Thursday, October 15, 2009

Toba supervolcano caused genetic bottleneck


Toba super-volcano caused genetic bottleneck

This is a WORLDBUILDING item I ran into while reading a novel (free copy) Death of a Cure by Steven H. Jackson.

This novel is fraught with expository lumps (some disguised as action).

The opening action sequence presupposes the reader is interested in the detailed mechanics of how a Marine doctor could be delivered to a submerged submarine via parachute.

The opening sequence is very like the opening of a James Bond movie, because then it breaks sharply into a mystery about the death of the Marine's brother who was a genetic researcher close to a big cure.

No sooner do you get involved in the characters and the relationship of the Marine (man) with an FBI agent (woman), than suddenly you're reading a primer on evolutionary theory.

It was in that expository lump that I found this one item of theory that I either didn't know or had forgotten totally about.

I became interested in super-volcanos through Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's St. Germain novels, one where he nearly witnesses a super-eruption.

I didn't know (or hadn't digested) the implications of this Indonesian eruption on human genetics, but apparently it's quite a bit more famous than the expository lump would indicate.

On this same website is a reference to a book by the same author I think about how during a magnetic pole reversal the Earth's magnetic field doesn't protect us from solar radiation and the result is rapid genetic mutation, ultimately indicated by the sudden rise of totally new species.

Interesting theory.

But I have yet to find anyone discussing the period during which the Earth's magnetic field goes to 0 as it reverses. ALL our electricity (regardless of energy source) depends on turning an armature in the earth's magnetic field. During 0, no electricity. How long would 0 last? I've never seen this discussed.


Kimber An said...

On worldbuilding, you recently advised to simplify.

It just occurred to me that I'm not sure what that means.

My last book, MANIC KNIGHT, won many requests for Partials and Fulls. While I was complimented on structure and no extra fluff, action sequences and such, all in just 60,000 words, a common obervation was that the plot was too complicated and there was too much stuff. Too much in just 60,000 words! Whoa. Anyway, the plot seemed simple to me and the amount of 'stuff' seemed just right, but with everyone saying it was too much I have to believe it's true.

But, but, I just barely made minimum wordcount as it is!

How my writerly friends crank out 150,000 word tomes and have to go back and cut, I just can't imagine.

Kimber An said...

I think I've figured out *why* I do this anyway. It's because I do almost all my story creating and polishing in my head. I have four children. I don't have time to sit at the computer. Thank God for my mini-laptop!

You wouldn't believe the worlds which grow in my head when I'm loading the dishwasher.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg said...

OK Kimber An, so reduce the exercise to one of POINT OF VIEW.

While loading the dishwasher, you're looking at the build world from the INSIDE.

To convey what's in your head to someone outside your head, you have to shift your point of view.

You need to stand in a different place. Tomorrow, on I'll post a huge long thing on understanding the shifting tastes of audiences.

Then someone has to remind me to do one on simplifying a built world using the Dedekind cut approach (without having to explain all of mathematical theory behind the methodology).

Come to think of it, I expect explaining Astrology without explaining it is easier.

At any rate, the answer to your question is in that mathematical explanation. In writing parlance, it's point of view.

It's not only about what you know. It's about what you DON'T know, that nevertheless exists and affects things.

It's not your built world that must be simplified. It's your VIEWPOINT of it that must shift.

To sell this sucker in today's market, you need a HIGH CONCEPT, and that means you have to get high above your concept and view it from afar.

Think about how you go through a museum or art gallery -- strolling through the galleries glancing at works from afar.

If something catches your eye, you go up close to see how they did that.

Art is all about perspective and composition. Without that, you get a jumble such as you showed me.

That's one skill. Another is of course the building itself, and to get your worlds to come out artistically valid, (while stuffing the dish washer and cleaning scraped knees) you have to train your subconscious in how to speak in symbolism.

To get the POV shift to work, you have to start with a composition that is composed, that contains only elements that support your THEME, not ones that compete with your theme for space in the reader's mind.

That's all very abstract, so we'll do some exercises here eventually.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg