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Thread: Clev's military Sci Fi thread

  1. #151
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    So my latest bit is something straight out of CT:

    The Nedelin disaster was a (real world) failed rocket launch that killed a bunch of Soviet crewmen in 1960. Not declassified until late in the Cold War.

    I'm plotting that the crash was to cover up an "alien abduction" of several Cosmonauts, who were kept in stasis and some are still alive to this day. They've been living and breeding halfway across the galaxy, still holding to the ideals of their time. And yes, there's a handwave about why they can eat the food and breathe the air (life separated at birth, so to speak).

    The protagonists are setting out to bring them home.

    Having to research life in the 1950s USSR. Pretty grim, for most of its citizens. And of course the early Soviet space program. It wouldn't have just been names from the history books at that fateful accident, officers, scientists, chief engineers, and test pilots, there were many anonymous ground crew killed too.
    Last edited by Noclevername; 2018-Oct-21 at 05:30 PM.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  2. #152
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    Not really a military subject, but...

    Designing "alien aliens" as characters.

    I'm no Larry Niven by a long shot. But I'd like to at least take a crack at making alien characters more than weird untranslatable cyphers, or humans in Squibbon suits.

    I've read a few pro tips on the subject but still struggling with it. I can easily design alien bodies, but alien points of view? Heck, I don't even understand humans all that well.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  3. #153
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    So my latest bit is something straight out of CT:

    The Nedelin disaster was a (real world) failed rocket launch that killed a bunch of Soviet crewmen in 1960. .
    I'm convinced that Westerners confused this with N-1 failures and even the botched Polyus mission, thinking they were all due to the same superbooster

  4. #154
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Not really a military subject, but...

    Designing "alien aliens" as characters.

    I'm no Larry Niven by a long shot. But I'd like to at least take a crack at making alien characters more than weird untranslatable cyphers, or humans in Squibbon suits.

    I've read a few pro tips on the subject but still struggling with it. I can easily design alien bodies, but alien points of view? Heck, I don't even understand humans all that well.
    Plot wise, what do they have to do for your story? And how will the narrator relay that information? Between those to things, you need to know what goals and morals they have and how much of each does the narrator share/know. If they are just funny shaped people, the problem is easy. Assume they are the same as anyone you know.

    If they are different, how so? Take one of your aliens, removed all the liabilities of being an alien and ask yourself what would he or she or it do in your home? What would bother them? What would they like? What upsets them, what makes them content? Assuming they are the aggressors in the story, what do they do in their downtime?

    I wrote about a strange alien that was semi-aquatic. Visitors view him through a port hole. Next to the hole was a speaker, with knobs and dials but no lights and the only sound it made was a voice. It didn't click, hum or chime. No distractions, it was not a multiple use device. While he was "talking" to visitors, he would swim back and forth, like a person pacing while talking on a phone. A lot of times people didn't know that the creature behind the glass was the speaker. That didn't trouble him. What did bother him deeply was if someone looked at the speaker while addressing him. He would rather they look at the glass or at their own feet rather than insult him by looking at a mere machine.

    His personal goal was to swim in the Great Lakes. The problem was, he required certain substances found in his environment. If he entered fresh water, he would loose his stores of these substances to the water and die. More like hypoglycemia than drowning. He intended to do so even though it would be the last thing he did. The characters didn't know why, but the reader knew he was very old and that was how his kind died.

    You need to pick the attributes of the character, but also who gets to know those things and when.
    Solfe

  5. #155
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    There are 3 biological species and a type of AI.

    The enemy are the most alien and the most belligerent. 3 sided, large, very bizarre and disturbing looking to humans. They communicate by exchanging chemicals, not sounds, and we cannot translate. Their "nests" (our term) spend more time fighting each other than us but they have technology to get into space. Despite fighting a lot they don't really have dedicated weapons, they merely repurpose their tools and machines as needed - a mining laser drill makes a heck of a machine gun. They might not be aware of any other species as intelligent beings, or not care either way.

