Friday, April 6, 2018

Halfway to Nowhere

My latest creation -Operation Starfall: A Strange Mission Against Time, went live on RPGNow yesterday. Without giving too much away a Word War Two Special Forces team in the Aleutians comes across a space hopping and time hopping ship and must prevent it from falling into enemy hands (there's much more than that). It runs 87 pages with 21 pages of tactical maps of the ship, renders of machinery, weapons and gear -all for $5 American! Get it now before I become famous and popular and conceited and maybe will charge you $6!

Anyway one of the themes deals with a dodgy FTL drive. If you read this blog at all you know I love making up weird stuff to confound space travelers. Ghost ships, non-biological entities, wild psi talents. Part of it is because at the present time, FTL travel is wish fulfillment and, if you read any stories about wishes or ever got a wish in a roleplaying game, you know wishes always have a downside.

Andre Norton is also to blame (and Winchell Chung for reminding me of her). I cut my SF teeth on her Solar Queen stories and they had an impressive amount of spooky lore. My personal favorite (and I believe Winchell Chung's): the New Hope, a ghost ship always sighted by ships in dire distress, its 'deadlights' shining through eternity. No idea how ships that were lost got the message out about the New Hope showing up, perhaps they wrote it in their logs. 'Sighted the New Hope but confidence and morale remains ... Get it off! Get away!-aaaaagggh' (Got to love verbal transcripts in a horror setting.)

I'm also kind of into dieselpunk right now and I am sticking to a Solar System setting (not necessarily our Solar System or timeline) so taking an FTL leap would be the equivalent of helming your sailing ship towards the area of the map where they drew all those funky monsters.

Another share of blame goes to the glut of paranormal books that came out in the 70's and 80's. In one book (Atlantis Rising I think by Brad Steiger) I read about the Philadelphia Experiment. Total bullshit BTW, but absolutely riveting and a source of inspiration for me.

So for all you people who started reading this and immediately said "Ahah! He saw Event Horizon!" Well, yeah, but this sort of stuff has gone on in my head for years before that. I think the latest contribution to the Science Unleashes Hell Upon Us All genre  is the Cloverfield Effect; which I wanted to like dammit! But they should have subtitled it The God Awful Particle after the story (but I couldn't like it and they even had Roy from The IT Crowd in it, and I love Roy.

So I invented the Halfway. The crew makes it halfway, not in terms of distance but in terms of returning to this Universe. Some are wraiths that are barely visible or shadows. Some got a fourth dimensional shuffle and returned as ... I'll let you find that out for yourself.

Of course with Stranger Things the idea of a twisted representation of our world, with inimitable life forms that makes their way here is almost mainstream. Stranger things is quite good and enjoyable but it is not original. Evil parallel worlds abound in SF, the most famous being Star Trek's Mirror Universe, but even Lost in Space had an evil Antimatter Universe. The Justice League had Earth Three, and you had Doom's Gateway to Hell at a research base.

People have a way of magnifying the danger in the unknown. When locomotives were state of the art technology everyone was sure traveling faster than 75 mph would asphyxiate the passengers and crew. When we started shooting people into orbit we were scared of the effects of microgravity -and basically everything else. FTL is the new unknown. No matter how many centuries elapsed since the first FTL flight, every time is like the first time (like kissing your soul mate).

Science deals with probing the Unknown in a rational manner. The Unknown however is under no obligation to be rational.