whoever ordered us captured. They want something from us, but what?”

“On your feet, girls!” said a gravelly sounding masculine voice. A pair of synthedroids opened the cell door and motioned for the two women to get up. Neither of them expected this so soon. Whoever brought them here was in a hurry to meet them. 

Through twisting halls, what appeared  a catacomb complex carved out of recognizably lunar rock was the only thing they saw, until entering what seemed a brightly lit pristine room, well furnished, and stocked with instruments. 

There was a man of nondescript appearance, but well-dressed, sitting at a utilitarian desk, fingers folded as he eyed the  women. There was something vaguely wrong about him, sinister, as though he were not quite human, or that whatever was behind his eyes wasn’t. 

“Meenakshi Sukhavati. Than’yhidre Dunori. Or perhaps I should say, Lavyani Arulpragasam. I am Mr. Shade, and I’d like to welcome you to my little home away from home. Welcome to my lunar base and corporate headquarters. It shall be the last place either of you ever set foot in. You see,” said Shade, obviously enjoying this, “you’ll be the first and last humans to see me as I truly am. Let me show you, for you to behold the true power behind Shade Industries.” 

Shade suddenly collapsed to the floor, inert, like a puppet with its strings cut. A sliding panel opened in the wall just behind him, and in strode a broogh drone, tattooed with archaic officer’s insignia. 

“Ah, yes, the repulsively human little Lavyani, you and your cousin separated for decades, you, the prize catch in my humble company’s human trafficking division! It was my swarmfleet hundreds of years ago responsible for the orbital bombardment of your pathetic planet, and sorry excuse for a subcontinent. It was I alone who survived that war while all others of my swarmfleet perished, even my fleet’s God-Thegn, I alone who had to bear the shame of cowardice, of survival, and I alone who dreamed of vengeance, of oceans of human blood to quench the fires of revulsion for you little apes! Do you have any idea how rich you mammals have made me since then? But then you had to ruin everything by asking questions, by coming home, and by finding out about me!” 

Shade, or rather, Shad3, was shouting now, ranting, seemingly manic, even for a broogh. He was clearly unsettled. “I was considering keeping the two of you alive, lobotomized in my private zoo. But you had to become a threat! I won’t make that mistake twice. Synthedroids! Kill them!” 

Shad3’s bodyguards extruded particle weapons from their arms, compact and lethal. 

Than’yhidre was directly in the line of fire. A shot arced, flickered with indigo, the smell of ozone, of scorched flesh, and crackled out, as Meenakshi leapt forward, and fell clutching her burned ribcage. 

She looked up at the evidently revenge-crazed broogh and smiled as she coughed up blood – and spat in its eye. Now it was Than’yhidre’s turn ….  

To be concluded…