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  #181  
Old 20 May 2017, 02:23 AM
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Is there an idiom that refers to a situation where you solve a problem, but in solving it, you wound up uncovering a whole mess of problems that now need to be solved?
If you're fixing a house, it's the Mushroom Factor. I don't know if that's used more generally; but maybe it ought to be. It's certainly a common phenomenon.
  #182  
Old 20 May 2017, 11:59 AM
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One of our most memorable home improvement projects started with "Honey, we really ought to re-caulk around the tub."

At the midpoint of the project, I had to balance straddling two exposed floor joists while looking clear into our basement to stand to use the toilet.
  #183  
Old 20 May 2017, 12:21 PM
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Is there an idiom that refers to a situation where you solve a problem, but in solving it, you wound up uncovering a whole mess of problems that now need to be solved?
In software development we call this "yak shaving", if you had to solve the whole mess of problems before you could solve the original problem.

For example, you're cooking dinner, but you find you're missing a key ingredient, so you need to go to the shops, but then find that your car is dangerously low on oil so you need to go to the garage first, and then realise you left your wallet at home, so you go to get cardless cash from the ATM using your phone, but your phone has run out of battery so you need to charge it first... and eventually the tasks you're doing bear so little resemblance to the original task that "shave a yak" could conceivably fit into the series.
  #184  
Old 20 May 2017, 01:21 PM
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I need to plant the next round of lettuce. But first I need to get hoses out there to water the new transplants in. But the grass has gotten tall and it really would be better to mow the headlands first so I can a) do that more easily and b) more importantly, see where the hose is so I don't clobber it with the mower later. But first I need to take the rotovator off the tractor so I can put the mower on. But first I need to rotovate that other bit of ground. But first I need to pull that old drip tape out of there . . . oh, and probably put the tractor battery on the charger, and some air in the tire.

Two days later: finally ready to plant the lettuce! if the next thunderstorm will just hold off . . .
  #185  
Old 20 May 2017, 09:55 PM
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Are there any (relatively) well known science fiction works that deal with interstellar colonization without copping out and allowing for faster than light communication (such as the ansible)? Not just that, but where they actually explore the long term implications of such a universe, where the story has to deal with:

1) Why in the hell anyone would go to the expense of colonizing other star systems anyways, given the inability to meaningfully interact with those colonies and the difficulty in transporting large segments of the human population (it'd be cheaper/easier to just use the resources to colonize the moon, Mars, or just start building massive space stations, I imagine).
2) How human colonies, once established, might relate/interact/grow apart from one another in the long term if it took decades or centuries for a message to be received and replied to.

More specifically, are there Sci-Fi stories that deal with an avalanche of mistakes, miscommunication, and game-theory-gone-wild resulting in a total collapse of human civilization as one colony comes to the seemingly logical conclusion that the only way to be safe is to preemptively eliminate everyone else outside of a very small region (perhaps a couple light years wide), annihilating the bulk of humanity in a series of short/sharp/violent actions, then engaging in a protracted conflict of "search and destroy" as they try to mop up the remnants of humanity (outside the dominant settlement)? Because I'd hate to think the idea has been done already. Something akin to a 5th millennium metaphor for the tower of babel? Because we went too far into the heavens and lost the ability to communicate? Resulting in a collapse?

Anyone?

Oh, and just so we're clear, alien civilizations are right out: if they're out there, we haven't found them yet.

Last edited by ASL; 20 May 2017 at 10:01 PM.
  #186  
Old 20 May 2017, 10:44 PM
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ASL, I don't have any suggestions, off the top of my head. I think there's something rattling around in the back of my brain, but it's not the scenario you're describing.

But I do think that may be an answer to the people who are puzzled that some civilization hasn't taken over the universe already, under the theory that whoever developed space travel first would of course proceed to fill the whole place up. We can't even take over a planet without splitting into hundreds of different civilizations. Why do some people think anybody could take over multiple planets spread over billions, or even thousands, of light years and remain a single coherent civilization, or even a single coherent species?
  #187  
Old 21 May 2017, 03:10 AM
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ASL:

Maybe Jerry Pournelle's CoDominion series? The excursion into the Motie bit with Larry Niven aside, it is, I think, pretty much all human colonization, human war, human scramble-back-from-savagery. However, I haven't read too much of it, only four books, and two of them were the Motie books, so I can't claim with certainty.

