SciFi Ideas Podcast Episode#9

Another episode of the SciFi Ideas Podcast with many and varied discussion topics including zombie ants, Will Riker’s love life, and space-faring dolphins.


The Fungal Hound –

Alien Profile: The Babosi –

Featured Story: Nervous Stomach –

Star Trek’s Future Social Conflicts –

Sci-Fi Story Idea Generator –

This podcast is also available on YouTube.

  • Btw the Star Trek game I couldn’t think of was called Starfleet Command, and was a fleetbattle game. You controlled multiple ships on a 2D plane.

    • Ah, yeh, I remember that now. It was pretty cool, if a little slow. Those torpedoes took forever to reload.
      I’m pretty sure you could use boarding parties, but only if the enemy’s shields were breached. (In my game, shields don’t block teleporters. Makes for a simpler and faster paced game).

      • Jaxx

        Kind of reminds me when I was an Official Trekkie back in the day. During a Region 4 Trek Convention. I met the crew of the USS Laredo who built a replica of the Helm, Captain Chair and Weapons consoles. Then they used the software from one of the Star Trek Games in unison with the touch screens on the consoles to simulate a live ship battle video game. It was pretty cool but you could not use the helm and weapon controls in unison. I wonder if they continued to work on it since then. 😉

  • John H Reiher Jr

    Wow, someone who agrees with me! You don’t need a “bridge” on a spaceship. For the majority of the trip, Grandpa Newton is flying the ship. The ship’s computer is doing all the flying. The Kestrel books sound interesting.

    As for a good place to gather for the crew of the ship, look at Firefly. The ship’s mess, the lounge, and the cargo bay are where most of the stories take place.

    More advanced control would be jacking into the ship and running it like it’s a part of your body. Oculus Rift is a game interface, not a control system.

    • Advanced neural control is cool, but I think wouldn’t work for a story because it reduces the requirement for dialogue, surely?

      • John H Reiher Jr

        Not necessarily. Not everyone would have a jack, so the pilot would still talk to the others in the crew. The big thing is “Is there a pilot?” Now in the Berserker Universe, they may not trust full AI control and have a pilot.

        But in other universes, the ship flies itself. You just tell it where you want to go and it takes you there.

      • Here is an excerpt of Neural interface and dialog:

        The pilot seats lowered on a hydraulic arm as I approached the third one. It then retracted into the cockpit and I began a system check. While I had never flown a real Wolfcraft, I knew the machine inside our from SIM hours.

        “I am SII Wolfcraft Type V, Serial number 84887548-WCV-ADCAP78-DEVASTATOR-747. Pilot, fighter symbiosis initiated and complete, Olafson, Eric recognized. Neural Direct feed linked.”

        No longer did I feel my real body or the fighter around me. It was as if I was standing on the Pre Flight myself but my eye perspective was 6 meters of the ground. System data was now send directly down my visual main nerve and I saw all data floating on the side of my periphery, easily expanded or featured by a simulated finger flick.

        Through the neural direct feed came a voice. “This is Commander Cotton. Pilots do not call each other by rank or name but by a call sign. That is an ancient tradition and is also faster. My call sign is Wildcat. Mr. Olafson you are called Viking and Mr. Hi you will use the call sign Pirate. Now perform a preflight test!”

    • An oculus rift with motion detectors could turn any surface/environment into a control system. I was thinking of gestural control, with an oculus rift to both project virtual control panels and display sensor data.

      • I guess the question of Controls in a star ship and a place where that control is enacted (Bridge or Command & Control) would depend on the space ships mission. Is it just a transport i.e going from A to B, is it an explorer, does it need to fight?
        A ship that conveys people or material from A to B would not need any controls other than maybe an off and on switch (pre programmed course ) Now a ship that engages in any sort of hostile interaction depends on the velocities. Your scanner beams and sensors operate at light speed. Even the distance of one light minute takes two two minutes for scanner data to arrive. Plenty of time for verbal interactions and using manual interfaces of any kind. If the fight is fought at near light, (disregarding the millions of tons of relativistic mass that need to be overcome to change course) any human interaction would be way to slow to give any meaning ful commands . Firing a machine gun at an air target is difficult enough and unless the target comes straight at you requires a lot of mental calculation)
        So all the space battles we have seen and read about happen at speeds not much faster than a WWII dog fight, and for that buttons, touch sensors and spoken commands are just fine.

        The ships in my Universe use “Battle Domes” where the seats of the “Command Crew are raised into a 360 sphere simulating an unobstructed view of the space surrounding the ship and commands are given by looking at command icons projected directly onto the retina.
        Now the raising of the chairs is because in my mind it is a homage to Submarine periscopes and the skipper using it.

        • John H Reiher Jr

          The problem is that if all the battles are taking place at the speed of a WWII dogfight, they are moving 10 – 20 times too slow.

          In the BBC fictional documentary “Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets” the ship Pegasus has a close encounter with an asteroid, at several thousand kilometers an hour. On screen, the flyby took less than 6 frames. That’s at 60 frames a second. No human can operate at those speeds.

          • That was an over simplified analogy not meant literary. I was trying to make an analogy to SW and the WWII inspiration George Lucas took to depict a space fight.
            Manual operated laser canons…. (He took that from the WWII “Bom Boms” Btw

  • John H Reiher Jr

    Some choice Random Story Ideas from the generator:

    When a hardworking priest is kidnapped by an aliens, they create an android replica of him so that nobody will know. But while the android looks exactly like him, it struggles with basic human emotions. The story is told from the perspective of both the original and the clone.

    When an ordinary scientist finds himself trapped in an abandoned cargo ship, he must team up with an insane computer in order to escape.

