The Pursuit of Happiness . . . by Dan Holifield

Tell us what you thought about the December 2011 issue.

Moderator: Editors

Post Reply
User avatar
Lester Curtis
Long Fiction Editor
Posts: 2736
Joined: January 11, 2010, 12:03:56 AM
Location: by the time you read this, I'll be somewhere else

The Pursuit of Happiness . . . by Dan Holifield

Post by Lester Curtis »

This month's editorial caused me to break with an established habit of mine: reading the editorial first, then the feature, then the poetry, the short stories, etc. I got jostled out of sequence by the link . . . anyway . . .

One of the first things that caught my attention was the fan-fic name-dropping. 'Fox' and 'Dana' were bad enough, but it kept happening, with 'John Carter' and 'Engineer Scott.' Sorry, but I have to subtract points for that, especially when it happened more than once. Oh, yeah, there were the Martians, too, and the Enterprise -- and maybe one or more others I didn't recognize . . . all right, I realize this is supposed to be an alternate reality sort of thing, but -- really -- ! Way too much borrowing and referencing going on.

Or did I miss something? Was it really supposed to be tongue-in-cheek? Maybe it was; after all, the author did use his own screen-name as a character.

I also thought that there was too much expository dialog, especially in the beginning; it got dangerously close to "As we all know . . . " Sometimes that trick is necessary in very short fiction, but to me, it has no place in a novel, where you can stretch out and take your time revealing background information.

I thought the dialog was too melodramatic. Maybe it's supposed to be; I'm not very familiar with the genre. Still, Victorian era aside, I can not believe that people ever actually talked like that outside of courtrooms and bank offices. And the bridge crew seemed to spend a lot of time overexcitedly praising each others' accomplishments. Things like that need to be balanced out, by someone saying, "Indeed, my good fellow, but don't you remember what happened in that bar on our last shore leave? We'll never be allowed in there again!"

I liked some of the details of the ship and the other technical gizmos, but there weren't enough (for example, what are the 'Specials'? I want to know!), and some of them are a little silly, like the steam-powered wheelchair, suffocating its user with combustion fumes. (Okay, it's steam-punk.)

The battle scene was kinda fun, but I thought it seemed to be over too quickly; should have been stretched out some more. And, the good guys should lose someone and take some damage, too. I can't feel sympathy for them if they never get hurt. Nice strategy and tactics, though.

Still and all, I'm intrigued about who might have been behind the nastiness . . . it's someone who stands to gain a boatload of money and power from a war . . . we know all too much about how that works in the here and now, but the mystery remains.

I think I did spot one misplaced bit of punctuation, but other than that, it seemed good technically, and it was easy to read.
I was raised by humans. What's your excuse?
User avatar
Lester Curtis
Long Fiction Editor
Posts: 2736
Joined: January 11, 2010, 12:03:56 AM
Location: by the time you read this, I'll be somewhere else

Re: The Pursuit of Happiness . . . by Dan Holifield

Post by Lester Curtis »

You've helped a lot. I only hope more people choose to comment!

Dan
Glad to. Hopefully you can return the favor someday.
I was raised by humans. What's your excuse?
User avatar
Lester Curtis
Long Fiction Editor
Posts: 2736
Joined: January 11, 2010, 12:03:56 AM
Location: by the time you read this, I'll be somewhere else

Re: The Pursuit of Happiness . . . by Dan Holifield

Post by Lester Curtis »

Worthy comments, Bill, and I've been missing your presence on the forum. Glad to have you back in action.

I guess I need to read more of this stuff to get a feel for it . . . maybe the word should be, "fanciful." And, I should have picked up on the John Carter reference and actually remembered what all those Barsoom stories were like (and I had the whole collection, once). That would have gotten me closer to a proper appreciation.

I like your comment about sails -- the ones used on sailboats are called spinnakers, I believe, and are only good for downwind running. They do look like parachutes. Would be a great fuel-saver as long as you don't mind your speed being limited to that of the wind. Be ready to cut it loose if you have to maneuver hurriedly, though. Bonus -- some clever wag could point out that, if you lose your gasbag, it might actually serve as a parachute to soften the crash. Have fun deploying it and watching everything horizontal suddenly become vertical.

