Wow, a Real Update

Once again this year I've let three months slip without an update to the main pages. Last time I had the excuse of extreme distraction. This time I've been working on pages . . . it's just that I can't seem to get any of them done.

Maybe I'm trying to make them too grand and over-arching (as opposed to the simple pages from back in the day). After all, my simple stuff ends up here at the blog. But even relatively straightforward pages, however thorough, seem to take longer. Maybe I'm just getting slower in my old age, but whatever it is it's rather cumbersome.

In any case, I do have some new stuff on the main site page at the moment, and there's more to come. I'm working on a large update of the comparison page, including stuff on Imperial firepower and Imperial power generation, both now to include information from RotS et al.



Paint it Black

While some deride nanotech as dangerous or mock proponents for supposedly massively exaggerating its potential, the fact is that a lot of really cool and unexpected things can be done with it.

An interesting example is black metal. By using a laser pulse to create particular nanostructures on the metal . . . any metal . . . the metal can be rendered totally black, absorbing virtually all of the EM radiation falling on it. (That's definitely the must-have paint job for your next Sith Infiltrator. I'd love to see Vader in totally-flat-black.)

Also of interest is the nanotech-based "thermal rectifier". A rectifier is a device in electronics that forces a single direction on a charge, converting alternating current into direct current. Using special nanotubes, researchers have found a way to force heat to go in one direction, as well, even if the direction is toward greater heat. This rather effectively reverses the idea of normal heat flow, and could lead to a vast reworking of how we think of heat. Right now the efficiency is rather low, but theory suggests that it can be boosted . . . which could lead to such interesting items as (unpowered?) refrigerators that don't use compressor-based cooling and computer processor heat sinks that really don't screw around.

The potential there is profound. One of the first things I thought about was armor. Imagine a hull plate with a plate of highly efficient thermal rectifiers below it, drawing heat away from the hull, with other similar devices sending the heat toward a point where it can be dispensed with in some way, such as an exit point on the hull or, to adapt Saxton's interesting sci-fi idea, a low-KE neutrino generator. This would minimize hull damage fairly well.

(Of course, Saxton naturally suggests that such a technology is how Star Wars weapons fail to demonstrate even so much as Hiroshima-esque kiloton-nuke blast effects even in supposedly-gigaton ship-destroying shots in atmosphere. A brief discussion on that appears at StarfleetJedi's forums, wherein I noted:

"The idea is one that is very good science fiction. However, it isn't Star Wars. As seen in the film, the beams cut into the core ship and knock it down. So in order for us to fail to see anything resembling even a Hiroshima-class event, we must assume that even as the hull is blasted away the system is still effective at absorbing and redirecting the energy into a neutrino surge, even though the beams are cutting into the ship and damaging flight-critical systems. Presumably the absorption occurs within the interior of the vessel as well, since of course a directed energy weapon in the megaton range (as claimed for the beams that shoot down the core ship) are able to impact within the interior of the ship without a hellacious blast flying out of the new hole, nearby windows on the hull, et cetera.

It is, of course, a daunting task to believe that even as the ship was being knocked from the sky its uberarmor system . . . where the armor and ship's innards had already been penetrated . . . would fail to fail, even a smidgen.")

Fingerprinting for Methuselah

Here's a little something I found unexpected. As it turns out, Leonardo da Vinci's fingerprints can be reconstructed now. All we have at the moment is his left index finger, though since he was left-handed this is more useful than it might otherwise seem.

Not only will this be a boon for historical research . . . if an interesting document's authenticity or authorship is in doubt or uncertain you can check for prints in some cases . . . but there's also something far, far less important to consider:

After reading the story, I recalled Janeway, in "Concerning Flight"[VOY4], deriding Kirk's claim to have met da Vinci (in the guise of Flint in "Requiem for Methuselah"[TOS2]), saying the evidence was less than conclusive. This implies that at some point, presumably after Flint's death, Kirk and company spilled the beans about him, but either refused to specify his location or else Flint had M-6 destroy his body and all traces of him. Or, a third possibility is that, still not trusting Kirk, Flint packed up and moved as soon as the Enterprise left, so that no matter when Kirk spilled the beans there wouldn't be anything left to find.

In any case, though, one wonders what happened to the tricorder scans. I find it hard to believe that they could've parted with the treasures they'd scanned . . . new da Vinci pieces and new Brahms works come to mind, not to mention the genetic code of an immortal human.

And if the tricorder had his fingerprints, so much the better.


"There she is! THERE she IS!"

The guys at CBS Digital have crafted a new Enterprise model, and more importantly have done some serious-ass work on figuring out artistic lighting design for model shots. I now officially withdraw any complaints I might've made in my three posts on the topic (1, 2, 3).

Take a look at the shots from "The Trouble with Tribbles"[TOR] . . . damn that's a fine ship. For comparison, I'm including some similar shots from other remastered episodes . . . if you have to ask which is which you're frakking blind.


Baltar Elected! Settlement on New Caprica Begins Immediately!

One thing we know virtually nothing about in Trek is Federation politics and its relationship to the media.

Given the recent election cycle in the United States, one cannot help but be struck by the so-called "mainstream media" and its effects. The primary news services in this democracy are strongly leftist and admit being so (e.g., Ted Turner regarding CNN, et al.), in keeping with what seems to be an international state of affairs (i.e. the BBC). Further, although there is now a lone major news network that is further to the right, the overwhelming majority in print and television means that the issues get framed by them, limiting the minority channel's capacity to focus on stories the leftist media chooses to ignore. And there is no significant centrist media.

While the leftist media has colored a wide variety of issues and selected an amusingly leftist-helpful array of stories to focus on in the run-up to the recent election, perhaps no better evidence for the point can be found than in regards to economics. By all indicators the United States economy is doing extremely well, breaking records in some cases and posting the best numbers in decades in other areas, but the leftist party and the media have continually argued that the economy is in shambles, troubled, and so on, a reality-bending which seems to have successfully made its way into popular perception. With the strong gains by the leftist party (due in part, entertainingly, to numerous centrist candidates), though, the international markets have suffered a bit of a tumble, recognizing that the strong U.S. economy will probably now fall prey to leftist damage. But I digress . . .

Chances are extremely good that the Federation is strongly leftist. While the communism claim folks make about it is a load of hooey for reasons to be elucidated in a future article, the fact is that folks who are separated from the realities of production . . . i.e. people who view food as magically appearing from McDonald's instead of recognizing the farmers and all the steps to get it to the restaurants . . . almost invariably break left. Similarly, urban areas break left in modern times, for similar reasons. In an age of replicators this effect could only worsen.

In the modern era, leftists have (as a rule of thumb) been weak on defense. Of course this isn't necessarily so everywhere . . . witness Soviet Russia . . . but overall the point holds. The inherent lack of understanding of objective issues like food production generally extends to other spheres, so that obvious threats are appeased and the spilling of blood for any reason is unpalatable.

(Trek's writers seem to grasp this if even on a subconscious level. Most of the best Starfleet officers are seen as coming from right-leaning backgrounds . . . Picard's family worked the land and rejected replicators, Kirk spent time on a farm in Iowa (and also witnessed evil early in life), O'Brien's family rejected replicators, and Sisko's father ran a restaurant and had some views best described as libertarian.)

But, alas, there are too many unknowns in regards to the Federation political sphere. As far as we know, they might've followed George Washington's suggestion to avoid political parties altogether. And although we've seen press in the Federation before (in ST6 most notably), there's no way to know its leanings.

Some have claimed, though, that the Federation News Service seen in ST6 is evidence of a state-controlled media. Of course, that's no more likely than the American Broadcasting Company being state-controlled (it isn't). However, I can't necessarily say that a free media with a state-controlled popular media outlet also in existence would be a bad thing.

But Trek is about optimism, so perhaps the best idea is that parties don't exist in the 24th Century, and that the media of that era is not one attempting to serve certain interests, but instead just tries to report the facts and not shape them.


Forums, Et Al.

Although I prefer the individual debate paradigm to forums insofar as debates are concerned, I do still try to keep abreast of what's being discussed in the forums. Fresh ideas can come from many sources, and although I have a backlog of my own ideas that I haven't gotten a chance to flesh out into pages, keeping an eye out for better ideas certainly can't hurt.

Over the course of recent months, I've noticed that, for the purposes of technological comparisons of Star Trek and Star Wars, the StarDestroyer.Net forums are intensely dull. The reasons are manifold and interrelated, including the rapid banning of posters who don't toe the line (i.e. those who are pro-Trek or insufficiently pro-Wars), the declaration of Star Wars victory, ICS-thumping, et cetera. The only mildly interesting points have generally been the Talifan threads against Karen Traviss and other modern "EU minimalists" who don't write about Star Wars as if the technology and infrastructure are sufficiently 'uberwanked' for the ICS thumpers' preferences. Other than that, though, there's been little to nothing of note for a long while.

In short, like ASVS, the SD.Net forums have largely faded to irrelevancy.

So where is relevant discussion taking place? Well, at one point of course the STrek-v-SWars.Net forums, now faded into memory along with the STrek-v-SWars.Net main site, were the best, but they're long gone now. SpaceBattles has some good discussions, but the entrenched pro-Wars majority (many of whom, including some moderators, are SD.Net members) means that many discussions get squashed or lost under shouts of "THE ICS IS CANON! CANON CANON CANON! INCONSISTENCIES AND LUCAS'S STATEMENTS BE DAMNED!"

(And, naturally, you get plenty of ST-v-SW.Net hatred from the same quarters. In one thread about a Borg "Fusion Cube" from some Trek game, for instance, someone linked to the old page on hull strength. Immediately the pro-Wars camp responded that the entire site was totally incorrect on all pages and regarding all points, and that I was a dishonest liar. What amused me was that the given basis of the claim that I was a liar was a quote from the hull strenght page: "However, because the KE values look better, they are the ones being employed."

As the claimant then said, "Wow, he admits that he is being dishonest right there. Clearly a man to listen to."