H. Beam Piper's future history is also kind of in your parameters, but less so on the whys (kind of hand-waved with a sort of "history repeats itself" justification), and the stories focus not so much on the nasty bits.

I think that one of the major military SF writers has a book or short series that fits your final question, possibly David Weber or David Drake. Drake's RCN series hints at it, but also hints at ancient pre-human galactic civilizations; however, only one alien showed up in the books, to my recollection, and it had a minimal role with no "deus ex" play.

A lot of books and stories have FTL travel without FTL communications, giving their star empires the feel of the "age of sail" set in space; such stories are usually pretty good in that regard.
  #188  
Old 21 May 2017, 03:27 AM
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If Star Wars happened in a galaxy far far away and long long ago, why haven't they been successful at bringing the powers of the Force to our galaxy by now? (Ewok Christmas aside, that is.)They have FTL propoulsion even on ordinary vehicles. The only answers that make sense are that they just don't care about us or the Jedi religion died out long ago. Or... the Force only exists in some galaxies??
  #189  
Old 21 May 2017, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by ASL View Post
Are there any (relatively) well known science fiction works that deal with interstellar colonization without copping out and allowing for faster than light communication (such as the ansible)?
The Songs of Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clarke. No faster-than-light (FTL) travel, no FTL communication.
Quote:
1) Why in the hell anyone would go to the expense of colonizing other star systems anyways, given the inability to meaningfully interact with those colonies and the difficulty in transporting large segments of the human population (it'd be cheaper/easier to just use the resources to colonize the moon, Mars, or just start building massive space stations, I imagine).
Scientists in the 21st Century determine that the sun will go nova around 3600. So, they have to create colonies in other solar systems.

Quote:
2) How human colonies, once established, might relate/interact/grow apart from one another in the long term if it took decades or centuries for a message to be received and replied to.
Since there is no FTL communication it can take decades or even centuries to hear from other colonies. In fact, Thalassa, the colony at the center of the story, is incorrectly believed to have been destroyed since their radio dish used to communicate with the rest of humanity was destroyed and they never got around to fixing it.
Quote:
More specifically, are there Sci-Fi stories that deal with an avalanche of mistakes, miscommunication, and game-theory-gone-wild resulting in a total collapse of human civilization as one colony comes to the seemingly logical conclusion that the only way to be safe is to preemptively eliminate everyone else outside of a very small region
Hmm. Nothing comes to mind here.

Brian
  #190  
Old 21 May 2017, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
If Star Wars happened in a galaxy far far away and long long ago, why haven't they been successful at bringing the powers of the Force to our galaxy by now? (Ewok Christmas aside, that is.)They have FTL propoulsion even on ordinary vehicles. The only answers that make sense are that they just don't care about us or the Jedi religion died out long ago. Or... the Force only exists in some galaxies??
If accessing the force (for humanoids, at least) requires midi-chlorians, then perhaps midi-chlorians don't fare well on Earth (the only bit of our galaxy that we know much about on such a detailed level).

This might spark a semantics/linguistics argument, but what the heck: the phrase, "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away" implies, in American English at least, distances that are mind-boggling vast in an even vaster universe that is loaded in at least three dimensions with huge numbers of galaxies. The tiniest deviation in course from a distant galaxy could miss ours by a number of parsecs that would resemble the GNP of a major country - or worse, resemble the US national debt. With what is essentially infinity to choose from, what are the chances that explorers from the Star Wars galaxy would head in our direction?

I also postulate that the implication of "a long time ago" might not scale with the "far far away", and be a rather shorter time in comparison to much greater distances; perhaps there simply hasn't been time for the Jedi to reach here? It is, again, a BIG universe.