    Our closest allies are the "Fiddleheads", so called because they look like a tree stump covered with moss with giant ferns growing out of it. Radial symmetry. Two main “fronds” or flexible arms usually coiled up above them, alternating with two smaller fronds. Four legs, chameleon like eyes. Speaking mouths and eating mouths. They breathe part of their nutrients so our air is thin and unsatisfying. They speak to us through their own imperfect translation devices, but far better than anything we could come up with.

    The Fidds' main tragedy is, they are a dying species. Their breeders having been wiped out, and the handful of surviving refugees lack the necessary chromosomes. 100 years from now they will all be extinct. This overshadows anything and everything they do. They have apparently decided to focus their remaining time on helping us against the enemy civilization.

    The third kind are a cross between Thermians from Galaxy Quest and Squibbons from The Future Is Wild, with mood skin. Because their color always reflects their thoughts and feelings, they cannot lie. Arrived on a terraformed megastructure centuries ago, moved in, then lost technology due to lack of resources. Now they're primitive, semi-arboreal hunter-gatherer tribes, without even a stone age; they must use bone, shell, and thorn to make sharp implements. The most advanced among them have fire, and are re-inventing agriculture by aping (squidding?) human activity.

    The ancient AIs can live indefinitely by “pruning” and stunting their adaptive programs, but most prefer to grow and develop over time, which means they age. After a few thousand years of this improvement they can become so complex that they turn “post-conscious” non-sapients. And there’s also the danger of going “cancerous”, growing and changing so aggressively that they become dangerous to themselves and other. Though they are capable of learning and calculating, and have vast stores of knowledge, they are not innovative. Yet they value creativity and originality, so much so that they go to great lengths to cultivate that quality in others.

    A fragment of one AI is implanted in a human host to guide/coerce that person into helping it.
    The aliens (save maybe the enemy, who we cannot ask) venerate Earth to varying degrees, because a billion years ago, microbes from our planet were taken to spread life across the Galaxy. Even the AI's creators are descended from the Seeding. The idea of finding the Origin Of All Life, let alone a sapient species on it, has blown all their minds completely.

    The existence of multiple biological species with industrial civilizations popping up at around the same time is probably not a coincidence, except maybe us. Maybe.
    Last edited by Noclevername; 2018-Oct-23 at 10:13 AM.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  6. #156
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    100 years from now they will all be extinct.
    ...I might revise that number. Maybe make them longer lived. I had originally thought of them as more contemplative than the average human.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  7. #157
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    There are 3 biological species and a type of AI.

    The enemy are the most alien and the most belligerent. 3 sided, large, very bizarre and disturbing looking to humans. They communicate by exchanging chemicals, not sounds, and we cannot translate. Their "nests" (our term) spend more time fighting each other than us but they have technology to get into space. Despite fighting a lot they don't really have dedicated weapons, they merely repurpose their tools and machines as needed - a mining laser drill makes a heck of a machine gun. They might not be aware of any other species as intelligent beings, or not care either way.
    Those are complex aliens. One by one then.

    First, these are pretty much the blank wall aliens you were worried about. They don't seem to have a comprehensible outlet, at least human-wise. They do have one giant problem. While chemicals and smells are not so user friendly to humans, it wouldn't be a surprise if bloodhounds understood them. We can communicate very basically with dogs, so you have a scenario where the dog could tell the human about threat levels. It might be limited to "yes, no, maybe, I don't know, run!" but better than being a brick wall. Basic empathy. Do you have gravity on ships? Is some sort of surgical alteration for dogs to work in free fall a possibility?