I'll admit that the quote sounded really bad. I myself was left to wonder about my own honesty! It didn't sound like me at all, but if this pro-Wars debater was quoting me like that then surely the quote must've appeared on the page. So I went to the page and searched for the quote . . . and then started laughing my fool head off.

In the conclusion section, I noted that going by the kinetic energy calculations I was using to compare two collision events, "The Star Destroyer took a hit approximately 11 times more energetic than the Galaxy Class starship, losing between 8 and 16.7 times the mass." But I also noted that were we to use momentum, then the "impact against the ISD had only 5.7 times the momentum of the [collision with the Galaxy], doing far more than 5.7 times the damage. However, because the KE values look better, they are the ones being employed."

Yes, you read that right. In other words, I said that I was using the kinetic energy calculations because they enhanced the Star Destroyer's apparent performance in the collision (i.e. where comparative energy was roughly equal to comparative lost mass), compared to using the calculations involving momentum.

And so this pro-Wars poster declared me a liar on the basis of my open and blatant attempts to keep Star Wars looking as good as it could in technological comparisons.

I love it . . . you just can't make this stuff up. Next thing you know they'll be opening up GalaxyClassStarship.Net themselves.)

But, even though some of the people who post in Trek-related threads know very little about Trek ('The Die is Cast? What's that?'), the sheer number of people involved means that some interesting ideas can be generated. One user, VivFTP, stands out with some well-researched data, and though I don't always agree with his points he often makes good ones.

However, while the sheer population has its uses, the rampant Trek ignorance at SpaceBattles (and the related entrenchment of ICS thumpers) limits the depth of the discussions.

What's needed, in my opinion, is an enhancement of the population at the StarfleetJedi.Net forums. The discussions are limited at the moment due to a smallish population, but the focus of the place and the number of willing and able neurons already present argue for it being the home of forum-based debate online.

Now, if only I could get that copy of the STrek-v-SWars forums said to be lurking around . . .


Old Calculators and TOS Set Design

While working on a page, I pondered the laughable notion of TOS writers having one of those early typewriter-sized desktop calculators trying to do math regarding some esoteric point in their scripts instead of worrying about the deadline. (Just imagine Gene Roddenberry plugging away on one of those big bohemoths while Justman stood atop his desk waiting.)

But since my memory was a little vague on when exactly those big bohemoths appeared, I went and looked it up.

As it turns out, desktop calculation was actually old hat by that point. Of course there was the good old abacus, naturally, but much more advanced devices had been around for awhile. And sure, there were also the large-scale computers and so on, but here we're limiting ourselves to popularly-available desktop-or-smaller calculation machines.

From Napier's Bones to 19th Century mechanical adding machines, desktop calculation was not a new thing, though I rather doubt the devices were as ubiquitous as personal computers are today.

In the early 20th Century mechanical calculators were pretty impressive devices. Perhaps the coolest was the Curta Type II handheld mechanical calculator, about the size of a modern hand grenade but, in the same way the pen is mightier than the sword, a helluva lot more powerful.

While it's true that desktop electronic calculators were newfangled thingamajigs in the mid-1960's (replete with vacuum tubes and even Nixie displays in some cases (also others, if you even managed to get an electronic display at all!), older electromechanical desktop devices . . . technologically akin to old-school typewriters or the mechanical calculator units but replacing an electric motor for the crank or finger power . . . had been around for decades. Perhaps the finest examples were the Friden models. This electromechanical beast was chock-full of extraordinarily complex mechanical apparatii. While it almost seems primitive to modern eyes so used to tiny solar-powered electronic calculators at a dime a dozen, it's still an incredibly impressive display of a mass-marketed complex mechanical machine. Of course smaller mechanical desktop units were available, but usually less functional.

There's really not enough, though, that can be said for old technology sometimes. While any old EM pulse would be enough to blow the brains out of every electronic calculator over a huge area, anyone lucky enough to have a Friden or Curta or Bohn or even just an old abacus lying around and remembering how to use it would scarcely notice the event inasmuch as their ability to do math without pencil and paper was concerned.

But in my research, one thing that leapt out at me was another Friden unit, the first electronic calculator to be based on transistors instead of vacuum tubes. (Technically it had one delay line and so wasn't a pure transistor device, but we'll forgive this one bawble.) As if to prove the point I just made about old technology, one problem the unit had was that its cathode-ray-tube screen could put out interference that would cause the calculations to get thrown off, producing invalid results.

Nonetheless, just take a look at the thing. It looks like it was just ganked from the conference table on Kirk's 1701. One wonders just how futuristic looking the ship was at the time for most people . . . other than light-up buttons and larger, more well-lit blinky consoles (not to mention more capability in similar packages), the devices of the time were stylistically right on par.

But in any case, that last observation was just an excuse for me to share my little old-calculator geek-out. One day I'll go wild about flashlights and really bore you. :)

(Special Thanks to OldCalculatorMuseum.com)


R2-D2's Wino Friend

Here we see a little robot developed by the Japanese to taste wine. The part that surprised me wasn't the use of a spectrometer to determine the type of wine, brand, and vintage, but the idea that the analysis results in a description of the taste. Presumably this is just regurgitating expert opinion on the matter . . . i.e. if it thinks the wine is a Chateau Picard 2342 then it will describe the crispness of the finish based on statements of human opinions of the brand . . . but it's still interesting all the same.

One of the strengths (and probably one of the weaknesses) of user-friendly Starfleet tech in the shows seems to be that they aren't just provided with data by sensors and tricorders, but that they're often provided with interpretation of the data across all manner of fields. The level of developmental work involved to get that right must've been enormous. After all, if I wizz in a half-full wine bottle and pour it in this robot's gullet, what would it claim? An acrid chardonnay? Cabernet Pissignon?

Oooh . . . CinemaxHD

This is extremely interesting. Is this some fartknocker doing upconversion and calling it HD, or can these guys get an actual HD transfer of the Star Wars films? The video promo gives no clue, but if the latter then imagine the wealth of newly visible detail even at 720p!

I'll keep trying to find out more, not to mention trying to figure out how to get my grubby little paws on it.


ST5 and Torpedo Shielding

(Here's another unpublished post, this one from late May. The reason it wasn't published and was forgotten will probably be obvious in the first sentence.)

So I'm watching Star Trek V . . . hey, yeah, I know, shut up, I'm drunk and I like the "What does God need with a starship?" line. Or maybe I'm a glutton for punishment. Whatever.

So anyway, I'm watching Star Trek V, and it dawned on me that the example does as much to prove torp shielding than anything else I've mentioned. From orbital height, the E-A shot a torp which, within seconds, impacted against the surface. A similar example appears in the Voyager ep with the small-size torp glows, "Alliances"[VOY2].

A ballistic de-orbit of a vehicle like the shuttle or like the old space capsules (or, actually, like the planned Orion space capsules) takes minutes, and even then they're heated to thousands of degrees. A de-orbit measured in seconds must therefore involve significantly higher temperature increases. Oh sure, most meteors don't reach a higher temperature than the thousands of degrees when they come barrelling in like a bat out of hell (or into it as the case may be), but sudden heating of a surface by thousands of degrees is surely not normal procedure. This is, after all, what many weapons are designed to do. So unless we want to believe that the very thin skin of a photon torpedo casing is capable of extraordinary levels of insulation, we must accept this as an independent proof that torpedoes have their own shields.

Environmental Security

(Another blog post I began but didn't quite know how to conclude . . . so it's basically just some idle ruminations.)

In ST:FC, the Borg alter the environment on assimilated decks to a temperature of 39.1 Celsius, 92% humidity, and the pressure is raised two kilopascals (which, for you hurricane watchers out there, would mean it went from 1013hPa to about 1033hPa).

I never really did the conversion before . . . I knew it was hot and muggy, but damn. 39.1 Celsius is 102 Fahrenheit. And that's 92% humidity.

I've been in low-humidity, above-100-degree places on still days. You bake, but it's not really that bad out of the sun. And I've been in high-humidity, above-90-degree places on still days. You boil alive because sweat no longer serves its function, though it sure keeps trying.

In other words, a Borg ship is a hot and humid hellhole. Little wonder they don't worry about folks beaming aboard and milling about . . . what are they gonna do, take over the ship? They couldn't walk twenty paces without stopping for a Gatorade. I wouldn't go in there without a spacesuit, or at least a dehumidifying mask of some sort and a wall-mount air conditioner strapped to my back.

Besides, in those conditions the whole ship would just feel icky.

Of course, we never saw folks aboard Borg ships sweating to death in TNG. By the same token, though, they were never aboard for long. Little wonder ... I wouldn't want to be either. People were aboard for longer in Voyager, but I think they had 'em sweating most of the time.

(Kinda puts a new spin on "Regeneration"[ENT2] and the Borg waking up in Antarctica. No wonder they got the hell off the planet so fast. "Midair shrinkage is futile ... but sh-sh-sh-sh-shit we gotta go!!")

This got me thinking about other races. For instance, "Emissary"[DSN1] gives us mention of the environmental controls in Ops being stuck at 32 degrees Celsius. That's 90, and although Sisko mentioned it was unusually warm he didn't say anything about the humidity. There's never been any solid evidence for the default humidity of Cardassia or Cardassian ships as far as I know, and we can't be sure what the Starfleet standard levels are either.

Indeed, there's no telling what that might be. The US Environmental Protection Agency recommends 30-50% humidity in homes for various reasons, not all of which would apply to a starship. I'd wager that a Vulcan would generally find Earth conditions cold and damp, whereas Ferengi would probably find Earth rather dry. And of course you get outliers like Tholians.

The point is, although we've seen extremely rapid air exchange in places like the bridge ("Evolution"[TNG3], et al., where the bridge is cleared of smoke almost instantly), it seems that the rest of the ship can't have its environment rapidly altered for some reason. Of course some of that has been so-called "dramatic necessity" (i.e. weak writing).