Dan, if you feel like continuing with this, I'd be happy to keep reading it. I do still want to know who's behind the evil plot -- and maybe you'll tell us what those Specials are.
I was raised by humans. What's your excuse?
User avatar
Lester Curtis
Long Fiction Editor
Posts: 2736
Joined: January 11, 2010, 12:03:56 AM
Location: by the time you read this, I'll be somewhere else

Re: The Pursuit of Happiness . . . by Dan Holifield

Post by Lester Curtis »

Just finished it . . . kept me in my seat for hours. I liked the way it turned out. The bad guy reminded me of the ones in James Bond stories, but I guess that's no coincidence. I guess it just took me a while to get accustomed to it. Incomplete as it is, it's still a lively read. Thanks for posting it.
I was raised by humans. What's your excuse?
User avatar
Lester Curtis
Long Fiction Editor
Posts: 2736
Joined: January 11, 2010, 12:03:56 AM
Location: by the time you read this, I'll be somewhere else

Re: The Pursuit of Happiness . . . by Dan Holifield

Post by Lester Curtis »

Just briefly, I also want to add that the ending (in the Epilogue) was very nicely done -- it tied up some loose ends that had just barely been tickling the back of my brain. Plus, it's a wide-open invitation to sequels of all sorts.
I was raised by humans. What's your excuse?
User avatar
Robert_Moriyama
Editor Emeritus
Posts: 2379
Joined: December 31, 1969, 08:00:00 PM
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Contact:

Steampunk Iron Man costume

Post by Robert_Moriyama »

http://www.geeksaresexy.net/2010/10/11/ ... gn=scribol

Of course, to be really steampunk, it should have visible external pistons and gears instead of just looking like a hand-riveted suit of plate armor... (The prototype suit in the first Iron Man movie had a kind of steampunk feel to it -- aside from the glowing repulsor generator in the chest, that is.)

Oops -- correction: it does have visible gears, on the SIDES OF THE HELMET and the BACK! Yeah, that makes perfect sense in terms of powering the arms and legs.
You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.

Jack London (1876-1916)
User avatar
Lester Curtis
Long Fiction Editor
Posts: 2736
Joined: January 11, 2010, 12:03:56 AM
Location: by the time you read this, I'll be somewhere else

Re: The Pursuit of Happiness . . . by Dan Holifield

Post by Lester Curtis »

I just saw a really bad movie, just for kicks -- "Hobo With a Shotgun" There was a two-man team of bad guys called the Plague who wore some rather steam-punk-ish gear.

Don't get the movie just to see that part, though. It's disgusting.
I was raised by humans. What's your excuse?
User avatar
Lester Curtis
Long Fiction Editor
Posts: 2736
Joined: January 11, 2010, 12:03:56 AM
Location: by the time you read this, I'll be somewhere else

Re: The Pursuit of Happiness . . . by Dan Holifield

Post by Lester Curtis »

Not exactly steam-punk, but it made me think of it . . .

http://wulffmorgenthaler.com/strip/2012 ... s%2BStribe

A warning about this strip . . . it gets extremely vulgar on a regular basis.
I was raised by humans. What's your excuse?
Megawatts
Master Critic
Posts: 950
Joined: December 31, 1969, 08:00:00 PM
Location: Johnstown, Pa.

Re: The Pursuit of Happiness . . . by Dan Holifield

Post by Megawatts »

The prologue rolled out a very nice carpet in which to engage the reader, and to interest the reader in the story that is to unfold. As I read, I became interested and fascinated with the concept of ‘steam-punk’ and it did spur me on to keep reading.

Thoughts of The Wild Wild West television series bubbled up as I read. And I expected a craft similar to the one in Jules Verne’s Master of the World ---the movie and not the book’s craft--to open up before me. However, these airships in The Pursuit of Happiness reminded me more of Star Trek and the Enterprise. And I must say I do like science fiction patterned on Star Trek.

The dialogue in this story was Okay, but maybe a little improvement could be had by deleting some of the wise-cracks and sticking to a natural speech. The use of ‘Aye, Aye, sir’ would have help establish a feeling of a turn-of-the-century style of command.

The battles and mechanics of the airships are within the scope of the possible, since our modern society could have been very different if Thomas Edison and Tesla--who were bitter enemies--prevailed in their quest for an all-electric mode of transportation. In fact, battery operated cars were manufactured during the early part of the 20th century, and if research into, and the continuation of battery cars had continued, then our technology with batteries would be almost light-years ahead of what we have today. I believe in that!

If anybody ever watched an old Stanley Steamer workout during an antique tractor or farm show, then I don’t have to tell how powerful and useful that thing was. It can really pull! We have another bit of technology that was shunned over because of the gasoline engine! If research into steam technology had been as committed as the research into internal combustion power, then once again---our steam technology would have been far superior than it is today!