My favorite interpretation: we're seeing a "historical document" from our distant future, sent back in time and across space to "where it all started", but they overshot in time. Which renders all this null: it will come, just not yet.
  #191  
Old 21 May 2017, 12:09 PM
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Is it legal to sell a manuscript of an unpublished novel by a still-living author?
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Unless they acquired it illegally or its a copy, I don't see how it would be questionable in terms of copyright or ownership.
I agree. In the U.S., copyright begins upon creation, but it's COPYright. If this isn't stolen or copied, I think it's okay.
  #192  
Old 21 May 2017, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by ASL View Post
Are there any (relatively) well known science fiction works that deal with interstellar colonization without copping out and allowing for faster than light communication (such as the ansible)?
Alastair Reynolds's Revelation Space series has interstellar colonization without FTL travel. Quite a lot of it (as far as I remember) is about the difficulty of communication and so on, but I can't really remember how well it fits your other points.

Of course from the point of view of somebody on a ship that's travelling at close to the speed of light, the journey becomes almost instantaneous anyway. (He gets his special relativity right). So it becomes about the implications of knowing that, if you travel to a star 50 light-years away and back, although the journey may take only a few months from your perspective, when you get back more than 100 years will have passed.
  #193  
Old 21 May 2017, 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Crius of CoH View Post
The tiniest deviation in course from a distant galaxy could miss ours by a number of parsecs that would resemble the GNP of a major country - or worse, resemble the US national debt.
Do you mean science book parsecs, a measure of distance chauvinistically tied to Earth and its orbit, or Han Solo parsecs, which are a measure of time?
  #194  
Old 21 May 2017, 06:18 PM
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I don't remember details of space travel in these books but the Pern series has a lost colony back drop. Also, Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Darkover" series has a lost colony back drop also, but I don't know if it involves FTL tech or not. Both series explore what happens to humans when they are separated from their original roots and how they respond to various catastrophes. However, they may not be what you're looking for: Both are a bit into the fantasy sf realm and Bradley was considered a radical feminist if not a misandrist. I thought she wrote men and women equally well, and had never heard that accusation 'til years after I'd read her books.
  #195  
Old 21 May 2017, 07:25 PM
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Originally Posted by ASL View Post
2) How human colonies, once established, might relate/interact/grow apart from one another in the long term if it took decades or centuries for a message to be received and replied to.
This isn't exactly what you're looking for, but Paul Krugman once wrote a paper on the economics of interstellar trade in which "two true but useless theorems are proved."
  #196  
Old 21 May 2017, 08:04 PM
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Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
If Star Wars happened in a galaxy far far away and long long ago, why haven't they been successful at bringing the powers of the Force to our galaxy by now? (Ewok Christmas aside, that is.)They have FTL propoulsion even on ordinary vehicles. The only answers that make sense are that they just don't care about us or the Jedi religion died out long ago. Or... the Force only exists in some galaxies??
Or, even with FTL travel, long before they'd expanded this far the society had disintegrated into hundreds if not thousands of other societies, many of them indifferent and/or hostile to Jedi techniques and/or to continued expansion.

In fact, I'd have expected the species to have changed significantly over that much time and space, and no longer be easily recognizable. I'm sure the fandom has some explanation, or more likely multiple explanations, for why a story from a galaxy far away and long ago has so many people in it who, physically and psychologically, would fit in easily on 20th century Earth; but if we're positing actual alien societies, I doubt that sort of thing would actually happen.

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This isn't exactly what you're looking for, but Paul Krugman once wrote a paper on the economics of interstellar trade


-- there really are quite a lot of Lost Colony stories; but many of them seem to have the colony eventually rediscovered by a coherent interstellar civilization, or else seem to focus on the lost colony all by itself. And one just popped into my head about the disintegration process, though it's still not like what ASL's describing -- it's a short story, if I remember correctly, about the crew on the first spaceship to get far enough away from Earth that its crew loses all sense of connection with the planet; with the result that their sense of what's moral changes drastically, along with their interactions with each other, and they lose all desire to accomplish their original mission. I can't remember either title or author -- can anybody place it for me?

