The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘hov’

The Primordial Stew Of Imagination, Part 2

Posted by BigWords on November 30, 2009

When To Add, And When To Take Away

In the previous post I ran through the precedents of the story, but sticking all of those ideas together higgledy-piggledy would be a mess. Simply adding ideas without knowing who, what, where, how, why and when is madness of the highest order. The bag of tricks is filling, but to pull out objects in the right order we need to go back to basics and ask whom the characters are. This is where I normally throw away the rulebook and look to television for a bit of help. There are lots of threads at AW which have various people urging against the use of televisual techniques in writing, but one in particular is acceptable. If you go back to the beginnings of my story you should see where I drew from Star Trek.

Yes, the cold, analytical mind on one side of the focus character, the hearty life and soul on t’other. It isn’t, you will discover, a particularly original idea. There are examples you could pull from very popular books of the last few years that contain the same set-up, though I’m sure J.K. Rowling wouldn’t admit to borrowing the make-up of the central trio from an old SF show. I also allowed myself the luxury of hand-waving the living situation of the characters at that point in the story, mostly to let the narrative move quickly on to other things rather than worrying about how they could get their hands on regular money.

There is very little in the above taken from the previous post. This is important. When the story requires any of those elements to be brought in they are already bubbling away under the surface, there to be brought onto the stage when they will have the best possible effect then quickly ushered from the limelight to concentrate on character and plot. It may seem counter-intuitive to plan deeply and yet present a thin slice, but reversing the levels would turn the novel in to a comedy, or unbalance the flow so severely as to make it unreadable. I think I have gotten away with most of the descriptions in the first draft, but they will be refined and pruned, edited and clarified as needed.

None of what has come before actually answer where the ideas come from, but I’m getting there…

I skipped any explanation of where my hovs came from in the last post. This is where I show how I stitch together the different ideas that others have come up with, throw in some new thinking, make major (and fundamental) changes to the transport system of the future. There isn’t enough space in a single post to list every instance of flying cars ever seen in fiction, but you should know the basics anyways.

  • The use of petrol in the future strikes me as dumb, mainly because the stresses would make it uneconomical to use. A fuel cell of some sort seems more believable. This would eliminate a lot of engine noise (handy if it was ever filmed :D), and provide a logical reason for bigger explosions than you would see than with an ordinary car crash. Hollywood Rule 1 is The bigger the explosion, the better.
  • A HUD rather than a conventional dashboard would be a logical step forward, with adaptive and customizable software to make each vehicle perfectly suited to its’ owner. There are already steps towards this kind of use, but we are still a way from having a completely digital representation rather than dials. I never completely bought into the fact that dials and switches in spacecraft for this reason.
  • Your now thinking “how do you stop fender benders?” right? Well, sensors on the sides, top, bottom, and on each of the corners would keep a minimum safe distance between the vehicle and all those around it. The screen could then flash red if an accident was imminent.

None of that is radical. This is:

  • Every action, every movement even, would be recorded and fed into a main computer system so that safety could be assured by insurers. The police would have full access to this system.
  • Roads incline up to the next vertical level anti-clockwise around buildings, descending clockwise. This wasn’t a big deal in my story, but I had it worked out before I started.
  • Hacked cars can be made invisible to the constant recording.
  • The cars need to be at least four feet above a solid surface to operate safely, save for military-grade vehicles. A plot point about the DCU vehicles travelling freely in a vertical manner never came across clearly, but it was what I had intended.

The rest of my uses of the technology rested on the fact that it wouldn’t be cliché.

I have to admit that I was reminded of an old First Comics’ series called Zero Tolerance when I got into any sequence where the flying cars came to prominence, though that is obscure – even for me. Umm… Maybe if I just pretend I was thinking of Fray, nobody will shake their head and sigh at my geekishness slipping to the fore.

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NaNoWriMo: The General

Posted by BigWords on November 2, 2009

Adway flipped through his notes, working out possible motives and plausible suspects. The list of those who would benefit from Knox’s death was remarkably small for a man who, long ago, created the first Turing collar. It was beyond belief that an angry robot could have committed the crime, and his colleagues all had solid gold alibis. The case was a bad deal from a loaded deck.
“Adway?”
The detective turned his attention to the door. A young man dressed in a Data Crime Unit uniform stood at the doorway, data pad in hand.
“That’s right. You boys don’t normally grace police stations with your presence.”
“Sir, if you could please accompany me. My superior has some matters to discuss with you.”
“Discuss? In private?”
“If you wouldn’t mind.”
“Why am I not surprised.” He slipped the notebook into a drawer and grabbed his coat as the DCU agent began leaving without him. “Hey, wait up.”

The DCU had full jurisdiction on anything they wanted, as long as a computer, robot or drone was within one hundred feet of the crime. In a city filled with forty-eight million robots of all shapes and sizes that wasn’t difficult. They only took the most interesting cases, or the ones they felt were in their best interest to investigate, leaving drudge work – like the Knox car bomb – to the idiots left in charge of the asylum.

