The Cosmic Star

1 January 2018

So, I just found this webcomic that's basically Star Trek meets 2001, which is just as interesting as it sounds. Well-written, too, and pretty funny, at least until things get serious. It is, however, marred by the Conservative views of the authors, who try to be all enlightened and neutral but fail in subtle ways:

  • The one promoter of social justice onboard is a loud-mouthed radical, who is portrayed as no better than the conservative Professor. It could be waved away as happenstance, but...
  • The captain thinks universities are solely populated by overeducated people with no sense of practicality. It could be waved away as her personal views, but...
  • The Professor somehow designed a practical Alcubierre drive all by himself. Doesn't work that way. Such an achievement, if it ever happened, would be the work of thousands; they'd have to hold the Nobel Prize ceremony on a stadium (and overhaul the outdated rules).
  • In the story, Eurasia is controlled by a ruthless Socialist regime. Seriously? This is the 21st century. If you still believe in the Red Scare...
  • Come to think of it, the gag with the gay student early on is right out of 1980-era sitcom Three's Company, which was also funny and well-written, but no less cringe-worthy in retrospect. Oops!

By the way, maybe I'm misreading authorial intent here, and the setting is only meant to have the appearance of hard sci-fi, but:

  • We'll need artificial gravity on long-term space missions because otherwise people will die horribly. It's not just for comfort.
  • Yes, Commander, if you spent years in zero gravity, being able to get it up would be the least of your worries. And by the way, there are ways to have sex that don't require you to get it up.
  • I can accept the impossible-in-practice Alcubierre drive as a necessary plot device, and a well-handled one at that, but deflector shields have no basis in current science at all.
  • Spaceships can very well travel outside of the ecliptic. They can even use a slingshot maneuver and then head out perpendicularly to the Solar System.
  • Even with a drive that can pull multi-g acceleration and take the ship to relativistic speeds, you're not going to just up and decide to use Neptune instead of Pluto for a slingshot maneuver when you're already on the way, not even if they happen to be aligned at the time. And did they perform a slingshot maneuver at low FTL speeds soon after worrying that the space compression might destroy planets? At least hopping from Pluto's orbit straight into Kuiper's Belt could be justified by them already traveling at warp. Oh wait, no, they're only going a few times the speed of light, it should still take them hours. Oops again!

See, it's worth knowing your science even when it is kind of detached from day-to-day life. Maybe there's no such thing as "overeducated", hmm?

Still a good comic I'll try to enjoy. Peace.

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