ETA: ASL, if you wanna write it, go ahead and write it, even if somebody else has tackled the theme. Plenty of people have produced excellent works about ideas that have been explored before. It's unlikely you're going to produce exactly the same take on it, let alone the same take as seen through the eyes of the same characters.

Last edited by thorny locust; 21 May 2017 at 08:10 PM.
  #197  
Old 21 May 2017, 10:01 PM
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Is it legal to sell a manuscript of an unpublished novel by a still-living author?

I happened across this eBay listing for a manuscript of "The Last Samurai" which is described as an unpublished novel by Hank Searls with a date of November 1984 and includes handwritten editorial notes. It struck me as questionable in terms of ownership and copyright, though for all I know it's perfectly legal because people do sell diaries and personal letters.
Yes, it's legal to buy the manuscript; publishing it is not legal without the permission of the author's estate. I am the literary executor of two dead authors; one has no living progeny or close relatives, the other does. In the case of the first, I've found in his papers part of a novel manuscript; the other part may turn up (the date of composition suggests he probably had plenty of time to finish it). If he does, I can seek to publish it if I follow the terms of his will with any proceeds. In the second case, I found and published a novel he had written, with the permission of his four kids, who received the income (after my modest expenses were taken out).
  #198  
Old 22 May 2017, 12:11 AM
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Thank you all, some good comments, and some of the suggestions do seem very relevant.
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Alastair Reynolds's Revelation Space series has interstellar colonization without FTL travel. Quite a lot of it (as far as I remember) is about the difficulty of communication and so on, but I can't really remember how well it fits your other points.

Of course from the point of view of somebody on a ship that's travelling at close to the speed of light, the journey becomes almost instantaneous anyway. (He gets his special relativity right). So it becomes about the implications of knowing that, if you travel to a star 50 light-years away and back, although the journey may take only a few months from your perspective, when you get back more than 100 years will have passed.
That Revelation Space series seems interesting. In particular the Cerberus beacon fits in with something like what I have in mind for point 6 below.

Part of my problem is that, looking into just how fast a ship could possibly go, even near light speed is nigh impossible, practically speaking. I've decided I'm going to go ahead and handwave that just because, but that is definitely a plot element, but only because the entire premise of the collapse is that a "kinetic response" can be sent almost as fast as a return communication and almost twice as fast as a two-way communication (so why bother saying "screw you, no, pray we don't alter the agreement any further" when you can just shoot them dead in about the same amount of time and not have to worry about what their reply will be to your "screw you" message).

Basically, it all centers on an Earth that imagines itself as the center of the universe, the colonies as mere, well, colonies for its own economic advantage, and one colony in particular that wants something more out of the arrangement (like to keep more of the goods it produces: it would be more efficient anyways) and sends the ultimate "e-mail you wish you could un-send but can't," realizing its error within a decade or so, long before Earth would actually receive it, with plenty of time to:

1) Panic because it will take Earth less than a decade to launch a punitive expedition at near-light speed (the colony is 116 light-years away: in the decade or so between when Earth receives the original message and when it might receive the “apology” it will already have launched a punitive expedition that will betravelling so fast that a recall signal from Earth won’t be able to catch up with it before it reaches the colony and, well, annihilates it to make an example out of it)

2) Come up with plans to evacuate the colony (or at least genetic samples from the colony along with memory uploads, another technology I'm willing to hand-wave)

3) Launch a "pre-emptive counterattack" (pre-emptive because Earth will not have even received the message yet, let alone launched a punitive expedition, but a counterattack of sorts because by the time it reaches Earth they fully expect such an attack to be on its way) against Earth and, because it would make them an enemy of mankind to destroy Earth, every other known colony just because it's the only way to be safe. I mean, they could try reasoning with the other colonies, but how can they be sure they’ll understand?

4) Proceed to search for unknown colonies or small pockets of survivors, with the goal of achieving a sort of “convergence,” we’ll call it, a relatively small region of space that will be the only region to be populated by humans, with all others being “presumed foe” and annihilated.

