jacc in the box  -  extra stuff         -back-

Author's notes - Book 1

To start things off let's see if you can pick out the über d'uh blunder in my first book, jacc in the box.  Can you find it?  To me it was the use of the active transponder capsules on page 98.  While converting the original screenplay to the book I meant to swap the transponder chips out with the new RFID technology of the day, and even though RFID would now come across as quaint and passé the use of it is here to stay.  I could kick myself for overlooking that one.

The biggest problem with scifi is the use of technology as plot devices.  My golden rule nowadays is not to discuss technical details unless it's absolutely necessary to move the story along or to give insight as to why something is happening. 

Some readers complained that I gave way too much information when in counterpoint other readers said that I did not provide near enough.  What can a writer to do to fix that?  Nothing!

There is no balance to be struck here.  An author has to make a choice to either cater to the readers who want a story or the techno geeks who want minutia.  In my opinion the story should win out but this is scifi.  I have to bend to the will of the genre and add the "sci" components where they make sense and relate to the action. 

Which is kinda why I have to apologize for the first half of the second chapter.  Exposition was the choice I had to make in order to get all that stuff out of the way and set a tone.  The cherry on top is the hurt Maria puts to Jacob at the end of the chapter.  Like most of their encounters gleaned from my life.  Different topic—same smack down.

Then there are times you choose to make blatant technical errors for the sole purpose of providing a better reading experience...

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Astronomy Domino:

For the most part in the original screenplay we created fictional settings and locales (i.e. star systems) because with a screenplay you don't have to explain anything unless it's absolutely critical to the action, but with a novel you're gonna be put to the question for writing about some stupid or egregiously lame environment.  Because film has a visual focus, and is a passive experience, the technical details are meaningless if you do not bring them up.  With a book you have to have your ducks in a row because a book is interactive and held to a higher standard.  With books a reader has time to think about what you say and that doesn't bode well for those authors who spoon-feed 'em with bullshit.

None of the stars and locales in jacc in the box are going to harbor any potential biospheres (i.e. life bearing planets or moons) nor will they ever. Large and massive and hellishly radiant stars are most of what you see in the night sky (not the gazillions of itty-bitty stars) and these guys are too big, too young, too hot, too volatile and way too short lived for life to develop.  I even mentioned this in the book on page 34.

Red dwarfs, the stars you cannot see with a naked eye, have the best potential for life bearing planets and moons.  I thought that up in the '90s, but with the little knowledge we had of them back then I'd be forced into using fictional locales.  That does not make for great story telling.

It's that reading experience consideration-thingy.  As a reader you can step outside on most nights of the year and with a clear sky you can see Orion, the Hyades and the Pleiades in full view.  You can visually touch Saiph, Electra and Betelgeuse without the aid of a telescope.  Of all the things in the night sky these objects leap out at you!

I wanted THAT experience for the reader.  And even though most people won't know these facts the ones that do will still make that connection.  At least I have the satisfaction in knowing that the Pleiades and Hyades are chock-full of red dwarfs, and if we ever do manage to venture out of our solar system I know we'll be going there.

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Invincible Errors:

I really hate the phrase "shit happens" but sometimes shit does just that!  It happens—and it conspires to maximize the "d'uh" factor when making analogies with astronomical distances.  Case in point...

Back in the '90s the Pleiades was believed to be 116 parsecs away but since then it has been recalculated to be 134 parsecs.  Not that big of a deal but at the beginning of the second chapter it means the difference between 1916 and 1858.  There's a significant enough of a fudge factor that I would have probably described something Civil War-ish, but in the end the 1916 visual stayed because I was already in print.  The parsec distances to Saiph and Betelgeuse also changed but I think I may have kept them where they were.  The Pleiades was a big deal though. 

Why I'm bringing this up is because some "Big-Bang Theory" geek-tron is going to crunch those numbers and snort with delight when they point this out—in my face.  The annoyance factor will be so damned high that I'll consider it my civic duty to cull them from that herd.  I do crunch with the best of 'em...but it ain't numbers by any stretch.

