Friday, November 04, 2005


I'm very happy because I just solved a major story problem in the space pirate screenplay. Now I need to work out some other, much less severe issues, but that was the big stumbling block that was keeping me from making progress. Hooray!

There was an actual writerly purpose behind that last entry about supernatural powers. For the life of me, I can't remember what it was, although I think it went something like this: When you create technology or magic in a story world, you have to be careful that it's internally consistent. Working out all the rules of the magic system in advance -- even if you don't reveal any but a fraction of them in the story -- is very important.

If a story world persists through enough story material, you inevitably start to have problems with the super powers your characters have. It can be "Superman syndrome," after the fact that as the decades wore on, Superman inevitably gained more and more powers until he was so godlike that it was impossible to come up with anything that could harm him. Eventually DC was forced to reboot the character, starting him over with a lesser set of powers. Nonetheless, the power creep began anew.

A way around this problem is plot-related changes to the system. ** ARR, THAR BE SPOILERS AHEAD MATEY ** In book 9 of the Wheel of Time, Rand and his cohort finally cleanse saidin, removing the taint that the Dark One placed on it three thousand years earlier. For the first nine books, saidin's taint caused almost everyone to be frightened of the men who could channel it. But now that it's cleansed, and no longer drives its users mad, that brings about a fundamental (and rather organic) shift in how the characters react to it. (And I bet the Dark One is pissed.)

This all goes the same for futuristic technology, obviously.

Tangentially, just let me say that it bugs me when a technology is introduced for non-story reasons. In DOOM, they have things called "nano-walls" which are basically doors that can shift from amorphous and permeable (allowing you to walk through it easily) to solid and hard as metal, at the push of a button. The instant this technology is introduced, we just know that someone (or some thing) is going to get caught in the door while it's shifting. This in fact happens later on, as a mutant chases our heroes through the door, who then hit the button as the mutant is passing through it, and the thing gets stuck in the door.

This technology exists for the sole reason that it looks cool and lets a monster get stuck inside a door (this doesn't kill it, incidentally). There's no real practical reason given for it. I hate that.