My last two examples demonstrate, I hope, how things might be different
today if oil and gas companies had not captured our economy one hundred years ago!!

The battle between the airships also reminded me of submarine warfare during WWll, at least in what the movies show us. I don’t know of two enemy subs during the war hunting one-another below the surface, and one torpedoing the other to win the confrontation. However, with Hollywood we see that scenario very often.

Steam is very powerful: Even a small-model steam engine delivers eyebrow-raising power when played with it.

This story is based on ‘what might of happened’ ‘what could of happened’ in the past if world events had changed the way inventors and scientists viewed the possible. Steam-punk, like all science fiction, can open-up another universe.

I can’t say too much more about how to improve this story--just follow good story-telling techniques and keep the dialogue natural, which can be a very difficult problem with any story!
Tesla Lives!!!
User avatar
Lester Curtis
Long Fiction Editor
Posts: 2736
Joined: January 11, 2010, 12:03:56 AM
Location: by the time you read this, I'll be somewhere else

Re: The Pursuit of Happiness . . . by Dan Holifield

Post by Lester Curtis »

If anybody ever watched an old Stanley Steamer workout during an antique tractor or farm show, then I don’t have to tell how powerful and useful that thing was. It can really pull! We have another bit of technology that was shunned over because of the gasoline engine! If research into steam technology had been as committed as the research into internal combustion power, then once again---our steam technology would have been far superior than it is today!
Steam power shares an advantage with electric motors; it has its highest torque at its lowest rpm, rather the opposite of an internal-combustion engine. The trouble is, you better not be in a hurry to get anywhere, because even with the fastest flash boilers, it took about 20 to 30 minutes to get the thing ready to move. Think of an ambulance or a fire truck; they'd have to keep the boilers running round the clock -- burning fuel while they waited to be used. There are other problems inherent in that torque-speed relationship, too. Steam is great for some things; a practical automobile just isn't one of them.

Electric power was used in some city delivery trucks as early as the late 1800's, and I guess they worked pretty well -- until it got really cold out out and the batteries got sluggish. I think electric is the way to go for cars, but we still haven't conquered the range limitation with battery-only models. Hybrids rule, for now, and they'll keep getting better.

I guess the thing about steamers -- and I've only seen videos -- is that they were so fascinating to be around. People who've seen one work say that the thing almost seems to be alive, and they have a complexity of external parts in motion that's really fun to watch. And, all that cast iron and polished brass . . . lots of eye appeal. I'm sure that's where the fun comes from.
I was raised by humans. What's your excuse?
Megawatts
Master Critic
Posts: 950
Joined: December 31, 1969, 08:00:00 PM
Location: Johnstown, Pa.

Re: The Pursuit of Happiness . . . by Dan Holifield

Post by Megawatts »

Yes, Lester, steam power is, well, very powerful as anybody knows who works or worked in any generating station--nuclear and non-nuclear.

Even with today’s steam technology, steam motor systems could be used much more to replace oil and gas. And Hybrids? How about a steam-battery operated car?

These are just thoughts along a ‘pressure power system’ like steam, and it is too bad steam technology didn’t advance more over the last one hundred years.

Believe me, steam during the early 1900s was being explored in just about every mechanical and electrical device invented.

A very good example of steam power---and many laughs that border on steam-punk-- is the British K Class Submarines. These subs had steam boilers for use on the surface. The theory was that they could keep up with the fleet.

The stories about these subs are informative and most very funny! It’s worth reading about these subs! Really, it is!
Tesla Lives!!!
User avatar
Lester Curtis
Long Fiction Editor
Posts: 2736
Joined: January 11, 2010, 12:03:56 AM
Location: by the time you read this, I'll be somewhere else

Re: The Pursuit of Happiness . . . by Dan Holifield

Post by Lester Curtis »

Check out "Winter's Tale," by Mark Helprin. Maybe sort of proto-steam-punk; published in 1983. One of the major setting details I recall was a newspaper printing press (this is a single machine that's a city block long or so) powered by steam, and quoted in the story to reach 100% efficiency. Nice book, very busy, full of beautiful imagery and dangerous action, and large doses of fantasy.

And, somewhere on YouTube is a cluster of videos of a steam-powered paddle-wheel ferry boat, running somewhere in England, I think, with footage of the engine room.
I was raised by humans. What's your excuse?
Post Reply

Return to “December 2011”