Did I mention that Nu Ara in the book is in reality Nu Ari?  The Mead astronomy software I was using at the time had it wrong so if you too have some pressing need to point this one out then please join in with the number-crunchers.  We'll be BFFe!

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Errata-cation:

Go to pages 133 and 134 and let's see if you can see it?  I changed the Nicole Burke character to a Chief from a Deputy Marshal and three times I had to alter this passage!  I was using an old HP server as my PC back then and had a lot of problems with version control and MS-Word failing to save more times than I can count.  AAAAAARRRGH!  When you read these pages you can hear it?  Thats the dull thuds of my head pounding against the dry wall...like now.  [thud...thud...thud...thud...thud]

Here's a good one for ya!  In La Cañada (page 154) the ale they drink is Rapture Red, but in Hell (page 257) it's Raptor Red.  I was surprised that someone picked up on this—but this was intentional because in Hell you cannot lie.  It's nice to see people actually retain what they read!

There are three (3) more mistakes in the book but they are so minor and unseeable that I won't bring them up, but I will address the liberal user of commas.  Guys like commas, okay?  I took writing viva voce (in voice) very-very literally and this made my use of commas unavoidable.  Going forward my writing has not changed but my use of commas has, and the egregious sins committed on the first book I'll excuse here because of the affect the Y-chromosome had on my writing.  My women buddies consider it a birth defect and they say that I've done well to overcome it.  I've thought about asking what that means exactly but, when you think about it, maybe I don't want to know the answer?

Oh, least I forget, we did scrub all but one of these pesky embarrassing thingies from the downloadable version.  The print version will follow soon but, with my luck, the gods of editing will conspire to fuck me over still.  Ya know, I don't think they like me... Hell, I don't like me!  Why I left one (pg 203) is to remind me, no matter how much I think I may or may not know, that I'm just as uber-d'ur mutherfucking stupid as I ever.  We must all strive to keep our feet on the ground.

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Hyper Realism:

This was the direction I had in mind for jacc in the box when I was first compiling the story elements, but when I started writing the screenplay back in the early 90's I realized that hyper realism makes for shitty story telling!  When you go for this kind of realism you end up mired in oodles of technology, processes and the minutia of procedures the characters must muddle though to interface with their environments.

It's the choices we have to make that kill me like artificial gravity.  The trade off for going this route was a faster paced story and a smoother character development.  The novelty of negotiating the complexity of a ship designed to provide faux gravity on acceleration, deceleration and zero acceleration (via centripetal force) would go from wAy kEwL to what we would feel if we were to watch people flush a toilet over and over and over ad nauseum.  It would get boring real fast.

It is conceivable that artificial gravity is a possibility but, as with spacial displacement drive (warp drive) and hyper jump, going over those in detail would be a dreadful experience in a book without making a point.  I call it anti-mass and it's the manipulation of the EM force to counter the effects of the dynamical illusion of what we call mass.  By whatever mechanism mass draws in space thereby stretching it and creating what we see as gravity.  In my scifi world artificial gravity is a spacial displacement cavity that gives us the opposite effect mass has on space but the exact same "falling" we preceive as gravity.  It would have a short reach as opposed to the mass-gravity effect.  Anti-gravity is the directional manipulation of said spacial cavity thereby pulling an objects mass counter to the effect of natural gravity giving one the illusion of boyancy and lift.  One could call it inverse falling but that doesn't ring a bell like anti-gravity.

Artificial gravity as compared to anti-gravity is like comparing a ceiling fan to a Segway i2.  Comparing anti-gravity to the MDDSH warp drive in the book is like putting that Segway up against a super-conducting maglev bullet train like the MLX01.  All three are the same underlining mechanism but all are radically different applications.

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Weapons a-Plainte:

The hands-down winner of the all-time most dumb-ass weapon in scifi is...well, it's a tie!  Star Wars wins in part for the blasters and Star Trek also vies for first place with the phasers.  Both of these weapons have a ploddingly slooow rate of fire and such crappy aiming as to be comical!  With both systems you can see the shot coming and step out of the way for crying out loud! 