Still, I don't think we've ever seen anyone really fiddle with life support to contain boarders, with the exception of the Romulan drone being made to irradiate a room in "United"[ENT4]. And of course I'm not counting the obvious knock-out gas from "Space Seed" et al. Indeed, most of the time when we've seen boarders they haven't been prepared for any such occurrence . . . I'm thinking here of the Remans beaming to the lower decks in Nemesis in just their uniforms and evidently expecting to make it to the bridge.

Of course spacesuits, even high-tech ones, would undoubtedly slow one down. Even a simple life support belt a la TAS would work, and is doable with modern effects. But I guess by the time folks figured this out it was too late.

(I have to say, though, that the best example of environmental security was from Stargate SG-1 . . . a Goa'uld brig didn't really have a forcefield at the door, as I recall, nor did it need one . . . when the switch was thrown, the floor became a wall, and the brig entrance became the ceiling. That modification to artificial gravity was an ingenious security device.)

Some Interesting Comments from StarWars.com

I'm trying to get done with some old blog posts that were started but never finished. So here's one:

Here we have some interesting commentary from StarWars.com regarding differences between the original films and the DVD Special Editions. We don't know who the author is, but the page presents itself as the "ultimate authority".

I highly recommend scanning through the article, but I'm also providing links to the original images. The following highlights are regarding some debated material, including the Death Star and some images relating to the scaling of the Falcon.

N.B. This 'backstage info' is interesting, but not canon.

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The original shot of Alderaan also had effects artifacts in it, appearing as a hazy blue outline that surrounds the planet.

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The original laser blast was hand-animated to have jagged lightning-like fingers of energy surround Alderaan, which didn't scale convincingly. The Special Edition instead had the atmosphere ignite as it spread from the impact point.

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The original jump-cut explosion was replaced with a blast that featured a shockwave ring and more properly scaled debris.

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In 1997, the original matte painting of the Falcon was replaced with one that used a digital ship model as a foundation. Also, the Death Star hangar design was changed to match the one seen in Return of the Jedi.


Why Not EdenFX for TOR?

It finally dawned on me why TOS Remastered looks the way it does.

First off, some have asked whether they could do anything like this with TNG, DS9, and the other standard-definition shows. The answer is that they could, but the answer is also that they never will. TOS was never meant to be an effects-heavy show . . . Desilu would've gone broke. But twenty years later, Trek audiences had (as per the statements of the time) come to expect the same quality of special effects that had been seen in the films. And, thanks to advancements like video compositing via the Quantel "Harry" (which took high-quality 35mm film elements and could allow you to mix (composite) them electronically) and other such devices, they were able to put out a high level of effects work at reasonable cost.

As you might've seen in the Basics section of the site, standard definition TV in the USA is also known as 480i . . . 480 horizontal lines of resolution, shown in interlaced frames. The new TOR is being created with 1080p in mind . . . the best format of HDTV. That's 2.25 times the number of horizontal lines of resolution.

The Quantel Harry's output was basically 480i. So if you wanted to remaster TNG, you'd want to take all those 35mm filmed elements and recomposite each and every one in HDTV quality. I don't know what elements they'd still have available, not to mention which ones were shot on film. For instance, some of the niftiest TNG effects were done at bargain-basement prices, and might've only ever existed on video. That mylar pom-pom shield effect comes to mind, not to mention the computer-generated phaser beams from DS9 and perhaps earlier. Weaker effects like that excessively-crappy purple-static-disintegrator effect from "Angel One" (which looked like CGI off of an Amiga) would probably demand some modern CGI replacement, too.

Think about that for a moment. Some might say "sounds good, let's do it!", but it'll never fly. TOS was great for its time, but when you get right down to it that show was light on the visual effects. Even episodes like "Balance of Terror" only have a few opticals. Probably "The Doomsday Machine" ranks highest insofar as opticals are concerned, but I'd wager that your average TNG episode trounces "Doomsday"'s count. The audience had come to expect quality effects and a little bit of "wow!", and the tech and budget was there to allow Roddenberry et al. to deliver.

Redoing TOS is a cakewalk. The effort they're going to spend on TOS Remastered is probably less than the effort that would be spent recompositing just TNG's first season in HDTV.

So will the TNG-era Trek shows always look like low-res ancient TV, with TOR and ENT looking 2.25 times better? No, not at all. When the time comes for TNG, DS9, and Voyager to appear in Blu-Ray, credits to navy beans says they're just going to upconvert it.

Upconversion isn't new. Even old DVD players taking a 480i movie, de-interlacing, and making it progressive scan 480p are upconverting to some extent. But there's consumer-level equipment out there now which will take 480i signals and upconvert for viewing on HDTV plasmas, LCDs, and so on.

It won't look as flawless as a totally redone TNG, but TNG-Upconverted won't look bad at all. Just witness the Ten-Forward scenes they lifted from TNG and reused in "These Are The Voyages"[ENT4] to see what I mean.

But of course, it won't look perfect, perhaps especially when it comes to the effects. Some of the early Image G ultraviolet compositing work looked a little weak at times compared to the ILM shots from the first season . . . and not just because of the "Bulldog" four-foot model.

However, that leads us back to the original point.

While faithfulness to the original effects is a laudable goal, and while I'm sure in-house CGI done by CBS Digital was cheaper than using the awesome work we've come to know and love from EdenFX, I think it's also true that they didn't want to show up the TNG-era shows too badly. The EdenFX test footage was awesome, but imagine looking at "Balance of Terror" or "The Doomsday Machine" in an EdenFX version, then popping in even an upconverted "The Defector"[TNG3] or even "Best of Both Worlds"[TNG4] . . . or for that matter, even the Dominion War fights from DS9. It just wouldn't compare . . . TNG-era shows looked great and hold up well, but even upconverted it would be trounced by the beauty of EdenFX.

(There's also the matter of the sets. TOS sets looked alright for the most part (but even in standard definition I remember shoddy bits like the button for the Tantalus Field device). However, according to some interviews with production staffers, the TNG sets were often built with the intent of 480i and no close-ups . . . it was the DS9 sets that first got the movie-quality-close-up treatment, and even then it was probably mainly just the standing sets.)

In short, then, I think they want to keep consistency. The Enterprise really could be done a whole lot better for TOR, but as soon as they whipped out an EdenFX-quality Enterprise they'd be stuck in a few years with 21 seasons of the TNG-era shows that look like crud by comparison. And there'd be nothing they could do about it unless the TOR team signed on for another 20 years of work.

"Better to keep things faithful to the original" would be the logic there, I'd say. And of course, since 1080p HDTV is pretty much the end-all be-all of resolution (since even high-quality movies like Star Wars Episode III were filmed on 1080p digital cameras and looked gorgeous blown up to theater-screen-size), getting a good-enough 1080p Star Trek Original Series, mixed with upconversion of the rest, is all they really need to do, and realistically all they can do.

But, alas, I still would've liked streaking warp stars . . .


ST:TOR Second Look

As you might've noticed on the "Balance of Terror" page update, I have finally acquired a pretty high-res version of the premiere remastered episode.

In my first look at TOR in the last post I expressed some concerns. Many of them now seem unfounded, while some others are reinforced.


1. Things do indeed look better in full motion.

2. The nacelle end-cap color is still a little icky-looking, but the spinning effect and Christmas lights are there and good. They all seem to be off at the same time from time to time, which seems to be the exact moments when that guy made his screenshots. But all in all, they're not bad.

Remnant Complaints:

1. The lighting style for the ship could really be a little less TOS. In some shots it even is, and things look okay. I'm not suggesting that they go all dark and moody, but the main reason the ship was so scandalously-well-lit for TOS was technical . . . as I recall they didn't really have the ability to do a hold-out matte to prevent dark areas from compositing badly, so all the ship edges stayed well-lit. Re-doing this excessive lighting in CGI just comes across looking a little silly.

On the other hand, in the midst of the episode (shortly after the weakened plasma torp hits the ship) we get a darkly-lit view of the top of the Bird of Prey showing off some rather bland and uninteresting hull plating, basically a checker-board pattern of reflection on the ship. That stands out pretty wildly from the rest. I wish they'd pick one.

But still, the ship looks flat and a little cartoony. The shadows on the ship during the final phaser shots (this being one where they left the lower saucer in shadow to show off the phaser bolts reflecting off the hull) are very, very soft, so it looks about as realistic as if one were to hold a model near an open window. I sincerely wish they'd chosen to go with Eden FX instead of doing things in-house at CBS Digital. The Eden FX test footage showed up at TrekMovie.com . . . and as I was just looking for a link I saw the following comment regarding "Devil in the Dark"[TOR] that I must now echo:

In general, though, as I look at these shots I’m more convinced than ever that the model is over lit and under textured. There’s hardly any tonal or specular variation over the hull surface, particularly in the side-on orbital view, it’s all just a flat, featureless gray. I’ve seen the still images of the CG model that clearly show weathering, gridlines and other subtle surface details but they are apparently too subtle to survive the bright lights and the transition to full-motion video, at SD resolution anyway. I presume they are trying to evoke the somewhat overexposed look of the originals, but this is one of those cases where I feel they are adhering too closely to authenticity and missing an opportunity to truly improve these shots.

Well said.

(Oh yeah, and here are the links to the Eden FX stuff: Great, and Hella-Cool. Note even in the small pics how you can discern hull plating reflections and so on . . . details seemingly absent from the CBS Digital effects. Cartoony, big-time.)

2. The Bird of Prey lacks the faint blue glow on its clear nacelle end-caps, visible in the TOS DVDs. In the TOR version they just look like solid metal hemispheres. I thought the clear bits with a blue glow visible from the front were nifty as hell when I first realized they were there, and hate to see them gone.

3. This isn't the fault of the remastering, but the cuts for TV broadcast suck, badly. Many of the best little moments of the episode were chopped out, from Spock's reaction shot to seeing the Romulans for the first time, to Kirk walking in a commanding fashion upon calling the orders to attack, and so in. Yet left in are seemingly random scenes. It's weird.

4. I've been itching for them to add just a hint of blue glow to the inboard nacelles or deflector dish, but I'm just a little bit revisionist that way. I guess they gave up on doing that when they did "Trials and Tribble-ations" and of course "In a Mirror, Darkly" and so now we're stuck with that choice. Ah well. It'd look cool.