    When a deep space patrol vessel crash-lands on a jungle planet, the surviving crew are forced to rely on the natives – a race of photosynthetic warriors – to survive. The primitive aliens have never seen humans before, and while some treat them as gods, others are not so hospitable.

    • John H Reiher Jr

      And one last one:

      When a scientist is killed while working in a terraforming facility on a distant world, the authorities send a crime-fighting robot cat to solve the locked room mystery.

    • You’ve gotta wonder why photosynthetic aliens would be warriors. Do they fight over sunbeds? 🙂

      • John H Reiher Jr

        “Thees is our Guano! We Fight To Death to Protect it!”

  • John H Reiher Jr

    I’ve written about Dolphins in space before. They wear a walker suit that lets them clomp around that converts swimming motion into walking motion. The suits are not filled with water because, as pointed out, the water in zero-G would float and drown them. Instead the suit is lined with capillary tubes and a sponge-like material that cycles water around, keeping their skin moist.

    I’ve always thought that Dolphins are at the Early Hominid stage of intelligence. Their biggest problem is lack of hands for tools.

    • So there’s no gravity, but you give them legs? Wouldn’t artificial wings and a “wet suit” make more sense in a microgravity environment?

      • John H Reiher Jr

        The RPG they appeared in, FTL: 2448, ships were under constant thrust. Also, they can’t fly when on a planet or space station.

  • Here’s a clip from legends of the Rangers where the pilot jumps into a VR pod where she can see 360, and throw fireballs at the enemy ships

    • John H Reiher Jr

      At those ranges, none of those ships should have survived. If you can reach out and touch the other ship, you’re fracking too close.

      • Haha, yeh. And why make somebody do exercise when a button can do the job just as well? Many lives could be lost due to cramp.

        Wasn’t there something like this in Andromeda too?

        • John H Reiher Jr

          I remember reading about the interface Tom Cruise used in “Minority Report”. The article pointed out that Tom wore himself out after every shot, it was like doing aerobics non-stop.

  • Random thought on cybernetics as evil, Luke Skywalker, Geordi LaForge, and Robot Cop will probably disagree. 🙂

    David Brin’s Startide Rising is a good read for dolphins in space.

    • Yeh, I think I might have been wrong about cyborgs usually being bad guys. Robo Cop is kinda scary though.
      Can’t believe I forgot about Geordi!!!

      • How about Cyborg of DC Comics? Deathlok of Marvel ? Both are Cyborgs and of the Hero kind? Also Van Damme played a Cyborg in a Garbage movie but he was the good guy too. (Sort of)
        And then of course Cartoon: Silverhawks and The Centurions

  • Thomas Giles

    Solid episode, guys. Couldn’t remember how I was meant to contact you about the game, but… I’m contacting you about the game. I’d love to give the prototype a go, if you’ve still open to more testers..?

    • Thanks Thomas. We actually haven’t agreed on any testing arrangements yet (the game is still a single deck scribbled in my own handwriting), so Dave was jumping the gun a bit there. We’ll let you know.
      Thanks for the encouragement and interest!

      • Thomas Giles

        Oh, okay. Fair enough. I’m interested in game design myself, and play lots of board games every week, so I’d jump at the chance to help in any way I can. Hope it goes well ;P

  • From the GC Universe
    Virtu –Helmsman

    It has been shown that the Human brain when correctly conditioned still outperforms most Computronicsystems especially in such areas as intuitive reaction to new situations. There is hardly an area where reaction time matters more than during Space Ship operations and during near light speed battle engagements.
    While the distances and the size of space relate these speeds somewhat and make it possible to react at all, even fractions of a second can mean the difference between defeat and victory and life and death.
    In an accidental discovery it was noticed that the Terran human genetic triggered mental disorder called Autism. It is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior.
    Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize. This altering of Information processing allowed the first successful Computronic – Synaptic Wet Linksymbiosis in Human history, or the complete symbiosis of Computer and human brain on the entire level. Computer systems with intuitive functions were now possible.
    The first Virtu-Helm Interface, where an autistic person was directly without input interface steered a Space ship was developed only six month later.
    Since the causes of Autism were almost completely eliminated the “Supply” of Autistic talents was limited. The extremely controversial Virtu Helm Program encouraging parents not to have their children pre natal treated was started by the United Earth navy and rumors have it that the trigger genes were reintroduced in some communities in order to benefit from the financial rewards (Virtu Helmsmen earned 10 times as much as other spacers)
    While there is no open incentive or program of the Union Fleet to actually promote Autism and less than 1 percent of all ships actually have a Virtu Helmsman, all ships (1) are equipped with a Virtu Helm Interface System. (Secret Information: In extreme situations the Captain of a ship can order the Helms person to take Emergency Drug 15 which is a Cali-Pharm Inc. product. The drug simulates the talents of an autistic person by changing the information processing inside the synaptic system of a brain. This is only known to Helms men and Captains and referred to as Order 15)
    Saresii Psycho Surgeons are known to be anchoring such talents permanently.
    Natural Virtu Helmsmen are rare and often called “Gem-boys” referring to their value and rarity.

    (1) The USS Devastator is the only major Fleet Unit that is not equipped with a Virtu Helm station by Order of Admiral Stahl who had it removed. (Stahl is an open opponent to the Virtu Helmsman culture and technology)
    (2) The most famous Virtu Helmsman is Shaka Ndebele, former Helmsman of the USS Tigershark
    (3) The Term Virtu is a derivation of the word Virtual and stems from the days when Virtual Helmsmen remotely steered Robotic Ships (Robot Bombs) into Xunx and Freon Planets. There was also a short lived plan right at the beginning of the Union Fleet to replace crews with Virtual remote Crews entirely.