Stormtroopers of Star Wars fame are probably the suckiest shooters in the universe.  Give me an Uzi and I could wipe out a whole company of them without batting an eye.  The blasters are so damned 'pwew-pwew' anemic that the bulk of the shots don't seem to register anywhere at all except when hitting stormtroopers...who have this strange tendency to cooperate and fall down dead.  Sorry to slam on you fans but what does this say about Jango or Boba?  If a blaster is supposed to blast then it had better live up to its name and BLAST!

The phasers are another story altogether.  Imagine your Nerf gun firing its Nerf dart blob of energy that dematerializes the Salt Vampire or the ooze monster and you come out of this unscathed!  The problem we have here is that to dematerialize something the size of a human body requires about a megaton of energy output—and no amount of mental gymnastics can circumvent the fact that to fire a phaser, at anything, would be catastrophic to pretty much everything out to three or four kilometers.  Cute idea that looks cool, but it's dumb as hell.

The Jedi light sabre is another dumb-ass idea that won't go away but the style points are so fricken high (off the scale in fact) that we'll let it slide and never bring it up in polite conversation.  I will say that plasma energy could maybe pull this off but you can't magically bendy-straw lasers!!!  And to totally torque the crank of you fans ya'll can keep Ahsoka 'cause I'll be ballin' it with Asajj Ventress double-red style.  :D   Just sayin'...

Good old-fashioned physical objects (e.g. combinations of lead with jacketed copper, steel, ceramics, alloys and such) exiting a barrel or rail at high speed will be the thing of the future—they'll just do it better.  The energy weapons we see in scifi, like lasers and blasters, really have no place on the battlefield because the load and logistical demands are too high for the minimal results they do offer.  There will be energy weapons that will find niche uses but those will be the exception.

In jacc in the box my bone-head mistake was with cobalt bluer, the retrofit bomb program from the original screenplay.  Now, most nuclear weapons are tertiary mechanisms starting with a fision bomb working as a spark plug for a fusion stage.  The third (tertiary) stage is a fisionable outer casing that pushes the bomb to even higher yields.  Cobalt bluer retrofits involve a fourth (quaternary) stage of fusionable compounds that include cobalt.  I can't find the notes I had when I talked to a physicist  on this back in early '91.  Not knowing what those componants are now make what I wrote then look like fiction pulled out of my ass.  The cobalt bombs made in the '60s were spiked weapons concieved for area denial, but here cobalt is a fusionable componant and not knowing how any of it works makes me feel dumb-as-fuck even though I don't have to explain a thing.  I'm kinda stuck here so if anyone can help please do!

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S.T. Techno-derp:

It was the neutrino scanning of ships and their interiors that was my all time candidate for the startled-to-stupid look I got when I first heard it.  I thought that was nuts until I heard about neutronium as an armored hull for ships.  If just a cubic centimeter of neutronium were to be extracted from a neutron star it would unravel with the ferocity of Tsar Bomba, and we wouldn't want to be in the vicinity if it did.

Both these things upstaged the holo deck which I convey to the makers  of Star Trek as the one plot tech-device in scifi that should NEVER have been explained.  I'm not going to go off on the transporters and let that one slide because it's not worth my time beating up the obvious, but what I won't let go of is how Star Treks scanning tools give the crew the almost God-like instantaneous awareness and knowledge of deep-space objects in REAL TIME.  I'm going to shut up for now because all I'll end up doing is hit Caps-Lock and shout obscenities.

Yet, I refuse to say it...  No, don't make me!  Please no!  Show mercy mutherfu...  "inertial dampers"   [AUDIBLE SHRIEKING-CLAWING OF EYES!]

