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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 329 Response

“Captain Webster”

by Marjorie Salzwedel

Hi Don,

I enjoyed your questions in Challenge 329. These are my beliefs regarding “Captain Webster and the Proprietary Scientist.”

And thank you for the feedback, Margie; it’s much appreciated. Maybe, after the lively exchanges in and after issue 327, more authors and readers will explore the Challenge questions and perhaps even add some of their own. Everything in Bewildering Stories is open to discussion, from issue 1 on.

In response to “Earthspeak” being a single language or a family of languages, in my created world of the future in the year of 2038, I would ascertain that it would be a standardized and single language made so universally for the convenience of global communication. It may lack subtleties, but it would make verbal exchange between people of different nationalities spontaneous and useful, maybe with too many clichés to satisfy those who love words, but it would work.

I may have missed or misinterpreted something, but I did have the impression that “Earthspeak” was a descendant or adaptation of Esperanto and had developed dialects of its own.

If that’s the case, I wouldn’t worry about “Earthspeak” being a simplistic, cliché-ridden language; it’s evidently not a creole or pidgin but an artificial language that has become a natural one in your story. Esperanto itself is not only completely regular but also very expandable in terms of vocabulary.

As a side note, science fiction writers are well advised to avoid exact dates in their stories if at all possible. For example, the year 2038 is only 29 years in our future. That seems awfully soon to have “Earthspeak” in widespread use, let alone artificial intelligence and spaceships of the kind you depict.

In response to observing Captain Webster’s trying to calculate the meaning of the student’s body language such as shrugging and giving up chasing the rabbit, Captain Webster has not been programmed to understand indifference or to understand accepting failure, such as accepting failure to get the rabbit or keep up with the rabbit and being okay with either one of those goals.

Star Trek’s Commander Data, an android, has problems interpreting human emotions; it’s a leitmotif of the entire series. In that way, Data is the counterpart of the original series’ thoroughly logical Mr. Spock or the subsequent Voyager’s Mr. Tuvok.

In terms of your story, it’s practical that an AI understand everything but emotion. If it did understand emotions, it would become an artificial human analog and, as such, be distinguishable from the other characters in the story only in terms of clothing.

In response to whether Dr. Zetterberg thinks his robot creation is trustworthy enough to pilot a spaceship, it is my belief that this proprietary scientist believes just that.

And yet Dr. Z. plants a “mole” among the crew as a precaution against Capt. Webster’s possibly going awry.

Captain Webster has been programmed to understand every billionth aspect of the spaceship. The robot says he has been able to exceed the scientist’s knowledge by calculating further. “He is an expert on everything,” Dr. Zetterman says in his defense when one of the researchers says, “Since when is he an expert on women?”

Heh... I don’t think Dr. Z. really answers the question about women. He may think he does, but I expect readers will see women and spaceships as being of two different orders. And yet that could be a charming bit of naïveté on the part of Dr. Z.: after all, he is only a mere male and a scientist, to boot... (imagine mischievous grin here)

It might be assumed he has accumulated scientific knowledge beyond the eye of normal scientific observation within the intricate configurations of physics and mathematics such as where the elements of the “string theory” might be proved.

Capt. Webster is not only single-minded, he’s ambitious, too! Maybe it’s too much of a stretch to say he has a Captain Ahab complex, but is he drunk with power? Maybe a little tipsy... (grin)

Yet, please let me know where I may make different judgments in answer to these questions. I might improve the story.

Composition is the fun of writing. And discussing a story after the fact enables readers to share in the fun.

Thank you.


Margie Salzwedel

Copyright © 2009 by Marjorie Salzwedel
and Don Webb

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