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Speaking of Star Trek

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Heh. Current writing includes a long-running subplot about how aliens get a very distorted view of Earth because the first notable humans they tend to encounter are superheroes--one group was reluctant to contact for a long time because the first human who visited their homeworld was a genius gadgeteer, which royally screwed up their sociological models.

This damn near killed me tonight.

I have no objection to dying of being successfully amused.

The other theory I saw, which I've been toying with writing a story of if someone hasn't already done so, is that the Federation's technology (and maybe other species) actually isn't technology AT ALL. it's magic. All magic. Anything beyond about the 21st century isn't really science at all, it's just magical artifacts invoked by the High Artificers, er, Engineers, with the powerful incantations of "Rig something up", "cross the chronometric vectors at right angles to the hyperdimensional flux" and "reverse polarity of the neutron flow".

And to an extent this is pretty much the way Humanity gets viewed in the Arenaverse. "What the hell do these Humans MEAN 'never tell me the odds'?!"

[right click --> view image, then magnify to read, in case anyone's having trouble...]

This hits me as "Aliens are all stereotypes, only the humans are real people". No reason the Klingons couldn't have had their version of Doc Brown, or the Vulcans their own Thomas Edison (and Nicola Tesla).

"Mad Science" also seems to work slightly better in the Star Trek univese(s) than it does in the IRL 19th-21st centuries.

[Edit for punctuation. also took my three tries to spell 'stereotype' correctly.]

Edited at 2016-10-17 02:14 am (UTC)

[...aaand my edit still has typos. I give up.]

There seems to be a whole genre "what if humans were the only species who" fic on tumblr, though this is the first Star Trek one I've seen. They can be a lot of fun but they're basically just reinventing all the easy ways to sell a story to John W Campbell.

It's basically HFY, which was developed a while back on 4chan's /tg/ board as a response to a perceived 'humans are inferior to other species' trend in science fiction. Some of it is crap, some of it is really good. My favorite subgenre is 'Earth is a deathworld, most aliens come from planets far less hazardous to live in'.

Ah yes, that one was funny as hell.

"It's just a male cow! Now stop being cowards and go over there and move it!"

Is that a trend in SF? In fantasy, humans are often intrinsically inferior to the elves and such, but in SF I'm not seeing that they're often inferior. Younger as a species, yes, but usually they're ahead of where you'd expect for their age.

They really are recapitulating John W Campbell, then. I don't know how I feel about that, given that Campbell's taste for human-supremacist stories was a proxy for his real-world racism.

Which isn't to say that I don't love "Next of Kin" and "Pandora's Planet", but... guilty pleasures.

(Deleted comment)
I was teaching myself basic electronics by taking apart some non-functional solar lights when I realised I could fix one of them by reversing the polarity of the solar panel. One of the coolest moments of my life.

(I still can't solder worth a damn though.)

Funny, but it all boils down in the end to one of the oldest SF cliches: "humans are _special_"

Wasn't there an Eric Frank Russell novel in which humanity's valuable role in the Galactic Federation was that we were the galaxy's best bullshit artists? And can anyone think of any SF where humans run into aliens (aside from the Moties) which are just naturally better gadgeteers/inventors?

The "bs artist" version of special has been done a few times. I rather liked EFR's "Legwork" where what made us special was that we did "routine" far better than anyone else.

Anvil played with this in Pandora's Planet: humans are much more innovative than the Galactic empire's average, and can persuade the aliens pretty easily, but the novel is from the point of view of the aliens trying to restore stability (and as the novel ends, aliens even more innovative than humans turn up).

In Known Space, humans are definitely not the sharpest pencils in the box. We didn't even invent gravity control on our own.

IIRC in that universe we've been breeding for luck (wasn't Puppeteer manipulation involved? I can't recall), which may be a better survival trait than tech savvy...

Why invent what you can buy from a passing Outsider?

I mean yeah, I think puppeteers are supposed to be smarter, never mind Pak, but it's a bit unfair to compare the accomplishments of species with million-year high-tech age differences.

Wasn't there an Eric Frank Russell novel in which humanity's valuable role in the Galactic Federation was that we were the galaxy's best bullshit artists?