PS:  I was intentionally underestimating the power of neutronium but
didn't realize that it was by a factor of 50,000,000 Tsar Bomba
per second.  [Thunderf00t - on the Neutronium Bomb]

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Kaam-ing Effect:

To me there are two types of evils: 1.) Personal evil, and  2.) Collective evil.  In the first book I deal with the first and the follow on books drive home points on the second.  There are some things (i.e. results) in this world that are beyond excuse or justification (via lawful evil) but we'll address collective evil, sometimes acts and behaviors with the best of intentions, later.  Today we're gonna focus narcissism.

I truly believe that personal evil has its roots in narcissism and where it jumps-the-rails into evil whose to say?  Then again, who gives a fuck!  THERE ARE NO EXCUSES for the following: child abuse, elder abuse, wife abuse, murder in the comissison of a crime, murder or mayhem for personal kicks, pedophilia, and slavery.  <-—Those last two, especially when combined, means there is still a purpose for Zyklon-B

When writing this I picked the one thing that NOBODY would question the SA when they "killed 'em all" ...are you listening NAMBLA?  I have little kids in my life and I just want to stomp the living shit outta anybody who looks at them twice.  Then there's sexual slavery because that's where I draw the line and think that colorful forms of execution should be optioned for the perpetrators.  Ever hear of  "breaking on the wheel?"  Oh, to dream...

Animal abuse!  Almost forgot that one... I myself have been jumped by pittulls (plural) and I'm here to say that would be a killer option!  Oh, wait, I like pitbulls so...robot pitbulls!  "Make it so!"

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Logistical Reach:

The material supply chain mechanisms in scifi have almost always been neglected but these issues have intrigued me.  To beat a dead horse it's that hyper-realism thingy rearing its ugly head.  I so want to cover things like cloned/cultured food, or why a tanker of sulfuric acid was dropped on your deck and the myriad of uses it has, and why is it that the people on board ship are pissing in special apertures so that they can collect the urea?  How is that stuff useful?  If you only knew...

I'm so gonna try to figure out how to surface that last one into the story but it must have a purpose or I can't go there.  I have five more books to write so I am hoping I'll get the opportunity!  If you're really curious about urea then wiki it up and don't freak.  Then again it's kinda like finding out what jello is about so...maybe you should consider the blue pill?

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Inspiration Sigalert:

Way back in the '70s I read The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman, and followed that up with Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein.  Both novels were brilliant works, original and unique in their own right.  I could not, for the life of me, remotely understand the lunacy of the "inspiration" controversy that followed the publication of Haldeman's book.  Cripes, that's like saying Tom Clancy plagerized Jules Verne!  Heinlein's ideas were not exactly original, but he got there first and put those elements together so damned well.  Haldeman's theme, plot and characters were surprisingly original and entertaining even though the premise of the story (the reason for the war) was not at all believable.

For the record the adaptation of Starship Troopers in 1997 was a totally ignominious perversion of intellectual property.  I like Paul Verhoeven's work but this time he screwed-the-pooch...at least I thought so at first.  In retrospect, by it's jingoistic zaniness, the film captured what SST was all about so my hat's off!  I have been forever waiting for The Forever War to be optioned and would you know that, of all directors, Ridley Scott picked it up—and that's hopefully good news!  Maybe we can get past the failure of that Prometheus POS?

Also, for the record, these two clearly inspired the crap out of me and, while you're at it, you can toss in Philip Roth, Hunter S. Thompson and Kurt Vonnegut just for giggles!  Honestly, I never was a writer, I did not aspire to be a writer, and I find the writing experience to be demanding and loathsome more times than I can count.  At times it feels like a penance to write like I do.  Sometimes...it's rewarding.

PS:  I've had more that a handful of people ask what my favorite
books are and, well, it's a short list:  Letters from the Earth
(Samuel Clemens 1909/62), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
(Hunter Thompson 1971), and there are a lot of great books I
read back in the day but outside of those two I don't care.  I
have not read "books" in over a quarter century and I have no
intention of reading other author's works until this series has
been completed for all the obvious reasons.  I would delight
in reading for entertainment but I don't have time.

 
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