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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"Ah, curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!"
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February 22 2008

A Map of the 'Verse. It's an unofficial fan effort for the Serenity RPG and it's really good. Even if you're not into role playing it's well worth checking out. And if you want to know more about the making of it, then click here.

Yeah, I found that map last week and went ga ga over it. It's pretty well laid out and very useful for the game!
I like both hard and soft science fiction and I wish Mr. Whedon had asked someone to make him a map before he wrote any scripts.
In the movie, the description of the location of the Reaver fleet lying in wait between Miranda and the nearest planet or moon makes no physical sense. Both bodies are in orbit, so the Reaver fleet would either have to be deployed completely surrounding Miranda, or be constantly on the move, not in a fixed location in some "quadrant".
I love Firefly and I saw Serenity ten times in the theater, but it annoys me that the dialogue in both erases the distinction between interplanetary, interstellar and intergalactic space. This is comparable to equating a walk from one room to another inside your house and a trip to the Moon.
Props for no sound in a vacuum, but attention to all the basic facts of physics, chemistry and biology makes the difference between science fiction and space opera. Attention to the facts doesn't inhibit plot writing; it gives rise to situations that generate plots. One can hire advisors, just as there are advisors for period-accurate costumes and manners in historical films.
Everytyhing that janef said above can be re-read as a list of some of the things I love most about Firefly/Serenity, and about space opera in general. I think it's very important to establish in dialogue that "science won't be bothering us unless we feel like allowing it to," and Firefly is a pitch-perfect example of that (and of so many other things).

So, tastes differ ;)
I have to agree that strict compliance with science is a requirement for me in my Sci-Fi. For that matter, I barely think of shows like Firefly or BSG as Sci-Fi; they are stories about human beings, which just happen to use the future as the setting.

A minimum of realism is certainly a necessity, but I don't think Firefly ever broke that. The description of "The Reaver Fleet lying in wait between Miranda and the nearest planet/moon", is not contradictory. This is space we're dealing with, so "location" only has meaning inside of a reference frame. An object can most certainly be "between" two other objects, even if they are in motion. If we know the relative positions and velocities of two objects, there is no reason we cannot place ourselves at another relative position and velocity which will keep us between them. For example, a fleet wishing to blockade earth from the moon simply needs to station itself in orbit about the earth at a speed such that it is always between the two bodies, which would not be at all difficult for them given the apparent level of technology in the 'verse. That is just a small-scale example, the same logic scales up to just about any set of bodies in the system.

There, that's my geek-out for the day.
The only thing about the Reaver fleet that bother(s)/ed me is that it existed at all - still not completely sold on the idea that such, um, angry creatures would be able to get it together to fly spaceships and all (I realise how one might explain it - it just didn't work for me).

As for hard science, honestly, I don't care at all about "compliance" so long as the result doesn't jar my layman, everday understanding of the universe (e.g. people breathing in space, or giving birth to dolphins, or objects that are both heavy and light at the same time). Although the truth is that I wouldn't recognize non-compliance if it slapped me in the face with a wet quark. Whatever that might be. It's all about the story and the characters for me. But I do sympathize, truly, with those who actually know when rules are being broken.
Hey -- thanks for the comments on my map! I can almost hear them above the groaning of my bandwidth provider (you Whedonesque folks know how to swarm en masse)!

To address a couple of things:

-- REALITY VS. DRAMA: To paraphrase Joss, he was never big on the hard rules of sci-fi, because ships 'travel at the speed of drama.' I totally agree with that, but a game requires a few different things than a movie or show. Players like to be able to know where they are, but more importantly, they like to feel like they have a choice, and the game isn't just "on rails." Once players sniff out that they'll always arrive at their destination *just minutes* before the macguffin does something -- no matter how fast or fancy of boat they get -- your campaign is doomed. Players live to "beat the system," and they should be allowed to do that -- otherwise you're not a gamemaster, you're telling stories around the campfire. So, in the end, the map tries to place a hybrid between those things. In the game's rules, things like "plot points" can help offset the hard reality of the map, and can be used to shave off a little travel time, shift things a little and general make things a little more cinematastical.

-- ON MIRANDA: I actually did locate Miranda on another one of my maps -- here, in fact: I placed the system in a trinary orbit, with Miranda being one of the few planets around that wobbly sun. I did that to reference Zoe's remark that the reavers "push out farther every year" (they would if their sun were slowly closing distance with the core worlds) and also to make the planet be farther off, and less out of the public eye.

Most importantly, you guys are the best and toughest critics of things like this. So let me know if it's total bupkus, or if it works for you....

Take care,

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