This is humanity's superpower in the humorous role playing game Teenagers From Outer Space. Other races have flight or super-strength or energy blast powers; humans are bullshit artists. This is much of why, only a few years after First Contact, people from races with miraculous technology and thousands of years of civilization are on Earth buying plastic crap off of cable TV, learning to twerk, and installing antigravity systems on old Volkswagen Beetles.

Definitely. I suspect that Klingons may come close in the crazy engineering stakes, with e.g. the moon they accidentally blew up, but humanity are the cutting edge of stupid.

Maybe we're actually looking at the future of the Girl Genius universe.

Odds are Praxis was the result of the Klingons trying to implement what some human engineers considered a neat idea.

"...and that's why why cut the technological espionage department's budget by eighty percent."

My first idea upon fixing anything that runs on batteries is to put the batteries in backwards. It's surprising how much that works. :P

My observation about the ST universe is that a starship on a bold expedition of exploration will encounter something capable of and interested in destroying it about once or twice a month.

More worringly, it will encounter something capable of and interested in destroying the *species that sent it out* around once a year. Collateral damage unspecified, but ranges between none at all and a significant chunk of the Milky Way, and occasionally the entire Universe. (All the extemely withdrawn alien super-civilizations make a lot of sense in this context.)

The UFP keeps multiple such ships going ... continuously. If I was running a non-human polity in the ST setting, I'd either plan on eliminating the UFP or try to migrate very far away.

I realize Q is involved somehow, but deus ex de Lancie can only go so far.

Yeah, I once put some thought into what the headlines in the Federation look like:

"Historical figure Gabriel Bell is really Captain Ben Sisko"

"Doomsday machine destroys half-dozen planets - all okay now thanks to Kirk"

"Starfleet vessel hijacked by memory-erasing aliens"

"Starfleet vessel hijacked by mind-controlling aliens"

"Starfleet vessel hijacked by body-possessing aliens - again"

"Third alien race found influencing Earth's history - this time, they like cats!"

"Mutinous ex-Star Fleet captain nearly escapes prison with superweapon - you won't believe how chess was involved!"

Prozac sales must be way-up in the Federation.

I suspect the reason the Known Space humans stopped exploring is they realized the galaxy might have something with the tech of an Outsider and the amiable nature of Kzin.

It's pretty explicit that the Kzin stopped expanding for that kind of reason.

The Known Space galaxy already has the Puppeteers who meet that spec (OK, they bought the Outsider reactionless drive for the asking price but they have it, and the Kzin do what the Puppeteers tell them).

"Temporal anomaly next week: Thursday to last 89 hours, no other side effects"

"Space cows found grazing outside space station."

"Space beef accepted for human consumption."

"Starfleet vessel hijacked by shapeshifting aliens hijacked back by mind-controlling aliens."

"Doomsday device found at Starfleet Headquarters. Admiral says, We were wondering where we left that."

"History revision 'no big deal' says time traveling robot."

It's been my head-canon for the transporter that no-one really knows how the damn thing works; they're all just modified copies of a working device that was found in some ancient ruins a century ago. Federation scientists have a lot of theories about what's going on with it, but they're mutually contradictory, hence the differing explanations of what happens when something goes wrong.

"Pattern buffers", "Heisenberg compensators", "beams" (whatever they are), they're just science-y words we've stuck on the various components and effects after observing what happens to experimental subjects after fiddling with them. Really, we're just cargo cultists who have somehow lucked onto a working airfield. We don't know how the radio works, but when we twiddle the knobs and speak the right words into it, the magic bird comes with cargo.

So basically, the Doctor is a glorified fanboy of humans who is combining his superior brain power with human-style antics. And the Master is like Buddy in the Incredibles, who wanted to be like the humans, but took a left turn into evil on the way.


It’s pretty obvious to me that the Vulcans don’t want to run the Federation; they barely put up with being members of it. Vulcans just don’t like people. Spock is weird; he’s half-human and he sorta kinda likes people. But every other Vulcan we see in the original series looks like Grumpy Cat all the time. Vulcans are the Ron Swansons of the Trek universe.

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