Overall, I'd say the remastering is a good thing, since it simply had to happen in order to keep the new kids from just dismissing it out-of-hand. But since they're staying largely true to the original versions, there simply aren't going to be any "the kids are gonna piss!" moments . . . that'll have to wait for the remake movie.

In the future, though, I'm thinking that the overall view will be that they had a chance here to do things better and didn't, both by going with CBS Digital and by CBS Digital's choice to stay so true to certain elements they could've done without, like lighting and limited detail on the ship.

As for broadcasting the remaster mostly in standard definition, I'd say that while that might help support the project a little by providing income as it's going on, it seems like it's going to hurt in the long-run. I'll definitely want the Blu-Ray discs, for instance, but I'd imagine a lot of potential interest is going to get cast aside when people see it in standard definition and think "oh, ho-hum".

Time will tell.


Uh-oh ... ST:TOR First Looks

"The Original. Remastered." is the tagline on ads for the new TOS, so I'm assuming TOR is the appropriate three-letter designator.

In any case, TrekMovie.com has some images of the remastered Balance of Terror. The images are at standard definition quality, so it's not the HD glory we're hearing of.

While it's unfair to judge based on these screenshots, I have to say that perhaps the attempt to replicate the 1960's over-lighting of the Enterprise was not the best plan. The ship looked pretty good rendered in the ST:ENT lighting style, but while I haven't seen her in motion yet, in these images the ship looks flat and kinda cartoony, with only the vaguest hints of the details seen in the beauty shots posted online. Of course perhaps the show looks better in HD, but perhaps TOR is not the best thing for standard-def.

One thing that seems clear, though, is that the forward nacelle caps are crappy, with none of the multicolored christmas-light look. I don't get it either . . . the ship looks absolutely frickin' gorgeous in the beauty shots, lit properly and with nacelle caps that are multicolored and very wait-is-that-the-real-model?-esque. But in the images we're seeing the nacelles look like they were done in Windows 3.11 Paintbrush with the Pepto-Puke color selected.

Hopefully the situation will improve, and Balance of Terror (serving here as the "pilot" for TOR) will either look really great on HD or else will be redone to do so. Or, most hopefully, maybe the screenshots are just crappy and things look great in full motion.

Fingers . . . crossed.


I've finally ported over the canon arguments to CanonWars.com, so as to allow better focus for pure ST-v-SW material here at ST-v-SW.Net. I'll be removing the relevant material from this site (or putting in redirects as appropriate) as soon as I get around to it.


And Now For Something Completely Different

Go here immediately! It's the secretly-released clip of the video J.J. Abrams made when he was pitching his new Trek movie to Paramount. It shows us what the theme of the new film will be, including modernized musical score, with clips of TOS as stand-ins for new actors.

It's really gonna be a helluva film!


Pablo on Trek

I knew I liked this guy . . . he's a Niner. And a Star Wars fan who doesn't hate Trek (which, given the usual Star Wars fans I deal with, is quite refreshing). And besides that, he reminded me of what day it is.

Happy Birthday, Star Trek!


Leonard McCoy ... call him Flash, not Bones

I just realized something that had never occurred to me before. I've also misplaced my tongue, though I think it might be hiding in my cheek . . .

You see, in Star Trek V, we see McCoy watching Kirk climb El Capitan. Take a look at the last pic on TrekCore's screencaps page to see how far away McCoy is:

Caps by TrekCore.com

His distance is also confirmed by the angle at which he holds the little Starfleet binoculars . . . pretty close to level instead of close to straight up. And the image through the binoculars is also confirmation . . . Kirk's area being climbed is viewed from closer to level than as if from below. Both of these can be seen in TrekCore's Chapter Two of screenshots from the film.

A few minutes later, Spock's doing his little jetboot happy dance, distracting Kirk and causing a fall. The fall takes mere seconds . . . McCoy starts running from his position toward the mountain as soon as the fall begins.

Spock and his amazing technicolor jetboots manage to save Kirk, and moments after the fall is stopped mere feet from the ground McCoy comes running up at a jog.

Surely, though, he must've gone faster than a standard human jog to make that kind of distance. He had to have run a mile or two at least, and had to have done so in well under a minute, give or take. This implies running speeds of no less than 100km/h (60mph), and probably two or three times that at least.

No wonder Dax still fondly remembered his hands. If he could move his legs that fast, just imagine what he could do with his fingers. ;)





And so . . .

Now what? Which version is canon? Do I have to toss all my old analyses featuring TOS? Hell, I still haven't caught up regarding the DVD editions of Star Wars!


Briar Patches

While perusing Memory Alpha lately, I was struck by something odd.

In Insurrection, the action mostly takes place in an area called "The Briar Patch". But in "The Augments"[ENT4], Arik Soong (played by Data's own Spiner) uses the term to refer to Klach D'Kel Brakt, a Klingon region. Although the event was just the writers being cutesy more likely than not, the fact that the two places were being treated as the same one was just completely weird to me. And so I wrote my thoughts in the discussion area of the page, repeated and slightly revised here:

Although I'm sure the writers intended for us to make the connection (you can almost sense the undelivered wink and smile by Spiner), in any realistic sense it is profoundly unlikely that the Briar Patch from Insurrection and Soong's Briar Patch are one and the same. For starters, (1) the Insurrection Briar Patch is a system-size phenomenon ... vessels at impulse can traverse it within a day or two, whereas the Soong Briar Patch is a vast region with gas and radiation from supernova remnants ... implying a multi-system size measured in the light-years.

Further, (2) Soong indicates that the region shows indication of two habitable planets. He also says the Klingons haven't mapped it. This implies that remote sensing was employed, meaning they had to be able to get some readings of the planets from outside the region. The Insurrection Briar Patch prevented such methods. Worse yet, the idea of a second habitable world within the Insurrection Briar Patch deflates some of the plot of Insurrection, which focused exclusively on one planet and the dreadful effects thereon. Much of the dispute within the Federation could've been averted if the other world in the Briar Patch could be used as a health and healing resort.

Perhaps most damningly, (3) Soong says that his Briar Patch has to be reached by going through Klingon space ... they were in/near Earth territory, later part of Federation space ... at the start of the trip. That's inconsistent with the Insurrection Briar Patch in undisputed Federation control. It also (4) seems improbable that an area controlled by the Klingons for over a century, fought for in glorious battle by Kor himself, would end up in Federation hands a century later. And, (5) it stretches credibility that the Son'a could've emerged from the Briar Patch and built a nearby nation on the backs of two subjugated species in an area that had been so contested by those two major powers, especially considering the later Son'a relationship with the Dominion.

It's also worth noting that (6) a reviled criminal like Soong, who just happened to be the only survivor who would've known the name "Briar Patch" for the Klingon region, would've been an unlikely source for official nomenclature. Last but not least, (7) place-naming is an organic process. Many duplicate place-names exist just on this planet, and even just in the United States. ''Made in America'' by Bill Bryson, for instance, devotes a few pages to such issues, noting the frequent repetition of certain names by the settlers of the west. A well-known literary name like "Briar Patch" would apply both for a hiding place and for an impenetrable/dangerous spot, both of which could very well end up used repeatedly by spacefaring human travellers. (One can readily imagine the Badlands being called "Briar Patch" by the Maquis, for example.)

However, instead of just running with the above and unilaterally changing the page, I wanted to seek some community input first.

The wink-and-nod from the writers may not necessarily have been meant to suggest that the two Briar Patches were the same one, incidentally. Other possibilities of the nature of this probable in-joke exist, though simply suggesting that the two are one is the easiest idea.

In any case, as at Memory Alpha, comments are more than welcome on this matter.


Holst is Gonna Be Ticked

As you've no doubt heard by now, the International Astronomical Union has been debating a new definition for the word "planet", which, remarkably, has been undefined officially until now. In an era of space objects with names as ridiculously fanciful as cubewano, twotino, blazar, and so on, you'd think we'd have nailed down "planet" long ago. But, alas, not.

The new definition has something amusing. Way back when on the Spacebattles forums, a couple of ST-v-SW.Net's loyal opponents were shown a video clip of an exploding 'planetoid' in a Voyager episode. Screenshots from the video are still here.

Their claims were simply astonishing. The round, partially cratered body was said to have dilithium deposits "beneath the planetoid's crust [...] in the upper mantle, about sixty kilometres down". However, the opponents opened by arguing that the planetoid was a mere two kilometers in size.

Besides the depth given in the dialog, the mention of differentiation (i.e. crust, mantle, etc.) implying a certain size, the visible evidence of geologic activity, and so on, one of the points I made was that since the planetoid was spherical, it almost certainly had to be hundreds of kilometers in size because of the gravity required, based on our own local solar system bodies. This logic was rejected by the opposition, but eventually it was claimed that the roundness may have been artificial.

The IAU just gave me the authority to whip out a heaping handful of I-told-you-so. I quote:

"A planet is a celestial body that (a) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape [...] his generally applies to objects with mass above 5 x 1020 kg and diameter greater than 800 km."


But anyway, the IAU definition attempt is bound to be controversial. While I'm a sentimental fan of Pluto being kept as a planet, the inclusion of Ceres will undoubtedly confuse folks.

But really that's just a "re-inclusion", since it was considered a planet when first found. People were actually looking for a planet in that spot when they found Ceres, since Ceres (and the rest of the asteroid belt) satisfies the Titius-Bode Law.

Also at issue is that there may be dozens of other valid contenders. As it stands, the IAU definition will, at present, bring the number of planets to 12. One of those twelve is Charon, long considered Pluto's moon. I still remember a National Geographic planet poster I had as a kid that said "small as it is, Pluto has a moon" ... but now this will be identified as a double-planet system since Charon qualifies independently, and the two orbit one another around a point not occupied by either.

But another dozen are on a "watch list" for planethood. Some are other asteroids like Ceres but smaller, whereas others are more of the same iceballs from the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud areas like Pluto or Sedna.

Though it might seem arbitrary, I would think a population criteria might be of value. The original reason Ceres stopped being called a planet is because other asteroids were found in the same orbit. The term "planet" comes from the Greek for "wanderer", and all eight classical planets share the fact that they wander alone. Ceres is part of a tribe of wandering bodies, some coming close to its size. Pluto and other iceballs wander about the outer solar system rather drunkenly, with highly eccentric orbits and so on.

Opposed as I might be to Pluto's demotion sentimentally, I can see the appeal of it rationally. But instead, it looks like Pluto's going to have a lot of company.

But I suppose we'll find out when the draft definition gets voted on later this month.


Attack of the Waste of Time

I get the impression that G4's "Attack of the Show" is not exactly intended as compelling, relevant television, but wow. Besides rather mildly tantalizing glimpses of the cleavage of some chick named Olivia and much more tantalizing glimpses of some cute-as-all-hell British hottie, there is no apparent purpose to the program. Shows like this are why I don't often bother with television anymore.

But I digress ...

Since I have already wasted an entire blog entry about the "Star Trek vs. Star Wars" segment that appeared on the show, I shall therefore waste two.

The debate was billed as a battle royale, with hints that there would even be (probably shallow) tech-talk. This means that mankind still awaits the advent of truth in advertising. For all of five minutes, two talking heads had the floor. On the left side of the screen with a holodeck background was Mark Altman of Free Enterprise fame, whose professional credits are lengthy and his shoulders broad. On the right with a Death-Star-against-stars background was Kevin Rubio of Troops fame, whose professional credits are almost as lengthy but who has an astonishing, and really quite disconcerting, utter lack of shoulders. His arms were never visible, but had they been I believe they would've appeared to erupt from either side of the mid-torso.

You may think I'm just making useless commentary with the above, but I'm actually making a point. If I were to stop right here with my report on the segment, I would have offered a recap featuring greater depth than the segment itself actually provided.

So instead of providing depth, let's just hit the amusing highlights. Rubio comes strong out of the gate noting the influence of Star Wars on the film industry and the generation as a whole. Altman was hit hard, and fell back to the usual 'optimism about the future' Trek-wank. From there it just devolved, and the most entertaining thing about it was seeing Altman attempt to speak through an everpresent smile, sitting cattywompus so that one shoulder loomed magnificently over the rest of him, while the shoulderless Rubio and his avenging disco 'fro (complete with 1970's 'stache) gazed upward, rocking to and fro (no pun intended) and looking for all the world like he was doing his best Stevie Wonder impersonation.

Altman was always pretty steady, quality-wise. His performance started off along the thin line between mediocre and somewhat-tolerable, and by the end he was doing pretty decent. However, Rubio started off insightful and slowly slipped toward insane. As example of his insight, at one point he assigned Trek's slips of late as being due to its lack of change as a franchise that's been doing the exact same thing for years, which was of course Berman's whole modus operandi. And he called Kirk a ho.

But around the time he mentioned Star Trek and its "opening alien frequencies" he started going completely bananas. I quote:

"I'm saying that Star Wars was enough to inspire a defense initiative which brought down the Soviet Union, destroying communism."

He's talking, of course, of the popular (and originally derisive) common name for the Strategic Defense Initiative, a largely pie-in-the-sky notion from the Reagan years designed to suggest that we had the upper hand in the nuclear arms race. The name came in part because of the planned use of lasers. The SDI pseudo-farce was part of the overall strategy of dominating the Soviets in military and military research spending, among other areas, fuelling their collapse.

Y'know, I've heard of a lot of things supposedly being inspired by Star Trek, but I'm pretty sure no Trekkie has ever claimed that Star Trek has shaped world events. Maybe some deluded Trekkies out there dream that perhaps Star Trek could inspire all of us to open our alien frequencies and sit down together in harmony and understanding, but I'm fairly certain none of them would assign, say, the Cold War avoidance of nuclear armageddon as being Trek-related. Basically, Rubio's rationale was like saying the shuttle program was inspired by Star Trek . . . like SDI being called Star Wars, the first orbiter was the Enterprise!

But in any case, the time you've wasted reading this entry is now longer than the length of the segment, so it's time to sign off. The only other bit worth noting is that the online voting for an Enterprise vs. Star Destroyer fight was won handily by the Star Destroyer.

I think this speaks volumes about the viewership of such fine, compelling television.


Attack of the Show

Anyone getting the American network G4 catch tonight's "Attack of the Show"? Reportedly they had a Star Trek vs. Star Wars topic. Of course, most such discussions are entirely superficial (box office draw, fanboy dorkiness levels, etc.), but this one at least was supposed to have had a (probably-still-superficial) tech side.

In any event, I'll find myself a copy and report if anything interesting was said.


Artificial Suns

I was amused earlier. Not only do the Chinese seem to be claiming to be well ahead of the rest of the world insofar as achieving sustainable fusion power generation, but they also call fusion reactors "artificial suns".

Link 1
Link 2
Link 3
Link 4

I couldn't help but giggle.

Of course, I'm sure those opposed to Chinese fusion will simply try to claim that "sun" means the exact same thing as "star", and any light source is a star, so fusion isn't involved and this must really be just a big hot light bulb.

Good luck with that.


STrek-v-SWars forums

To whoever got them . . . can I please get a copy at least, if they aren't going to be up anytime soon? More than once lately I've looked for something I've written or looked for something I've read before and been unable to find it, until I realized it was something that used to be on those forums. I hate redoing things from scratch.




Congratulations to NASA on a beautiful Fourth of July launch of Discovery, OV-103.

A Few Details on Runabouts

A Danube Class starship was seen to be carried around by the Enterprise-D as an auxiliary vessel in "Timescape"[TNG7]. Used by a few bridge crew officers to attend a conference, the vessel appeared no different than any other Danube.

In the episode, a temporal anomaly causes time to move signficantly faster for the starboard warp systems . . . the runabout comes to a dead stop because the starboard engine fails. It's soon discovered that the failure is a result of the starboard engine running out of fuel . . . the starboard antimatter pod is found to be empty. The temporal anomaly meant that the starboard nacelle had been in continuous operation for 47 days.

This implies a few odd things. For one, it suggests that there is a dual-core system in place on runabouts. After all, for starboard antimatter to be empty and for the nacelle to have functioned for 47 days, there must have been a core which was operating to produce power for that amount of time. Otherwise 47 days worth of antimatter would've had to have been fairly suddenly run through a single warp core which was not functioning at that rate. This would be akin to putting an entire tank's-worth of gas in your car's engine cylinders all at once. However, it's likely that other discussions on runabout warp cores may suggest that there is just one, so perhaps another explanation must exist.

More importantly for our purposes, though, this gives us a figure for the endurance of the runabout. It is not known if the runabout's tanks were full or near-empty when it departed the Enterprise-D, nor is the speed of the vessel known, but a vessel endurance of 47 days at warp velocity is established here. At warp one this would give a range of 0.129 light-years. But the runabout was attempting to locate the missing Enterprise, suggesting higher speeds in use.

In "Dax"[DSN1] a well-prepared group must make an escape from the station. Kira points out that they probably have a vessel capable of outrunning a runabout handy. Sisko orders Kira to determine which ships docked at the station have a high warp capability ... her search includes ships capable of "warp five or more", suggesting that the runabouts are capable of at or near warp five, maximum.

Looking at some other examples of runabout velocities:

"Vortex"[DSN1] . . . Sisko makes first contact with the Rakhari in the Gamma Quadrant. In orbit of the world in a runabout, Sisko is asked to return a Rakhari citizen to the planet without delay. He informs the Rakhari that they should "expect him to return in a vessel just like this one within 52 hours". In "Emissary"[DSN1], upon emerging from the newly-discovered wormhole, Dax reports that the closest star system is "just under five light-years away." The computer identifies this star system as Idran, and per Dax it is an uninteresting place . . . no M-Class planets. Even if we assume that Sisko could somehow communicate with the station and order a runabout to depart immediately, this still requires a trip of at least five light-years within 52 hours. That's just under 0.1 light-years per hour, or 842c. Of course, what actually happened is that Sisko returned to DS9 and, in his office, ordered Odo to escort the Rakhari to his world in a runabout. So instead of the unrealistic one-way trip, we're actually talking about a 52 hour round-trip. That requires a ship capable of only warp five to make just under .2 ly/hr, or 1684c.

"Whispers"[DSN2] . . . A faux-O'Brien takes a runabout through the wormhole, then sets course for the Parada system in the Gamma Quadrant. He orders maximum warp, then asks the computer for the ETA. "One hour, fourteen minutes" the computer reports. In "Emissary"[DSN1], upon emerging from the newly-discovered wormhole, Dax reports that the closest star system is "just under five light-years away." The computer identifies this star system as Idran, and per Dax it is an uninteresting place . . . no M-Class planets. So, this is at least five light-years within 74 minutes. That's a warp five ship making 4.054 ly/hr, 97.3 ly/day, or 35,513c.

For our purposes we're going to ignore that last example, since it's outside the usual ballpark of warp five velocity. Numerous examples from Enterprise (as mentioned here and here) show that warp five is usually in the 1500c range, a value in keeping with "Vortex".

Now just for kicks:

So if we were to take the 47 days and assume a speed of 1500c, we would get a range of 193 light-years for the runabout. On the other hand, if we assume 47 days and 100c, then the range is 12.9 light-years.

These are neither upper nor lower limits, nor even valid numbers ... it is only a possibility. After all, we do not know the velocity of the runabout, and hence cannot know details of the fuel consumption rate. And again, we don't know how much fuel the vessel had aboard to start with.

To put it another way, if I run an engine at 1000 RPM with a quarter tank of fuel I might go 100 miles. If I run the same engine at 4000 RPM I might not make it as far, though I be going somewhat faster.

Alas, we can't know everything.


Digital Breakdown

As many have noted lately, frequent blog commenter Matt "DanielJacksonMPC" Carpenter (and the unofficial ST-v-SW.Net forums at Digital-Breakdown.com which he ran) have gone missing, and there was much concern in the community.