5) And then for a long time nothing happens. Then more stuff happens, people change, people die, people sacrifice themselves for the greater good, people struggle with the moral dilemma of annihilating survivors which, in many cases, have been reduced to primitive civilizations or colonies that were only ever meant to be industrial centers with no viability for population growth.

6) Eventually maybe “search and destroy” softens to something like “search, neuter, and guard” because you’ve got to figure there will be a sort of peace movement eventually and they will figure out a way to “merely” destroy those civilizations that refuse to give up on any notions of space travel (guarding them with a doomsday machine of sorts, placed in a position to observe their planet or colony and respond with utter devastation if terms are violated)…

7) Because they stories got to end somehow, maybe some people figure out a way to become truly immortal beings of pure light and energy or move into another dimension or some such nonsense (another hand-wave): the point is they will no longer feel threatened by the remnants of humanity, allowing the survivors to rebuild without the threat of being cut down the minute they poke their head into space.

8) But, of course, these nascent space-going civilizations could be free to repeat the mistakes of the past themselves (or not, it's up to them).

9) And then maybe one last look at what life is like in the new dimension, emphasizing that its inhabitants are still fundamentally human and weren’t able to leave the emotional scars accumulated over hundreds or thousands of years of consciousness behind quite as easily as they could leave their bodies behind. So it's not exactly a utopia, it's just no one has to die. But they do have to carry their memories of death and those they left behind with them for as long as they live...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve View Post
This isn't exactly what you're looking for, but Paul Krugman once wrote a paper on the economics of interstellar trade in which "two true but useless theorems are proved."
Intriguing, but it doesn't really deal with what those Trantorian goods might be. I think, hypothetically, if there were a way to mass produce antimatter (even if through a very inefficient process), but it posed an extreme risk to the star system producing it or, perhaps to get the energy necessary required manipulating the surrounding system into something like a Dyson Shell and a series of massive particle accelerators and decelerators (re-tooling the entire star system to produce antimatter) then that might be worth setting up colonies in distant star systems. It would be worth the hundreds (maybe thousands, even with automation in construction) of years and the enormous expense of setting up colonies. And it sure would piss Earth off if one of those colonies bucked against the system...

Anyways, I’m about two thirds of the way through a first draft, just wanted to make sure I didn’t need to burn the whole thing and start over.

ETA: Oh, and in case you feel bad for Earth, don't: in the 700 years or so between when they launched ships at about a fifth the speed of light to colonize this particular colony and it finally went into production, they had changed so much that they no lnoger had qualms about bending the solar system to form a stellar engine to travel from star to star, setting up server stations throughout the galaxy to allow for people to transfer their minds (again, memory uploads are a thing in this universe) from star to star, achieving functional immortality for as long as the galaxy exists anyways. They were going to just abandon the colonies to their fate, to whither anyways.

Last edited by ASL; 22 May 2017 at 12:21 AM.
  #199  
Old 22 May 2017, 03:37 AM
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in case you feel bad for Earth, don't: in the 700 years or so between when they launched ships at about a fifth the speed of light to colonize this particular colony and it finally went into production, they had changed so much that they no lnoger had qualms about bending the solar system to form a stellar engine to travel from star to star, setting up server stations throughout the galaxy to allow for people to transfer their minds (again, memory uploads are a thing in this universe) from star to star, achieving functional immortality for as long as the galaxy exists anyways.
Can I feel bad for everything on and about the planet that wasn't humans?

Not that what you're describing is still humans, for that matter; but I expect we'll turn into some sort of something else anyway, if we manage to survive long enough.

(Just in case of doubt: neither of those comments is meant to be a reason for you not to write this.)
  #200  
Old 22 May 2017, 04:11 AM
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In fact, I'd have expected the species to have changed significantly over that much time and space, and no longer be easily recognizable.
“I have a bad feeling about this.” Namely, that somewhere along the way they had an existential breakdown and they were all like, "What's the difference? Every galaxy is going to die. We might as well be fictional characters in a galaxy far far away and a long time in the future. We're already dead."
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