Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New Beginning 891

"Those particles that CERN scientists thought traveled faster than the speed of light didn't do any such thing, of course. But that experiment and what it lead to lead to the unexpected finding that particles are individual. This proton is not that proton is not any other proton in the universe. Frankly it would have been less devastating to the physics of the time if the particles had traveled faster than the speed of light." Liberty Cain accepted the wine that Cleopatra offered. "Nice."

"I don't understand what you mean by particles. Are these the atoms the philosophers talk about?"

Liberty found Cleopatra a pretty cluey woman. She didn't have a lot of the background for this but she was keeping up.

"Sort of. These are not the smallest of particles but they are close. We don't know if the quarks are individual like particles or not. It's a hot issue when I come from."

"But you said particles cannot travel faster than light and that means you can't travel through time?"

Cleopatra clapped her hands and slaves came up to fan the both of them to cool the midday heat. Other slaves with horsehair whips kept the flies away from the food. The room was not decorated in the garish manner Hollywood always suggested. They showed statues and decorations and ornate furniture. But Celopatra, in her private apartments, seemed to prefer a less garish elegance.

"A particle can't exist twice in the same time. But we can read the pattern of any object by knowing its individual particles, then use that pattern and duplicate it at any time. This body you see is made from particles of this time. The original me is in the future in a stasis chamber."

"Like a priest in a trace? The priests say they enter a trance to affect events far away or in the future."

"Something like that, yes."

"Liberty Cain," Cleopatra had some trouble with the unfamiliar name, "what have you come here to do?"

* * *

Professor Leverson, head of the committee, sighed and put the papers down. "Damn it, Tiverton," he said, "when we told you to make your masters thesis more engaging . . . "

Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: anon.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Opening with a line of dialogue: acceptable IMHO, unacceptable to some.

Opening with a line of dialogue nearly 100 words long: hazardous.

Opening with a line of dialogue nearly 100 words long that contains a spelling error: meh.

And another further on: "trace" should be "trance".

Evil Editor said...

First the typos:

P1: ...what it led to led to... Actually, get rid of "and what it led to.'

P6, S5: Cleopatra

P8: trance

I see no reason Cleo would come up with the conclusion: "But you said particles cannot travel faster than light and that means you can't travel through time?"

You can get rid of "They showed statues and decorations and ornate furniture. But Celopatra, in her private apartments, seemed to prefer a less garish elegance." as the previous sentence implies it.

If she can handle the name Marc Antony, I don't see why Liberty Cain would give her much trouble.

That Cain is having this discussion with Cleopatra isn't easy to buy. I assume the guy is trying to convince her that he actually exists in the future, but there has to be a simpler way than going into the speed of light and quarks etc.

none said...

Dude, his name wasn't actually Marc Antony.

Evil Editor said...

Babe, and Cleo didn't speak English. But as the scene has her doing so...

Eric said...

Looks like it's time to bring back EE's arch-enemy INFODUMP!

Cleo needs to have "particles" explained but not "CERN Scientists" or "physics" or "protons" or "faster than the speed of light"? (Recall that Cleopatra lived about 1600 years before Isaac Newton.)

When you've got an interesting character like Cleopatra around, we want to see what she's going to do rather than making her a straight man for Liberty's boring technobabble. Your device is clever, but you don't need so much of it. The conversation can go like this:

"I'm from the future. I used a machine that assembled particles in your time to replicate my consciousness here while I'm in a stasis chamber back home."

"Like a priest in a trance? The priests say etc."

"Something like that, yes."

That's all you need, then on with your story!

Dave Fragments said...

I don't think this is that much of an info dump to be off-putting.

I also don't care if you start with dialog or not.

However, I think that if Cleo were up on the latest "science" then the Greeks did have the concept of atoms being the building blocks of nature. It's only after Rome fell and the Dark Ages came that science taught "vapors and ether and only 4 elements."

Cleo is bright enough to understand that Liberty wants something. The rest of it be damned, he wants something. Cleo was a smart politician and didn't get to rule Egypt and seduce Marc Antony based on her femininity alone (although it helped).

So I would simplify that huge first paragraph and make in one sentence of two at most. Remember the devastation in physics you refer to is in Relativity and that discussion requires 3-dimensional analysis, matrix mathematics and more really difficult mathematics. Cleo didn't have those smarts. That stuff isn't even intuitive. So cut back and just make Cleo smart enough to accept he's from the future and get to what he wants.

This opening is crying out for something like action or some devastating revelation. Personally, I would think that about halfway through this you better mention the Book Of The Dead, or the Spear of Longinus, or Imhotep's body, or that secret alien device hidden in the pyramids

Anonymous said...

As said above, opening with a physics lecture, not so good. I'd prefer it if you open with Cleopatra and a little on the surroundings, and then she asks Liberty Cain about particle physics and time travel - keep it short and sweet, and we get some fun with the unexpected statement - and then we can get on with the story.

Unless the story is about physics, the audience doesn't really care - a sentence or two is enough to explain how he's there. If the story IS about physics, better to wait until later in the story before going into this kind of detail. ^_^


none said...

I'm now trying to imagine someone saying Julius Caesar didn't succeed 'based on his masculinity alone'. Sadly, I can't.

Anonymous said...

You described what this place doesn't look like. Scratch that and tell us what it does look like.