He is alive and well. But, Digital Breakdown won't be back for the time being.

There are so many things that can happen in our lives that remind us how silly little hobbies like this one really are ... I went through one recently myself. As I told him, take some comfort in the fact that people you've never met were concerned about you.

In this already-decadent age, the additional dehumanizing effect of the internet makes that a wonderful thing, indeed.


NASA, Hubble, and Europa

It appears that Congress wants a Hubble servicing mission in 2007. Hopefully the launch of Discovery on (or about) the first of July will go flawlessly and make that possible. The Spitzer and other similar tools are cool and all, but we love our Hubble eye candy too.

The above I learned from here, which also has the following comment I found amusing:

"One of [the House] recommendations includes $15 million for NASA to study and plan for a new start on a Europa mission as part of its fiscal year 2008 budget request."

Not only do they love eye candy, but in addition they've been reading Arthur C. Clarke and realized we're about five years late right now and need to catch up. I'm cool with us going to Europa, though, so long as we attempt no landing there.


Reviewing Karen Traviss

The quickie prelims: If you hate eco-terrorists with a passion, you'll probably be at best irritated and at worst pissed off if you go read City of Pearl and its sequels. Similarly, if it irritates you to have military personnel idolized solely because they're military professionals, you probably won't like any of her work.

And now you know why Lucas Licensing asked her to write Commando books.

Star Wars: Republic Commando - Hard Contact, Triple Zero

I'll start with the Star Wars books. Karen Traviss says she thinks her franchised work under the Star Wars title is better than her original work.

I agree wholeheartedly. Although I am myself a fan of hard sci-fi, her own work seems a little burdened. Under leash, lock, and key at Lucas Licensing, however, she shines. I am not the least bit surprised she's been gaining fans swiftly among the mainstream SW community; I think I enjoyed her Republic Commando books as much on the first reading as I did the Thrawn trilogy.

I am reminded of Zahn here, incidentally.

Timothy Zahn's career hit the limelight when he put out the Thrawn trilogy, but he's never been known for his other work, which usually sells and reviews fairly poorly. I've read and enjoyed some of his original titles, but he's always going to be known as "that guy who wrote the Thrawn trilogy," and the odds are not many of you have read anything else he's written.

Of course, the Thrawn trilogy doesn't fit nearly as well now that the prequels have been released. Spaarti cloning cylinders? Katana fleet? Dreadnaughts and Victory Star Destroyers? At best, we can go for creative retcons; at worst, we just can't fit it in with the canon anymore. I hate to say it, but the newer Star Wars novels set in the Clone Wars and inter-trilogy period are probably going to fit much better with the movies than the "modern" New Republic and post-New Republic era EU, which had diverged too far by the time the prequels came along and chopped all their tails off.

This is not the case with Traviss, who need fear no retcon. She does write a little worshipfully of the commandos, and there's a character who clearly "feels" like the author trying to write a version of who she'd like to be in the Star Wars universe, but aside from that, it's great reading. I finished both her Republic Commandos books before I could bring myself to go through Crossing the Line.

She knows how to write action, and she's managed to bring the faceless clones alive in ways I hadn't really expected. Forced within someone else's morality play, she does a wonderful job bringing up issues of conscience, dehumanization, and identity, all packed together with the trauma that is an active war. We feel for the clones. OK, sure, they're the chief bad guy's personal legion of doom, but they're human all the same. And what a crappy childhood they've had.

I won't spoil anything by telling you it's a great look into the notion of the Clone Wars - and when I think of what was notable in the details of ROTS, I can say Traviss and Lucas seem to be on the same page regarding the clones right now.

Ok, so let's talk about the material, OK?

And now... a word to the EU completists in the audience. If you truly believe that EU novels are canon unless contradicted, you're stuck with all of this (and if you don't, well, you can skip straight to the review of her original work):

While, of course, there are the obligitory references to how Republic ships can "burn" whole worlds from orbit, or slag facilities, which Saxtonites should be happy with, they should be particularly unhappy with the way she's further defined the conflict within Lucas Licensing's continuity. As recent events have confirmed, Karen has full support from the folks running things at Lucas' merchandising machine, and the picture she paints is antithetical to the traditional Saxtonite claims, so it's going to be reflected in all subsequent literature.

One year after Geonosis, the Republic army has roughly a million clones in the field. Traviss' interpretation of a "million more on the way" is clearly that it was Kamino's batch for that year. When you take into account how long the Clone Wars lasted, we see exactly where the famous three million figure comes from, and it fits quite well with AOTC.

They're fighting on hundreds of worlds at a time - sometimes just a squad, sometimes thousands. "But the Empire has fifty million systems," you may say. Well, that's not how many are being fought over.

Many of the worlds have practically nothing there, and there are partisans floating around. Traviss introduces a civilization of shapeshifters who've thrown in with the Republic, for example.

But the troops the Republic moves around? Clones. All the pilots? Clones. Which means the fleet is fairly limited. If there are only 500 clones permanently attached to every capital ship as fighter pilots, and half the clones are fighter pilots, that's 1,000 ships. Even at the end of the Clone Wars, practically all the pilots and ground troops are still clones.

And the Republic seems to have space superiority, even with something along the lines of 1,000 cruisers.

Those of you trying to figure out how the insanely high figures for droid troops available may now rest easy. The question isn't how many droid troopers you have - it's how you move them! The entire clone army can be mobilized in transports; the Droid army can only be mobilized in the numbers that you can get at them. Sure, if you can drop all those droids somewhere, you can overwhelm the whole place. Odds are they'll get shot down in space, most of them are sitting in space, and the absurd ICS figures for those will probably get retconned down to a reasonable "billions" in a few more publications.

Saxtonites will also be disappointed in transit times. An extra "day or so" transiting back from the battlefield is not a significant change, and the nearest Republic ship available to extract some stranded commandos has a 1 hour 40 minute ETA. It's not bad, mind you, but they're not in the middle of nowhere, and we're not talking about the sort of "across the galaxy in moments" speeds Saxtonites are always claiming. Just the regular, solid, "we'll get over to the next sector in a few days" sort of speed.

OK, a couple more technical points. In the Republic Commando books, blasters are clearly projectile weapons that shoot glowing bullets; the Republic has just now discovered PEP weapons, which are irritating even through Katarn armor. They also have some nifty explosives, but for the most part, it feels like a 21st century army that's gotten all the toys they want, with lots of neat combined functions and some extra miniaturization.

Katarn armor apparently rocks the house compared to regular clonetrooper armor. Lets them survive grenades, blaster bolts, etc - although in Hard Contact they're vulnerable to subsonic bullets from a rifle. Don't worry - by the end of Triple Zero, they've come out with a new version of Katarn armor that stops those dang soft-metal subsonic bullets. These guys are supposed to be walking tanks.

So I guess Traviss agrees with G2K that regular clonetrooper/stormtrooper armor isn't bulletproof, of course - regular trooper armor is quite a bit less substantial than Katarn Mk I.

City of Pearl, Crossing the Line, The World Before

In her original work, I found I could often predict the action a hundred pages ahead. Sometimes half a novel ahead - I knew well before finishing the second book exactly what the major plot twist of the third book would be, and I was already disappointed in her using such a transparent Genesis ploy. I suppose I had two problems: I'd read up on Traviss before reading her books, and I've probably read most of her influences. So I was surprised by nothing, and whenever she made a mistake, it showed.

What also showed is that she was writing straight out of experience. Well, OK, it's a good idea to do that for the first book - but after that one makes it on the market, start to branch out a little. I would've enjoyed the second and third books more if they'd showed more breadth of perspective.

We've got a reporter, we've got some military types, we have an environmental activist or two. There are some scientists, but they come off flat until one turns out to be a spook, and there's the obligatory character or two that feel like "this is what the author wants to be" characters. The aliens stay nicely alien about 90% of the time, and then they start acting out of character for a couple pages here and there.

OK, so here's the other thing that bugged me. Karen Traviss is billing herself as hard sci-fi, right? So she's visibly making use of the fact that you can't travel faster than light (although there seems to be a continuity gaffe or two on that account, she's mostly stuck to it). On the flip side, the bio and nano technology? Magic.

I had hoped for either a truly imaginative assumption to hook the plot on, or careful projection of the future; instead, in the first few pages, the hook becomes a magic drug that suppresses memories until you need them. The Suppressed Briefing strikes me as impossible to do with a simple injection - and it doesn't even serve much of a point in the long run.

I don't know... I just wasn't impressed. I really think Traviss is going to be the next Zahn - widely acclaimed within Star Wars, but little known for her own work.


Outsiders Astonished

G2k here ... pardon me for largely being in a state of hiatus this month. If you'll pardon my French, things have been just batshit banana-f***ing crazy.

In this mini-hiatus-break, though, I chanced upon some entertaining links related to recent entries. The Talifan are gettin' famous:



"Saxtonite" at Wookieepedia

I just received an entertaining link from a site visitor, who prefaced it with the comment that it was "a little gem for you from the greater SW community (i.e. those that dont zerg sites a la Wong)..."

(Note: if you're uncool like me and didn't know what zerging was, it refers to attacks without tactics in which sheer numbers are used to overwhelm the enemy. In other words, a perfect term to describe SD.Net board invasion tactics against enemy boards. But I digress . . . )

The link is to the Star Wars wiki entitled Wookieepedia, and mentions in broad strokes what it is to be a Saxtonite (or one who opposes them).

However, there is a grave error.

On the one hand, the entry reads "the difference is also a function of the gap between a group of fans who viewed the films as they first came out, and thus hold special reverence for them, and a group of fans who do not differentiate as strongly between the movies and other material."

And yet, later it is said that "Supporters of Saxton and his work point out that the films are the definitive work on the Star Wars universe, and that other sources in contradiction are incorrect. They point out that the movies are considered the most exact record of what occured, and therefore such analysis is justified."

In other words, the entry suggests that Saxtonites are focused on the canon and hold it in reverence, whereas anti-Saxtonites do not.

