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bio website johansens.us
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visits member for 1 year, 11 months
seen Nov 20 at 14:08

Jun
18
comment Alien checking, by making questions
I would think you would almost surely have to explain why he can't just show his spaceship or why nobody sees it. There could be any number of explanations -- from celtschk's "it sank in the ocean when he landed" to "I don't have a spaceship, we use teleportation" to many others. But I think it's almost always better to give an explanation, even if it's glib, then to ignore the question and make the reader think, "But what about this obvious solution?!"
Jun
18
comment Alien checking, by making questions
Is he trying to prove that he's an alien, or convince people that he's not? If he's trying to convince people that he's not, they could ask him questions about Earth that someone who's lived here all his life would know, and see if they can trip him up.
Jun
18
answered How do you make a story succeed in spite of an unsympathetic main character?
Jun
18
comment How can we have foreshadowing in a story that takes place in a universe where the future can't be known beforehand?
@what But by that reasoning, in a tragedy we know it will end badly by the nature of the genre, and so that can't be foreshadowing either. It is true that a story in which we are given to understand that a character is doomed by fate to do X would be an example of foreshadowing, but I think it is simply not the commonly-used definition of the word to say that that is the ONLY kind of foreshadowing.
Jun
18
comment How can we have foreshadowing in a story that takes place in a universe where the future can't be known beforehand?
@PaulA.Clayton Yeah, I tried to put enough qualifiers in there to make the point that this is revelation coming out of the blue. But yes, one could write a story where the character is never seen until the last page, but where the existence of such a character is adequately foreshadowed.
Jun
18
awarded  creative-writing
Jun
17
answered How can we have foreshadowing in a story that takes place in a universe where the future can't be known beforehand?
Jun
16
comment How to deal with common Earth references in a non-Earth setting?
@PaulAClayton Or how it is that space travel shows can't do simple math. Like they tell us that the starship travels 100 times the speed of light, and then they travel between star systems in a few hours. Umm, if stars in this part of the galaxy are typically about 5 or 10 light-years apart, then even at 100 times the speed of light, wouldn't travel to another star take at least a couple of weeks?
Jun
16
comment How to deal with common Earth references in a non-Earth setting?
@PaulAClayton RE movie/TV computers: Yeah, I'm a software geek by profession, and I regularly get a laugh out of the absurd things computers do on TV. Starting with: Take a grainy image from a store security camera, zoom in on the license plate of a car in the parking lot across the street, somebody says, "clarify that", and they can read the license number. Or the serial number in 5 point type on the expiration sticker on the license. Even though in the original picture the whole license plate is probably half a pixel.
Jun
16
comment How to deal with common Earth references in a non-Earth setting?
@PaulAClayton I'm not a physicist either, but I was thinking that given that astronomers were able to deduce the size and orbit of Neptune based on the gravitational effects it had on Uranus, I'd think a body of a size comparable to the Moon in Earth orbit would be readily detectable. Could there be circumstances -- Lagrange points or whatever -- where it would not be? Okay, I'll admit I don't know enough physics to say for sure. But I'm quite sure you cannot have a body orbiting the Earth, farther away than the Moon, but with exactly the same period as the Moon.
Jun
16
comment How to deal with common Earth references in a non-Earth setting?
... it's gravity would affect the Earth and the Moon and it would be detectable that way. The whole story just didn't work.
Jun
16
comment How to deal with common Earth references in a non-Earth setting?
... implications of an alien language that has no adverbs. Note that the more important a role the science plays in your story, the more you have to know about science. Like just the other day I read an SF story about a new planet discovered behind the moon, never visible to Earth because the moon always blocks it from view. Umm, no. There is only one possible speed for an object in any given orbit to travel and remain in orbit. A satellite further away than the moon would HAVE to travel at a different orbital velocity, it could not always remain hidden by the moon. Not to mention that ...
Jun
16
comment How to deal with common Earth references in a non-Earth setting?
Your answer brings up another point: The writer must consider just how alien he wants the world to be, and how much you want to get into it. If you're trying to write an escapist adventure story, you may describe the aliens as having four arms or pointed ears or whatever, but otherwise they basically act like humans. You probably don't want to dwell on how the body chemistry of the aliens differs from humans. If you want to write more speculative SF, perhaps you want to explore just how creatures who have copper instead of iron in their hemoglobin would function, or discuss the ...
Jun
16
comment How to deal with common Earth references in a non-Earth setting?
Also aliens must have the same Platonic solids that we do. They do not have dice of regular polyhedral shapes that we have never thought of. Etc etc. Of course I'm assuming that the laws of physics are the same everywhere in the universe, which is a philosophical assumption and not something easy to prove scientifically.
Jun
16
comment How to deal with common Earth references in a non-Earth setting?
... to an alien? Maybe what we call "red" looks like blue to them and vice versa. But for that matter, how do I know what colors look like to other people? Anyway, my point is that there are not different colors on an alien planet in the same sense that there could be different species of plants.
Jun
16
comment How to deal with common Earth references in a non-Earth setting?
Well, technically I think that "as a physicist" you would agree with me that color is a basic phenomenon of physics. A biologist might point out that the ability to perceive any given color is not the same thing as the color, i.e. the wavelength of light rays, existing. Which is why I said, "I suppose an alien might not be able to see the color blue." I had the idea of color blindness and the range of colors that any given creature can see in mind when I wrote that. Yes, aliens might be able to see colors that we can't, and vice versa. And who could say what any given color looks like ...
Jun
13
comment Writing dialogue for a non-English speaker in English?
... So talking about a national economic trend as making someone happy just sounds strange. Also, "achieve happiness" is awkward. We generally don't think of happiness as something that you work for directly so that you could say you "achieved" it. Rather we think of it as the indirect result of other activities. To say, "You should work hard trying to become happy" sounds like the kind of pop psychology advice you might get from a TV talk show host, not something normal people routinely say.
Jun
13
comment Writing dialogue for a non-English speaker in English?
It's subtle and complicated -- that was my point. A native speaker might have said, "Industrial robots improve the standard of living" or "... improve human life." "Happiness" is normally used to refer to personal things, not large-scale economic trends. Usually it's used to talk about relationships or personal achievements and not money. While someone might say, "I was very happy when I got a pay raise", this is at the edges of what is considered "normal". Someone is more likely to say, "My wife and I were so happy when the baby was born" or "Spending time with my friends makes me happy." ...
Jun
12
comment How to write a prophecy?
@babou Well, I don't recall anything in the Biblical account saying that pharaoh was trying to circumvent a prophecy, just that he was trying to wipe out the Jews. But whatever, I suppose we're getting off on a tangent.
Jun
10
comment How to write a prophecy?
@babou What prophecy in the Bible was paradoxically fulfilled by someone trying to prevent it? I can't think of an example of that.