    So what do the aliens like? Maybe when they huddle up, they enjoy warmth. Back home, a long time ago, the heat killed off threats. The temperature change speeds up their chemical receptors and they go into a poetic-chanting-problem solving state. A simple heater isn't going to do it for them, they need chemical communication of their own kind. This is their form of entertainment, contemplation or perhaps worship. They don't bother with planning to fight because they simply want to get into that warm nest huddle and stay there. However, when you poke them with a stick, they use the most ruthless tool to end that annoyance.

    This contemplative state causes them to think big picture in the nest. When they leave the huddle nest, they start addressing more immediate problems. Like defense, travel, exploration or other pursuits. Perhaps the nest huddle will stop addressing chemicals to a few members to drive them off to these other pursuits like a banishment. Do good and get back in to the nest. Do bad and you can come back. But you can only get the warmth, not any direct communication. Nothing is specifically addressed to you, you can "hear" everything but you don't "hear" about you or your place in the nest.

    Maybe they have a system of nest order. First are the keepers, those who are too old or big to leave. They keep everything warm and safe. They don't leave the nest, they define it's location. Then there are the pathfinders, those who leave chemical trails to the nest. Basic states or low level news would be shared in these trails. What else do they need? Voters, do'ers, scouts, feeders, etc. Most of the time, there is a mass of aliens with only a few doing their jobs. If you go the route of dogs or some other technological chemical detector, you have a situation of intrigue and threat.

    You said they are the most war-like, but you didn't say they engaged in indiscriminate killing. While you dislike the idea of "boarding actions in space", maybe these aliens don't dodge or avoid people at all. It sounds like they have the best war-tech, but maybe they suck as man-to-alien combat. Heck, unless boards are bringing tanks and bombs with them, humans can't physical hurt them.

    Maybe they are not only threatening, but annoying. Human can board the ships, march right up to them, but human scale weapons don't work. That leaves boarding and redirecting the ship or trying blow it up, guns aren't much help. Maybe the humans can wander the ship freely because they don't understand the systems and can't talk to them via chemical signals. It'd be like a computer with no mouse, keyboard or monitor. Frustrating.
    Solfe

  8. #158
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    Interesting ideas! I had actually been imagining a scene where the humans come across a pit full of slowly moving Tripes, wondering what they're doing and why they don't attack.

    I could come up with a means of limited communication, letting the Tripes be a little less brick-wall to humans. That won't make them any less belligerent now, but it gives hope that one day they might.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  9. #159
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    ...I might revise that number. Maybe make them longer lived. I had originally thought of them as more contemplative than the average human.
    As tree like forms, why can't they have the life span of trees? Thousands of years, but the clock has been ticking for a while. Exactly how and when they go extinct is random and perhaps only local.

    That can create interesting life cycles. For example, they breed to make new baby aliens. But what if they have a secondary method of reproduction? One, and only one of these Fiddleheads can put down roots like an aspen and clone itself. Not only is this an exact copy of the creature, since they have a physical link, they get all of the memories, ideas, etc. of the original. Unlike aspens, this process of cloning creates many copies in a ring around the original. The process creates a literal dead zone in the soil like a fairy ring, ALL of the materials needed to survive are used up. Some of the clones can not contemplate leaving the original to die alone so they stay and die alone with it as the dead zone creeps inwards. This makes for inefficient reproduction.

    It also gives you a mythology. Very rare and unique Fiddleheads can be "reborn" like a phoenix. Scientifically, those rare Fiddleheads have enough internal stores to survive the fairy ring effect long enough for the environment to recharge nutrients. Historically, mythologically, it appears to be a chosen few because they couldn't plan to have the perfect environment. Maybe there is a rebel sect that does not want to go extinct and taps into technology to make the cloning almost as good as regular breeding.