Those familiar with my opinions will realize that I was quite confused by the entry. After all, the problem I have with Saxton is not his method of pixel-counting and overanalysis of film frame captures . . . you can analyze something via any methodology you wish, and the one he uses is no worse than any other. (The fact that it is the standard of the Versus stuff online does bias me in favor of it, but still.)

The issue, of course, is that Saxton and friends will happily ignore the films if the need arises. This is how he exagerrates his canon-based Death Star II scaling of 270km to 900km (based solely on an incomplete matte painting that doesn't appear in the film) . . . this is where he gets the idea of a red moon around Hoth (based on an image from some EU source with extraordinarily bad color balance) . . . this is how he ends up getting his yield requirements for Star Wars weapons (where ISD firepower is based off the non-canon BDZ, a comic book image, and the necessity of blasting through non-canon neutronium hulls ... and Slave I firepower is based, not on Episode II, but on comic book renditions of the ship's guns in action).

So really, if the Wookieepedia entry were more correct, then perhaps it might say that those two camps are really just different as to whether they pixel-count at all, since the extra-canonical cherry-picking habits are the same.


Star Wars TV Show: Bounty Hunter

Call me out of the loop . . .

The guys at IESB.Net posted a video of a quickie interview with Rick McCallum. TheForce.Net has the link.

The part I found most interesting was the mention that the TV show would be dealing with bounty hunters. Past information has mentioned that it would involve events which occur between Ep3 and Ep4 in the timeline.

I don't know about you, but I smell a young Boba Fett. That would be pretty sweet. But you can just imagine events carrying him to Tatooine where, upon seeing the Sarlacc, he shudders with some deep, mysterious sense of dread. ;)

An Open Letter to Karen

Dear Karen Traviss,

You may wish to thank the "Talifan" who have been pestering you lately. It is through their attentions that your books have come to my attention. As a long-time fan of hard speculative fiction who also enjoys the occasional romp through franchised novels (including, but not limited to, Star Wars and Star Trek novels), I thought your books might be a worthwhile purchase.

Ordinarily I would cautiously buy a single novel from a new and unfamiliar author, but you come so highly recommended by the so-named Talifan of the Stardestroyer.net community that I failed to resist the impulse to buy all five paperbacks on Amazon today. Seeing as they have become the focus of so much controversy, I feel it fitting to acquire, read, and publicly review the novels as soon as possible.

I apologize in advance for my posting scathing reviews of your own most original work should you not prove to live up to the grand literary tradition of Murray Leinster, Arthur C. Clarke, etc; I also apologize in advance for saying you completely depart from the vision of Lucas in your Star Wars books. I might not find it in me to say such things, but in case I do - don't take it personally. I certainly don't mean it personally.

If you don't feel up to thanking the Talifan for giving you that little extra bit of internet press that brings you that little bit of extra business, I understand. After all, they were so rude and abusive about it that I would be hesitant to thank them were I in your shoes. Still, no press is bad press for a new author on the market.

The big hairy mountain man.


Labels, Logic, and Lies

You know, I really hate talking about people. This blog is meant for ideas . . . I'd really much rather be discussing the oddity of Jake saying Regulus was a mere 300 ly from DS9, and other warp velocities stuff. But sometimes, one just has to stoop and rant.

1. The Label

A few months ago, I found a new word. Coined by an acquaintance of Star Wars author Karen Traviss, the term originally was meant to refer to Dune fans who, out of malice, stupidity, or brain damage, harass and/or terrorize authors and their business. That term, of course, is "Talifan". Traviss provided the following definition:

"I am very specific about what I mean by a Talifan; a fan (in any franchise) who insults and attacks creators and other fans over detail and is absolutely intolerant of different views, and bullies and defames instead of joining in a civilised and enjoyable debate. I can't imagine anyone believing that's acceptable behaviour."

Alas, some do think it's acceptable. Talifandom comes in many forms. Authors might simply be attacked by fans with a bone to pick and absolutely no sense of proper conduct, much as happened to Pablo Hidalgo, Karen Traviss, et cetera. Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert experienced it as a small-minded attack on their book's user reviews at Amazon.com. Robert A. Salvatore, author of the Star Wars book Vector Prime in which Chewbacca was killed, received numerous death threats. All have had their names slandered by obsessed fans upset about some damn thing or other.

However, the term has a much broader reach than merely referring to a negative segment of author-fan relationships. The same terror tactics used by animal-rights freaks like Pamelyn Ferdin's SHAC group . . . which are the same as those used by Wong and the Dirty Dozen-Or-So over at StarDestroyer.Net . . . are the same as those used by these Talifans.

As I said previously on the StarWars.com forums, "There is a small group of very vocal SW fans who feel that, no matter how much of a SW fan you are, if you disagree with their exact preference of what SW is supposed to be then you are the enemy, open to attack by any means necessary. I am thus in the august company of Pablo, Karen Traviss, Ryan Kaufman, KJA, Bob Brown, Nathan [Butler], Gary Sarli, and many others you wouldn't recognize who've upset this particular group of "Talifan". (Constant tangling with them can interfere with one's enjoyment of SW, which is why Bob Brown put away his blasters and my own fandom has waned at times. However, nowadays I just remember they are a venomous minority and go on unfazed.)"

And frankly, it makes me feel a little better about the world that the same segment of Talifandom that the SW VIP folks have dealt with happens to be the same one I'm acquainted with. The fewer of this sort there are, the better. After all, consider these three violent Talifantasies -- 1 & 2 about me, and 3 about Karen Traviss. While the existence of such material is bad enough, wouldn't it be even more disconcerting if three separate people were responsible? Happily, instead it's just one angry little guy in California who, since he tips the scales at 450 pounds and works a crap job, is a viable threat to no one except nearby Californians incapable of exceeding 0.84 miles per hour on foot.)

While Al-Qaeda and animal-rights terrorists are real terrorists because of their violent acts, the attempted use of fear and intimidation, not to mention genuine offline harassment and threats, by these Talifans is no less real. So it seems to me that referring to them with a near-terrorist moniker is entirely proper. Even the word "terrorist" is okay in a pinch . . . the threat of violence alone is legally sufficient, though (since these terrorists have no particular broad political or societal agenda) "criminal geek" is probably more accurate.

2. The Logic

Traviss's definition was pretty specific insofar as talifandom being a fan-on-fan or fan-on-author activity. In other words, the agent of talifandom has to be a fan.

That's all well and good, but what if an author is the one who uses "insults and attacks", and "is absolutely intolerant of different views, and bullies and defames instead of joining in a civilised and enjoyable debate"? "I can't imagine anyone believing that's acceptable behaviour", either, except Harlan Ellison.

What have we then? A Tali-Author, which is just a talifan who happens to have been published, also? Or is this person morally okay, to be allowed their behavior because they're an author?

Well, I for one reject the latter idea. That argument is rather similar to a racist who claims not to be racist because he or she is a member of a racial minority. Right and wrong have to be universally applicable or they mean nothing.

So what does this mean for Talifandom? Well, while the word itself might be confined to fans (what with the term originating from "Taliban Fandom" in the first place), the concept is universally applicable.

3. The Lies

Comparing people to Hitler or their arguments to Nazi positions has been prevalent online for a long while. "Godwin's Law" dates to 1990 or so, after all. I note this simply to point out that it would be all too easy to make a powerful and direct label like "Talifan" he argumentum ad nazium. Suddenly you'd have Talifans, Talifans, everywhere!

Unfortunately, this sort of thing is already occurring.

Back in November, I chanced upon a post at TrekBBS relating to StarTrek.com and whether or not its words about Trek canon carried any weight. The poster, "Therin of Andor", claimed that Richard Arnold had said StarTrek.com was a mere licensee, of no weight whatsoever. I noted contrary details in a fact-finding manner, and asked a few questions. At first, the only response was a vague second-hand statement from some random guy (who, unbeknownst to me, was actually a Trek author . . . which I presume is why he now uses the tagline "Writer" under his name). I requested a first-hand statement . . . and then all hell broke loose. The random guy unleashed an angry, cursing reply, and then a pile-on of other authors began. The second one claimed I was dishonest, obnoxious, pathetic, obsessed with them, and "couldn't care less about objective truth". All this from my two messages! (Of course, in reality he'd simply mistaken me for someone else . . . he claimed they had schooled me on canon "months ago", but in fact I had never discussed it with them.)

Now, in all fairness, I had never participated in the Trek Literature forum before, nor had I bothered to read any of the posts. (After all, what did I care about the books?) As a result, I was unaware of how touchy the authors are about the word "canon", since people apparently often note that their works are not. Further, I was unaware that the authors frequently banded together to fling poo at people (hence the second Trek author's use of "we" and "us"). That had been a subject of multiple user complaints in the "Moderator Actions" forum and elsewhere, and has also been the subject of a whole lot of jokes there or in the Lit Forum.

In short, I was inadvertently carrying about five tons worth of incendiary devices and had just unwittingly waded into an ocean of gasoline.

So it goes.

Immediately following Author #2's ludicrous diatribe, Author #3 piled on with a mish-mash of insulting statements which originated from his not having bothered to read my post. He even claimed that I had accused the authors of dishonesty and ignorance. And yet, seemingly by accident, he quoted something which actually was topical toward the questions I'd asked.

Only with the next post from a Trek Lit VIP did I get a worthwhile response, but even that was written with a sneer.

It was at this point I returned, and tried to put out the fire. Apologizing to Author #1, I noted that I had not recognized him, but that I'd read one of his novels and so on and so forth. He hadn't been a bad guy, after all . . . just a little snitty.

Author #2, however, had annoyed me. My response to him was somewhat less friendly, though not rude. I was simply more to-the-point, though I did aim for a bit of comic relief at my own expense.

And with Author #3, I again explained why I was asking the question, explained the basis of the questions, and thanked him for quoting something useful to me. (I did, however, make a smartass comment in reply to one of his misunderstandings, but as hostile as he'd been I felt okay about one ribbing.)

(He soon replied via private message, blaming his mood for some of his misstatements and trying to explain his misconceptions on other matters. He was just an e-book author, after all, and was polite, so we had a little manly-hug moment.)