“How long have you been with the police department?”
Adway let the flicker of a smile touch his lips as he responded to the question, “I can’t say that that is any of your business, Mr…”
“Answer the question.”
“Seven years. Now, can I ask what this is about, or-”
“In your seven years on the police force have you ever encountered a robot that didn’t need apps. One that could learn of its’ own free will. One that could attain sentience?”
“No. If you’re referring to the old Dartmouth Sentinels-”
“The Sentinel mk.2, actually. There is a shell of one of the final units in the Kitzmiller Museum Of History over on the East side.”
“That’s the museum with the robot dinosaurs who greet visitors in eight different languages, right?” The agent didn’t even crack a smile, and Adway was beginning to have doubts as to the wisdom of following him.

On the lower-level street, in the relative quiet of the department’s hovpark, the agent abruptly stopped. “I’m going to search you for weapons.”
“I’m carrying two firearms, a pocket knife and my comm.”
“You don’t have a PDA?”
“On my pay grade I’m lucky I don’t have to walk to the precinct every morning.”
“If you could hand over your firearms.”
Adway hesitated. “And what’s to stop you putting a round between my eyes?”
“If I wanted to kill you you’d have never seen my face.”
“Now, why doesn’t that make me feel any better?” He unholstered his weapons and handed them over, regretting his actions as soon as the agent took possession of them.
“Thank you.”
“Now, how about telling me why you’re asking questions about antique robots?”
A black vehicle slowly descended from the street level above their heads, throwing around the trash on the ground as its’ displacement generator worked overtime. Unmarked, and bearing number plates which Adway instantly recognized as those of the DCU, it served as a reminder of how under-funded the police force was.
“You guys sure love your flashy entrances, don’t you?” Adway muttered under his breath.
“General Lehman will answer any questions you have.”
Watching the oversized transport adjust its’ landing gears, wondering how much such an advanced piece of equipment cost. “My tax dollars at work.”

The side door slid open silently. Adway followed the agent inside, where an older man was sitting by a bank of monitors. The man turned, one hand hovering over the console panel in readiness for any trouble.
“I’ve secured his weapons, General.”
“You’re excused.”
The agent exited the vehicle, and as he did so the door slid back into place again.
“So… Who pimped this ride?”
“This is one of our special transporters. You down-towners don’t know what you’re missing, but that’s beside the point. I asked you here to-”
“Correction, sir. You had one of your lackeys bring me here. You didn’t ask me jack shit.”
The General visibly relaxed, humor playing on his features, “I like you. You speak your mind. There’s not many people who talk to me like I’m their equal any more, and that- That’s something I miss.”
“You had me brought here to talk about antiques.”
“A very specific antique.”
“A Dartmouth Sentinel.”
“Correct.”
“Well, in that case do you mind if I have a seat?”
The General indicated a chair. “Be my guest. I have a feeling this is going to take some time.”

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NaNoWriMo: Adway

Posted by BigWords on November 2, 2009

20 Years Later…

Knox opened the gull-wing of his hov and slipped into the passenger seat, the sensors automatically adjusting to his preferred morning settings. The front windscreen glazed over, bringing his HUD into clear focus, with temperature, hydraulics, electronics and remaining fuel shown in silvery bars. The available streams scrolling across the media player interface shuddered briefly, and Knox paused.
“Status report.”
‘All functions within normal parameters’ appeared in the center of the window.
The glitch didn’t appear to be significant. Knox cursed the intrusion of another problem with the vehicle into his routine. Routine was important. There would be time enough to get the software seen to after his morning schedule, but the meetings prepared for the morning could not be missed.
“Log event.”
‘Event logged.’

Closing the door, Knox leaned over to the passenger-side foot well and placed his briefcase in the drawer compartment under the dash. The speakers squelched, then fell into a steady stream of white noise.
“Status report.”
‘All functions within normal parameters’ appeared for a moment before the HUD pixellated, fragments of words, images and numbers spread across the display. Blocks of color interrupted the view to the street beyond.
“What the-”

Knox felt himself lifting from his seat as the explosion from beneath the hov pushed upwards, flames and pressure acting on flesh and bone. The windscreen cracked with the heat, the chair beneath him igniting. Pushed forward again as the hov fell, the airbag caught Knox unawares, and the last thing he heard before his eardrums burst was the hydrogen fuel cell hissing. In an eyeblink he was consumed by flame, and any lingering thoughts are extinguished.

####

Detective Adway stepped through the police cordon, “Who’s the crispy critter?”
“The name’s Knox, one of the software big shots at Delos.”
“Any word on when the techs are gonna be here?”
“Save for the pick-up crew, everyone has been and gone already.”
“What am I, an afterthought?”
“The first officers on the scene thought it was a malfunction.”
Adway’s comm chirruped. Flipping open the case a new message was displayed in his in-box.
“I’ll be back in a minute.”
The stream from which the message originated was encrypted. Secret callers were so rare that the appearance of an unlisted message was all but unheard of.

Stand by the stream and watch what floats by.

Adway turned to the young officer standing guard over the scene. “What exactly did Knox do?”
“I think he was in charge of the app development division.”
“At Delos?”
“That’s what I was told.”

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