Monthly Archives: October 2012

Firefly

I finally watched Firefly (all 15 episodes) this weekend. It’s been on my “to watch” list for way too long. I still have the movie to watch. It’s certainly a show that should’ve kept running for longer – definitely higher quality than the usual garbage we get (it bothers me that even Terra Nova had more episodes than Firefly!).

Some general observations:

  • Serenity (the spaceship) is ugly and I do not believe this is a design that would work too well. It’s unique and recognizable, but, I don’t know; lacks any sort of aesthetic. It has no cool factor.
  • Interior design of Serenity was impeccable, however.
  • Characters are awesome, script were mostly good, great sense of continuity from one episode to the next (event of previous episodes are mentioned; even details are kept – for example, Kaylee wants a spare part early in Ep1 which is mentioned again in Ep3 if I do not misremember; but there are a handful of such things).
  • Show makes good use of tropes and of its wild west elements.
  • The entire show matches a stereotypical Traveller campaign almost perfectly.

Now, for what really matters though: Worldbuilding.

The show does have a fairly thoroughly designed world. You get a good “sense of place”. The incorporation of Chinese elements is done well (although I do not think this is nearly as original or “inventive” as some people may think; even back in ’05 China had a very eager space program and fantastic economic growth). The blend feels fairly natural, although it’s hard to establish a meaningful pattern for when characters fall back into Chinese instead of the English they use 99.99% of the time.

(It’s done in the script in places where context lets everybody understand what is said anyway; I guess you have to pledge practicality issues and move on.)

I have some issues with the design of the physical setting though – of “the verse” itself.

From what I understand, it’s supposed to be one gigantic star system with multiple suns. Secondary/tertiary sources seem to confirm this view. In theory, this can work – but it’s highly unlikely. Moreover, the Firefly wiki states that “four of the main sequence stars orbit a central star”. Meh. Stars would be arranged hierarchically. They probably should have made the “verse” an open star cluster; those have stars packed fairly tightly at the center (1.5 stars per cubic light year) but I have to admit that I am not sure this would consist of G, K or M class stars which could potentially harbor planets suitable for human life, with or without terraforming.

I think they probably wanted to avoid FTL technology. Ironically, this also means there is an upper limit on the distance between Earth and the The Verse – even if you assume they can travel at c and accelerate to c instantly, this would be about 400 light-years. It’s probably much, much less – but without knowing more about their drive technology, even a back-of-the-napkin calculation is futile.

In the show they also state that the “gravity” of planets was changed during terraforming. You can’t do that unless you add more mass to a planet. I don’t mind some technobabble – and I do realize they have artificial gravity in the setting – but this just seems like a stretch.

Still, over all, the worldbuilding is certainly better than that of most other shows. The problems that exist certainly do not detract from the overall quality of the show… not much anyway.

I kind of feel tempted to create a “mini setting” similar to Firefly… Maybe a nice project for Wednesday.

Update: Watched Serenity. Bad movie. But I guess better than no closure at all. Not gonna analyze it much – but in the first scene, with young River, we see a map of the Verse in the background and it seems to confirm that the verse is one big solar system.

Building a Better Star Map II: The Leapfrog Effect

In my last post I began to improve the consistency of my star map. I will continue with that effort – and today I will attempt to figure out just how much “project leapfrog” might affect the expansion of human space.

Project Leapfrog was a project the Federated Nations ran in the late 23rd Century – building vast colony ships that were then sent off to “leap ahead” of the regular exploration and colonization.

Just as a basis, this is what I worked out so far.

Guesstimating a future frontline
Guesstimating a future frontline

Leapfrog 2, “Francis Drake”, founded Eureka in 2308 and was “discovered” in 2390.

We do not have fixed locations for the other two Leapfrogs, nor dates they were contacted by the explorers and colonists that followed them. I did place them on the original map, of course, but for the purpose of improving the map I can easily shift them around.

Continue reading “Building a Better Star Map II: The Leapfrog Effect” »

Building a Better Star Map

I like my star map – but I recognize it’s not “perfect”. For one thing, since Earth is off-center and then the entire development of human space is kind of biased towards Trailing (where the Empire expanded), human space occupies the center and right part of the map, leaving the left part empty. The reason is simple – it wasn’t planned out when I started to build it.

So I thought I’d do a draft of what human space “should” look like. I’ll take the written history as a basis – but I will fix what needs fixing.

Some data points:

  1. The first FTL mission was in 2174, to Alpha Centauri
  2. Hyperdrive speeds continually improved over the course of the history of the Federated Nations
  3. “Leapfrog 2”, launched in 2278, founded Eureka in 2308, circa 1100 light-years towards Center and Spinward.
  4. Regular explorers from the FN arrived at Eureka in 2390 – meaning that human space had expanded less than 1100 light years by 2390; let’s say 1000 light years maximum.

Do note that the galactic disc is “only” about 1000 light-years thick. At this point, it’s safe to assume that human space covers the disc’s entire width in at least the center 500ly radius.

Human Space in 2380AD
Human Space in 2380AD

Ignore the second set of circles “south east” of Earth – I added them just to have a second set, roughly in the direction of Empire.

In 2547, the System States Alliance secedes from the Federated Nations. They are located on the “outer Rimward fringe” of human space. But how big is human space 160 years later?

Continue reading “Building a Better Star Map” »

Home for Christmas

I know it’s a bit early, but if the supermarkets can carry Christmas candy by late September, I can use it as the tagline for another “vintage” travel poster:

I tried to create an “Earth by night” look for the shadow (night) side of Earth. I think it looks fairly decent, although it’s not perfect. The sun’s reflection needs some perspective work (I couldn’t fix it) – think that would help a lot.

Other works in this “series”:

This is the 400th publish post since January 29th, 2008. In the four years the blog had 385 comments (including my own, though) and in the past 15 months just over 45000 page views (excluding my own).

Thank you all for visiting, reading, and commenting – I am happy about every single visitor and really appreciate that you took the time to pop in!