Later, after updating my canon page, I returned to thank the Trek Lit VIP who'd given a worthwhile answer. To my shock, though, Author #2 had posted even more vitriol, claiming I was manufacturing beliefs based on my own unwavering preconceptions, lying about things, and so on. In short, he was hostile and weird.

So yeah, I responded. VIP or not, this guy was an asshole. Even so, my response was measured. I didn't flame him or even call him on his dishonesty. The most I did was point out that he was being unnecessarily hostile with his personal attacks, and I pointed out the profound contradiction he held and that he was flaming me over.

His response was "oh, lighten up", and some variations on that theme. In other words, I made my point. Sure, Author #2 had distracted me from the goal of my entering the thread, but only for a moment . . . "Therin" returned and noted that a VIP-of-Lit-VIPs (Paula Block) posted at TrekBBS, and to ask her the questions I'd been posting.

Considering the weirdos that had shown up in the thread I was in, that sounded like a good idea.

And so it was that a new thread was born.
Eventually Paula Block responded, and meanwhile the other VIPs entertained themselves both at TrekBBS and with comments about me at the SimonSays.com Pocket Books forums. I had, in no time flat, become the whipping boy of the Trek Lit VIPs in regards to all the people who'd used that dirty "canon" word before.

But I thanked Paula and, though I did make a snide remark at one of the authors who'd been particularly annoying, the conversation had ended on a relatively decent note. What probably should've happened at this point is that I should've taken the information I'd acquired, gone home, and updated my page accordingly.

But, alas, I ended up posting one of those little thread wrap-ups I liked to do, noting that in my rank-based scheme Paula Block's statements couldn't trump those of Jeri Taylor regarding the matter under discussion. This was true, of course, but the fact that I said it (or said much of anything) raised the ire of that weird e-book Author #3 anew, along with the rest of the angry author group.

The situation basically boiled down to Author #3 as the primary attacker and the other authors as peanut gallery. Author #3 . . . Kevin Killiany of BattleTech fame . . . pulled out all the stops . . . lies, misrepresentations, personal attacks, feigned innocence-abused, and so on. I have no idea how he got so riled up about things, given his earlier apology via PM, but it was no longer of consequence. As far as I was concerned, I was under fire, being unfairly maligned personally and my position under attack by a person making patently false statements.

As anyone who's dealt with me at all knows, I'm a defiant bastard. The StarDestroyer.Net gang found this out long ago, which is why I'm now #1 in the Google rankings for "Star Trek vs. Star Wars" and StarDestroyer.Net is not. Despite the strategic error of posting the thread wrap-up, I was not going to allow Author #3's bullshit about the facts and about me to go unchallenged.

So, I went about correcting him point by point, and while I wasn't outright flaming him I was certainly only being as respectful as his actions had warranted. And through it all, I kept trying to explain to him why exactly my position was what it was.

Killiany would hear nothing of it. Even when another poster diplomatically tried to explain to him and the other authors what I was saying in another way, and both Kevin Killiany and I both complimented him on his olive branch, Killiany then chose to press his attack, and repeated his earlier demand for my identity.

(Given how I've dealt with Talifans, do you really think I had any desire to give this nutbag my contact info? Of course not. However, another poster did a little search and found some of the SD.Net Talifan sites for him, so now he started sounding like Poe.)

My final response chastised him for his aggression in lieu of respecting the other fellow's olive branch, after which I again pressed his illogic, culminating as it did with his desire for more information about me. With this last post I finally called a spade a spade, identifying his frequent, direct, unmistakable lies for what they were. Finally, I asked him how far he wanted to go . . . he seemed bent on a full flame war, but if he'd just shut the f*** up then we could simply part ways. (I phrased it somewhat more diplomatically, however.)

Killiany simply replied that he was being deliberately baited, and the thread was closed soon after. Of course, since he had been the attacking party with me on defense all the way until the last message, I fail to see how I was doing the baiting. But hey, whatever . . . it wasn't like he was being consistent with himself or reality the rest of the time.

I expected this fellow to drop off the radar, but instead he decided not to. I knew this Trek e-book author was batshit, but I didn't realize how batshit he was. He soon joined up at StarDestroyer.Net to talk about me there. Like the old saying, "friends come and go; enemies accumulate", here I had a stark-raving lunatic joining up with the others.

I correctly predicted that he would quickly disappear from there, though some of my reasons were wrong. The guy claimed (to my surprise) to be a minister. I assumed this would imply that the anti-religious and just-plain-weird-religious sentiments at SD.Net would drive him away, but in fact in researching this post I discovered that his theology is quite peculiar anyway (or do all Presbyterians believe there were two creation events in Genesis with an Earth-razing war in between?). And of course I figured that as a minister the guy was more likely to be conservative, but again in researching this post I discovered that this guy is a rabid liberal/subjectivist loonie, which explains a lot about his rather fluid perception of reality.

So it goes.

In any case, though, he'd shown me that despite his claim to be a mental health professional (tacked on to his writing and teaching and ministerial duties and the other umpteen jobs he claims for himself), he was quite the psycho. I mean, if I'd gone to, say, some BattleTech forum and bitched about the guy, then I could see where I could be called obsessed. However, here was a situation where the guy had knowingly gone to the website of my opponents . . . even after previous comments by me about their behavior . . . and joined up with the purpose of talking smack about me.

In short, I had a Trek author obsessed with me. Oh sure, I don't think he had a shrine to me that he wanked to, but there was still a lot of obsessive wankery involved.

But after his disappearance from SD.Net, and considering that I had no more need to be in the TrekBBS Lit forum, Kevin Killiany dropped off my radar. I thought nothing more of him, except when I was working on the canon page update and pondered what a profound nutjob he'd been. I assumed that the obsession had waned.

I thought wrong.

Recently, Karen Traviss has been commenting on Talifan via her LiveJournal, just as I've been mentioning them here. And of course, the Talifans at StarDestroyer.Net have been obsessing over her every word.

It should come as no surprise that Kevin Killiany, freak and obsessed Tali-Author, showed up to give his two cents to Ms. Traviss. The wacko is still obsessed, evidently . . . and really, is it any surprise he'd show up? After all, I'd made my interest in the topic clear, what with Traviss and I dealing with the same StarDestroyer.Net freaks. Oh, but I'm sure it was mere coincidence.

Traviss had been pondering the idea of having a "who's who of the Talifan" sort of thing, and Killiany (rather ironically) had a suggestion:

"A guide to these creatures would be very helpful. I could send you a link to a thread on the TrekBBS (if it still exists, it's been months) where one of these creatures infiltrated the normally civil TrekLit forum."

I sound so dastardly and insidious! Skulking about in a peaceful meadow prepared to do wicked wicked things! I can't help but laugh at this, considering the TrekLit forum's reputation as home of the author wolfpack, and their low annoyance threshold with the word "canon".

"He sounded quite nice at first, but when he wasn't getting the answers he wanted he degenerated into telling Paula Block -- who oversees Star Trek licensing -- that she didn't have the right to decide Trek canon,"

Well, she doesn't. She has some say, but the buck has never stopped with her, much to Killiany's regret. He lied like hell to try to make it sound like it did, but it doesn't.

"accused a Pentecostal minister who asked by what authority he spoke of trying to learn his identity for the purpose of communicating death threats,"

The above is cute. I noted that I don't like to give out my personal information because of obsessive crazies online, and noted what those crazies have previously done (i.e. death threats, et cetera). Killiany not only identified himself with those crazies (which at least was honest on his part), but jumped to the conclusion that I thought he'd start making death threats.

Had he not said so I wouldn't have thought it, but y'know, he might be right. Maybe I should worry about him. (Fear not, I'm mostly kidding.)

What's also fun is that he identifies himself in the third-person using the nicest-sounding claimed title of his that he could find. After all, had he identified himself as an obsessive-compulsive nutjob who tries to find out about people online so he can go join up at the boards of those who threaten and harass them, it wouldn't sound as good, would it?

"told DS9 scrip writer David Mack he didn't know what he was doing"

Except I never talked to David Mack, nor did I tell anyone they didn't know what they were doing (except for Killiany himself).

"and informed Marco Palmieri and several Trek novelists -- including Keith DeCandido, Christopher Bennett, Andy Mengles, and Dayton Ward among others -- that they were just bitter failures because their work would never be considered canon."

This is the funniest part of all, and not just because Andy Mangels wasn't even in the thread. The funny part is this: after one of Author #2's early flame-fests in which he rejected the idea of canon and my reasoning abilities, I rather nicely said "The fact is that I have the utmost respect for what you fellows do, and there are a lot of great books and book-derived concepts that ought to be Star Trek canon. It is perhaps unfair that Jeri Taylor had the chance to canonize her own material. However, getting in a huff over the fact that you can't do the same isn't going to help you, and while flaming a guy for keeping track of the canon policy might make you feel better, that doesn't help you either."

Killiany, however, added all sorts of extra meaning to that. I'm particularly amused by his rendition of it as 'you're all bitter failures!' Given how often these guys hear the word "canon" and how much they loathe it, it's ironic that he'd inadvertently confess that what I said was more true than I realized by expanding upon it so.

"What stopped the mad whirlpool of good people trying to talk sense to this fellow was one helpful member posting a link to a page over at StarDestroyer warning people about this particular troll. A hand reference like the one you propose would be a great time saver in the future.

Go for it."

And here we come to the crux of the matter. Any talifan freakshow can write a hate page just like the one Wayne Poe and the SD.Net Talifan just wrote about Karen Traviss. (Of course, the fact that Killiany referenced StarDestroyer.Net, home of the anti-Traviss Talifan, tickles me endlessly.)

But if a crazed tali-author freak like Kevin Killiany, an author who obsesses over people who resist his flaming attempts, were allowed to add people to a list of talifans . . . well, then, the word and the entire concept ceases to have meaning.

Now me, I've been calling these talifan bastards to the carpet for years, even if I haven't had the word "talifan" to employ until the last few months. And I'll keep doing so, even if Killiany's effort to sack the word is successful.