    This process of cloning could create odd cultural things like humans have. Say for instance, most Fiddleheads create only four clones at the cardinal points, but sometimes one gets lucky and they get five clones like a pentagram. Five is a significant number. Maybe the most powerful and heroic cultural figures got 8 clones or 32. That sounds like the classic "twins" mythology... cranked up to 32.
    Solfe

  10. #160
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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    First, these are pretty much the blank wall aliens you were worried about. They don't seem to have a comprehensible outlet, at least human-wise. They do have one giant problem. While chemicals and smells are not so user friendly to humans, it wouldn't be a surprise if bloodhounds understood them. We can communicate very basically with dogs, so you have a scenario where the dog could tell the human about threat levels. It might be limited to "yes, no, maybe, I don't know, run!" but better than being a brick wall. Basic empathy.
    Would you settle for a genetically enhanced human with a great ability to analyze scents?

    Do you have gravity on ships?
    Some have spin.

    They don't bother with planning to fight because they simply want to get into that warm nest huddle and stay there. However, when you poke them with a stick, they use the most ruthless tool to end that annoyance.
    So they're just irritable? Maybe they haven't had their morning coffee.

    They fight constantly, planned or unplanned, but they don't seem to have a discrete concept of weapons as a separate category. To them, everyday items and machines are all multipurpose, useable as tools and as weapons, like Jackie Chan in a furniture shop. One use blends into the other. Still, they do use tactics such as ambush sometimes. Not always, which makes them unpredictable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    As tree like forms, why can't they have the life span of trees? Thousands of years, but the clock has been ticking for a while.
    The resemblance to trees is strictly visual. They are more akin to animal life, with internal organs and an endoskeleton.
    And I was thinking they'd live more like 150-200 years, the role of an ultra long lived alien is already filled by the AIs.

    As far as cloning goes, their breeding process was an important part of their life cycle. Religious and sexual and strongly instinctive. To them, creating new Fidds without a breeder would be ...perverse. An abomination. The concept would literally never occur to them.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  11. #161
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    Oh, and a note about the Squiddies:

    Females have multiple mates, can store genetic material and use it later. Sperm competes so males don’t have to fight each other, though males compete socially for other goals. Female limbs are half the length of males, they are less mobile; they normally sit in trees and are fed and protected by males, who are born twice as often. Reproduce by budding, females become temporarily immobile. This shapes their whole life and culture.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  12. #162
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Would you settle for a genetically enhanced human with a great ability to analyze scents?
    It's your story, why not?

    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    So they're just irritable? Maybe they haven't had their morning coffee.

    They fight constantly, planned or unplanned, but they don't seem to have a discrete concept of weapons as a separate category. To them, everyday items and machines are all multipurpose, useable as tools and as weapons, like Jackie Chan in a furniture shop. One use blends into the other. Still, they do use tactics such as ambush sometimes. Not always, which makes them unpredictable.
    It seems to me that, relatively speaking, they aren't fighting at all. Encountering them is like walking into an unsurvivable situation. Are they fighting or doing pest removal? Kind of important, because pest removal destroys all the pests, but at the time and place of the exterminator. They might see someone and take it as a data point for future use. Just like people don't kill ants directly but use poison and traps to get the whole nest of them at once.

    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    The resemblance to trees is strictly visual. They are more akin to animal life, with internal organs and an endoskeleton.
    And I was thinking they'd live more like 150-200 years, the role of an ultra long lived alien is already filled by the AIs.

    As far as cloning goes, their breeding process was an important part of their life cycle. Religious and sexual and strongly instinctive. To them, creating new Fidds without a breeder would be ...perverse. An abomination. The concept would literally never occur to them.
    Ah... I didn't realize. For some reason, I thought they were literally "tree-folk".
    Solfe

  13. #163
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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    It seems to me that, relatively speaking, they aren't fighting at all. Encountering them is like walking into an unsurvivable situation. Are they fighting or doing pest removal? Kind of important, because pest removal destroys all the pests, but at the time and place of the exterminator. They might see someone and take it as a data point for future use. Just like people don't kill ants directly but use poison and traps to get the whole nest of them at once.
    Fighting. It seems like constant low level warfare is endemic to them, like some human cultures, or some species of animals and insects, for that matter.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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