At this point the whole conversation is unmotivated. He has no apparent reason for telling her any of this. And she has no apparent reason to believe it.

Also, get some action.

vkw said...

He wants something.

Cleo will want to get something out of giving it to him.

He would have had to shown her something or given her something to get inside that non-garish inner chamber.

Cut to the chase, dump the physics lesson.

I barely believe in protons.

I'm glad you've worked out the science. You'll need it at the new star trek convention. Someone will have to replace Spock.

If I am there, I am skipping your lecture but if you give me a compelling reason to read your book, I'll probably buy it.

Khazar-khum said...

What is a 'cluey' woman?

At least she's wearing clothes...I think.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I assumed Liberty was also a woman. It's true Liberty Valens was a man, but I used to babysit for a college professor named Liberty.

Well, she was a little girl at the time, but somehow she's turned into a college professor since then.

Anyone, a lot of interesting stuff could happen when a time traveler of any sex meets Cleopatra. A physics lecture seems like the bottom-tier choice.

(exits singing

Escribo tu nombre
En las paredes
De mi ciudad...
Y yo te nombro Libertad)

none said...

I doubt he'd like the wine. Maybe he's being polite.

Anon and vkw are right: what's the goal in this scene? Presumably it isn't to bring Cleopatra up to scratch with modern physics. Heck, you can't bring modern humans up to scratch with that 90% of the time.

If he's hoping to persuade her to save Pompey the Great's head (no, that wasn't his name, either), then I'm not sure this is the way to do it.

Stacy said...

This feels too much like you're explaining things to us. It doesn't ring true to me that Cleopatra would understand or even believe what Liberty is explaining to her, especially since we're in her time, apparently. Or is this a chapter opening with material preceding it?

Anonymous said...

"Particles are individual. This proton is not that proton is not any other proton in the universe. It's a hot issue when I come from."

Liberty grinned at Cleopatra.

"Particles," said the queen. "You mean atoms?" She clapped her hands and slaves ran up to fan away the midday heat.

Liberty leaned against one of the cool, smooth marble pillars. He liked this cluey woman. "Sort of. A particle can't exist twice in the same time. But we can duplicate a pattern of particles. This body you see is made from particles of this time. The original me is in the future in a stasis chamber."

"Like a priest in a trance? To affect events far away or in the future."

"Something like that, yes."

"Liberty Cain." Cleopatra looked him in the eye. "What have you come here to do?"


But I agree that we're missing the bit where he/she persuaded Cleo to call off the highly trained bodyguards when he slipped out from behind a particle and showed up out of nowhere.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

^ In my comment above, for "anyone" please read "anyway".

Khazar-khum said...

Alaska Ravenclaw: It' says that Cleo looks him in the eye, so Liberty is a man. How a strangely-dressed man ended up in her rooms is another matter. Or particle.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Khazar-khum, I'm probably about to make a fool of myself as always when I let my field-dependent cognitive style show, but I just reread the damn thing six times and still don't see that phrase.

Admittedly all these rereadings do make me now think Liberty's a guy. He does rattle on.

150 said...

Cleopatra looks "him" in the eye in Anon's rewrite, not the original. I also assumed Liberty was a woman.

Cleopatra has the right idea. Cut the nattery backstory, and tell us what Liberty wants.

iago said...

I too assumed Liberty was a belle.

Evil Editor said...

People, people, would a woman drone on about quarks and protons when she could be talking to Cleopatra about Antony's prowess between the Egyptian cotton sheets?

Whirlochre said...

Agree with the infodump observations.

none said...

We don't know that she's had Antony, yet. We don't even know for sure that this is *that* Cleopatra.

EE has a point, though--are they talking in English or Greek? If English, how did Cleo learn it? They're communicating so easily it feels wrong. (What's CERN in ancient Greek? do you spell it out?)

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Or lack thereof.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it's due to dating too many academics, but it would seem to me to be quite typical of a male to deliver a mind-numbing lecture re whatever he thinks he has expertise in while the feminine party contemplates other matters entirely. And of course she appears to agree / understand everything completely. All the better to get him to stop blithering and move on to more important business. God forbid she should ask him to clarify some nonsense and inspire another hour of explanation... They'd never get to bed.

Although if I'm going to use that in a scene, the narrative would be from her pov and I wouldn't include much of his actual chatter.

Anonymous said...

I've noted a tendency that if I don't clear up every ambiguity people take that as something untoward. But if I wrap everything up in 300 words it's not an opening, it's flash fiction.
Liberty Cain is a woman. Just because she's competent and knows science doesn't mean she's a man.
Cleopatra spoke Coptic, Greek, and Latin (at least). She did not speak late 21st century English.
That her taste in decoration is compared to movie versions means it is that Cleopatra.
Liberty does not go back in time, that's a duplicate. What would she look for? Documents. Where are a bunk of them? The Library at Alexandria. Who owns that? Cleopatra. And how do you convince Cleopatra that the process you'll use won't hurt her documents? Maybe explain what the whole thing is.

Evil Editor said...

Of course women know science. But do they drone on and on about CERN and light speed and quarks to people who don't know science? No. Only men do that.

batgirl said...

Really minor point (my specialty lately) - I'd suggest 'horsehair whisks' rather than 'horsehair whips'. 'Whips' suggest the slaves are knocking the flies out of the air individually.