Thursday, December 31, 2009

Staking a Couple Claims

I work on the assumption that there really aren't any new ideas in Science Fiction. Oh, we change the names, but whether your Rambo-esque Galactic War Super Soldier is created by exoskeletal machinery, embedded cyborg stuff, genetic engineering, or nanotech, it's pretty much the same idea, just a different name. For that matter, often "Fantasy" is just another name for "SF," with "magic" replacing "technology" (example: what's the difference between a "scrying spell" and a spy satellite? Just the "genre" note on the spine of the book). So, NO NEW IDEAS. Only Old Ideas in New Combinations. The "New Stuff" in SF is in how it relates to characters, society, how we see the gadgets and people interacting.

Having said that, and having carefully perused The Last Protector to make sure every Sci-Fi gimmick in it had been used in at least a half-dozen prior works (not to mention that "everything in here is a bleepin' cliche!" is the best way to assure you'll never be accused of plagiarism), I fear I may have inadvertently slipped in Something Original. If not a completely new idea, a significant new variation on an old idea. Namely, alcohol-fueled nanotech.

It was kind of a one-shot gag, a way to signal that something weird was going on: Scrornuck, the hero of the piece, knocks back several full-strength beers without getting a buzz, the Breathalyzer(tm)-equivalent machine says his blood alcohol is 0.00%... Obviously something strange is happening, and later on, we find out just where the alcohol went.

But, having read a few nanotech-using SF books of late, I've noticed that I haven't seen anybody else suggest that nanotech might run on alcohol (in fact, nobody seems to be terribly concerned about what it does use for fuel). So I did some Google searches, and again came up dry as Moore County, Tennessee (which, though it's home of the Jack Daniel's distillery, prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages). Indeed, what I found is better represented by this request from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (click here), which is asking only for nanotech that would help determine alcohol levels and concentrations in tissues. Seems to me they're missing the bigger opportunity. Consider this scenario: It's New Year's Eve (which, in fact, it is as I write this). Before going out, you swallow a pill loaded with nanobots (or, alternatively, they're already in your bloodstream doing other useful things). They've been programmed to start consuming alcohol at 12:01 AM. You then party all night, you're pretty far into the bag by the time the ball drops in Times Square, and then... click! Schlurp (on a nano scale, of course)! And at 12:02, you're good to drive home... Think there'd be a market for this kind of nanotech? I do...

I really wish I'd explored the idea of blood-and-tissue-borne, alcohol-powered nanotech a bit further in The Last Protector. Oh, well... there's always the next book... And in the meantime, till I write that book, I'm gonna sit here on this idea and yell like a two-year-old, "MINE! MINE! MINE!"

And in the second Claim I'm Staking this morning, I found the Twitter name MyBeerTalkin wasn't taken. Given the popularity of ShitMyDadSays and similar Twits, I'm astonished. So naturally I grabbed it. Not sure what I'll do with it. Maybe best to let the beer talk...

(Later: Thought about this some more and concluded it's probably not a good idea. Better to let me talk, and let somebody else's beer do the Twitter thing. Beer is a complex subject, not well served by 140 character messages. On to things with some meat on their bones...)

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